The One Thing: Book Summary

Share this note with your friends.

The One Thing- a book written by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan ask you the one thing that you can do to make everything else easier. The book indicates that if you want more in life, then you need to take smaller steps. Its core concept revolves around Pareto Principle which indicates that 20% of input will give you 80% of the result. The article consists of three basic life lessons, from the book itself, that can make a huge impact on your perspective. Take a look below to check “The One Thing: Book Summary”.

Lesson 1: Six Lies of Success

In this book summary of “The One Thing”, author tells us these six lies of success. They are as follows-

  1. Everything matters equally- Equality is an idea, not a practical reality in the world of results. Instead of having a “to-do” list, have a “success-list” so that you have the evy for essentials. 
  2. Multitasking- We can be capable of doing a lot of things but we cannot do all of it together. We, as humans, will not be able to focus on two things simultaneously. 
  3. A disciplined life- It’s a common idea that to be successful, you need to be disciplined at all times. But the reality is that you need discipline to build a habit, which on an average, takes 66 days. 
  4. Willpower- It is commonly believed that one can tap into their  willpower whenever required. But this is a faulty idea since willpower is a limited resource. When your willpower runs out, you revert to your default settings. 
  5. A balanced life- Living a balanced life is a flawed concept. What you’re seeking in life is the purpose and meaning, and not balance. Balance is not bad but when you’re running towards greater success then an unbalanced life is natural. 
  6. Big is bad- Big is good. Big is about who you can become and the bold ideas that reflect your exciting future. What you build today will either empower or restrict your future. 

Also Read: The Millionaire Next Door: Book Summary

Lesson 2: Figure out your long-term and short-term priorities-

One question that the author asks is “What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?” 

One thing can be described as the time, effort, and energy you put in to successfully doing that one specific thing and to forget about all the other things. It is to do something that matters the most to you at that given point, something that fulfills your life purpose and provides you with an air of satisfaction. 

The book summary of “The One Thing” says that not everything on your to-do list is equally important, one thing is more important than the other. Therefore, you should callously prioritize your tasks to achieve the greatest leaps in the shortest time frame. The author says that if you want to achieve extraordinary results, then you have to narrow your focus. People think that to be more successful, you have to put in more time and hard work but it’s the other way around. 

Keller also suggests us to ask the question in two levels: Macro and Micro. For example: If you wish to fly a plane across the ocean, then you should first focus on the micro level and start by getting a pilot’s license- this will make your dream a lot easier. 

On a micro level you can ask yourself- “What is the one thing I can do right now to get closer to my dream?” 

The first question i.e., “Macro” helps you to figure out what you want in life and the next question “Micro” helps you break down the process of getting there. 

Also Read: Rich Dad Poor Dad: Book Summary

Lesson 3: Four Productivity Thief’s-

The three thieves of productivity that has been described in this book summary of “The One Thing” are-

  1. Inability to say “No”- You can’t say yes to everything and you also should never do it. Your responsibility is to say “Yes” to that one thing. There may be many reasons why you fear saying “No” but you need to find a way to say “No” and be comfortable with it. 
  2. Fear of chaos- When you say “Yes” to that one thing, it often comes at the cost of doing the endless list of things that you feel you might need to do. If you have the bait of trying to do everything, then you might fear letting things go. But you need to get comfortable with doing  those small things that are necessary for your success. 
  3. Poor health habits- You will not have the energy or ability to succeed if you don’t take care of your health. You need to protect your most valuable asset and that is- YOU. Exercise, meditate, and sleep well to do so. 
  4. An environment that does not support your goals- Do not surround yourself with negative people because that is what you’ll become. You mostly tend to think, work, and become like the one you spend the most time with. Ergo, avoid spending time with someone who is negative about your goals. 

Also Read: The Secret: Book Review & Summary

Lesson 4: Never Sacrifice Your Personal Life for Your Goal

Here’s a quote from James Petterson that can explain this point deeply-

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”- James Petterson.

Work/ goals are not as important as life and your life is not your work/ goal. There’s always tomorrow to get caught up on yesterday’s work, make another call, send another pitch. But a missed date, dance recital, or family get-together can never be undone. 

It is always possible to delay or even put off work priorities number 2, 3, and 17. The importance of your ONE thing becomes apparent when you work on it. But if you’re not working on it, you’re wasting your time and energy. 

Do not shy away from going that extra mile for your loved ones. Take off early or buy flowers on your way back home.

If you don’t have anyone left to share the story of how you achieved your ONE thing, what’s the point? 

Also Read: The Psychology of Money: Book Review and Summary

Conclusion: The author however, reminds us that the achievement of our One Thing is not without difficulty. If you do not have a “big picture”, we can easily fall into many different objectives. In other words, once we get what we want, our happiness reduces because we quickly become accustomed to what we acquire. Having a purpose helps us. Knowing why we are doing something provides the motivation needed to keep going so that we keep moving forward even when things are not going right. 

We hope this book summary of The One Thing was helpful for you guys. In case you want to read the entire book, you can buy it from Amazon. Also, for more such interesting book summaries, keep coming back to

Leave a Comment