With organizations reducing the size of their workforce and the continual march of Baby Boomers into retirement, those remaining are finding they are not only doing their job, but also tasks of their departed co-worker’s job. It’s tough to get ahead.

Gary Keller with Jay Papasan in their book “The One Thing” provide “The Six Lies Between You and Success” that impede progress toward achieving success.1  The “Six Lies” are:

1. Everything Matters Equally

2. Multitasking

3. A Disciplined Life

4. Willpower Is Always on Will-Call

5. A Balanced Life

6. Big is Bad

Everything matters equally is a lie

For those of you who make “To Do” lists, take a look at your “To do’s.” Keller draws upon the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Principle to focus on “To do’s.”  As the Principle goes, 20% effort will reap 80% of the results. Keller advocates taking your “to do” list and narrowing it to the ONE THING that matters and concentrating on doing that one thing.2

Another way to describe Everything Matters Equally can be seen with safety and health professionals you manage who put in the same amount of effort into EVERYTHING they do.  Indeed, they may finish their work, but they are not as productive in getting more things done.  Focus on what matters the most and put your effort into that ONE THING.

Multitasking is a lie

Everyone is multitasking on smartphones and tablets thinking they are accomplishing a lot, when in fact according to the empirical evidence they are accomplishing very little. Keller features the late Dr. Clifford Nass’ research into how well multitaskers multitask. Nass found that multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy” and that they “were just lousy at everything.”3

Safety and health professionals who pride themselves in multitasking are accomplishing less and what is accomplished is often of poorer quality.  Switching from one task to another exacts more time to complete a task, so multitaskers will often distort how long it takes to complete a task. Not only does multitasking affect work performance, it can have a devastating effect on relationships.4

A disciplined life is a lie

Success is often defined as coming from a “disciplined person who leads a disciplined life.”5  Nothing could be further from the truth. As Keller notes, what we need is just enough discipline to build a habit that we can sustain over time. Discipline does not equate to success. Success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.6 University College of London researchers discovered it takes on average 66 days to acquire a new habit. Trust me, it is worth working on creating a new habit, but only work on one at a time. It leads to less stress. Creating the right habits leads to doing better than others, making everything else easier.7

Willpower is always on will-call is a lie

The next time you engage your willpower to deal with a safety matter pay attention to how long you can sustain your willpower. In all likelihood you will find your willpower fades fairly rapidly. Willpower is a resource that behaves much like a battery in your iPhone. During the day, the more you use it, the more you lose it until it is recharged.  If you are working a critical safety issue that needs your undivided attention, focus on that ONE Thing and only that ONE Thing and address it early in the day.

A balanced life is a lie

The idea we are achieving “Work-Life Balance” is utter nonsense. Balance often means finding the “sweet spot” in the middle, where one believes he can attend to everything. Of course, attending to everything results in attending to nothing.  Living in the middle precludes us from exploring the extremes where the magic occurs.8 

Throughout my career, I have witnessed many safety and health professionals make their work their life, resulting in the loss of time with their family, friends, and themselves. Time is a precious resource. Keller writes, “When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover. Even if you’re sure you can win, be careful that you can live with what you lose.”

Recently, I counseled several industrial hygienists who were enraged over what appeared to be unsubstantiated criticism.  Considerable time had been spent responding to the technical inaccuracies of the criticism; however, nothing, in their opinion, was being done about stopping the unsupported criticism. My suggestion was to focus on the risk to the employees that the technically inaccurate IH information would pose, if followed, rather than becoming tangled up in the nuances of the technical inaccuracies. In other words, go to the extreme of the matter as opposed to focusing on the minutia of the matter.       

Husband your time on the ONE Thing that will make a difference, even if everything else makes you feel better.

Big is bad is a lie

 Of all the lies, Keller holds this lie to be the worst of all because if you fear big success, you’ll either avoid it or sabotage your efforts to achieve it.9 Suggest big with achievement and most people conjure up thoughts of it being too hard, complicated, and time-consuming, overwhelming, and intimidating. People tend to avoid BIG to remain where they feel safe.

As Keller writes, “When you allow yourself to accept that big is about who you can become, you look at it differently.”10 Have you ever thought about a safety or industrial hygiene solution that is really out-of-the-box?  What did you do with this thought?

If you think you have a BIG safety or industrial hygiene idea, go for it, but recognize it will take time and don’t be discouraged because you encounter barriers along the way.

Next month, I’ll continue this theme and focus on productivity and what it takes to unlock the possibilities within you to deliver extraordinary results.


1  Keller, G. with J. Papasan.  2012. The One Thing – The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Bard Press. Austin, TX.

2  Ibid. pp. 39.

3  Ibid. pp. 44.

4  Ibid. pp. 52.

5  Ibid. pp. 54.

6  Ibid. pp. 55.

7  Ibid. pp. 59.

8  Ibid. pp. 76.

9  Ibid. pp. 85.

10  Ibid. pp. 86.