57 Notes on The ONE Thing (Review & Quotes Included From the Book)

The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

57 Notes on The ONE Thing (Review & Quotes Included From the Book)

The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The ONE Thing was published in 2013 authored by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan and has appeared 500 times on national bestseller lists and more:

  • #1 Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today
  • Won 12 book awards
  • Translated into 35 languages
  • Voted Top 100 Business Book of All Time on Goodreads

This book’s value lies in ways to help you get distractions out of your life and stick to just one thing at a time to be more productive and get extraordinary results.

On a personal level, I applied this book and found the ONE thing I need to do in my side hustle and finally published my first ebook.

In this blog post, I'll compile my notes on the book that has six parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Lies: They Mislead And Derail Us
  3. The Truth: The Simple Path to Productivity
  4. Extraordinary Results: Unlocking the Possibilities Within You

As always will include quotes from the book and my personal notes and will leave my review at the end.


If you chase 2 rabbits, you will not catch either one.

Russian proverb

  • The one thing is what you've got to figure out, it's the best approach to getting what you want.
  • Look for just "one" thing that you can do so that everything else would be easier or unnecessary.

Why do some people seem to get so much more done than others?

  • Short answer: They go small.
  • The one thing exists in many fields. For example in business: there should be one product, one service. KFC: chicken. Google: search. Even companies grew and started investing in more products, those companies started with just ONE product or ONE service.
  • If today your company doesn't know what is ONE Thing is, then the company's ONE Thing is to find out.
  • No one is self-made.

Everyone has one person who either means the most to them or was the first to influence, train or manage them.

The Lies: They Mislead And Derail Us

  • "I just have too much that has to be done." is a lie.
The things that are most important don't always scream the loudest.

Australian prime minister Bob Hawke

  • Replace your (long) to-do list with a (short) success-list that is focused on extraordinary results.
  • (Book recommendation) Quality Control Handbook by Joseph M. Juran in which Pareto's Principle was introduced in the context of quality control and improvement.
  • The Pareto principle states that our outcomes have "vital few and trivial many". For many of them, about 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes (the “vital few”).
  • (Book recommendation) The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.
  • 80% of your success comes from 20% of your effort. It could be 90/20, 70/10, 65/5, etc.
  • A to-do list becomes a success list when you prioritize it with Pareto Principle and get rid of the could do’s and keep the things that should be done.
  • Think big but go very small with extreme Pareto: 20% of the 20% until you get to the ONE Thing that is so important to do.
Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.

Steve Uzzell

  • The problem of multitasking is when you're trying to do too many things at once and forget to do something important that you should do.
  • Researchers estimate we lost 28% of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.
  • Research shows that workers using computers check email or other programs 37 times an hour.

When you try to do too much at once, you can end up doing nothing well. Figure out what matters most at the moment and give it your undivided attention.

  • Stop blaming yourself for not having a disciplined life. You need the habit of doing discipline.
  • Michael Phelps, 22 Olympic medals making him the most-decorated Olympian in any sport in history, had discipline in training for 7 days a week, 6 hours in the water each day.

The brain makes up 1/50th of our body mass but consumes a staggering 1/5th of the calories we bum for energy.

  • Literally feed your mind with carbohydrates & proteins. Research shows participants who exercised willpower had a marked drop in th levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
  • We diminish our willpower without realizing by engaging in some activities that deplete our focus.

To get the most out of your day, do your most important work (your ONE Thing) early before your willpower is drawn away.

  • Why "work-life balance" is a lie?
  • The balance is in the middle and magic never happens in this area; magic happens at the extremes.
  • Change your term of work-life balance to prioritization so that you have short periods between being drifting into your personal life and longer periods between every successive focus on your work life.
  • Hotmail was bought by Microsoft for $400 million. Hotmail founder, Sabeer Bhatia, came to the US with only $250 in his pocket. He started small!

The Truth: The Simple Path to Productivity

  • The problem is that we overthink, overplan, and overanalyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.
  • Socratic method, teaching through questions, still embraced by educators from the heights of Harvard Law School to local kindergarten classes.
  • A small focus question is to ask yourself about the ONE Thing that you can do right now to stay on track and get you to your target easily.
  • The Focusing Question: What is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
  • The action you can do beats intention every time.
  • Realize that when you do this ONE Thing, something else is going to happen.
  • You can ask the Focusing Question for your spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationship, job, business, and finances.
  • For my spiritual life: What is the ONE Thing I can do to improve my relationship with God...?
  • For my finances: What's the ONE Thing I can do to increase my net worth...?
  • Ask yourself a "great question" which is big and specific like: What can I do to double sales in 6 months?
  • Don't ask a big and broad question like: What can I do to double sales?
  • Don't ask a small and specific question like: What can I do to increase sales by 5% this year?
  • Don't ask a small and broad question like: What can I do to increase sales?
  • Turn the Greate Question into the Focusing Question: What's the ONE Thing I can do to double sales in 6 months such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Extraordinary Results: Unlocking the Possibilities Within You

  • Productivity is what you see from the iceberg but down there exists the small ONE Thing (Priority) underneath it exists the big ONE Thing (Purpose).

The more productive people are, the more purpose and priority are pushing and driving them.

Connecting purpose, priority, and productivity determines how high above the rest successful individuals, and profitable businesses rise.

Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.

  • Would you rather an offer of $100 today or $200 next year?
  • If your goal is to make the most money from the opportunity, you'd choose $200. But most people prefer present rewards over future ones even when the future rewards are much bigger.
  • Think big but go small! from the goal, you set right NOW to your daily, weekly, monthly, one-year, five-year, and someday goal.
  • It's how we use our time that determines the money we make.
  • The most successful people are the most productive ones.
  • Block your time to at least 4 hours a day!

Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.

Perseverance is not a long race; it's many short races one after another.

Walter Elliot

  • Your most important work requires 100% of your attention. Shut down anyway to distraction!
  • Block time your ONE Thing (not book time for it). You need 4 hours a day to keep pace with your mastery.
  • (Book recommendation) Mastery by George Leonard.
  • Don't be a victim. Live the cycle of accountability. Victim here is describing the attitude not the person.
  • Research shows that being accountable and sharing your progress toward your goals with someone regularly makes you almost twice as effective as when you write down your goals on paper.
Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do.

John Carmack, Consulting CTO OculusVR

  • When you go small, you say no a lot. Be prepared for that.
One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.

Sidney Howard

  • Steve Jobs, in the 2 years after his return to Apple in 1997, took the company from 350 products to 10. That's 350 NO's excluding the multiples no's in between.
Focus is about saying no.

Steve Jobs

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

Advice in the comedian Bill Cosby's article

  • Personal energy mismanagement (like poor health habits) is a silent thief of productivity.

Don't allow yourself to be detoured from getting to your ONE Thing. Pave your way with the right people and place.

  • An orchard of apples started with a small apple tree planted by the author Gary Keller.
  • Live life to be able to say "I'm glad I did," not "I wish I had."
  • (Book recommendation) The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

My Review

Illustrations in this book give more sense to clarify the ideas but some graphs should have illustrated more clearly like the work-life balance to make it more thorough.

I also like that almost every chapter starts with a relevant quote.

As a whole picture, the book is amazing and can help you get extraordinary results in a practical way by getting rid of distractions and being able to say no in order to focus. On a personal level, I'm not saying writing my first ebook has started with this book but it's a great resource that made me think about writing an ebook starts with just ONE Thing which is a blog post. Bearing in mind I had some relevant blog posts already so I had to focus on smaller things that can make me achieve the whole thing and I finally did publish it on Gumroad! What helped me most in the book was the Pareto Principle mentioned in the second part of the book.

You can find The ONE Thing on Amazon

Image by the Author
Disclosure: The Amazon link for the book (in this section) is a paid link so if you buy the book, I will have a small commission

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