By far the best book I read this summer was The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.
Obviously, this book is about focus. It's about asking a powerful question: What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
You see, I don't have an issue focusing. When I need to finalise a task, I'm pretty good at hammering it.
But I do have an issue with doing too many things and wanting to be part of very many things. It's hard for me to say no when others come to invite me to be a part of their projects which often have very little to do with what my priorities are at the moment. As the authors explain, when you say yes to something you are inevitably saying no to something else (often what matters most to you) in order to find time for the former.
So this book got me thinking a lot about focusing only on the right things at a given time and prioritising my energy for those. It also made me realise that I need to be more vigorous about how and when I should be utilising this energy best. That includes my own time management and planning as well as my surroundings because according to research we lose 28 percent of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness and on top of that, we get interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of our day recovering from these distractions.
I loved the book because of the way it's written - easy to read, practical, very grounded - and because of how it gets you to think about the things you do and how you actually do them.
In an effort to share this experience with you, I've highlighted below my favourite quotes from the book and categorised them into eight parts: focus, multitasking, habit, willpower, saying no, balance, happiness and success.
I hope you enjoy them!
The 44 Most Powerful Quotes from The One Thing:
When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small. “Going small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.
Just because our day job doesn’t involve bypass surgery shouldn’t make focus any less critical to our success or the success of others. Your work deserves no less respect.
We overthink, overplan, and overanalyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long hours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it. I discovered that we can’t manage time, and that the key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.
With an average of 4,000 thoughts a day flying in and out of our heads, it’s easy to see why we try to multitask.
You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.
Extraordinary results require focused attention and time. Time on one thing means time away from another.
When we know something that needs to be done but isn’t currently getting done, we often say, “I just need more discipline.” Actually, we need the habit of doing it. And we need just enough discipline to build the habit.
The foundation for achievement—regularly working at something until it regularly works for you. When you discipline yourself, you’re essentially training yourself to act in a specific way. Stay with this long enough and it becomes routine—in other words, a habit. So when you see people who look like “disciplined” people, what you’re really seeing is people who’ve trained a handful of habits into their lives. This makes them seem “disciplined” when actually they’re not.
The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it... It also simplifies your life. Your life gets clearer and less complicated because you know what you have to do well and you know what you don’t. The fact of the matter is that aiming discipline at the right habit gives you license to be less disciplined in other areas. When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.
In the world of professional success, it’s not about how much overtime you put in; the key ingredient is focused time over time.
Contrary to what most people believe, success is not a marathon of disciplined action. Achievement doesn’t require you to be a full-time disciplined person where your every action is trained and where control is the solution to every situation. Success is actually a short race—a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.
Super-successful people aren’t superhuman at all; they’ve just used selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time.
Willpower is a timing issue. When you have your will, you get your way. Although character is an essential element of willpower, the key to harnessing it is when you use it.
Think of willpower like the power bar on your cell phone. Every morning you start out with a full charge. As the day goes on, every time you draw on it you’re using it up. So as your green bar shrinks, so does your resolve, and when it eventually goes red, you’re done. Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime. It’s a limited but renewable resource.
Everyone accepts that limited resources must be managed, yet we fail to recognize that willpower is one of them. We act as though our supply of willpower were endless. As a result, we don’t consider it a personal resource to be managed, like food or sleep. This repeatedly puts us in a tight spot, for when we need our willpower the most, it may not be there.
The more we use our mind, the less minding power we have. Willpower is like a fast-twitch muscle that gets tired and needs rest.
When you resist something tempting, you use some up. The more you resist, the emptier your tank gets, until you run out
The studies concluded that willpower is a mental muscle that doesn’t bounce back quickly. If you employ it for one task, there will be less power available for the next unless you refuel. To do our best, we literally have to feed our minds, which gives new credence to the old saw, “food for thought.” Foods that elevate blood sugar evenly over long periods, like complex carbohydrates and proteins, become the fuel of choice for high-achievers—literal proof that “you are what you eat.”
When it comes to willpower, timing is everything. You will need your willpower at full strength to ensure that when you’re doing the right thing, you don’t let anything distract you or steer you away from it. Then you need enough willpower the rest of the day to either support or avoid sabotaging what you’ve done. That’s all the willpower you need to be successful.
The art of saying yes is, by default, the art of saying no. Saying yes to everyone is the same as saying yes to nothing. Each additional obligation chips away at your effectiveness at everything you try.
Bill Cosby summed up this productivity thief perfectly. As he was building his career, Cosby read some advice that he took to heart: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity.
When we keep borrowing against our future by poorly protecting our energy, there is a predictable outcome of either slowly running out of gas or prematurely crashing and burning.
“I need more balance,” a common mantra for what’s missing in most lives. We hear about balance so much we automatically assume it’s exactly what we should be seeking. It’s not. Purpose, meaning, significance—these are what make a successful life.
The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.
The question of balance is really a question of priority. When you change your language from balancing to prioritizing, you see your choices more clearly and open the door to changing your destiny.
The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work.
A life lived on purpose is the most powerful of all—and the happiest.
Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association, believes there are five factors that contribute to our happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning. Of these, he believes engagement and meaning are the most important. Becoming more engaged in what we do by finding ways to make our life more meaningful is the surest way to finding lasting happiness.
Happiness happens when you have a bigger purpose than having more fulfills, which is why we say happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.
A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one way that stands above all others is living a life of no regrets.
Life is too short to pile up woulda, coulda, shouldas.
The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.
We each have passions and skills, but you’ll see extraordinarily successful people with one intense emotion or one learned ability that shines through, defining them or driving them more than anything else.
Success requires action, and action requires thought.
Everyone has the same amount of time, and hard work is simply hard work. As a result, what you do in the time you work determines what you achieve.
There is a natural rhythm to our lives that becomes a simple formula for implementing the ONE Thing and achieving extraordinary results: purpose, priority, and productivity.
Live with purpose. Live by priority. Live for productivity.
When you have a definite purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction, which usually leads to faster decisions. When you make faster decisions, you’ll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices. And when you have the best choices, you have the opportunity for the best experiences.
Success comes down to this: being appropriate in the moments of your life. If you can honestly say, “This is where I’m meant to be right now, doing exactly what I’m doing,” then all the amazing possibilities for your life become possible.
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.
When life happens, you can be either the author of your life or the victim of it. Those are your only two choices— accountable or unaccountable.
Actions build on action. Habits build on habit. Success builds on success. The right domino knocks down another and another and another. So whenever you want extraordinary results, look for the levered action that will start a domino run for you. Big lives ride the powerful wave of chain reactions and are built sequentially, which means when you’re aiming for success you can’t just skip to the end.
Finally, I want to leave you with some additional quotes from other people that the authors had included in the book:
“Success demands singleness of purpose.” — Vince Lombardi
“Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.” —John Carmack
“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” —F. M. Alexander
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” —Alan Lakein
“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” — William James
The key learning for me is this: Vigilantly focus your energy and time on the one key thing. Consistently and with purpose.
What did you learn?