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The Anatomy of THE ONE THING QUESTION: Build a Success Habit

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jan 9, 2017

What’s the deal Doug?  Why all these continuing blogs on the One Thing?

What's the One Thing Question.jpgSince 2008, when I became a Gazelles Coach, I’ve discovered the ONE THING that separates my customers who succeed or fail to produce only mediocre results is this: 

Customers who consistently and ferociously adopt the Priority Principle of THE ONE THING, WIN and WIN BIG!

It’s the reason before my customers finish any annual, quarterly, or initial 2-day private workshop we determine their One Thing. 

The result is clarity, for the leadership team, the people they supervise and manage.

This clarity always gives way to outstanding RESULTS.

Determining your Priority is the first step in our three step Strategic Discipline Brand Promise: Priorities, Metrics, Meeting Rhythms.

In my own life, and business, I applied this principle of success, none more significant than when I discovered I had cancer in 2012.  I’m here today only because I relentlessly applied it to getting my cancer into remission then to my bone marrow transplant recovery.

Choose to avoid this principle, this question, RISK earning success in any endeavor you choose to undertake.

You want to succeed, pay attention.  You don’t, simply avoid reading further, or to pick up the book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

THE QUESTION, IN THREE PARTS DIAGNOSEDThe One Thing (Majority Of What You Want without Success List).jpg

The question is: “What’s the One Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”


It starts with focus.  This isn’t multiple choice, it’s one thing, and it forces you to be specific. 

We all have options every day.  Too often we choose the wrong ones.  We’re lazy, have bad habits, whatever, we make bad choices. And unfortunately we repeat this each day.

You can’t hedge your bet here.  IT’S ONE THING.

This is not about woulda, coulda, shoulda either.  This is “CAN DO.”  Not intention.

Action you “can do” beats intention every time.


Something is going to happen when you do this.  This lets you know there’s a criterion, a rule or principle for evaluating or testing it, your answer must meet.   You’re going to have to dig deep, because once you do this ONE THING something is going to occur.


This elevates your answers potential to change your life!

You may have heard this quote, “Give me a lever long enough and I can move the world.” ~ Archimedes  If you don’t believe this principle applies to your business I invite you to read Leadership Corollary 2 Leaders master the conversational environment, which provides an example of Archimedes moving a supposedly immovable object, and how this applies to language in your business.

Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don’t need to be done.  We just need to start by doing the right thing.  Find the first domino.

Everything else you could do to accomplish your goal is now either doable with less effort or no longer even necessary, simply by determining your ONE THING.

The Focusing Question asks you to find the first domino and focus on it exclusively until you knock it over. Once you’ve done that, you’ll discover a line of dominoes behind it either ready to fall or already down.

Here are the BIG IDEAS from this chapter in the book:

  1. Great questions are the path to great answers. The Focusing Question is a great question designed to find a great answer. It will help you find the first domino for your job, your business, or any other area in which you want to achieve extraordinary results.
  2. The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action.
  3. The Big-Picture Question: “What’s my ONE Thing?” Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. It also works when considering what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community, and how you want to be remembered. It keeps your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues in perspective and your daily actions on track.
  4. The Small-Focus Question: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?” Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the “levered action” or first domino in any activity. The small-focus question prepares you for the most productive workweek possible. It’s effective in your personal life too, keeping you attentive to your most important immediate needs, as well as those of the most important people in your life.


“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” ~Arnold H. Glasow

We’re all aware of habits.  How hard they are to break. How hard they are to create.

Here’s our choice: do we want to create habits that get us what we want from life or not?

The Focusing Question is then the most powerful success habit you can have.

You can apply it to any aspect of your life.  Start with the big stuff and discover where it takes you.   In the book, Keller provides multiple questions for each of the areas of life that matter most you see depicted here in this graphic.

The One Thing (My Life and the areas that matter most in it).jpgHere’s the challenge best summed up by Keller’s BIG IDEAS at the end of his Success Habit chapter:

So how do you make The ONE Thing part of your daily routine? How do you make it strong enough to get extraordinary results at work and in the other areas of your life? Here’s a starter list drawn from our experience and our work with others.

  1. Understand and believe it. The first step is to understand the concept of the ONE Thing, then to believe that it can make a difference in your life. If you don’t understand and believe, you won’t take action.
  2. Use it. Ask yourself the Focusing Question. Start each day by asking, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?” When you do this, your direction will become clear. Your work will be more productive and your personal life more rewarding.
  3. Make it a habit. When you make asking the Focusing Question a habit, you fully engage its power to get the extraordinary results you want. It’s a difference maker. Research says this will take about 66 days. Whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months, stick with it until it becomes your routine. If you’re not serious about learning the Success Habit, you’re not serious about getting extraordinary results.
  4. Leverage reminders. Set up ways to remind yourself to use the Focusing Question. One of the best ways to do this is to put up a sign at work that says, “Until my ONE Thing is done—everything else is a distraction.” We designed the back cover of this book to be a trigger —set it on the corner of your desk so that it’s the first thing you see when you get to work. Use notes, screen savers, and calendar cues to keep making the connection between the Success Habit and the results you seek. Put up reminders like, “The ONE Thing = Extraordinary Results” or “The Success Habit Will Get Me to My Goal.”
  5. Recruit support. Research shows that those around you can influence you tremendously. Starting a success support group with some of your work colleagues can help inspire all of you to practice the Success Habit every day. Get your family involved. Share your ONE Thing. Get them on board. Use the Focusing Question around them to show them how the Success Habit can make a difference in their school work, their personal achievements, or any other part of their lives.

Let me add ONE THING to #5.  I owe my life to a person who when I had cancer re-introduced me to meditation.  If he had not, when I was in my darkest of moments I’m confident I wouldn’t be here today writing this blog.   Alan Fendrich, thank you!

If you don’t believe this BIG IDEA is important think again.  We are the sum of the 5 most significant people we surround ourselves with.  Thank God Alan Fendrich was one of those people for me.


Extraordinary results require Great Answers! As a business coach two of our greatest contributions to an organization and their leadership team is to hold the team accountable and to ask great questions.  Strategic Discipline is usually my first priority to establish in any organization we work with.  Why? 

“People don’t decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”  ~ F.M. Alexander. 

Once the habit of Strategic Discipline is established throughout the organization, momentum and success consistently repeats itself.  We’ll explore the path to great answers next blog.

Topics: Strategic Discipline, Top Priority, The One Thing, Focusing Question, First Domino, Success Habit

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Positioning Systems Brand Promise

1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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