Stephen Covey’s kids shared a story about a time when they were all criticizing the (then) candidate for US President. He sat silent through the criticism. Finally, one of the kids asked him why he wasn’t participating. He said – “I might have a chance to influence him one day. And if I do, then I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”
Recently, The New York Times reported that Facebook was developing a tool designed to suppress updates from certain parts of China. I found hypocrisy all around that piece of news. There was implied American moral superiority in the press at the idea of suppressing citizen views. Yet, as Edward Snowden and the recent elections have demonstrated, America has little reason to claim higher ground. Then, I saw posts from other technology entrepreneurs criticizing Mark Zuckerberg. But, would they have behaved any different if they were in Zuckerberg’s shoes? And, finally, Zuckerberg himself seemed to claim that this was Facebook acting for the greater good. I guess we all have to tell ourselves stories…
I thought I’d call this out not just because it was amusing looking at this situation from the sidelines. But, also because it made me think about the many occasions in which I was the hypocrite.
It is hard to see it when you are in it.
There is no easy way around this. The only way to avoid this is to have incredibly high standards for integrity – where we take the initiative to make commitments and keep them, every single time.
I just hope I’ll be able to build the sort of character to be able to do what Covey did, consistently. Integrity is a habit.
I asked a friend recently to name one book that had the deepest impact on he approached life. I knew he was a voracious reader and was curious to hear what his list might look like. He asked me for mine as well. We decided to name a few before narrowing it down to one.
As we conversed, we shared names of many special books and authors. We spoke briefly about Dan Pink, Dan Ariely and the Heath Brothers. He shared his appreciation for the bible for all behavioral economics research – “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. I explained that I still got goose bumps when I thought of “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. And, we definitely waxed lyrical about “How will you measure your life.”
But, when it came down to the question – if you had to pick one book , what would it be? – it turned out to be a no contest. We both named “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by the late Stephen Covey. Both of us had read the book at a time when we didn’t know any better. We discussed the many books that had just built off Covey’s insights and/or re-purposed his ideas in different forms. We wondered as to how he introduced so many powerful concepts like the “emotional bank account” and meshed them with some unforgettable stories.
And, we both agreed that it was the wisest book we’d ever
To this day, I think 7 Habits manages more insights per page than many books combined. It lulls into taking life changing insights for granted by making them commonplace. It does this by focusing on principles – immutable laws of nature that govern how the earth works. The “Be Proactive” chapter alone is life changing and the subject of many books. “Begin with the end in mind” and “Put first things first” teach us how to get the right stuff done. “Think win/win” asks us to approach life from a place of confidence and look for abundance instead of scarcity. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” and “Synergize” teach us how to build great relationships in our homes and workplaces. And, finally, “Sharpen the saw” asks us to commit to a life of continuous learning.
This one book alone has enough wisdom for a happy and effective life. I am still amazed at how Steven Covey managed to synthesize all of this into one book.
But, I sure as hell am glad he did. It changed my life. And, I am certain I am not alone in saying that.
Cynthia once recalled an incident from when she was 12 years old. Her father promised to take her with him on a business trip to San Francisco. For months, they talked about the trip. “After his meetings, we planned to take a taxi to Chinatown, have our favorite food, see a movie, ride the cable car, and have a hot-fudge sundae. I was bursting with anticipation,” she recalled.
When the day finally arrived, Cynthia waited eagerly for her father to finish work. At 6:30pm, he arrived, but with an influential business client who offered to take them out for dinner. She felt her heart sink.
In a never-to-be-forgotten moment, her father simply said to his client: “I’d love to see you. But, my girl and I have planned a special evening to the minute.” So, together, father and daughter did everything according to their plans. “That was just about the happiest time of my life. I don’t think any young girl ever loved her father as much as I loved mine that night,” she says.
Cynthia’s father was none other than Stephen R Covey. Covey did put “first things first.” Here’s to all of us doing so over the holidays…
Every time we say yes to something that doesn’t matter, we implicitly say no to something else that does. And, conversely, every time we say no to something that is lower priority, we implicitly say yes to something that matters. – Anonymous
Source and thanks to: Essentialism by Greg McKeown