you can’t satisfactorily slam shut a mini edition

Posted by on February 27, 2007

My parents are sweet, and always sending me random things through the mail. For Valentine’s Day, I got two mini-edition books from them: a sentimental book about mother-daughter relationships, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I always wonder, while standing in line at Barnes & Noble’s, who the heck buys those crazy, pointless mini editions. Well, now I know.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People keeps re-introducing itself to me, each time giving me a bigger inferiority complex. The first time I had to overcome my aversion to self-help books in order to read it for a class at seminary. It was a major breakthrough, because I sincerely loved it, and learned a lot from it. The chapter on listening, in particular, impacted me and actually made its way into my permanent value system. Other chapters made me enthusiastic, but were more short-lived, as evidenced by the fact that I can’t remember them well. Something about your circle of influence, negotiating win-win situations, and making sure to get the proper amount of sleep and exercise because you don’t want to kill the chicken in order to get the golden egg, if that makes sense.

A few years after seminary was way behind me, I got it down from the shelf and started reading through it again with renewed enthusiasm. I wanted those habits to be mine, my very own, and now that I was out of the crucible of seminary life, I might actually have a chance to reflect on the habits and encorporate them into life in the real world. I think I may have even made a sincere attempt at writing a life mission statement, which is one of the book’s recommendations (“begin with the end in mind”).

But somehow the project fell flat in the end, particularly the personal mission statement. For example, if I had written a mission statement a few years ago, I never would have presumed that I would now have a living, breathing child to my credit. Some people just assume that parenthood will eventually befall them, but I always assume the worst. I thought something tragic, like never finding anyone to marry, or a miscarriage, or worse, would surely befall me before the honor of parenthood would. I could just never bring myself to write detailed game plan that encompassed my future, as if I could presume anything about the future, and the roles I would play. But I’m getting sidetracked.

The book has so many great principles for living in it, and they once really set a fire under my seat. I think that’s why when I open the book now, even the mini edition, I feel like a loser. The mini edition comes to me at a time when I feel like I am constantly struggling to do the basics, as I’ve written about before. There are some really embarrassing aspects of my life right now that are indicative of my incompetency, or, if you will, my ineffectiveness. I’ll share two: 1) I was a member of the local YMCA here for a year and a half, paying dues, even though I haven’t been in over a year; I finally went in and canceled today; and 2) Jeff and I are paying for two separate phone plans rather than being on a family deal that would save us money, all because I keep putting off that dreaded trip to the cingular store to change our contract. And then there are pesky things like the credit card offers that, rather than opening and shredding as they come in daily, I let pile up until they become a huge shredding project that I want to put off indefinitely.

Considering the elemental level of my current struggles, I thought that perhaps I could humble myself enough to read the mini edition. In fact, I started cheering myself up with the possibility that perhaps the mini edition is exactly what I need right now. Instead, I opened to the first page, encountered something about composing a mission statement, felt a sharp pang of loser-hood, and tried to slam it shut. Unfortunately, the mini edition doesn’t afford a very satisfactory slamming.

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  1. Anonymous
    February 28, 2007

    A lot of people call Covey’s methods a “top-to-bottom” approach. A few years ago I came across David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. He takes a more “bottom-to-top” approach. That is, he tries to help you deal with the here and now and then figure out those larger life goals.

    Getting Things Done Primer
    Seven Habits Primer

    Joe R.

  2. Julia
    February 28, 2007

    Interesting. I followed your first link and this author suggests making to do lists. I just started a to do list a few day ago and it has helped me get things done that have been nagging me for a long time. Maybe I’ll check this author out.

  3. W&MGrad
    February 28, 2007

    As an avid reader, I have 3 rules for “worthwhile” books.
    1) Must be worth reading (duh!)
    2) Reading said book should not result in a migraine, due either to overly complicated prose or minuscule font
    3) Must be an effective door stopper.

    My guess is that the mini-books fail at least 2 of these criteria! 😀