Book Review 011: The One Thing by Jay Papasan

The One Thing, by Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, talks about their journey in overcoming issues with focus and creating better habits. They discuss the idea that multitasking isn't as productive as some people make it out to be and maintains that success requires long periods of laser-like focus, and not scattered swats. Papasan states that if you focus on the "One Thing", everything else will fall into place.

By prioritizing on "One Thing", it allows us to get more done in a day when compared to to-do list and multitasking. Adding more projects to your list without cutting others will negatively impact your results, health, and relationships. If you want to achieve your goals, Jay Papasan reminds us that it actually takes subtraction and focus, not addition.

Papasan tells us that living according to the "One Thing" mentality is rather simple. The more difficult area is to ignore the "conventional wisdom" that we have been told all these years. There are so many myths and straight out lies about productivity that sound reasonable, but when tested against results, simply do not work out.

For many of us who work in Corporate America and have a W2 job. There are often talks of finding a "work life balance." Papasan tells us that work life balance is a myth, and we need to implement "counterbalance" to lead a life of significance and meaning as we strive to adjust our priorities to focus on the most important tasks at hand.

The main theme of this book is that the best way to get the answers you seek is by asking the right questions. Papasan encourages the readers to ask the following question: “What is the one thing I can do such that, by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” This is a simple question, but not an easy one. It provides both an overview and a laser focus on what you must do today to achieve your one thing. The question propels you to go beyond simple tasks on your to-do list and directs you to what is most important, that “first domino” that will make everything else fall into place.

Favorite Quote: “Knowing when to pursue the middle and when to pursue the extremes is in essence the true beginning of wisdom. Extraordinary results are achieved by this negotiation with your time.”

Asking, “What’s my one thing?” defines your “big one thing” by prompting you to craft a conceptual path for your career, your business and your personal life. Asking, “What’s my one thing right now?” reveals the “small one thing” that drives your daily activities. This puts your top priority at the center of your focus and leads you to a productive workday and a properly focused home life.

Papasan challenges us to identify our priority each day and focus only on the present, the only moment you can affect. Stacking upon these moments leads to success, because most people work harder for present rewards than for the future. As with dominoes, visualization helps, as does writing down your goals. People who write their goals are 39.5% more likely to accomplish them than people who don’t.

Key ideas:

  • Multitasking and following long to-do lists pose the biggest obstacles to achieving your goals.

  • Align purpose with your one thing to bring you clarity and happiness.

  • Your purpose will direct your single priority and inform you on how to spend your time.

  • Learn to say no and accept the chaos that accompanies any pursuit of greatness.

  • Create an environment that supports your goals.

  • Take care of your health with good food, exercise, family time and sleep.

Hope you enjoy this book!

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Book Review 010: Linchpin by Seth Godin - Are You Indispensable?

In his book Linchpin, author Seth Godin tells the readers that every person faces a choice: You can choose to live day after day, year after year, languidly going through the motions, doing work devoid of excitement and imagination. Or, you can choose a path that promotes uniqueness and ingenuity by becoming a “linchpin” – an invaluable, indispensable employee, the center of a company’s activities. He challenges us by stating that if we believe in our self-potential for greatness, we need to embrace risk, ignite the creative spark within us, and seek out the good in other people to become an influential linchpin. 

If you decide to absorb all of the business teachings of Seth Godwin, be warned that you can very well end up feeling overworked and underappreciated. His message is so effective that it may have unintended consequences of making you the "go-to" person for the entire organization. 

Here are the main lessons of his book:

1. You do not have “Job security”.

Many people may already know that truth be told, they are replaceable. You may be the only Manager in a district, or have hit a million dollar in sales, but we all know you are only as good as your last sale and that the business environment can change in a minute. For over a century, Companies have promised employees decent wages, good benefits and job security in exchange for workers who met expectations, punched their clock in and out, and followed Company rules. Fast forward to the present, where economic and technology changes have wiped out job security. The current workforce is victim to globalization, reduction in force, and reduction of benefits as employers look to cut costs if that means an increase to the bottom line. This generation is different from the previous generation, and that means there are two sides to the coin.

2. Embrace hopelessness or opportunity.

The result of economic and technological changes have brought about a new wave of entrepreneurs and business opportunities, mainly through the internet and ability to connect with people all around the world. Instead of feeling hopeless and stuck, employees can climb out of the trenches and seize the opportunity to create a different, better future for themselves. Our society often discourages change and creativity. Many people are so accustomed to following rules and working diligently, they fail to realize that there other methods, new rules, in which people can stand out and become innovative.

3. Become a “linchpin.”

In the midst of the herd who simply follow the rules, you can choose stand above the crowd by becoming a linchpin – an invaluable, indispensable employee who inspires everyone else. By projecting a winning attitude even when naysayers surround you, you will become the person others ask for help, and when your colleagues depend on you, your firm will pay you accordingly. 

Remember that Linchpins aren’t brilliant all the time. They stand out due to their ability to recognize and seize opportunity. Godwin says that to be a linchpin, you must be smart and crafty, as well as hard working. Linchpins surpass their peers by combining wisdom about the job with shrewdness. Every interaction with your colleagues or clients is an opportunity to act as a linchpin in some way. For example, musicians and artists create work because they must share their gifts with the world. Often times, financial reward is much less motivating. In the same way, becoming a linchpin means becoming an artist. It means performing at your best because you simply can’t do otherwise.

4. Tune out your “lizard brain.”

Your lizard brain is wired for survival and fight or flight. It fears risk and sows self-doubt and mistrust. It evolved earlier and has greater power than the creative part of your brain. Creative, optimistic, successful people tune out messages from their lizard brains. They don’t take failure personally and don’t think of themselves as losers. They gain strengths from setbacks and find ways to pivot and change their plan of attack.

When you reach that uncertain stage about making a change, Godin says go for it - avoid analysis paralysis. To evolve, ignore tasks that aide procrastination. The nearer you are to a breakthrough, the more you will embrace distraction. Surfing the Internet or checking your email is a lot easier than being creative and initiating change. Most people won’t commit to self-discipline, but that’s the key to productivity.

5. Give more, take less.

Generous, committed people understand the power of giving. They recognize the value of supporting others – with time, money or talent – and being part of something larger than themselves. By giving, you are able to fortify bonds between people and strengthen the overall tribe. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), charges no dues and its meetings are free. People attend to receive and to give help – a philosophy that makes AA a powerful, close-knit community. You do not have to wait to become successful to practice generosity. Many people do not chase after money, but it is a result of their efforts of giving value to others first. As you progress to become a linchpin, consider how you can donate your art, your creative efforts, your inspiration and your energy to others around you.

Life will throw you curveballs and challenges out of your control. Remember to develop the right perspective and see things for the way they really are. If you head into a meeting with a client or partner anticipating the outcome, you may find yourself setup for disappointment. Godin warns us not to emotionally invest in a situation with many variables for which we cannot predict the outcome. Linchpins will accept the things they cannot change and move forward. Its easy to settle for mediocrity because change is intimidating. However, you can defy the status quo, look beyond the horizon, and strengthen your relationships. Persevere, and ignore lizard brain self-doubt messages. Don’t get in your own way of success.

Hope you enjoy this book!

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Book Review 009: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey

Authored by Stephen R. Covey, the book titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" discusses seven principles that effective people embody, and it also teaches readers how they can build their character and shape their lives with purpose and intent. While many business and self help books may focus on developing a good personality, Covey describes how developing a good character is more important as well as productive. He is a believe that your personality will emerge naturally when your character is built well and deeply rooted in positive principles. For example, if you attempt to develop a good personality without a foundational character, it may seem like you are wearing a mask to hide your true self. This in itself will ultimately be seen by others as deceptive.

The author states that in order to first develop a sound character, one must have a new way of seeing things, a sound paradigm. As an example, in the past, surgeons did not wash their hands, and when patients died of infections, no one understood why and did not see the correlation between the two. As a result of a paradigm shift, sterile operating rooms came to existence and also opened their eyes into how disease worked. In order to create a sound character, and live a life of integrity, you must embrace the new paradigm and act consistently in accordance with the new character. Covey mentions that building a character includes building habit. As Aristotle said, we are what we habitually do. To develop the habit we must first:

  • Know – Understand what you want to do and why you want to do it.

  • Develop skills – Become able to do it.

  • Desire – You must want and will yourself to do it.

Although we can change our outside appearance as much as we want, the most important work is the inner work. When we master our interior self, we will in turn, master what is outside of us.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Per Covey, highly effective people are proactive and do not limit themselves from taking action. They are able to see that they have the freedom to choose what character they will become and how they will act. Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp where his entire family, except for one sister, was murdered in the camps. Frankl was in a situation most people could not even imagine, but he was able to rise above the occasion and realize that he was able to be the "victor", not the "victim". “In choosing our response to circumstance, we powerfully affect our circumstance.” Through his grit and determination, he inspired other inmates and took fate into his own hands. Instead of thinking, "no, I cannot do anything", they think, "how can I do something?" or "what possibilities are out there?"

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Highly effective people think carefully about their goals and demand accountability. By creating a personal mission statement that outlines your goals and describes the kind of person you want to be, you naturally make a commitment. Remember, what can be measured, can be managed. 

Habit 3: Put First Things First

As highly effective people realize that they have the power to change who they are, they must also remember that habits are key in ensuring they meet their goals and objectives. Alot of people waste their time staying "busy" but are not "productive." We aimlessly create task lists and are unable to focus on the wildly important goals. Highly effective people must learn to prioritize their workload and not confuse urgent with important. One is easy to see, but the other is harder to discern. Remember to place emphasis on planning, developing key relationships and placing yourself in situations for more opportunities. Once you have prioritized the things in your life, remember to give each role an appropriate allotment of time on your schedule. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul; make sure each role gets its due. Remember that effective management is putting first things first.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

In discussing habit 4, Covey shares how successful people use "interpersonal leadership" In marriage, business or other relationships, to create win win situations. Simply put, two wins makes everyone better off; two losses places everyone in a worse situation. Furthermore, a win/lose relationship creates a victor and leaves someone injured. Highly effective people strive for win/win transactions, which incentivizes everyone to cooperate because all the parties come out on top. Highly effective people become highly effective by multiplying their allies, not their enemies. A good alliance is seen as a win/win.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Communication is a two-way street. In order to develop strong relationship, first find out what the other party desires and learn what winning means to them. Never assume that you know what they want. Use attentive listening to understand what the other party needs before you begin to outline your own objectives and share your wants. Place yourself in the other person's situation and do not argue or oppose their thoughts. For example, a good lawyer will present their strongest possible case from the lense of their opponent. Only when you truly understand the other side's motive and their point of view, can you draft the best response and get what you ultimately hope for. This is acting upon the “principles of empathetic communication.” Real self-respect comes from mastery over self.

Habit 6: Synergize

Covery understood that with synergy, 1 + 1 = 3. Creative cooperation may yield an addition bonus and multiply the effects. Just as 2 horses combined can pull a cart that is much heavier than the maximum weight each horse can pull on their own. Synergy essentially means, bringing together a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. The most important part of synergy is the ability to communicate successfully and cooperate. This is different from "pretending" to play along nicely while hiding their true intentions. You must listen, understand, and actively cooperate with the other party to create something together, than one could not possibly create on their own.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

A dull saw makes the work of cutting down a tree tiresome, tedious and unproductive. Highly effective people understand that one must sometimes take one step backward in order to take two, three steps forward. In this example, the man must take time to sharpen their tool (e.g. physical and spiritual rest, personal growth) and approach the task of cutting down the tree with a renewed self. People need to give care to their mental health by thinking positive thoughts, ensuring their mind is engaged and active. Further, successful people must also defend their heart and emotions which drive our everyday self. 

Favorite Quote: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

Below are some key areas of focus that the author tries to convey to his readers:

  • Focus on developing character, not personality.

  • You are what you habitually do, so adopt productive habits.

  • Excellence is a habit, not an aptitude.

  • You are free because you can determine how you respond to circumstances.

  • Choose sound principles – integrity, dignity, quality, service, patience, perseverance, caring, courage – and endeavor to live by them.

  • Write a personal mission statement to clarify your principles and set your goals.

  • Think of what you want people to say about you at your funeral; try to deserve it.

  • Build trust in your relationships.

  • Balance the attention you give to each of your roles. Allot your time to attend fairly to each of your responsibilities and relationships.

  • Understand that you have the ability to improve your habits and your life.

Hope you enjoy this book!

Click below to get your own copy. See our affiliate disclosure here