Cultivating Single-Mindedness

I was recently introduced to the music of an Australian rock band called The Beards. There’s a lot to like about them: Their tunes are catchy, they are talented musicians, and their lyrics are terribly witty. But what sets them apart from your average talented, hook-heavy folk-rock is their single-minded focus on subject matter. This band writes and performs songs exclusively about beards and the people who grow them.

Yep, you heard me right. Their third album (Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard) features such proto-hits as I Think Beards are Great, The Beard Accessory Store, and There’s Just Nothing Better Than a Beard. I think they’re pretty clear about where they stand on the subject.

The Beards have committed to doing one thing, and doing it extremely well. I think Gary Keller would approve. See, that single-mindedness is the focus of Keller’s new book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

The best-selling author and Keller Williams International Realty co-founder teamed up with the VP of his company’s publishing arm to write The One Thing, which will be available starting April 1, 2013. Functionally, their suggestion is a good one to follow. It’s important to have a focus in your company, just as it’s important to know what the core of your value proposition is. Even if the whole purpose of your company is creating and selling songs about beards, you’d better be off on a world tour trumpeting your beard songs to the heavens if you want to achieve the kind of extraordinary success that Keller talks about (and, frankly, has experienced himself).

But the hypothesis seems to suffer a bit from the psychological biases of anchoring or focalism (in other words: the tendency to rely too heavily on a past reference or on one piece of information when making decisions). For example: Keller argues that Google’s “ONE Thing” is search. But I wonder what the great web octopus’ analytics, data processing, productivity software, information sorting, mapping and applications tentacles would have to say about that assertion. Doesn’t Google’s success come from the many different ways it touches our lives? To take apart another Keller example: What would Starbucks be if it still only served coffee?

I posit, on rewrite, the addition of a footnote on The Beards. Just a thought.

Still, this is one of the few books where a person can poke holes in the very essence of the author’s argument but still come out of reading it with a great deal of genuine praise.

As I noted earlier, the main argument of having a single-minded focus is quite salient. But another part of my sheer enjoyment of this book comes from Keller’s language. When discussing Stephen Colbert’s coinage of the word truthiness, Keller deadpans: “Life is too short to chase unicorns.”

Keller also has a gift for gentle self- and genre-mockery that helps set this book apart from other CEO-turns-writer productions. Take, for example, how he recalls learning about the fallacy of willpower:

It seemed so simple: invoke my will and success was mine. I was on my way. Sadly, I didn’t need to pack much, for it was a short trip. As I set to impose my will against defenseless goals, I quickly discovered something discouraging: I didn’t always have willpower.

To complement this light touch, Keller uses the last few chapters to illustrate concrete ways to establish this overarching theory of success into the reader’s life. I’m not sure whether these exercises would be able to get Why Having a Beard is Better than Having a Woman on Billboard’s top 40 airplay chart, but it’s worth a shot.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. There are two types of deceptions: ignorance based and knowledge based. I am sure that one is worse than the other and that is all. The question is: what should be our response to them?
    Thanks Meg