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There are many things you can't change, like the political games played in Canberra. But you can change your behaviour! Here are seven habits of highly effective people.

Don't waste your time with politics. Get effective and make money!

Peter Switzer
18 August 2016

By Peter Switzer

The Prime Minister outlined the savings program he wants to get through Parliament and, at the same time, he pressured Labor to pass his Budget-reducing measures. And typically, Labor’s Bill Shorten returned fire about the PM’s lousy negotiating skills. It looked frustrating, it was frustrating and I wished for more effective politics and politicians as I turned the radio off.

The reality is that none of us can do much about the games played in Canberra and as the Coalition’s and Labor’s pollies (and now the Greens, Hansen’s team, Xenophon’s outfit and the Independents) scramble for media attention to justify the fact that really effective legislation won’t get to happen, I decided to revisit the work of one of the greats of business lecturing — Stephen Covey of the famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

With the first habit, Covey talks about his grandmother recalling the day when “everything cost two cents” but now politicians have screwed up everything and everything is so expensive. He admitted his granny was reactive, blaming everyone else for what was annoying her in life. In contrast, a proactive person knows the important things in his/her life that are holding them back are actually things he/she can influence.

The first habit is to be Proactive and avoid the blame game. If such a person was in business, she might say things are very competitive now, but what can I do to make my product or service so great that my customers can’t live without it? However, this would require a lot of work, time and even costs to come up with a great idea or innovation. But it will be worth it when success comes a knocking.

The second habit starts with you looking at yourself in the casket at your own funeral and imagining that you then had to do the eulogy for yourself! The question is: what would you like to say about yourself and are you doing the hard, smart stuff that will build your reputation as a great entrepreneur, boss, parent, employee, etc.?

The second habit is: start with the end in mind.

Covey observes there is a horrible disconnect about what we say we want and how we allocate our time. He says if you think of great goals (such as being a great business or wealth builder or an employee who will be a big income earner and exceptional parent), then look at the time you spend doing menial work, being distracted by Facebook or TV and ask: “Am I really using my time effectively to achieve my goals?”

The third habit is: put first things first.

The fourth habit is: think win-win, which means don’t look at life as a zero-sum game. Think about the value of a network, where you give and then, as a consequence, you get. There is an old saying about smart networking that “givers get” and while there can be exceptions to this rule, history supports the proposition.

I look at the group of Australia’s old world of great entrepreneurs who know each other, hang out together and help each other. I’m talking about Lindsay Fox, Marcus Blackmore, Jack Cowin and many more. These people have become household names but their success has been helped by their network of great entrepreneurial minds. As Covey explains: “For you to win, another person does not have to lose.”

Now this is something that Covey says he uses everyday and so the fifth habit is: seek first to understand, then to be understood. Apart from making you unusual (and that’s the hallmark of those with competitive advantage), this approach will give you insights beyond your wildest dreams and make you appear wiser — because you will be!

The sixth daily habit is to synergize. Here, Covey uses an example that reminded me of a cherry tree my wife, Maureen and I found in Greece years ago. It was a big tree packed with cherries but my six feet three stature meant I could get into the tree with my wife’s hands cupped together. I got into the tree and passed down the beautiful cherries. By working together and synergizing, we had a great and memorable day eating the best tasting cherries we've had in our life!

The final Covey masterful observation involves a guy who’s trying to cut down a tree for hours using a blunt saw. A neighbour helpfully says to him that if he sharpens the saw, then he’ll do that job easily. However, the cutter says: “But sharpening the saw will take time!”

We say that we can’t find 45 minutes a day, say, four times a week to go to the gym, to be physically effective and to look like a winner. We say we can’t read a book for 15 minutes a day to lift our competitive edge in the workplace, or say, to be a better parent or partner. Can’t we?

The seventh habit is: sharpen the saw. Covey says don’t look for shortcuts, tricks and tips to be successful, but build a foundation of greatness. And you can do it progressively but, most importantly, set your sights on making the changes from having the habits of an ineffective person to being, gradually, a highly effective competitor and contributor.

Jim Rohn, another US business motivator, gave us two related pearls of wisdom. The first was “success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practised every day” and if you get this right then “happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

The normal person is over-preoccupied with things that they can never change, while the abnormal person embraces these seven habits to become a highly effective person.

I wonder how many of our politicians have read this book, which is in the top 10 motivational books of all time, according to Inc. 5000?

(P.S. Not much out of the US to report for stocks apart from the Fed minutes, which aren’t telling us that US interest rates will rise soon, and that’s why I have looked for a more important topic to help you!)

If you liked this article you'll love the Switzer Report, our newsletter and website for trustees of self-managed super funds. Click here for a FREE trial and to hear more of Peter’s expert commentary and advice.

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