Jay Papasan is the bestselling author of multiple books including The ONE Thing, which he co-authored with Gary Keller. The book has sold more than 2 million copies, it has been translated into 35 languages, and it has appeared on more than 500 national bestseller lists.
The main focus of The ONE Thing is to help readers find the one thing that they can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary. In other words, once you come up with a goal for yourself it is important for you to ask yourself every day what is the one thing I can do today to take me closer to that goal. Every day you are looking for your number one priority.
But does that mean you can only focus on one goal or one thing at a time? No way! Jay says that is actually the biggest mistake readers make when going through the book. He says, “We never said that–who gets to do one thing? Nobody, right? We have kids, we have aging parents, we have hobbies, we have jobs, our jobs have all kinds of busywork that is absolutely necessary and can’t be ignored. But if we start and give disproportionate focus and energy to the true priority, everything else does get easier. And sometimes it just goes away. You don’t even have to do it. That’s a big idea.”
Finding your ONE Thing
Jay suggests that when you first start to try to find your one thing, it is important to think strategically about something that will be a long-term goal. Aim big, and long-term, instead of focusing on something you can achieve in the short term.
As Jay shares, when you are young and just starting out it is important to try to figure out what your unique gifts are. What are some areas where you excel that maybe others have a hard time with? He says, “The reason ultimately people get accelerated through the business world is that in some area they can provide disproportionate returns on their investment of time, right. They can sell more than the next person, they can close more than the next person, they can write better copy, or better code than the next person. So part of the young person’s journey is discovering where their passion and their gifts align.”
How can you become invaluable? In what areas can you show up and provide extra value? What are you passionate about or what are you skilled at? If there is something that you are very skilled at and that same thing brings you joy and a sense of purpose–you should lean into that.
And remember that every job is going to have things about it that you don’t enjoy, it’s pretty rare for someone to find a job that they enjoy 100% of the time. But if the majority of the role is exciting, challenging, and enjoyable for you–start your focus there.
How Jay helps his employees find their one thing
Jay is in charge of 44 employees with Keller Williams and one thing he practices on a regular basis with his team is something they call GPS. Each year Jay and his team come together to figure out what their number one goal as a company is. And once they have that goal they come up with three to five priorities that they will need to focus on throughout the year to reach that goal, and each of those priorities has up to five strategies behind it. That is how they get everyone on the team on the same page and working towards the same goal. So that happens on a yearly basis.
And then every week Jay meets with the people who report to him to review their own one-page of set goals. This is called the 4-1-1, because it is that person’s priorities for 4 weeks, one month, and one year all on one page. Every week the individual employee looks at their annual goals based on the company priorities and from that they come up with monthly goals that support those overarching goals.
Jay says, “Every week they put their weekly goals that line up to their monthly goals that line up to their annual goals that line up to the divisional company goals. So it’s a cascading set of priorities. So that every week, I spend 30 minutes or so with the key people who work with me, and we review their weekly priorities. And once a month, I will look at their monthly priorities and just ask the question, how does this help us achieve our goals? And at the beginning of the year is the most work, right? We ask what’s our one thing and then based on that we create the cascade.”
This process allows employees to break large company-wide goals into bite-sized, achievable priorities that they know they can accomplish.
Is hustle culture a good thing?
A lot of people, especially entrepreneurs, believe that success is connected to a nonstop hustle to try to get ahead. They think that by outworking their competition they can win. But Jay doesn’t agree with this concept at all.
He says, “One of my fundamental beliefs is that to be a successful husband and a father and a successful business person, that those are not mutually exclusive endeavors. I refuse to believe otherwise. And the challenge I have with the hustle culture that you have to outwork and work longer than your competitors, is that they’re just ignoring the fact that like, I get to work every day with a self made billionaire. I do the math, what is his dollars per hour, it’s incalculable. But he doesn’t work any more hours than I do on an average week. So it’s not how many hours you work. It’s what you put into the hours. And it sounds so trite, but it’s incredibly true.”
It’s not that you can’t work long hours from time to time or put in time at the office on a weekend on occasion. As Jay shares, he has done that when they are on a deadline or if he’s preparing to speak at a big conference. But it’s not the norm. There are moments in life when you have to work harder than others, but to hustle nonstop all the time is not sustainable.
“I’ve seen it be a recipe for divorce and disease. And I do not want the people I love to be caught into the culture of hustle first, think second. So I think this is business as a thinking person’s game. And when we are strategic in our investment of time, we win.”
The four pitfalls people experience when living The ONE Thing
Once people have found their ONE thing and they start living that out, there are a few pitfalls they can fall into that Jay warns about. They are:
- They lack clarity about what they want.
- They’re clear on what they want, but they’re unfocused in their approach.
- They’re focused, but they actually don’t have time to execute.
- The time that they DO commit, they leave unprotected.
So as you are navigating your priorities and goals, be sure to look out for these traps and make sure you don’t fall into any of them.
What can you do to start practicing your ONE thing today
For those of you who are ready to start putting this into practice today, Jay’s advice is to set up 30 minutes a week–whether it’s on a Sunday before the week starts or on Friday before you leave work–and come up with your one goal for the coming week.
Look at your schedule and tasks for the upcoming week and ask yourself “of all the things I could do, what is the number one thing I can achieve next week?” Figure out your number one goal for that week and then manage your time to make sure that one thing happens.
And if you have more than one thing you have to get done, use that 30 minutes a week to help you narrow down your to-do list to your top 5 things that actually matter. And then number those 5 things in order of importance, so you remember what that #1 most important thing is. Putting this exercise into practice will help you stay laser focused on what really matters to you and it will help you achieve your goals faster.
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