Book Insights from The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing takes a controversial – yet highly effective – approach to entrepreneurship and building a successful business by dismantling the conventional idea that multitasking is necessary to achieve your goals. It’s focusing exclusively on one thing, he says, that will get you there instead.

The ONE Thing is an essential read for any entrepreneur or CEO, and I suggest downloading it here so that you can begin implementing Keller’s strategies in your company. If you’re short on time, I’ve pulled together my insights and summary to get you started.

Use the Domino Effect to Achieve Moonshots

Keller uses the domino effect to demonstrate how you can achieve success by starting with one small, yet powerful, step. He refers to the fact that a single domino has the ability to knock down a domino twice its size. Keller draws upon this theory to show how it can work for your company: find your first “domino” that will support your one big goal.

  • When identifying your first domino, Keller encourages you to ask yourself: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
  • Find the answer, then do that one thing.
  • Repeat the process so that with your next domino, so that the momentum builds and your dominos always have twice the potential and impact as the previous one.

If you can sustain that domino effect, it can lead to monumental success. Keller provides this image for his readers: If you begin with a domino that’s just two inches tall, your 23rd domino will be larger than the Eiffel Tower. Your 57th domino could nearly reach the moon. In other words, don’t hesitate to reach for moonshots, as long as you keep completing actions that have increasing impact.

Practice Effective Goal Setting

While it may be common sense that you first need to have goals in order to achieve them, Keller argues that most people don’t use goal setting effectively.

  • It’s not enough to simply identify your goals; rather, you must ensure that your goals inform your actions every day.
  • Use specific goal setting and your desires for the future to determine your actions for today.
  • If you’re not doing something today to help reach your future goals, then you’re not truly working towards your goals. You must put your ONE thing into action.

Dedicate This Amount of Time to Your One Thing EACH DAY

Here’s another commonsense idea, which Keller later refines for us: you must allocate ample time to be productive in achieving your goals. We all know that achieving goals takes time, but Keller provides actionable, specific advice by advocating that entrepreneurs spend at least 4 hours per day on the one thing.

  • Each and every day, block off 4 hours that you can dedicate to actions that are contributing towards your one thing.
  • If possible, select 4 hours first thing in the morning, when you have the most willpower.

Ask Yourself the RIGHT Questions

Keller has already provided a strong starting point for us with his one focusing question, mentioned above (“What’s the ONE Thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”). He believes that we must expand upon this one focusing question and always take the time to ask high-quality questions. In other words, as Keller puts it, “The quality of an answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.” When determining where it is you want to go, what you want to achieve, and what you need to do to achieve it, you must ask the right kinds of questions.

According to Keller, there are four types of questions:

  • Big & Broad: “How can I double my sales?”
  • Small & Broad: “What could I do to increase my sales?”
  • Small & Specific: “What could I do to grow my sales by 5% this year?”
  • Big & Specific : “What specific actions can I take to double my sales within six months?”

Big and specific questions yield the best results, Keller says, because they are ambitious yet lead to answers that have clarity and focus. Another idea of Keller’s to keep in mind is, “How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.”

Achieve Profits & Productivity with the Iceberg Approach

Keller notes that entrepreneurs and execs are all driven by profits and productivity, both of which are necessary to create a sustainable business. Yet many overlook the importance of the other two P’s, priorities and purpose. He demonstrates this relationship using an icebergpyramid

  • Purpose must come first – it’s the foundation of your organization and is what your employees must identify with.
  • Once you’ve developed a purpose, you can come up with a priority. Remember, it should only be ONE thing at a time.
  • Productivity and profit then become byproducts. When you run your organization based on a concrete purpose and prioritize one thing at a time, you will inherently achieve productivity and profits.

Avoid the 4 Productivity Thieves

To stay productive towards accomplishing your one thing, Keller warns readers to avoid the 4 productivity thieves:

  • Inability to Say No You can’t say yes to everything. When you say yes to one thing, you’re ultimately saying no to another.
  • Fear of Chaos When you’re striving to meet moonshots, you’ll likely encounter some chaos along the way. Don’t be afraid of it.
  • Poor Health Keller recommends staying healthy to help you reach your goals; otherwise, you won’t have adequate energy to put in the required effort.
  • An Environment that isn’t Conducive to Your Goals While this could encompass your physical environment, bear in mind that the people in your surroundings are just as important as the place itself. Make sure that every aspect of your organizational culture fits your purpose.

Were there any other big ideas that you learned from The ONE Thing?

Do you manage a company or teams (either as a CEO, a senior executive, a middle manager or even a front-line manager)? Do you set and track objectives? Does aligning employee performance to business goals matter, and are you responsible for driving results? If so, please check out a live demo of Atiim OKR & Goals Management Software and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you!

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