Book: The One Thing: The surprising simple truth behind extraordinary results
Author: Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
This book is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. So much so, after finishing it, I went ahead and got copies for my mentors. And my copy is riddled with notes and highlights all over the place. In fact, choosing the highlights to share in this post was so tough, this post will be 4x as long as usual.
Like Essentialism, The One Thing is a book about the central idea that not everything is important, and while it may seem like everything is urgent, there is always that ONE thing that if focused on would bring disproportionate results.
Success in life comes from understanding what your ONE thing is, what the big thing you want your life to be all about is and then working that question down until you have some direction in the day-to-day execution of your dream.
Gary tackles the typical traps that stifles our progress like multitasking, balance, and relying on will power. He then goes on to give practical tips on how to focus on the ONE thing and make it easier to follow. Tips like time blocking, asking the Focusing Question and striving for mastery.
The ONE Thing is a powerful book that connects the idea of big goals, with the reality of focused and persistent execution. Dream big, dare to accomplish great, focus on the ONE thing and let it propel you to greatness.
My Highlights from The One Thing
Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success had varied, my focus had too.
You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing things with side effects.
Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.
Highly successful people know this. So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino and whack away at it until it falls.
…extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear, becomes geometric.
Applying the ONE Thing to your work-and in your life- is the simplest and smartest thing you can do to propel yourself toward the success you want.
The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.
In fact, most to-do lists are actually just survival lists – getting you through your day and your life, but not making each day a stepping-stone for the next so you sequentially build a successful life.
Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list – a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.
Sometimes it’s the first thing you do. Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
Multitasking is a lie.
It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.
You can become successful with less discipline that you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.
When our willpower runs out, we all revert to our default settings. This begs the question: What are your default settings?
Nothing ever achieves absolute balance. Nothing. No matter how imperceptible it might be, what appears to be a state of balance is something entirely different – an act of balancing.
A balanced life is a lie.
Purpose, meaning, significance- these are what make a successful life. Seek them and you will most certainly live your life out of balance, crisscrossing an invisible middle line as you pursue your priorities.
The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.
Every level of achievement requires its own combination of what you do, how you do it and who you do it with. The trouble is that the combination of what, how and who that gets you to one level of success won’t naturally evolve to a better combination that leads to the next level of success.
Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest.
Once you’ve asked a big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can’t imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits and relationships of other people who have found the answer.
Why focus on a question when what we really crave is an answer? It’s simple. Answers come from questions and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.
Great questions are clearly the quickest path to great answers.
Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.
Powered by the Focusing Question, your actions become a natural progression of building one right thing, on top of the previous right thing. When this happens, you’re in position to experience the power of the domino effect.
The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions into one: What’s the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action.
The Big-Picture Question: What is my ONE Thing? Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass.
The Small-Focus Question: What is my ONE Thing right now? Use this when you wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work, and whenever you need it, helps you find the “levered action” or first domino in any activity.
Your one-two punch for extraordinary results – Ask a great question (think big and specific), find a great answer (research & role model)
Low goals don’t require extraordinary actions, so they rarely lead to extraordinary results.
Answers come in three categories: doable, stretch and possibility.
High achievers understand the first two routes but reject them. Unwilling to settle for ordinary when extraordinary is possible, they’ve asked a Great Question and want the very best answer.
Highly successful people choose to live at the outer limits of achievement. They not only dream of but deeply crave what is beyond their natural grasp.
Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer.
A college professor once told me, “Gary, you’re smart, but people have lived before you. You’re not the first person to dream big, so you’d be wise to study what others have learned first, and then build your actions on the back of their lessons”
The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer. Armed with this knowledge, you can establish a benchmark, the current high water mark for all that is known and being done. With a stretch approach this was your maximum, but now it is your minimum.
Because your answer will be original, you’ll probably have to reinvent yourself in some way to implement it. A new answer usually requires new behavior.
“Purpose” may sound heavy, but it doesn’t have to be. Think of it simply as the ONE Thing you want your life to be about more than any other.
It can be a little like a Russian matryoshka doll in that your ONE Thing “right now” is nested inside your ONE Thing today, which is nested inside your ONE Thing this week, which is nested inside your ONE thing this month…it’s how a small thing can actually build up to a big one. You’re lining up your dominoes.
You are training your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time until you know the most important thing you must do right NOW. You are learning how to think big – but go small.
Time blocking is a very results oriented way of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to get done gets done.
Make an appointment with yourself and keep it – Time block your One Thing – Protect your time block.
If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.
To achieve extraordinary results and experience greatness time block these three things in the following order: 1, Time block your time off. 2, Time block your ONE Thing. 3, Time block your planning time.
Resting is as important as working.
There is magic in knocking down your most important domino day after day.
Extraordinary results become possible when you want to go is completely aligned with what you do today.
You must continually seek the very best ways of doing things.
Are you doing this to simply do the best you can do, or are you doing this to do it the best it can be done?
..when you are going about your ONE Thing, any ceiling of achievement must be challenged, and this requires a different approach – a purposeful approach.
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.
You can’t put limits on what you’ll do. You have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things if you want breakthroughs in your life.
The Purposeful approach says, “I’m still committed to growing, so what are my options?
Taking complete ownership of your outcomes by holding no one but yourself responsible for them is the most powerful thing you can do to drive your success.
An accountability partner provides frank, objective feedback on your performance, creates an ongoing expectation for productive progress and can provide critical brainstorming or even expertise when needed.
If you can’t say no a lot, you’ll never truly be able to say yes to achieving your ONE Thing. Literally, it’s one or the other – and you get to decide.
One of the greatest thieves of productivity is the unwillingness to allow for the chaos or the lack of creativity in dealing with it.
Hanging out with people who seek success will strengthen your motivation and positively push your performance.
Actions build on action. Habits build on habit. Success builds on success.
Big lives build the powerful wave of chain reactions and are built sequentially.
Success is an inside job. Put yourself together and your world falls into place.
All success starts within you. You know what to do. You know how to do it. Your next step is simple.
You are the first domino.
Book: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters
Author: Richard Rumelt
As a creative, brand strategist and entrepreneur, I’m interested in strategy, and in my travels across the web, this book, ‘Good strategy/Bad Strategy’ came up quite a few times as the one book to read if you wanted to learn more about strategy. I finally finished it last week, and it really delivered.
In the book, Richard Rumelt showcases the difference between good strategy and bad strategy. Bad strategy is nothing less than wishful thinking, and can be recognized by broad fluffy words, bad objectives and an unwillingness to face problems. Good strategy on the other hand digs in to the situation at hand, addresses the critical problems, prescribes a general guideline in tackling them and includes clear coherent set of actions to take to actually get there.
Good strategy/Bad strategy is a highly recommended reading if you are a leader, a consultant, an entrepreneur or just interested in strategy. The insights are profound and are widely applicable, from the board room to personal dealings.
Highlights from Good Strategy/Bad Strategy
Despite the roar of voices wanting to equate strategy with ambition, leadership, “vision”, planning, or the economic logic of competition, strategy is none of these. The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors.
A good strategy does more than urge us forward towards a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides and approach to overcoming them.
A good strategy has an essential logical structure that I call the kernel. The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.
The most basic idea of strategy is the application of strength against weakness. Or, if you prefer, strength applied to the most promising opportunity.
How can someone see what others have not, or what they have ignored, and thereby discover a pivotal objective and create an advantage, lies at the very edge of our understanding, something glimpsed only out the corner of our minds.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses, assess the opportunities and risks (your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses), and build on your strengths.
If you fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, you don’t have a strategy. Instead, you have either a stretch goal, a budget, or a list of things you wish would happen.
Strategic objectives should address a specific process or accomplishment, such as halving the time it takes to respond to a customer, or getting work from several Fortune 500 corporations.
Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.
Good strategy is not just “what’ you are trying to do. It is also “why” and “how” you are doing it.
A good guiding policy tackles the obstacles identified in the diagnosis by creating or drawing upon sources of advantage.
Returns to concentration arise when focusing efforts on fewer, or more limited, objectives generates larger payoffs.
…he invested where his resources would make a large and more visible difference.
One of a leader’s most powerful tools is the creation of a good proximate objective – one that is close enough at hand to be feasible.
…imagine that they were allowed to have only one objective. And that objective had to be feasible. What one single feasible objective, when accomplished, would make the biggest difference?
A master strategist is a designer.
But the truth is that many companies, especially large complex companies, don’t really have strategies. At the core, strategy is about focus, and most complex organizations don’t focus their resources.
Extending a competitive advantage requires looking away from products, buyers and competitors and looking instead at the special skills and resources that underlie a competitive advantage. In other words, “Build on your strengths”.
The other way to grab the high ground – the way that is my focus here – is to exploit a wave of change.
You exploit a wave of change by understanding the likely evolution of the landscape and then channeling resources and innovation toward positions that will become high ground – become valuable and defensible – as the dynamics play out.
A good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgement.
To guide your own thinking in strategy work, you must cultivate three essential skills or habits. First you must have a variety of tools for fighting your own myopia. Second, you must develop the ability to question your own judgement. If your reasoning cannot withstand a vigorous attack, your strategy cannot be expected to stand in the face of real competition. Third, you must cultivate the habit of making and recording judgements so that you can improve.
I read this book for the first time back in early 2015, and I even blogged about the core idea here and a related idea ‘Deliberatism’ here. This is a crucial book, and it holds a hard-to-live-up-to idea that has the ability to transform your life, if implemented well. It pairs very well with ‘The One Thing’ which I will blog about sometime soon.
Too many times, we take on too much and we try to do everything. This is an excellent strategy when starting out. When you are new or young, try everything out, try different things, taste the berries, like Gary Vee would say. It’s this being open and saying yes to everything that will open doors and fuel your success. But once you get to a level of success, to move to the next level, you have to evolve and change your approach.
In every endeavor, there are the small proportion of factors that disproportionately affect the outcome. It is basically the 80/20 principle. There are the trivial many and the vital few. It is a profoundly important skill to be able to delineate between the few and focus your efforts on the things that really matter.
Imagine being able to accomplish more by doing less. This is the promise of Essentialism. How can you be more focused, more effective and less stressed?
Check out my selected excerpts below, and you can buy the book here.
My Highlights from Essentialism
In this example is the basic value proposition of Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.
… Less but better. A more fitting definition of Essentialism would be hard to come by.
Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.
It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at your highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.
The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default.
Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
The pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure. Put another way, success can distract us from focusing on the essential things that produce success in the first place.
To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and ‘I can do anything but not everything.”
When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up a function of other people’s choices – or even a function of our own past choices.
Is there a point where doing less (but thinking more) will actually produce better outcomes?
To discern what is truly essential, we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.
…and the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflective spaces in which we can truly focus.
When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for, and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress and frustration. When there is a high level of clarity, on the other hand, people thrive.
We do a similar thing in our personal lives as well. When we are unclear about our real purpose in life – in other words, when we don’t have a clear sense of our goals, our aspirations, and our values – we make up our own social games. We waste time and energies on trying to look good in comparison to other people. We overvalue non-essentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter.
Creating an essential intent is hard. It takes courage, insight and foresight to see which activities and efforts will add up to your single highest point of contribution. It takes asking tough questions, making real trade-offs, and exercising serious discipline to cut out the competing priorities that distract us from our true intention. Yet it is worth the effort because only with real clarity of purpose can people, teams, and organizations fully mobilize and achieve something truly excellent.
Don’t ask, “How will I feel if I miss out on this opportunity?” but rather, “If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?”
We all have some people in our lives who tend to be higher maintenance for us than others. These are the people who make their problem our problem. They distract us from our purpose. They care only about their own agendas, and if we let them, they prevent us from making our highest contribution by siphoning our time and energy to activities that are essential to them, rather than those that are essential to us.
Whoever it is that’s trying to siphon off your time and energies for their own purpose, the only solution is to put up fences.
The way of the Essentialist is different. The Essentialist looks ahead. She plans. She prepares for different contingencies. She expects the unexpected. She creates a buffer to prepare for the unforeseen, thus giving herself some wiggle room when things come up, as they inevitable do.
What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.
…highly creative individuals use strict routines to free up their minds. Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise,” Mihaly says. “they wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial, they do only things they think are important…personalizing patterns of action helps to free the mind from the expectations that make demands on attention and allows intense concentration on matters that count.
Focus on the hardest thing first.
They know that execution is easy if you work hard at it and hard if you work easy at it.
Essentialist never attempts to do more than one thing at a time.
“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many tribal affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day;…so simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real” – Henry David Thoreau
The way of the Essentialist isn’t just about success; it’s about living a life of meaning and purpose.
I’ve been an avid reader for years, and out of the many books I’ve read, there are a few that truly stand out. These are books that contribute a unique idea, a new perspective or a tool that propel my life. So I’m starting a new series where I profile my favorite books, the ones that have had the most impact on me. Hopefully it inspires you to pick up one of these books, or at least you can pick something from this series and allow that to spur you into new action.
I had heard of Grant Cardone years ago through a friend who works in sales. I knew Grant had a lot of content on sales training and had a very balls-to-the-wall kinda vibe. I did not know just how much until I started listening to his podcast late last year. Cardone has insane energy and insane expectations lol. Watching, listening to or reading him is definitely a kick in the pants. He takes no prisoners and goes all in.
His book The 10X Rule is about thinking big, setting huge goals and taking insane massive action towards achieving them. I think it’s an important book because as far as getting what you want goes, we tend to under-estimate just how much effort it would take to achieve our goals (if we even dream big enough). if you do 10X more than you need to do to get what you want, the chances of you getting it simply skyrocket.
My Highlights from The 10X Rule
It takes the same amount of energy and effort to make $10 million as it does $10 000. Sound crazy? It’s not – and you’ll see this when you start operating at 10X levels. Your goals will change, and the action you take will finally start to match who you really are, and what you are really capable of doing.
Another component that is required for success is the ability to estimate the right amount of effort necessary for you – and your team – to achieve a goal.
As I look back over my life, I see that the one thing that was most consistent with any success I’ve achieved was that I always put forth 10 times the amount of activity that others did. For ever sales representation, phone call, or appointment others made, I was making 10 of each. When I started buying real estate, I look at 10 times more properties than I could buy and then made offers to ensure that I was able to buy what I wanted at the price I desired. I have approached all my business enterprises with massive action; that has been the single biggest determining actor in any success I have created.
In order to get to the next level of whatever you’re doing, you must think and act in a wildly different way than you previously have been.
Only you know your true potential and whether you’re living up to it; no one else can judge your success.
Take massive amounts of action at 10 times the levels you think necessary
This is the focus of the 10X Rule: You must set targets that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets. Massive thoughts must be followed by massive actions.
There is nothing ordinary about the 10X Rule. It is simply what it says it is: 10 times the thoughts and 10 times the actions of the other people.
The 10X Rule is about pure domination mentality.
A person who limits his or her potential success will limit what he or she will do to create it and keep it.
As long as you are alive, you will either live to accomplish your own goals and dreams or be used as a resource to accomplish someone else’s.
It is not enough just to play the game; it is vital that you learn to win at it.
One of the greatest turning points in my life occurred when I stopped casually waiting for success and instead started to approach it as a duty, obligation and responsibility.
Discipline, consistent, and persistent actions are more of a determining factor in the creation of success than any other combination of things.
Instead, you must acquire the discipline, muscle memory, and achievements that result from taking massive action – while others think, plan and procrastinate.
Attack, dominate and keep your attention on the future, and then continue to repeat your actions – and your courage will grow. Do things that scare you more frequently, and they will slowly begin to scare you a bit less – until they become so habitual that you wonder why you ever feared them in the first place!
The successful know they can quantify what works and what doesn’t work, whereas the unsuccessful focus solely on “hard work”.
Results (not efforts) – regardless of the challenges, resistance, and problems – are a primary focus of the successful.
You can only be as successful as the individuals with whom you involve and associate yourself.
Stay focused on the future, be unreasonable about it, continue to add wood, and don’t focus on what people say has been done, can be done, or is possible!
Earlier this year I read a great book – Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. And it clarified my thoughts on an idea that has been dancing around the edges of my mind.
I like to do many things. In varsity, I did so many different things…taught dance school, involved in church activities, led cell group, designed on the side, attended classes, had a social life, etc, etc.
I liked doing many things because I liked the rush of being busy and trying to cram a thousand things into an impossible space of time.
Over time, some things fell away and I became more focused. My life was centred around designing and trying to make a living from that. For the past few years, I have been very undisciplined with my work. I would take on as many jobs as came my way, while trying to work on my personal ideas and projects. The price of this indiscipline was I was always frantic and at the mercy of my clients, and email. I burned out regularly as evidenced by my blog posts around mid year, every year. I never had the chance to slow percolate ideas and projects the way I really wanted to.
Last year however, I had the experience of being able to work on one project for months, building it from the ground up and designing multiple collateral for the idea. It was a nice change of pace from trying to fit 10 things into a month of time. I liked it, the pace of work was both challenging and easier. Challenging because it takes discipline to work in this way…pushing past resistance and fighting distraction. Easier because I didn’t feel so frantic and rushed. Better because my quality of work was higher.
As the third month of the year begins and we continue to plow through, I want to make great impact this year. I recognize that that means working on the right things. But you can only know what the right things are if you know what you truly want and what is important to you. Then you can identify what paths of action would take you there. You can sacrifice short term gain for the long term goal, and move steadily towards your aims. But this way of doing things is not always natural and is something we must develop a discipline in. You have to decide where your greatest level of contribution is, and where the greatest need is and where the two intersect. Eventually, you can do less and achieve a lot more, because the essential few things have a great pay off.
Having many options and opportunities is a blessing and a curse. Its great to be able to explore all these possibilities, but at some point, you have to close off some doors and focus on the essential few. Otherwise, your energy will be scattered in too many directions and you will not make any impact.
Focus on the essential few.
So I came across this idea again a week ago – the concept of two different mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
The concept is fairly straightforward. On the one hand, you have the fixed mindset. This way of thinking assumes that intelligence and traits are fixed, they are either there or not, either high or low, and you have what you have, it’s just the way it is. If you are smart, you are smart. If you are dumb, you are dumb.
On the other hand, there is the growth mindset. This basically means that what ever is…can be changed. So, intelligence is fluid, traits and skills are fluid, they change. You can actually become smarter…or dumber.
Now what is fascinating are the consequences of each way of thinking. In the fixed mindset, things get dangerous. You get told, ‘hey, you did well in this math test, you are quite intelligent’. What gets into your subconscious is ‘I am intelligent, this is part of my identity now. Because I am intelligent, I SHOULD always do well. If I don’t do well, then it means I’m dumb and that’s just not true, I am intelligent and awesome’. You carry around this self-identity and look for cues to support it. So you do things that you know you are definitely good at and shun everything that seems hard. Effort isn’t a good thing because it means that the thing is hard, and intelligent people don’t find things hard. You might even start to lie and inflate your performance or importance because you MUST support this idea of your intelligence.
In the growth mindset, you get told, ‘hey, you did well in this math test, you must have worked really hard on this’. Here the focus is on the EFFORT, what gets communicated to your subconscious is ‘I did well because I put in work’. So its not about you being smart or superior, its about the work and energy you put into solving those problems. Generally these people do better than the former group, they relish a challenge and are keen on working hard to overcome obstacles and learn, grow, become better.
I got the impression when I was very young that I was intelligent. I did very well in primary school without really trying. It was only in high school after languishing in mediocrity for a bit that I realized that if I put in more work and tweaked my study/learning habits I could actually go back to doing very well. So I learned from experience that if I wanted to be ‘intelligent’ I could boost that by practicing and working hard.
But the fixed mindset is still rooted quite deep within even though it’s slowly crumbling. The growth mindset requires humility and a focus on the process. You must be willing to come to the situation as a pure open-minded beginner, not thinking you know it all or anything at all. You must be okay with failing as long as each failure is an exhaustive lesson of where to grow. You must love the effort and the grind to the top. I’m not a good designer because the gods magically blessed me. I am a good designer because I have been working hard at my craft and if I continue to grind and tweak my process, I will continue to get better
Another place the fixed vs growth mindset plays out is in relationships, especially romantic ones. I am terribly guilty of being of the fixed mindset. Here, its all supposed to magically work out. The girl I’m with needs to just fit, the relationship should work, be sparkles and fireworks half the time, her flaws are problems that threaten our connection. While there is baseline for qualities I’d like, fairy tale perfection rarely happens. If I want an amazing and fulfilling relationship, that is something that will require mistakes, learning and working together to build that.
Lastly, I think about the effect of the fixed mindset on my life by the way of my fixation on perfection. I always thought I had to be the perfect kid, the perfect Christian, the perfect guy, and that caused me A LOT of distress when I would inevitable mess up. I have spent days pondering the question – ‘am I a good person?’ But if success comes from working towards being my best self, I don’t have to get it right all the time, I just have to be committed to working towards it.