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“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey is a pillar in the business and self-help world. I first read it about 20 years ago when it was recommended to me by a manager, and I’ve revisited it periodically since then. For the past several years though, I’ve made it a practice to re-read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” at the start of each year.
What I Like
There are a number of things I like about “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
It’s short. At about 380 pages, the average reader (200-250 words per minute) can read it in 7-8 hours. When I read it each year, I’ll cover one habit each day for a week. Taking time to think about the habits and how you can apply them to your life will add extra time, of course, but the reading itself is simple.
It’s simple. Stephen Covey did an excellent job writing in plain, simple language. He doesn’t use a lot of complex words or phrases, and isn’t referencing complicated academic research. It’s a very easy read.
It’s actionable. Unlike many self-help books out there, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” actually gives the reader something they can do to apply the lessons and develop the habits. There are a few exercises and opportunities for self-reflection, and Stephen Covey gives examples of how he has applied the habits in his own life.
It's direct. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was written in 1989, long before the days of social media influencers all promoting “this one weird trick” for an extra cost. The book itself is Stephen Covey’s product; it’s not an advertisement or hook for a course, class, or anything like that. As a result, it comes across as more real and genuine, and not at all gimmicky.
What I Dislike
I really only have one complaint about “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
It’s kind of pollyanna-ish. Stephen Covey shares some personal and professional stories from his life where he applied one of the seven habits. Sometimes, the instant positive results, the immediate course correction, and the overall lack of resistance and interpersonal conflict are a little too “Leave it to Beaver” for me. Perhaps I’m too cynical and need to stick to reading Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” The positive tone of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” doesn’t detract from the overall message, and the habits do indeed work, they just aren’t as effortless as I think Stephen Covey sometimes made them out to seem.
Buy & Give or Borrow & Lend?
Rather than a numeric or some sort of star rating system, I use a binary system with my book recommendations: “Buy & Give” or “Borrow & Lend”.
Buy & Give: Buy & Give books are ones that I recommend you keep in your personal library and/or give to others. These are books you’ll want to re-read or reference, and you’ll want your own copy to highlight and take notes in. You’ll give family, friends, and colleagues their own copy of these books to do the same. When you finally pass on your dogeared book to someone, it will be viewed as a treasured heirloom of years of wisdom or adventure.
Borrow & Lend: Borrow & Lend books are ones I recommend you borrow from the library or someone you know. They’re great books, but not necessarily ones you see yourself revisiting on a regular basis, and when you do, you could get them from the library again. If you do buy the book, you’re happy to lend it to someone, knowing they may return it to you, or lend it to someone else.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is solidly in the “Buy & Give” category. As I’ve said several times in my review, I re-read this book annually. The seventh habit is to “sharpen the saw,” which means to maintain your tools and keep them ready. Keeping your own copy of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is a great way to sharpen your saw by taking notes on what you read, highlighting ideas that resonate with you or you struggle with, and referencing when necessary.
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