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The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

Book: The One Thing

Jay Papasan (Left) and Gary Keller (Right)

By Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

About the Authors: Professionally, Gary’s ONE Thing is teaching. He excelled as a real estate salesperson by teaching clients how to make great home buying-and-selling decisions.

As co-founder and chairman of the board, he built Keller Williams Realty International from a single office in Austin, Texas, to the #1 position as the largest real estate company in the United States by using his skills as a teacher, trainer, and coach.

Jay is the Executive Editor and Vice President of Publishing at Keller Williams Realty and President of Rellek Publishing. Professionally, his ONE Thing is writing. He attempted his first book on an electric typewriter in junior high and was hooked.

More recently, in the ten years he has worked with Gary, Jay has coauthored numerous award-winning bestselling titles, including The Millionaire Real Estate series.

The One Thing

From the film: City Slickers. Mitch (Left), played by Billy Crystal and Curly (Right), played by Jack Palance.

During a scene in the hit comedy movie, City Slickers, a cowboy named Curly turns to a city slicker named Mitch as they’re riding horses. The following conversation takes place:

Curly: Do you know what the secret to life is?

Mitch: No. What?

Curly: This. [He holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean sh*t.

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

Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

Gary Keller sets the tone for this Number 1 Bestselling book by providing such wholesome dialogue that any reader can digest. He says when he first watched this scene on June 7th, 1991, “the Earth moved for 112 minutes.”

At the time, Keller found himself and his business in disarray. Both far too stretched, exposed, and on the brink of collapse.

Discovering The ONE Thing

Looking for answers, he enlisted the help of a coach. In hindsight, he explains, “I’d experienced success in the past, but it wasn’t until I hit a wall that I began to connect my results with my approach.”

After he walked the coach through every detail of the company’s (and indirectly, his life’s) struggles, the guru of sorts took time away to truly consider Keller’s precarious position.

Upon returning, he asked Keller, “Do you know what you need to do to turn things around?” To which Keller admits he didn’t have a clue.

The man tells him there is really only ONE thing he needs to do.

Keller expands on what he was told, “He had identified 14 positions that needed new faces, and he believed that with the right individuals in those key spots, the company, my job, and my life would see a radical change for the better.”

After this meeting, Keller decided to fire himself as CEO and made his singular focus to find those 14 souls.

Assembling a Team

Such a bold decision brought with it bold results. Within three years of that moment, his company experienced a period of sustained growth that averaged 40 percent year-over-year for nearly a decade.

Check out our article, “First Who…Then What,” based on the bestselling book Good to Great, for further insight on the importance of having the right team.

Keller shares that the crew of 14 he gathered weren’t necessarily perfect beings sent from the heavens. Rather, in moments where frustration grew, they were people he could overcome obstacles with!

Eventually, he began implementing the ONE thing philosophy throughout the company. He asked his people, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

It’s interesting to note that as he asked less and less of his staff, the more progress and results they produced.

Keller says upon reflection, “Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”

Going Small

To sum it up, it is Keller’s belief that “extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

Most people tend to think the opposite. Big success must be the result of time-consuming and complicated work. For this reason, they spare themselves the forboding hardship – contently settling for less. If they only knew the elementary-like simplicity of the ONE thing.

Complacency is not the only fate to avoid, Keller adds, others can become “unaware that big success comes when we do a few things well, they get lost trying to do too much and in the end accomplish too little. Over time they lower their expectations, abandon their dreams, and allow their life to get small.

He concludes, “You have only so much time and energy, so when you spread yourself out, you end up spread thin.”

“You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.” – Gary Keller

The Domino Effect

In 1983, Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics that “a single domino is capable of bringing down another domino that is actually 50 percent larger

Consider this in regards to big dreams. Sure, the heights of one’s ambitious imagination can reach intimidating altitudes. However, imagine¬†you topple one domino at a time – starting with a “domino” within your realm of possibility.

 Success is Built Sequentially

Just as our friend Curly was alluding to at the start of this article, it’s up to us to figure out what that first domino consists of. Don’t overthink it. Somewhere deep down we probably actually already know what we should be doing. It’s likely that little voice in our head that we’ve tried our best to ignore for a while.

It could be that somebody doesn’t even have a whispering voice calling for a particular change in direction. Rather, there’s this unnerving sense of something missing in life which builds day after day and just as one begins peeling back the layers in an attempt to reach the heart of the issue…they fold as the truth may be too much to bear.

Fear not, as this person drifts upon the crest of the most promising of beginnings. Looming just past a wall of mounting insecurity awaits an opportunity to explore the wonder of our world in a journey of self-discovery that only children seem to have the courage to embark on.

Keller acknowledges, “the challenge is that life doesn’t line everything up for us and say, ‘Here’s where you start.’ Highly successful people know this. So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.

Remember, success is achieved sequentially, simply one domino at a time.

“We each have passions and skills, but you’ll see extraordinarily successful people with one intense emotion or one learned ability that shines through, defining them or driving them more than anything else.” – Gary Keller

For more on The ONE Thing, purchase the entire book in the link below: