What’s your ONE thing? [ Book Review: “The ONE Thing” ]

When’s the last time you truly sat down and thought about your biggest, craziest, wildest dreams? If you had to picture it, could you imagine how those insanely humongous dreams could actually break down to actionable tasks and goals? Can you see what your path to those dreams looks like 5 years out, 1 year out, 6 months from now? If you thought of it that way, you could break that dream down to what needs to be done this quarter, this month, this week and today – all by thinking about “The ONE Thing” as presented in Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s Wall Street Journal bestseller book.

We are all so busy and so pulled everywhere with so many demands on us – at home, at work, wherever we go. With so many things pulling for our time, pulling for our attention and noise all around us, how do we cut through to the things that matter? How do we really carve out the space to create amazing change in our lives? Additionally, many of us suffer from TMIF (too-many-irons-in-the-fire) syndrome. We’re pursuing multiple streams of income because we heard that was the smart thing to do, but the result is that we’re mastering in multiple struggling ideas. In other words, we’re mastering in nothing. What would happen if we focused on just ONE?

We start off every New Year thinking about these big dreams that we have. Don’t let go of your dreams and goals. Learn how to give yourself permission to actually work on them. Here’s the big ONE Thing question from the book that you have to ask yourself:

“What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

This is the question you can start asking yourself now every week – and even break that down to every day – to start seeing through the roof results in your life.

I sat down with Executive Coach and Nationally Certified John Maxwell Trainer David Patterson, to discuss “The ONE Thing” as it relates to entrepreneurs and business professionals alike. This book is filled with golden nuggets for you, but my favorite one is the idea that we have so much of our energy and our ability to focus first thing in the morning (for some of us, that means after we’ve gotten a shower and a cup of tea, but you get the picture).

Here’s a link to the actual ADS “ONE Thing” Chat – and the after party.” You can also scroll below for the top highlights from the videos. You’ll also see a list of all the many helpful books mentioned in these chats at the bottom of this blog.

Use your morning energy towards your ONE thing.

Starry Night Room 2
I’m never quite awake first thing in the morning, but I am after a cup like this!

Whether you’re a morning person or not, you have the power to dedicate all that focus and energy which is the highest at the beginning of the day. You’re the most rested then, you (ideally) just had breakfast (also very important for ensuring you have the most energy). Maybe you just worked out, too. You’ve got the greatest clarity of mind and hence the greatest ability to focus then.

Why not dedicate those super power moments to the most important thing you can do to achieve your dream?

Gary and Jay recommend you focus on your ONE thing for four hours in the morning. Your four most vital hours – your power-packed hours. If you’ve determined that this is the most important thing you can do such that by doing it everything else either becomes (A) easier or (B) unnecessary – and you choose to invest your best time, your best energy and your best focus in that beginning time to that ONE thing – that’s golden. Do it day after day after day – you’re going to be knocking down bigger and bigger dominoes (a metaphor the book uses for goals) every day.

Prioritize your Success List (and not your To-Do List)

All of us have a habit of making lists – whether it be on post-it notes, journals, scrap paper, etc. – but they end up being so long and we feel defeated because we barely get a quarter of it done on most days.

What we have to realize is that everything on this list is not important and everything is not equal.

We have to truly prioritize what we do throughout the day. The difference between the To-Do List and the Success List lies in answering this question: what are you looking to achieve? What is your “ONE thing”? There are several ONE things, actually, that there are to be focused on (which is one of the biggest misnomers about the book). You have a “ONE” thing for every major area of your life. What the book is asking you to do is that when you choose to focus on your ONE thing and give it it’s dedicated time and energy to see real progress and phenomenal growth there.

Put the Pareto Principle to work for you: It works like this (as David puts it): 80% of the traffic happens 20% of the time in Atlanta. Or we may only wear 20% of the clothes that are in our closet right now. Similarly, 80% of your success is going to come from 20% of your activities – not all the other junk we tend to do that keeps us “busy” but doesn’t really do anything significant to get us to our goals. So now we have to determine what are the activities that are going to help us get where we want to be. Don’t treat everything on your list as equal. In The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life, Leo Babauta recommends that you choose your top 3 things every night that are the most important to get done the next day that you must accomplish and write them down. That, according to David, is what should make up your success list. [ I actually came across this topic as well and put it in my blog: Do Something That Matters Today: A Productivity Tip I Love ]

One of my DREAM places I always wanted to see – The Duomo in Florence. Gotta go back!

Another book David recommends is Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters by John C. Maxwell. In this book, we’re asked to be intentional about what we want to achieve in our lives. Where you go, what you do, who you associate with, your goals, etc. And then we prioritize the time to do those things, literally saying to ourselves “here is the time that I’m going to allocate for that.” We may often say “I just don’t have time to do that.” To exercise. To network. To tackle our budgets and financial goals. To get proper sleep and rest. To vacation. To start that business. But why? It’s because we’ve not prioritized the time to do so. Then the question we have to ask ourselves is where do we put that time if we think we don’t have the time for the big goals?

The ONE Thing encourages us to prioritize the Success List and not the To-Do List. Combine that with the Pareto Principle and you’ll end up spending your time on the right 20% of activities to get you where you want to be.

We love the concept presented in The ONE Thing that asks us to set aside 4 hours every morning to focus on our most important thing – uninterrupted with the best energy we’ve got.

Take no calls.

In order to focus on your ONE thing, in whichever area of your life that is, you’ve got to clear every obstacle. You need four hours of your morning – your best four hours with your best energy – uninterrupted with no distractions. Take no calls. Turn off your push notifications from Facebook. Turn off your text and email notifications. Put a do-not-disturb sign on your door. You’re not reading e-mails. For four hours you’re focusing on this ONE thing that matters the most today to get done. That’s hard – yes! But is it powerful when you do that? YES. When you know what you’re saying yes to – your ONE thing – then you learn how much easier it is to say no to the things that aren’t. Block that time off and protect it with your life.

Let’s dig into this dominoes metaphor

White Boards & Vision Boards
David loves white boards. (Did we mention he loves to Vision Engineer? Use a white board sometime to help you vision board).

One of the biggest themes of The ONE Thing book is this: “Success is sequential – not simultaneous.” As David puts it, “we want to go from zero to a million in 12 days, but we have to understand that there is actually a process to success.” As you line up each domino in your life, that’s giving you the opportunity to knock down each one of the dominoes that’s in between you and the goal that you have. Whether you want to write a book, start a ministry or open that art gallery you’ve always dreamed of, start writing down or “lining up the dominoes” to get that thing done.

A good “domino” tactic: Vision Boards. David actually loves Vision Boards. “I looooooooooove white boards because I’m a very visual person. It helps me draw out the dominoes in a way that I know what’s first, what’s second, what’s third,” David says. If you follow him on his Instagram or Twitter, you might see him throw up a few pics of his boards throughout the year.

Dominos from
A domino actually has the power to knock down another domino that’s 50% bigger.

Each domino actually represents your ONE thing that you must do each day. The ONE thing as defined as being that thing that you choose to do, such that, by doing it, everything else either becomes (A) so much easier or (B) unnecessary. Pick your ONE thing towards your big, crazy dream goal that’s the natural, next progression to achieving that goal. If you knock out that one most important thing today, the one you have to knock out tomorrow gets so much easier. It’s true.

What’s the most important and first domino to knock out?? Mastering yourself. Your first domino is YOU. Success is so much of an inside job. In the book, they tell what I call “The Newspaper Story” – which is the story of a son who really wants to play with his dad. You can listen to the story right here which has a great message about what it takes to truly master yourself:

Master Yourself.PNG

David’s thoughts on that oh-so-difficult first domino? Think BIG about these seven areas of your life. Considering your dreams will help you master that first domino.

Seven Pillars of Your Life from The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

  1. Spirituality
  2. Relationships
  3. Health
  4. Business / Occupation
  5. Finances
  6. Environment: the 5 people you’re hanging with, because you are the average of them. Be intentional about who you’re spending your time with.
  7. Recreation

Mentors and coaches are also so helpful to give you a different perspective on ways to tackle that first domino as well. The challenge John Maxwell gave David in Orlando: what are the 42 things that you’re going to accomplish within the next 10 years? It’s very much a bucket list thing. Think big. Don’t think about small easy goals. Small goals keep us from our bigger goals. If it doesn’t scare you, it’s likely not worth it. Speaking of scary…

Fear vs. Faith

So many of us are so very scared to fail. We have these big dreams and we may even work on them up until a certain point, but we’re often so afraid to “push go” because we don’t want to fail. Why? We don’t want the embarrassment of it. To ourselves. To others. We don’t want to have to bear the “I told you so” looks from the naysayers. It’s actually called “megaphobia” – the irrational fear of “big.” We get it. It’s scary for real. But nonetheless, if you’re going to win, you have to push through that fear anyway because there’s something greater on the other side. It’s easy to criticize from the outside. It’s also very easy to criticize from a place of mediocrity. Haters never want to see you fly. In another book David loves, Failing Forward: the more we fail, the quicker we fail forward. Meaning – failing is necessary to keep moving forward. We don’t learn until we start, and as T. H. Eker says – “every master was once a disaster.” Until we learn our lesson, that same opportunity to fail will keep coming around until we’ve proven we’ve passed that test.

“Only those who will risk going too far will find out how far you can go.”

Every person has two wolves fighting within: Fear vs. Faith. Which one wins?

So if you don’t test yourself past those points of being comfortable, you don’t know what you can actually achieve because you haven’t even tried it yet. The Wolf Story is another good one to listen to regarding the battle between fear vs. faith. You can hear that one here.

Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love – has a great story about Michelangelo in it. This is the way he thinks of a piece of marble when he’s approaching it: God already has made something powerful and beautiful in this block of marble. It’s already in there and it already exists. He feels his job as a sculptor is to chip away the things that don’t belong, and therefore chip away the things that are not your authentic self. Negativity. Fear, etc. So you can be that glorious creation that’s already in there.

David’s big takeaway from this book: “We need to make sure that we’re living on purpose, living by priority and living for productivity.” There are 4 things that we should be doing to help us do this:

  1. Commit to be your best. When you think about those 7 pillars, have ONE thing to focus on in each one of these pillars. Spirituality: read the Bible more, read books by Mark Batterson, are you going to church or synagogue, a mosque or other place of worship more? Relationships: What are the relationships that are important to you? Be authentic about who you are and where you are in that relationship, because life is too short for us not to be our authentic selves. Every level of achievement requires its own combination of what you do, how you do it and who you do it with. That combination might and likely will change at every level (hence the reason networking and being strategic is so important).
  2. Be purposeful about your ONE thing. You have to allocate time for those one things. If you’re going to exercise 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week, treat it like an appointment that you are not to miss. If it’s not on your calendar, it does not exist. Your calendar should be your boss.
  3. Take ownership of your outcomes. Do not be a victim. Accountability matters to reaching your goals. We tell ourselves a lot of lies  (6 of them are identified in the book, actually). We need to take ownership of our stuff. Address it. Forgive yourself. Move forward. Be the best you can be.
  4. Find a coach! It is OK to have a coach in each one of those 7 pillars. Who’s your spiritual advisor? Who’s helping you with working out? Your relationships? Your finances?

Focus on your authentic self and these things – and that will help you get your life in order and prioritize.

These are tips from “The After Party” (after our official ADS “ONE Thing” Chat was over): (1) Learning to say NO, (2) Hiring on help, (3) Having protected relationships in your business, (4) The power of the people around you (as referenced by the book Instincts by TD Jakes – which David has promised to read by Thanksgiving!! Everyone on this blog post must hold him accountable. Haha David), (5) The difference between success and significance, (6) Have a vision for your life.

The bottom line: we must be purposeful about our decisions. For everything we choose to focus on, there’s something that won’t get focused on. Many things that won’t. You have to be a little bit OK with that chaos (see point #22 from my last blog post: “The 24 Things I Learned in Year One as an Entrepreneur” – you have to – a little bit – not be afraid of the chaos). And you have to – a little bit, maybe a LOT a bit – be OK with facing those fears of going BIG. OK with mastering the first domino – you. If you can do those things, get ready for some phenomenal growth in your life. We can’t wait to see what you do!

The Book List

David has challenged us all to read one book a month – 12 books a year. Check out DP3’s Top 20 Books List that have helped him grow as a person.

Books recommended in The ADS “ONE Thing” Chat:

John Maxwell books recommended by David in The ADS “ONE Thing” Chat:


David Patterson
David Patterson

ABOUT DAVID PATTERSON: 25 years in the game of training, teaching and coaching. CEO and Chief Alchemist at The Dapper Collaborative and DP3 Consulting. Believer in Vision Engineering. Nationally recognized John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer and coach. Brands he’s done trained: Bank of America, BCBS, Keller Williams. Graduate of Queens Univ. in Charlotte. From Charleston, WV. Read his full bio here. Instagram, Twitter: @ibdp3.

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Andrea D. Smith, Senior Brand Director, The ADS Agency