Monday, April 25, 2011

First Things First

       Thank you, Stephen Covey, and your co-authors Roger and Rebecca Merrill, for writing this very fine book.  It looks like a pretty typical book on time-management, except that it is thicker than most (time-wasting, one might think);  but it is not typical, and it goes far, far beyond time management.

       In my personal library, I have over 120 books on the subjects of leadership, business management, time-management, personal organization, and mind-power -- "success literature."  The authors include David Allen (Getting Things Done), Kenneth Blanchard (The One Minute Manager), Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People), Eliyahu Goldratt (The Goal), Og Mandino (The Greatest Salesman in the World), Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline),  Robert Townsend (Up The Organization), and Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and the New Science).   I mention these few books because they are well-known, well-respected, and I can think of important things I have learned from each of them, and I have no plans to dispose of any of them.

       But First Things First really puts it all together, for me.  The authors do a thorough review of time-management literature, comment on the strengths and weaknesses of each of the "three generations" of time-management, and propose a more holistic "fourth generation."

       Am I a good time manager, now that I have read this book? Not especially.  Do I know how to move forward and really improve?  Yes.  Am I doing so?  Yes.

       First Things First addresses the four dimensions of need in every human individual:  physical needs, social needs, mental needs, and spiritual needs, and talks about how these needs are, or are not, met.

       The authors talk at length about the four human endowments:  self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination.

       They talk about themselves, you, me, and the resources of wisdom that are there for us.       

       I could not do this book justice in a brief book review like this, but let me just give a couple of snippets:


       "For example, did you ever "cram" in school . . . ? . . . Can you imagine "cramming" on the farm?

       "Cramming doesn't work in a natural system, like a farm.  That's the fundamental difference between a social and a natural system.  A social system is based on values; a natural system is based on principles." (p. 55)


       "What happens when someone makes a mistake?  In a high-trust culture, honest mistakes are taken for what they are--an opportunity to learn.  If at first you don't succeed, find out why."  (p. 264)


       "There may be several turning points in our lives, but the most critical of all is the point at which we make the decision:  "I will live by my conscience.  From this time forward, I will not allow any voice--social mirror, scripting, even my own rational-lies-ing--to speak more clearly to me than the voice of conscience.  And, whatever the consequence, I will follow it." (p. 302)


        Now that's a different kind of time management.

       Which reminds me why I'd love to elect this man President of the United States.  Even if he is 80 years old in 2012.

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Comments most welcome.  I'd especially like to hear from anyone who has read this book, First Things First.

1 comment:

  1. Bangalored writing in

    I haven't read the book. However, from your quotes, I do have a few points.

    Cramming in school - have you tried studying in India? My kids have to cram like crazy, to get their scores. 25 yrs back, when I entered med school immediately after my high school, I could still afford to be well read, laterally think and try to think out of the box. I don't know what it is like in the US, but from what I read, the pressure is to conform. Einstein, Edison, Linnaeus, were all nonconformists.

    What happens when you make a mistake. In today's corporate world you get fired, in healthcare I get sued. I don't know if lawyers carry malpractice insurance, but I see enough cases of outrageous miscarriage of justice, that the judge (and jury) need to be at the business end of an elephant gun, with the prosecutor, defense and the cops loaded into it. get rid of the lot at one go.

    I will live by my conscience. Sure. After I've ensured it has been strangled and buried in a lime filled pauper's grave, I shall claim that it is the resurrection and my life on every stupid TV channel and before every equally stupid journalist who is waiting with baited breath for a hot tip for the stock market. A little insider trading never hurts, and hey if I can spend my holidays in the Bahamas, with bikini clad Playboy centrefolds, who gives a shit about the old man or old woman rotting with diabetes on the roadside where my cockamamie financial screw-ups have landed them. All is fair in the money market, and there is a sucker born every minute. I have my bonus from the taxpayeing sods, and I shall fight not to pay a penny of interest on it. PS, on the other hand, I'll pay a tax lawyer and a lobbyist three times the amount due in taxes so as to not pay it.

    He's eighty years old. He'll anyway pop off anytime soon. In a nice hospital bed with lots of people around him, with his insurance scheme, and not on the backstreet, blind and lame with diabetes while keeling over from a heart attack caused by untreated hypertension and fueled by big chain fastfood which is cheaper to buy than cooking at home.