Covey Gleanings

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I am plowing through the Covey book, and maybe you should, too.

I’m at the beginning of chapter 13, so only 95 more to go. Mercy! I can’t even begin to imagine what he can possibly go on about for that long, but at this point we haven’t even gotten to the first highly effective habit; he’s still hammering away at his introductory stuff.

I’ve said several times already that the book is boring, but that’s not quite the right word. It’s just very, very dense, and he has all these proverb-like sentences that make me feel that I should be writing them down, or cross-stitching them, or something. I just cheated and went onto BrainyQuote to look at ome of his sayings. Follow the link to get a sampling.

So many of his sayings have been put on posters that they’ve lost their oomph, but they’re good just the same. At one point he says, “Too many of us are caught up in the thick of thin things.” I thought his wording was particularly felicitous!

As I’ve listened so far the most striking illustration for me has been the analogy of the school vs. the farm. As Covey says, a student with a good memory can cram for an exam the night before and get a good grade, but there’s no way a farmer can cram for the harvest. If he didn’t get the planting done in April, he can’t do it in August and still get a crop. If he didn’t water in July . . . well, you get the point. It’s an organic process and cannot be hurried. It can also be derailed at many stages along the way. Most if not all of the worthwhile things in life follow the organic process and are therefore immune to cramming.

So, to get down onto a fairly trivial level, at least in some respects, is the habit of eating properly a character issue? (I’m sort of obsessed with eating habits, especially my own. Have you noticed?) It’s part of the whole “are you capable of making your own decisions and sticking to them?” question. For me, it’s a matter of health (and those new jeans). For some it could be a matter of life and death, although I guess it wouldn’t take more than one throat-closing-up episode for the peanut-allergy sufferer to make a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich seem pretty unappealing to him or her.

As I was thinking about this idea a line from an old murder mystery came to mind: “Troy, who did not eat with her tea, . . . ” (It’s from A Clutch of Constables, by the New Zealand version of Agatha Christies, Ngaio Marsh, and is probably her greatest novel. By means of Amazon’s wonders I was able to track down the quotation in a minute or two. And now I have the audiobook on my phone! Talk about instant gratification.) For some reason that little phrase stuck in my mind when I read it (and re-read it), perhaps because I thought of all the goodies that are typically served with British afternoon tea. The statement is made without any elaboration at all and is never referred to again; the context in this instance is that Troy, because she’s not occupied with food at the tea hour, picks up a discarded newspaper and reads about a man who’s been strangled, a plot item. (Her actual name is Agatha Troy, but she goes by her last name because that’s how she signs her paintings. Her first name is probably a nod to Marsh’s literary ancestor.) Anyway, I’m drifting rather far afield here from good ol’ Stephen here. Troy isn’t a real person, but I find her character as outlined by Marsh to be fascinating. She’s very quiet and self-effacing, almost shy, but at the same time very sure of herself, very self-disciplined, especially about her painting. So this one little phrase about not eating anything with her tea is actually quite telling. She doesn’t care that everyone else is, in the immortal words of Miss Manners, “scarfing down scones and bringing up epigrams.” She gets her cup of tea (no sugar, please!) without making a fuss about it. If someone offers her food she just says, “No, thank you.” She isn’t swayed by the array of treats or by the entreaties of the hostess. She stays true to herself. (I’ve mentioned my Aunt Cynthia before, actually my aunt by marriage but I’m more than happy to claim her, who says when offered dessert, “Thank you, but I don’t care for sweets.” And everyone just knows that about her, and accepts it.)

Since I’m only about 10% through 7 Habits I’m sure there’ll be many more of its ideas that will show up on these posts. Don’t let my somewhat eccentric takes on the book let you off the hook about reading it for yourself, though. There’s a reason why it’s sold about a kabillion copies.

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