In 1989 I noticed a new book in a New Jersey airport bookstore. It was called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was a “road warrior,” a traveling consultant from Utah, and was mildly interested to find a book written by a fellow Utah native, Stephen R. Covey. But I didn’t buy it.
That was exactly 20 years ago.
Since then Dr. Covey’s book has been called “the most influential business book of the century” (by the Wall Street Journal). It stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 5 years. A “must-read” now translated into 38 languages, The 7 Habits is now in 20 million copies (and is arguably the most pirated business book in the world). Google “7 Habits” and you’ll get 14 million hits.
In the early 1990s I started seeing this book everywhere. When in 1995 I saw it on the desk of a high-ranking official in Saudi Arabia, I realized it was time for me to pick up a copy.
But I still put off reading it.
Meanwhile Dr. Covey was seemingly training the world in basic, unchanging principles that lead inexorably to success. More than half the employees of Fortune 500 companies were trained. Towns, churches, and schools read the book together. Presidents, prime ministers, and kings read the book. Of course, above all, Oprah read it and featured it on her show.
In 1996 I sat in a dark auditorium in Orlando, Florida, with 8,000 other people to hear Dr. Covey speak. “I am a lighthouse,” he intoned in the darkness, telling a famous parable from the book, the story of a ship on the night ocean that tried to order a lighthouse to get out of its way. His point-you can choose your course in life, but you can’t choose the consequences of your choice.
So I read the book-probably the last person on Earth to do so. I learned to focus on truly important things, not just urgent things. To listen-really listen-to other people for the first time. To think “win-win.” To get off the road, which was killing me, and find a real mission and purpose in my professional life. And to raise really super children (of course, I may be biased).
How has The 7 Habits impacted the world in the last 20 years? Hard to tell-not enough. Not nearly enough.
But I know how it’s impacted me.
How has the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People impacted you? We’d like to hear from you.
Author: Breck England
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