“The One Thing”

I started 2016 with a goal of reading 1 book per month. I failed miserably during the first 6 months but have been doing much better lately. I recently finished a book called “The One Thing” by Garry Keller (with Jay Papasan).  I found it interesting and motivating. If others struggle like me to find a good book I thought a summary might help!

The book describes “going small” to achieve big results. To do so, it suggests focusing on “The One Thing”.  You can break this down into professional goals, family and personal goals. On a professional level it talks about “Goal Setting to The Now”. Here’s what it looks like:


5 Personal Takeaways

  1. Create bigger, longer term goals: I have monthly and annual goals. I need to supplement these with bigger goals. Actually, I need to decide on bigger goals and then derive from that my annual and monthly goals. What do I want to be accomplishing in 5 to 10 years? What do we want our firm to look like in 5 to 10 years? Annual goals are important but to achieve big results I/we must think bigger. Otherwise, we get incremental improvements.
  2. Be more specific about family and personal goals: I am goal oriented when it comes to my work. At home, it’s easy to say “I’ll be a better husband and dad”. I need to set specific goals. Examples could be putting the phone away after work until kids go to bed at 8pm and lunch or coffee dates with my wife.
  3. Get better at “Time Blocking”: This is more specific than simply planning your day. I need to be intentional about planning my day around activities directly related to “The One Thing”. This is where you go small. To go small, you have to decide what your One Thing is. Many of you in sales or production roles might view this as similar to staying “Closest to the Dollar”. While similar, I would suggest The One Thing is a longer term view while Closest to the Dollar is a short term focus.
  4. Time Block my time off: I’m awful at this. Too often I play it by ear when deciding on time off that’s not associated with a planned trip. I take pride in being relentless and I can be a grinder. But there’s too much data now proving you have to take care of yourself if you want to be successful long term. It takes practice recognizing when to work hard, and possibly long hours…and knowing when and how to take advantage of a period of time when you should rest and recharge.
  5. Get better at saying no: This is an ongoing challenge. One of the biggest reasons I enjoy my work is getting to help people. But, I can’t help everyone. I’m getting better at saying no but I need to get better. Below is a list of my favorite quotes from the book, one of them being: “When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.”


  1. Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want.
  2. When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.
  3. To-Do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction.
  4. The truth is that things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most.
  5. The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.
  6. Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results.
  7. Avoid incremental thinking that simply asks, “What do I do next?” This is at best the slow lane to success and, at worst, the off ramp.
  8. When you intend to be successful, you start by protecting time to recharge and reward yourself.
  9. You can’t please everyone, so don’t try. In fact, when you try, the one person you absolutely won’t please is yourself.
  10. When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.


Meeting short term objectives while doing things that will help me hit bigger, longer term targets. For example, I believe leveraging social media and blogging will contribute to achieving sustainable, longer term success. However, it is time consuming.  It’s the long term play but requires sacrificing time and results in the short term.


If I make it a goal to review 1 book per month via this blog, will I be better about reading 1 book per month? Would anyone even find that interesting? It would be like I’m reading so you don’t have to. Wait, you should still read. Hmm…

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