The One Thing
The One Thing
The one thing.
In this book Gary Keller sets out to break some myths about productivity. He found that the things in his life where he saw the greatest success, he also had the narrowest focus. Meaning that when he dedicated most of his time and focus to one task, he was able to accomplish it most effectively.
He proposes the idea of ‘’going small’’ which basically means not to focus on all the things you could do but rather focus on the things you should do. Also, that saying ‘’no’’ usually means you are saying ‘’yes’’ to something more important.
So how do we determine what it is that we should do? Well success in not something that is universal to everyone and this book seems to be written under the assumption that success is measured by our ability to master a certain task, trade or art. Examples like Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nicola Tesla all master of their respective fields and considered success stories. The idea being that none of these people became successful in their field by having balanced lifestyles and by trying to multitask as much as possible, making sure to go to the gym, play guitar, work on business ideas and research electromagnetism every day.
All of these success stories had one thing in common: the passion to focus that one thing.
Keller extends this principle and applies it to companies as well, explaining that typically those companies who focus on a single product at first tend to have much more success. Truly successful companies tend have a single passion, person or offering that no one else can match.
Keller stresses that multitasking is a myth and that humans are not actually capable of multitasking. We can do more than one thing at a time like talking while walking but what we cannot do is focus or concentrate on more than one thing at a time. And even if we could it would be much more difficult to address all of the nuances. What most people do when we think that they are multitasking is actually more like task switching. They tend to move rapidly between tasks and never have time to give full attention to any of them. The tasks all seem urgent and so they all seem equal and Keller argues that this brings about many more opportunities to miss out on crucial nuances.
The second myth attacked in the book is about discipline. Keller says that being 100% disciplined all of the time is likely not possible and arguably not necessary either. Discipline is needed of course but only enough for a habit to kick in. Keller cites a study from the University College of London that claims an average of 66 days to form a habit. The focus in life should be to build good habits one at a time. Identify what kind of habit you want and keep at it. This is where the discipline is needed but eventually it will be something you look forward too and once the reward mechanisms kick in it will become a habit.
There where a lot more points raised like keeping personal life and work life separate, not focusing on large goals but rather the small steps and a lot of other similar points that tend to come up in these kinds of books. For me the most thought-provoking points where the ones I highlighted. Mostly because in Proakatemia there seems to be a lot of ‘’multitasking’’ or ‘’task switching’’.
When I first joined, I thought it was going to be a lot more focused on a specific product or innovation that we would develop. But there where so many other things going on and it seemed like there where a lot of people who wanted a laser focus on innovating, but it never really happened. It seemed like we where constantly toying with the different ideas but there were always distractions. I still greatly value all of the different things we do in proakatemia like the training sessions and team studies but in hindsight I’m not convinced that having a strictly monitored number of hours balanced between them is necessarily a good approach. I personally feel that there where some team members more interested in the study part and others more interested in trying to develop something new and to treat us all as equals when we have different objectives seems counterproductive.
I see a lot of good in the principles of this book and will definitely try to apply some of these in my personal life. I do have some points of contention though. I noticed that a lot of other self-help writers tend to argue the opposite to some degree. Mostly by saying that doing lots of different things can help to diversify your portfolio. Especially in a world where technological developments tend to change industries extremely quickly. Also being able to take learnings from different areas and apply them to the ‘’one thing’’ is also valuable. The premise of this book is something similar to the 10,000 hour principle, but the question is rarely posed; are your chances of being successful really any better with this laser focus?
There is no guarantee that putting in 10,000 hours in area X will make you the best in that field, and what if you were to become competent in areas F,G,X,Y,Z and able to combine these competences in a unique way that brings a great deal of value?
I greatly value creativity, but I feel that it is not possible to come up with new ideas. Only that we are able to discover new ideas by combining things that already exist. Creativity in my eyes is the art of combination and to reach a great level of creativity one most have a broad range of interests. I personally suffer from a serious case of curiosity and ADD, I am interested in everything but rarely have the discipline to become an expert on anything. In other words, I am someone who knows something about everything rather than everything about something. I wish to improve on this because I have noticed some real short comings. My lack of focus on singular things and lack of discipline to follow through and finish projects. Also not having enough focus means that I tend to only be average in anything I do.
The key take-away from this book for me is definitely about trying to build new habits. I think I will start by trying to identify what kind of habits I want to introduce and then start to implement them. There where lots of other great suggestions in the book about how to manage will power and things that can be done to help with discipline and dedication so I may try some of these as well.