20 Amazing Life Lessons From The One Thing

“What is the one thing that you could do today that, by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”

If you’re familiar with the work of Gary Keller, you might recognise the quote above as “The Focusing Question”.

You can use this question at any time and in any situation to focus on a successful outcome. It’s just one of the amazing life lessons from The One Thing, Keller’s NYT Bestseller.

I finished this book a few weeks ago, but the effects were quite profound on both my personal and my working life.

My One Thing for this blog could be SEO content. For my health and fitness, it could be eating the right foods. In my dating life, it would be actually sending messages instead of browsing Match.com. It’s a question which can be applied to literally any active endeavour.

So, what other lessons from The One Thing can be picked out of the book?

Here are…

20 Amazing Life Lessons From The One Thing

There’s no particular structure or ranking system of these lessons. I’ve added my own interpretations and thoughts to each of the points as well. Let’s jump into it…

1) Ask Great Questions To Get Great Answers

If you could ask one question to your biggest role model, what would it be?

Imagine Elon Musk, Leonardo Da Vinci, Tony Robbins or whoever your role model is has given you this chance. You would do yourself a disservice to ask something generic like “What are your top tips for an aspiring entrepreneur?”

If you want a great, life-changing answer then you need to ask a great question.

If I could meet Elon Musk and ask him one question, I would ask “How do you relate to the part of yourself which tells you to stay put, to settle and be less than you know you can be?”

I would love to know how he engages with that side of himself. It might not be the best question I could ask, but it’s a great question and I’m sure I would get a great answer.

2) Willpower Is Finite

Knowing that you only have a finite amount of willpower can be just what you need to kick yourself in the ass first thing in the morning.

When your willpower is at it’s highest levels, during the first few hours of the day, this is the best time to work on your One Thing, whatever that might be.

So, when you wake up, get straight into taking some kind of action towards your goal.

That might be going for a run, write a few pages of your new book or prepping your healthy meals for the day.

Use your willpower reserves sparingly and on the right things. Otherwise, it becomes all too easy to skip that workout and eat that triple chocolate cake.

3) Create An Energising Morning Routine

Keller recommends the creation of an energising morning routine and I couldn’t agree more.

Some of the most successful people in the world have a daily morning routine that they never skip.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to get you out of bed and get the energy flowing through you.

If you haven’t got a morning routine, here are some potential options for you:

  • 10 minutes of yoga
  • 10 minutes of meditation
  • Read 50 pages
  • Go for an early morning run
  • Write in your journal

If you want an amazing blueprint for a morning ritual, I recommend the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.

Try it.

It might just change your life.

4) Stick To One Thing

If you know what your one thing is, just stick to it.

Keep your focus on your primary objective and keep working until you reach that goal.

Don’t let up even for a second. If you know that you deserve to reach that outcome, then keep going.

(Read 13to ensure that you have set your goals in the right way.)

Remember, the obstacle is the way and if you can push through it then you will arrive on the other side.

5) Multi-Tasking Is Dangerous

On the same subject as 4), multi-tasking is the least efficient way to do anything.

It may seem like you are focusing on multiple things at once but, in reality, you are simply starting, stopping, switching and restarting separate tasks. Each switch and restart drains precious willpower reserves.

In any case, you are not giving your full attention to any of the tasks.

Instead, just focus on one thing at a time (preferably your One Thing) and you will find that the task is completed better than it could have been if you had simply been task-jumping.

6) Your Environment Must Support Your Goals

It’s almost a cliche at this point for a self-improvement book to say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, this is often the case.

You have to carefully choose who you want to spend most of your precious time with.

In addition to this, carefully choosing your general environment at home, work or anywhere else is essential to your progress.

7) Do Fewer Things For More Effect

Instead of tackling everything on your to-do list, what if you were to focus on just the most important things?

Use a version of the importance-urgency matrix to define which things to focus on first. You can find a short guide to using the matrix here.

You’ll end up completing fewer things in total throughout your day, week or month but you’ll get more important things done.

You’ll spend less time answering pointless emails and more time on your One Thing.

8) It Takes 66 Days To Form A Habit

For a long time, the traditional self-help books spoke of it taking 21 days to form a habit. This has, of course, been widely discredited.

Instead, the answer is closer to 66 days on average though there is a very wide range of figures.

Now, 66 days is a long time when compared to the traditional 21 days. It’s over three times as long, but it can lead to much more lasting results.

The trick I’ve found to forming new habits is to only build one habit at a time and it should preferably tie in with the erasure of a bad habit.

So, while trying to break the habit of watching TV before bed you could replace it with reading before bed.

This takes us nicely into the next lesson.

9) Habits Are Better Than Discipline

As we’ve already discussed, willpower is finite.

If you’re spending all your willpower in forcing yourself to workout, eat right and meditate then you’re not utilising your willpower effectively.

The better course of action is to form these things into an automatic habit.

Because you don’t think about performing habitual behaviour, it doesn’t tax your willpower.

Therefore, the key to success is not superhuman levels of discipline. Instead, forming effective habits is what will get you there.

10) Visualise The Process, Not The Outcome

Visualisation is another staple of the self-help diet.

You see yourself achieving your goal and puts yourself into a mindset of success.

It sounds easy. In fact, it sounds way too easy.

Unfortunately, that’s because it is too easy. In fact, visualising your eventual and inevitable success has been shown to actually work against you.

So, how do you switch this up?

Visualise the process instead of the outcome.

When you visualise the process you are mentally walking through not just the positive but the negative too. You get to plan ahead and see what might go wrong. You then get the benefit of being able to plan around any potential pitfalls.

So, visualise the process, not the outcome.

11) Research and Follow Role Models and Mentors

This is a great place to start when it comes to finding great answers to great questions.

Who inspires you or motivates you to be more than you are now? If you have one, two or even three or more role models and mentors, then you have identified a path to success.

Find out as much as you can about them and how they got to where they are. Follow their work. Interview them. Ferret out any bit of information that you can use to progress yourself.

This will work even better if you can provide some kind of value to this mentor or role model as well.

Tim Ferriss has shown time and time again that it is not impossible to have conversations with celebrities and the massively successful. Just read the 4 Hour Work Week and there is an entire section on how to do just this.

Success leaves clues, so if you get the chance to find out what makes your role model so successful in whatever area it is then you should grab it with both hands.

12) Success Is An Inside Job

You have to set yourself up for success. It’s all about the inner game.

If you can combine your inner game – a growth mindset, determination and great habits – with positive action, then there is nothing standing between you and success.

13) Goals Should Be Big and Specific

When people talk about their goals they often say things like “I want to be happy” or “I want to be rich”.

To be fair, these are great goals to have but they don’t give you an idea of when they are complete. These goals are big enough to be motivating, but they are missing one key ingredient of an effective goal.

They are not specific!

So, instead of saying “I want to be rich” get ultra-specific (e.g. “I want to have £10 million in diversified investments).

Go big or go home, but be specific at all times.

Clarity is key.

14) Put All Your Eggs In One Basket – Then Watch That Basket

I know this goes against everything your teachers and parents ever taught you, but hear me out.

Diversification of your interests is great, but it splits your focus. We’ve already discussed how bad multitasking is for your eventual success.

This point simply comes back around to focusing on your One Thing. This is the thing which, if it is completed, it makes everything easier or unnecessary. It should be your primary and maybe even unitary focus.

Everyone’s basket is going to be different, but find yours, fill it up and watch it.

15) The Key To Failure Is Trying To Please Everyone

There is no bigger waste of time than trying to make everyone like you.

That is all I have to say on this point.

16) You Have To Have Crazy Ideas To Change The World

My crazy idea is that I can consolidate every piece of self-improvement information in one place. In that place, I can scrap the bits that are wrong and maybe even more harmful than good. Then, with what remains, I can disseminate that knowledge in a way that actually helps a lot of people.

I want to revolutionise the self-help industry and make it credible. Only then can it have the large-scale impact I know that it can.

This is a crazy idea and it may not ever come to complete fruition, but it takes a crazy idea to change the world. So, I’ll stick with it until it succeeds, no matter what.

17) Look For The One Thing In Everything

It might seem counterintuitive to everything I’ve written about so far, but you can find the One Thing in everything.

Whether that be in health and fitness, your finances or your self-improvement goals there will always be one thing that you can do that, if you did it, everything would be easier or unnecessary.

Strive to find that one thing and success will be pretty hard to miss.


There are a lot of lessons from The One Thing that can be extracted.

I’ve tried to just focus on what I believe to be the essence of Keller’s book. But, I almost certainly didn’t get everything.

So, I would recommend that you get a copy of The One Thing.

It’s by no means a perfect book, but I would give it a solid score of 8/10.

Buy the book, read it and then go and find your One Thing.

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