The ONE Thing Notes page is for my thoughts on the book, chapter by chapter… You can check out the Review page here, which is about grading the book as fairly as possible by The Rubric.
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To buy The ONE Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan through my affiliate link, please click here.
The ONE Thing – Chapter 1: The ONE Thing
This is a solid introductory chapter to the book as a whole, but I think the reductionist approach to “the secret of success” is misleading.
In fact, I would say it’s a reflection of Keller having lost the “beginner’s mind” on the way to success.
That is to say, once you reach success and you’re looking back (fondly, I might add) about what it took to get there, you have a less-than-accurate picture. And Keller seems to be suffering from this phenomenon.
But, like many others who we call successful, Keller seems eager to share his stories and how-to’s as if time and hindsight have made the picture clearer than ever.
Specifically, in the first chapter of The ONE Thing Keller goes back to a time where he had been successful, but everything was back on the line, and things just weren’t working.
He remembers his coach asking him if he knew what he needed to do (Keller didn’t), and then telling him he only needed to do one thing. Keller says he didn’t believe him at first, but eventually realized that his coach was right.
His one thing was to hire exactly the right 14 people, and to do that he needed to fire himself as CEO of his own company.
I can’t argue with the subsequent success Keller had in building his business. The results speak for themselves.
What I can argue against is that reducing his success down to learning to focus on “the one thing” from that point doesn’t necessarily translate to anyone at any given point in their journeys – but that’s exactly what Keller says it does.
It’s hard to swallow advice like this from someone who had a huge team to begin with (at least at the point he says he figured out it was all about the one thing). In fact, from someone who had the resources to fire himself and hire a CEO for his company to be able to focus on his own one thing.
Which brings us to the quotation.
The ONE Thing Chapter 1 Quotation
If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others? The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small.Gary Keller with Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing – Chapter 1
To be clear, I don’t disagree with the statement that successful people get to the heart of things with their approach. And I actually like the book well enough (I just published Entreprising’s Guide to The ONE Thing on Amazon).
My problem is with the first part of the statement, “If time is the currency of achievement.”
That’s an assumption to which I’m not willing to acquiesce entirely. I will say that time is necessary to achievement, but not sufficient.
Instead, I would say it is the collective resources that serve as the currency of achievement, of which time is one aspect – not the sum total.
To be fair, Keller and Papasan do address some of this in the remaining chapters. And while they don’t ever come out and actually say it, I think they even know it would be ridiculous to take “the one thing” as a concept too literally.
There are actually a minimum of “two one things” in consideration at any moment, but branding “two one things” isn’t exactly sexy.
I suppose it’s easiest for me to contrast The ONE Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan with Getting Things Done by David Allen.
But from memory, Allen seems focused on an algorithm for keeping all the things we need/want to do organized and stored appropriately so they don’t hijack our attention when we need to focus. Sort of “chaos prevention” as a mechanism for better focus in the moments that matter.
And Keller seems focused on narrowing our aim so tightly that our extraordinary results make up for the chaos that accumulates around us. So, chaos be damned in light of extraordinary results.
I have to say that I like Allen’s idea better – and in a visceral way – but I think Keller’s approach is more aligned with my experience. I’d love to hear opinions on this in the Entreprising Facebook Group. Join me!
I think I’ll have a re-listen to Getting Things Done so I can better contrast the approaches in future chapters.
Which other books should I consider in contrast to The ONE Thing? Give me a shout at email@example.com.
And don’t forget to sign up for Entreprising’s Email List (look to your right on this page). I’ll send you chapter summaries (by argument) of the best business books, straight to your inbox each day.
The ONE Thing – Chapter 2: The Domino Effect
I actually like the metaphor Keller used in this chapter a great deal.
When you topple a domino, the energy of the falling domino is actually capable of toppling another domino up to 50% larger than the first.
Keller says that by choosing the right “one thing” (domino) to do, and focusing everything on toppling that domino, you can end up making everything else easier or unnecessary along the way to success.
It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s okay, and I get it.
The trick, of course, is lining up the dominoes.
You do the right thing and then you do the next right thing.Gary Keller with Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing, Chapter 2
I’ve actually been trying to apply this in my life recently, and I’m finding it a bit tricky to trust and manage. But I’m still convinced it might be the best way to go about things.
The trickiest bit is that so many things seem important…
And, many of the things that I do for Entreprising aren’t things you get done and then you’re done. They’re things that need to be done regularly – and that’s what makes them powerful.
The book addresses these things later in other chapters, but I wouldn’t say it’s ever made completely clear or easy.
In this chapter, I’m most reminded of my work on what I call The Priority Stack.
If Allen’s is an algorithm for Getting Things Done individually, mine is an algorithm for getting things done as a team. Or, more to the point, managing a team to get things done together.
This relates to the Domino Effect in The ONE Thing because it’s all about choosing the next thing to do, and making sure that’s the right thing with the most leverage.
I’m still quite a bit from finishing The Priority Stack, but you can read the first few chapters. I’d love thoughts and feedback, which you can send on over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Entreprising, my takeaway from the chapter was to consider the one thing that should be the focus of my efforts. What is absolutely the most leveraged thing I can do on a daily basis to make Entreprising successful? The answer I came up with is to focus on writing chapter summaries.
I’ve written 30 of them so far, and have published two guides. My goal is to write another one every day. Once that’s done, then I can focus the rest of my energy in other areas. But not until that’s done.
It’s a bit challenging, what with being away from home to take care of my mother right now. I’m also juggling doctor appointments and hospital stays, etc. But I’ve been able to maintain my focus, and that feels better (and stronger) than other times where I’ve let Entreprising sit on the back burner while other things took over my attention.
I’m pretty pleased with how The ONE Thing has affected my processes. Have you tried it? Tell me all about it in the Facebook group here.
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