Focusing on The One Thing

Being a part of the Young Entrepreneurs Council #YEC and the Forbes community has been an amazing experience and I am so grateful for the people that have #Activated me along the way.

During an open forum discussion one of my peers asked about what was the most impactful book I have read and it got me thinking about the game changing book: The One Thing by Gary Keller.

What I love about this book (besides him building one of the most successful real estate franchises in the world) is his mantra of how extraordinary results are determined by how narrow you focus. After reading this book it taught me to narrow down on the activities that had the highest impact versus falling victim to entrepreneur syndrome (ES) and chasing every new-NEW thing out there.

What made this book so impactful for me was the notion that small dominos can topple much larger dominos if they are stacked accordingly. But in order to clearly stack them- we need to be disciplined in how we prioritize our time, which habits we seek to employ, and what actions we take along the way.

Here is how it breaks down: our reality is shaped by the habits we employ, which stem from the actions we take on a consistent basis, that come from our beliefs and thoughts and intentions and questions we ask ourselves. Run on sentence, I’m aware.

Visually this is how it plays out: Question > Thoughts/Beliefs/Outlook > Actions > over time they become Habits > Reality

In other words, the questions we consistently ask ourselves drive the thoughts that run though our heads. And the thoughts we have, shape our global outlook. And they are refined as we filter out the things that do not answer the question to what we are seeking. As Henry Ford once put it, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t- you are probably right.” That filtering process leads to our outlook and eventually that becomes part of our belief system. Our beliefs drive the actions we take, and over time (66+ days according to research) those actions become habits. Habits shape our outlook of the world since it’s all purposefully connected.

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” — F. M. Alexander

I felt The One Thing was a great book since it helped me connect the 3Ps: purpose, priority, and productivity. The 3Ps has been one of the main drivers for our overnight success (it only took a decade!)

What I love about this approach is how asking quality questions and systematically picking The ONE Thing allows me to figure out exactly how I could be the most impactful with my time.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” And the same goes for the journey of extraordinary results. In order to go down that path we must determine what is the most impactful first step we must take, and then purposefully think about the second and the third step that follow. In order to be effective we need to seek alignment with by asking the right questions that allow us to focus.

Gary calls it the focusing question, “what is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Once you’re asking the right question, it will help narrow down all the things that you could do, to the ONE thing that you should do.

What this book means to me

As an impact investor my ONE thing is driven by the triple bottom line impact my businesses generate.

Firstly, we consider the social impact we leave in our communities. For the last decade that I have been overseeing our communities, we have been impacting our residents by demonstrating our care by delivering superior customer service and quality. We have partnered with government offices such as the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, the VA, Salvation Army, St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities, and the list goes on and on.

Secondly, we stress test the economic viability of our models by spending countless hours structuring and scrutinizing complex financial transactions. By analyzing both the internal rate of return (IRR) and the equity multiple we are able to simultaneously analyze and force-rank a variety of domestic projects. Our operational expertise, apart from giving us our competitive advantage, allowed us to weather the global financial crisis unscathed given our margin of safety. As my good friend/mentor Corey Hoffstein from Newfound Research once put it, “Your biggest competitive advantages is to simply exist long enough.” As operators our goal is simply that- to be able to deliver impact at a scale and to continue making progress day in and day out.

“Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts…. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day- if you live long enough- most people get what they deserve.”
— Charlie Munger

Lastly, we consider the environmental implications of our businesses. Going green while staying lean is a major focus point for our organization as we seek to reduce our carbon footprint by becoming more sustainable and ecofriendly.

In sum, The One Thing is a phenomenal book and I feel it has been one of the key driving forces for our business as it has helped us escape the entrepreneurial syndrome of trying to do it all and it has allowed us to focus on the small tasks that really deliver the greatest impact to our business.