In 1989 Stephen Covey had his seminal work on success, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, published. This has proved to be the first in a never-ending series of “Highly Effective” self-help books designed to appeal to, without really helping, the vast legions of the mediocre.
On the inside of the book are no less than 7 (see the significance?) full pages of testimony by people praising the book. Of course, these are all already “Highly Successful” people who didn’t really need the book in the first place. Where are the testimonies that read; “I was really a mediocre putz until I read the book, now I’m the CEO of my own company and planning to retire when I’m 40, so I can live comfortably alongside my beautiful wife and kids, possibly for all eternity.”?
I’ve read the book several times, have a lot of it highlighted (as mediocre people like to do, to show they’re paying attention), and can honestly say it hasn’t made a damn bit of difference. So, in my usual ponderous way, I’ve tried to understand why books like this don’t help the majority of us, and I think I’ve figured it out. It’s because we already practice these seven habits! We just have a slightly different perspective on what they mean. So, with apologies to Mr. Covey ahead of time, here are the 7 Habits of the Rest of Us.
Covey Habit #1 Be Proactive.
This is really ancient wisdom; Do unto others before they can do unto you. It’s the true secret of all business success in the US, ask anyone who has tried to compete with Microsoft.
Covey Habit #2 Begin With the End in Mind.
The end of the week I assume you mean. The Rest of Us begins each Monday with the dream of Friday afternoon, or if you’re in church, we begin listening to each sermon with the tee time in mind.
Covey Habit #3 Put First Things First.
This of course refers to sports, if you’re male, or shopping, if you’re female. The first and greatest commandment is “Thou Shalt Love the Lord thy God with your whole mind, your whole heart, and your whole soul, as if he were your favorite football team.”
Covey Habit #4 Think Win/Win.
This is actually rather limited advice. Not only is there Win/Win, there’s Pick 6, Lotto, Play 4, Mega Money, etc. The rest of us like to think of this as Estate Planning. We also spend a lot of time at the pier waiting for ships to come in.
Covey Habit #5 Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.
I’ve practiced this with my boys as they were growing up even before I knew it was a good habit. I’d ask them “What the hell were you thinking? (Seeking to understand first) and then followed it up with; “You are so grounded, got it? (Seeking then to be understood).
Covey Habit #6 Synergize.
Actually, this is kind of a big word for the rest of us. Heck, it’s not even in the Spell Check. He must have meant sin-ergize , or “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” After all, there are 7 Deadly Sins (see the significance again?) and it takes time to work on all of them.
Covey Habit #7 Sharpen the Saw
The rest of us “sharpen the saw” indeed, so we can cut some extra ZZZ’s. While foolish others are toiling uphill throughout the night, we are comfortably sleeping away.