The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (book review)

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Book review by Nick Borsellino

Read time less than 10 minutes

Let me start off by saying I LOVE THIS BOOK! I thought is was very well written and easy to read. I’m not a bookworm and I struggle to read ANY book. But this book was so captivating that it had me wanting to keep reading it. So much so, that it was one of the fastest I’ve ever read a book. I got this book based on the recommendation of a YouTube creator that I follow, Sunny Lenarduzzi.

I also did a YouTube video on this if you’d prefer to watch/listen rather than read. But if you’re interested in a book, chances are you’re okay with reading. I go into much more detail about the book in this blog post than I do in the video though. Here’s the video anyway…

Okay now that I’ve got that out of the way here’s my short rundown of the book.

“The ONE Thing” was co-written by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Gary Keller is chairman of the board and co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc. Jay Papasan is a former editor at Harper Collins Publishers and vice president of learning at Keller Williams.

The first thing you read when you open the book is “If you chase two rabbits… you will not catch either one.” This sets the tone for the entire book which constantly drives home the point of finding your ONE Thing. And they always capitalize ONE throughout the book.

The book is separated into 3 main parts. There are 3 chapters prior to Part 1 that are an introduction to the book and this idea of The ONE Thing. Then there is a final standalone chapter at the end. I will try to explain as concise as possible a little about each to give you a basic idea of the book. If any of this interests you at all, I would highly recommend purchasing the book for yourself. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’m looking forward to reading it again…

Chapter 1 is simply titled “The ONE Thing”. It starts off with a scene from the movie City Slickers in which the character Curly (Jack Palance) explains to Mitch (Billy Crystal) the secret of life.

Curly holds up one finger and says “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean sh*t.”

Mitch replies “That’s great, but what’s the “one thing”?”

Curly tells him “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

In this chapter and again throughout the book, the authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan share a number of stories of successful people who have learned to narrow their focus and delegate tasks to others so they can focus on their one thing. The have a section in this chapter titled “Going Small” which talks in more detail about the benefits of going small and narrowing your focus.

Chapter 2, “The Domino Effect”, explains the physics behind the domino effect. You see a domino can actually knock over another domino that is 50% larger than itself. As you compound this, the dominoes get exponentially larger and larger. The first domino stands at a mere 2 inches tall. By number 57 the height is almost the distance to the moon! The point of the analogy is simply that success builds on success.

Chapter 3 “Success Leaves Clues”. This is a phrase that I hear all the time from one of my Favorite YouTube creators and founder of Think Media, Sean Cannell. But in this chapter they talk about some businesses that all started with ONE product and just focused on that. They also say that no one succeeds alone. No one.

After they explain the importance of having a ONE Thing and what exactly that means, now they dive into Part 1, “The Lies: They Mislead And Derail Us”

Throughout the next 6 chapters, Gary and Jay tell us exactly the things that get in the way of our success. The six lies between you and success (and also the titles of the next 6 chapters) are

4. Everything Matters Equally
5. Multitasking
6. A Disciplined Life
7. Willpower Is Always On Will-Call
8. A Balanced Life
9. Big Is Bad

My two favorite chapters in this section are Multitasking and A Balanced Life. The term multitasking was invented in the 60’s to describe computers ability to have multiple tasks alternately sharing one resource. Not at the same time. They just switched between tasks rapidly. Unfortunately based on studies, humans do this very poorly, so it is better to focus on ONE task at a time and you’ll actually get things done quicker.

“A balanced life is a lie.” Nobody can achieve a balanced life. Everything is always out of flux in one way or another. Sure, it sounds good on paper but in reality achieving balance is unattainable. When you think about it, whenever you focus on anything in life, you’re taking away attention from something else, immediately putting it out of balance. So to let go of that outdated idea and accept the fact that things will never be in perfect balance is a much easier way to live.

Now that we’ve been told what NOT to do, we get into that we could be doing instead. Part 2 is “The Truth” The Simple Path To Productivity. This part of the book explains how to figure out your ONE Thing.

Chapter 10 “The Focusing Question” starts us on the path. It’s the first time we hear this question that can help us all figure out our ONE Thing. “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Such a simple yet powerful concept. This question will help you see the “big picture” but also the “small focus” ONE Thing. Trying to tackle the big picture all in one bite is daunting and hardly productive. That’s why focusing on one thing at a time is incredibly helpful. And the focusing question helps you to narrow down what that ONE Thing really is.

Chapter 11 “The Success Habit”. Habits are hard to break and hard to create. Of course we all want to get rid of our bad habits and introduce good ones. In this chapter they discuss 7 areas of your life to work on your habits using the focusing question. Those areas are Spiritual Life, Physical Health, My Relationships, My Job, My Business, and My Finances. They then share strategies to help incorporate these habits into your daily life.

Chapter 12 ” The Path To Great Answers” teaches how to ask a Great Question to find a Great Answer. They encourage you to use the Focusing Question to start with something big and specific but then break that up into four “quadrants. Those are Small & Specific, Small & Broad, Big & Broad, and Big & Specific. That helps lead you to the Great Answer which produces extraordinary results. They list three “Big Ideas” to strive for. Think big and specific. Think possibilities. Benchmark and trend for the best answer.

The last main section of the book, Part 3 “Extraordinary Results: Unlocking The Possibilities Within You”, is pretty self explanatory. They explain that Purpose, Priority and Productivity are essential in implementing the ONE Thing.

Chapter 13 “Live With Purpose” starts with a lengthy example of Ebenezer Scrooge and his experience of finding purpose which shifts from money to people creating a profound change. It goes on to talk about how most people in life just want to be happy. Yet most of us don’t understand how to be happy. Many people think money can buy happiness, but I know first hand that my experience of working harder to make more money to buy more stuff, didn’t but me happiness. It had the opposite effect. While money can certainly make things easier, it can only take you so far. That’s why they say to focus on purpose to find your true happiness.

Chapter 14 “Live By Priority”. Every day ask yourself “What shall I do?” They talk about using goal setting to set your priorities. Starting with a SOMEDAY GOAL and working your way all the way backwards to a RIGHT NOW goal. Then they bring us back to the beginning of the book and mention that domino effect again and how having a right now goal, over time, will get us to our someday goal. They encourage us to write down our goals.

Chapter 15 “Live For Productivity”. Here we get into Time Blocking! They say to set aside specific time for your ONE Thing and to protect it! They recommend 4 hours for your ONE Thing time block. Don’t let anything into your time block. Not only should we plan our ONE Thing, but we should plan our time off as well as our planning time. Yes, plan our planning time! And they specifically say that you should block your time off BEFORE you block your ONE Thing. They continue to hammer home the idea of protecting your time block at all costs.

Chapter 16 “The Three Commitments”. The first commitment is “Follow the Path of Mastery”. There’s this idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. In the last chapter they mentioned setting aside 4 hours a day for your ONE Thing. If you did 4 hours a day, 5 days per week, 50 days per year, you end up with 10,000 hours. So basically you can master your ONE Thing in ten years. It takes a long time to master anything, but by deliberately setting aside time for it you can have an action plan. In turn, this creates a habit.

In the second commitment, they talk about shifting from “Entrepreneurial to Purposeful”. We all perceive a ceiling that we can max out at, but this approach teaches us to look past the ceiling and break through it.

The third commitment teaches us to “Live The Accountability Cycle”. After all it’s well known that people who are accountable in life tend to succeed. They encourage you to seek out an accountability partner or a coach who will help to keep you on track.

Chapter 14 “The Four Thieves”. These four things can sabotage anyone’s progress. They are the inability to say no, fear of chaos, poor health habits, and environment doesn’t support goals. Learning to say no helps us not let stuff that doesn’t fit into out ONE Thing get in our way. By being ultra-productive it is certain that messes will be made along the way. Clutter will be inevitable. don’t let the chaos deter you. Set aside separate time to clean up if you need to. By taking care of our body mind and spirit, we are fueled to succeed. And as for the environment not supporting your goals, I think that is pretty self explanatory. You just need to make sure wherever it is that you are to do your ONE Thing, that it is set up for success. People, places and things can derail us, so be mindful of where, when and how you approach your ONE Thing.

The final chapter “The Journey” is all about (you guessed it) the journey! The first sentence quotes the phrase “One step at a time”. This is so true. Just like the domino, start small and big things will come. And that one step just so happens to be your ONE Thing. Success is an inside job. Only you can take control and give yourself the motivation to succeed.

Then there is a secret chapter which reminds me of the song hidden at the end of a CD after a bunch of blank space (yes, a CD). It is titled “Putting The ONE Thing To Work”. Here, they bring us back once again to the Focusing Question. They ask a whole bunch of questions under the following headings, “Your Personal Life”, “Your Family”, “Your Job”, “Your Work Team”, “Your Non-Profit”, “Your School”, “Your Place Of Worship”, and “Your Community”. These are mere examples to get us started thinking deeper about our ONE Thing and all the areas of our life where we can set intention and bring focus and clarity to find purpose and achieve our goals.

They wrap it up with a short section about the research they did to make this book. They have an extensive list of references organized by topic and chapter at

Thanks for reading my review of The ONE Thing. This ended up kind of feeling like a book report LOL. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this and sharing a very shorthand version of the book with you. Obviously I barely scratched the surface of what is in the 225 page book in this blog post. I just shared a brief summary with the hopes that it will intrigue you to get the book for yourself. Although I’m far from perfect at this, The ONE Thing has really helped me focus on whats really important.

So what is your ONE Thing? Remember the question…

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

If you’re interested in purchasing the book here is a link . It will take you directly to Amazon. This is an affiliate link, meaning if you purchase the book I make a small commission off the sale, at no extra cost to you.

I also released my handwritten notes with my most important takeaways to my Patreon Subscribers at

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