7 habits and other habits

Cover imageAs the buyer for the self development etc titles (something bad I did in a past life has led to this), I was alerted to the fact that we needed to buy more of that old chestnut The seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey, a gentleman who has not so much laughed all the way to the bank but shrieked uncontrollably.

Coincidentally I had been reading a column in that excellent weekly, The Economist, which adopted a less than reverent attitude to the granddaddy of the business meets self development  book industry (irrelevant I know but Covey is actually a grandfather – of 51 grandchildren. Talk about self development!) According to The Economist, he was shrewd enough to mix the language of management science with the sort of moral messages that have been around from the days of Norman Vincent Peale and the 12 Steps programme of AA. He’s made the sort of money that might have made even Bernie Madoff salivate but how good is he at and is he just one more in that group of knowalls who divide everything into easily memorable lists, preferably numeric.

The Economist said Covey has three habits worth noting: presenting stale ideas as breathtaking breakthroughs (as The secret did), naming model firms (rather unfortunately some of them fell over and someone from the University of Texas found that luck had as much to do with success as anything else) and making numbered lists or “facile principles”. Following the lists or principles may help you and your business but it ain’t necessarily so: we hear so much that firms should learn from their customers but Henry Ford once pointed out that if he’d listened to his customers he’d have built a better horse and buggy!

So why do people follow them so religiously? It may be that success in business or in life itself comes from a whole lot of factors but there is still an almost primal need for a one stop shop to learn about it and that is where Mr Covey and all his imitators count in. Perhaps it’s also an addiction as those who lap up self development books rarely seem to develop out of needing them and the people who succeed most from them are the people who write them. I really wouldn’t know but I’m just a librarian and we can only watch as it all sweeps past us and seems so familiar.

9 thoughts on “7 habits and other habits

  1. Michael A 17 November 2009 / 4:52 pm

    Never particularly taken with the 7 habits stuff but his book “First Things First” is a refreshing (if not totallly unique) look at managing life’s priorities and beats the heck out of making lists at the beginning of each day and prioritizing them A, B & C then doing them in order (do you know anyone who actually does that??)

  2. jane 18 November 2009 / 4:50 pm

    To quote Tewp, “Perhaps it’s also an addiction as those who lap up self development books rarely seem to develop out of needing them”….

    hmmmm, and interesting “fact”.

  3. tewp 19 November 2009 / 2:26 pm

    Yeah well, they don’t or why would there not be an end to these. As far as it being a “fact” goes, it has often been said by people a lot more clever than me that well off Americans go into therapy and never come out of it.

  4. Kowhai girl 20 November 2009 / 11:57 am

    I figure that self-help books are heaps cheaper than therapy, and they are ceratinly more accessible to most (through the public library!) than paying for ongoing therapy, to to supplement therapy learnings.

    Yes, I agree that self-help books are an “industry”, but I also figure that there is a definite readership out that that values them, me included. I can proudly say that I have several on my shelf that I refer back to from time to time when I need a reminder to get back on track.

    Who was it that said “to each book a reader” … and indeed there are readers to be found for almost all books in some fashion or another.

  5. Lisa 23 November 2009 / 12:52 pm

    “Every Book It’s Reader” is the third law of Library Science as decreed by Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan. He’s rightly a deity in the world of Library Science. The other laws are “Books are for use” “Every reader their book (regarding open access of materials)” “Save the time of the user” and “The Library is a growing organism”

    • yogi bear 24 November 2009 / 1:40 pm

      Yay, so not all librarians feel that self help books are a waste of time then?

  6. lynne 24 November 2009 / 5:51 pm

    “Self-help” is a misnomer. If you could help yourself, you wouldn’t feel the need to consult a book.

    • Kowhai girl 24 November 2009 / 10:22 pm

      or is it that you are helping yourself by choosing a book …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s