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Review: Gary Keller’s The One Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The One ThingThis review first ran in the Oct. 28th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The One Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

By Gary Keller

Bard Press

$26.95

You’re putting in long hours at the office, stealing time from your family and packing on the pounds thanks to lousy eating habits and zero exercise.

Your plate’s overloaded with projects and special assignments.

You’re on every team, committee and working group imaginable at work and in the community.

And you’re quick to pitch in and lend a hand to anyone and everyone who asks for help.

Maybe you’re doing all this because you genuinely enjoy being helpful and aspire to sainthood.

But if you’re overloaded and overwhelmed because you’re dreaming of a big pay day, you might be in for an even bigger disappointment.

Author Gary Keller has spent a lot of time in the company of successful people. And he’s found the most successful are also the most productive.

“Productive people get more done, achieve better results and earn for more in their hours than the rest,” says Keller.   Yes, they work hard. But they also have time for family and friends, vacations, hobbies and exercise.

All us start every morning with same 24 hours in our day. Highly successful people spend their time differently than the rest of us.

They start each day by asking a variation on the same million dollar question, says Keller.

What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

It’s not what are the 20, 10 or even 5 things that I should try doing at once,  might get around to doing sometime in the future or drop at a moment’s notice?

To be great, we need a singular focus on the one thing – our most important priority — that must be done without delay and that sets us up for success.  To borrow a line from legendary coach Vince Lombardi, “success demands singleness of purpose.”

We need to make one and done our mantra.

“You want your achievements to add up but that actually takes subtraction, not addition,” says Keller. “You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.

“At any moment in time there can be only one thing and when that one thing is in line with your purpose and sits atop your priorities, it will be the most productive thing you can do to launch you toward the best you can be.”

So how do you actually get around to doing your one thing when you’re bombarded with requests and distractions?  Keller recommends blocking at least four uninterrupted hours at a stretch in your day. “This isn’t a typo. Honestly, that’s the minimum. If you can do more, then do it.”

This block of time ideally falls at the front end of your day, when you’ve yet to draw down or completely deplete your daily dose of willpower.

For this to work, you need to start declining meeting requests and saying no and maybe later to colleagues looking for help and advice. Quit looking at every email that lands in your inbox.  You also need to get comfortable with loose ends and some chaos. “There will always be unfinished work and loose ends lying around to snare your focus. When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up.”

Let the people around you know when you’re available and when you shouldn’t be disturbed.  Learn how to redirect colleagues in need of assistance. And don’t be above begging and bartering with colleagues and family for blocks of time.

“It’s your job to protect your time blocks from all those who don’t know what matters most to you, and from yourself when you forget. When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to. Saying yes to everyone is the same as saying yes to nothing.”

And don’t fool yourself into thinking you can multi-task, doing your one thing while knocking off a laundry list of other priorities. “If doing the most important thing is the most important thing, why would you try to do anything else at the same time? When you try to do two things at once, you either can’t or won’t do either well. It’s an effective way to get less done.”

So if you’re overworked and overwhelmed with an overloaded to-do list, heed Keller’s advice.

“The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work.”

And tit starts with figuring out the one thing you need to get doing and done first.

Review: Do Cool Sh*t – Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business and Live Happily Ever After by Miki Agrawal

CoolThis review first ran in the Oct. 7 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business & Live Happily Ever After

By Miki Agrawal

Harper Collins

$27.99

Here’s hoping the recommendations from the Open for Business committee prove worth the wait.

The Hamilton Spectator ran a story about the committee back on July 4, 2012.

The City of Hamilton appointed the committee in the Fall of 2011. City staff and a half-dozen councilors were given the job of recommending a consistent and customer-focused approach for helping entrepreneurs launch small and medium-sized hometown businesses. The kind of businesses that fill vacant storefronts, inject vibrancy into streets and neighborhoods, create jobs and pay taxes.

Committee chair Russ Powers said the committee hoped to have formal recommendations ready for council approval by year end.

Maybe Spectator reporter Lisa Marr should’ve asked which year.

We’re heading into the home stretch for 2013 and still no recommendations.

In hindsight, the city should’ve appointed someone like Do Cool Sh*t author Miki Agrawal. Based on past performance, Agrawal would likely have hammered out a set of recommendations while hosting a working dinner with a handful of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Agrawal’s received the Tribeca Film Festival’s Disruptive Innovation Award and has been named one of Forbes magazine’s Top 20 Millennials on a Mission in 2013.

Agrawal was in her twenties when she opened an organic farm to table pizza joint in New York City. She’s now working with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh to bring her WILD restaurant to Las Vegas.  Agrawal and her twin sister also joined forces to launch a multi-media company to encourage kids to eat their veggies.  And she’s now working on a high-tech underwear solution that will allow menstruating  tweens and teens in developing countries to continue going to school rather than stay home.

“My entrepreneurial adventure began with a frustrating recurring stomachache that sparked the idea to open the first lactose-intolerant-friendly farm-to-table pizza and local craft beer restaurant in New York City,” says Agrawal.

“I had opened my first restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at the end of 2005 on a shoestring budget, and I called on every favour I could to make it happen. I was 26 years old and had never worked in the restaurant business, but I was convinced  that a farm-fresh healthy pizza concept was going to change the way people thought about their favourite guilty pleasure.”

Agrawal walks readers through the entire process of launching her business from finding a location (a former nail salon going for $6,000 a month), to branding, publicity and media relations, winning over investors, hiring staff, hustling for customers and overcoming a false start.

And there’s one chapter that should be required reading for Hamilton’s Open for Business committee. “Don’t let the paperwork become quicksand,” warns Agrawal.  She didn’t know where to begin on the paperwork and permit trail so she called the government hotline at 311 and asked for the business solutions department.

“I was shocked when someone picked up right away. The woman on the line said that she’d help me get everything I needed and was able to expedite the process because New York City had a new initiative to help businesses streamline the paperwork process. She said that she would help get every single department involved at the same time with my case so there would be no delays in getting the business up and running. Well, OK then!

“I made damn sure to let this helpful angel of a lady know that I was grateful to have her help and told her to please come to my restaurant for some free pizza next time she was in the neighbourhood.”

Do Cool Sh*t is two books in one. It’s a nuts-and-bolts how-to manual and reality check for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially anyone with dreams of opening a coffee shop or restaurant where the failure rate is north of 90 per cent. It’s also a revealing look at what makes entrepreneurs tick and just how much drive, determination, hard work, passion and personal sacrifice is required to get a new business off the ground.

And Agrawal’s journey highlights what we need to do as a city to help entrepreneurs successfully set up shop, create jobs and build prosperity one storefront at a time.