One book

I asked a friend recently to name one book that had the deepest impact on he approached life. I knew he was a voracious reader and was curious to hear what his list might look like. He asked me for mine as well. We decided to name a few before narrowing it down to one.

As we conversed, we shared names of many special books and authors. We spoke briefly about Dan Pink, Dan Ariely and the Heath Brothers. He shared his appreciation for the bible for all behavioral economics research – “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. I explained that I still got goose bumps when I thought of “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. And, we definitely waxed lyrical about “How will you measure your life.”

But, when it came down to the question – if you had to pick one book , what would it be? – it turned out to be a no contest. We both named “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by the late Stephen Covey. Both of us had read the book at a time when we didn’t know any better. We discussed the many books that had just built off Covey’s insights and/or re-purposed his ideas in different forms. We wondered as to how he introduced so many powerful concepts like the “emotional bank account” and meshed them with some unforgettable stories.

And, we both agreed that it was the wisest book we’d ever read studied.

To this day, I think 7 Habits manages more insights per page than many books combined. It lulls us into taking life changing insights for granted by making them commonplace. It does this by focusing on principles – immutable laws of nature that govern how the earth works. The “Be Proactive” chapter alone is life changing and the subject of many books. “Begin with the end in mind” and “Put first things first” teach us how to get the right stuff done. “Think win/win” asks us to approach life from a place of confidence and look for abundance instead of scarcity. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” and “Synergize” teach us how to build great relationships in our homes and workplaces. And, finally, “Sharpen the saw” asks us to commit to a life of continuous learning.

This one book alone has enough wisdom for a happy and effective life. I am still amazed at how Steven Covey managed to synthesize all of this into one book.

But, I sure as hell am glad he did. It changed my life. And, I am certain I am not alone in saying that.