the ONE thing

the ONE thing
Photo by NEOM / Unsplash

Now that I make a living entirely off my own businesses (2 of em!), it feels like I'm doing a million things at once. The title of this book infuriated me, as most simple-but-not-easy pieces of advice: the ONE thing?! Is this jabroni really about to tell me to do only ONE thing?? However, when my coach recommends me a book, I listen (Robin Style Werks, big shout out). As always, I'm glad I did.

I haven't finished my goals for next year, but I know 2023 is my year to launch multiple products. Last year, I proved to myself that I have the skills to build & launch software applications. This year, it's about repeating that process to make some cold, hard, cash 🤑.

To do this consistently, I need new habits. In 2022 I coded a singular Shopify App, with the help of an accountability partner. Along with it, I half baked other ideas, procrastinated like a mug, and self-inflicted plenty of pain and suffering. There are a million reasons for this, and they aren't necessarily relevant today. All I know is, I need to evolve.

The ONE thing framework, as foreign as it is, is the way. I've seen this behavior in action well before I picked up this book, by none other than my former boss/mentor, Justin Mares. The man manages a suite of apps, investments, and active companies from a google spreadsheet. He is a zen master of simplicity and focus. Gangster.

I am Batman, staring into the sky at any given moment, waiting with baited breath for a bat-signal, thinking I'm saving the day.

  • Email comes in? Off I go!!
  • New client inquiry? Oh boy!!
  • My team needs me? To the rescue!!

It's logical, I do love moving fast, crushing to-do lists, and winning new business. It's also working - business is good - that's the sinister part! It's just not good enough...

I'm making lots of progress with agency #1, Cardinal eCom, we're building pipeline, building sites, building culture. But my other vehicle, the apps vehicle aka General Development, is trundling along. Why? I know that apps are the key to long-term millions! I'm using a to-do list instead of a success list.

Here we go, lesson #1 from the ONE thing, you don't need a to-do list, everyone has one of those. You need a success list. Success lists scale geometrically:

By definition, accomplishing part of the success list makes the next, bigger task easier or more feasible. In my case, I know that making the first app gives me a chance at say a $5k/month revenue stream. Even if not, it makes creating a 2nd app 10x easier, and THAT has a shot at $5k/month, or more. These actions build on themselves.

Sexy, right? Definitely. Ok, so I have my success list. I need to be building products, ASAP as possible and as often as possible. I already feel resistance to making this happen. That's a good sign. What next? The focusing question:

What's the ONE thing I can do in [time frame] to achieve [goal] such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?

The focusing question is all about finding the leverage in action, just like the success list is about finding leverage in accomplishment. It's so frustratingly simple, and we'll delve deeper on this later. For now, trust it, and let's apply it.

What's the ONE thing I can do next year to migrate from selling time to selling products such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?

Answer: Launch 12 different software products. The more launches, the more likely one of them will succeed. I expect this will take many reps...see one of my inspirations, Pieter Levels →

Ok, great. Shipping >>>> everything else. Let's run it back, and let's keep narrowing the time frame.

What's the ONE thing I can do this month to launch 12 software products next year such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?

Answer: Create a monthly process for ideating, planning, and building products. Keep going...

What's the ONE thing I can do now to create a monthly process for ideating, planning and building products, such that by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?

Answer: Re-configure my weekly schedule to include specific blocks for ideating, planning, and building products.

And here we have lesson #3 (recall, 1-success list, 2-focusing question), Time Blocking. Honest honesty time - I've tried this many times in the past. It's soooo easy to throw a block of 'deep work' on the calendar and imagine how productive you'll be in 4 hours of elite focused time. I've historically failed miserably at keeping these blocks intact. More on that in just a second.

The book says Time Block in this order:

  1. Time off
  2. Time for the ONE thing
  3. Time for planning/strategy

I suck at #1, but I've been getting better. #3 I'm pretty good at, I do it weekly. #2, my ONE thing, I've tried to block, but I'm afraid that I won't honor my commitment to myself. That's been the case in the past.

So what's the difference now? For one, purpose. I see how Time Blocking is critical to my purpose in 2023, liberating myself from consulting shackles (biblical!). I felt this before, I thought this, but now, I know this.

Second, I've clarified my priorities. I know exactly how I can build my way out of this mineshaft. I spent years cultivating the skills. It's time!

Third and finally, there are strategies in the book that can help protect Time Blocks.
0 - Block as early in the day as possible. I control my schedule now, so I will block it even before my workouts.
1 - Expect chaos in other areas of life. When you unbalance yourself to go HAM on your ONE thing, expect that other things will suffer. This is an acceptable side effect.
2 - Understand it's temporary. Soon, the effort you put in on your ONE thing will yield results. For me, it'll mean I can cut down on client work, becuase my apps are making money. Ojala, that's a divine thought.
3 - Set a low bar, just show up. Seinfeld commits to writing one joke a day, of any quality. You just need to show up, and eventually, good things will happen. The first domino will fall.
4 - Communicate. Tell your team, your friends, your parents that you will not be available on certain days and certain times. It won't prevent distraction, but gives you fuel to say "not right now".

This new era of productivity begins Monday. I am uber excited to build this skill. It's not optional. I know I will find a way.

Until next time,

Will "The Scud Missile" McLellarn