Forget the long to-do lists and choose one thing to be good at

Forget the long to-do lists and choose one thing to be good at

By Vickie Elmer April 19, 2013

Success doesn’t come from a four-hour workweek or a list of seven steps. People who are extraordinarily successful are known for just one thing, one passion, one amazing skill, says Gary Keller and co-author Jay Papasan in their new book called The One Thing. That is true for Warren Buffett choosing investments or Bill Gates and computers. This notion comes partly from Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, which showed that 80% of wealth was held by 20% of the people. This works elsewhere as the 80/20 principle, where a small portion of effort leads to oversized results. “Things don’t matter equally. …The smaller I make my life, the bigger it gets,” says Keller, the co-founder and chairman of Keller Williams Real Estate. Great bosses understand that businesses will succeed when staff are encouraged to excel in one domain. ”I want my phones answered extraordinarily. I want my contracts read extraordinarily. I want software done extraordinarily,” Keller said about his own real estate business. Here are three lessons from The One Thing:

1.  Success is sequential, not simultaneous.  Many people want it all. Yet when Keller coached “a lot of very successful men and women” in the 1990s, he would see them create a list of assignments to tackle. By their next conversation, they hadn’t accomplished the most important ones. Finally, he started making them choose one thing they would concentrate on between sessions. That led to dramatically improved results. He would ask them the focusing question: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” That question runs through the book, and can serve to focus on big picture goals as well as daily priorities.

2. Nail your “one thing” by lunch.  Schedule your time block—a minimum of two hours, three or more is better—for the first part of your day when your willpower is highest. “By noon or 1 o’clock at latest, you’ve had an awesome day,” he said. “You’ve done what mattered most. Now you deal with all the other stuff.” For executive meetings, know the one thing that drives your business’ success, and make that the first item on your agenda always.

3. Everyone blows it. Keller wanted his book to be grounded in research, so the first draft came in at 400 pages. His publisher said: “Why don’t you practice what you preach?” The authors ended up cutting it in half.

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About Koon Boon Kee
Bamboo Innovator Institute is set up to establish the thought leadership of resilient value creators around the world. KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (www.moatreport.com), a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia. The Moat Report is developed together with our European partners The Manual of Ideas (www.manualofideas.com), the idea-oriented acclaimed monthly research publication for institutional and private investors. The MRA’s paid-subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities and savvy private individual investors. KB has presented his thought leadership as a keynote speaker in global investing conferences with speakers including famed serious investors Donald Yacktman, Howard Marks, Jean-Marie Eveillard etc. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, macroeconomic and industry trends in Singapore, HK and China. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm since 2002. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Mirae Asset Global Investments, Korea’s largest mutual fund company. He holds a Masters in Finance and degrees in Accountancy and Business Management, summa cum laude, from the Singapore Management University (SMU). He had also taught accounting at the SMU. He had published cutting-edge empirical research in the Special Issue of Istanbul Stock Exchange 25th Year Anniversary of the Boğaziçi Journal, Review of Social and Economic Studies, as well as wrote articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media.

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