What it is: Wikipedia says, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold over 15 million copies in thirty-eight languages since first publication … the book lists seven principles that, if established as habits, are supposed to help a person achieve true interdependent “effectiveness”. Covey argues this is achieved by aligning oneself to what he calls “True North”—principles of a character ethic that, unlike values, he believes to be universal and timeless.”
Description: This is a deceptively basic-seeming book that will actually will reward the reader with as much depth as they are willing to seek from it. Some themes in the book are developing a sense of purpose and intentionality in life, cultivating self-discipline and ethical behavior, and ways to create social networks that work (which, in the end, comes down to love). A big theme in the book is taking on practices and self-cultivations in the service of self-improvement. The writing can occasionally be jargon-y or dense, but it is mostly an extraordinarily smooth clear well-edited read, as Covey skillfully weaves together stories and examples with theories and distinctions.
Anecdote: I’ve read the book only once, but I’ve listened to the 7HoHEP audio tapes many many times. The audio is a recording of Covey giving a supposedly extemporaneous lecture in front of a live audience. Nonetheless, in some cases, the audio is pretty much a verbatim equivalent of the text of the book, which makes me think that either the book is in some cases transcripted, or his live lectures were delivered from a tightly scripted outline.
Potential Turn-Offs: The book recommends a high degree of discipline, intentionality, and self-sacrifice, mentions God more than once, and draws a fair number of examples from business. People who are already hard on themselves, people whose current path is about letting go and going with the flow, or people who categorically have a problem with all businesspeople, may find the tone unpleasant.
What You Got Out Of It: It would be difficult to overstate the blessings that I have gotten out of this book, and the trust that I have for its teachings. It is just flat out goodness, it is about doing and being good, but taking the path of work and self-challenge, not inactive idealism. It’s one of those books to come back to as we grow, and see how the book has magically grown along with us.