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The library of essays of Proakatemia

The ONE Thing

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The One Thing
Gary Keller
Jay Papasan
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 8 minuuttia.

This book was recommended by my teammate after I was complaining about how frustrating it is to keep taking action steps and not meet any satisfactory progress with this “one thing” (in my case, realizing a business idea of ​​mine). On this, he answered: “You know there is this one book that I think could be very valuable for you, it is called “The ONE Thing”. I was intrigued and asked: “Okay, what is it about?” To what he replied, “I have no idea, I only read the first chapter. Supposed to help you focus on your one thing or something. But the reviews are great, so maybe you should give it a shot!” I mean… ~trust the process~? /apologies to those who suffer “trust the process” Allergy if you have decided to read this essay//.

I wanted to use this for an introduction as I found it amusing and so Proakatemia-coded. In Proakatemia we often work together by trying out tools for the first time and then sharing our experience with others. In a way, it is like the “Saboteur” board game where we work together to find our way to the treasures.

|| Short summary if somebody Clicked on this essay just to get an answer: “Is it any good??” – It’s alright. I gave it 4 stars on “Goodreads”. I recommend this book if you are a multitasker, struggle with priorities, procrastinate often, or want to achieve exceptional results in your most important goals. It provides valuable Insights to be able to find clarity in your purpose and improve your ability to focus on your “ONE THING”.

I have to say that the content of this book is written nicely but many of the times the same information is rephrased (for that reason I listened to an AI generated audiobook which would say “you el el” instead of “you’ll” in the background of my tasks and then made notes from 1 hour book summary posted on YouTube). Yet, another perspective how to look at it (this comes after reading another Reader’s takeaways) it is only 240 pages long, so at the end the main message “drills” in your head, which is good.

This book is about Discovering and dedicating yourself to THE ONE THING that both matters to you and that you are passionate about (not excluding everything else although eliminating some other distractions ). That is, Pursuing this one thing does not suggest that you have to give up all of your other responsibilities, as, on the flip side, if you sacrifice everything to pursue your *only* thing (hence the name – “the one thing” , and not “the only thing”) for a long term your success will again not feel like a success when everything else has suffered. Subsequently, the main point is to discover your one thing of focus so that “by doing it, everything else would become easier or even unnecessary”. Then to work wholeheartedly towards it every day, making it a priority (tip: you can even schedule it in your calendar as a “commitment”) and build Habits (as once a habit is built you don’t need to put 100% of your self-discipline in the task as it will come naturally within your routine). Next, it is about going narrow, deep, and ignoring all the things you could do and doing only things you should do. Yet again, it doesn’t have to take up all of your day (but it should be something to work towards every day).

Not all of the things matter equally. Find those that matter most. If you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either. Yet if you are still in search of Discovering your one thing , here is another tip: ask yourself a question: “How can I become invaluable?” In other words, consider where you can (and would like to) bring a disproportionate value and make the biggest impact. Passion and skill often go hand in hand. When you are passionate about something, you practice more, which leads to better skills and results. In turn, this fuels your passion even more and with this chain reaction, you can truly achieve extraordinary results.

Focusing on one thing means concentrating on one big overarching goal that also serves as your driving force and the Legacy you leave behind (either in your personal or professional life). The reason why you should still seek success in both (although one might be more important than the other) is that success in other areas of your life can stimulate you to have even more drive to accomplish your most significant goal. However, again, you need to be able to prioritize too, because if you put too many goals that distract you from your one thing , you won’t be able to accomplish it. To put it differently, you will be grasping something from everything, but you will never make an impact that really matters ( not really…).

What to avoid to achieve good results with your one thing ?

  • lack of CLARITY in setting your goal;
  • lack of FOCUS in your approach (understand what it is that you actually need to do to get satisfactory results);
  • lack of FREE TIME TO EXECUTE your big goal (because you have said “yes” to so many other things leaving you no time to do your one thing ).


Success requires focus and determination, and multitasking ensures that you don’t have either. The authors of the book compare success with a chain reaction of dominoes, where each of the pieces grows bigger in size. Using this analogy, once you have knocked down the first one all of them will fall one by one, which is why it is not a Sprint for success but rather a long race which means working diligently without expecting the progress to show its signs right away . Therefore, why I chose to draw an emphasis on multitasking – 1) it has been proven that multitasking, in fact, is a myth because, in reality, we cannot do two things at once, 2) I just got curious after this was stated in the book and did a little researching myself.

Multitasking is a constant task-switching method by shifting the attention and focus from one task to another. While folding clothes and partially watching/listening to the TV or washing the dishes and listening to an audiobook kind of multitasking can help motivate you to complete undesirable tasks, it only works if your Cognitive load does not compete with one another. Studies show that once a task is interrupted, it takes significantly longer to complete even if the interruption is brief. (Lee & Duffy 2014 as cited in Cooks-Campbell 2022.) Moreover, in an interview for NPR Dr. Clifford Nass states that research has shown an almost unanimous agreement (which is quite rare in social science) that people who chronically multitask, show an enormous range of deficits (such as Performing poorly on Cognitive tasks, having difficulty with filtering relevance and how long it actually takes to perform the task, and have developed Habits of mind that prevent them from being able to be laser-focused on a task intently). (Clifford 2013.) Additionally, once the brain has built this habit of jumping from one thing to another it becomes difficult to switch back and learn how to shift your focus to only one thing. Therefore, it is so important to train our brains to focus on one thing at a time. This can be especially challenging in today’s fast-paced and constantly connected world, but it is essential to be productive and able to achieve our goals.

On the contrary, Jay Papasan (the author of this book) in an interview for “Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan”, Briefly Mentions the challenge with the flip side of the coin – the hustle culture. Although working long hours and making sacrifices can help you to achieve your goals, in the long term you will start to face the effects of where you have taken these hours from (for example, in your physical and mental well-being, time taken away from the Meaningful relationships, etc.). Yet again, sometimes we have to work long hours and that is also fine. A balanced life is a myth, but success comes from knowing how and when to balance your priorities. (Papasan, 2021.) As a real-life example, he Mentions that to meet a deadline in work you need to sacrifice your personal time and spend more time at work. That is normal. Nevertheless, it is important that you find the time (such as taking time off work) to give it back to yourself and focus on the other crucial priorities in your life (such as spending time with your family).

My reflection 

In conclusion, again, I would recommend reading this book to my peers. I think many would find it valuable. As of now, I have been quite conscious of my goals and priorities, focused only on things that matter, and said many “NOs”. Therefore, for me, this book served more as a reflective material to see how well I have sorted my priorities and what improvements I can make, but I had to learn that. I was a huge multitasker growing up – always in over 10 extracurricular activities. Until my violin teacher told, she would suspend me from music school studies if I wouldn’t give all of this up and focus solely on violin. I had only one year left to graduate (meaning I had been in music school for eight years already, and this was my last year). Thus, I had made a critical choice before in favor of violin three years ago between basketball and violin at the age of 11, which was also not easy as it was then a very big debate in our household (mostly between my parents).

When I tell this story most people say: “She was not allowed to do this!” or “She wouldn’t do it really. Would she?’ The thing is I was never bad at violin. My teacher was angry as compared to my first years where I would be a very strong student I would later purposely choose to waste my potential and settle for medium. She said I had to quit it all if I wanted to graduate. At the time, I was also part of an improvisational theater group, ensemble, choir, and swimming team – all of which meant I was part of a team that relied on me, which is why it was such a big decision for me at the time. Firstly, in my eyes, all of them were equally important to me, secondly, I was worried how that would affect the people I was working with. To be honest, I was also struggling with people pleasing because my teacher would often ask the same question with a smile that would annoy the guts out of me: “Tereze, tell me how often do you say “no”? Repeat after me: “NO!””

After I had cut almost everything off, I really connected with my violin. I practiced almost every day for about an hour or two, came to music school on Saturdays and would play there for 4-6 hours non-stop by myself in an empty classroom with no effort (before I couldn’t make it to 40 minutes a day). Yet although I still wasn’t perfect with my practice schedule, I found a connection with my instrument that I had never experienced in any of my closest human relationships. This also influenced my skills, of course, and I regained some recognition (and I wanted more). I graduated and was encouraged to do another year desiring to follow my path in music (although then soon I had to stop due to Sudden health issues, which is another story) but I would say that this was probably a sign for me to learn how to focus, say “no” and eliminate distractions. Music school is a very good place to learn self-leadership and discipline.

Ergo , I might seem like a girl who always jumps, is spontaneous, and loves to go with the flow (and that is also true). However, I have many things in my life that have required me to really fight and put in a lot of effort without seeing results, and then experiencing Sudden signs of progress like wine Cork popping with immense success. Which is why the Domino symbolism really resonated with me (that to knock the first one down, you have to put in a great effort, but then, after that, each Domino piece would fall more effortlessly). It can be frustrating, for sure, especially if you see that others get it easier and that there are no visible signs to prove that you are, in fact, making progress. Yet, I have learned (and continue to learn) that the worst thing you can do is to compare yourself to others and focus on the things you are unfortunate in. That is not the way. It just leads to self-pity. Just don’t give up – success requires focus and determination, and will show its signs often a bit later than you expect.

So, the moral of the story, first tip to aspiring authors: make your first chapter great – if we don’t judge a book by its cover, we judge it by its first chapter (and reviews online). Worked for me at least. Second, trust your teammates! They may not always be right but they are never wrong ;).



Clifford, N. 2013. The Myth Of Multitasking. Interview for “Talk of the Nation”. NPR. 10/05/2013. https://www.npr.org/2013/05/10/182861382/the-myth-of-multitasking [03/03/2024.]

Cooks-Campbell, A. 2022. Multitasking isn’t working: a science-backed approach to a better day. BetterUp. 18.07.2022. https://www.betterup.com/blog/multitasking [03.03.2024.]

Keller, G. & Papasan, J. 2013. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results. Austin, Texas: Bard Press.

Lee, BC & Duffy, VG 2015. The Effects of Task Interruption on Human Performance: A Study of the Systematic Classification of Human Behavior and Interruption Frequency. [Study]. https://interruptions.net/literature/Lee-HumFactorsErgonManufServIndust15.pdf [03.03.2024.]

Papasan, J. 2021. How To Find Your ONE Thing: Advice From Bestselling Author Jay Papasan With Jacob Morgan. Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan. 26/04/2021. https://youtu.be/rNjCeDoKDVU?si=dT9I9qbLqBe6guZ3  [03.03.2024.]


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