The One Thing explains the success habit to overcome the six lies that block our success, beat the seven thieves that steal time, and leverage the laws of purpose, priority, and productivity.


This book is FANTASTIC. It's elegantly written and punchy. I'm putting it at the top of my "reread every couple of months" list. Ignore it at your own peril.

Recommended to me by Will Brown on episode 30 of The Louis & Kyle Show.


If you chase two rabbits... you will not catch either one. - Russian Proverb


Chapter 1: The One Thing

  • Keller Williams became much more successful when Gary Keller fired himself and hired 14 executives to oversee the major functions.
  • His executives became dramatically more productive, when Gary only asked them to do one most important action item after each coaching meeting.
  • To find that action item, Gary asked "the focusing question."
  • "What's the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"
  • "Going small" is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do."
  • Not all things matter equally, so find and focus on the things that matter most.
  • "Big success comes when we do a few things well.

Chapter 2: The Domino Effect

  • "When one thing, the right thing, is set in motion, it can topple many things."
  • "a single domino is capable of bringing down another domino that is actually 50% larger" (this is true for every domino in the progression)
  • Life doesn't line up the domino's and say "start here"
  • highly successful people line up their priorities anew everyday, find the "lead" domino, and whack away at it until it falls down
  • "extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous." "do the right thing and then you do the next right thing."
  • "Success is built sequentially. It's one thing at a time."

Chapter 3: Success Leaves Clues

  • "No one succeeds alone, no one."
  • Passion creates a virtuous cycle. You love doing it, so you get good at it. Doing well is rewarding, so you do it even more.
  • "The ONE Thing shows up time and time again in the lives of the successful because it's a fundamental truth."
  • "How do you make the best decisions possible, experience life at an extraordinary level, and never look back? Live the ONE Thing."

Part 1: The Lies

Chapter 4: Everything Matters Equally

  • As adults, we have full autonomy over our choices. How we spend our time, what we work on, etc.
  • Our lives are little more than the cumulative result of all of our choices.
  • "when our lives are defined by our choices, the all-important question becomes, How do we make good ones?"
  • "When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal"
  • "Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business"
  • "Not everything matters equally, and success isn't a game won by whoever does the most"
  • "The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest" - Bob Hawke
  • Achievers "have an eye for the essential." They "pause just long enough to decide what matters and then allow what matters to drive their day"
  • "Achievers do sooner what others plan to do later and defer"
  • "Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority"
  • "Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list--a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results"
  • "If a list isn't built around success, then that's not where it takes you"
  • Pareto's Principle (80/20 rule) is "as real as the law of gravity...It's not just a theory--its a provable predictable certainty of nature"
  • "Selected effort creates almost all of the rewards"
  • "The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do"
  • "A to-do list becomes a success list when you apply Pareto's Principle to it."
  • "There will always be just a few things that matter more than the rest, and out of those, one will matter most"
  • "Once you've figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left."
  • "Whether you say "later" or "never," the point is to say "not now" to anything else you could do until your most important work is done"

Chapter 5: Multitasking

  • "To do two things once is to do neither" -- Publilius Syrus
  • Multitasking "is an effective way to get less done"
  • People can do two things at once (walking and talking) but we can't focus on two things at once.
  • "Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention"

Chapter 6: A Disciplined Life

  • "Success is actually a short race--a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over"
  • "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"
  • "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"
  • "Build one habit at a time. Success is sequential, not simultaneous."
  • Some good habits I've developed that have made life easier (not drinking/smoking (no hangovers, more energy), running/exercise 5+days a week (more energy, better confidence, mental clarity), reading (endless stream of good ideas), journaling (developing gratitude & positivity), cooking (saving money, eating healthier), waking up early (getting important work done before being distracted by life).
  • "The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it. That's it."

Chapter 7: Willpower Is Always On Will-Call

  • "Willpower has a limited battery life but can be renewed with some downtime."
  • Do your most important work (your ONE Thing) when your willpower is the highest. For me, this means doing my most important work right around when I wake up.
  • Willpower depletes throughout the day. Do your highest priority work first.

Chapter 8: A Balanced Life

  • "balance is lived practically as a verb"
  • "Purpose, meaning, significance--these are what make a successful life"
  • Extraordinary results require focused attention and time.
  • "Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results. But you can't leave everything undone."
  • "The idea of counterbalancing is that you never go so far that you can't find your way back or stay so long that there is nothing waiting for you when you return.
  • "Your work life is divided into two distinct areas--what matters most and everything else"

Chapter 9: Big Is Bad

  • "We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clearer path to a lesser goal." - Robert Brault
  • "if you fear big success, you'll either avoid it or sabotage your efforts to achieve it"
  • "When we connect big with bad, we trigger shrinking thinking. Lowering our trajectory feels safe."
  • "No one knows their ultimate ceiling for achievement, so worrying about it is a waste of time"
  • "the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with"
  • "how big you think becomes the launching pad for how high you achieve"
  • "how many times have you set out to do something that seemed like a real stretch at the time, only to discover it was much easier than you thought?" (podcast, half marathon)
  • growth mindset
  • "Achievement and abundance show up because they're the natural outcome of doing the right things with no limits attached."
  • "Don't fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest."
  • "Only living big will let you experience your true life and work potential"
  • "A good rule of thumb is to double down everywhere in your life. If your goal is ten, ask..."How can I reach 20?"
  • "people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the only ones who do"
  • "study people who have already achieved" what you want to achieve... "what consistently works for others will almost always work for us."

Part 2: The Truth

"Be careful how you interpret the world, it is like that" - Erich Heller
  • "The key to success isn't in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well"
  • "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."

Chapter 10: The Focusing Question

  • "I tell you "put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket" - Andrew Carnegie
  • "the quality of an answer is directly determined by the quality of the question"
  • "Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life altering"
  • The poem My Wage by J.B. Rittenhouse
  • "That any wage I had asked of Life, Life would have willingly paid"
  • "How we phrase the questions that we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life."
  • "Anyone who dreams of an unconventional life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it. The Focusing Question is that uncommon approach.
  • "What is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" (big picture and right now).
  • The Focusing Question is both "a map for the bigger picture and a compass for your smallest next move."
  • The Focusing Question "ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters. It leads you to the first domino."
  • "To stay on track for the best possible day, month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question. Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance."
  • By doing this, "your actions become a natural progression of building one right thing on top of the previous right thing."
  • "when you do this ONE Thing, everything else you do to accomplish your goal will be either doable with less effort or no longer even necessary. Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don't need to be done, if they would just start by doing the right thing."
  • "find the first domino and focus on it exclusively until you knock it over"
  • What's my ONE Thing right now? - "Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day.

Chapter 11: The Success Habit

  • Add categories and time frames to the focusing question. (This week, today, this year)(family, work, health)
  • It is critical to understand and believe in the focusing question. You have to have confidence that it will make a difference.
  • Start each day with the focusing question.
  • "Until my ONE Thing is done--everything else is a distraction"

Chapter 12: The Path to Great Answers

"People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and they habits decide their futures" - F.M. Alexander
  • Great questions are big and specific
  • Great answers live outside your comfort zone
  • Find role models who have done similar to what you want to achieve and learn from them
  • "The best goals explore what is possible"

Part 3: Extraordinary Results

  • "Connecting purpose, priority, and productivity determines how high above the rest successful individuals and profitable businesses rise."

Chapter 13: Live With Purpose

  • "our destinies are shaped by our decisions, our lives shaped by our choices"
  • desire for money or things is an endless an unfulfilling pit
  • continually searching for the next thing will not lead to lasting happiness
  • "Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment"
  • "five factors that contribute to our happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning.
  • "financially wealthy people are those who have enough money coming in without having to work to finance their purpose in life"
  • "To be financially wealthy, you must have a purpose for your life... without purpose, you'll never know when you have enough money, and you can never be financially wealthy."

Chapter 14: Live By Priority

  • 'Priority' should be viewed as singular.
  • Hyperbolic discounting: the further away a reward is, the smaller the short term motivation to achieve it
  • Goal setting to the now: set a future goal and then methodically drill down to what needs to be done right now
  • Someday goal->5 year goal->1 year goal->1 month goal->weekly goal->daily goal->right now
  • Visualize process necessary in reaching goals.

Chapter 15: Live For Productivity

"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another" - Walter Elliot
  • Time block your ONE Thing and then protect it with a vengeance
  • "Make an appointment with yourself and then keep it"
  • "If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time"
  • a calendar records appointments but doesn't care who they are with
  • "Great success comes when time is devoted everyday to becoming great"
  • Time block these three things in order: 1- Your Time Off. 2- Your ONE Thing. 3- Your planning time.
  • "the most successful people simply see themselves as working between vacations"
  • "Resting is as important as working. There are few examples of successful people who violate this, but they are not our role models."
  • "To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon"
  • "Block an hour each week to review you annual and monthly goals"
  • "There is magic in knocking down your most important domino day after day"
  • "If you erase, you must replace" --- if you change a time block, schedule the new time immediately
  • "Until My ONE Thing Is Done--Everything Else Is A Distraction!"
  • "Nothing and no one has permission to distract me from my ONE Thing"

Chapter 16: The Three Commitments

"Nobody who ever gave their best regretted it" - George Halas


  • "First you must adopt the mindset of someone seeking mastery. Mastery is a commitment to becoming your best"
  • "Second you must continually seek the very best way of doing things."
  • Third "you must be willing to be held accountable to doing everything you can to achieve your ONE Thing"


  • Mastery is "as critical as ever to achieving extraordinary results"
  • "see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at"
  • "mastery is a way of thinking, a way of acting, and a journey to experience"
  • time block four hours a day for your ONE Thing
  • "More than anything else, expertise tracks with hours invested"
  • "The pursuit of mastery bears gifts...the path of mastery is not so different from one pursuit to the next."
  • "the journey of the successful lifelong learner was never over"

From E to P (he calls this entrepreneurial to purposeful, I prefer to  think inefficient->effective)

  • "when you're going about your ONE Thing, any ceiling of achievement must be challenged"
  • "a different result requires doing something different."


  • I wrote about this here
  • get an accountability partner or a coach->"give your partner license to lay out the honest truth"
  • "individuals with written goals were 39.5% more likely to succeed... Individuals who wrote their goals and sent progress reports to friends were 76.7% more likely to achieve them."
  • "you'd be hard pressed to find elite achievers who don't have coaches helping them in key areas of their life"

Chapter 17: The Four Thieves

Inability to Say "No"

  • "Saying yes to your ONE Thing is your top priority... saying no to anything that keeps you from your time-block should become something you can accept"
  • "A request must be connected to my ONE Thing for me to consider it."

Fear of Chaos

  • "Focusing on ONE Thing has a guaranteed consequence: other things don't get done"
  • This is okay

Poor Health Habits

  • "Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity"
  • "High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. The trick is learning how to get it and keep it."
  • "Anyone you know who gets little sleep and appears to be doing great is either a freak of nature or hiding its effects from you. Either way, they aren't your role model."
  • "If you can have a highly productive day until noon, the rest of the day falls easily into place"
  • "Structuring the earliest hours of the day is the simplest way to extraordinary results"

Environment Doesn't Support Your Goals

  • "Ultimately, being with success-minded people creates what researchers call a "positive spiral of success" where they lift you up and send you on your way."
  • Block external inputs until later in the day

Chapter 18: The Journey

"When you lift the limits of your thinking, you expand the limits of your life. It's only when you can imagine a bigger life that you can ever hope to have one."
  • "Go live a life worth living where, in the end, you'll be able to say, "I'm glad I did," not "I wish I had.""
  • 5 regrets of the dying: "life your life to minimize the regrets you might have at the end"
  • You are the first domino

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The link directing you to view this book on Amazon is an affiliate link. That means I could get a small commission if you buy the book through my link. That does not come at any extra cost to you.