The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Book Review

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Cross-posted from Goodreads.

I put off this one for a long time before finally picking it up. I guess I was just wary of populist advice. I couldn’t be more wrong!

On the surface the book sounds like another personality/productivity hack. However, it’s quite the opposite. Rather than listing a few tried and tested techniques to excel in life, the book explores the deeper realm of human psychology and tries to convince the reader that the only way to succeed in life is to live a life centered on correct principles. It argues that truly successful people are usually also good human beings, and continues to expand on why good character brings success.

The author is against quick fixes and life hacks (personality ethic) taught by most self-improvement books. As per Covey, such tricks change a person’s personality only superficially, resulting in short-term success but long-term failure.

What I liked

  • Simple tone.
  • Relatable stories.
  • Focus on honesty and character ethic.
  • Parenting tips.

What I didn’t like

  • Occasional incomplete stories without an obvious lesson.
  • Almost all stories and examples are from personal experience.
  • A bit high on repetition.

Key learnings

The key message is that to be successful in the long term, you need to be a good human being (character ethic) above anything else.

  • The ultimate goal is to collaborate with other human beings to achieve bigger results.
  • Be Proactive: You are in control. Take charge, drive change, and become successful.
  • Begin with the end in mind: Visualize the end, plan ahead.
  • Put first things first: Personal management, discipline, focus on important but not urgent tasks.
  • Create emotional bank accounts with others, where trust equals money.
  • Think win-win: find a middle ground that both parties feel good about.
  • To first understand and then be understood: Empathic listening, avoid autobiographical stories.
  • Synergise: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Sharpen the saw: Take time out of busy schedules to renew and relax.


Reading 7 Habits was a welcome change from modern self-help literature. It’s reassuring to know that being a good person and succeeding in life don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Interestingly, the it doubles as a good parenting book.

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