Reading Notes: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Stephen R Covey

Format: Audible

Narrated By: Stephen R Covey

Subject: Self-Help

Rating: 6/10

Favorite Quote:  “Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education.”  I have consistently seen some of the best businessmen I know readily admit they didn’t understand something and ask for it to be explained, and I have seen them consistently use that behavior regardless of who else was in the audience.

Second Favorite Quote:  “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success;  leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”  This might be the best way I have ever heard the difference between management and leadership summarized.

Summary:  I certainly consider this book to be one of the “classics” of my non-fiction reading list.  There are definitely some  nuggets of knowledge in this book even if I don’t consider it to be in my top 10.  The title of the book does an apt job of describing its contents, which for the most part I agree with.  Having said that, I would be surprised if I ever gave this book a second read.

 Habit 1 :  Be Proactive

I cannot think of anything that has a had a bigger impact on my life then simply being proactive, so I certainly believe in this habit.  Throughout life, we will all find ourselves in a variety of challenging circumstances, and when we do we have a choice to “Wait & See” or to “Take Action!”  I have a strong bias toward taking action and actively encourage the people in my circle to do the same.

 Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind

Dr Covey’s take on this is rooted in a visionary and long term view of what is important in our lives as well as where we want to end up.  While that is certainly wonderful advice, I tend to find myself using this habit more when reminding myself the” importance of achieving a specific result,” and that sometimes the result can only be achieved if I am willing to sacrifice my original vision of what is required to bring the result to reality.

 Habit 3:  Put First Things First

This is all about prioritization, and making sure that we are getting the most value out of our time.  At Staley, we use the term “High Payoff Activity” or “HPA” to describe the most important activities we should be focusing our time on.  It is easy to get distracted.  It makes complete sense to apply the same logic to our personal lives.  However, it is tough to do this if we haven’t embraced Habit 2.

 Habit 4:  Think Win-Win

 I am not a big fan of this phrase, but to Covey’s defense, I don’t think it was quite the buzzword in 1989.  Having said that I am a big believer in the concept.  “Win-Win,” means that life isn’t a zero sum game.  We can each have larger pieces of the proverbial pie if we figure out how to grow the pie.  Having said that, it is easy to get trapped in the “Win-Lose” mindset, and I have to sometimes remind myself that the success of someone else is doesn’t equal a failure for me.

 Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

This habit really stuck out with me.  Nobody would ever accuse me of being a great listener, however, I am committed to becoming one.  Making a point of truly trying to understand what somebody is trying to communicate to me before I try to figure out how to respond is pure gold in my mind.

 Habit 6:  Synergize

Speaking of buzzwords, this one is a dandy.  I probably got the least out of this section of the book.  I am a big believer in the value of a strong team and of teamwork.  I also think it is very important to keep an open mind.  But, I also don’t immediately favor the notion that “two heads are better than one.”

 Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw

Here is a habit that I absolutely agree with.  It is absolutely crucial to nurture and grow ourselves throughout our lifetimes.  It is equally important not to neglect any one area of oneself ( physical, social, mental, or spiritual.)  The habit of Sharpening the Saw fits right in with my goal of being an Renaissance Man.

Reading Notes: Getting Things Done

Author: David Allen

Format: Audible / Kindle

Narrated By: David Allen

Subject: Productivity

Rating: 8/10


Getting Things Done has transformed the way I conduct my life, which really says a lot.  The book itself describes a system for dealing with the immense variety of activities, commitments, and projects we each struggle to juggle in our daily lives.  The system is built around 5 key steps: Capturing, Clarifying, Organizing, Reflecting, and Engaging.  The purpose of the system is to get all of your obligations out of your mind and into a known centralized location in the form of lists, which should allow you to have a “mind like water,” and more capable of being in the moment.  It should also allow you to have the ability to spend your time working on the activities that you can possibly complete in any given situation.  This system is a lot like Chess in the fact that it takes a moment to learn, and a lifetime to master.

In the three or so weeks since I started reading the book I have made the following progress:

  • My Physical In Box at work is habitually empty (this doesn’t mean I have completed all of the work and don’t have any pending action items.)
  • My Email In-Box is also habitually empty (see above.)
  • I have adopted contextual list-taking as a way of life.
  • Actively adopting checklist for repetitive activities in my life.
  • I have noticed an uptick in my productivity and less loose-ends across the full spectrum that is my life.
  • My mind wanders less when I am in meetings and having conversations.

That last bullet point is a substantial benefit.  Having said that, I found my mind constantly wandering to projects, ideas, and activities as I worked my way through the book because I found it very difficult to digest the information without trying to apply it to my life.  So that was a bit of a viscous cycle.  I will definitely keep a copy of this book for reference.

What I liked Most About the Book:  Seeing my empty In-Box, and the focus on defining the “Next Action.”

What I liked Least About the Book:  The information tends to become more and more repetitive as you read through the book.  All in all, Getting Things Done book reads much like a textbook which to be fair, it pretty much is.

Illustrates the Getting Things Done process.

Reading Notes:  How to Talk to Anyone

Author: Leil Lowndes

Format: Audible

Narrated By: Joyce Bean; Liel Lowndes

Subject: Communication /Relationships

Rating: 6/10


How to Talk to Anyone is a very useful book for anybody that doesn’t already consider themselves a social butterfly.  The author, Liel does an excellent job of breaking the subject matter down into bite sized chunks.   Doing so allows the reader to gradually comprehend and implement the ideas one step at a time.

Most of the “92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships,” presented in the book are useful, but a couple of dozen of them feel a bit forced.  I found the first dozen or so tips to be the most useful.

In Conclusion, I enjoyed How to Talk to Anyone.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their own social IQ.

What I liked Most About the Book:  The bite sized chunks.

What I liked Least About the Book:  The references to Big Cats (for presumed big-shots) and Little Cats ( for ordinary people trying to pose as big-shots.)

Reading Notes: The FIVE Dysfunctions of a TEAM

The pyramid of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author:  Patrick Lencioni

Format: Audible

Narrated By: Charles Stransky

Subject: Teamwork / Leadership

Rating: 8/10


The Five Dysfunctions of a team covers the basic issues that stop otherwise successful people from leading a company.  These issues are revealed and solved through a fictional tale of a new CEO, Catherine Petersen, who takes over a struggling Tech company that should be wiping the floor with its competition.  She spends the lion-share of her time focusing on getting her leadership team to work together to achieve results as opposed to merely just existing together.  She accomplishes this by educating the team of its dysfunctions, and ultimately helping it to overcome them.

What I liked about the book: 

The book is written as a fable as opposed to a reference manual.

Part of the book that most applied to me:  

It helped me develop a better understanding of the need of conflict in teams.


  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team according to the book:
    • Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group.
    • Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate.
    • Lack of commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization.
    • Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards.
    • Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success.
  • Not everyone who started on the leadership team, stayed on the leadership team.