I shouldn’t snipe, but I will.

Mike Sanders proffered the top three tips from a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People on Monday. I really hate this crap. I was forced to listen to it for years in sales training, and heard even more of it when I first started back to school. It is utterly ridiculous reductive shit. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have some basis in fact; it just depends on how you define effective.

My lecture for my classes on Monday was to superimpose the model of effective sales upon the Roman model of the essay. It works quite well, actually. The majority of the steps are there, only with new names coined in the 20th century. Writing is often sales, but not always. To say that all writing is sales is the sort of simplification that I’m talking about. It misses the point. The point is to communicate effectively. But I digress, let’s get down to it.

Let’s take a look at the language of those three tips:

1) Be Proactive

Just what the hell does that mean? Looking at proactive in the Merriam Webster’s dictionary, it lists the primary meaning as:

relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning

I don’t suppose that the author of the book meant that. Be conflicted? If he had meant that, I might agree. It’s more likely he meant it in the MBA self-help drivel sense:

acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes

This goes right along with the second point listed, which could also be stated: Begin with a closed mind, myopically fixed on a goal.

2) Begin with the End in Mind

In other words, never adhere to the first meaning of proactive: never let learning something new conflict with past learning, keep your eye on the prize. What utter crap. If you’re ignorant, be sure to flout your ignorance by beginning with an ill-conceived predetermined notion before you start any undertaking. But of course this doesn’t begin to approach the stupid tautology of the third point:

3) Put First Things First

I believe that it is the practice of innovative thinkers to put first things last. If you have a notion that is so well memorized and rote in your brain that it floats to the top, it may or may not be the best solution to the problem.

The real growth happens when you step outside of habit, and look for innovative solutions to problems rather than the tried and true. Otherwise, you are destined to repeat the same dull “effective” round over and over. This makes sense in a bureaucratic environment perhaps, but not in a dynamic human one. Things change. What was once first, often becomes last. So why be stuck with the model that is dictated? If being effective means avoiding innovation (and in the business model, it usually does) then by all means, put first things first.

I believe that being reactive and open to change is a far more valuable skill. However, there are no short courses available in that. It takes experience in dealing with things outside the comfortable business model. It takes living.

Just say no to trite models. Live, instead of being “effective.”

Read good books, not garbage.