Friday, December 10, 2004

Tha Inner Voice

That Inner Voice

Dr Stephen Covey's latest book--a sequel to his classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People--called The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness has finally hit our bookstores.

I am not exactly a big fan of motivational books in general, even though the things I write in my blog might give the impression that I habitually consume them by the dozens. Actually, I find most of them quite boring.

I first read the Seven Habits more than a decade ago. Initially I was turned off by its title--it sounded a bit too prescriptive and simplistic for my taste. But I read it anyhow because its reputation was too huge for me to ignore. I was glad that I did--its many insightful lessons have remained with me all these years.

Today the Seven Habits are staple reading for most executives, even though I'm quite sure not many seriously understand and adopt its principles. Nevertheless one certainly hears lots of Coveyesque phrases like "win-win", "proactive" and "first things first" being spouted all the time in business meetings. They have sadly become quite trite and meaningless through abuse and overuse.

Critics of Steven Covey have accused his writings of being pseudo-religious values cloaked in business garb. Indeed, Dr Covey himself is a devout Mormon. But that doesn't take away anything from the many rich conscience-based principles and lessons that are actually quite universal, which he elucidates so well in his book.

Even more lucid is Dr Covey as a speaker. I have listened to a couple tapes by Dr Covey before; as a matter of fact, I have just finished listening to the unabridged audiobook version of The Eighth Habit, read by the author himself. He is quite a joy to listen to, for sincerity and humility rings clearly in his voice.

The Seven Habits are already part of our popular culture; but what is this brand new Eighth Habit? Well, I wouldn't want to include too many spoilers here but the Eighth Habit is something that encompasses and underpins all the rest of the other habits. In one sentence, it is about "finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs".

Well maybe, I'll blog about this Eighth Habit in greater detail someday. But I believe there'll be many who will cringe at what Dr Covey teaches and accuse him of sounding like an over-preachy spiritual teacher who had somehow found a pulpit in the boardroom. They will scoff at his values as being too straight, too soft, too old-fashioned for today's world.

But to me Dr Covey is refreshing; simply because there have been an over-emphasis on a culture of glibness, posturing and self-exaltation in the corporate world. Dr Covey's ideas and teachings are in complete concordance with my personal moral philosophy--those often twisted nuggets of wisdom which I splash throughout my blog. OK, I agree that I am perhaps too idealistic in some of my beliefs; but reading and listening to Dr Covey to me is to nod in complete agreement and to have many of my core principles reinforced.

It looks like the older I get, the more old-fashioned my values have become. But that's alright, I'm comfortable with that. In the end, what matters most is one's own voice, conscience, that spark of divinity or whatever one chooses to call it, which one must somehow find deep inside, within this brief lifetime given to us.

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