3 Coolest Ideas from The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Hey, Hope you are doing well and staying safe! Welcome back to my little bookshelf and today I have another interesting read for you. 

I remember finding out about personal development, and I thought it was just the greatest thing! We all have opportunities to improve ourselves to become better version of ourselves! However, I ran into trouble that almost everyone going through the same journey runs into, which is basically to do multiple things at once. Essentially trying to improve at everything! For instance, starting tomorrow you are going to wake up early, mediate for an hour, exercise for an hour, go to work and as soon as that is done, learn how to play guitar after work since you always wanted to play it and once you are done with that you are going to work on your different business ideas. Wow! That sounds so good because when you make such plan I am sure you are excited about it. However, in reality there are two major outcomes of this dream plan of yours

  • First and most likely scenario, it is possible you won’t be able to actually do all the things you planned. I am sure you may have a great willpower. Willpower is like a battery my friend, it gets drained by the end of the day! So, when you begin your morning trying to be the Dalai Lama it might be possible that you wont be sitting to work on your business ideas by end of the day. This is because the battery of willpower is empty by then!
  • Second option, which is highly unlikely, let’s talk about a hypothetical situation where you somehow manage and continuously get through all those things. Well, in this unlikely situation the best outcome is that you still end up being average at everything.

Today we are going over 3 coolest idea from the One Thing, surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary result by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I strongly believe it is one of the great books for business and personal development.

We all are over stimulated in this digital world! We get notification on our phone all the time popping out from 10 different applications. In the morning we roll out of our bed and first thing we do is check our emails, at least that’s true for my husband! First thing he does in the morning is checking all his emails and then comes the Good Morning message! Guilty as charged, earlier I used to check my LinkedIn and Instagram notifications, however now Anaisha (my daughter) takes priority over everything! My parents who watch news on the TV are also constantly answering pings in the family WhatsApp groups at the same time. I guess something similar happens with you too! Indeed, we all are distracted and juggle with so many things together, however in reality we aren’t doing things as well we could have!

That is what I like about this book and why I made an effort to bring it to you because this book puts the science and research behind why focusing on one thing is more beneficial than trying to do everything kind off halfheartedly.

About the Author – Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Gary Keller is the founder of largest real estate company in the United States. Keller Williams, is one of the best-selling authors and a successful business coach. Over the year he has learned to achieve success in a rather unconventional way. You see after college Gary got into the real estate industry and was hell-bent on being the best in his field. He bought into the philosophy that if you are going to succeed you need to juggle many things and take on many responsibilities. (I am sure many of us believe in this same philosophy!) Each morning he would listen to an inspirational theme song to just to pump himself up to get ready for the torrent of the demands that would come his way. Gary ended up dissipating his energy so far and stretching his attention so thin that he eventually burned out. Gary once said it got him success as well as it got him sick. Eventually it got him sick of success! At that point in his career he decided to try a different approach by focusing on fewer things. He says “I challenged the axioms of success and guess what, I became more successful than I ever dreamed possible and felt better than I had ever felt in my life.” He realised that people achieve success despite doing many things and not because they do many things.

Essence of the book – The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

As I read through the chapter trying to understand how focusing on less can help you achieve more, I was able to relate to one of the concept I learnt in my Operation class in MBA. While studying software management by author Gerald Weinberg, who had researched several software programmers, over a decade and discovered that significant percentage of programmer’s productivity seemingly vanished when they focused on more than one project during the day. More number of project they took on the more time seemed to vanish and energy was completely lost performing non-productivity activities. Gerald describes that loss in productivity because of context switching between multiple tasks. Here is a simple exercise to help you understand the side effects of context switching. 

Ok Then, let’s do this activity together, see how fast you can count from 1 to 5 -> 1,2,3,4,5 that took approximately, one second right!Now let’s do with the list the alphabets from A to E -> A,B,C,D,E it took amount of time

Now try to alternate between counting numbers and sequencing letters. 

A1, B2, C3, D4, E5. Whoa! That took around 3 seconds for me; however, I had this done activity twice before penning it down for you. By alternating my focus to complete both tasks, it took twice as long as doing each task independently. I know, you must be thinking why is that

Both the tasks are super easy and familiar to me then why is there significant drop in my performance. Well this book, One Thing describes this drop in performance since there is extra time needed to switch our focus that adds on because we need time to make the decision to switch and we need to remember where we left off before we switched. Moreover, we also need to recall the rules of executing a particular task in the case of software programmers if a programmer needed to solve problems throughout the day on multiple projects he or she was forced to spend mental processing power to figure out where they left off and what they needed to do within the constraints of that particular project. Whenever we have more than one priority at one project throughout the day, we experience the energy depleting, productivity destroying that substantially effects our performance.

In order to reduce the switching costs throughout the day, book recommends we need to get good at asking right questions. When we are tempted to focus on more than one priority at a time ask yourself question of “Why”.

Three Coolest Ideas from  The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Essentially, book doesn’t force you to do one thing but provides you logic and rational that we will able to get more done by focusing on one thing. Also, you will still have time to do everything else if you use some of the principles in the book. I read this book twice to present you with 3 coolest ides from this book

Idea 1: The Domino Effect

Domino are little two-inch blocks. These blocks have the ability to knock over another domino that’s up to 50% larger than that 2-inch block. So, you could stack a 4-inch domino and then 6 inch and so on. If you do this over and over again by 23rd domino you are knocking over Eiffel Tower, by 31st it’s the Mt. Everest and by 57th you are to the Moon. These little domino are kind of like our habits in life. Our choices and habits are just like domino and if we get momentum, we can knock over big things. But we have to start small!


Primary concept of the book is that if you look at anybody who has achieved success at any level and trace it back, you will see that all of them achieved it by focusing on their One Thing

For example, Google what there’s one thing Search, Starbucks what’s there one thing Coffee. For KFC its Chicken, for Apple well its innovation and bring the changes in their products. For Michael Philips is swimming, for Tiger Woods its Golf and the list can go on!

If you think about it Tiger Woods never said that he wants to be a swimmer, a golfer and a basketball player. He said all I am going to do from day one is to focus on golf. He is number 1 in the world. So how do we apply this in our life, I think the take home message is that don’t feel bad if you are spending all this time focusing on one aspect.  Maybe you are 17 and you love cricket and you want to do that full-time. Well, don’t feel bad that you aren’t good at any of other subjects because your one thing is cricket. I would like to quote from the book that says, “If you try and catch two rabbits you won’t catch either” so the biggest concept of this book is to focus your energy on your One Thing. I know it is much easier said than done. I spread myself really thin, being a new-mom, I am constantly on my toes, cooking something exotic for my family in kitchen as well as managing some time to contribute back to my connections. Hence, this book was bittersweet for me much like yourself. I am sure because we have so many different interests right! So don’t take One Thing as a gospel but I guess the takeaway message is that success leaves clues, look at the most successful people the most successful companies and they had a focus around One Thing.

Idea 3: Rubber Or Glass

In the game of life, we are juggling many balls like work, family, health, friends, and spirit. We aspire to be multitasker as we keep all of them in the air. We give importance to each equally making it difficult to focus on either one. Eventually, there comes a time that we realise that work is actually a rubber ball. If you even drop it, it will bounce back. However, other four balls are made of glass. If you drop one of these it will be irrevocably nicked, marked, damaged and can even shattered. Therefore, we must understand and strive to create balance in our life. It is all about prioritising and if we don’t prioritise then we might not get back few things in our life.

So nudge yourself and think about the one time that you can do that can have most impact on whatever it is you aspire to achieve. 

Let me know how do you find the review and if you are interested I highly recommend this book!


Keller, G., & Papasan, J. (2012). The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Austin, Tex: Bard Press.

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