The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

A Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Subtitle: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Synopsis of Content:

The seminal book on personal development and leadership of the 1980s this book, first published in 1989, was a #1 best seller and continues to be a popular book. In it Covey divides personal development into seven categories and assigns to them a habit or set of habits that will improve one’s life.

First Covey discusses the importance of principles and of leading one’s life according to principles. He also discussed our perceptions and how we can change the way we look at things through shifting a paradigm. Then he moves to the seven habits.

The seven habits are Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, Synergize and Sharpen the Saw. Covey labels the first three habits as the Personal Victory, how we master our own lives. The last four are called the Public Victory, how we become more effective with others.

He maintains that one must first achieve effectiveness for ourselves, the private victory, before we can attain effectiveness with others. The habits are presented in an order based on what we need to work on first, second, etc.

Covey’s analysis of perceptions and paradigms was a novel approach to a self-help book at the time it came out. The brilliant aspect of the book was not so much the content of the seven habits, there was little new in that, it was the way he organized these ideas and related them to one another. His reliance on principle centered thinking was also unique.

A second unique aspect of the book is the emphasis on basing one’s decisions on principles, which Covey maintains are universal. He argues that principles are timeless, they have always existed and always will, and are universal; they apply equally to every culture and place. He emphasizes that because principles are universal and inherently true they serve as a sound basis to guide one’s life.

What I found useful about this book:

I can still remember the day I bought this book in 1994. I cannot say that about any other book I purchased nearly twenty years ago. I can remember standing in front of the bookstore bookshelf and looking over the book, wondering if it was worth the price and the time to read it. In time I read the book six times and am now reviewing it for the seventh time. Each time I read it I learn more.

I must admit this is my favorite book on personal development and improvement. It is comprehensive in scope, covering every important aspect of personal development. It challenges you and informs you. To the extent you can apply the principles and habits Covey teaches you realize great benefit. This book contains valuable lessons about how to organize your time and your life.

I highly recommend this book. If you read only one book on personal development this year this should be the book.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is written in an easy and very readable style. It has excellent examples and illustrations of the lessons he teaches. It is very well organized.

Notes on Author:

Dr. Stephen R. Covey was a university professor, writer and lecturer. He was very influential. He was co-founder of the Franklin-Covey Co. Dr. Covey died in 2012.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Live out your imagination, not your history. Know that you have full control over what you do. Accept full responsibility for your life. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
  1. A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.
  1. The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.

The Books2Wealth Book of the Month for October 2013

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Copyright holder: 1989 by Stephen R. Covey

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Things Have Changed Dad

One of my sons reminds me frequently that things have changed. It is not the same world I grew up in, not the same world I attended college in, not the same world I built a career in. His generation faces different challenges. He suggests that many of the principles I offer are no longer relevant.

To some extent he is right of course, but in some ways, I think not.

My son got a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts with the expectation that it would qualify him for a job that paid better than minimum wage. He was quickly disappointed. He moved to a larger urban area but was still earning minimum wage. He had friends in his age group that faced a similar problem. He had been told to work hard, do well in school and you will be rewarded. He now believed that had all been a lie, or least an outdated idea. He told me that the work hard and you’ll succeed idea may have been valid when I was a young man but is no longer true.

It is painful for a father to watch his son do all the right things and then struggle with disappointing results. We all want out children to succeed. Those struggles of my son and many in his generation who came of age during a severe recession have caused me to re-evaluate my assumptions about success and the things I write about on this blog.

For some perspective I also must remember my own struggles as a young man. I graduated with a B.S. degree in liberal arts as well but back in 1976. Jimmy Carter was President and the nation was in a recession. We faced “stagflation”, a crippling combination of high inflation and a stagnate economy with high unemployment. We had recently suffered through the OPEC oil embargo, long lines at the gas station, and high fuel prices. In the summer of 1976 I found how little that four-year degree did to improve my employment prospects. I worked in a soft drink bottling plant 12 hours a day at minimum wage. Then I was a janitor. Then I worked as a dishwasher and cook.

But I had a plan. My plan all along was to use that four-year degree to get into law school and become a professional. After working for 15 months to save money to attend law school I did just that – I went to law school.  After law school, I built my own law practice from the ground up. It was a struggle. It was several years before I was earning a decent income.

My son was not impressed. Things were different now. His struggle was harder. His generation got a raw deal.

There is some truth in my son’s view. It is hard for many of today’s young people. Not since the great Depression have so many of them continued to live with parents. To be sure however many of that generation are doing well. My older son works in sales and did not even finish college. He is doing quite well.

So is my younger son right? Are the bromides of the past outdated and largely irrelevant in a changed world and a changed economy? I suggest that most of those traditional ideas about how to be successful are still valid but that many will still struggle financially despite doing the right things.


The choices we make about education, training, where we live and what career path we choose all play a large role in how well we will do. That has always been true. It was true when I was 25 and it is true now for my 25-year-old son. Choose a medically related career, engineering, sales and several other fields and success is much more likely. Young people must decide what they want to do and they must choose those careers that are in demand. A few people may carve out a niche in a field that is not in high demand and still do well, but for the majority it is critical to choose the right career. Likewise, choices about where we live, when we decide to marry and have a family also play a large role in our chances of success.

Hard Work

The willingness to work hard still provides rewards. While it is true that all hard work is not rewarded as a rule success in a globally competitive world requires hard work. Employers prefer hard workers. If someone wants to start a business of their own hard work is essential.


Integrity is just as important today as ever. Some would say it is in short supply today though I am not sure I agree. I do see that those who are honest and have high personal integrity are more effective working with others and are more successful.


It remains as important as ever to spend less than we earn, to save and invest wisely and to build for the future. Lifelong employment with a single company is now the exception rather than the rule. Corporate pension plans are no longer as secure as they once were. Government programs like Social Security never provide all that people need in retirement and their future is always subject to political whim.


Education and increasing one’s skill sets and knowledge are more important today than ever. As my son correctly points out his generation is learning that conventional higher education may not always be the best way to go although it still has merit. Lifelong learning however remains critical to maintaining one’s competitive edge no matter where you live or what you do.


My son is right that things have changed. Technological change is increasingly rapid. We now live in an increasingly competitive global market. Social change is also faster than ever before. Adapting to this change requires agility and effort more than in the past. But some things have not changed. Hard work, integrity, frugality and education remain important and in many ways are more important today than they were when I was a young man.

The challenge for us all is to maintain these age-old principles while adapting to a changed world. The principles that have always contributed to success however still apply and may be more important today than ever.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Good Habits, Better Habits and Change

Good Habits are always good, right? Well, maybe not always. Stephanie Vozza recently wrote at the Fast Company blog about how some good habits may be holding you back. How can this be?

It can be because of change. We face change more and more today. It happens in places it did not used to happen. It happens faster than ever before and often it is more disruptive than in the past. As a result what worked well yesterday will not necessarily work well tomorrow. It may not work at all.

Vozza cites arguments made by Rod Favaron, CEO and president of technology company Spredfast. He came in to lead a startup and now that they have some sustained success he finds he is leading a different kind of company. He finds that what worked for the startup does not necessarily work for the more established business.

Vozza also points out that what might have worked well in one company may not work well at all in another company. People move from one business to another more often these days so this could be very important.

All these points are well made but I suggest they only tell part of the story. There are some universal habits based on unchanging principles that do not change. Habits based on acting with integrity for example serve one well regardless of the change around us. Acting with integrity may well be more important in a rapidly changing world.

I suggest that the challenge is to discern between those habits that still serve you well and those that may not. To help make that distinction I suggest these steps:

  1. Is the habit based on a timeless principle such as integrity or honesty? If it is it will not likely lose effectiveness regardless of what else changes.
  2. Is the habit still working? Does getting up and running every morning still contribute to your fitness?
  3. Has the habit failed to keep up with technology? Can email better communicate to an organization than a paper memo?

Although Vozza’s article was directed at young companies transforming from startups to a second stage growth the principles involved in evaluating the continuing value of a habit can apply equally to other situations including our private lives.

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Deliberate Practice

“Practice makes perfect”. Or does it? We are brought up being told that practice is the key to attain proficiency in most anything. In school we practice throwing a baseball, playing the piano, reciting the times tables and a thousand other examples of practice. The lesson we soon learn is that if you repeat something often enough you get good at it.

To an extent this is true. As we practice we refine our approach here and there. Practice at physical activity builds coordination and muscle strength. Practice of mental activity makes us faster and more proficient at whatever task we are practicing. To a limit. Anyone who has practiced anything extensively finds that they reach a plateau – a point where performance no longer improves. Repeating the same thing over and over builds general ability and makes complex things easier to do. But there comes a point when nothing improves. We just keep doing the same thing over and over.

People who are training to get better and better at something must learn to improve their performance. This kind of practice is called “deliberate practice”. It is about refining our practice, learning to improve performance, and making it a bit better each time. It take concentration and a lot of work. It requires careful observation, thinking and adjustments in the way we do whatever we are practicing.

James Clear wrote an article on this that provides examples of people who have used deliberate practice to continuously improve their performance. Golfer Ben Hogan, Benjamin Franklin, sushi chef Jiro Ono, martial artist Josh Waitzkin and chess master Magnus Carlsen are a few such examples discussed in Clear’s article. Those that use a highly focused and disciplined form of deliberate practice get better and better all the time. They do not plateau unless they reach some inherent physical limitation. Even then they may find a way to exceed such limits.

If you merely want to get good at something practice. If you want to get great at something you must learn deliberate practice. It takes a lot of commitment and persistence, but it pays off.

Read Clear’s article here to learn more about deliberate practice.

Learn how to get great at something. What would you like to be great at?

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The Power of Good Behavior

Beverly Langford has written a timely book on the advantages of good behavior in the business world. It applies far beyond business of course, good behavior is important to success in any organization. Langford’s book, The Etiquette Edge, is about the etiquette skills that help us advance in our work with others. It is about good communication skills, social savvy, and understanding appropriate behavior.

Etiquette may sound like an old-fashioned word. Maybe that is because in today’s world it is too often missing. It is not that etiquette has died or is no longer important. In an increasingly inter-connected world it may be more important than ever. Proper etiquette need not be stuffy or about rules that no longer seem relevant. Langford has updated the etiquette tool box so that it remains relevant to the modern world. Etiquette is the lubricant that makes organizations run smoothly and facilitates relationships to run smoothly. We can all benefit from a deeper understanding of what behaviors help us work with others. This book is a gem.

Read a review of The Etiquette Edge on here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Godin on the Candy Diet

I talk a lot here about how important it is to continually learn. There is a tendency in American society to learn less, especially in the popular media. Seth Godin, one of my favorite bloggers, touches on this in his January 4, 2017 blog post. As always Godin is pithy and concise although this post is longer than most he writes.

It is not that popular media used to be an intellectual gold mine. It has always been more about entertainment than about knowledge. That is what people want to see. They want candy for the eyes and ears. Godin’s point is valid however. American mainstream television is horrible. I stopped watching it three years ago. Newspaper and magazine readership is seriously below where it was a generation ago. People read blogs and snippets and Tweets but they are not as likely to read something that is thoughtful or something that explores ideas in depth.

I do not suggest that everyone must be an intellectual or that there is anything wrong with some light entertainment. I do suggest that there appears to be a dumbing down of media in America and a rejection of knowledge. It is not the first time this has happened. Consider the Know Nothings of the mid 19th century for example. But in the last hundred years I think it has sunk to its lowest level.

While there are significant political and cultural consequences from this dumbing down trend I write about it here because of how it affects people’s ability to increase their level of knowledge and skill in an increasingly competitive world. How are we to seriously compete in a world where we spend more time watching “reality television” than reading a newspaper or a book?

Let me say that I know many people who are serious readers and serious about learning. This trend is by no means universal, it is just too prevalent.

I am curious of this American diet of nonsense has affected other nations and cultures much. I invite my readers from other countries to comment here and let us know. Is this true in the UK, in South Africa, in Japan, in Brazil? If you are from outside the US let us know. Is there a worldwide rejection of knowledge and serious thought?

My hope is that this will turn around. I hope that people will miss deep thought and real information and seek it out. If that does not happen it does not bode well.

What do you think?

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Learning from John G Miller

As I transition content from my books2wealth site to this site it is like visiting old friends. The articles, book reviews and interviews are worth looking at again. In 2010 I sent my newsletter readers my book review of John G. Miller’s book, Outstanding! – 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Great and that year I also published my interview with John. Both the book review (posted last October) and the interview are now available on this blog.

Miller is the founder of QBQ, Inc. and a best-selling author. In addition to Outstanding! he also wrote QBQ: The Question Behind the Question. Miller is a speaker and consultant. His books are very informative and well written. A wonderful thing about books and interviews is that we can go back after some time has passed and learn even more from them.

Read the book review here and the interview here. You will pick up some great ideas about how to improve how an organization works and you may well be able to apply them in your organization, whatever it may be. You will also find some gems about how be more effective as an individual.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The Upside of Problems

Michael Hyatt recently posted an article on why we should welcome problems – well at least some problems. He included this quote from Max Lucado’s book, Great Every Day:

“You ought to be glad for the troubles on your job because they provide about half your income. If it were not for the things that go wrong, the difficult people with whom you deal, and the problems of your working day, someone could be found to handle your job for half of what you are being paid. So start looking for more troubles. Learn to handle them cheerfully and with good judgment, as opportunities rather than irritations, and you will find yourself getting ahead at a surprising rate. For there are plenty of big jobs waiting for people who are not afraid of troubles.”

Sure, I do not break out in glee when a problem arises. Not many do. Though I’ve read about two people who often did. One was Theodore Roosevelt. He often greeted problems with his favorite word, “Bully” and then got down to addressing it. He saw problems as challenges to be conquered. Another was Andrew Carnegie. One day one of his aids came to him very upset and announced that one of their steel mills had burned down. Carnegie grinned and replied, let’s get to work designing a new one.

Problems on the job especially can have several advantages. They can stir us from complacency when all is going well. As Hyatt says they can stretch us, force us to do more or do things differently. As we successfully solve problems our confidence increases.

Problems can deepen our understanding of how things work or how the world is changing.

Problems are often not welcomed. They take extra effort, often extra money, and they can frustrate us. But they also make us grow. They can open doors to new opportunities and ideas. So before you lament the next problem too quickly consider what you might learn from it. Maybe when a problem creeps up on us we ought to smile and say “Bully!”

Read the rest of Hyatt’s article here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Getting Stuck in the Negative

Do you get stuck in negative thinking? Even most self-described optimists have negative thoughts. We all have self-limiting thoughts. A few of these are very good. I know I cannot fly like a bird therefore I do not jump off buildings. That is a self-limiting thought that saves my life.

But your brain does not distinguish well between those self-limiting that are good for us and the many that are not. Those thoughts that we could never do that; we are not smart enough; we are not talented enough; etc. Is there something about our brains that causes us to get stuck in negative thinking.

Alison Ledgerwood gave a great TED talk on this subject. Watch her video below. What do you think?

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

How to Think Big

Highly successful people usually think big. Michael Hyatt observes:

“I get it. When we’re young, parents and teachers tell us we can do anything. We can become whatever we want! Then we grow older, and these same people tell us we must become more realistic.

Usually, that’s just code for small thinking.

Pretty soon, their collective voices becomes The Voice in our head. As soon as we have a big thought, we check ourselves: C’mon. Get real. That will never happen. You have to be more realistic. And so it goes. We mistake The Voice for wisdom.”

Hyatt read The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. It was written in 1959 but is still very relevant. From this Hyatt identified seven steps to thinking big.

  1. Imagine the possibilities. I do this all the time. I imagine or envision what I think I might achieve. Before I wrote my first book it seemed a lot just to imagine having one book done and for sale. Now I have four of them and am working on number five. But it was that dreaming about the first one that helped me think big enough to get it done. I repeated that process for every book since.
  2. Write down your dream. There is something almost magical about writing it down. It becomes an actual goal once it is written. Nothing motivates you better than having written goals.
  3. Connect. What is your rationale for your goal? You need to identify that to stay engaged.
  4. Outline what you need to do. What do you have to do to achieve your goal? These are the first steps toward attaining your goal. You may need to do some research to find out what is required.
  5. What will make it happen? Here is where you clearly define the steps you need to take to achieve your dream.
  6. Determine when this will be achieved. You need to set a deadline. Effective goals are time bound. Write down your deadline. This makes it very real.
  7. Review goals daily. This takes some self-discipline but it keeps you on task. It reminds you what must be done each day to achieve your giant goal. Try to do something each day to get you closer to achieving it. In addition to writing my blog posts I also work on the book outline, research for the book, and then one chapter at a time I write it. A bit of it every day.

As Hyatt reminds us you cannot listen to those little voices in your head that say you cannot do this, it is too big, it is too difficult, etc. Ignore those self-limiting thoughts. Keep focused on getting it done. This is how people turn big dreams into reality.

What is your big dream?

Read the rest of Hyatt’s post here.
Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.