I trudged through Stephen R. Covey’s well known book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this weekend. Originally written in 1989, I cannot say that it has aged well. I have issues with book. Not just with its content but the way it is written too. The habits themselves are useful even if they are common sense. It never hurts to be reminded of things in this fast-paced world. Sometimes one just loses focus from time to time. But my problem is just how Covey goes about reminding us. His writing is bloated. It could be summed up in such a way that would fit on two pieces of paper. Maybe one depending on your font size.
He fills the space telling anecdotal stories. I am not a fan of this kind of method when used excessively. If used excessively then they better be entertaining. The ones in 7 Habits are just flat and lifeless. It felt obvious that they had to have been made up for the book. Some of them I laughed at because of their absurdity. For example, the son who thought of being a mechanic and his father telling him it would be a waste or how Covey and his wife would role play as their children to act out possible decision scenarios. Seriously?
Another point I grew tired of by the end was his word choice. Covey seems to enjoy using buzzwords like paradigm, circle of influence, and my absolute favorite, synergy. I winced when it came to habit 6 on synergy. He had to have used it 100 times. I debated getting the audio book just to use it as a drinking game! I don’t understand why he didn’t just use easier language. From reading it seems like he was trying to reach a wide range of people. Would it have made any more of a difference to use words like point of view, social network, and cooperation? It was definitely a stylistic choice.
Some of the sections were actually good at times. The time management section in particular interested me. It was the most down to earth section by far. It wasn’t the contrived time schedule system Covey suggests, but it is better to plan for the week than just one day at a time idea that I liked. I want to start trying this. There are other things that are interesting too. Such as making a life statement, being active, and work to sincerely listen to others. But these are all things that I have done or am striving to do. I didn’t reach any “Aha!” moments, and maybe that is the problem. I’ve already seen many of the things Covey wrote about in other people’s writings. But without the fat that Covey adds in.
7 Habits would be an enjoyable read if it were edited better. It feels like Covey just is going on an on trying to drive the point home. He uses different language to just say the same thing. He can also be preachy at times. I felt for Covey the world would be a better place if we were all robots. His book doesn’t seem to leave room for the human in all of us. He reminds us to live according to our goals but then not to get too caught up in our emotions, and feelings. I enjoy watching TV with its mind numbing programs just as much as I enjoy reading a thought-provoking novel. But to Covey these things can’t seem to coexist.
I didn’t enjoy 7 Habits. I wonder if that makes me an ineffective person as a result? I would rather live life with randomness and spontaneity than the cubicle condensed outlook of Covey. I recommend checking out Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy that one too much either. How it just feels intended for a business person didn’t appeal to me. But its overall message and points are more applicable than the ones in Covey’s book.
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