“Can you recommend a book for…?”
“What are you reading right now?”
“What are your favorite books?”
I get asked those types of questions a lot and, as an avid reader and all-around bibliophile, I’m always happy to oblige.
I also like to encourage people to read as much as possible because knowledge benefits you much like compound interest. The more you learn, the more you know; the more you know, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more opportunities you have to succeed.
On the flip side, I also believe there’s little hope for people who aren’t perpetual learners. Life is overwhelmingly complex and chaotic, and it slowly suffocates and devours the lazy and ignorant.
So, if you’re a bookworm on the lookout for good reads, or if you’d like to get into the habit of reading, this book club for you.
The idea here is simple: Every week, I’ll share a book that I’ve particularly liked, why I liked it, and several of my key takeaways from it.
I’ll also keep things short and sweet so you can quickly decide whether the book is likely to be up your alley or not.
If you’ve already read a book that I recommend or have a recommendation of your own to share, don’t be shy! Drop a comment down below and let me–and the rest of us “book clubbers”–know!
Lastly, if you want to be notified when new recommendations go live, hop on my email list and you’ll get each new installment delivered directly to your inbox.
Alright. Let’s get to this week’s book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
If you want to gain more control over your life and destiny and aren’t afraid of facing subjects that many people find unpalatable, like responsibility, integrity, long-term thinking, and self-mastery, then you need to read this book.
In it, Covey takes you by the hand and says…
“Look, if you want to live a good life, you can’t be an irresponsible, self-absorbed, insolent, small-minded, unenlightened, judgmental, delusional little child.”
“You might be able to bullshit your friends, family, and even yourself, but you can’t bullshit the universe.”
“For whatever reason, there are some basic rules to this game of living and if you work with them, you can win. Flout them and you’ll lose.”
He then lays out…in way too many words…his ideas about what makes people effective and ineffective in life, and I wholeheartedly agree with many of his assessments.
There’s a reason why it’s on just about every “books you have to read list”–it’s full of powerful insights that, if internalized, can truly change your life.
I have to warn you though: you’re probably not going to like reading it, mainly because Covey isn’t much of a writer. It’s twice as long as it should be and a lot of the prose is purple, but it’s well worth the slog.
“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods.”
These days, too many people wear themselves to a frazzle chasing easy.
They don’t want processes and paradigms, they want shortcuts and handouts. They don’t want to plant in the spring and tend in the summer to earn a harvest in the fall, they want to shirk and slack and reap a bounty they didn’t sow.
This is particularly bad with today’s youth. Generation Why–why’s it gotta be so hard?
Well, what they fail to realize or accept is nothing truly easy is worth doing. Easy is boring and bland. It’s the wormy fruit that fell off the tree days ago. Nobody respects easy.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, often the easiest. By doing the hard work that most people don’t want to do, we can obtain the results they most wish they had.
The way you spend your time is a result of the way you see your time and the way you really see your priorities.
When people say they “don’t have time” for things, it’s usually bullshit. What they’re really saying is they don’t really want to do them.
There’s very little we’re actually incapable of, there’s only our sense of urgency and necessity.
If you have any doubts–if you truly think that you don’t have time to get your workouts in or read books or whatever else– record how you spend every minute of every day for the next week and then review how much time you wasted on less important or even fruitless activities.
I did this myself recently simply because I think it’s a healthy exercise to do every so often. It not only allows you to evaluate the worthiness of what you are doing with your time, it also allows you to weigh your actions and activities against what you’re not doing.
Remember: our character is comprised of our attitudes and actions, and our attitudes are largely determined by our actions, so practically speaking, who we are is simply a reflection of how we spend our time.
People are intrigued when they see good things happening in the lives of individuals, families, and organizations that are based on solid principles. They admire such personal strength and maturity, such family unity and teamwork, such adaptive synergistic organizational culture. And their immediate request is very revealing of their basic paradigm. “How do you do it? Teach me the techniques.” What they’re really saying is, “Give me some quick fix advice or solution that will relieve the pain in my own situation.”
I don’t believe in glib, ready-made roadmaps and formulas for happiness and success. There are too many personal and circumstantial variables, so the tactics that have worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa.
I do believe, however, that there are fundamental laws and principles that can provide us with guidance and direction and help us chart more fruitful and satisfying courses in our lives. One of the reasons I really liked this book is I think it hits on some of these laws and principles, including the importance of principled living, accepting full responsibility for our conditions in life, doing the right things because they’re right, even when it’s hard, and more.
If our feelings control our actions, it is because we have abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so.
Some of the most ineffective people I know live according to their feelings, which manifest as whims and impulses, whereas some of the most effective people I know live according to deep-seated values that they express through purposeful work.
The former suffer a sense of personal powerlessness and pointlessness, and their lives are an aimless wreck, lacking in any structure or fixed points of reference.
The latter, on the other hand, have chosen to internalize and organize themselves around specific, carefully considered ideals and standards, like courage, generosity, or industry, and their lives are marked by orderly progression and expansion.
…real success is success with self. It’s not in having things, but in having mastery, having victory over self.
Socrates once said that we should be less concerned with what we have than with what we are, and those words couldn’t be more relevant today.
First, there are the millions of people that think they’ll be happy when they have the thing–the job, money, girlfriend or boyfriend, or whatever. This never works. Once you have the thing, the goal posts just shift and it’s no longer good enough. You now believe that you need the next thing.
Second, self-love is all the rage right now, and especially in the health and fitness space. Accordingly to the hordes of Instaphilosophers, we should just accept ourselves the way that we currently are, blemishes and all, and stop insisting that we should be something more.
Why the hell we would want to do that?
If we abandon the quest to gain dominion over ourselves, we’re also going to abandon our self-respect because, let’s face it, we’re going to have a hard time truly liking ourselves. And who can blame us? How can we delight in our inability to control our feelings, actions, and lives? How can we celebrate a virtual absence of self-mastery? How can we admire the magnitude of our ignorance and incompetence?
We might be able to figure out how to lull ourselves into a sort of nihilistic apathy or psych ourselves up with superficial self-talk, but deep down, we know the truth: real, lasting self-esteem comes from victory over ourselves, from true independence.