The one thing


Reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller brought me back to my discomfort with simplicity.

The beautiful simplicity of a Ted Talk – “one idea worth spreading.”

The challenging simplicity of minimalism – owning one black dress (as much as I love the concept – never going to happen – never).

The life and business changing simplicity of Simon Sinek’s one Why.


It’s not easy

The one thing. It’s not so easy. We have long to-do lists, multi-item agendas and many things to convey, discuss and accomplish.

When was the last time you had a one-item agenda? Or just one thing that you wanted to accomplish in a day, or in a morning, or even in an hour? Or one idea that you wanted to communicate in a presentation?

See – it’s hard. The one thing. I struggle with it.

But oh man, when I manage to do it? Magic. Work magic. Life magic. Relationship magic.

When I’m able to ask and answer Keller’s focusing question,“What’s the ONE thing you can do so that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?,” I’m always astounded at the results.


A few examples

A conversation – Heading into a conversation with a colleague, I silently thought of the focusing question and come up with “listen.” That’s the one thing I can do so that everything else will become easier. Listen – with great care and presence. Result? Without even asking, he offered to help me with a sticky problem.

An email to a friend– Before writing the email, I answered the focusing question with one word – “depth.” That’s the one thing I wanted in our exchange, and so I knew that I would need to ask better/deeper questions as well as share my own thoughts on a better/deeper level. Result? The best exchange we’ve had all year.

A retreat – As I designed a retreat for a group of exceptionally bright, fast-paced executives, I wanted so much for them – fun, connection, understanding, problem solving, growth, new opportunities, etc, etc – the list was long! But when I asked the focusing question: “What’s the ONE thing you can do so that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?,” I come up with “safety.” If I could create a safe environment in which they could open up, then all the other things would become easier. And they did. And they were. Result? “Best meeting we’ve ever had!”

Goal setting – Like most people, I have many goals. Health goals, relationship goals, business goals. On any given day, I’m thinking about all of them and trying to make progress in as many areas as possible (often unsuccessfully). But when I bring it down to the one thing… when I take a few deep breaths and ask myself the focusing question, I usually come up with something like – “connection” or “focus” or “uniquely helpful” – and one of those concepts (if I can hold on to it) can carry me through the day, with exceptional results.

Writing/speaking/presenting – To deliver a speech, presentation or written piece about just one idea is easier said than done. There’s so much to share, to give. So many ideas to explore! But the last time I confined myself to just one thing when planning a speech, I came up with “dots.” I wanted to share just enough of my story and other stories to show the audience that Steve Jobs was right when he said that, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” That’s it – just that one idea. Everything in my talk was about that one idea. And it worked beautifully, accomplishing the desired result of helping audience members feel better about past career decisions, and get inspired about future ones.


Your turn

How can you put this concept of “the one thing” into action today?

When you answer, “What’s the ONE thing you can do so that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?,” what comes up for you?


If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.

~ English proverb

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