The One Thing Book Review With Summary

The One Thing Review

What is the one thing such that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary by doing it? This quote is repeated throughout the entire book for the one thing it explains. How do you figure out the next thing you’re supposed to do when staring at your to-do list?

It’s a fairly short read but packed with great information. Ultimately, the book boils down to this: you will not catch either one if you chase two rabbits. Go out there, and use all these tools to find your one thing. Once you find it, don’t be afraid to make it a priority. Many people have achieved great success this way, and you can be the next one.

The One Thing Book Summary

“The One Thing” is a power that you have within you. It’s a power of hyper-focused, the ability to use “One Thing” to increase focus to achieve the task you have a hand with. The idea of the one thing is to filter out all the things you could be doing into at least one thing you should do. The concept of the one thing is that you will succeed if you put all your focus on one major project at a time. Over the past years, the cause of your failure has been that you had more than one project. A lot of us feel ambitious.

You need to choose one major project to achieve massive success in your life, not two, not three. Gary Keller says four hours is the minimum to work on one thing inside the book. That’s the bare minimum, which means all great achievers do four hours or more of an average of maybe six hours. Don’t break the chain. The chain means work on it every day, seven days a week. Einstein said that one of the miracles of the universe is compounding interest when you don’t break the chain. It will blow your mind and blow people’s minds. They will think, how can you be such a high achiever?

There are 3 commitments to your productivity. The first is to follow the path of mastery. Remember that experts have thousands and thousands of hours invested in their craft, so don’t look for the shortcut. The second commitment is to go from E to P, and what the book means by this is going from an entrepreneurial work style to a purposeful work style.

Whatever you’re doing, find some purpose as to why you’re doing it. That purpose pushes you through all the adversity. The third is to live the accountability cycle. Remember to bring your best and do whatever it takes to own up to all the outcomes. Take responsibility for your actions and your results.

In the next topic, the author discusses the six lies. There lies in our culture and many people’s belief systems. Lies can destroy productivity. The first lie is that everything matters equally. The second lie is that multitasking is a good thing. Even if you think you’re multitasking, you’re not pausing one of the tasks to do the other. The third lie is that you must be a disciplined person to succeed. The fourth lie is that your willpower is always available on will call. The fifth is that you can achieve a perfectly balanced life. The sixth is that big is bad and is to be feared.

Those are lies. Avoid them at all costs because they will prohibit your productivity, take any extraordinary results you desire, and turn them into bad results. Let alone what you want, which is extraordinary results! On your path to achieving extraordinary results and on this journey, you can stumble across four types of thieves. One is the inability to say no. If you say yes to every plan, the schedule is consistently full of other people’s dreams and aspirations.

The second thief is a fear of things being left undone. The third thief is poor health habits. If you are not healthy, that will prohibit any productivity you could bring to the table. The four thieves are an environment that does not support your goals. Choose to go after whatever you want, producing extraordinary results. Use the proper forces to achieve those results more efficiently, faster and better.

Book Specification

This book was published in 2013 and immediately jumped to the top of the New York Times business book bestseller list.

The One Thing

Author: Gary Keller, Jay Papasan
Average Review: (4.1 out of 5, on Goodreads)
Category: Business Management, Investing & Trading, Personal Finance

The One Thing Book Review

The “one thing,” the book’s title, can be a product, a person, or a life purpose. The book is filled with examples of successful people who focus people like Bill Gates. During high school, he had one passion, which was computers. Later, Paul Allen gave him his first job and became his business partner in Microsoft.

A few years later, one person, Ed Roberts, changed his life by allowing him to write code for one computer. Microsoft’s one thing was to put a computer on every desk in every home, which ultimately made Bill Gates the world’s richest person for 15 consecutive years.

Chapter: The One Thing

Gary had accomplished great things in his life. His concentration was narrowed, his success varied, and his focus had too. At least here in Canada, he has a giant real estate company called Keller Williams. His book’s tips and tricks built such a great big real estate company. So the way to get the most out of your life is to go as small and narrow as possible. It’s where you are most successful and don’t have a ton of concentration.

That’s going to be where you aren’t able to make as quick of gains or as quick of changes in your life. So, if you want to achieve many extraordinary things, it takes subtraction, not addition. This is an interesting anecdote like Cal Newport’s deep work and other productivity books.

You’ll notice that many great thinkers on productivity and success advise us to take things away and not focus on things. That’s because we only have a set amount of attention and a set amount of focus to give to anything in one day, week, or any time. What we need to do is try and get rid of the unimportant. Then that leaves us enough energy to focus on the essential things.

Chapter: The domino effect

A single domino can topple another domino 50 percent larger than itself. When you’re focused on the right thing at the moment, everything after the subsequent falls into place like a progression of dominoes. It is called the domino effect. The basic idea is that attacking your goals by starting with the right thing leads to bigger things.

To help you understand the domino effect, physicist Lorne Whitehead found that one domino can bring down a domino piece one and a half times bigger. You can knock over the Empire State Building with 28 dominos using this simple idea. Not everything is equally important. We tend to act on what we believe in life. Unfortunately, not everything we believe is true. Gary Keller deconstructs the six myths that stop people from focusing on one thing.

Chapter: Success leaves clues

The next major point is success leaves clues. It is something that you’ve heard a lot of people talk about. The one thing is everywhere if you know what you’re looking for. So after we’ve explained one thing, you’ll notice that many successful people are using it even if they don’t use the word. So one product or service is what many great companies are built on. Think of any of the major companies in the world. They usually have one core product or service that they are providing. They have found their massive success and decided to expand their product line to become more successful.

They have a lot more manpower to focus on more than one thing. One person is all it takes to help successful people achieve their goals. Gary talks a lot about how people are brought up and are trying to become super successful in this one. It usually takes one great coach. If you focus intently on finding the one person who will impact your life, that will be where you are making the most out of your life.

So one thing is all it takes for truly successful people to leave an impact lasting millions. Think about people who are teaching one specific thing. If you want to be world-class at more than one thing, finding someone who is world-class at more than one thing will be very difficult. Finding someone who has world-class in three or four things will be almost impossible.

Chapter: The lies (Myth)

There are six major lies and misconceptions that create impedance in success. Gary explains them in this book by examples.

Myth number one: Everything is equally important

In today’s world, we’re permanently on alert from family demands to directives from the boss. Even your phone sends you quote-unquote alerts. It’s easy to think that everything is equally important, but it’s not. The One Thing is a core principle based on the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule. According to the 80-20 rule, the 20% produces the majority, the 80%, of the results. You can see this principle in almost everything. A few ideas account for most of your results.

A few investments produce the bulk of your returns. So if a minority of your effort leads to the majority of the results, then focusing on the few highest impact things is the key to creating extraordinary results. It’s almost like the Pareto Principle’s become like a law, the law of the universe. It’s been proven how much of a difference it makes in your business and every aspect of your life. The one thing that helps you narrow your focus even further is that.

Myth number two: Multitasking

It doesn’t matter how good of a multitasker you think you are. No one can get more by multitasking. With to-do lists getting longer and calendars getting busier, it is easy to believe that you can tackle more than one task at a time.

In 2009, Clifford Nass of Stanford University proved that multitasking doesn’t work, and while multi-taskers thought they were succeeding, they were performing below average. Focusing on the one thing, dispelling the myth of multitasking and the balance myth because balance doesn’t exist. Nothing is ever a hundred percent balanced.

Myth number three: A disciplined life

Many people think that the ones with superhuman discipline are the ones who achieve success. The reality is that almost everyone has enough potential to achieve their version of success as long as they apply it strategically. You’re training your body and mind to act a certain way when you exercise discipline. It becomes a habit when you do it long enough and no longer requires discipline. How long does it take to develop a habit? People often believe it takes 21 days to make a change.

However, researchers at the University College of London determined it takes 66 days on average to develop a new habit. While some behaviors take fewer days and some take more, remember that it will probably take you more than 21 days, so don’t give up too soon.

Myth number four: Just use your willpower

Even the famous saying goes, “When there is a will, there is a way.” Unfortunately, if you don’t understand how willpower works, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Willpower is critical to success. But unfortunately, it isn’t always there when you need it. It is not on call. Willpower is like the battery of your phone.

The more you use the phone, the more the battery gets drained until it’s completely gone. That’s why it’s easier to go back to smoking when you get home after a rough day. Many activities drain your willpower, and your battery will eventually leak if you’re unaware. This is why the author suggests you start the day with one thing. It will allow you to tackle the most critical task while your battery is fully charged.

Myth number five: Strive for a balanced life

While it seems like an obvious concept, the goal of achieving a balanced life is relatively recent. The idea emerged in the 1980s when a critical mass of women entered the workforce and had to balance the demands of work and home. In the 1990s, balance became important for men too. But with the rise of technology, you’ve raised the boundaries between work and private life, allowing people to be on call at all times, making the balance even more relevant.

The problem is that balancing all areas of your life at one keeps you from making an extraordinary commitment to anything. To make it simple, when you’re working, work. When you have family time, have family time. Doing a poor job at both is not ideal and is not balanced.

Myth number six: Don’t think too big

People often believe that thinking too big will not lead you to success. Instead, you should lower your sights to a more realistic goal. Well, most people are wrong. Often, big success starts with a big dream. For instance, J.K. Rowling imagined a seven-book series about Hogwarts before writing her first Harry Potter book. Remember that your goals can be either a platform for your next level of success or a ceiling constraining you. It is your choice.

Chapter: The truth (Simple path to productivity)

This is the opposite of all these lies; everything will focus on one thing.


Typical habits taught today are about what you need to do, waking up early, working incredibly long hours, and saying yes to every opportunity. It causes us to live clenched lives where we’re always unhappy, overworked, or overwhelmed. It is called the truth of being unclenched.

So unclenching means ditching those habits and following one thing. It is where you see unsuccessful people perpetually stuck because they don’t have the energy to master anything. They’re constantly trying to put things on themselves because of external stimuli.

Successful people are the people that have been able to hold themselves to that for a long time. But unsuccessful people, who cannot achieve that level of success, are burnt out because they keep trying to put these success habits on themselves. It’s not the way to go. You’re going to be continually stressed. Unclenching means ditching those habits and following the one thing success comes down to being appropriate with your time, not the tips and tricks.

The focusing questions

You will be more successful if you condition yourself to ask questions. The quality of any answer depends on the quality of the question. If you think about this, we’re living our lives asking questions. The answers we find depend on the quality of the questions we’re asking.

So the questions we ask ourselves determine the answers that eventually become lives, and pay attention to the questions you’re asking yourself. You’re exactly where your questions have led you. For example, You’re continually asking negative questions: Why can’t I be successful? That will lead you to reaffirm that you haven’t done what you wanted repeatedly.

Instead, you will succeed if you turn that question around and ask a better positive question. So what’s the one thing I can do? Gary Keller created this question.

The success habit

The next focusing question is the foundational habit to achieving extraordinary results and leading a great life. Ask yourself the focusing question consistently helps you stay on track every day. When you’ve lost the focusing question to get the answers to what you should be doing, you should use the focusing question.

Especially if you feel track, that’s the habit of continually asking yourself in these domains. Sometimes we’ll take personal development advice and apply it to these two bottom ones. Gary says in the book that spiritual life, health, personal life, and relationship all come before the job in the financial life. So you should ask yourself that focusing question within your life’s top most essential areas.

The path to a great answer

The path to great answers is the next truth. The first one is obviously to ask a great question. It’s got to be big and specific. What’s something big that will make you stretch again? Same thing with deep work and flow. Everything has to be a slight stretch of your current capabilities. So put a time frame on the question to make it specific. It puts you into that flow state because you have to measure results.

Chapter: Extraordinary results (Unlocking the possibilities)

The next part goes into extraordinary results. It’s more than a productivity book. The life of productivity is based on extraordinary results.

The iceberg analogy

Suppose the tip of the iceberg is productivity. Below the surface, the middle of the iceberg is the priority. The biggest part of the iceberg submerged in the water is your purpose at the very bottom. Your priority and purpose support you’re getting done in a day.

Live with purpose

Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment. Seeking happiness is not the best way to find it. Lasting happiness happens when you make life about something that brings meaning and purpose to your everyday actions. The happiest people in the world have something bigger than themselves, contributing value to something bigger.

  • Ask yourself what drives you, gets you up in the morning, and keeps you going when you’re tired.

That’s why you’re excited about life and why you’re doing what you’re doing. So the purpose is more of a process of uncovering it. It’s more of finding it within yourself because everyone already has it. You need to figure out how to find it for yourself.

Try writing it down and marching down the path for a little while. Time brings clarity, and if you don’t find the purpose you’ve written down as you thought, you could always change your mind.

Live by priority

Priority is figuring out how to set your goals to get you there. So setting distant goals is essential as a guiding post to measure priorities based on purpose. But it’s a poor motivation tool as it’s so far away it’s easy to procrastinate.

So setting goals, starting from someday and then leading to now, is the solution. This is the way that you can think about it. The success habit can lead you through what you would like to accomplish someday. It looks similar to the domino effect.

Live for productivity

Productivity is putting together a life of extraordinary results simply from getting the most out of what you do. Therefore the most accessible people are the people that are the most productive. The iceberg part will show you’ve set your goals and purpose.

It is the way that you’re going to accomplish those things. The first thing is called time block. It’s the act of scheduling your time in advance. Successful people see themselves working between vacations. The least successful people don’t reserve time off because they don’t think they’ll deserve it or afford it.

Whether it’s days, weeks, or even days off, resting is as important as working and you feel recharged when you return. The next is that you want to block off your one thing. The most important work comes second because you need time to be well-rested. If possible, do one thing in the morning when you have the most mental energy. Try and block it at least four hours a day and do everything to protect it.

Chapter: Putting the one thing to work

It is time to implement your one thing. There are two major components to it: purpose and priority. Let’s start with purpose. Your purpose is the one thing you want your life to be about more than any other. To help find your purpose, Kayla suggests you follow the next steps.

  • Write down a handful of activities you’re passionate about.
  • Pick one activity and one outcome most important to you.
  • Combine your activity and outcome to answer the ultimate question: what is the one thing I can do that will make everything easier?
  • Post your one thing where you see it every day. Try it for a while.

Even if you’re not completely satisfied with it, you can always edit or develop a better one later. The goal here is to start.

Number two is a priority. Your purpose specifies where you want to go. Your priority is what you do now that will get you there. To define your priority, you should ask yourself these questions.

  • Based on my ultimate goal, what is the one thing that I can do in the next five years to reach it?
  • Based on my five-year goal, what is the one thing I can do this year? Based on my one-year goal, what can I do this month?
  • Based on this month’s goal, what can I do this week?
  • Based on my week’s goal, what can I do today? Based on my today’s goal, what can I do now?

It will help you dial in your daily and weekly priorities, and you can grow from there.

Learn more: Top 10 Lessons From One Thing Book

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Pauline Jackson

I like to talk about popular books. My book review inspires you to read and save time. Also, I summarize the book and give you the best lessons or ideas that can change your life. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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