Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Club: Chapter One

I'm so glad we're doing this together! A little community of accountability. I started to read this book six years ago, and the chapters that I read truly revolutionized my life. But, for some reason, I never got around to finishing it (which is the opposite of being a highly effective person!).

Perhaps I should pose some questions to make this a bona fide book club?

Let me see:
  1. Which ideas from the chapter resonated with you?
  2. Did you disagree with anything?
  3. How will your life be different now that you've read this chapter? In other words, what are you specific action steps that you generated from reading this chapter?

And here's my personal reflection (please leave yours in the comments!):

I love the idea of "inside-out." I think it's another way of expressing the concept of "feeding the soil." In other words, we should focus on cultivating healthy, fertile soil in our lives, and then good things will grow. I believe this in so many ways. For example, I believe Covey's argument that "if you want the secondary greatness of recognized talent, focus first on primary greatness of character." In terms of the work I do as an educator, I believe that if we focus on providing a solid and rich learning environment for our children, then they will do well on the state tests (as opposed to focusing exclusively doing "test prep" to prepare students). And in gardening, I do believe that you should invest in good soil as a foundation for healthy plants. In terms of our physical health, I believe that good nutrition, hydration, physical activity, and rest are the foundation for optimal functioning. Etc., etc., etc. The foundation matters; the inputs affect the outputs.

I found Covey's brief analysis of the "character" versus the "personality" ethic to be very interesting and in line with trends I've observed in society, but I like how he identified the continuum of development as dependence-->;independence-->;interdependence. I think a lot of the character ethic literature focuses too much on independence. I like that Covey cites "interdependence" as the goal.

In terms of relevant quotes related to those ideas that resonated with me:
  1. "There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living."--David Starr Jordan
  2. "Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life."--Psalms
  3. "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say."--Emerson

I'm eager to work on my character as the first step toward becoming an effective leader. Of course, good character isn't just something you achieve and then move on to something new. It's something that has to be maintained day in and day out, situation after situation.

I have had bosses in the past who have tried to cover their mistakes with deception or by blaming someone else. As soon as I realize what's happening, I lose trust in those people. I think it is so, so important to live with integrity and to apologize for the mistakes we make. It's inevitable that we will make mistakes--everyone does. But the difference between an effective leader and an ineffective one is that the effective leader admits and apologizes for those mistakes.

I also liked the idea that "most of us know the truth of what we really are inside." I feel like I'm often my best version of myself, only when others are looking. For example, I was cleaning out the fridge yesterday, and we had a little bit of lettuce that needed to be disposed of. If someone had been there, I would have composted the lettuce. Since no one was watching, I instead just threw the lettuce in the trash because it was easier. (Of course I then had a whole conversation with myself about how I need to be my best self for myself and not just for others, so I took the lettuce out of the trash and instead composted it.)

I found the section about paradigms and assumptions to be interesting, too. Covey says, "We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be." It left me wondering what my assumptions are, as well as how my paradigm limits my ability to see the world. I know I have a tendency to see the world in a very "black and white" way. I'm compelled by Covey's idea that if we want to change a situation, we often have to start by changing ourselves. And if we want to change ourselves, we often have to start by changing our perceptions.

Right now, I'm not sure which of my perceptions I need to change. I guess I should think first about which situation I want to change. Since I can't really think of a situation I want to change, I will try to keep this framework in the back of my mind for when I do want to change something: perspective-->self-->situation.

How My Life Will Be Different / Next Steps
  • Create a page of quotes and ideas that I reference often (so all this self-help stuff doesn't go in one ear and out the other). I can slip it in the back cover of my Life Binder (which is the binder I carry with me everywhere)
  • Be my best self, even when no one is looking
  • Pay attention to my tendency to see the world in a "black and white" way and actively try to see the gray

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Let's talk about the next two chapters next Monday (May 2): The Seven Habits--An Overview and Be Proactive.

Share |


Mindy said...

The concept that resonates with me is the "inside-out" idea too.

This is a concept that I was already on board with but just hadn't seen it written down.

I especially like the story of Covey's story about his son and how he and his wife needed to change their attitudes and perceptions of the situation to actually promote healthy change.

It's a good testament to self awareness, accountability and to generally stop making excuses for why things aren't the way we'd like them to be. I feel like our society is burdened with the idea that our circumstances (and the negative consequences they create) are uncontrollable.

This chapter reminds me that excuses hinder success and that we need to take responsibility for our own personal growth in order to really become successful.

Kate S said...

Sara and Mindy, I appreciate both of your thoughtfulness and analysis of the first chapter. I was also very impressed by the idea of "inside-out" as this concept has been on my mind a lot lately for a couple of different reasons.

I recently attended a lecture by an old college professor of mine and was struck by how his theories related to Covey's. Basically, his premise is that we, as a society, are the richest and free-est (yes, I just made up that word) we've ever been, but we're also the most miserable we've ever been, largely due to a decline in morals as the market culture has taken over our lives and civic engagement has declined over the past several decades. I thought a lot about the correlation between character and morals and how many folks, admittedly including myself at times, equate money or material things with happiness rather than character and actions like service, friendship, etc. Both the lecture and the book made me think about my own actions toward true happiness of character and have inspired me to use my Franklin & Covey planner's activity guide to identify my values and personal mission statement.

Secondly, I'm on the hunt for a new job as my current job will be ending in September when my federal grant ends. To that end, I'm evaluating what I'd like to do as I need my career to have meaning and value. So, before I start scoping the classifieds and Idealist I need to examine my values and start with the inside-out to figure out what it is that inspires me and make change based on that rather than the salary or the prestige of the position.

I've always been inspired by Ghandi's quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" and I'm really excited about reading the rest of this book to help me BE that change.

L said...

Thank you for doing this! I found a copy of the book at a local thrift store, took that as a sign that I should do the online book club, and have been enjoying the read. It reminds me a lot of Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work: New Insights for Improving Schools (amazon link: ) which was a textbook (that I actually enjoyed reading) for a course I took in grad school. The idea of interdependence as the goal for our society (how we raise our children, teach our students, encourage ourselves).

I can't wait to read more! Your analysis is great - the story of the man on the bus with the wild kids made me tear up and reminded me of what Abraham Maslow said:

"When people appear to be something other than good and decent, it is only because they are reacting to stress, pain, or the deprivation of basic human needs such as security, love, and self-esteem."

To "see the grey" rather than the black and white should be a goal for all of us (and politicians, and the media).

Megan said...

Yes, thanks for facilitating! This book has found me right when I need it most I think. Somewhat like Kate S., I am trying to assess what I want out of life with respect to my career. I recently changed positions--going from something very personally satisfying but was taking too great a toll on my psyche and personal life. Now I have a job that is not stressful or emotionally damaging, but it feels empty and isolated. I most resonated with the part of the chapter where he talks about no one ever wishing, when on their deathbed, to have spent more time watching TV or at the office. I am seeking personally to get rid of the "this is my life at the office and this is the rest of my life" mentality. I want them to be one in the same.
I need a paradigm shift, a new lens through which to see the world. I need the right map. I am looking forward to the challenge of developing myself to create that map, to allow the shift to happen and I think education and awareness are good first steps for me.

Sara E. Cotner said...

You all are so awesome! I very much enjoyed reading your insights. And that Maslow quote is awesome! I need to write that down...

Delray in Toledo said...

I wrote the Maslow quote down as well. Also, thank you for creating our very own online "book club".

The idea of "inside-out" resonated with me as well. As someone who is graduating college a week from Friday, I am having trouble determining my next career move. As a business major, I see fellow students going into sales representative positions that just don't resonate well with me. I guess this probably could be identified with the character versus the personality ethic association Covey speaks of. One might make a great deal of money by doing things that don't help us grow or call for bending people to buy your product(personality), but they aren't doing anything to personally fulfill their needs to as individuals (character).

So like Megan, I am also trying to assess what I want in regards to my career. I know management is my ideal goal, but I feel I need to look at myself before I can be an efficient and effective manager.

I also appreciate that Covey cited interdependence as the goal, as sometimes I can already be too independent (or bull headed as my boyfriend would put it).

I've often read books/gone on diets/worked out for about 2 minutes, thought about them or made a change for a while and went back to my same old ways. I think finishing this book and trying to implement the ideas it in everyday situations will make me be more "effective" alone.

I feel like I'm the best version of myself when others are looking as well. I often worry about what other people would think versus what is the best decision for me much like the "Virtue Ethics" that Aristotle and Alysdair MacIntyre promoted. Yes this creates moral individuals, but in a management role, individuals who only do the right thing when they know others are looking. Like you said, there is no "black and white" and there are a lot of gray areas.

I think what I like most about this book so far is that it pertains to every individual in every circumstance, whether it be a Montessori teacher, a mother or a business student.

kzaback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kzaback said...

I really enjoyed the idea of understanding that we all have certain paradigms (I've also heard them called filters) that we see the world through as a result of maps in our head. No one's filter is the same but it’s really easy for us to see them as black and white. So often we get offended or upset because someone said something or done something offensive or wrong. We don't realize that the other person may have no idea that what they did was offensive or wrong. Sarah, I don't know if you see this a lot as a teacher, but I mentor at risk high school youth. One of the things I notice is that sometimes they have a map of the world that isn't necessarily wrong, but based on what I know about the way the world works, it probably won't help them get very far in reaching their goals to graduate high school, go to college or get a job. It’s a hard balance to help them recognize that perspective and try to transform it in a way that is authentic to them but also sets them up to achieve their goals. But it’s so essential. In fact, I think I may start encouraging the kids who have graduated and are in college now to consider reading this book.

I also liked the idea of personality versus character ethic mostly because I think that Covey does a great job explaining this concept. This is a concept that my parents really valued as I was growing up, but I definitely didn’t realize it until I was working and it has been something that I have really tried to focus on in my career.

Probably my key take away from this chapter will be the concept of moving from independence to interdependence. This is a challenge for me, I love to be self sufficient, and I have very clear goals for how I want to change the world and sometimes I am a little too ready to plow through everyone else to get there. What I need to remember is that I truly value feedback and insight from others, in fact, for me helping others is something that makes my life rich. So letting go of my independence for interdependence is really something I want to focus on. I'm hoping the book will give me some tips for how to do that.

ErikaM said...

I think all the major points I was thinking/feeling have been said.
I've been listening to a few "relationship/relating (how to better communicate with all personality types)" type of books for work and this complements that too. I have been looking at my current relationships with others in the context of what's been presented so far. I guess that's my goal/what I'll put into practice - to be more self-aware about my interactions with other people.

Related Posts with Thumbnails