The ONE Thing by Gary Keller: Book Summary

In this book summary of The One Thing by Gary Keller, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The ONE Thing Summary

“Going small is a simple approach to extraordinary results, and it works. It works all the time, anywhere and on anything. Why? Because it has only one purpose—to ultimately get you to the point.”

People often believe lies, that they think are truths, which get in their own way of success.

None of your to-do items and decisions matter equally. One always trumps another in terms of importance and results, consistently pick that one.

“Sometimes it’s the first thing you do. Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.”

Their problem isn’t not enough time in the day to get things done, it’s the attempt to try to do too many things in 24 hours. Focus on one task at a time and don’t multi-task—that will only slow you down and waste time.

Since it takes about 66 days to establish a new habit according to science, focus on that one thing and nothing else. Then you’ll make the hard thing in your life easy because you’ll have disciplined yourself to do it. And not only the thing you’ve trained yourself to do becomes easier, but also the other things in your life as a result after you’ve established that habit.

You don’t have an unlimited amount of willpower each day. It comes and goes, so use it wisely, live healthy, and do your most important task to start the day so you never miss it because of lack of willpower.

You’ll be most successful when you counterbalance your personal  life and work. Don’t neglect one of them for too long or you’ll eventually have a problem.

Aim for big achievements because that will get you to think big and take big actions. Mimic what other people have done and don’t be afraid to fail. You have to strive to live a big life, otherwise you’re living small and capping your own potential for no reason.

“Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.” This leads you to answer the Focusing Question: What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

To be successful, ask the Focusing Question in all areas of your life: spiritual, relationships, personal, health, work, and finances.

You want to pursue a big and specific goal. And the way you accomplish it is in two parts. At the minimum you research what the best do and take the same action, and secondly you look for the trend or what to do in the future to get ahead of everyone.

The way to be happy is to live a life of purpose. Find what drives you and chase that! If you’re unsure, then try something interesting and see if it’s your purpose or not over time. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board until you find your why for life.

Set out a large time block of four hours each day to do your one thing. Make this time uninterrupted and without your phone or email. It has to be all focused on putting effort into your one priority. Say no to smaller priorities that suck from your time.

Aim to become a master, the best, an expert, at your one thing. And put in the commitment and work ethic that a master would put in to their craft. This mindset will push you to do more.

Just keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, because slow progress over time builds up momentum. That’s how you build toward extraordinary success!

You’ll live a satisfied life if you take actions to ensure you don’t live with regrets. No regrets makes for a beautiful existence.

Mini Summary

The majority of your results comes from the minority of your work. Your goal is to focus most of your time—every day—on the one, single activity that gets you the most results. Do this until it becomes a habit you don’t even have to think about.

Think big. Act big (through thousands of small actions). Live big. You won’t have regrets when you do that.

The path to extraordinary results is through connecting purpose, priority, and productivity. When you have those three aligned and working together, nothing can stop you from rising to the top.

Three Favorite Quotes

“If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? How do they do more, achieve more, earn more, have more? If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others? The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small.”

“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls– family, health, friends, integrity– are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

Action Steps For You

You have to commit to discovering your one thing and then pursuing that every day. That’s how you’re going to live a fulfilled life and make progress by leaps and bounds.

So what is your one thing that interests you more than anything else in your career, for example? What do you want to accomplish above all?

Once you’ve got that in mind, create a success list of milestones you need to do to reach your one thing. These should be clear, individual actions you can take from start to finish.

For example, if your one thing is to be location independent so you can travel the world, your list of milestones or dominoes could look like:

  • Find a domain name
  • Build a website with an email capture
  • Publish two blog posts a week (or podcasts, or YouTube videos)
  • Send one email a week to subscribers
  • Write a book
  • Sell coaching
  • Sell an online course

(You’d want to be more specific of when you’re going to get these done and have a longer success list, but this list paints a decent picture.)

And then do whatever it takes to solely focus on those milestones and ignore the unnecessary, little things that distract you—meetings, emails, less-important tasks, phone interruptions.

If you have a 9 to 5 job, block off four hours each night to focus on the specific action you need to do to move forward.

The secret is simple once you go all the way in with it. Eventually enough dominoes will fall, your progress will build on itself, and your one thing will be so close you can taste it.

And remember your one thing applies to all aspects of life. Let it be a bright light in your work, health, relationships, finances, and overall happiness.

Order The ONE Thing

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Or check out other book recommendations to become more successful.

Brian Robben

Brian Robben is the founder of Take Your Success, a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs grow a profitable business and reach freedom. For in-depth training, visit: