The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People -The Moral Compass?

When The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey came out in 1989, it was a game-changer.

I’m not the first person to write about it… it’s been written about, discussed and summarized about a gazillion times. My copy says it’s sold over 10 million but a short trip to Google tells me this:

Covey was the author of acclaimed books, including the international best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages throughout the world.

What’s interesting about the late Steven R. Covey (2012) is that he became a self-help guru who wasn’t a psychologist, social worker or even a lil’ ol’ whisperer, like me. He was a Business major. He was a Ph.D. and no slouch, obviously, but it feels to me like it’s the first time an actual business book crossed the genre so seamlessly.

This book was read by business people, ministers, teachers, journalists, counselors, parents and students alike… it was universally loved by pretty-much everyone I knew.

I think one of the most wonderful things about this book is the simple set-up. 7 habits/ 7 chapters (give or take) labeled with the habit. I mean, theoretically, a person could open the book, read the chapter headings/titles and have the whole thing… except, duh, not exactly. But there is something very… oh, I don’t know… trusting, I guess… about a person who doesn’t hide the good stuff in the middle of a paragraph filled with a bunch of other stuff. Covey expects us to see the heading and want to know more… and we do!

It’s no secret what the 7 Habits are… you can get the list anywhere online or just pick up the book and read them from the Table of Contents:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

I won’t give anything further about the book except to say… there is one little thing that… kinda… um… well… how do I say this?

Let’s begin with this: In a 1994 profile from Fortune Magazine Covey said…

“To do well you must do good, and to do good you must first be good.” 

Sounds like a moral imperative, doesn’t it?

But you know…

In my day job, I am in print sales… and I remember years ago, watching some of my (then) fellow-team-members do shady things. Like, an ad that was booked in color (with a hefty % added onto the price for the privilege) prints in black-and-white.

Shhh… maybe the client won’t notice.

If they do, mea culpa. If not, the company doesn’t lose the client (nor do they think less of us) and we don’t lose commission. Win/win. Yeah, right.

Understand, this didn’t come down from the company… it came only from specific sales reps. It was all about the commission, baby. What a bunch of BS.

Now, see…

I’ve mentioned before that I love compasses and the whole notion of living by our own compass. So, in theory, I love Covey’s ideas.

The scratchy part comes when I (or anyone who isn’t you) tries to tell you what’s right for you.

Let’s talk drivers, for example. Don’t you hate it when a driver decides to be the moral compass for everyone? (S)He drives along in the fast lane of the freeway going exactly the speed limit. In the middle lane next to them is a semi, trying to pass the slower semi also going the speed limit in the slow lane.

You’re stuck behind the moral compass going exactly 55 mph in the fast lane… and there’s twenty cars behind you, or more.

You can almost hear the conversation going on inside the person’s head.

“I’m going the speed limit! They’ll just have to go around me!”

Except, of course, you can’t. And seriously, that car belongs in the slow lane. EVERYone knows that! Slow lane, faster lane, passing/fast lane. That’s how it goes! Unless there’s another lane, in which case it’s slow lane, faster, faster and fast. Kinda. You know what I mean.

There’s your moral compass and then there’s their moral compass… and one hopes they can meet somewhere. But probably not.

Just something to think about. You know, when people who aren’t you tell you what’s “right and wrong”.

Do I love this book anyway? Yes. It’s a keeper, for sure.

Final note: I wish I’d heard Covey in person… I’m guessing that would have been amazing. You can see him here: Covey on YouTube but it’s not the same. The energy of the man himself must have been something.

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