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The 7 Habits of Highy Effective People?

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KevinDW78
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The president of the comany I work in asked me to read Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". I am 10 pages shy of finishing chapter one and am ready to put the book down and not continue. Covey is establishing his paradigm on the premise that interdependence ("we") is superior to Independence ("I")

Some of the jewels [read: saracasm] of this argument so far are:

...we find people, often for selfish reasons, ...forsaking all kinds of social responsibility - all in the name of independence.

What is the basis for this being a negative action? Blank out.

Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won't be good leaders or team players.

What is the basis for the premise that the second is superior to the first? Blank out.

Life is, by nature, highly interdependent.

Why? Blank out.

To try to achieve maximum effectiveness through independence is like trying to play tennis with a golf club-the tool is not suited to the reality.

How does the productivity of the group exist without the productivity of the individual? Blank out.

Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept.

By whose standards? Blank out.

I am curious to hear the opinions of anyone else who has read this book and what they think of the concepts Covey creates.

Edited by KevinDW78
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I read the book a few years ago... prior to my exposure to Objectivism. I must say overall I didn't particularly enjoy the tone of the book but some of the concepts impacted me in a positive way, in regards to efficiency and business dealings.

One of the concepts or "habit" in the book is about creating WIN-WIN situations in business dealings.

I don't know how I would view the book now but it deals mostly with efficiency and business, and also about working on what's most important in your life as opposed to constantly being busy.

I guess the most insightful part of the book is the quadrant of

- Important, and Urgent

- Urgent, not Important

- Not Important, Not Urgent

- And Not Urgent, but Important

Maybe just read that part and skip the rest...

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I guess the most insightful part of the book is the quadrant of

From what I understand the quadrant and variants of it is not even unique to this book, though perhaps at least the book deserves credit for popularising what had previously been a concept little known outside specialised circles. I think various military forces (eg the Royal Navy) had been using it for decades to assess threats and formulate possible strategies.

I haven't read the book so I wont say any more about it.

JJM

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I wrote several articles at http://rebirthofreason.com/Florida/ about FranklinCovey, the training company Stephen Covey founded with Hyrum Smith some years ago.

Basically, I showed how the company's concepts of governing values, roles, and mission statement can integrate smoothly with the Objectivist values of self-esteem, reason, and purpose, respectively.

I agree that the conventional moral thinking mars what would otherwise be a great book.

However, I would not dismiss the entire book on that basis alone because the good parts are very good indeed.

I condensed the relevant relationships into a club brochure at

http://files.meetup.com/14567/PROPEL-Brochure.pdf

I also suggest Covey's book The Eighth Habit in which he explores the increasingly autonomous nature of work in the new century.

Hyrum Smith's books such as What Matters Most are worth reading as well.

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I read his son's book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens" a few months back for a book club. It was written by Covey's son and is basically a rehash of his father's rules. The book seems to be part valid and part mush, but I did get a few good things out of it.

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If you want to read really good business books I recommend:

The eMyth, by Michael Gerber — Ultimate model of business systems!

Getting Things Done, by David Allen... ultimate guide on productivity and organizing work for self-propelled entrepreneurs, managers and employees.

Both very popular books.

I own my own business by the way. The influence that these books have had is far greater than the 7 Habits.

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I guess the most insightful part of the book is the quadrant of

- Important, and Urgent

- Urgent, not Important

- Not Important, Not Urgent

- And Not Urgent, but Important

Maybe just read that part and skip the rest...

Even though it's been several years since I first read this book (prior to reading non-fiction Objectivisim), I still use this method for time management. Also when asking myself how I can somehow decide what to do when faced with many alternatives I remember Covey's imperative to "Plan and execute around priorities." Of course I set those priorities by rational ethics, and not by what makes me the most 'interdependent' ( :D ).

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Of course I set those priorities by rational ethics, and not by what makes me the most 'interdependent' ( ).

That's how I am begining to view it. I can tell the first 3 "independent" habits are great and right in line with objectivism. I'll just take everything with a grain of salt. IMO, Atlas Shrugged is the best lesson in business anyway. Whenever I need to be more proactive, I just play my book-on-tape mp3 of Galt's Speech.

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While I think Covey's whole independant/interdependant model is obviously flawed, it is worth reading the whole book. The ideas of leading one's life by principles is fundamental even in Objectivism. His relativistic treatment of what those principles should be is not worth much (especially since he eliminates "self-centeredness" as a flawed set of principles). The idea of character ethics, and his tracing it's last known location to the enlightenment and our founding fathers is a great observation, even if he misses the fundamental causes.

His principles 3-6 under the "Interdependance" section are still as relevant in Objectivism. They are bases for cooperative action, which is a valid concept in Objectivism, even if he misidentifies their fundamental characteristic. I have always been surprised at the number of Objectivists who don't get that cooperation is a skill and is a valid mode of operation, and therefore tend toward being "loners", except socially. Many eschew large corporations when such entities are just examples of large scale cooperative action. It would do many good to understand some basic principles of working with other people under the "trader" principle. Covey isn't perfect, but smart people know how to pick apart the good from the bad, and get some value out of the book.

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Another good idea that Covey puts forward, although I don't know if he was the first to originate it, was that you should write a mission statement for yourself. It's a good integrating exercise and something that you can refer back to to quickly to put your life in context when you are creating your quarterly goals, making big decisions, etc.

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  • 1 month later...
Covey isn't perfect, but smart people know how to pick apart the good from the bad, and get some value out of the book.

Yes. Seven Habits is really an excellent book, you just have to make some effort to understand what Covey is referring to when he says "self-centeredness" and "interdependence". Self-centeredness, in Covey's view, is pretending that you are the only person in the entire world and that other people have *no values to offer you*, which is totall B.S. He's not advocating that you put others before self: he's advocating that you incorporate the values that other people have to offer--and the actions required to attain said values--into your world view.

Interdependence is basically Covey's way of advocating division of labor. Covey even makes this point when he says that only a truly *independent* person can ever reach the stage of being *interdependent*: someone who has neither undertaken to be a parasite nor a prop for other people's parasitism. A person who addresses interdependence is someone who has created value and is willing to bring it to the table to trade with other people.

Covey's "win-win" paradigm is a *perfect* illustration of the operation of the Trader principle: trading by mutual consent to MUTUAL advantage. He is absolutely 100% accurate in stating that social arrangements whereby someone has to sacrifice for someone else's benefit (lose-win or win-lose) are ultimately unworkable because the loser (whether as a defeated adversary or someone who gave in voluntarily) will feel resentment that will poison future arrangements.

Look beyond the superficialities of Covey's choice of wording and you'll see what he's actually advocating is a beautifully non-sacrificial method of operation.

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  • 4 months later...

Hello,

I agree with Megan in that there are many useful tools in 7 habits for both living more effectively, as well as operating a business, once you get past the flawed premises of the book.

As part of a small business course, I gave a short presentation on the concept of the compass versus the clock. Having to evac a salesman who became hypothermic on the West Coast Trail because he was behind in his "schedule", and was not paying attention to environmental hazards (the kind that actually do kill you) was a good illustration of this principle.

Also, the concept of dealing with the big tasks first and on an ongoing basis, which leaves many spaces between to take care of the little tasks. This is illustrated by the exercise of trying to see how much fewer large rocks one can fit in a jar if one starts the little ones first. All of these methodologies have been useful in living a sucessful, and yes, objective life.

I would also like to mention two other titles that have much to offer anyone trying to live a better, happier life, in spite of each title's lack of objective perfection. Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelley, and Work Like Da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb.

Stay Focused,

aj

Look beyond the superficialities of Covey's choice of wording and you'll see what he's actually advocating is a beautifully non-sacrificial method of operation.
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I was working my way through 7 habits when I discovered Ayn Rand 1 1/2 years ago. What I found was that the list of habits became much clearer in context of Rand's philosophy and roughly fit into her more useful principles. I think it went something like (from memory):

1 - Be proactive (consciousness, volition)

2 - Begin with the end in mind (reason, final causation - nature commanded)

3 - Put first things first (causality - nature obeyed)

4 - Understand, then be understood (concept formation & communication)

5 - Synergize (capitalism - division of labor)

6 - Think win/win (capitalism - free market)

I agree that his definition of selfishness is irrational, non-cooperative self-interest, and he turns towards altruism, without confronting the contradiction that he justifies a very abstractly defined "altruism" by the value it has to self.

I've read other self/mgmt-help books since and the good ones seem to gain clarity by putting them into the context of Objectivism. I found myself wondering if there are similar books based explicitly on Objectivist principles, and if not, should there be?

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