Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Selected passages from Stephen R. Covey's famous best seller; The 7 Habits of highly effective people.
• As my study took me back through 200 years of writing about success, I noticed a startling pattern emerging in the content of the literature. Because of our own pain, and because of similar pain I had seen in the lives and relationships of many people I had worked with through the years, I began to feel more and more that much of the success literature of the past 50 years was superficial. It was filled with social image consciousness, techniques and quick fixes -- with social band-aids and aspirin that addressed acute problems and sometimes even appeared to solve them temporarily -- but left the underlying chronic problems untouched to fester and resurface time and again.
• In stark contrast, almost all the literature in the first 150 years or so focused on what could be called the character ethic as the foundation of success -- things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is representative of that literature. It is, basically, the story of one man's effort to integrate certain principles and habits deep within his nature. The character ethic taught that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.
• But shortly after World War I the basic view of success shifted from the character ethic to what we might call the personality ethic. Success became more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques that lubricate the processes of human interaction. This personality ethic essentially took two paths: one was human and public relations techniques, and the other was positive mental attitude (PMA). Some of this philosophy was expressed in inspiring and sometimes-valid maxims such as "Your attitude determines your altitude," "Smiling wins more friends than frowning," and "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve. Other parts of the personality approach were clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the "power look," or to intimidate their way through life. Some of this literature acknowledged character as an ingredient of success, but tended to compartmentalize it rather than recognize it as foundational and catalytic. Reference to the character ethic became mostly lip service; the basic thrust was quick-fix influence techniques, power strategies, communication skills, and positive attitudes.
If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other -- while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity -- then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do -- even using so-called good human relations techniques -- will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique.
The glitter of the personality ethic, the massive appeal, is that there is some quick and easy way to achieve quality of life -- personal effectiveness and rich, deep relationships with other people – without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible It's symbol without substance. It's the "get rich quick" scheme promising "wealth without work."
And it might even appear to succeed -- but the schemer remains.
The personality ethic is illusory and deceptive. And trying to get high-quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.
I have seen the consequences of attempting to shortcut this natural process of growth often in the business world, where executives attempt to "buy" a new culture of improved productivity, quality, morale, and customer service with the strong speeches, smile training, and external interventions, or through mergers, acquisitions, and friendly or unfriendly takeovers. But they ignore the low-trust climate produced by such manipulations. When these methods don't work, they look for other personality ethic techniques that will -- all the time ignoring and violating the natural principles and processes on which high-trust culture is based.
Selected passages from "Living with Less" by Leo Babauta.
- "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity" -
- The problems of our economy stem from unchecked consumerism - people buying houses too expensive for their incomes, getting into too much debt by spending too much, living a lifestyle of more and more with the idea that things will only continue to get better.
- There is no crime greater than having too many desires;
There is no disaster greater than not being content;
There is no misfortune greater than being covetous.
Hence in being content, one will always have enough.
Lao Zi. Chinese philosopher
- "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."
- Its consumerism, and it's the official religion of the industrialized world.
- "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."