The One Thing by Gary Keller – Summary

The One Thing by Gary Keller - Summary
Share This with Someone Who Needs to See This

The Premise of the book is this: The Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan state that the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results is not by doing a collection of things right, but just one thing, and doing that One Thing to the best of your ability such that by doing it everything else would either be easier or unnecessary.

We try to do too much and accomplish too little. We set lofty goals and never reach them. We overload our to-do lists and end up overwhelmed. We’ve all been guilty of this, this is where the Power of The One Thing comes into play.

1) The One Thing

The Principle behind The One Thing is to go small. Why? Because it gets you to the point. Going small has only one purpose – to get you to the point. The path to more is actually through less.

2) The Domino Effect

The Domino Effect
The Domino Effect

Think of The Domino Effect as lining your priorities. When you do the right thing you tip the first domino, then you do the next right thing and you have a chain going. Over time, it adds up, and it unleashes success. When the right thing is set in motion, it can topple many things and that’s The Domino Effect.

Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life. Success is built sequentially one thing at a time, and with the power of The Domino Effect, it compounds over time.

3) Success Leaves Clues

“It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.”

Og Mandino

Many successful companies and people have adopted the power of The One Thing to achieve extraordinary results. Colonel Sanders started KFC with a single chicken recipe and Google’s One Thing is search.

The ONE Thing shows up repeatedly in the lives of the successful because it’s a fundamental truth.

Part 1)


The Six lies between you and success-

  1. Everything Matters Equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A Disciplined Life
  4. Willpower is always on Will call
  5. A Balanced life
  6. Big is Bad

4) Everything Matters Equally

The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.

Bob Hawke

In the world of success, things aren’t equal. There are a lot of things that we could do, but there are only a handful of things that we really need to do.

Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most. Yet that is how most of us play it on a daily basis.

The Pareto Effect

You can turn a to-do list into a success list when you apply Pareto’s principle. Narrow down your priorities and go small. Achievers have a clear sense of priority to do sooner than what others plan to do later.

5) Multitasking


“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time”.

Steve Uzzel

Multitasking is a lie. It’s not an effective way to get more done: It’s an effective way to get less done.

Multitasking was used to describe computers and not people. Studies have shown that it leads to more harm than good.

Multitasking leads to divided attention every time we take on two or more things, Our attention is divided and so is our output.

To put the principle of The One Thing to work, taking on two or more things at the same time is not a good idea.

6) A Disciplined Life

Well, this was not in the book, but this is my favourite quote and it’s by Mike Tyson.

Discipline is the habit of doing what you hate to do, but doing it like you love it.

Mike Tyson

The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring enough discipline to establish it. Use selected Discipline to build a powerful habit. Studies have shown that it takes 66 days to gain a new habit and not 21 like we’re used to hearing.

7) Will Power is always on Will Call

Will Power is not on Will Call. It comes and goes as it pleases. The key to harnessing will power is when you use it. Will Power has a timing issue.

It’s a mental muscle that doesn’t bounce back quickly. It’s incredibly powerful, but it has no endurance. It’s a burst of short energy.

Don’t fight your willpower. Build your days around how it works and let it do its part to build your life.

Use Will Power to do your most important work, particularly your One Thing.

8) A Balanced Life

The idea of balance is exactly that – an idea. This is a grand idea, but not a very practical one. Balance doesn’t exist.

Extraordinary results require focussed attention and time. Time on one thing means time away from another. This makes balance impossible.

Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results. This is where counterbalancing comes in you never go so far that you can’t find your way back.

It’s important to set your priorities straight and not intertwine them, work when you are supposed to be working and play when you are supposed to be playing.

It’s only when you get your priorities mixed up that things fall apart. Let the right thing’s take precedence when they should and get to the rest when you can.

9) Big is Bad

Don’t fear Big. “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do,”. If you fear Big success, you’ll either avoid it or sabotage your efforts to achieve it.

Pursue a big life and you’re Pursuing the greatest life you can possibly live. To live great, you have to think Big. You must be open to the possibility that your life and what you accomplish can become great.

Adopt a growth mindset that thinks big and seeks growth.

Part 2)



Think of this approach as a fighter: clenching his jaw, clenching his fist, biting down on his gumshield, and hoping to land. This approach might work but also lacks success tactics and might put him in the hospital.

Success comes down to this: being appropriate in the right moments of our life.

10) The Focussing Question :

” Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”

Sir Francis Bacon

Life is a question, and how we live it is our answer. The quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question. Ask the right questions, get the right answers.

How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answer that eventually becomes our life.

What’s The One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

11) The Success Habit

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that
by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?”

Ask a significant question, seek out a brilliant answer, it’s the ultimate success habit. “Until my One Thing is done, everything else is a distraction”.

Form good habits that get you where you want to be in life.

12) The Path to great answers

“”People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” 

F.M. Alexander

Set a goal you’d like to achieve and change your focus question from ” I’d like to do that ” to How do I achieve that?

Your answer will be original. A new answer usually requires new behaviour.



The key to extraordinary results is through purpose-driven priority. Your big ONE Thing is your purpose and your small ONE Thing is the priority you take action on to achieve it.

A simple formula for creating an extraordinary life: Live with Purpose. Live by Priority. Live for Productivity.

13) Live with Purpose

Purpose determines who we are. When you have a purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction, which usually leads to faster decisions.

Our Priority is what we place our greatest importance on, and productivity comes from the actions we take.
It’s important to have a purpose and persevere with it long enough for success to show up. This is what achievers do.

14) Live by Priority

Live with Purpose and you know where you want to go. Live by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there. What matters most is a priority. Purpose without priority is powerless.

Goal setting to the now should be your No 1 Priority, Thing big, but go small. Connect today to all your tomorrow’s and visualize the outcome.

15) Live for Productivity

What you want from what you do when the outcomes matters is productivity. Productive people get more done, achieve better results, and earn far more in their hours than the rest.

How to become productive?

Time Blocking is the answer.

There is enough time to be successful only when you time block it. Time Block your One Thing and protect your Time Block. Time Blocking is a way of making sure what has to be done gets done.

Great success shows up when time is devoted every day to becoming great. Brad Isaac, a software Engineer shared a productivity secret he got from Comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Isaac asked him for advice on how to be a better comedian. Seinfeld told him the key to be a better comedian is to write jokes (his One Thing).

Seinfeld had a big calendar in his living room and put up a big X on it every time he wrote a joke. He kept at it and the chain grew longer every day. Your only job is to not break the chain.” If you erase, you must replace”.

16) The Three Commitments

The Three commitments to your One Thing-

  1. Follow the path of mastery
  2. Move from “E” to “P”
  3. Live the accountability cycle

Follow the path of mastery

Mastery means giving the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work. The journey of mastery never ends. Mastery is a journey, we become masters of what is behind us and apprentices of what is ahead.

We’ve all heard of the 10,000-hour rule. To put the 10,000-hour rule into effect, it would take three hours of deliberate practice a day, 365 days a year for 10 years straight in order to be a master at that craft. So mastery takes a long time, and it’s a very slow process. If you can devote 3 hour’s a day, you can perfect your craft in 10 years.

Time on a task, over time, eventually beats talent every time.

Move from “E” to “P”

A person with an entrepreneurial mindset settles with what comes naturally. Whereas A Person with a Purposeful approach is open to new thinking, new skills, and new relationships.

Being purposeful is a commitment to adopt the best possible approach.

Live the accountability cycle

When Life happens, you can either be the author of your Life or the victim. Take ownership of your outcomes. Those are the only two choices- accountable or unaccountable. How you respond makes all the difference.

17) The Four Thieves

The Four Thieves of Productivity-

  1. Inability to say “No”
  2. Fear of Chaos
  3. Poor Health Habits
  4. Environment doesn’t support your goals

Inability to say, No

When you say YES to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying No to. The art of saying yes is, by default, the art of saying no. Saying yes to everything is the same as saying yes to nothing.

If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will almost certainly become what you tend to say no to.

Fear of Chaos

When you strive for greatness, chaos is inevitable, it’s bound to show up. Get used to it and get over it. Don’t be a victim of your circumstances and don’t sacrifice your time block.

Figure it out, find a way, and make your One Thing work.

Poor Health Habits

If you don’t take care of your body, you will either slowly run out of gas or prematurely crash and burn. Do not sacrifice health for success. Do not compromise on eating, exercising, and sleeping because you have more to do.

Environment doesn’t support your goals

Seek out those who support your goals and show the door to those who won’t. The right people in your life and the right physical environment on your daily path will support your efforts to get to your One Thing.

18) The Journey

The Journey
The Journey

Whatever you can see, you have the capacity to move toward. Success is an inside job. Pull Yourself Together and the world falls into place. As the saying goes, If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything, So not working on your One Thing won’t lead you to happiness, and if you haven’t figured out your One Thing then your One Thing is to find out.

The One Thing is real. If you put it to work, it will work.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Open chat
Hi👋, I'm Muthuraj if you have any queries regarding Muthusblog feel free to WhatsApp me!