THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL INDEX  

Mind-benders—The Covey Coven

The first chapter of Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People starts wrong. It's title is, "Paradigms and Principles," and the very first word, "paradigm," is a warning bell indicating what follows is academic tripe, and it is. This is the first paragraph:

"In more than 25 years of working with people in business, university, and marriage and family settings, I have come in contact with many individuals who have achieved an incredible degree of outward success, but have found themselves struggling with an inner hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other people."

Which says, "some seemingly successful people are unhappy," except Covey took 59 words to say it. Covey obviously does not believe in word economy, or even words that make sense. What does, "a deep need for personal congruency," possibly mean? I've had twice as many years working with people in more fields than Covey and I've never met a soul who gave a moments thought to their, "personal congruency," or even supposed there was such a thing.

[NOTE: The concept of "congruency" as an aspect of personality was originated by the the humanist psychologist, Carl Rogers, and has been latched onto by several personal development types. It is essentially just another pseudo-concept.]

Stephen R. Covey's 7 Mormon Principles.

Covey wrote, "Actually I did not invent the seven habits, they are universal principles and most of what I wrote about is just common sense. I am embarrassed when people talk about the Covey Habits, and dislike the idea of being some sort of guru."

I am convinced this is absolutely true and Covey is totally sincere. The problem with the Covey's ideas are that they are a mixed bag—some of the principles are true enough, but some of the, "principles," are academic mush, or worse, altruistic and collectivist.

The true principles are nothing more than common sense, just as he says, but dressed up in language meant to give the impression they are profound insights, but in fact are so simple, no one needs a book to learn them. Unfortunately, what most people will take away from the book is not the common sense ideas, but the fuzzy "human relations, social values, team-work" ideas.

Like any other individual, Stephen Covey is free to promote any ideas he likes, but it might surprise some people to learn the ideas Covey is promoting are his Mormon beliefs. He does not say so in 7 Habits, but the same principles, anecdotes, and illustrations are used in his earlier book, The Divine Center, in which he openly promotes Mormon beliefs and declares all other beliefs, "false maps," that limit personal development. Just so you know where the seven so-called "habits" came from.

Why Habits?

Why does Covey choose "habits" as the defining characteristic of the successful? Because Covey believes, "Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits." In other words, Covey believes it is an individual's habits that determined the kind of person that an individual is.

Here I must say something about habituation. This is adapted from the article, "Feelings."

"Human beings, being volitional creatures, do not have an automatic pattern of behavior like animal instinct, instead, human beings are able to develop their own automated patterns of behavior. This ability, called habituation, is one of the most important aspects of human nature. Without it, almost nothing of any level of complexity would be possible from eating a meal to using language.

Habituation enables human beings to develop both simple and complex patterns of overt physical behavior as well as patterns of thought. We develop habituated patterns of behavior, especially for all those aspects of life that are routine and repetitious, to leave our minds free to concentrate on more interesting and important matters.

Habituated routines are a requirement of human nature. They provide the same kind of efficiency and effectiveness that instinct provides the animals, except that they are, "programmable," and, within limits, "alterable." The essential methods of forming and strengthening habits involves deliberate intention, (leaning to touch-type, for example) repetition, (learning the times tables, for example), and pleasure reinforcement (preference for kinds of food, for example).

Before habits are well formed, they are quite flexible and can be altered with little effort. The longer habits are established and the stronger the emotional and physiological associations, the more difficult it is to alter or eliminate habitual practices and behaviors.

Habituated behavior frequently becomes so completely automatic and familiar that it is mistaken for one's "nature." Often, how the habits are formed, or even when, are forgotten, and one cannot imagine that they were not always part of their behavior. They are treated like the individual's personality, and most people assume this is what they are."

Perhaps Covey is right that an individual who has surrendered all their thoughts and choices to their developed habits is the sum of their habits. For all others, what an individual is, their character, is determined by their beliefs, their thinking, and their choices, including what habits they choose to indulge and which they choose to change or avoid.

In relation to habits Covey repeats one of most common lies of the day:

"I may be ineffective in my interactions with my work associates, my spouse, or my children because I constantly tell them what I think, but I never really listen to them. Unless I search out correct principles of human interaction, I may not even know I need to listen. Even if I do know that in order to interact effectively with others I really need to listen to them, I may not have the skill. I may not know how to really listen deeply to another human being."

I have no idea where this often repeated, supposedly earth-shattering problem of people not knowing how to listen to others came from, but it's totally bunk. First, most people are such poor communicators no matter how closely and carefully you listen you won't be able to make heads or tails of what they are saying anyway.

What most people have to say is not the least bit interesting. Why should an intelligent person waste their time listening to some ignorant fool go through a litany of their problems and difficulties, usually self-imposed. As for family, no one has a problem listening to those they love because they live to know what they think, want, and feel. As for any other family members, the accident of birth does not confer on anyone the right force others to listen to their totally boring blather.

Does a coworker have information that is important to one's own work. No one has a problem listening to someone providing information they want and need.

[Covey returns to this "listening" theme as his fifth "habit."]

Collectivism As Maturity

According to Covey the seven habits, "move us progressively on a maturity continuum from dependence to interdependence." This development reflects the three stages of maturity in Covey's scheme. "We each begin life as an infant, totally dependent on others." As we mature we eventually become independent, able to take care of ourselves, "inner-directed and self-reliant." At the highest levels of maturity we "discover that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others -- that human life also is interdependent."

Here is the payoff: "Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success."

"Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality," he writes. "Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won't be good leaders or team players. They're not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality."

"Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept."

So, according to Covey, if you are an independent individualist you just aren't mature.

Interdependence Is Anti-individualism

Covey's use of the word interdependence is an obfuscation of his true intention. It sometimes seems like he is only referring to, "cooperation," or the, "division of labor," but other times it is used explicitly to place others above oneself, or to make some collective (a family, a team, an organization) have a higher purpose than any individual. Covey's real objective in emphasizing interdependence is to repudiate independent individualism.

Covey tries to make "interdependence" a result of true independence, but dependence, "inter-" or any other kind, is not independence, and dependence of any kind is what Ayn Rand called being a second-hander. Since Rand is the greatest spokesperson for individualism in history, I'll let her explain what it really is:

"Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence." [For the New Intellectual,?The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"] And only independent individualist are worthy of the society of other men.

"Of course, Individualism doesn't mean isolation, aloofness or escaping to a desert island. In fact, only true Individualists are fit to associate with other men. But they do it only on the basis of the recognition of each man's essential independence: each man lives primarily for, by and through himself and recognizes the same right in others; all relations among men are secondary; men are legally and morally free to associate together or not, on any particular occasion, as their personal interests dictate. There is the pattern of a free, moral society, of human cooperation, and of benevolence among men. [The Letters of Ayn Rand, We The Living to The Fountainhead (1931-1943), November 3, 1946] Only independent individualists are capable to true moral relationships with other individuals.

The independent individualist " ... is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. He does not exist for any other man—and he asks no other man to exist for him. This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men." [For the New IntellectualThe Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

This is the exact opposite of Covey's interdependence which is essentially the view of human beings as mutual parasites.

To make it easier to see how Covey's ideas are anti-independent individualist, I've included the following from my article, "What Is an Individualist," which describes two characteristics of independent individualist as independent thinkers and self-sufficient and self-responsible individuals that Covey despises.

Independent Thinkers

The individualist is often thought to be disagreeable. In fact, he may frequently disagree with others, especially those whose own ideas are an eclectic mixed-bag of disconnected and contradictory ideas picked up along the way from whatever authorities they accept, their peers, their teachers, and the media, which describes the content of most people's intellects. Being an independent thinker does not guarantee one's ideas will be right, no one is omniscient or infallible, but it does equip the individual for correcting such mistakes as he makes, because he knows where his ideas came from. The independent thinker allows no contradictions between ideas he holds, or between any idea and reality, and if he discovers a contradiction, he corrects it.

The individualist learns from others, but he relies totally on his own reason and understanding for all his beliefs. He never "accepts" anything as knowledge based solely on what someone else teaches. What he learns from others, he makes his own, only when he fully grasps what he has learned and understands why it is true.

He may cooperate with like-minded men in projects or efforts, but it is for his own sake, and to achieve some personal object or value, not for the sake of those with whom he is cooperating. Even when acting in concert with others, he is acting independently, and whatever is accomplished by joint efforts, his "share" of the accomplishment consist only of that directly resulting from his own effort.

Self-sufficient and Self-responsible Individuals

The individualist is totally confident in his own ability to make his own living, to make right choices, and to bear the responsibility for those choices; he is not dependent on anyone else, in any way. He neither desires or will accept the unearned or undeserved, he does not accept anyone's unasked, "help," and does not need it, and does not offer it to others.

He does not seek or require anyone else's agreement or approval before acting (and resents any kind of restriction on his life that forces him to get anyone else's approval or consent to do anything).

The individualist needs no one to "motivate" him, he is self-motivated; it is his life and his love of it that are his motivation. He neither follows or leads others, though others may choose to follow him, all his actions are his own and for himself; all other relationships are secondary.

The 7 Habits

Covey groups his 7 habits under three categories: the first three under, "Independence or Self-Mastery;" the second three under, "Interdependence;" and the last one under "Self-rejuvenation." I'll follow Covey's organization in discussing each habit.

Independence or Self-Mastery:

1. Be Proactive

This is one of the totally unprofound so-called habits. All it means is if you want to achieve anything in life, you have to do something (rather than waiting around for something to happen, or for somebody else to tell you what to do, for example), and you have to be responsible for what you do. Every truly successful individual has been a responsible active individual, but it wasn't a, "habit," it was the inevitable expression of the principles by which they understand the nature of the world and by which they lived.

The following are some quotes from this section:

"Within the freedom to choose are those endowments that make us uniquely human. In addition to self-awareness, we have imagination -- the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality. We have conscience -- a deep inner awareness of right and wrong, of the principles that govern our behavior, and a sense of the degree to which our thoughts and actions are in harmony with them. [Emphasis mine.]

"It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us." This is presented over several pages as some profound insight. It's nothing more than some of us learned as children, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt us."

This is actually one problem with Covey. Many of the things he writes are pretty good, entertaining, and interesting. There is nothing wrong with many of the ideas (though a great deal is wrong with others).

One example is this illustration:

One time a student asked me, "Will you excuse me from class? I have to go on a tennis trip."

"You have to go, or you choose to go?" I asked.

"I really have to," he exclaimed.

"What will happen if you don't?"

"Why, they'll kick me off the team."

"How would you like that consequence?"

"I wouldn't."

"In other words, you choose to go because you want the consequence of staying on the team. What will happen if you miss my class?"

"I don't know."

"Think hard. What do you think would be the natural consequence of not coming to class?"

"You wouldn't kick me out, would you?"

"That would be a social consequence. That would be artificial. If you don't participate on the tennis team, you don't play. That's natural. But if you don't come to class, what would be the natural consequence?"

"I guess I'll miss the learning."

"That's right. So you have to weigh that consequence against the other consequence and make a choice. I know if it were me, I'd choose to go on the tennis trip. But never say you have to do anything."

"I choose to go on the tennis trip," he meekly replied.

"And miss my class?" I replied in mock disbelief.

Covey uses this to illustrate that no one ever has to do anything and one always has choice. He missed the opportunity to point out, "have to" means, and what people really mean when they say it. They do not mean they are being compelled in some way to do something, but that they have some objective, some purpose or goal, they choose achieve, and in order to achieve it, reality dictates that certain must be done—in other words, if you want to live successfully, this is what you have to do. Of course that is the objective bases of values, and Covey does hot believe values are objective.

2. Begin with the End in Mind

This would be a common sense idea if all it meant was, to achieve anything you must have a clear idea of exactly what it is you want to achieve. But Covey has something quite different in mind.

What Covey means by, "the end," is the ideal objective of one's life, what one is living for and the kind of person they want to be. Though Covey inadvertently suggests what those ideals ought to be, it is really left unspecified. It is up to you to discover what kind of a person you want to be.

This is very dangerous. Because we know what Covey's background is, the unstated but assumed ideal for Covey would be, "a good Mormon," but since he does not make that, or any other ideal explicit, the recommendation is essentially open-ended. It is essentially an invitation to, "play it deuces wild." Whatever values you choose, you ought to live by. How do you choose those values? Here's how Covey suggests:

Pretend you are attending your own funeral and ask yourself these questions about those who will be speaking about you:

"What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

"What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?"

What Covey means by the, "end," is what one will have made of themselves, what kind of person they are, at the end of their life—at least that is what he implies. But in the illustration it is not what one actually is, their true character that is illustrated, but what others think one is. It's not character at all that Covey is illustrating. The correct word for what Covey illustrates is reputation.

Reputation is what other people think you are; character is what you know you are. The worst scoundrel in the world might be able to garner high praise from relative, coworkers and associates at their funeral. Some of the greatest men in history died literally alone.

It does not matter at all what other people think you are. Covey spoils it by combining, "What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember?" While an individual's true character is determined by what they achieve and accomplish by their own effort, it has nothing to do with any, "contribution," anyone or anything. As Ayn Rand put it, "What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others," that determines his "human virtue and value."

A Mission Statement

According Covey, to discover, or perhaps decide, what your goals and objective in life are is by writing a "personal mission statement." I dislike this idea very much, but I do not think it is wrong and is probably harmless enough. After all, Ayn Rand had a kind of personal mission statement, herself.

"That one word—individualism—is to be the theme song, the goal, the only aim of all my writing. If I have any real mission in life—this is it." [The Letters of Ayn Rand, "Arrival In America To We The Living (1926-1936)," To Marjorie Williams, July 28, 1934.]

Notice that Ayn Rand's mission statement consists of a single essential concept, "individualism," which is the guiding principle to everything else in her life—what she'll value, what she'll work for, what her ultimate aim in life is, and it is that which defines her purpose in life.

Now look at one of the hodge-podge examples of a "mission statement" provided by Covey:

Succeed at home first.
Seek and merit divine help.
Never compromise with honesty.
Remember the people involved.
Hear both sides before judging.
Obtain counsel of others.
Defend those who are absent.
Be sincere yet decisive.
Develop one new proficiency a year.
Plan tomorrow's work today.
Hustle while you wait.
Maintain a positive attitude.
Keep a sense of humor.
Be orderly in person and in work.
Do not fear mistakes -- fear only the absence of creative, constructive, and corrective responses to those mistakes.
Facilitate the success of subordinates.
Listen twice as much as you speak.

There is not a single concept of an essential nature in this entire list. When you get done reading it, the question it's supposed answer remains, "So, what's the mission?" How does this define your values, what you'll work for, what is your ultimate aim in life? If this is what defines your purpose in life, you do not have one. If you are going to write a mission statement, write a mission statement—this, and all other examples by Covey, are policy statements, not mission statements.

"In order to write a personal mission statement, we must begin at the very center of our Circle of Influence, that center comprised of our most basic Our(sic) paradigms, the lens through which we see the world."

Where have we seen that, "the lens through which we see the world," before. Oh yes, De Bono: "He does explain what this [concept] means by way of a metaphor: 'concepts are the lens through which we perceive reality.'"

Both De Bono and and Covey use this kind of sloppy language—neither Covey's "see," not De Bono's "perceive" are referring to actual seeing or perceiving. I admire well-done rhetoric and appreciate metaphors, but these gentlemen are not writing poetry or fiction. They are suppose to be explaining ideas the will help people better understand things, but their language only obfuscates any clear meaning.

I do not personally have a mission statement, but if I did, it would be this:

I am a fanatical worshiper of the Truth, gladly sacrificing everything else to it and following wherever it leads without reservation. Truth is my life, everything else only has value or purpose relative to the truth.

By truth I mean that knowledge derived by reasoning from the observable facts of reality. There is no other.

Neither truth nor individualism are essential to Covey. Covey prefers floating abstractions—words which do have precise meanings but as used by Covey, are words that people "kinda-know" the meaning of, but actually identify nothing definite, like "security, guidance, wisdom, and power."

Four Floating Abstractions

"Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.

"Security represents your sense of worth, your identity, your emotional anchorage, your self-esteem, your basic personal strength or lack of it.

Guidance means your source of direction in life. Encompassed by your map, your internal frame of reference that interprets for you what is happening out there, are standards or principles or implicit criteria that govern moment-by-moment decision-making and doing.

"Wisdom is your perspective on life, your sense of balance, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgment, discernment, comprehension. It is a gestalt or oneness, an integrated wholeness.

"Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.

"... When these four factors are present together, harmonized and enlivened by each other, they create the great force of a noble personality, a balanced character, a beautifully integrated individual."

What Covey has described is not an integrated personality, but a disintegrated one, one step removed insanity. Human beings have only one source of guidance—their minds, their ability to reason. Covey does not even mention reason. He talks about, "your internal frame of reference that interprets for you what is happening out there," and some vague concept like, "implicit criteria," not facts, not objective values, not rational judgment and not correct reasoning. If not these, than an "internal frame of reference," and "implicit criteria" can mean nothing but one's feelings or "emotions." Covey never says this explicitly, but if one is not using their mind, their ability to reason to make objective choices, all that is left to consciousness is the feelings. Here is what is wrong with that:

"An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man's value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man's reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand. In appraising a situation, he knows why he reacts as he does and whether he is right. He has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others." ["Interview with Ayn Rand," pamphlet, page 6.]

Covey then goes on to list a number of things people make the "center" of their lives, which he thinks they ought not to, like marriage, family, money, possessions, pleasure, friends, enemies, and church.

The Mixed-Bag Strategy

One way of putting over that which is false is by mixing it in with a lot of things that are true, or irrelevant. The method works because so many people have an attitude like this: "well I know some of the things she writes are mistaken," or "some of the things he says are wrong, but there are a lot of good ideas too." But most people are really not discerning enough to see that the wrong or bad ideas mixed in with the "good" ideas are really bad or wrong, and they swallow the whole lot, sweetened with the, "good ideas."

The proof of this is the success of Covey himself. He never could have put over his ideas if people were discerning, but they are not. The number people who are certain they are reasonable and objective in their evaluation of things, even some who call themselves Objectivists, who praise Covey and have embraced his ideas illustrates the gullibility of most people.

[NOTE: It is perhaps inaccurate to call Covey's method a "strategy," because I do not think Covey is a charlatan—I think he really "believes" the things he teaches and is sincere, but sincerity is not the same as truth.]

The list, as Covey presents it, is mostly non-essential things, but mixed in with it are two things which are absolutely essential—the very bad ideas mixed with the good, or least not so bad. (For some women, family is the center of their lives, their life's work and the thing they live for—a perfectly legitimate life purpose.)

The two things Covey smuggles into his list are a man's work, and an individual's self.

Covey Repudiates Work

This is what Covey said about work:

"Work-centered people may become 'workaholics,' driving themselves to produce at the sacrifice of health, relationships, and other important areas of their lives. Their fundamental identity comes from their work -- 'I'm a doctor,' 'I'm a writer,' 'I'm an actor.'

Because their identity and sense of self-worth are wrapped up in their work, their security is vulnerable to anything that happens to prevent them from continuing in it. Their guidance is a function of the demands of the work. Their wisdom and power come in the limited areas of their work, rendering them ineffective in other areas of life."

What does Covey think the basis of a man's worth is, if it is not his work? By repudiating a man's work, Covey has taken away the only basis of true worth and virtue away.

"Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man's independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. [Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, excerpt from The Fountainhead, Part Four—18, "The Soul Of An Individualist."]

"Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man's life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values....

"The virtue of Productiveness is the recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man's mind sustains his life, ... Productive work is the road of man's unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values. "Productive work" does not mean the unfocused performance of the motions of some job. It means the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man's ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest and most purposeful use of his mind." [Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, "1. The Objectivist Ethics."]

"... material production is the result of and comes from the highest and noblest aspect of man, from his creative mind, from his independent rational judgment—which is his highest attribute and the sole base of his morality.

"To exercise one's own independent rational judgment is the essence of man's morality, his highest action, his sole moral commandment that embraces all his virtues. Material production comes from that—it requires the noblest moral action (independent thought) as it source. It is the result of the highest morality, of the noblest courage, of the best within man." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13 - Notes While Writing: 1947-1952"]

This is not the worst idea Covey tries to put over, the next is the worst, but this is sufficiently evil to require a bit more explanation.

What does Covey think a person's identity ought to be. What is a person's identity that never actually does anything productive. Is being a bum an identity?

Isn't a person's identity what they do, what they accomplish, what they produce and what they achieve. If life consists of what you do, not what happens to you, what you do is your life, and because you do it, it is your identity. What identity does an individual have who has never performed a service of value, like a Doctor, never produce a product of value, like a writer, never performed anything with developed skill and ability, like an actor?

It's clear what Covey is trying to imply, that some people allow their work to interfere with other things important in their life, like family or friends or other interests. It is true that some people do allow some things prevent them from attending to things which are important to them, but it is never because they take work too seriously.

Who could have taken their work more seriously than Thomas Edison. Edison was a workaholic. His average work week was six days for a total of 55 hours, but often his days at work would extend far into the night.

Perhaps Covey does not really understand what work is. Here is what Thomas Edison had to say about work, why he loved it, and why it was his life and his identity:

"The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration."

"One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But... I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success."

"I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world."

"Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have."

"What you are will show in what you do."

As evil as covey's assault on human productive work is, his assault on the individual is his slimiest piece of work.

Covey Repudiates Individualism

"Self-Centeredness. Perhaps the most common center today is the self. The most obvious form is selfishness, which violates the values of most people. But if we look closely at many of the popular approaches to growth and self-fulfillment, we often find self-centering at their core.

"There is little security, guidance, wisdom, or power in the limited center of self. Like the Dead Sea in Palestine, it accepts but never gives. It becomes stagnant. On the other hand, paying attention to the development of self in the greater perspective of improving one's ability to serve, to produce, to contribute in meaningful ways, gives context for dramatic increase in the four life-support factors." [Those are the four floating abstractions: security, guidance, wisdom, and power, in case you forgot.]

This is such a deceitful piece of drivel one hardly knows where to begin. "selfishness ... violates the values of most people ...," for example. Since when is anything determined by what, "most people," believe. Selfishness does violate the values of most people because most people swallowed altruism is the basis of their moral principles. Altruism regards individuals as sacrificial animals whose individual desires, purposes, and very life must be sacrificed to some "higher" purpose or end, like others, society, or God.

Only a thorough-going mystic altruist could imply that rational self-interest, "accepts but never gives."

No, Mr. Covey, the individualist neither "accepts" or "gives" anything. The individualist receives nothing he has not earned by his own effort and withholds nothing from those who have earned it by their own effort. Individualists only deal with others in terms of reason, and the only commerce between men of integrity is in terms of value, who neither give or receive anything, but happily exchanging value for value, where no one's interest is sacrificed to anyone else's, and whatever exchange takes place between them is by their mutual agreement to their mutual benefit.

There is also this mixed-bag obfuscation: "improving one's ability to serve, to produce, to contribute," but one who produces is not a slave to "serve" others, one who produces is not a contributor to some collective, one who produces is free to trade with others, but its to their mutual benefit and none is "serving" others. The one who has nothing to trade is either a mooch or a slave-holder. An individual of character and integrity neither needs or desire anyone to, "serve him," No productive individual needs, "contributions," from anyone. It is only the unproductive and worthless who are looking to be served or desire contributions.

All of this is an attack by Covey on the independent individual.

A man's mind is an attribute of his self, of that entity within him which is his consciousness. That entity can be called spirit. It can be called soul. It remains—no matter what its origin—a man's self. His "I." His ego.

If to preserve the independence of his mind is man's first moral duty, what choice is he to make when his thinking clashes with the thoughts and convictions of others? Such a clash occurs at every step of a man's life, most particularly when his thinking results in a new, original discovery—as every new discovery must originate in one brain, that is, with one man, and therefore must be apart from or in opposition to whatever convictions men previously held on that subject. What is man's choice in such a conflict? It is a choice of authority. "I think" or "They tell me." Whose authority is he to accept? Upon whose authority is he to act? Who must be placed first: his ego or other men?

The independence of man's mind means precisely the placing of his ego above any and all other men on earth. It means acting upon the authority of his ego above any other authority. It means keeping his ego untouched, uninfluenced, uncorrupted, unsacrificed.

In the realm of man's mind, the principle of altruism—the placing of others above self—is the one act of evil, the original sin.

Man's virtues are the qualities required for the preservation of his independence. They are personal qualities, unsocial by their nature and antisocial in any conflict of man against man. They are unsocial, because man cannot derive them from other men, cannot receive them as a gift from an outside source, but must generate them from within his own ego. They are profoundly selfish virtues, for they proceed from his ego, pertain to his ego and cannot be sacrificed to any consideration whatsoever. Without these virtues man cannot survive nor remain man.

Integrity—the first, greatest and noblest of all virtues—is a synonym of independence. Integrity is that quality in man which gives him the courage to hold his own convictions against all influences, against the opinions and desires of other men; the courage to remain whole, unbroken, untouched, to remain true to himself. It is generally recognized that a man who is true to himself is a man to be admired. But the sloppy confusion of human thinking has prevented men from understanding their own words or hearing what they are actually saying. "True to himself"—what does that mean? True to his own ego. True to the duty of holding his ego apart from all other men—above them and against them when necessary. A man of integrity cannot place others above self. Here again, the principle of altruism is an act of evil." [The Journals of Ayn Rand "Part 3 - Transition Between Novels, 8 - The Moral Basis Of Individualism."]

It is that very act of evil that Covey promotes throughout his book. He is a would-be destroyer of individualism and integrity.

As already noted, his method throughout is to mix the true with the untrue. He invokes principles:

"By centering our lives on correct principles, we create a solid foundation..." he writes. But the foundation he is talking about is not the basis of sound reason and objective truth, but his four floating abstractions.

His meaning of "principles" is an obfuscation: "Principles are deep, fundamental truths, classic truths, generic common denominators. They are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength through the fabric of life."

He loves that word "deep," which in various forms, deeper, deeply, deepest, he uses over 200 times. People who use the word "deep" the way Covey does, use it to give the impression what they are saying concerns profound and intellectually difficult concepts, which none of them are—the word is used entirely for affect.

Principles aren't "deep," but they are "fundamental truths," basic concepts about the nature of reality which are universal and absolute. "There are no contradictions," is a principle. Nothing can be both true and not true. "You cannot have your cake and eat it too," is a principle; it means nothing can both "not exist" (because it has been consumed) and still exist.

The rest of what he writes is pure tripe, and it means nothing. Truth is that which describes that facts of reality, period. There are not different kinds of truth (classic versus what?), it is not some kind of operator, like "generic common denominator," whatever that is supposed to mean. If, truths "are tightly interwoven threads running with exactness, consistency, beauty, and strength through the fabric of life," is supposed to be a metaphor, only Covey knows what it is metaphor for, if anything, but I know what it's intended to do. It's intended to make the concept of truth something vague and indefinite, it's intended to obfuscate the fact truth is objective, absolute, and universal.

Covey's False Principle, Altruism

He uses his perverted concept of principles to put over altruism.

Under the floating abstraction, "Security," he writes: (p.61)

"Your source of security provides you with an immovable, unchanging, unfailing core enabling you to see change as an exciting adventure and opportunity to make significant contributions."

Under the floating abstraction, "Wisdom," he writes: (p.62)

You see the world in terms of what you can do for the world and its people.
You adopt a proactive lifestyle, seeking to serve and build others.
You interpret all of life's experiences in terms of opportunities for learning and contribution.

Covey's collectivist principles will turn the individual into a slave of service to others. In Covey's view, one's value is determined by the, "contribution," one makes, though he does not specify to whom or what that contribution is made—but it is no doubt others in the form of the company, the family, the organization, society, or in Covey's own words, "the world and its people."

He might as well have written, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," the basic tenet of communism. Whether aware of it or not, Covey is promoting Marxism. It's where altruism always ultimately leads.

Covey is typical of those who have no idea what the source of true creativity and production in the world are. There is no greater insult to the true creators and producers in the world than to suggest their purpose is what they contribute to others. Here is how Ayn Rand describes the true nature of creation:

"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed ... truth was his only motive ... and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane or a building—that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated, believed, flew or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men." [For the New Intellectual,—The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

Whether Covey knows it or not, his kind altruism is actually an evasion of individual moral responsibility. It substitutes the true moral requirement of man's nature, with a phony one. "Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man's life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values." A man must produce to live, and morally must not seek to have or enjoy more of anything than he can produce or achieve by his own efforts. He may morally exchange what he has produced with others for the product of their efforts to their mutual benefit and profit, but it must be value for value.

An individual's productive efforts, in a free society where, productive individuals may trade the product of their efforts with others, the productive individual is a benefit to others and does contribute to that society, but it is neither the benefit of others or one's contribution to society that is the moral reason an individual produces. The moral reason is that productive effort is the requirement of his nature to be and achieve all he can as a human being, and to enjoy his life.

Altruism reverses the moral relationship between production and human worth. It makes the benefit of others the basis of one's value, not what one has actually produced or achieved; it makes what one has contributed to society (or any other group) the basis of one's worth as a human being, not what they have actually accomplished by their own effort.

Those who have never produced a thing of value in their life are held up as altruistic heroes because they dedicated their lives in, "service to others," and though they have never grown a single grain of wheat or sewn a single piece of clothing, they are praised for, "feeding the poor," or "clothing the destitute," when all they have done is distribute "donations" from the poor suckers whose actual productive work (which ought to have been the source of their self-esteem) are conned by the likes of Covey and other mystics into believing their "self-worth" consisted solely in their "contribution to the world and its people," into "giving" what they have produced to the phonies who have produced nothing, but will receive the credit for distributing it.

A False Mental Dichotomy

Covey is a thorough-going mystic who believes in God and the soul, so it is a little surprising to see him buy into the physicalist view that the brain in some way determines how and what we think. Almost all of these mind-benders buy into some version of this. For De Bono its the brain as an, "asymmetric patterning system," and the fact that for De Bono, "consciousness is what the brain does."

The closely related NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming™) "was specifically created in order to allow us to do magic by creating new ways of understanding how verbal and non-verbal communication affect the human brain. As such it presents us all with the opportunity to not only communicate better with others, but also learn how to gain more control over what we considered to be automatic functions of our own neurology."

There is the, "Bicameral Mind," theory of Julian Jaynes, on which Dr. Frank R. Wallace based much of Neo-tech, and which forms the basis of what Covey call "brain dominance theory."

What all these share and what is wrong with all of them is the idea that the physical brain or neurons, and how they are physically structured or function in some way determines or affects our thinking. Though not as explicitly deterministic as the other varieties of brain/thought determinism, Covey's view (which is not his, but borrowed like most of his ideas, this one from Roger Sperry and Ned Hermann) results in a false dichotomy of the mind.

This is Covey's idea of the relationship between the mind (consciousness) and brain (a physical organ):

"... imagination and conscience -- are primarily functions of the right side of the brain. Understanding how to tap into that right brain capacity greatly increases our first-creation ability.

"A great deal of research has been conducted for decades on what has come to be called brain dominance theory. The findings basically indicated that each hemisphere of the brain -- left and right -- tends to specialize in and preside over different functions, process different kinds of information, and deal with different kinds of problems.

"Essentially, the left hemisphere is the more logical/verbal one and the right hemisphere the more intuitive, creative one. The left deals with words, the right with pictures; the left with parts and specifics, the right with wholes and the relationship between the parts. The left deals with analysis, which means to break apart; the right with synthesis, which means to put together. The left deals with sequential thinking; the right with simultaneous and holistic thinking. The left is time bound; the right is time free.

"Although people use both sides of the brain, one side or the other generally tends to be dominant in each individual."

Either our conscious thinking, including our imagination, is consciously chosen, volitionally, or determined by your brain, physically. It cannot be both. Technically, thinking is only that aspect of consciousness that is verbal, that is, uses words, but every word has two parts—the word itself, which is a visual or auditory symbol for a concept, and the the concept itself which has a meaning (what the concept identifies) designated by a definition. The, "visual or auditory symbol," (a word) is the means by which we are conscious of concepts (or ideas). To say about the brain, "the left deals with words, the right with pictures," means nothing, because to be conscious of a word one must be conscious of a "picture" (the symbol or combination of symbols which is the word, however simple or complex) to be conscious of the word at all. If by "word" is meant the concept the word represents and that is what is supposed to be on the "left" side, to think would require both sides of the brain. In fact, however it is irrelevant what part of the brain is "operational" when being used by consciousness to think.

We only have one consciousness and it is the same consciousness that thinks, uses language, make judgments, imagines, feels emotions, analyzes and synthesizes ideas, both of which are both parts of thinking and concept formation, and it is irrelevant to consciousness what part of the brain is active when performing any of these mental functions. One is either choosing to do these things, consciously, or they are not. If "brain dominance" determined which mental functions one did, in any way, they would not be ones thoughts would not be chosen, but physically determined.

However the brain functions, when the mind uses it to think or imagine or perform anything else consciously, it must use some part of the brain and perhaps by studying the brain it can be discovered which parts are active when an individual performs conscious mental functions, but it is the mind determining which parts of the brain will be active, not the brain determining which functions the mind will perform.

We know different parts of the brain are associated with different perceptual experiences like seeing and hearing. We do not need to make sure we use the "right part" of the brain for seeing, for example, to be able to see perfectly well, and we do not need to be concerned with which part of the brain we are using to be able to think, imagine, or perform any other mental function perfectly well.

3. Put First Things First

Covey starts out assuming you are essentially a failure. He asks the reader to answer two questions:

"Question 1: What one thing could you do (you aren't doing now) that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?

"Question 2: What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?"

For an individual fully engaged in living his life to the fullest, achieving all that is possible within the limits of his ability, these are evil and insulting questions. Why presume that an individual is not already doing all they can with the time and ability they have to achieve all that is possible to them? If not before, at this point any normal healthy individual would, in disgust, drop this book in the trash. That's one thing that would definitely improve their life if they have to this point been deluded by this mind-bender.

The Mixed Bag, Again

Covey quotes the somewhat famous speech/essay, entitled, "The Common Denominator of Success, delivered by Albert E.N. Gray at a 1940 life insurance convention:"

"The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose."

Covey, of course emphasizes the "habit" part of the quote, as did Gray himself, but the nugget of truth in this Covey does seem to grasp:

"It requires independent will, the power to do something when you don't want to do it, to be a function of your values rather than a function of the impulse or desire of any given moment."

In typical Covey fashion, however, the truth is confused. It is not being "a function" of anything, it is using one's objective reason as the basis of their choices rather than submitting to one's subjective feelings, their "impulse or desire of any given moment," as Covey puts it. It is not really doing what one doesn't want to do, it is wanting to do what one has objectively chosen to do rather than what one "feels like" doing.

Here is another good quote from Covey: "The enemy of the 'best' is often the 'good.'" It is not a profound truth, but a good observation of a common mistake we can easily make in two ways: 1. it is easy to waste time doing something good, especially if we like it, when that same time could, and objectively should, be used doing some more valuable to ourselves, and 2. it is often difficult to say no to someone else's invitation to do something good when we actually would prefer to use that time for something more valuable to ourselves and ought to say, "No, thank you!"

There are also some good ideas on organization and delegation in this section. Unfortunately that is all followed by the next large section on "interdependence" which is Covey's way of smuggling in anti-individualism.

Paradigms of Interdependence:

Interdependence is Covey's pro-altruism anti-individualism program. It begins with what sounds good:

"Real self-respect comes from dominion over self, from true independence. Independence is an achievement."

But for Covey, independence is not an end in itself. The end for covey is, "relationships:

"Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make."

The truth is, "interdependence" is a choice no independent individualist would ever make, because "each man lives primarily for, by and through himself and recognizes the same right in others; all relations among men are secondary." Unlike Rand, Covey makes relationships, what he calls "interdependence," the ultimate end, even of independence itself.

"As we become independent -- proactive, centered in correct principles, value driven and able to organize and execute around the priorities in our life with integrity -- we then can choose to become interdependent -- capable of building rich, enduring, highly productive relationships with other people."

Covey's Anti-value View of Love

Covey often makes reference to things which are never defined, such as the following:

"When we make deposits of unconditional love, when we live the primary laws of love, we encourage others to live the primary laws of life."

He never explains what he means by either, "the primary laws of love," or, "the primary laws of life," or even what he means by "unconditional love."

This idea of, "unconditional love," is one of the most evil ideas to come out of altruism. Whether the "giver" of such love or recipient, it wipes out the basis of all human value. Real love is conditional! It is love of the good for being the good, it is recognition of true virtue and value in another. The expression of such love is the outward acknowledgment of the goodness and virtue of the one loved. To love unconditionally is to extend indiscriminately to just anyone the same acknowledgment of virtue whether it exists or not. To be loved "unconditionally" means being loved not for your virtues but simply because you are, and no matter how virtuous you are it warrants no more love or recognition. The concept of "unconditional" love assumes something called, "intrinsic value," the assumption that something is good, just because it is, not matter how vile of worthless it actually is.

4. Think Win-Win

"Win-Win," sounds like a sound rational concept. It sounds like a free market where every exchange and every transaction between individuals is freely chosen to their mutual benefit. That's what it sounds like, but it is really something quite different—and the whole thing is set up by that pseudo-concept of "unconditional love."

Here's the description of "Win-Win:"

"Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a win-win solution, all parties feel good about the decision...."

So far, so good, though how parties "feel" should not matter. People have been seriously cheated by deals that made them, "feel good."

But it goes on:

Win-win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena.

How can an "arena" or market be a place of win-win if there is no competition, no possibility of finding a better product, better idea, or a better price?

It goes on:

"Most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking if fundamentally flawed. It's based on power and position rather than on principle. Win-win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person's success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others. Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way."

First, I have a personal gripe here. Whenever someone says, or writes, "Most people ..." do this that or the other thing, I want to stop them right there and demand they tell me how they know that. How do you know most people tend to think in terms of dichotomies? HE DOESN'T!

But even if they did it is very unlikely to be the dichotomies he lists, " strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose, but in terms of real dichotomies that matter: true or false, right or wrong, better solution or worse solution, more expensive or less expensive. There are objective differences in things.

Now there is a little mixed-bag truth mixed in here. "One person's success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of another," is absolutely true as a general principle, but it is not true at all when talking about a specific goal or prize: everyone cannot have a major market share, everyone cannot win first prize, everyone cannot write the years best seller.

The significance of Covey's view of "Win-Win" is not in what it includes, "it's not your way or my way," which is irrelevant, but leaves out all that really matters, the right way, that is the only way that matters, no matter whose idea it is. His so-called "higher way," will turn out to be another argument for, "intrinsic value," clearly illustrated in his description of "Win-Lose."

"Most people have been deeply scripted in the win-lose mentality since birth. First and most important of the powerful forces at work is the family. When one child is compared with another -- when patience, understanding or love is given or withdrawn on the basis of such comparisons -- people are into win-lose thinking. Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone has to earn love, what's being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or lovable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside. It's in comparison with somebody else or against some expectation."

It begins again with his clairvoyant knowledge of what "most people," are, or think, or do, again. It has nothing to do with comparing one child with another. Very few parents do that, because every child is so different. But this is just wrong:

"Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone has to earn love, what's being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or lovable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside."

That's right, Mr. Covey, love has to be earned. No one is intrinsically valuable. When children are very young parents love them for what they can be, their potential as human beings, and, in spite of the difficulties, because children are a reward and a pleasure to watch grow, develop, learn, and discover the world. As they get older they must be treated honestly, rewarded for their true virtues, punished or unrewarded for their willful wrongdoing. To praise a child simply because they are, or to keep their tender feelings from being hurt because another child was praised is a lie and deception. It also teaches them the false view that their values and happiness depend on what happens to someone else. That another is praised or receives something does not deprive them of anything. That is one of the most important lessons of life that the meaningless, "unconditional love," will deprive them of.

Your unconditional love, Mr. Covey, can only teach children it doesn't matter what they do, it doesn't matter what they are, that there are no consequences for being bad and no particular rewards for being good. Your unconditional love is a wonderful preparation for a future welfare recipient, thug, or thief.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Covey begins this section with a quote by another mystic, Pascal, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of." Neither Covey nor Pascal actually say what they mean by the, "heart," since it is not "reason" it is probably safe to assume it is the feelings, emotions, and passions. I've already addressed what is wrong with allowing feelings to influence reason. Feelings are non-cognitive, there is no "reason" at all in the feeling which are responses to what we are conscious of, what we think, believe, and value. Feelings can never tell you what is correct or right, but if allowed to influence one's thinking, can definitely result in ideas and beliefs that are neither correct or right. This whole section is clouded by this subjectivist view of Pascal and Covey.

Thinking Is Important

I had to read the following several times to be sure Covey actually wrote such a phenomenally stupid thing. I checked the context, just to make sure it might not mean something else. Alas, there is no way to fudge or excuse it, it is exactly what Covey said and meant:

"Communication is the most important skill in life."

The most important ability in one's life (it's much more than a mere skill) is not communication—the most important ability is the ability to think and reason correctly, and the second most important ability is the ability to learn.

Before you can communicate anything you must know something to communicate, and before you can be communicated with you must have enough knowledge and be able to think well enough to understand what is being communicated. One has to have a great deal of knowledge before they can think about much of anything or think very well. Knowledge is all there is to think about and knowledge is all there is to think with.

But Covey is not talking about communication as the transfer of knowledge or information from one individual to another, Covey is trying to put over his subjectivist view as "communication." Here's how he explains it:

"We spend most of our waking hours communicating. But consider this: You've spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual's own frame of reference?"

Along with another serving of, "deeply," Covey makes it clear what he means by, "listening," is understanding, "another human being from that individual's own frame of reference."

What does Covey mean by an individual's "own frame of reference?" A couple of paragraphs further along he writes:

"... unless you understand me and my unique situation and feelings, you won't know how to advise or counsel me."

Further along he writes: "Communications experts estimate, in fact, that only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language. In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel." First, any jackass that says we communicate with anything other than words is not an expert in anything. Language is the means of human communication, because only concepts have meaning, and words are our only means of representing concepts. Everything else is a substitute for words (sign language, for example) or an appeal to emotion and the irrational.

"Empathic listening," is not listening at all, it is an exercise in mystic subjectivism. Look at the words—listen with your heart, listen for feeling, you sense, you intuit, you feel. It is pure unadulterated subjectivism.

The only way for individuals to effectively communicate is by using the most precise language, complete explanation, and accurate representation of the facts to be communicated as unambiguously as possible. In business and all serious discussion, feelings and emotions must be banned—the moment feelings and emotions are allowed into such discussion they cease to be objective and become issues of personality.

6. Synergize

I have already addressed what is wrong with the mind-bending pseudo-concept synergy. Covey's use of the concept is typical:

"When properly understood, synergy is the highest activity in all life."

Like his absurdly wrong statement, "Communication is the most important skill in life," he declares synergy to be the "highest" human activity without argument or reason—he just states it, and it is wrong.

Although it is not clear what "highest" means (perhaps it is in contrast to deepest) if what he means is the most important of human activities, it is in fact a substitute for the most important of human activities, productive effort.

But Covey is not really interested individual achievement, his interest is the collective, the team, the company, or society to which individual interests must be submerged or sacrificed. Synergy in that context is attributed with almost magical powers:

Using the "the highest forms of synergy," he writes, "What results is almost miraculous. We create new alternatives -- something that wasn't there before. ... It catalyzes, unifies, and unleashes the greatest powers within people."

If there were any such thing as synergy, it would certainly be miraculous. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three or more." He really said this. This is the objective of his synergy:

"Could synergy not create a new script for the next generation -- one that is more geared to service and contribution, ... less selfish; one that is more open, more giving, more loving, ... and is less ... judgmental?" No doubt it could, and the generation it produces would be perfectly suited to the totalitarian collectivist state in which they would be living."

Covey adds a new dimension to the concept synergy as it applies to groups, from teams, to classes, to all of society, and this idea is a terrifying one. He explains it:

"As a teacher, I have come to believe that many truly great classes teeter on the very edge of chaos.

"Synergy tests whether teachers and students are really open to the principle of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

"There are times when neither the teacher nor the student know for sure what's going to happen. In the beginning, there's a safe environment that enables people to be really open and to learn and to listen to each other's ideas. Then comes brainstorming where the spirit of evaluation is subordinated to the spirit of creativity, imagining, and intellectual networking. Then an absolutely unusual phenomenon begins to take place. The entire class is transformed with the excitement of a new thrust, a new idea, a new direction that's hard to define, yet it's almost palpable to the people involved.

"Synergy is almost as if a group collectively agrees to subordinate old scripts and to write a new one."

Covey apparently has no idea what he has just described, because he obviously recommends it. His description is apt, it does border on chaos. What he has described is the psychology of a mob, the crowd that ceases to think objectively and act rationally carried away on a wave of "synergistic" emotional disconnection from reality, caught up in the "excitement of a new thrust," "hard to define," because it is not identified but only felt, "almost palpable to the people involved." There are endless examples of this kind of "synergy" on the nightly news that show crowds of hoodlums "transformed with the excitement," of the mob, looting, burning, and destroying property. This is what Covey recommends as a "creative" process.

Self Renewal, Self-rejuvenation:

This whole section can be summarized as little more than the common insipid patronizing suggestions to eat well, get enough exercise, develop your mind, and maintain good relations with others. These suggestions, however, are presented in a form that reveals Covey's mysticism.

7. Sharpen the Saw

Covey says this section is about, "renewing the four dimensions of your nature -- physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional."

These are not "four dimensions" of human nature, they are the mystic's view of existence: physical (the natural temporary world), spiritual (the supernatural eternal world), mental (human intellect--depraved and limited), emotions (mystic source of knowledge, intuition, conscience, faith), social (altruist/collectivist, "we all belong to God").

Human beings have only two essential aspects: the physical and the living. Human beings, like all higher animals are not only living, but conscious; but unlike other animals have a unique consciousness called the mind.

What distinguishes human consciousness from animal consciousness are the three attributes: volition, reason, and intellect. From "Human Consciousness: the Mind—Volition, Reason, Intellect:"

Characteristics of Mind

Perception is the only kind of consciousness that any creature has. Human consciousness is distinguished from the consciousness of all other creatures by three characteristics: volition, reason, and intellect. These characteristics are interdependent capabilities.

Volition is the ability to consciously choose. All choice requires knowledge and the ability to answer questions and make judgments, that is, reasoning.

Reason is the ability to think, that is to answer questions and make judgments. Reason requires volition and knowledge; volition, because a judgment is a choice; and knowledge, in order to form and answer questions.

Intellect is the ability to gain and store knowledge which is not possible without reason and volition; reason, to determine what is true (and therefore genuine knowledge), and volition to make the kind of choice which is judgment.

These three, however, are not three different things, but three aspects of the same phenomena we call the human mind. Every thought we have is a volitional act, a conscious choice, and is the manipulation of knowledge. Not everything that goes on in our consciousness is thinking, however. Much of our consciousness is occupied with feelings, and imagination, and even "day dreams" which might or might not include thinking. Often the word mind is used to include these other aspects of our consciousness, but as philosophers we should not include them, because those kinds of things apparently occupy the consciousnesses of other creatures as well. Strictly speaking, what distinguishes human consciousness from all other creatures is the unique mental function of thinking which is volitional, rational, and intellectual--that is, choosing to reason about what is known.

It is Covey's totally confused mystic view of human nature that is the source of all the wacky views he promotes like, "congruency," "composite of habits," "interdependence," "internal frame of reference," etc, but not until the very end of the book does he make his mystic view of man explicit:

"I believe that correct principles are natural laws, and that God, the Creator and Father of us all, is the source of them, and also the source of our conscience. I believe that to the degree people live by this inspired conscience, they will grow to fulfill their natures; to the degree that they do not, they will not rise above the animal plane. "I believe that there are parts to human nature that cannot be reached by either legislation or education, but require the power of God to deal with. I believe that as human beings, we cannot perfect ourselves. To the degree to which we align ourselves with correct principles, divine endowments will be released within our nature in enabling us to fulfill the measure of our creation."

[NOTE: If you would like to check the quotes in this critique of Covey's book, you may use the PDF version of his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Simply select a portion of the quote and use the built in search function of the PDF file to find it.]

The Rest Of The Coven

Franklin Covey is also "FranklinCovey (NYSE: FC) is the global consulting and training leader in the areas of strategy execution, customer loyalty, leadership and individual effectiveness. Clients include 90 percent of the Fortune 100, more than 75 percent of the Fortune 500, thousands of small- and mid-sized businesses, as well as numerous government entities and educational institutions."

Associated with FranklinCovey are Stephen R. Covey, Sean Covey, and non-Coveys like Jennifer Colosimo, and many others.

FanklinCovey is an industry with world-wide influence spreading the concepts of subjectivism, mysticism, altruism, and collectivism throughout business world, academia, and other educational institutions.

—(07/28/11)