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The One Thing!

Updated: May 1, 2020

There's a great book by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan titled "The One Thing". Gary is famously known for his work in the real estate industry, you might know his company Keller-Williams. This book is a short quick read that could help you focus on what's truly important to you. In Gary's research, he found that trying to do too many things, taking on too many projects, and tasking yourself too far out hinders true progress. There are three key themes in this book: the lies, the truth, and the extraordinary results.

The first section on the lies discusses myths we've all believed to be true. Gary quotes Mark Twain, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." Basically, half-truths, maxims, and "common sense" myths that you've always believed, but are actually wrong, could be why you're stuck where you are. The theory that everything matters equally, that multitasking is a good skill to have, that willpower is always available, that a balanced life is more important than a focused one, and that "big ideas" always come with bad/stressful work are all myths Gary attempts to dispel.

In the second section, Gary and Jay focus on three key sub-themes: asking yourself a focusing question, understanding the importance of habits to succeed, and knowing what the path is to having your focused questions answered. Here are some examples of focused questions:

  • Why was I created?

  • What on earth am I here for?

  • What should I be known for?

  • When I die, how would I be described?

  • Who in history will I be compared to?

Looking at some examples of "successful people" by earthly measures, answer this one question: what is one singular thing that they are absolutely known for?

  • Nelson Mandela

  • Tiger Woods

  • Florence Nightingale

  • Billy Graham

  • Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Denzel Washington

  • Kobe Bryant

  • Oprah Winfrey

You get the gist. For each one of these greats, there is one singular thing that you could describe them by. Now, ask yourself, what is your one thing? If you don't know what that one thing is, your sole goal over the next few months should be devoting time to finding that one thing. And when you do, then you should work on building habits to deliver on it. Consider building one good habit in each area of your life as it relates to achieving your one thing. F.M. Alexander said, "people do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures."

The last section discusses "extraordinary results" and how to unlock the possibilities to achieve them. Gary and Jay share on living with purpose, living by priorities, living to be productive, the three commitments, and the four thieves. Living with purpose, priority, and productivity are all quite simple to understand. However, the three commitments are to mastery (seek to be the best), changing one's thinking from effective/entrepreneurial to purposeful thinking (which pushes past barriers), and a willingness to be accountable for achieving your one thing. Now there are four thieves that Gary and Jay describe as robbers of your one thing: an inability to say no, the fear of chaos, poor health habits, and an environment that doesn't support your goals. It's not like you haven't heard these before, but being intentional about what you're not going to let stop you is equally as important as being intentional about going for your goal.

Above all, the concept of achieving your purpose in life starts with knowing your purpose in life. Succeeding on that one thing requires knowing what that one thing is. Who better to help you figure out what that one thing is than The One who created you for a purpose? Matthew 7:7-8 says "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Therefore ask Him!

Best wishes,


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