Th!nk: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

As you go through life, you experience more of “everything”. Your world changes as you grow from school to university. And from University to the rest of your life. You will often hear people talk about “welcome to the real world” – but what does that even mean?

We can all agree, that technology and social media is keeping us distracted and in an ever connected world, there are more people suffering from depression and loneliness. How can this be possible? And whatever happened to listening to people who have gone before us? Well here is what I’ve found from my searches.

When you are in school:
It’s all about being popular. And being invited to “the” events. Or going out with the sports star or being on the debate team or insert some other requirement here. But if you go too far, you are then labelled a “jock”, “nerd” or “outcast”. So what should you do? Be you. And if that means that other people don’t agree with it? Fine. Like Winston Churchill said “You have enemies? Good. It means you stood for something”. This is also a good training ground for you creating a thicker outer skin, because trust me, in the future you are going to need it. Then, you should go find others that are looking to do the same thing as you and form your own group of people. However, in forming your own group, remember never to go too far. Because even pacifists can become dictators. Always be willing to start from scratch. By getting comfortable with this idea, you will be setting yourself up for a lifetime of success. Why? Life is all about learning. The earlier you get to this idea, the better it will be in the future.

Oh and to anyone that’s facing their final year of school – chill the fuck out. Seriously. That entrance exam doesn’t dictate your worth as a person. It’s just a means of making sure that the others have an easy way of grading and putting people into different boxes. And if you are not keen on going through this, then you better damn as well have another good value creating proposition.

What do I mean? Run some sort of business. Seriously. And I don’t mean a multi-national conglomerate organisation (but power to you if you do. Make the world a better place!), even running a lawn mowing service, or being an errand person or lemonade stand. There are a few things you learn about people and understanding customers and what people want and are willing to pay for over what you may think is the “best” idea in the world. Plus, it builds that “thick skin” I was talking about. I chickened out when my first business venture failed whilst I was still in school. But that was totally my choice and reminiscing about things in the past only robs you of today. Besides, in terms of time, you will not have as much time as you have right now. Go on, build something. Some good things to read: 4 hour work week, Choose Yourself, The Obstacle is the way. Why do I think of this? Because when I read this comic and heard the video, I was stunned. I found myself nodding more and more. I too, was a great student by their terms. But I was always writing, doodling or singing. And somehow, look how much I have written so far.

When you are in university:
Welcome to the first real shock of life. You aren’t that jock, nerd, or outcast you once were. Your popularity in your small town/suburb does not compare to where you are at right now. And once more your smallness is felt. You then have to scramble to find out who you are and what you should be doing. If you took even 1% of the advice I presented above, you will be in a much better state to deal with this new reality. What I really like about this phase was the realisation, that I was in control of what I chose to learn. For most people, this is the first time they took an active choice in what they were learning and most of the time they were just following a script. The power of Freedom, is the choice to choose, but with it also come the responsibility to choose. And a lot of people don’t want to. That burden is too much for them. So they immediately succumb to following another script – aiming to get a good job by getting high grades. But if there is anything to be seen from the current education system is that we have more and more people graduating without any security of a full-time job. Recruiters are unwilling to take a chance on a fresh-faced graduate, when the downturn in the economy has produced middle and senior managers with a proven track record willing to do the job for just as much pay. So what should you do? See above point of starting some sort of side business. The best thing about University is realising that it’s more about the social skills you gain from going there and interacting with other people is just as important as picking the subjects you want to learn. At this point, if you had to move out of home to go to university that you begin appreciating what your Mum did for you. Home cooked meals never tasted so good and having your laundry done for you, almost convinces you to move back home. Almost.

Then again, there are new pressures you have to deal with. Should you party or study? Should you be focused on those internships or traveling the world with your friends. It’s all up to you and what you want to do. As always, Be You. It’s usually at this time, that you also face a death in the family of a beloved grandparent or your pet. You may start to question the length of life or if it’s all worthy. Then again, you have that job application to attend to…

Good resource to read: Recession Proof Graduate

You were lucky enough to get an entry-level job at some institution. The first few months, even the first year is all fun and exciting as the company does a lot to invest in you and keep you motivated. Soon, you’re settling into a routine and you don’t even realise. Before long, every Friday night is going out to drinks with the team. The weekend could still be saturated with the university routine of going clubbing and dropping more money as you are now no longer a cheap university student and can afford the finer things in life. Maybe you’ll even splurge and buy a new car. You’ll start going out for lunch with the boys/girls. You start reading the morning newspaper over a good cup of coffee.

Those routines then turn from months to years and before you know it, you’re coming up to promotions and you start to realise that in moving up in the world, it’s not only about what you know but also who you know. And in this sense, instead of fitting in, you want to stand out. You have your 5/10 year high school re-union and find that not much has changed. You then find the outside world-changing too fast and you can’t keep up with YouFace TwitChat or SnapApp. You are drowning in emails. You are working longer and longer hours and the connections you once had with the outside world isn’t the same. And you finally turn to the people who were always there. Your parents. And all of a sudden, you have a new-found appreciation of what they had gone through and you wonder why you didn’t pay more attention. Alternatively, you may still not get along with them, but as you mature, you tend to forgive them for what they have done and realise that they were only doing the best they could with what they had.

One day you wake up and realise all this time has passed. And that whilst money is good, you don’t really need all that much to be satisfied but then you search for meaning. For purpose. For what it all means. Then you go through the phase of being “the greatest”. But then you see what sacrifices you need to make to achieve this. You then have to choose if you want to pursue it.

As people grow up around you, and your high school friends start getting married and having kids of their own – the next generation starts and you also see your invincible parents slowing down. You may get frustrated with this, but just remember that they spent so long on teaching you things that you now need to develop the same patience to deal with them.

At this juncture, it’s good to take a moment to step back and re-evaluate things. And here is where, Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly successful people, really helped me. If you don’t know what the 7 habits here they are:

1. Be Proactive
The key to understand here, is that in every situation we always have the power to choose our response. I’m reminded of Vicktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist and father of logothreaphy about how he survived the Nazi concentration camp – he had to watch as his wife and unborn child were gassed, and his manuscript “Man’s Search For Meaning” destroyed thrice, once in it’s proper copy when he was first arrested, then on scrap pieces of paper and finally toilet paper that were less than 1 ply thick.

We may be dealt with an “unfortunate” hand but we need to ensure that we take a moment, breathe, and choose our next response wisely.

Similarly when we are faced with going through a hard time, we have to keep going and mine for the lessons learned from it. This does not mean that we are not allowed to feel upset or annoyed with the situation. Vent. But keep it brief. That limited energy is best used with that limited time to learn the lesson.

2. Begin with the end in mind
I’ve always been a planner and found myself nodding to a lot of what was written. You have a plan, take the plunge and make the adjustments necessary along the way to ensure it all works out. And you know what, plans definitely do not work out the way we originally intended. But what does work, is your ability to adapt to the situation at hand. If you know what you’re going after, it becomes easier to see what is and isn’t working. For example, if you want to see what gets people’s attention on a blog, do you make shorter posts or longer posts? What is my end goal? More views. How do I go about it? Should I be going on other sites that talk about similar topics? Can I play with the word length? Once you know, you’re able to track it better. As the saying goes, “What get’s tracked, get’s measured”.

3. Put First Things First
With the increasing age of distraction, you can end up doing so much and suddenly feel like you’re not getting anywhere. What you need to do is cut down the things that you want to achieve and relentlessly pursue only those items that will take you to your end goal. Simple as that.

4. Think Win/Win
Often people believe that the world belongs to a “fixed” pie. If I win, you must lose. Or if you win, I must lose. Covey, says that there is a third way which is where both parties work together to come to an agreement or compromise where both sides get the most out of any deal. Having implemented this, I can say that both my personal and professional lives have skyrocketed.

5. Seek First to Understand, then to be understood
Do you ever wait to respond or do you try to understand the other person’s point of view? What the hell is the use of the debate if you are just going to keep trying to prove your point to them. And what do you think the other person is trying to do? The exact same thing. Two people, trying to butt heads. Yay for progress.

Covey wants you to ask more questions and I have extended it by giving an additional aspects: Ask the 5 W and 1 H – Who, What, Where, Why, When and How. For example – if I said, Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Sure. You could take it on face value, but if you probed… Who discovered it? Sir Edmund Hilary. What’s the next closest highest mountain to it? Where is Everest located? Does it have any significant play in world? (It did as it acted as a natural barrier in wars…see…new question and more facts) And when did Edmund climb it?

You now have more information about the topic and can judge whether your idea now matches up. If it does, excellent, if it doesn’t and you believe that it’s to the contrary, you can present your ideas in the same manner. And if, at the end of the day, the other person is presenting bullshit, this line of questioning really brings out this fact. And quickly. Body language changes so quickly, it’s hilarious and you don’t even need to be trained like a spy to see it.

6. Synergise
Put all that you have learned together and suddenly you have an intersection that provides real value back to the world. You’re living true to your values and ensuring everyone gets the best out of the interactions they have with you.

7. Sharpen the Saw
Repeat the process…(see the point of staying humble and learning to always start over?)

One of the exercises within the book that has had the biggest impact on my life is actually writing out your eulogy. Once you get over the awkwardness of doing it, the clarity you gleam from this is priceless. It is because of this, I have changed my perspective on life and started volunteering more than I used to. But that’s for another post.

I know that this post, whilst aimed at high school and university students – the probability of them reading this, without “rolling” their eyes or even paying attention is going to be lost on them. But then there are the rest of you my dear readers that will read this, with a coffee in hand and be silently nodding. When you read the book or even if you have read it, if you want to chat, my email address is available in the contact section. Alternatively leave a comment and I’ll write back.

I’ll end this epic post with the only two words that makes any sense.

Be You.

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