The ONE Thing

1. The ONE Thing

“What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small. When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small.

“Going small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.

When you go as small as possible, you’ll be staring at one thing. And that’s the point.

2. The Domino Effect

The moon is reachable if you prioritize everything and put all of your energy into accomplishing the most important thing. Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.

The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.

3. Success Leaves Clues

If today your company doesn’t know what its ONE Thing is, then the company’s ONE Thing is to find out.

“You must be single-minded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided.”

Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it. That time spent eventually translates to skill, and when skill improves, results improve. Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results.

Part 1: The Lies

THE SIX LIES BETWEEN YOU AND SUCCESS Everything Matters Equally Multitasking

A Disciplined Life Willpower Is Always on Will-Call A Balanced Life Big Is Bad

4. Everything Matters Equally

Equality is a lie. Understanding this is the basis of all great decisions.

distributed. In fact, according to Pareto, it was actually concentrated in a highly predictable way. A pioneer of quality-control management, Juran had noticed that a handful of flaws would usually produce a majority of the defects. This imbalance not only rang true to his experience, but he suspected it might even be a universal law—and that what Pareto had observed might be bigger than even Pareto had imagined.

“vital few and trivial many.”

Pareto’s Principle, it turns out, is as real as the law of gravity, and yet most people fail to see the gravity of it.

“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.” In other words, in the world of success, things aren’t equal. A small amount of causes creates most of the results. Just the right input creates most of the output. Selected effort creates almost all of the rewards.

Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day. Go extreme. Once you’ve figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list. Say no. Whether you say “later” or “never,” the point is to say “not now” to anything else you could do until your most important work is done. Don’t get trapped in the “check off” game. If we believe things don’t matter equally, we must act accordingly. We can’t fall prey to the notion that everything has to be done, that checking things off our list is what success is all about. We can’t be trapped in a game of “check off” that never produces a winner. The truth is that things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most.

5. Multitasking

“Multitaskers were just lousy at everything.”

There is a price for this. “The cost in terms of extra time from having to task switch depends on how complex or simple the tasks are,”

Every time we try to do two or more things at once, we’re simply dividing up our focus and dumbing down all of the outcomes in the process.

6. A Disciplined Life

When you discipline yourself, you’re essentially training yourself to act in a specific way.

success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.

“Channeling his energy is one of his great strengths,”

The fact of the matter is that aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas.

In 2009, they asked the question: How long does it take to establish a new habit? They were looking for the moment when a new behavior becomes automatic or ingrained. The point of “automaticity” came when participants were 95 percent through the power curve and the effort needed to sustain it was about as low as it would get. They asked students to take on exercise and diet goals for a period of time and monitor their progress. The results suggest that it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit.

7. Willpower Is Always on Will-Call

His hunch was correct—willpower or the ability to delay gratification was a huge indicator of future success.

“all good things come to those who wait,”

Foods that elevate blood sugar evenly over long periods, like complex carbohydrates and proteins, become the fuel of choice for high-achievers—literal proof that “you are what you eat.”

When our willpower runs out, we all revert to our default settings. This begs the question: What are your default settings? If your willpower is dragging, will you grab the bag of carrots or the bag of chips? Will you be up for focusing on the work at hand or down for any distraction that drops in? When your most important work is done while your willpower wanes, default will define your level of achievement. Average is often the result.

8. A Balanced Life

The problem is that when you focus on what is truly important, something will always be underserved. No matter how hard you try, there will always be things left undone at the end of your day, week, month, year, and life.

Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results.

Extraordinary results demand that you set a priority and act on it. When you act on your priority, you’ll automatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another.

When you’re supposed to be working, work, and when you’re supposed to be playing, play. It’s a weird tightrope you’re walking, but it’s only when you get your priorities mixed up that things fall apart.

9. Big Is Bad

When you allow yourself to accept that big is about who you can become, you look at it differently.

Thinking big is essential to extraordinary results. Success requires action, and action requires thought. But here’s the catch—the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with. Make this connection, and the importance of how big you think begins to sink in.

Sometimes things are easier than we imagine, and truthfully sometimes they’re a lot harder. That’s when it’s important to realize that on the journey to achieving big, you get bigger. Big requires growth, and by the time you arrive, you’re big too! What seemed an insurmountable mountain from a distance is just a small hill when you arrive—at

“growth” mindset that generally thinks big and seeks growth and a “fixed” mindset that places artificial limits and avoids failure.

When Scott Forstall started recruiting talent to his newly formed team, he warned that the top-secret project would provide ample opportunities to “make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we’ll remember the rest of our lives.” He gave this curious pitch to superstars across the company, but only took those who immediately jumped at the challenge.

Part 2: The Truth

We overthink, overplan, and overanalyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long hours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it. I discovered that we can’t manage time, and that the key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.

10. The Focusing Question

And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret—concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it. The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country.

Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. Ask the right question, get the right answer. Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life altering.

You ask one question: the Focusing Question.

forcing you to do what is essential to success—make a decision.

possible questions into one: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

11. The Success Habit

What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?”

“Until my ONE Thing is done—everything else is a distraction.”

Put up reminders like, “The ONE Thing = Extraordinary Results” or “The Success Habit Will Get Me to My Goal.”

12. The Path to Great Answers

You ask a great question, then you seek out a great answer. As

Part 3: Extraordinary Results

The more productive people are, the more purpose and priority are pushing and driving them. With the additional outcome of profit, it’s the same for business.

13. Live with Purpose

Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.

Purpose is the straightest path to power and the ultimate source of personal strength—strength of conviction and strength to persevere.

14. Live by Priority

Live with purpose and you know where you want to go. Live by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there.

Economists have long known that even though people prefer big rewards over small ones, they have an even stronger preference for present rewards over future ones—even when the future rewards are MUCH BIGGER.

15. Live for Productivity

We are always doing something—working, playing, eating, sleeping, standing, sitting, breathing. If we’re alive, we’re doing something. Even if we’re doing nothing, that’s something. Every minute of every day, the question is never will we be doing something, but rather what that something is we’ll be doing.

If money is a metaphor for producing results, then it’s clear—a time-managing system’s success can

be judged by the productivity it produces.

Time blocking is a very results-oriented way of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done. Alexander Graham Bell said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Time

Great success shows up when time is devoted every day to becoming great. To achieve extraordinary results and experience greatness, time block these three things in the following order: Time block your time off. Time block your ONE Thing. Time block your planning time.

In A Geography of Time, Robert Levine points out that most people work on “clock” time—“It’s five o’clock, I’ll see you tomorrow”— while others work on “event” time— “My work is done when it’s done.” Think about it. The

dairy farmer doesn’t get to knock off at any certain time; he goes home when the cows have been milked. It’s the same for any position in any profession where results matter. The most productive people work on event time. They don’t quit until their ONE Thing is done.

“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

“Based on where I am right now, what’s the ONE Thing I need to do this week to stay on track for my monthly goal and for my monthly goal to be on track for my annual goal?”

In this situation, follow the rule “If you erase, you must replace” and immediately reschedule your time block.

16. The Three Commitments

First, you must adopt the mindset of someone seeking mastery. Mastery is a commitment to becoming your best, so to achieve

extraordinary results you must embrace the extraordinary effort it represents. Second, you must continually seek the very best ways of doing things. Nothing is more futile than doing your best using an approach that can’t deliver results equal to your effort. And last, you must be willing to be held accountable to doing everything you can to achieve your ONE Thing. Live these commitments and you give yourself a fighting chance to experience extraordinary

“If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”

Time blocking is essential to mastery, and mastery is essential to time blocking. They go hand in hand—when you do one, you do the other.

The path of mastering something is the combination of not only doing the best you can do at it, but also doing it the best it can be done. Continually improving how you do something is critical to getting the most from time

When we roll out of bed in the morning and start tackling the day, we do so in one of two ways: Entrepreneurial (“E”) or Purposeful (“P”). Entrepreneurial is our natural approach. It’s seeing something we want to do or that needs to be done and racing off to do it with enthusiasm, energy, and our natural abilities. No matter the task, all natural ability has a ceiling of achievement, a level of productivity and success that eventually tops out.

Highly productive people don’t accept the limitations of their natural approach as the final word on their success. When they hit a ceiling of achievement, they look for new models and systems, better ways to do things to push them through. They pause just long enough to examine their options, they pick the best one, and then they’re right back at it. Ask

They bring their best to whatever it takes, without reservation. Accountable people achieve results others only dream of.

The other manager keeps fighting reality. He comes up with an alternative view, placing responsibility elsewhere. That’s not how I see it, he counters. If people in the company would just do their jobs, we wouldn’t have problems like this! The accountable manager looks for solutions. More important, she assumes she’s a part of the solution: What can I do? The moment she finds the right tactic, she acts.

Circumstances won’t change by themselves, she thinks, so let’s get on with it! The other manager, having blamed everyone else, now excuses himself altogether. It’s not my job, he declares, and settles in to hoping things change for the better.

17. The Four Thieves

“Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.”

there are Four Thieves that can hold you up and rob you of your productivity. And since there’s no one standing by to protect you, it’s up to you to stop these thieves in their tracks. THE FOUR THIEVES OF PRODUCTIVITY Inability to Say “No” Fear of Chaos Poor Health Habits Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.

“One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.”

“You can say no with respect, you can say no promptly, and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.” Godin gets it. You can keep your yes and say no in a way that works for you and for others.

Now, in anybody’s life or work there are some things that just can’t be ignored: family, friends, pets, personal commitments, or critical job projects. At any given time, you may have some or all of these tugging at your time block. You can’t forgo your power hours, that’s a given. So, what do you do? “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” —Albert Einstein

Depending on your situation, your time block might initially look different from others’. Each of our situations is unique. Depending on where you are in your life, you may not be able to immediately block off every morning to be by yourself. You may have a kid or a parent in tow. You may be doing your time block at a day care, nursing home, or some other place you have to be.

If you have to beg, then beg. If you have to barter, then barter. If you have to be creative, then be creative. Just don’t be a victim of your circumstances. Don’t sacrifice your time block on the altar of “I just can’t make it work.”

“When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them,” but this is one you can’t afford. Figure it out. Find a way. Make it happen. “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” — William James

Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity.

Protect your sleep by determining when you must go to bed each night and don’t allow yourself to be lured away from it. If you’re committed to your wake-up time, you can stay up late only so many nights before you’re forced to hit the hay at a decent hour.

18. The Journey

Your life is like this. You don’t get a fully mature one. You get a small one and the opportunity to grow it—if you want to. Think small and your life’s likely to stay small. Think big and your life has a chance to grow big. The choice is yours. When you choose a big life, by default, you’ll have to go small to get there. You must survey your choices, narrow your options, line up your priorities, and do what matters most. You must go small. You must find your ONE Thing.

About the Authors

Gary defines leadership as “teaching people how to think the way they need to think so they can do what they need to do when they need to do it, so they can get what they want when they want it.”

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