Stephen Covey died last week. For millions of people he became the voice of reason when they couldn’t seem to get things going in their own lives. His book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” steered people in all walks of life to accomplishment using very basic principles. If Covey spoke directly to the habits of adults, who then speaks to the younger generation regarding their issues of squandered opportunity, wasted time, and not being able to function efficiently in today’s society? I wonder sometimes if GenX or the Millenials understand that they now live in the ‘The Real World'; that cold and competitive environment where not everybody gets a trophy for participation and poor performance carries consequences.
Unless major things change in America, that environment will exist well into the future. How many of these habits do you see in those that make up the next generation of civic and business leaders?
1. Wear a watch – This goes hand in hand with ‘show up on time’. The problem is that fewer and fewer young people wear a watch despite the creative efforts of Guess, Ice, and Swatch to make them cool? Knowing what time it is – all the time – comes in handy when a work shift, class, a date or a job interview starts at a certain time and someone expects them to be there. If just ‘showing up’ is half the battle, imagine what showing up on time – every time would do for ones reputation in terms of simple dependability.
2. Improve your vocabulary – A teenager or ‘20 something’ that willingly and adeptly can engage an adult has become a rarity. ‘Like’ and ‘you know’ are still not recognized as conjunctions no matter how much they are used, but rather 21st century replacements for ‘um’. ‘Whatever’ has come to connote indifference, an air of laziness or an attitude. If you must use the word, tag the end of it with; (whatever) ‘it takes’ – to change the entire sentiment. One more thing, adults don’t react well to being called ‘dude’.
3. Get out of bed – Contrary to pop culture thought (an oxymoron at many levels) the day does not begin at the crack of noon. People prone to success have likely eaten two meals, conducted 10 conversations, returned 20 emails, and been productive for 4-5 hours while you were ‘resting’. Making a change in this area would also mean changing when one goes to bed. Success in life seldom happens after midnight whereas what happens each day before noon usually does.
4. Tell the truth – Truthfulness is at the center of any successful endeavor whether it be personal, professional, or social; it’s also one of the toughest things to do in life. Regrettably, humans don’t seem to be prone to truth telling, not even to themselves. We tell ourselves we were on-time, performed well, did the right thing, etc when reality or our conscience would tell us otherwise. We exaggerate, distort and twist the facts or simply withhold certain information when the need suits us. Mark Twain is attributed with saying, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Personally I could have saved myself a lot of grief had I employed this rule a little earlier in my own life. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, try going an hour without imparting so much as an exaggeration in a story. If you can’t be truthful, can you really be trustworthy?
5. Dress the part – One can make a good impression before ever saying a word simply by dressing the part. This doesn’t mean you have to wear Brooks Brothers or Armani but it does suggest you pull your pants up around your waist, lose the sneakers until its time for a workout, and wear your ball cap with the bill over your forehead. If you look like a clown, you’ll receive the same amount of respect. Remember you’re trying to become successful in The Real World, not Wayne’s World.
6. Raise your standards – “It’s good enough” … These words aren’t in the vocabulary of anybody that wants to achieve success. It’s good enough is seldom – good enough. That ‘A’ you got in high school or college meant you did a great job. That same ‘A’ in the real world stands for Average. Raising your own standards of what is acceptable, expected, and desired will make you an invaluable player in any environment. Those old clichés; giving 110% and going the extra mile really do matter.
7. Find a partner or get a dog – This may sound stupid but it works. Being able to keep a girlfriend, boyfriend or a dog will lend a little maturity and make you think about someone else besides yourself. Cats really don’t work because they’re pretty self sufficient and frankly, couldn’t care less whether you come or go. Having to think about someone or something else holds benefits that transcend the actual companionship and find their way into how you treat others and live your own life responsibly.
There are certain things parents can’t effectively teach their children. Those lessons are left to coaches, teachers, principals, employers, and sometimes, judges. Parents can however shed some light on behaviors and habits that will help them learn those lessons before the hammer inevitably falls. Once GenX and the Millenials digest these basics, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will become that much more understandable.