Gary Keller has solved a lot of problems over his career. From figuring out when it was time to let go of his musical dreams, to attending college on a whim, to turning a local realtor practice into the largest real estate business in the world (Keller Williams) – he’s seen a thing or two. His real skill, however, is his ability to focus on one problem at a time. He has a question he often asks himself to make sure he’s centered. We can use the same question to help us focus on ourselves and our clients.
Keller’s question is: “What is the ONE thing I can do so such that by doing it everything else will either be easier or unnecessary?”
Let’s look at a non-business case first. Imagine coming home and knowing your dog will be really excited to see you. If you’re preoccupied, your dog is going to be let down, unhappy, and might even misbehave to get your attention. If you instead meet your dog with excitement and give her a moment of quality time (and “good girls” and back-scratches, etc.), your dog will be much happier and your life will be easier too.
With our own work, we often have jobs in front of us that the rest of our schedule hinges on. We need to prioritize for impact and purpose. His “ONE thing” approach epitomizes that prioritization puzzle. Sometimes we need to “let fires burn” as we deal with the most pressing issues or questions. We can’t eliminate the minutia, but we can maximize the impact of our efforts. We want to look for single actions that have a cascading impact across other activities.
With clients, we have to look and listen extra closely for their priorities. Sometimes they’re immediately clear, but oftentimes they’re buried – and not always on purpose. Think of calling tech support because a project is due and the program won’t run and the stupid screen is black because the dumb machine won’t turn on – and did we mention a project is due?! Tech support’s first question will likely be, “is it plugged in?” On those occasions where they’ve diagnosed and fixed all of our troubles in one sentence, we prove the essence of Keller’s question. There are a million interrelated issues swirling around in our clients’ minds but we want to cut straight to the core issue with an impactful solution.
We’re not just looking for what matters, we’re looking for what matters most. Remember Keller’s question and use it often: “What is the ONE thing I can do so such that by doing it everything else will either be easier or unnecessary?” Once we’ve honed in on the one thing, it’s amazing what we can get done.
Check out Gary Keller’s interview with Tim Ferriss (Podcast ep. 401) and his book, “The ONE Thing.”