Saturday, January 10, 2009

Success Awaits - Learning to Soar

Success! Everyone wants it. Countless books have been written about how to achieve it. We have often found it in winning a ball season, being awarded a bonus, handed a diploma, owning the best, but success seems to be there for a moment...before it slips away and we are back working toward the next success. The big question is - "How do you achieve permanent success?" Can a person really learn to soar successfully in life? Absolutely, yes!

I was totally amazed. I buy old books all the time. I picked up a yellowed copy of Stephen Covey's 1990 paperback edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I purchased a year ago at some second hand store. Now, I have to confess, I am one of those rare people who was introduced to the Franklin Covey Organizer Store before I even knew there was a book. In my search for a better organizing system, I stumbled upon the store and in the store found the daily pages that had tips or quotes from the book. It was only then that I even knew there was a book.

I must also confess that I steer away from #1 bestsellers and the lastest and newest gimmick coming down that pike. I just don't like following the crowd. I figure if masses of people are following it - it might be mindless. So I guess this is why it takes me 20 years to find some books.

The word, paradigm, in the first chapter intrigued me. First, I didn't know what it meant and honestly I am not sure I had ever seen it before. I like to know if someone is using a word in its original intended meaning or if they are re-coining it for their purpose or point which is done so frequently today, for example tolerant, diversity, race. Second, I consider myself pretty educated so I like to know words to understand what a person is explaining or saying.

Stephen Covey stated that both "...Character Ethic and the Personality Ethics are examples of social paradigms." I was highly pleased that he went on to write "....the word paradigm comes from Greek. It was originally a scientific term, and is more commonly used today to mean a model, theory, perception, assumption or frame of reference." My handy old Webster from 1951 that is falling apart from its seams and greatly cherished, stated that paradigm " a model or pattern...from the Greek word paradeiknynai meaning to set up as an example, to show...".

What surprised me is, once again, I come to see that there is nothing new under the sun, as is concluded by King Solomon in Ecclesiastics thousands of years ago! The popular word being thrown around today is worldview. What Covey was describing as his 'power of a paradigm' really was what we might call today his worldview.

He taught that a paradigm is "... the way we 'see' the world - not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting." In his continuing paragraphs he illustrated how a person's behavior and attitude could be worked on continually, but without a different map, paradigm, worldview, a person would only get ..."to the wrong place faster" and "...still not get to the right place..."

And this is my favorite quote of the whole book so far:
The point is, you'd still be lost.

Billy Graham couldn't have explained it better. The problem that people have is not that they are trying too little to improve their attitude and behavior. The problem is they are living life by the wrong map! Does this not ring familiarity to anyone but me? Maybe I have been in church for the last twenty year, listening to too many sermons and doing one too many Bible studies, but Covey is clearly laying out Biblical principles in his first part of his initial chapter.

Your paradigm, worldview, is completely influenced by what you are taught, how you are educated, what you come to believe as facts, how you are conditioned.

I usually make notes in the margins of books as I read. When I read, I read slowly and allow myself to think (what a novel idea) about what is being said. Covey came across his paradigm through his research and in-depth study of 200 years of success literature that had been published in United States. As I read this fact, I turned back to see the copyright date was originally 1989, so I rounded it to 1990. He discovered that "success literature" in the more recent 50 years had been superficial dealing with issues on the surface instead of to the core.

I began subtracting 50 years from the copyright date and gave extra time for writing, and published material for him to use in his research. I made a note on the first paragraph stating "after WWI self-help".

Covey also discovered in his research that the first 150 years (which he called Character Ethics) were founded on things like "...integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule." Covey may not have realized it, but he actually uncovered in his research was the ingredients of a Biblical Worldview that had permeated United States for its first 150 years.

Yes, he was right, there was a shift in American way of thinking, and also in the way we conditioned or educated our children. People left the Biblical Worldview (character ethics) for a man-centered worldview, often called humanistic, but labeled "Personality Ethics" that taught the importance of a positive mental attitude (PMA) and public relating techniques.

Covey even noted that this shift occurred shortly after WWI, which confirmed my previous calculations and margin notes. At least I know I was following his logic and thinking. I thought it was quite interesting that he saw that people began to compartmentalize. Mind games, manipulation, deception and lip service replaced Character Ethics (God's Biblical Worldview). People no longer dealt with the condition of their soul, they were wrapped up in their public image, looking good, and social comparison.

Covey wrote that "...through deep thought and the exercise of faith and prayers" he began to see differently. I am sure most people miss this little statement. I wonder what was the details of Covey's deep thoughts, faith and prayers. Did he encounter the living God? What was his new faith in? All faith has an object. Who were his prayers to? You pray to someone or something. I will again admit that I am behind times when it comes to this discovery and Covey may testify to these answers in later books or interviews. He does hint to a faith in the Bible when he quotes "The Psalmist expressed our convictions well: 'Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.' " Although Covey, does not state the source is God's Holy Bible.

The Psalmist (King David) says:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart and my spirit makes diligent search. (Psalm 77:6)

The Psalmist's son (Solomon) wrote this:

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Listen to the whole paragraph that these sentence is taken from:

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead And your eyelids look right before you. ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.

Covey tells his reader to return to God's way and Biblical principles, but doesn't come out and say it. He claims he knew to be true some things he had been taught many years ago as a child and things that were deep in his own inner sense of value were in a sharp contrast to what was being taught in 1990 (and the previous 50 years). He realized that society could not hold up without this truthful foundation. Human techniques are surface level, band-aid fixes, to what ails us personally and as a society. When we have a weak, false, deceptive foundation, we will never have lasting success that we seek for in life.

Focusing on behavior and technique does not change the core foundation inside of a person. The change may be seen for a season but it is never lasting unless it begins with a permanent change of heart (being born from God a second time) to be enabled to live life a fundamentally different way. We all have habits. Some are good and some are bad. Some are effective and some are not. Covey realized that a person had to be changed from the inside out.

But there was one point he forgot to write in this chapter, people can not change permanently without or apart from the one true living God. Highly effective habits comes from a repented heart that has realized he/she does not have the answers for life in the empty, shallow teachings of humanistic beliefs. When a person turns from himself, and turn to God, then he will discover success in life, and all the ways he needs to live to be a highly effective person in the eyes of God. He will have feelings of worth, security and success.

I look forward to reading more in this book and seeing how the 7 habits (I have heard there are even 8 now) compare with Biblical Principles.

Just remember there is nothing new under the sun and if you are looking for permanent success the first book you might want to pick up is the Holy Bible.


  1. Maybe there is a reason he didn't mention turning to God...isn't Covey a Mormon?


  2. I do not know. Maybe someone else knows?

  3. I too skeptical when Covey quotes Scriptures without the reference.


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