The Daily Question that You Must Ask Yourself on Your Road to Achievement

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Achievement is a two-step process.  First, you must decide what you want. Second, you must take the right actions in the direction of those goals. Today, we explore the action step, or step two, in that two-part equation through the prism of this great book, The One Thing.  

The Value-Add of this Book

The One Thing is a great book for anyone struggling to arrange the dominoes that they must knock down in order to get to his or her goals. Said another way, The One Thing is a book that you will love if you know what you want but you just don’t know the best roadmap for getting there. 

I wrote this article focused towards the context of achievement in business, investing and entrepreneurship. However, the lessons in the book are not limited to those spheres.  Rather, what you will learn from this book, I am willing to bet, you will apply and will spur value in all areas of your life. 

Your Daily Focusing Question

The One Thing introduces us to the singular focusing question that we can ask ourselves to decide on the number one priority for obtaining our goals in all areas of our lives. Here it is:  

What is the one thing I must do to reach my goal that, if I do it, it will render everything else easier or unnecessary?

That is a big question. Most likely, to answer that question with the specificity it requires, you are going to have to get into some pretty deep thought and deliberation.  Finding your answer, however, is an irreplaceable payoff for the time spent. 

I now do this mental exercise daily. Sometimes I do it consciously with pen and paper. Other times, after years of making this my focusing question, unconsciously.  But really the process comes down to thinking to yourself: 

“OK, I want to achieve [fill-in-the-blank]. What is the single biggest thing that has to happen in the time period that I have assigned to this goal if I am going to be able to reach this achievement?”

Is it Realistic to Just Pick One Thing?

I was skeptical when I read The One Thing for the first time. The concept that big goals could turn on one critical hinge seemed a bit far-fetched. Take our businesses for example. Many of us are running complex businesses with several departments, big and geographically diverse headcounts and multiple workflows.  What I realized as I decided to apply the principles of The One Thing, is that the concept of the one thing does work, but that I had to tweak it some. I found that it works great, and is much easier to decide upon, if you slightly change your “one thing” to your “one huge thing.” 

Let me give you an example. If you have read some of my previous articles, I have told you that in addition to this passion project of Sabio Books, I am a partner in a real estate investment firm specializing in incredible boutique hotels and lifestyle residence projects in emerging markets. My partners and I in that business meet weekly to discuss goals and objectives. A short while back we met to discuss and shape our one-year business targets. At that meeting, we decided that in the next year, our principal objectives would be two-fold.  Those objectives would be to, first, build a capital reserve bucket to be able to purchase more real estate assets that we could develop and bring to market and, two, boost cash available for operations to increase salaries of the team and to make additional key hires. I am sure that you can imagine what the constraint was that stood in our way of realizing these two business goals. You were right:  Access to capital at a reasonable cost.

This roadblock gave us the perfect opportunity to apply the focusing question of The One Thing.

We asked “what is the one thing that we must do in the next year to be able to build the capital reserve that we need and to boost our cash available for operations?” The answer to us became clear as we considered our business model and our projected one-year revenues: build the business to make it as attractive as positive to outside capital investors. 

Once we had that one huge thing set, the next steps fell into place from there as we continued through the analysis.  

“OK, if we are going to be able to raise the capital that we want into the business in one year, what does the business need to look like in one year’s time?” Stated another way, what are the big ticket items that we have to hit in order to be able to put our best face forward to investors that we want to join us on this journey? 

The dominoes started to line up. We knew we had to (1) execute on the projects in the current pipeline, meaning flawless development, launch and operations of our existing in-process projects, and (2) build the best-run company internally we could; everything from enhancing our financial reporting and internal controls to making a few key hires in significant leadership positions. We assigned each of these items a quarterly period in which they would be accomplished and even broke them down further into the weekly to-dos that accomplishing them would require.

We are well on our way.  Most exciting, we now have both a 4-star and 5-star luxury hotel in development in incredible locations in Puerto Rico, we have opened an impressive boutique hotel in the amazing city of Porto, Portugal and we have under contract a luxury lifestyle building with all the amenities you could ask for in our home city of Medellin, Colombia.  I have no doubt that I will be reporting back to you as our one-year deadline approaches that the business we set out to construct is ready and that interest from investors is through the roof. 

I credit this progress to the lessons of The One Thing

So What is Your One Thing?

“The big things don’t always scream the loudest.”  

The One Thing will teach you that often the best place to start for answering this question for your own business or portfolio is to apply Pareto’s Principle of 80/20 or, more simplified, really narrow in on what one thing, if you can do it, will deliver the most bang for its buck compared to all the other options available to you.  Start from the end then work backwards to determine what your row of dominoes will look like. 

The 4 Proven Ways to Battle Distraction

Achieving your one thing is going to require that you can do distraction-free work.  I liked the discussion in The One Thing of the four proven ways to battle distraction so that you can get this kind of work done. This is what you will learn:

  1. Build your bunker.  This is where you will do your distraction-free work.  The book will give you great examples of how other high-achievers have built theirs.
  2. Have everything you need on hand to limit interruptions.
  3. Shut off distractions.
  4. Communicate protected time to others. Let others know that you are off-limits during certain hours. You can do this explicitly (if you are the boss) or by making yourself scarce during certain time periods (if you are not in charge) to train others as to when they can expect to find you.  


I don’t discuss any book here that I do not apply in my own life. The One Thing is going to help you as much as it has me. Support the site, get the book!

Other book I think you´ll like:

Deep work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport. Check it out!

Vivid Vision: A Remarkable Tool For Aligning Your Business Around a Shared Vision, by Cameron Herold. Read about it!

Get this book now!

The One Thing is a great book for anyone struggling to arrange the dominoes that they must knock down in order to get to his or her goals. Said another way, The One Thing is a book that you will love if you know what you want but you just don’t know the best roadmap for getting there.