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The One Thing - Book summary

Do you find yourself overwhelmed by a million things to do and seemingly-insurmountable challenges? How do you keep up with the rapid changes and constant demands of work and life? In this book, Gary Keller explains that there’s ONE Thing behind every successful person or organization. By understanding and applying it, you can concurrently do less less and have more, get extra-ordinary results and lead an extra-ordinary life.  Our free version of The One Thing summary outlines what the ONE Thing is all about and how you can apply it.

The One Thing: An Overview

The key idea in the book is to focus on this question: What’s the ONE Thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?The One Thing Book Summary_focusing question1

It’s about going small, and becoming laser-focused on what truly matters.

The Domino Effect

If you started with a 2-inch domino, and increased the size of each subsequent domino by 50%, the 57th domino would practically bridge the distance between the earth and the moon.

That’s the power of geometric progression or the domino effect. You see the One Thing at work in all aspects of business and life, for example:

One Product or Service

Companies that are extraordinarily successful always have 1 signature product or service e.g. KFC’s secret chicken recipe, Google’s search.

One Person

No one is self-made. Every successful person (e.g. Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey) has that 1 person who made all the difference, be it guiding him/her in the right direction or lending a helping hand at a pivotal point.

One Passion or Skill

Extraordinarily successful people have one intense passion or ability that stands out, defines and drives them.

To create the same geometric effect in your life, you need to find the lead domino. Keep working at it. When you finally knock it over, the dominoes behind it would be ready to fall or have already fallen down.

The 6 Lies About Success

In the book, Keller explains 6 myths that have been repeated so often that we’ve started to mistake them as the truths. We need to debunk them before we can embrace success. Here’s a quick overview of the 6 lies about success.  You can learn more details, including the specific steps you should take to address the 6 myths, in our complete 12-page summary.

The One Thing summary_6 success myths

Myth: Everything matters equally

In reality, 20% of your efforts generate 80% of your results (Pareto Principle). Our complete summary explains how to apply the Extreme Pareto principle to find and focus on your ONE Thing.

Myth: Multitasking gets more done

In reality, multitasking leads to more mistakes, poorer choices, and greater stress. In our full version of The One Thing summary, you’ll learn more about why you should give your most important work your undivided attention and how to find your most important work.

Myth: We must live a Disciplined Life

In reality, we just need to form the right, powerful habits. Our 12-page summary explains how to you can accomplish that.

Myth: Willpower is summoned when needed

In reality, willpower gets depleted with use, and we must know how to use it wisely. Our full summary discusses how to find your priorities.

Myth: We should live a Balanced Life

In reality, you can’t be everything to everyone, and a a balanced life means compromising on all fronts. We explain how to apply counterbalance to allow yourself to go out of balance yet address all your key priorities in our 12-page summary.

Myth: Big is bad

In truth, big thinking drives big action and results.  Our complete summary touches on how to push your limits,  imagine new outcomes and adopt a growth mindset.

Achieving Extraordinary Results: Focus on the ONE Thing

The quality of our questions determine the quality of our answers. By asking the Focusing Question, you drive yourself to make the best possible decisions. In his book, Keller explains how to apply this question in all areas of your life, including how to define your Big Picture and immediate focus, how to create the greatest impact in all important areas of your life (including relationships, health, career, finances etc.), and how to use it to find great answers. You can get a detailed overview from our complete version of The One Thing summary.The One Thing summary_focusing question


Keller also explains how to live by priority and how to “goal-set to the now” by connecting your “someday” goals to the ONE Thing you should do and achieve right nowThe One Thing summary_connect goals

With your goals aligned, you are now ready to take concrete action. Keller also also zooms in on 3 key areas to improve your personal productivity–(a) time blocking, (b) making the 3 key commitments of Mastery, Productivity and Accountability, and (c) managing the 4 thieves of productivity, with practical tips on each of these areas.

Getting the Most from The One Thing

Extraordinary results don’t happen overnight. They are built sequentially, one step at a time. You can use the Focusing Question to survey and narrow down your options, line up your priorities and do what matters most, thus setting yourself up for success and a life with no regrets. You can get all these details from our complete summary bundle which includes an infographic, a 12-page text summary, and a 22-minute audio summary.The ONE Thing summary - book summary bundle

The book comes with several practical examples and illustrations to help readers understand the concept of the ONE Thing and how to apply it. You can purchase the book here, or visit for additional resources.

Looking to improve your personal effectiveness?  Do check out our summaries for: Essentialism, The Effective Executive, and Getting Things Done.

About the Authors of The One Thing

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results is written by Gary Keller and co-authored by Jay Papasan.

Gary Keller is an American author and a real estate entrepreneur. He has been working in real estate for over 30 years, and is the founder and chairman of the board for Keller Williams Realty, the largest real estate franchise in North America. He is also a coach and keynote speaker, helping others to find success by focusing on their ONE thing. 

Jay Papasan is an American author and business executive. He worked as an editorial assistant at New Market Press, then as an associate editor at HarperCollins, before working at Keller Williams Realty. He is now the vice president of publishing and executive editor at KellerINK, the publishing arm of Keller Williams Realty. He and his wife Wendy are owners of The Papasan Real Estate Team. In 2014 he was named by the Swanepoel Power 200 as one of the Most Powerful People in Real Estate.

The One Thing Quotes

“When you go as small as possible, you’ll be staring at one thing. And that’s the point.”

“You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”

“To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction.”

“Those with the right habits seem to do better than others. They’re doing the most important thing regularly and, as a result, everything else is easier.”

“The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.”

“No one knows their ultimate ceiling for achievement, so worrying about it is a waste of time.”

“Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.”

“Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment…When our daily actions fulfill a bigger purpose, the most powerful and enduring happiness can happen.”

Click here to download The One Thing book summary and infographic

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