Occasionally the Zen Habits blog publishes something I find particularly interesting--usually because the author has figured out way to explain something that's more simple and more clear than I do. And I'm a big fan of simplicity and clarity.

But today's interview with Stephen Covey is not only useless, it's a slap-in-the-face reminder of how different the lives of the Rich and Famous are from the rest of us.

Allow me to quote two of his answers.

On his "morning routine" he says:

I make an effort every morning to win what I call the “private victory.” I work out on a stationary bike while I am studying the scriptures for at least 30 minutes. Then I swim in a home pool vigorously for 15 minutes, then I do yoga in a shallow part of the pool for 15 minutes. Then I go into my library and pray with a listening spirit, listening primarily to my conscience while I visualize the rest of my entire day, including important professional activities and key relationships with my loved ones, working associates and clients. I see myself living by correct principles and accomplishing worthy purposes.

Okay. What about the "normal" stuff that the rest of us do? Making breakfast, feeding cats, putting away laundry, going to work, and so on?

His next answer, about removing "distractions", sheds a bit of light on that one:

I am fortunate to have a very helpful team that enables me to spend time doing things that are important but not necessarily urgent. This requires the development of a personal mission statement to give a larger context and also the determination of what is truly important but not necessarily urgent. People who have no such team need to also make these larger decisions so that they can cheerfully say No to that which is urgent but not important. Learn to use technology in such a way as to filter out that which you really know is important to you personally and professionally. Remember, technology is a great servant, but a terrible master.

Ah ha!

So what you really need is a "very helpful team" (is that the term for undocumented domestic help these days?) so that you can spend more time on the "development of a personal mission statement" to, you know "give larger context" and all that.

Now it all makes sense!

This is practical and down-to-earth advice that I can use to improve my life right away!

Posted by jzawodn at February 25, 2008 10:07 AM

Reader Comments
# tom s. said:

Wonder if his team gets to have personal mission statements and put aside what is urgent for what is important? And what if looking after Mr. Covey is not that important for them?

I share your cynicism.

on February 25, 2008 10:35 AM
# Cameron Watters said:

While I agree that most folks don't have a home pool or a dedicated staff, I think that many people, even those that can't afford personal aircraft and African vacations, can realistically handle 30-40 minutes of spiritual stuffs and 30 minutes of exercise in the morning.

I'm sure many executives, which is probably his area of focus, have a "team" of sorts -- a personal assistant, a personal trainer, etc.

on February 25, 2008 10:37 AM
# John Handelaar said:

> So what you really need is a "very helpful team"

And a library. And a gym. And a pool.

on February 25, 2008 10:52 AM
# John said:

Mr. Covey's book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" should lend some perspective. Perhaps you can understand a little bit deeper when you read it.

on February 25, 2008 10:57 AM
# Ontario Emperor said:

I don't happen to share Covey's particular belief system, but it is possible to study and exercise in the morning, provided you're willing to wake up earlier than usual. I'm not.

The writeup does remind me of something that I read about Eleanor Roosevelt once. She hadn't attained her political savvy by World War I, in which she gave an unfortunate interview in which she told how her servants helped her to economize during the war effort. Needless to say, Eleanor got better as time went on.

on February 25, 2008 11:50 AM
# Michael Moncur said:

I'm no Covey fan - I have religious differences with him, and I think the entire useful content of the "7 habits" book fits in the inner front cover.

But give the guy a break. He's 85 years old, and he's done 70 years of work to earn his pool, library, and undocumented domestic help. And "very special team" probably refers to the huge company he runs.

If I get to 85 and can still form coherent sentences and get up in the morning, I'll be happy...

on February 25, 2008 02:20 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I don't think he doesn't deserve these things... (where did I say that?)

I'm merely using a sarcastic tone to suggest that they're not terribly relevant to 99.999% of the population.

But I guess that was lost on a bunch of folks here.


on February 25, 2008 02:49 PM
# Joe Hunkins said:

Ha - good snarkasm here Jeremy.

However, after a Yoga meditation session with my mission statement facilitation team in the deep end of my home office pool I have come to realize that pool meditation is, as Covey suggests, best kept in the shallow end.

on February 25, 2008 04:14 PM
# Michael Moncur said:

I agree, when it comes to it, that nothing he says is relevant. It's like Bill Gates' CES presentations of "how things will work in the future" where he deals with issues like communicating simultaneously with 20 different middle managers or finding his way around his giant house.

Also, Covey is 76. I have a Very Helpful Team of people who do my math for me, and clearly they haven't fully accepted my mission statement as their personal objective.

on February 25, 2008 08:03 PM
# Larry Ludwig said:

I find it interesting that he thought GTD was superficial. Huh?? I agree about "The Secret" which is really just good marketing hype, but GTD isn't superficial. Did I read the same book? GTD is about bottom up approach and David Allen even states in the book there are other resources for your 30k feet and higher. I would say Covey's 7 habits would be one of those higher level resources. Sounds like he didn't read the book to me.

on February 26, 2008 05:29 AM
# peter said:

Mythomaniac would be the term I'd use to describe this guy.

on February 26, 2008 05:31 AM
# said:

"Okay. What about the "normal" stuff that the rest of us do? Making breakfast, feeding cats, putting away laundry, going to work, and so on?"

Yes he left talking about that and btw, he also didn't mentioned brushing his teeth, time in the toilet, etc.

Man, he is just telling you about a portion of his day.

on February 26, 2008 08:39 AM
# Sarah said:

Let's see: 1 hour of exercise and an undetermined amount of praying/visualizing/listening and then he starts his day. 2 hours of reading a day. Guess that leaves a lot of time for napping since he does not do meetings, email, phone calls, or faxes, modern technology and has people tell him what to read. Has lots of teams though.

I know everyone over at Zen's Habits is complementing the fellow for a good interview but I thought it was not very good. After getting the first couple of answers, I think he should have pursued what the guy actual does in a typical day. Because as is, it makes Covey seem totally out of touch. Someone (2/3 down the comments) says he talked to a member of one of the various teams. He tells what Mr. Covey is currently doing (# of books, # of appearances, etc). Which seems more believable.

Just my $0.03.

on February 26, 2008 09:26 AM
# Dave Dash said:

This reminds me of a South Park episode where Jared the subway guy was telling everyone that he couldn't have done it without his aides.... and everyone thought he meant AIDS... and hillarity ensued.

on February 28, 2008 01:20 PM
# Cinda Hocking said:


I'm with you on the appreciation of simple clear explanations!

Mr. Covey might have better served his audience by giving a context for his advice that was easier for the average person to relate to, but he may also be saying/showing he believes that his methods lead people to be able to have home gyms, pools, and helpful teams. I'll check out the Zen Habits blog, thanks!

The part of his statement I know helps me is to move forward each day with my mind on my overall purpose and daily goals.

Cinda Hocking
Internal Energy Plus Consultant

on March 4, 2008 07:43 PM
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