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текст полностью на английском языке.
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What teens and others are saying about
“U nlike my book on the 7 H abits,
this book, by my son Sean, speaks directly to teens in an entertaining and
visually appealing style (and, Sean, I never thought you listened to a word I
said). A s prejudiced as this may sound, this is a remarkable book, a
—DR. STEPHEN R. COVEY (1932–2012), Sean Covey’s dad,
author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly
Effective People and cofounder and former vice chairman of Franklin Covey
“ ‘L ike father, like son’ may
be a cliché, but Sean has proved it to be true. Sean is as effective as
his father in providing directions to teens so that their lives become
meaningful. Sean’s 7 H abits is a book every teenager should read and
emulate.” —ARUN GANDHI, president of Gandhi Worldwide Education
“I have long been a fan of Stephen C ovey and his book The
7 H abits of H ighly Effective People. In fact, I liked his principles so
much that we teach them to our players in the off-season as leadership
principles. When I saw Sean’s book The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens,
I was excited to have another weapon to take our players and culture to a
higher level. Whether you are a teen or not, you should read this book!”
—ANSON DORRANCE, coach of the University of North
Carolina women’s soccer team, twenty-two-time national collegiate champions
“Sean’s can-do examples remind me of
how important it is to make the most of what I have. I play a lot of sports,
though I’m not a big kid. This book helped me realize that I have to rely on my
speed and my smarts if I want to reach my goals.” —BRENT
KUIK, age 15
“Growing up isn’t easy, but with the
help of Sean C ovey’s book, young adults can learn to navigate through this
awkward time and come out on the other side as a highly effective adult. The
7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens empowers young adults by reminding
them that it is perfectly normal to make mistakes, but luckily, if and when
teenagers get off course, this book will help them navigate the treacherous
waters of adolescence. Through the literary experiences shared in this book,
hopefully teenagers can learn to love themselves and ultimately discover the
effective adult waiting underneath the surface. A s a teacher, I like how this
book is not only a how-to for young adults but also a jumping-off point for
teachers, who are struggling to connect with their students, by giving them the
tools to shape a world that they can be proud of!”
—ERIN GRUWELL, founder of Freedom Writers
Foundation, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Freedom
Writers Diary, and inspiration for the 2007 film Freedom Writers
“I highly recommend the simple,
straightforward advice provided in The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens
to teenagers, young adults, and their parents. Y ou’ll hear new perspectives on
how to improve your relationships and leadership skills that will positively
impact your life, resulting in greater happiness. Y ou will see that is easier
than you may have thought to start making these changes today. A nd more than
that—you will be able to do it and be successful at anything you choose to do.
I have personally read it and practiced the timeless principles with my
—DIANA THOMAS, U.S. vice president of training,
learning, and development, McDonald’s Corporation
“This is an easy-to-understand book
full of interesting stories. I really related to Sean’s personal story about
the fear of performing in front of people since I am violinist. I’m sure
teenagers around the globe will be able to relate as well.” —EMILY
INOUYE, age 14
“Fifteen years ago Sean C ovey wrote a
powerful book that taught teens that they had the ability to choose their
behavior but not the consequences. The decisions that teens make could change
their lives forever! Every young person should read The 7 H abits of H ighly
Effective Teens. It’s a must-read for all my students!”
—SALOME THOMAS-EL, award-winning educator and author
of The Immortality of Influence and I Choose to Stay
“One of the most defining parts of my career was the
habits I built for myself as a teen. A nd that’s why this book is so important.
The younger you are when you set your direction and goals and learn the tools
that help you get there, the better off you will be. This book defines what it
means to succeed and is a must-read for every young adult. I only wish someone
had shown it to me during those most formative years of my life. I recommend it
—CHELSIE HIGHTOWER, professional ballroom dancer on Dancing
With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance
“Sean’s book helps teenagers to become
climbers rather than campers, to live with a goal in mind, and to confront
obstacles with a no-barriers mind-set. H e urges young people to ‘make your
life extraordinary’ and provides a pathway which will get them there. In a
world with so many distractions and temptations, the guidelines he provides are
invaluable to a purposeful and successful life.”
—ERIK WEIHENMAYER, blind adventurer, speaker,
author, and filmmaker
“If you are a teen, or know someone
who will be, have them read this book. It will help them establish a pattern
for dealing with change, disappointment, and even success. It is truly a
powerful, life-changing book.” —DEREK HOUGH, Emmy Award–winning
“The inspiring examples from real-life
problems that teenagers like myself deal with every day, and their experiences
and situations, have helped me make lifesaving decisions. I highly recommend
this book to any teenager.” —JEREMY SOMMER, age 19
“The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective
Teens has made it easier than ever before for teens to navigate through
life! If you want to live a life of contribution, set and achieve extraordinary
goals, and stay focused and organized, practice every habit in Sean’s book. It
will help you become who you want to be.”
—JULIE MORGENSTERN, author of Organizing from the
Inside Out for Teens
“This book serves as a great sword in
the battle for our young people’s minds. It deserves to be more than just read
but lived in everyday life. What a great explanation of human values, ethics,
and overall how to live a successfully fulfilled life.” —DRAKE
WHITE, country music artist, songwriter
“The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective
Teens is a valuable guide to navigate through adolescent struggles and
uncertainty. I wish someone had given me Sean C ovey’s book during my teenage
years. This book is a vital guide to encourage teens through the game of life.
Whether it is advice on achieving their own goals, to discovering the right
peers, to connecting more with their parents, this book has it all and is a
recipe for teenage success and a solid foundation for the future. My children
will be given
The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective
Teens as soon as
they enter their adolescent years!”
—DOMINIQUE MOCEANU, U.S. Olympic gold medalist in
women’s gymnastics and author of the New York Times bestselling Off
“I would highly recommend Sean C
ovey’s book The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens because it teaches
whoever reads it how to set goals, get organized, prioritize, make good
decisions, and most of all to help build good character. Take it from me —they
are all the things that will help them achieve success in their lives. Sean
does a great job with the book.” —JIMMER FREDETTE,
Naismith and Wooden awards winner, NBA player
“Teens face many challenging issues. A
nd, it’s great that a 7 H abits book is now available to help direct teens
toward positive living. Through my foundation’s programing, we recognize the
power of dreams and stress the importance of executing a detailed plan to
propel you toward your goals.”
—MICHAEL PHELPS, winner of twenty-two Olympic medals
and founder of the Michael Phelps Foundation
“I wish I’d had this book when I was
—SHANNON HALE, author of the Newbery Honor–winning Princess
Academy and The Goose Girl
“L ife is such a precious and
beautiful thing that so many people take for granted. Even at a very young age,
my son was able to leave a tremendous legacy and influence the lives of so many
people forever. In his short life, he experienced and overcame great difficulty
and did so with an extraordinary positive spirit. H e exhibited so many of the
habits taught in The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens. H ad my son
had the chance to grow up, I know this book would have been a great guide and
given him the tools he needed to navigate his way through life. If you are
lucky enough to grow up, make mistakes, and learn from them, having someone
like Sean guide you with this book is truly a gift.”
—MAYA THOMPSON, founder of the Ronan Thompson
“The 7 H abits of H ighly
Effective Teens gives you new insight into the meaning of being powerfully
successful. It teaches the importance of setting goals and sticking to them in
order to achieve your dreams.”
—PICABO STREET, National Ski Hall of Famer, Olympic
gold medalist, and former member of the U.S. ski team
“What? Sean C ovey wrote a book? Y
ou’ve got to be kidding!!”
—Sean’s high school English teacher
“The 7 H abits of H ighly
Effective Teens is a touchdown! The sooner you develop good, strong habits,
the more effective your life will be. This book will help you do just that.”
—STEVE YOUNG, NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP
“I used one of the stories from your
book in a speech I gave at leadership camp and it helped me to be elected
governor! Thanks, Sean C ovey!!!”
—LEISY OSWALD, age 16
“The best way to ‘make it happen’ in
your life is to make the right choices as a teen. The 7 H abits of H ighly
Effective Teens lets teens see themselves as the principal force in their
lives, regardless of their background or current walk of life.”
—STEDMAN GRAHAM, chairman and CEO of S. Graham &
Associates, founder of Athletes Against Drugs, author of New York Times
bestseller You Can Make it Happen and Identity: Your Passport to
“For a professional athlete, winning
basketball games is important—but winning at the game of life is even more
important. The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens provides a game plan
for teens to become team players with their teammates in life, their families
and friends. It presents strategies for becoming a better all-around person and
elevating individual skills.”
—SHERYL SWOOPES, head coach of Loyola University
women’s basketball team, four-time WNBA champion, three-time MVP, NCAA
champion, and three-time Olympic gold medalist
“Today’s teens are the future leaders
of our families, communities, and nation. The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective
Teens teaches them the value of hard work, setting and achieving goals, and
taking responsibility and initiative, all of which are characteristics of
—MICHAEL O. LEAVITT, former U.S. Secretary of Health
and Human Services
“I have been juggling family, school
activities, friends, and after-school responsibilities. When I read The 7 H
abits of H ighly Effective Teens it helped me become a more organized
person. I used a lot of the cartoons to help me remember stories and examples.”
—JOY DENEWELLIS, age 18
“Stephen C ovey must be rightfully
proud of his son Sean, who absorbed his father’s lessons well. Those who wish
to avoid the temptations and devastation of drugs, including alcohol, would be
wise to implement The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens. Written for
teenagers, this book is an indispensable tool, helping young people make the
right choices, while growing up in the chaos of today. I wish there had been a
book like this for those of us who grew up in the sixties.”
—CANDACE LIGHTNER, president of We Save Lives and
founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving
TO MOM FOR A L L TH E L OV E, L U L L A BIES, A ND L A
TE-NIGH T TA L K S
Part I—The Set-up
G et in the H abit
They Make Y ou or Break Y ou
Paradigms and Principles
What Y ou See Is What Y ou Get
Part II—The Private Victory
The Personal Bank A ccount
Starting with the Man in the
IAm the Force
H abit 2—Begin with the End in Mind
Control Y our Own D estiny or
Someone Else Will
H abit 3—Put First Things First
Will and Won’t Power
Part III—The Public Victory
The R elationship Bank A ccount
The Stuff That Life Is Made Of
H abit 4—Think Win-Win
Life Is an All-Y ou-Can-Eat
H abit 5—Seek First to Understand, Then to Be
Y ou H ave Two Ears and One
Mouth . . . H el-lo!
H abit 6—Synergize
The “H igh” Way
H abit 7—Sharpen the Saw
It’s “Me Time”
K eep H ope A live!
Kid, Y ou’ll Move Mountains
Book Study Guide
Thank Y ous
Info C entral
Great Books for Teens
A bout Sean C ovey
I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or
heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am
completely at your command. H alf the things you
do you might just as well turn over to me
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed—you must merely be
firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few
lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great individuals
and, alas, of all failures, as well. Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the
intelligence of a human. Y ou may run me for a profit or run me for ruin—it
makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me,
and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy
Who am I?
I am H abit.
The world has totally changed since I wrote
the first version of this book. Back then, there was no Facebook or Twitter.
There were no smartphones. There was no DIREC TV or N etflix.
H ow boring!
Even with all these changes, a few things haven’t changed. C
hoice hasn’t changed. We are still free to choose what we do with our lives.
The importance of relationships hasn’t changed. Relationships are still the
thing that matters most. A nd principles—such as responsibility, vision,
teamwork, service, and renewal—haven’t changed. They still rule.
That is why the 7 H abits will never go out of style,
because they are based on timeless principles that endure. In fact, as the
world gets crazier, the 7 H abits will only become more essential. There will
always be a need to be proactive and take initiative. There will always be a
need to seek first to understand another person before seeking to be
understood. The 7 H abits aren’t going anywhere.
Over the past many years I have received thousands of emails
and letters from teen readers all around the globe, sharing their problems and
successes. U pon reading these I picked up on three recurring themes.
First, everyone has problems with relationships—with
friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, you name
it. So if you have relationship problems, you’re not alone. Welcome to the
Second, virtually every teen who wrote me wants to change
and get better. They want to stop doing drugs or start doing better in school
or lose weight or break out of the depression they are in or whatever. If
you’re like them, you want to get better, too.
Third, the 7 H abits really do work. Remarkably well! A mong
other things, they help you triumph over setbacks, build friendships, make
smarter choices about dating and sex, do better in school, take charge of your
life, build self-worth, and, believe it or not, even get along with your
teenage girl wrote me about how learning H abit 1, Be Proactive, turned her
In the past six months, I’ve been
through a lot. The love of my life broke my heart and refused to talk to me.
From there he started up a friendship with my best friend. My parents went back
and forth on divorce decisions. My brother got into drugs. My life just started
falling apart. Then my mom bought this 7 H abits book and it really changed my
way of thinking. The part that stuck out was when the book said that no one can
ever make you mad and/ or ruin your day unless you let them. I always based my
whole day on if one certain person talked to me or if something happened or
whatnot. N ow I don’t care. When something bad happens, I smile through it
anyway. A nd when H E doesn’t say hi to me, I say hi to someone hotter and make
my own day. It’s so much easier to make your own day than to let someone else
do it. A ll my friends have noticed a difference. I actually smile and am happy
I know you have to deal with a lot of hard things in life.
You have bad hair days. People say mean things. Parents get divorced. People
you love pass away. A ccidents happen. In the larger world, you have to cope
with terrorism, wars, A IDS, cancer, global competition, cyberbullying, drugs,
pornography, and trans fats.
A ll that said, I believe that if you could choose any time
period in which to live during the world’s existence, you couldn’t find a
better time than now. Truly, today is the best time in history to be born! It’s
a far better life than what the Egyptians or Romans or A ztecs or Ming Dynasty
people ever experienced. Think about it. There is more freedom, information,
wealth, and opportunity available today and to more people than ever before.
C onsider information and technology. Through the Internet,
the world is at your fingertips. You have hundreds of television channels and
radio stations. If you want to learn about Greek mythology, you don’t have to
go to a library or find an expert, like your parents did when they were your
age, you Google it! If you want to learn how to play the guitar, make a
cheesecake, or even fly a helicopter (not that I’m suggesting that), search
YouTube and there you have it!
With your smartphone you can check out the seven-day weather
forecast for Jakarta or take high-definition photos of your dog or view a map
of every single street in the civilized world. Imagine that! A nd it’s not
slowing down. Moore’s L aw says that the microchip’s computing power doubles
every eighteen months. I can’t wait for my hover car!
The speed of change is accelerating as well. For instance,
India and C hina are impacting everything. C ompanies like A mazon and Facebook
spring up almost overnight and become global powerhouses.
Opportunities are everywhere. Who would have guessed that a
twenty-eight-year-old programmer named Pierre Omidyar would become an almost
overnight billionaire by writing code for a company he called eBay that brings
buyers and sellers together on the Internet?
Yep, even with the challenges of our day, it is a great time
to be alive. There is so much good we can do. There are so many people we can
help. A s one wise leader put it, “This is a magnificent time to live. It is a
time when our influence can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil
A s well, I hope you’ll never forget what U ncle Ben told
Spider-Man. “With great power comes great responsibility.” N o, you’re not
Spider-Man or K atniss Everdeen. But you do have great freedom and opportunity,
more than any generation that has ever lived, and with that comes great
So enjoy this new edition of The 7 H abits of H ighly
Effective Teens, updated for the Internet age. You’ll love the new
language, stories, and anecdotes spread throughout the book. I wish you all my
best as you build a future so bright you’ll have to wear shades.
—Sean C ovey
Get in the Habit
They Make Y ou or Break Y ou
and Principles What Y ou See Is What Y ou Get
Get in the Habit
THEY MAKE YOU
OR BREAK YOU
Welcome! My name is Sean and I wrote this
book. I don’t know how you got it. Maybe your mom gave it to you to shape you
up. Or maybe you bought it with your own money because the title caught your
eye. Regardless of how it landed in your hands, I’m really glad it did. Now you
just need to read it.
We first make our
habits, then our habits make us.
A lot of teens read books, but I wasn’t one of them. (I did
read several book summaries, however.) So if you’re like I was, you may be
ready to shelve this book. But before you do that, hear me out. If you promise
to read on, I’ll promise to make it an adventure. In fact, to keep it fun, I’ve
stuffed it with cartoons, clever ideas, great quotes, and powerful stories
about real teens from all over the world . . . along with a few other
surprises. So, with that in mind: will you give it a try?
L et’s dive in, then. This book is based on another book
that my dad, Stephen R. C ovey, wrote several years ago entitled The 7 H
abits of H ighly Effective People. Surprisingly, that book has become one
of the best-selling books of all time. H e owes a lot of the credit for its
success to me and my brothers and sisters, however. You see, we were his guinea
pigs. H e tried out all of his psycho experiments on us, and that’s why my
brothers and sisters have major emotional problems (just kidding, siblings). L
uckily, I escaped uninjured.
So why did I write this book? I wrote it because life for
teens is no playground. It’s a jungle out there. A nd if I’ve done my job
right, this book can be like a compass to help you navigate through it. U nlike
my dad’s book, which was written for old people (and can get really boring at
times), this book was written especially for teens and is always interesting.
A lthough I’m a retired teenager, I still remember what it
was like to be one. I could’ve sworn I was riding an emotional roller coaster
most of the time. L ooking back, I’m actually amazed that I survived. Barely.
I’ll never forget the time in seventh grade when I fell in love with a girl
named N icole. I told my friend C lar to tell her that I liked her (I was too
scared to speak directly to girls so I used messengers). C lar completed his
mission and returned and reported.
“H ey, Sean, I told N icole that you
liked her.” “What’d she say!?” I asked impatiently.
“She said, ‘Ohh, Sean? H e’s fat!’ ”
C lar laughed.
I was devastated. I felt like hiding in my room and never
coming out again. I vowed to hate girls for life. L uckily my hormones
prevailed and I began liking girls again.
I’ve interviewed a lot of teens in the making of this book.
I suspect that some of the struggles they shared with me will be familiar to
“There’s too much to do and not enough time. I’ve got school,
homework, job, friends, parties, and family on top of everything else. I’m
totally stressed out. Help!”
“How can I feel good about myself when I don’t match up?
Everywhere I look I am reminded that someone else is smarter, or prettier, or
more popular. I can’t help but think, ‘If I only had her hair, her clothes, her
personality, her boyfriend, then I’d be happy.’ ”
“If I could only get my parents off my back I might be able
to live my life. It seems they’re constantly nagging, and I can’t ever seem to
“I know I’m not living the way I should. I’m into
everything—drugs, drinking, sex, you name it. But when I’m with my friends, I
give in and just do what everyone else is doing.”
“I’ve started another diet. I think it’s my fifth one this
year. I really do want to change, but I just don’t have the discipline to stick
with it. Each time I start a new diet I have hope. But it’s usually only a
short time before I blow it. And then I feel awful.”
“I’m not doing too well in school right now. If I don’t get
my grades up I’ll never get into college.”
“I’m moody and get depressed often and I don’t know what to
do about it.”
“I feel as if my life is out of control.”
These problems are real, and you can’t turn off real life. I
won’t pretend you can. Instead, I’ll give you a set of tools to help you deal
with real life. What are they? The 7 H abits of H ighly Effective Teens or,
said another way, the seven characteristics that happy and successful teens all
over the world have in common.
By now, you’re probably wondering what these habits are so I
might as well end the suspense. H ere they are, followed by a brief
H abit 1:
Take responsibility for
H abit 2:
Begin with the End in
D efine your mission and goals in life.
H abit 3:
Put First Things First
Prioritize, and do the most important
H abit 4:
H ave an
H abit 5:
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood Listen
to people sincerely.
H abit 6:
Work together to achieve
H abit 7:
Sharpen the Saw
A s the above diagram shows, the habits build upon one
another. H abits 1, 2, and 3 deal with self-mastery. We call it the “private
victory.” H abits 4, 5, and 6 deal with relationships and teamwork. We call it
the “public victory.” You’ve got to get your personal act together before you
can be a good team player. That’s why the private victory comes before the
public victory. The last habit, H abit 7, is the habit of renewal. It feeds all
of the other six habits.
habits seem pretty simple, don’t they? But just wait till you see how powerful
they can be! One great way to understand what the 7 H abits are is to
understand what they are not. So here are the opposites, or:
The 7 H abits of H ighly D
efective Teens H abit 1: React
Blame all of your problems on your parents, your stupid
teachers, your lousy neighborhood, your boy- or girlfriend, the government, or
something or somebody else. Be a victim. Take no responsibility for your life.
If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re bored, make trouble. If someone yells at you,
yell back. If you feel like doing something you know is wrong, go for it.
H abit 2: Begin with No End in Mind
Don’t have a plan. Avoid goals at all costs. A nd never
think about tomorrow. Why worry about the consequences of your actions? L ive
for the moment. Sleep around, get wasted, and party on, for tomorrow you die.
H abit 3: Put First Things Last
Whatever is most important in your life, don’t do it until
you have spent sufficient time watching videos of cute animals on YouTube,
texting endlessly, and lounging around. A lways put off studying until
tomorrow. Make sure that fun things come before important things.
H abit 4: Think Win-Lose
See life as a vicious competition. If you want to be at the
top of the popularity list, you’d better knock someone else off first. Don’t
let anyone else succeed at anything because, remember, if they win, you lose.
If it looks like you’re going to lose, however, make sure you drag that sucker
down with you.
H abit 5: Seek First to Talk, Then
Pretend to Listen
You were born with a mouth, so use it. Talk a lot. A
lways express your side of the story first. Once everyone understands your
views, pretend to listen to theirs by nodding and saying “uh-huh” while
daydreaming about what’s for lunch. Or, if you really want their opinion, give
it to them.
H abit 6: D on’t Cooperate
L et’s face it, other people are weird because they’re
different from you. So why try to get along with them? Teamwork’s for the dogs.
Since you always have the best ideas, you’re better off doing everything by
yourself. Be your own island.
H abit 7: Wear Y ourself Out
Be so busy with life that you never take time to renew or
improve yourself. N ever study. Don’t learn anything new. Avoid exercise like
the plague. A nd, for heaven’s sake, stay away from good books, nature, or
anything else that may inspire you.
A s you can see, the habits listed above are recipes for
disaster. Yet many of us indulge in them . . . regularly (me included). A nd,
given this, it’s no wonder that life can really stink at times.
H abits are things we do repeatedly. But
most of the time we’re hardly aware that we even have them. They’re on
Some habits are good, such as:
Some are bad, including:
A nd some don’t really matter, like:
before bed instead of in the morning
sauce on every meal
•L istening to
music while you exercise
Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us
or break us. We become what we repeatedly do. A s writer Samuel Smiles put it:
a thought, and you reap an act;
an act, and you reap a habit;
a habit, and you reap a character;
a character, and you reap a destiny.
L uckily, you are stronger than your habits. You can change
them. For example, try folding your arms. N ow fold them in the opposite way.
Feels pretty strange, right? But if you folded them in the opposite way for
thirty days in a row, it wouldn’t feel so strange. You wouldn’t even have to
think about it. Y ou’d get in the habit.
A t any time you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “H
ey, I don’t like that about myself,” and you can exchange a bad habit for a
better one. It may not always be easy, but it’s always possible.
Maybe not every idea in this book will work for you. But you
don’t have to be perfect to see results, either. Just living some of the habits
some of the time can help you experience changes in your life you never thought
7 H abits can help you:
•Get control of
relationships with your friends
•Get along with
addictions and self-destructive habits
values and what matters most to you
•Get more done
in less time
between school, work, friends, dating, and everything else
One final point. It’s your book, so use it. Get out a pen or
highlighter and mark it up. Don’t be afraid to underline, circle, or bookmark
your favorite ideas. Take notes in the margins. Scribble. Reread the stories
that inspire you and memorize the quotes that give you hope. Try doing the
“baby steps” at the end of each chapter, which were designed to help you start
living the habits immediately. Y ou’ll get a lot more out of the book if you
You may also want to check out the hotlines and websites
listed at the back of the book for additional help or information.
If you’re the kind of reader who likes to skip around
looking for cartoons and tidbits, that’s fine. But at some point you ought to
read the book from start to finish, because the 7 H abits are sequential. Each
chapter builds on the last. H abit 1 comes before H abit 2 (and so on) for a
So what do you say? Make my day and read
we’ll take a look at ten of the dumbest statements ever made. You don’t want to
miss them. So read on!
Paradigms and Principles
WHAT YOU SEE
IS WHAT YOU GET
The following is a list of statements made
many years ago by experts in their fields. A t the time they were said they
sounded intelligent. With the passing of time, they sound idiotic.
Better keep yourself clean and
bright; you are the window through which you see the whole world.
BERNARD SHAW ENGLISH PLAYWRIGHT
10 A ll-Time Stupid Q uotes:
10 “There is
no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
KENNETH OLSEN, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF DIGITAL
EQUIPMENT CORPORATION, IN 1977
9 “A irplanes are
interesting toys but of no military value.”
MARSHAL FERDINAND FOCH, FRENCH MILITARY STRATEGIST AND
FUTURE WORLD WAR I COMMANDER, IN 1911
8 “[Man will never reach
the moon] regardless of all future scientific advances.”
DR. LEE DE FOREST, INVENTOR OF THE AUDION TUBE AND
FATHER OF RADIO, ON FEBRUARY 25, 1967
won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months.
People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
DARRY L F. ZANUCK, HEAD OF 20TH CENTURY —FOX, IN 1946
6 “We don’t like their
sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.”
DECCA RECORDS REJECTING THE BEATLES, IN 1962
5 “For the majority of
people, the use of tobacco has a beneficial effect.”
DR. IAN G. MACDONALD, LOS ANGELES SURGEON, AS QUOTED
IN NEWSWEEK, NOVEMBER 18, 1969
‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of
communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
WESTERN UNION INTERNAL MEMO, IN 1876
3 “The earth
is the center of the universe.”
PTOLEMY , THE GREAT EGY PTIAN ASTRONOMER, IN THE
2 “N othing of importance
WRITTEN BY KING GEORGE III OF ENGLAND ON JULY 4, 1776
“Two years from now, spam will be solved.”
BILL GATES, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, 2004
H aving read these, let me share with you
another list of statements made by real teens just like you. Y ou’ve heard them
before, and they are just as ridiculous as the list above.
“No one in my family has ever gone to college. I’d be crazy
to think I could make it.”
“It’s no use. My stepdad and I will never get along. We’re
just too different.”
“Being smart is a ‘white’ thing.”
“My teacher’s out to get me.”
“She’s so pretty—I bet she’s a diva.”
“Y ou can’t get ahead in life unless you know the right people.”
“Me? Skinny? Are you kidding? My whole family is full of fat
“It’s impossible to get a good job around here ’cause nobody
wants to hire a teen.”
So What’s a Paradigm?
W hat do these
two lists of statements have in common? First, they’re all perceptions
about the way things are, not facts. Second, these perceptions are all
inaccurate or incomplete— even though the people who said them are convinced
A nother word for perceptions is paradigms
[pair-a-dimes]. A paradigm is the way you see something; it’s your point of
view, frame of reference, or belief. Sometimes our paradigms are way off the
mark, and, as a result, they create limitations. For instance, you may be
convinced that you don’t have what it takes to get into college. But, remember,
Ptolemy was just as convinced that the earth was the center of the universe.
A nd think about the teen who believes she can’t get along
with her stepdad. If that is her paradigm, is she likely to ever get along with
him? Probably not, because that belief will hold her back from really trying.
Paradigms are like glasses. When you have incomplete
paradigms about yourself or life in general, it’s like wearing glasses with the
wrong prescription. That lens affects how you see everything else. A s a
result, what you see is what you get. If you believe you’re dumb, that very
belief will make you dumb. Or, if you believe your little sister is dumb,
you’ll look for evidence to support your belief, find it, and she’ll remain
dumb in your eyes. On the other hand, if you believe you’re smart, that belief
will cast a rosy hue on everything you do.
A teen named K risti once shared with me how much she loved
the beauty of the mountains. One day she went to visit her eye doctor and, to
her surprise, discovered that her sight was much worse than she had thought. A
fter putting in her new contacts, she was astonished at how well she could see.
A s she put it, “I realized that the mountains and trees and even the signs on the
side of the road have more detail than I had ever imagined. It was the
strangest thing. I didn’t know how bad my eyes were until I experienced how
good they could be.” That’s often the way it is. We don’t know how much we’re
missing because we have messed-up paradigms.
We have paradigms about ourselves, about other people, and
about life in general. L et’s take a look at each.
•PARADIGMS OF SELF
Stop right now and consider this question: A
re your paradigms of yourself helping or hindering you?
When my wife, Rebecca, was a junior at Madison H igh School
in Idaho, a sign-up sheet for the Miss Madison pageant was passed around in
class. Rebecca, along with many other girls, signed up. L inda, who sat next to
Rebecca, passed without signing.
“Sign up, Linda,” insisted Rebecca.
“Oh, no. I couldn’t do that.”
“Come on. It will be fun.”
“No, really. I’m not the type.”
“Sure you are. I think you’d be
great!” chimed Rebecca.
Rebecca and others continued to encourage L
inda until she finally signed.
Rebecca didn’t think anything of the situation at the time.
H owever, seven years later, she received a letter from L inda describing the
inner struggle she had gone through that day and thanking Rebecca for being the
spark that helped her change her life. L inda related how she suffered from a
poor self-image in high school and was shocked that Rebecca would consider her
a candidate for a talent pageant. She had finally agreed to sign up just to get
Rebecca and the others off her back.
L inda said she was so uncomfortable about being in the
pageant that she contacted the pageant director the following day and demanded
her name be removed from the list. But, like Rebecca, the director insisted
that L inda participate.
Reluctantly, she agreed.
But that was all it took. L inda noted that although she
hadn’t won a single title or award, she had overcome an even bigger obstacle:
her low perception of herself. The following year L inda became a student body
officer, and, as Rebecca relates, developed a vivacious and outgoing
L inda experienced what’s called a “paradigm shift.” By
daring to participate in an event that demanded the best in her, L inda began
to see herself in a new light. In her letter, L inda thanked Rebecca from deep
within for, in essence, taking off her warped glasses, shattering them against
the floor, and insisting she try on a new pair.
Just as negative self-paradigms can put limitations on us,
positive self-paradigms can bring out the best in us, as the following story
about the son of K ing L ouis XVI of France illustrates:
King Louis had been taken from his throne and imprisoned. His
young son, the prince, was taken by those who dethroned the king. They thought
that inasmuch as the king’s son was heir to the throne, if they could destroy
him morally, he would never realize the great and grand destiny that life had
bestowed upon him.
They took him to a community far away, and there they exposed
the lad to every filthy and vile thing that life could offer. They exposed him
to foods the richness of which would quickly make him a slave to appetite. They
used vile language around him constantly. They exposed him to lewd and lusting
women. They exposed him to dishonor and distrust. He was surrounded twenty-four
hours a day by everything that could drag the soul of a man as low as one could
slip. For over six months he had this treatment—but not once did the young lad
buckle under pressure. Finally, after intensive temptation, they questioned
him. Why had he not submitted himself to these things—why had he not partaken?
These things would provide pleasure, satisfy his lusts, and were desirable;
they were all his. The boy said, “I cannot do what you ask for I was born to be
Prince L ouis held that paradigm of himself so tightly that
nothing could shake him. In like manner, if you walk through life wearing
glasses that say “I can do it” or “I matter,” that belief will put a positive
spin on everything else.
A t this point you may be wondering, “If my paradigm of
myself is all contorted, what can I do to fix it?” One way is to spend time
with someone who already believes in you and builds you up. My mother was such
a person to me. When I was growing up, my mom always believed in me, especially
when I doubted myself. She was always saying stuff like “Sean, of course you
should run for class president,” and “A sk her out. I’m sure she would just die
to go out with you.” Whenever I needed to be affirmed I’d talk to my mom and
she’d clean any negativity from my glasses.
A sk any successful person and most will tell you that they
had a person who believed in them . . . a teacher, a friend, a parent, a
guardian, a sibling, a grandparent. It only takes one person, and it doesn’t
really matter who it is. Don’t be afraid to lean on this person and to get
nourished by them. Go to them for advice. See yourself the way they see you.
Oh, what a difference a new pair of glasses can make! A s someone once said,
“If you could envision the type of person God intended you to be, you would
rise up and never be the same again.”
A t times, you may not have anyone to lean on—and you may
need to go solo. If this is the case with you, pay special attention to the
next chapter, which will give you some handy tools to help build your
•PARADIGMS OF OTHERS
We have paradigms not only about ourselves,
but also about other people. A nd they can be way out of whack, too. Seeing
things from a different point of view can help us understand why other people
act the way they do.
Becky told me about her paradigm shift:
As a junior in high school, I had a friend named Kim. She was
essentially a nice person, but as the year progressed, it became more and more
difficult to get along with her. She was easily offended and often felt left
out. She was moody and difficult to be around. It got to the point where my
friends and I started calling her less and less. Eventually we stopped inviting
her to things.
I was gone for a good part of the summer after that year, and
when I returned I was talking to a good friend of mine, catching up on all the
news. She was telling me about all the gossip, the different romances, who was
dating who, and so on, when suddenly she said, “Oh! Did I tell you about Kim?
She’s been having a hard time lately because her parents are going through a really
messy divorce. She’s taking it really hard.”
When I heard this, my whole perspective changed. Rather than
being annoyed by Kim’s behavior, I felt terrible about my own. I felt I had
deserted her in her time of need. Just by knowing that one little bit of
information, my whole attitude toward her changed. It was really an eye-opening
A nd to think that all it took to change Becky’s paradigm
was a smidgen of new information. We too often judge people without having all
Monica had a similar experience:
I used to live in California, where I had a lot of good
friends. I didn’t care about anybody new because I already had my friends and I
thought that new people should deal with it in their own way. Then, when I
moved, I was the new kid and wished that someone would care about me and make
me part of their group of friends. I see things in a very different way now. I
know what it feels like to not have any friends.
Seeing things from another point of view can make all the
difference in our attitude toward others. I’ll bet Monica will never treat new
kids on the block the same way again.
FRA NK & ERNEST ® by Bob Thaves
The following anecdote from Reader’s D igest
(contributed by Dan P. Greyling) is a classic example of a paradigm shift:
A friend of mine, returning to South Africa from a long stay
in Europe, found herself with some time to spare at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Buying a cup of coffee and a small package of cookies, she staggered, laden
with luggage, to an unoccupied table. She was reading the morning paper when
she became aware of someone rustling at her table. From behind her paper, she
was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed young man helping himself to her
cookies. She did not want to make a scene, so she leaned across and took a
cookie herself. A minute or so passed. More rustling. He was helping himself to
By the time they were down to the last cookie in the package,
she was very angry but still could not bring herself to say anything. Then the
young man broke the cookie in two, pushed half across to her, ate the other
half and left.
Some time later, when the public-address system called for
her to present her ticket, she was still fuming. Imagine her embarrassment when
she opened her handbag and was confronted by her package of cookies. She had
been eating his.
C onsider this lady’s feelings toward the neatly dressed
young man before the turn of events: “What a rude, presumptive young man.”
Imagine her feelings after: “H ow embarrassing!? H ow kind
of him to share his last cookie with me!”
So what’s the point? It’s simply this: often our paradigms
are incomplete, inaccurate, or kinda messed up. We shouldn’t be so quick to
judge, label, or form rigid opinions of others— or of ourselves, for that
matter. From a limited point of view, it’s hard to see the whole picture or
have all the facts.
In addition, we should open our minds and hearts to new
information, ideas, and points of view. We should be willing to change our
paradigms when it becomes clear that they’re wrong. Is it obvious that if you
want to make big changes in your life, change your lens.
Everything else will follow.
When you really think about it, you’ll realize that most of
your problems (with relationships, self-image, attitude) are the result of a
messed-up paradigm or two. For instance, if you have a poor relationship with,
say, your dad, it’s likely that both of you have a warped paradigm of each
other. You may think he’s being harsh, or putting too much pressure on you; he
may see you as being a spoiled, ungrateful brat. In reality, both of your
paradigms are probably incomplete and are holding you back from real
communication with each other.
A s you’ll see, this book will challenge many of your
paradigms and, hopefully, will help you create more accurate and complete ones.
So get ready.
•PARADIGMS OF LIFE
We don’t just have paradigms about ourselves
and others, we also have paradigms about the world in general. You can usually
tell what your paradigm is by asking yourself a few questions: “What is the
driving force of my life?” “What do I spend my time thinking about?” “Who or
what are my obsessions?” Whatever’s most important to you will become your
paradigm, your glasses, or, as I like to call it, your life-center. Some of the
more popular life-centers for teens include Friends, Stuff, Boyfriend/
Girlfriend, School, Parents, Sports/ H obbies, H eroes, Enemies, Self, and
Work. Of course they each have their good points, but they are all incomplete
in one way or another, and, as I’m about to show you, they’ll mess you up if
you center your life on them. L uckily, there is one center that you can always
count on. We’ll save it for last.
There’s nothing better than belonging to a
great group of friends and nothing worse than feeling like an outcast. Friends
are important but should never become your center. Why? Well, occasionally
they’re fickle. N ow and then they’re fake. Sometimes they talk behind your
back or develop new friendships and forget yours. They have mood swings. They
In addition, if you base your identity on being accepted,
being popular, or having the most friends on Facebook, you may find yourself
compromising your standards or changing them every weekend to accommodate your
Believe it or not, the day will come when friends will not
be the biggest thing in your life. In high school I had an amazing group of
friends. We did everything together—swam in irrigation canals, gorged at
all-you-can-eat buffets, snowmobiled all through the night, dated one another’s
girlfriends . . . you name it. I loved these guys. I figured we’d be close
Since high school graduation, though, I’ve been shocked by
how seldom we see one another. N ow, years later, we live far apart, and new
relationships, jobs, and family take up our time. A s a teen, I never could
have fathomed this.
Make as many friends as you can, but don’t build your life
on them. It’s an unstable foundation. People will change, you will change.
Sometimes we see the world through the lens
of possessions or “stuff.” We live in a material world that teaches us that “H
e who dies with the most toys wins.” We feel as if we’re supposed to have the
fastest car, the nicest clothes, the latest smartphone, the best hairstyle, and
the many other things that apparently bring happiness. Possessions also
come in the form of titles and accomplishments, such as—head cheerleader, star
of the play, valedictorian, student body officer, editor in chief, or MVP.
There is nothing wrong with achieving success and enjoying
our stuff, but things should never become the center of our lives. In
the end, they have no lasting value. Our confidence needs to come from within,
not from without. From the quality of our hearts, not the quantity of
things we own. A fter all, he who dies with the most toys . . . still dies.
I knew a girl who had the most beautiful and expensive
wardrobe I’d ever seen. She never wore the same outfit twice. A fter getting to
know her better, I started to notice that she had a bad case of “elevator
eyes.” It seemed that whenever she talked with another girl, she’d eye her from
head to foot to see if her outfit was as nice as her own, which usually gave
her a superiority complex. H er self-confidence depended on owning stuff.
It didn’t come from her own personality, smarts, or kindness. It was a real
turnoff to me.
I read a saying once that says it better than I can: “If who
I am is what I have and what I have is lost, then who am I?”
Boyfriend/G irlfriend-C entered
This may be the easiest trap of all to fall
into. I mean, who hasn’t been focused on a crush or a boyfriend or
girlfriend at one point?
L et’s pretend Brady centers his life on his girlfriend,
Tasha. N ow, watch the instability it creates in Brady.
T A SH A ’S A C T IONS
BR A D Y’S R EA C T IONS
thoughtless comment: “My day is
Talks to Brady’s best friend:
“Are they flirting?
They’re both betraying me.”
“I think we should date “other people:”
“My life is over. Y ou
never loved me.”
The ironic thing is that the more you center your life on
someone, the less attractive you become to that person. H ow’s that? Well,
first of all, if you’re centered on someone, you’re no longer hard to get.
Second, it’s irritating when someone builds their entire emotional life
around you. Since their security comes from you and not from within themselves,
they always need to have those sickening “where do we stand” talks (shudder).
When I began dating my wife, one of the things that
attracted me most was that she didn’t center her life on me. I’ll never forget
the time she turned me down (with a smile and no apology) for a very important
date. I loved it! She was her own person and had her own inner strength. H er
moods were independent of mine.
Believe me, you’ll be a better boyfriend or girlfriend if
you’re not totally obsessed with your partner. This goes for getting a
boyfriend or girlfriend, too. If you make your crush the center of your life,
it can sometimes come off as desperate or needy. Independence is far more
attractive than dependence.
Besides, centering your life on another doesn’t show that
you love them, only that you’re dependent on them. You can usually tell when a
couple becomes centered on each other because they are forever breaking up and
getting back together. A lthough their relationship has gone to pot, their
emotional lives and identities are so intertwined that they can’t let go of
H ave as many girlfriends or boyfriends as you’d like, just
don’t make them your center, because, although there are exceptions, teenage
romantic relationships are usually about as stable as a yo-yo.
A mong teens, centering one’s life on school
is more common than you might think. L isa, from C anada, regrets being
school-centered for so long:
I have been so ambitious and so school-centered that I
haven’t enjoyed my youth. It has not only been unhealthy for myself—but it’s
been selfish, because all I cared about was me and my achievements.
As a seventh grader I was already working as hard as a
college student. I wanted to be a brain surgeon, just because it was the
hardest thing I could think of. I would get up at six every morning all through
school and not go to bed before 2 A.M. in order to achieve.
I felt teachers and peers expected it of me. They would
always be surprised if I didn’t get perfect grades. My parents tried to loosen
me up, but my own expectations were as great as that of teachers and peers.
I realize now that I could have accomplished what I wanted
without trying so hard, and I could have had a good time doing it.
Our education is vital to our future and should be a top
priority. But we must be careful not to let A C T or SA T scores, GPA ’s, and A
P classes take over our lives. School-centered teens often become so obsessed
with getting good grades that they forget that the real purpose of school is to
learn. Y ou can do extremely well in school and still maintain a healthy
balance in life.
Thank goodness our worth isn’t measured by
our GPA .
Your parents can be your greatest source of
love and guidance and you should respect and honor them, but living to please
them above everything else can become a real nightmare. (Don’t tell your
parents I said that or they might take away your book . . . just kiddin’.) Read
what happened to this young girl from L ouisiana:
I worked so hard all semester. I just knew that my parents
would be pleased—six A’s and one B+. But all I could see in their eyes was
disappointment. All they wanted to know was why the B+ wasn’t an A. It was all
I could do not to cry. What did they want from me?
That was my sophomore year of high school, and I spent the
next two years trying to make my parents proud of me. I played basketball and I
hoped that they would be proud—they never came to see me play. I made the honor
roll every semester—but after a while straight A’s were just expected. I was
going to go to college to be a teacher, but there was no money in that, and my
parents felt that I would be better off studying something else—so I did.
Every decision I made was prefaced with the questions—What
would Mom and Dad want me to do? Would they be proud? Would they love me? But
no matter what I did, it was never good enough. I had based my whole life on
the goals and aspirations my parents thought were good, and it didn’t make me
happy. I felt out of control. I felt worthless, useless, and unimportant.
Eventually I realized that my parents’ approval wasn’t
coming, and if I didn’t get my act together, I would destroy myself. I needed
to find a center that was timeless, unchanging, and real—a center that couldn’t
shout, disapprove, or criticize. So I started to live my own life, by the
principles that I thought would bring me happiness—like honesty (with myself
and my parents), faith in a happier life, hope for the future, and belief in my
own goodness. In the beginning I sort of had to pretend that I was strong, but,
over a period of time, I became strong.
Finally I struck out on my own and had a falling out with my
folks, but it made them see me for who I was, and they loved me. They apologized
for all the pressure they put on me and expressed their love. I was eighteen
years old before I ever remember my dad saying “I love you,” but they were the
sweetest words I have ever heard, and well worth the wait. I still care about
what my parents think, and I am still influenced by their opinions, but,
ultimately, I have become responsible for my life and my actions, and I try to
please myself before anybody else.
O ther Possible C enters
The list of possible centers could go on and
on. Being sports- or hobbies-centered is a big one. H ow many
times have we seen a sports-centered jock build his identity around being a
great athlete only to suffer a career-ending injury? It happens all the time. A
nd the poor kid is left to rebuild his life from scratch. The same goes for any
hobbies and interests—dance, debate, drama, music, or clubs.
A nd what about being hero-centered? If you build
your life around a rock star, famous athlete, entrepreneur, or powerful
politician, what happens if they die, do something really stupid, or end up in
jail? Who will you look up to then?
Sometimes we can even become enemy-centered, and
build our lives around hating a group, a person, or an idea. There are
countless websites dedicated to hating particular topics or celebrities. What a
waste of time! Why not put that energy toward something that makes you happy?
Becoming work-centered is a sickness that usually
afflicts older people but can also reach teens. Workaholism is usually driven
by a compulsive need to have more stuff, like money, cars, status, or
recognition, which can never fully satisfy—because there’s always a new model of
iPhone coming out that will put your old one to shame!
A nother common center is being self-centered, or
thinking the world revolves around you and your problems. This often results in
being so worried about your own condition that you’re oblivious to the walking
wounded all around you.
A s you can see, all these and many more life-centers do not
provide the stability that you and I need in life. I’m not saying we shouldn’t
strive to become excellent in something like dance or debate, or strive to
develop rich relationships with our friends and parents. We should. But there’s
a fine line between having a passion for something and basing your entire
existence on it. A nd that’s the line we shouldn’t cross.
Principle-C entered—The Real Thing
In case you were starting to wonder, there
is a center that actually works. What is it? (Drumroll, please.) It’s being principle-centered.
We are all familiar with the effects of gravity. Throw a ball up and it comes
down. It’s a natural law or principle. Just as there are principles that rule
the physical world, there are principles that rule the human world. Principles
aren’t religious. They aren’t based on nationality or race. They aren’t mine or
yours. They aren’t up for discussion. They apply equally to everyone, male or
female, rich or poor, famous or obscure. They can’t be bought or sold. If you
live by them, you will excel. If you break them, you will fail (hey, that
sorta’ rhymes). It’s that simple.
Here are a few examples: H onesty is a principle. Service is a
principle. L ove is a principle.H ard work is a principle. Respect, gratitude,
moderation, fairness, integrity, loyalty, and responsibility are principles.
There are dozens and dozens more. They are not hard to identify. Just as a
compass always points to true north, your heart will recognize true principles.
For example, think about the principle of hard work. You may
be able to scrape by using shortcuts and faking it for a while, but eventually
it’ll catch up to you.
Iremember one time being invited to play in a golf tournament with
my college footballcoach. H e was a great golfer. Everyone, including my coach,
expected that I’d be a fine golfer as well. A fter all, I was a college athlete
and all college athletes should be great golfers. Right? Wrong. You see, I
stunk at golf. I’d only played a few times in my life, and I didn’t even know
how to hold a club properly.
I was nervous about everyone finding out how bad I was at
golf. Especially my coach. So I was hoping that I could fool him and everyone
else into thinking I was good. On the very first hole there was a small crowd
gathered around. I was first up to tee off. Why me? A s I stepped up to hit the
ball, I prayed for a miracle.
Swooooosssssshhhhh. It worked! A miracle! I couldn’t
believe it! I had hit a long shot, straight down the middle of the fairway.
I turned around and smiled to the crowd and acted as if I
always hit like that. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
I had them all fooled. But I was only fooling myself because
there were 171/ 2 more holes to go. In fact,
it took only about five more shots for everyone around me, including my coach,
to realize that I was a complete golf sham. It wasn’t long until the coach was
trying to show me how to swing the club. I’d been exposed. Ouch!
You can’t fake playing golf, tuning a guitar, or speaking A
rabic if you haven’t paid the price to get good. There’s no way around it. H
ard work is a principle. A s the N BA great
L arry Bird put it, “If you don’t do your
homework, you won’t make your free throws.”
Principles N ever Fail
It takes faith to live by principles,
especially when you see people close to you get ahead in life by lying,
cheating, indulging, manipulating, and serving only themselves. What you don’t
see, however, is that breaking principles always catches up to them in
Take the principle of honesty. If you’re a big liar, you may
be able to get by for a while, even for a few years. But you’d be hard-pressed
to find a liar who achieved success over the long haul. A s C ecil B.
DeMille observed about his classic movie The Ten Commandments, “It is
impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the
U nlike all the other centers we’ve looked at, principles
will never fail you. They’ll never gossip behind your back. They don’t move away.
They don’t suffer career-ending injuries. They don’t play favorites based on
skin color, gender, wealth, or appearance. A principlecentered life is simply
the most stable, immovable, unshakable foundation you can build upon, and we
all need one of those.
To grasp why principles always work, just imagine living a
life based on their opposites— a life of dishonesty, laziness, indulgence,
ingratitude, selfishness, and hate. I can’t imagine any good things coming out
of that. C an you?
Ironically, living a principle-centered life is the key to
excelling in all the other centers. If you live the principles of service,
respect, and love, for instance, you’re likely to pick up more friends and be a
more stable boyfriend or girlfriend. Putting principles first is also the key
to becoming a person of character.
today to make principles your core life-center, or paradigm. In whatever
situation you find yourself, ask, “What’s the principle in play here?” For
every problem, search for the principle that will help you solve it.
If you’re feeling worn out and beaten up by life, perhaps
you should try the principle of balance.
If you find no one trusts you, the
principle of honesty might just be the cure you need. In the story Loyalty
to a Brother by Walter MacPeek, loyalty was the principle in play:
One of two brothers fighting in the same company in France
fell by a German bullet. The one who escaped asked permission of his officer to
go and bring his brother in.
“He is probably dead,” said the officer, “and there is no use
in your risking your life to bring in his body.”
But after further pleading the officer consented. Just as the
soldier reached the lines with his brother on his shoulders, the wounded man
“There, you see,” said the officer, “you risked your life for
“No,” replied Tom. “I did what he expected of me, and I have
my reward. When I crept up to him and took him in my arms, he said, ‘Tom, I
knew you would come—I just felt you would come.’ ”
In the upcoming chapters, you’ll discover that each of the 7
H abits is based upon a basic principle or two. A nd that’s where they get
their power from. The long and short of it is principles rule.
we’ll talk about how to get rich, in a way you probably never thought of. So
A Word About Baby Steps
O ne of my
family’s favorite movies is on old classic called What About Bob?
starring Bill Murray. It is the story of a dysfunctional, phobia-laden,
immature, pea-brained leech named Bob who never, ever goes away. H e attaches
himself to Dr. Marvin, a renowned psychiatrist, who wants nothing more than to
get rid of Bob and finally gives him a book he wrote called Baby Steps.
H e tells Bob that the best way to solve his problems is not to bite off too
much at once but to just take “baby steps” to reach his goals. Bob is
delighted! H e no longer has to worry about how to get all the way home from
Dr. Marvin’s office, a big task for Bob. Instead, Bob only has to baby step his
way out of the office, and then baby step his way onto the elevator, and so on.
So I’ll give you some baby steps at the end of each chapter,
starting with this one—small, easy steps that you can do immediately to help
you apply what you just read. Though small, these steps can become powerful
tools in helping you achieve your larger goals. So, come along with Bob (he
really becomes very likable after you accept the fact that you can’t shake him)
and take some baby steps.
The next time you look in the mirror say something positive
Show appreciation for someone’s
point of view today. Say something like “Hey, that’s a cool idea.”
Think of a limiting paradigm you might have of
yourself, such as “I’ll never be outgoing.” Now, do something today that
totally contradicts that paradigm.
Think of a loved one or close friend who has been
acting out of character lately. Consider what might be causing them to act that
When you have nothing to do, what is it that occupies
your thoughts? Remember, whatever is most important to you will become your
paradigm or life-center.
What occupies my time and energy?
The Golden Rule rules! Begin today
to treat others as you would want them to treat you. Don’t be impatient,
complain about what’s for dinner, or bad-mouth someone, unless you want the
Sometime soon, find a quiet place where you can be
alone. Think about what matters most to you.
Listen carefully to the lyrics of the music you
listen to most frequently. Consider if they are in harmony with the principles
you believe in.
When you do your chores at home or work tonight, try out the
principle of hard work. Go the extra mile and do more than is expected. 10 The next time you’re in a tough
situation and don’t know what to do, ask yourself, “What principle should I
apply (i.e., honesty, love, loyalty, hard work, patience)?” Follow that
principle and don’t look back.
Personal Bank Account
with the Man in the Mirror
Am the Force
2—Begin with the End in Mind
Control Y our Own D estiny or Someone
3—Put First Things First
and Won’t Power
The Personal Bank Account
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR
Before you’ll ever win in the public arenas
of life, you must rst win the private battles within yourself. All
change begins with you. I’ll never forget how I learned this lesson.
I’m starting with
the man in the mirror I’m asking him to change his ways
A nd no message
could have been any clearer If you wanna make the world a better place Take a
look at yourself, and then make a change.
“MAN IN THE MIRROR” BY SIEDAH GARRETT AND GLEN BALLARD
“What’s wrong with you? You’re disappointing me. Where’s the
Sean I once knew in high school?” C oach glared at me. “Do you even want
to be out there?”
I was shocked. “Y es, of course.”
“Oh, gimme a break. You’re just going through the motions
and your heart’s not in it. You better get your act together or the younger
quarterbacks will pass you up and you’ll be a benchwarmer.”
It was my sophomore year at Brigham Young U niversity (BY U
) during preseason football camp. Several colleges recruited me straight out of
high school, but I chose BY U because they had a tradition of producing all-A
merican quarterbacks like Jim McMahon and Steve Young, both of whom went on to
the pros and led their teams to Super Bowl victories. A lthough I was the
third-string quarterback at the time, I planned on being the next all-A
When C oach told me that I was “stinkin’ up the field,” it
came as a cold, hard slap in the face. The thing that really bugged me, though,
was that he was right. Even though I was spending long hours practicing, I
wasn’t truly committed. I was holding back, and I knew it.
I had a hard decision to make—I had to either quit football
or triple my commitment. Over the next several weeks, I waged a war inside my
head and came face-to-face with many fears and self-doubts. Did I have what it
took to be the starting quarterback? C ould I handle the pressure? Was I big
enough? It soon became clear to me that I was scared, scared of competing,
scared of being in the limelight, scared of trying and perhaps failing. A nd
all these fears were holding me back from giving it my all.
There’s a great quote by A rnold Bennett that describes what
I finally decided to do about my dilemma. H e wrote, “The real tragedy is the
tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme
effort—he never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full
H aving never enjoyed tragedy, I decided to brace myself for
one supreme effort. So I committed to give it my all. I decided to stop holding
back and to start laying it all on the line. I didn’t know if I would ever get
a chance to be first string, but if I didn’t, at least I was going to strike
The real tragedy
is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one
supreme effort—he never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to
his full stature.
N o one heard me say, “I commit.” There was no applause. It
was simply a private battle that I fought and won inside my own mind over a
period of several weeks.
Once I committed myself, everything changed. I began taking
chances and making big improvements on the field. My heart was in it now. I
knew it, and the coaches saw that.
A s the season began and the games rolled by one by one, I
sat on the bench. A lthough frustrated, I kept working hard and kept improving.
Midseason featured the big game of the year. We were to play
nationally ranked A ir Force on ESPN , in front of 65,000 fans. A week before
the game, C oach called me into his office and told me that I would be the
starting quarterback. Gulp! N eedless to say, that was the longest week of my
Game day finally arrived. A t kickoff my mouth was so dry I
could barely talk. But after a few minutes I settled down and led our team to
victory. I was even named the ESPN Player of the Game. A fterward, lots of
people congratulated me on the victory and my performance. That felt good. But
they didn’t really understand.
They didn’t know the full story. They thought that victory
had taken place on the field that day in the public eye. I knew it happened
months before in the privacy of my own head, when I decided to face my fears,
to stop holding back, and to brace myself for one supreme effort. Beating A ir
Force was a much easier challenge than overcoming myself. Private victories
always come before public victories. A s the saying goes, “We have met the enemy
and he is us.”
We crawl before we walk. We learn addition
before algebra. We must fix ourselves before we can fix others. If you want to
make a change in your life, the place to begin is with yourself, not with your
parents, your teacher, or your girlfriend or boyfriend. A ll change begins with
Y -O-U . Think about it. It’s inside out. N ot outside in.
I am reminded of the writings of an A
I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing
As I grew older and wiser I
realized the world would not change.
And I decided to shorten my
sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable.
I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change
family, those closest to me, but alas they would have none of it.
And now here I lie on my death
bed and realize (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself
first, then by
I may have influenced my family
with their encouragement and support
may have bettered my country, and who knows I may have changed the world.
This is what this book is all about. C hanging from the
inside out, starting with the man or woman in the mirror. This chapter (“The
Personal Bank A ccount”) and the ones that follow on H abits 1, 2, and 3 deal
with you and your character, or the private victory. The next four
chapters, “The Relationship Bank A ccount,” and H abits 4, 5, and 6, deal with relationships,
or the public victory.
Before diving into H abit 1, let’s take a look at how you
can immediately begin to build your self-confidence and achieve a private
The Personal Bank Account
H ow you feel
about yourself is like a bank account. L et’s call it your personal bank
account (PBA ). Just like a checking or savings account at a bank, you can
make deposits into and take withdrawals from your PBA by the things you think,
say, and do. For example, when I stick to a commitment I’ve made to myself, I
feel in control. It’s a deposit. Cha-ching. On the other hand, when I
break a promise to myself, I feel disappointed and make a withdrawal.
So let me ask you. H ow is your PBA ? H ow much trust and
confidence do you have in yourself? A re you loaded or bankrupt? The symptoms
listed below might help you evaluate where you stand.
Possible Symptoms of a L ow PBA
•Y ou cave in to
peer pressure easily.
•Y ou wrestle
with feelings of worthlessness and inferiority.
•Y ou’re overly
concerned about what others think of you.
•Y ou act
arrogant to help hide your insecurities.
self-destruct by getting heavily into drugs, pornography, vandalism, or gangs.
•Y ou get
jealous easily, especially when someone close to you succeeds.
Possible Symptoms of a H ealthy PBA
•Y ou stand up
for yourself and resist peer pressure.
•Y ou’re not
overly concerned about being popular.
•Y ou see life
as a generally positive experience.
•Y ou trust
•Y ou are goal
•Y ou are happy
for the successes of others.
If your personal bank account is low, don’t get discouraged.
It doesn’t have to be permanent. Just start making small, humble deposits
today—deposits worth $1, $5, or $10. You’ll feel your confidence growing. Small
deposits over a long period of time is the way to a healthy and rich PBA .
With the help of various teen groups, I’ve compiled a list
of six key deposits that can help you build your PBA . A nd, just like N
ewton’s L aw of Motion, with every deposit, there is an equal and opposite
PBA D EPOSIT S
PBA WIT H D R A WA L S
Keep promises to yourself
Break personal promises
D o small acts of kindness
Keep to yourself
Be gentle with yourself
Beat yourself up
Wear yourself out
Magnify your talents
Bury your talents
H ave you ever had flakey friends? They say
they’ll text you back and they don’t. They promise to hang out on the weekend
and they forget. A fter a while, you stop trusting them. Their commitments mean
nothing. The same thing happens when you continually make and break
self-promises, such as “I’m going to study right when I get home,” when next
thing you know you’re Facebook chatting with friends. A fter a while of flaking
out on yourself, you don’t trust yourself, either.
We should treat the commitments we make to ourselves as
seriously as those we make to the most important people in our lives. If you’re
feeling out of control in life, focus on the single thing you can control—you.
Make a promise to yourself and keep it. Start with small $5 commitments that
you know you can complete, like not drinking soda pop today. A fter you’ve
built up some self-trust, you can then go for the more difficult $100
deposits—like deciding to break up with an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend or
making up your mind to overcome an addiction.
I remember reading a statement by a
psychiatrist who said that if you’re feeling depressed, the best thing to do is
to do something for someone else. Why? Because it gets you focused outward, not
inward. It’s hard to be depressed while helping someone else. Ironically, a
byproduct of serving others is feeling wonderful yourself.
I remember sitting in an airport one day, waiting for my
flight. I was excited because I’d been upgraded to first-class. A nd in first
class the flight attendants are nicer, the food is edible, and there’s room to
stretch your legs so they’re not curled up like a pretzel. In fact, I had the
best seat on the entire plane. Seat 1A . Before boarding, I noticed a young
lady who had several carry-on bags and was holding a crying baby. H aving just
finished reading a book on doing random acts of kindness, I heard my conscience
speak to me, “You scumbag. L et her have your ticket.” I fought these
promptings for a while but eventually caved in:
“Excuse me, but you look like you could use this first-class
ticket more than me. I know how hard it can be flying with kids. Why don’t you
let me trade you tickets?”
“A re you sure?”
“Oh yeah. I really don’t mind. I’m just
going to be working the whole time, anyway.” “Well, thank you. That’s very kind
of you,” she said, as we swapped tickets.
A s we boarded the plane, I was surprised at how good it
made me feel to watch her sit down in seat 1A . In fact, under the
circumstances, sitting way back near the bathrooms didn’t seem that bad at all.
A t one point during the flight I was so curious to see how she was doing that
I got up out of my seat, walked to the first-class section, and peeked in
through the curtain that separates first class from coach. There she was with
her baby, both asleep in big and comfortable seat 1A . A nd I felt like a
million bucks. Cha-ching. I’ve got to keep doing this kind of thing.
sweet story shared by a teen named Tawni is another example of the joy of
There is a girl in our neighborhood who lives in a duplex
with her parents, and they don’t have a lot of money. For the past three years,
when I grew out of my clothes, me and my mom took them over to her. I’d say
something like “I thought you might like these,” or “I’d like to see you
When she wore something I gave her,
I’d think it was really cool. She would say, “Thank you so much for the new
shirt.” I’d reply, “That color looks really good on you!” I tried to be
sensitive so that I didn’t make her feel bad, or give her the impression that I
thought she was poor. It makes me feel good, knowing that I’m helping her have
a better life.
Go out of your way to invite the kid who sits alone in class
out with you and your friends. Write an email or thank-you note to someone who
has made a difference in your life, like a friend, a teacher, or a coach. The
next time you’re at a tollbooth, pay for the car behind you. Giving gives life not
only to others but also to yourself. I love these lines from The Man Nobody
Knows by Bruce Barton, which illustrate this point so well:
There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are
in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it
and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters.
The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the
hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near to it, and
birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.
The River Jordan flows on south into another sea.
Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of
birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent
business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor
fowl will drink.
What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not
the River Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in
which they lie; not in the country round about.
This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does
not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out.
The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.
The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It
will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.
The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives
nothing. It is named the Dead. There are two kinds of people in this world.
There are two seas in Palestine.
Being gentle means many things. It means not
expecting yourself to be perfect by tomorrow morning. If you’re a late bloomer,
as many of us are, be patient and allow yourself enough time to grow.
It means learning to laugh at the stupid things you do. I
have a friend C huck who’s extraordinary when it comes to laughing at himself
and never taking life too seriously. I’ve always been amazed at how his upbeat
attitude attracts people to him, almost magnetically.
Being gentle also means forgiving yourself when you mess up.
A nd who hasn’t done that? We should learn from our mistakes, but we shouldn’t
beat ourselves up over them. The past is just that, past. C onsider what went
wrong and why. L earn, and make amends if you need to. Then drop it and move
on. Throw that voodoo doll out with the trash.
“One of the keys to happiness,” says Rita
Mae Brown, “is a bad memory.”
A ship at sea for many years picks up thousands of barnacles
that attach themselves to the bottom of the ship and eventually weigh it down,
becoming a threat to its safety. The easiest way to get rid of them is for the
ship to harbor in a freshwater port, free of salt water. H ere, the barnacles
loosen on their own and fall off. The ship is then able to return to sea,
relieved of its burden.
A re you carrying around barnacles in the form of mistakes,
regrets, and pain from the past? Perhaps you need to allow yourself to soak in
fresh water for a while. H it the refresh button. L etting go of a burden and
giving yourself a second chance may just be the deposit you need right now.
Always be a
first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody
JUDY GARLAND SINGER-ACTRESS
A s Bruno Mars sings, “L ife’s too short to have regrets. .
. . Only have one life to live, so you better make the best of it.”
I Googled the word honest the other
day and these are a few of the related words I found: upstanding,
incorruptible, moral, principled, truth-loving, steadfast, true, real, right,
good, straight-shooting, genuine. N ot a bad set of words to be associated
with, don’t you think?
H onesty comes in many forms. First there’s self-honesty.
When people look at you, do they see the genuine article or do you appear
through smoke and mirrors? I find that if I’m ever fake and try to be something
I’m not, I feel unsure of myself and make a PBA withdrawal. I love how singer
Judy Garland put it, “A lways be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a
second-rate version of somebody else.”
Then there’s honesty in our actions. If you’ve been
dishonest in the past, and I think we all have, try being honest, and notice
how whole it makes you feel. It’s a relief not to hide who you are, or to have
to cover up your actions. This goes for your Internet persona, too. Just
because people can’t see you directly doesn’t mean you can lie—after all, you’ll
know you’re not telling the truth. Remember, you can’t do wrong and feel right.
This story by Jeff is a good example of that:
In my sophomore year, there were three kids in my geometry
class who didn’t do well in math. I was really good at it. I’d charge them
three dollars for each test that I helped them pass. The tests were
multiple-choice, so I’d write on a little tiny piece of paper all the right
answers, and hand them off.
At first I felt like I was making money, kind of a nice job.
I wasn’t thinking about how it could hurt all of us. After a while I realized I
shouldn’t do that anymore, because they weren’t learning anything, and it would
only get harder down the road. Cheating certainly wasn’t helping me.
It takes courage to be honest when people all around you
seem to be getting away with cheating on tests, lying to their parents, and
stealing from work. But, remember, every act of honesty is a deposit into your
PBA and will build strength. A s the saying goes, “My strength is as the
strength of ten because my heart is pure.” H onesty is always the best policy,
even when it may not be popular.
You’ve gotta take time for yourself, to
renew and to relax. If you don’t you’ll get burned-out and lose your zest for
It seems like half the planet has seen the movie Avatar,
the highest grossing film of all time. Why was it so successful? Besides
groundbreaking special effects and great filmmaking, I believe the story hits
home because we all need to practice what it’s preaching.
The story takes place in the year 2154 on Pandora, a
forested moon in the A lpha C entauri star system, and revolves around the
character of Jake Sully, a former Marine, now paralyzed, confined to a
wheelchair, trapped and unfulfilled. Being able to mentally live through his
“avatar”—a 10-foot tall replica of the planet’s blue natives, he at first feels
alive because he can run and enjoy a working body, even if only in his mind.
But it quickly becomes much more than that. Meeting the natives, Jake falls in
love with N eytiri, a female N a’vi native. The more time he spends with N
eytiri and her people, the more he comes to see the beauty and peace and power
of their world—a world Jake’s loud, natural-resourcethirsty humans have come to
pillage and plunder.
The message for us here is about rejuvenation, about
unplugging, about taking time to listen to the natural world around us. It’s
about putting yourself in a self-imposed time-out once in a while.
N ow you don’t have to become a 10-foot-tall semi-human blue
dude in order to find peace, but like Jake Sully, finding your own place to
escape to, your own sanctuary of some kind, is essential. Go sit somewhere and
ponder the clouds. Find a tree stump and listen to the wind or birds or maybe
even the beating of your own heart. If you don’t have access to a big cool
glowing Tree of Souls like Jake, maybe you can find a rooftop, a park bench,
some piece of grass somewhere, just a place to be alone. N ow all this might
sound a bit hokey, but trust me, humans today live in a constant storm of stuff
and we all need to take a deep breath and unplug occasionally, just to renew
Theodore, from C anada, had his hideout:
Whenever I’d get too stressed out, or
when I wasn’t getting along with my parents, I’d just go into the basement.
There I had a hockey stick, a ball, and a bare concrete wall
on which I could take out my frustrations. I’d just shoot the ball for half an
hour and go back upstairs refreshed. It did wonders for my hockey game, but it
was even better for my family relationships.
A rian told me about his refuge. Whenever he got too
stressed out, he would slip into his high school’s large auditorium through a
back door. A ll alone in the quiet, dark, and spacious auditorium, he could get
away from all the hustle and bustle, have a good cry, or just relax. A llison
found a garden all her own:
My dad died in an industrial accident at work when I was
little. I really don’t know the details because I’ve always been afraid to ask
my mother very many questions about it. Maybe it’s because I’ve created this
perfect picture of him in my mind that I don’t want to change. To me he’s this
perfect human being who would protect me if he were here. He’s with me all the
time in my thoughts, and I imagine how he would act and help me if he was here.
When I really need him I go to the top of the slide at the
local grade school playground. I have this silly feeling that if I can go to
the highest place I will be able to feel him. So I climb up to the top of the
slide and just lie there. I talk to him in my thoughts and I can feel him
talking to my mind. I want him to touch me, but of course know that he cannot. I
go there every time something really is bothering me and I just share my
burdens with him.
Besides finding a place of refuge, there are so many other
ways to renew yourself and build your PBA . Exercise can do it, like going for
a walk, running, dancing, or kickboxing. Some teens have suggested watching old
movies, talking to friends who crack you up, or recording music and making
videos on your computer. Others have found that writing in their journals helps
H abit 7, Sharpen the Saw, is all about taking time to renew
your body, heart, mind, and soul. We’ll talk more about it when we get there.
So hold your horses.
Finding and then developing a talent, hobby,
or passion can be one of the single greatest deposits you can make into your
Why is it that when we think of talents we think in terms of
the “traditional” high-profile talents, such as the athlete, dancer, or
award-winning scholar? The truth is, talents come in a variety of packages.
Don’t think small. You may have a knack for reading, writing, or speaking. You
may have a gift for rhythm, being hilarious, remembering details, or being
accepting of others. You may have organizational, musical, or leadership
skills. It doesn’t matter where your talent may lie, whether it’s chess, drama,
or skateboarding, when you do something you like doing and have a talent
for—it’s exhilarating. It’s a form of selfexpression. A nd as this girl
attests, it builds esteem.
Y ou might
die laughing when I tell you that I have a real talent and love for weeds. And
I’m not talking about the kind you smoke but weeds and flowers that grow
everywhere. I realized that I always noticed them, while others just wanted
them cut down.
So I started picking them and pressing them—and eventually
making beautiful pictures and postcards and art objects with them. I have been
able to cheer many a sad soul with one of these personalized cards. I’m often
asked to do arrangements of flowers for others and to share my knowledge of
preserving pressed plants. It’s given me so much joy and confidence—just
knowing I have the special gift and appreciation for something most people
ignore. But it even goes beyond that—it’s taught me that if there’s so much to
just simple weeds, how much more is there to almost everything else in life?
It’s made me look deeper. It makes me an explorer.
My brother-in-law Bryce told me how developing a talent
helped build his self-confidence and find a career in which he could make a
difference. H is story is set in the Teton mountain range that stretches high
above the plains of Idaho and Wyoming. The Grand Teton, the tallest of the
Teton peaks, juts 13,776 feet above sea level.
A s a young boy, Bryce had the picture-perfect baseball
swing. U ntil his tragic accident. While playing with a BB gun one day, Bryce
accidentally shot himself in the eye. Fearing that surgery might permanently
impair his vision, the doctors left the BB in his eye.
Months later, when Bryce returned to baseball, he began
striking out each time at bat. H e had lost his depth perception and much of
his vision in one eye and could no longer judge the ball. Said Bryce, “I was an
all-star player the year before and now I couldn’t hit the ball. I was
convinced that I would never be able to do anything again. It was a big blow to
Bryce’s two older brothers were good at so many things, and
he wondered what he could do now, given his new handicap. Since he lived near
the Tetons he decided to give climbing a try. So he dropped by the local A rmy
store and bought nylon rope, carabiners, chalks, pitons, and other climbing
necessities. H e checked out climbing books and studied how to tie knots, hook
up a harness, and rappel. H is first real climbing experience was rappelling
off his friend’s chimney. Soon he began climbing some of the smaller peaks
surrounding the Grand Teton.
Bryce soon realized that he had a knack for it. U nlike many
of his climbing partners, his body was strong and lightweight and seemed to be
perfectly built for rock climbing.
A fter training for several months, Bryce finally climbed
the Grand Teton all by himself. It took him two days. Reaching this goal gave
him a massive confidence boost.
H e’d drive to the Tetons, run up to the base of the climb,
do the climb, and run back down. Bryce got faster and stronger every time.
Bryce’s friend K im noticed how seriously he took climbing, and told him, “H
ey, you ought to go after the record on the Grand Teton.”
K im told Bryce all about it. A climbing ranger named Jock
Glidden had set a record on the Grand by running to the top and back in four
hours and eleven minutes. That’s absolutely impossible, thought Bryce. I’d
like to meet this guy someday. But as Bryce continued to do these types of
runs, his times became faster and K im kept saying, “You have to go after the
I know you can do it.”
occasion, Bryce finally met Jock, the superhuman with the insurmountable
Bryce and K im were sitting in Jock’s tent
when K im, a well-known climber himself, said to Jock, “This guy here is
thinking about going after your record.” Jock gazed at Bryce’s 125pound frame
and laughed aloud, as if to say, “Get a clue, you little runt.” Bryce felt
devastated but quickly gathered himself. A nd K im kept affirming him: “You can
do it. I know you can do it.”
Early one morning, carrying a small orange backpack and a
light jacket, Bryce ran to the top of the Grand and back in three hours,
forty-seven minutes, and four seconds. H e stopped only twice: once to take
rocks out of his shoes and once to sign the register at the summit to prove he
had been there. H e felt utterly amazing. H e’d not only broken the record,
he’d shattered it!
A few years later, Bryce received a surprise call from K im.
“Bryce, have you heard? Your record has just been broken.” Of course, he added,
“You need to get it back. I know you can do it!” A man named C reighton K ing,
who had recently won the heralded Pike’s Peak Marathon in C olorado, dashed to
the top and back in three hours, thirty minutes, and nine seconds.
Two years after his last assault on the mountain, and ten
days after his record had been broken, Bryce stood in the L upine Meadows
parking lot at the base of the Grand Teton in brand-new running shoes, ready
and eager to break K ing’s record. With him were friends, family, K im, and a
crew from the local television station to film his run.
A s before, he knew the hardest part of the climb would be
the mental aspect. H e obviously did not want to become one of the two
or three who die each year while attempting to scale the Grand.
Sportswriter Russell Weeks describes running the Grand as follows:
“From the parking lot you face a run of about nine or ten miles up switchback
trails, through a canyon, up two glacial moraines, two saddles, a gap between
two peaks, and a 700-foot climb up the west wall of the Grand to the top. The
rise and fall in altitude from L upine Meadows to the top and back is about
15,000 feet. L eigh Ortenburger’s Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range
lists the last 700 feet alone as a three-hour climb.”
Bryce took off running. A s he ascended up, up, up the
mountain, his heart pounded and his legs burned. C oncentration was intense.
Scaling the last 700 feet in twelve minutes, he reached the summit in one hour
and fifty-three minutes and placed his verification card under a rock. H e knew
that if he were to break K ing’s record he would have to do it coming down. The
descent became so steep at times that he was taking ten- to fifteen-foot
strides. H e passed some friends who later told him his face had turned purple
from oxygen depletion. A nother climbing party apparently knew he was going for
the record because, as he passed, they yelled, “Go! Go!”
A mid cheers, Bryce returned to L upine Meadows with
bleeding knees, thrashed tennis shoes, and one horrific headache, three hours,
six minutes, and twenty-five seconds after he had left. H e had done the
Word spread fast and Bryce became known as the fastest
climber in the West. “It gave me an identity,” said Bryce. “Everyone wants to
be known for something, and so did I. My ability to climb gave me something to
work for and was a great source of self-esteem. It was my way of expressing
Today, Bryce is founder and president of a very successful
company that makes highperformance backpacks for climbers and mountain runners.
Most important, Bryce has found a way to make a living doing what he loves to
do. It’s what he’s good at, and he’s used this talent to bless his life and the
lives of many others.
Oh, by the way, the record still stands. (N ow, don’t get
any wild ideas.) A nd Bryce still has that BB in his eye.
So, my friends, if you need a shot of confidence, start
making some deposits into your PBA starting today. You’ll feel the results
instantly. A nd, remember, you don’t have to climb a mountain to make a
deposit. There are, oh I don’t know, a billion and one safer ways.
we’ll talk about the many ways in which you and your dog are different. Read on
and you’ll see what I mean!
Keep Promises to Yourself
Get up when your alarm goes off. Don’t hit the snooze button
or turn the alarm off and go back to sleep.
Identify one easy task that needs to be done today, like
practicing the piano, putting in a batch of laundry, or finishing a book for an
English assignment. Decide when you will do it. Then keep your word and do it.
Acts of Service
Sometime today, do a kind deed
anonymously, like taking out the trash, fixing your mom’s laptop, or making
Organize a “positive social media attack.” Get your
friends to attack someone via social media with kind words and compliments.
Magnify Your Talents
List a talent you would like to develop this year. Write
down specific steps to get there. Talent I want to develop this year:
How do I get there:
Go an entire day without negative self-talk. Each time you
catch yourself putting yourself down, you have to replace it with three
positive thoughts about yourself. Try it.
9Decide on a fun activity that will
lift your spirits and do it today. For example, turn up the music and dance.
10Feeling lethargic? Get up right now and go for a fast walk
around the block.
11The next time someone asks you about what you’re up to, or
what you’re feeling, share the complete story. Don’tleave out information meant
to mislead or deceive.
12For one day, try not to exaggerate or
embellish! Good luck!
Growing up in my home was at times a big
pain. Why? Because my dad always made me take responsibility for everything in
Whenever I said something like “Dad, my girlfriend makes me
so mad,” without fail Dad would come back with: “N ow come on, Sean, no one can
make you mad unless you let them.
It’s your choice. Y ou choose to be mad.”
Or if I said, “My new biology teacher is the worst. I’m
never going to learn a thing,” Dad would say, “Why don’t you go to your teacher
and give him some suggestions? C hange teachers. Find a tutor if you have to.
If you don’t learn biology, Sean, it’s your own fault, not your teacher’s.”
He never let me off the hook. H e was always challenging me,
making sure that I neverblamed someone else for the way I acted. L uckily my
mom let me blame other people and things for my problems or I might have turned
Ioften screamed back, “You’re wrong, Dad! I didn’t choose to be
mad. She MA DE, MA DE,MAD E me mad. Just get off my back and leave me
You see, Dad’s idea that you are responsible for your life
was hard medicine for me to swallow as a teenager. But, with hindsight, I see
the wisdom in what he was doing. H e wanted me to learn that there are two
types of people in this world—the proactive and the reactive—those who take
responsibility for their lives and those who blame; those who make it happen
and those who get happened to.
H abit 1, Be Proactive, is the key to unlocking all the
other habits and that’s why it comes first. H abit 1 says “I am the
force. I am the captain of my life. I can choose my attitude. I’m responsible
for my own happiness or unhappiness. I am in the driver’s seat of my destiny,
not just a passenger.”
Being proactive is the first step toward achieving the
private victory. C an you imagine doing algebra before learning addition and
subtraction? N ot gonna happen. The same goes for the 7 H abits. You can’t do H
abits 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 before doing H abit 1. That’s because until you feel
you are in charge of your own life, nothing else is really possible, now, is
H mmmm . . .
Proactive or Reactive . . . the Choice Is Yours
E ach day you
and I get about 100 chances to choose whether to be proactive or reactive. In
any given day, the weather is bad, you get a mean text, you can’t find a job,
your sister steals your hoodie, you lose an election at school, your friend
talks behind your back, someone graffities your locker, your parents don’t let
you take the car (for no reason), you get a parking ticket, and you flunk a
test. So what’re you going to do about it? A re you in the habit of reacting to
these kinds of everyday things, or are you proactive? The choice is yours. It
really is. You don’t have to respond the way everyone else does, or the way
people think you should.
H ow many times have you been driving down the road when
suddenly somebody cuts in front of you, making you hit the brakes? What do you
do? Scream at them? Swear? Flip them the bird? L et it ruin your day? Or do you
just let it go? L augh about it. Move on. The choice is yours.
Reactive people make choices based on impulse. They are like
a can of soda pop. When life shakes them up a bit, the pressure builds and they
“H ey, you stupid jerk! Get out of my
Proactive people make choices based on values. They think
before they act. They recognize they can’t control everything that happens to
them, but they can control what they do about it. U nlike reactive
people who are full of carbonation, proactive people are like water. Shake them
up all you want, take off the lid, and nothing. N o fizzing, no bubbling, no
They stay calm, cool, and in control.
“I’m not going to let that guy get me
upset and ruin my day.”
The best way to understand the proactive mind-set is to
compare proactive and reactive responses to situations that happen all the
Scene O ne
You see pictures on Facebook of your best
friend at a party the night she said she was too busy to hang out with you. She
doesn’t know you saw the photos. Just five minutes ago, this same friend was
sweet-talking you right to your face. Y ou feel hurt and betrayed.
•C hew her out.
Shove past her as you storm off.
•Go into a deep
depression because you feel so bad about her leaving you out.
she’s a two-faced liar and give her the silent treatment.
•Go out of your
way to exclude her. A fter all, she did it to you.
•Forgive her and
give her a second chance.
•C onfront her
and share how you feel that she lied to you.
she has weaknesses just like you and that occasionally you don’t include her in
things without really meaning any harm.
You’ve been working at your retail job for a
while now and have been completely committed and dependable. Recently, a new
employee joined the crew and he gets the coveted Saturday afternoon shift—the
shift you were hoping for.
half your waking hours complaining to everyone and their dog about how
unfairthis decision was.
the new employee and find his every weakness.
boss messages asking why he doesn’t like you.
slack off while working your shift.
your supervisor about why the new employee got the better shift, or if youand
he can alternate.
to be a hard-working employee so you get the next promotion.
what you can do to improve your performance.
determine you are in a dead-end job, begin looking for a new one.
You can usually tell the difference between
proactive and reactive people by the language they use. Reactive language
usually sounds like this:
“That’s me. That’s just the way I am.”
What they’re really saying is, I’m not responsible for the way I act. I can’t
change. I was predetermined to be this way.
“If my chem teacher wasn’t such a jerk, things would be
different.” What they’re really saying is, School is the cause of all my
problems, not me.
“Thanks a lot. You just ruined my day.” What they’re really
saying is, I’m not in control of my own moods. Y ou are.
“If only I went to a different school, had better friends,
had cooler parents, had a boyfriend . . . then I’d be happy.” What they’re
really saying is, I’m not in control of my own happiness, “things” are. I
must have things to be happy.
N otice that reactive language takes power away from you and
gives it to something or someone else. A s my friend John Bytheway explains in
his book What I Wish I’d Known in H igh School, when you’re reactive
it’s like giving someone else the remote control to your life and saying, “H
ere, change my mood anytime you wish.” Proactive language, on the other hand,
puts the remote control back into your own hands. You’re free to choose which
channel you want to be on.
R EA C T IV E L A NG UA G E
PR OA C T IV E L A NG UA G E
I’ll do it
That’s just the way I am
I can do better than that
There’s nothing I can do
Let’s look at all our options
I have to
I choose to
There’s gotta be a way
Y ou ruined my day
I’m not going to let your bad mood rub
off on me
Some people suffer from a contagious virus I
call “victimitis.” Perhaps you’ve seen it. People infected with victimitis
believe that everyone has it in for them and that the world owes them something
. . . which isn’t the case at all. I like the way author Mark Twain put it:
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you
nothing. It was here first.”
I played college football with a guy who had a bad case of
victimitis. H is comments drove me crazy:
“I would be starting, but the coaches
have something against me.”
“I was about to intercept the ball,
but somebody cut me off.”
“I would have got a better
40-yard-dash time, but my shoes came loose.”
“Yeah, right,” I always felt like saying. “A nd I’d be
President if my dad weren’t bald.” To me, it was obvious why he never played.
In his mind, the problem was always “out there.” H e never considered that
perhaps his attitude was the problem.
A dreana, an honor student from C hicago, grew up in a home
where feeling victimized caused a lot of tension:
I’m black and proud of it. Color has not stood in my way and
I learn so much from white and black teachers and counselors alike. But in my
own home it’s a different thing. My mother, who dominates the family, is fifty
years old, came from the South, and still acts as though slavery was just
abolished. She sees my doing good in school as a threat, as if I am joining the
“white folks.” She still uses language like “the man is keeping us from doing
this and that. He is keeping us boxed up and won’t let us do anything.”
I always rebut with “No man is keeping you from doing
anything, only yourself, because you keep thinking the way you think.” Even my
boyfriend falls into the white-man-is-holding-me-back attitude. When he was
recently trying to purchase a car and the sale didn’t go through, he remarked
with frustration, “The white man doesn’t want us to get anything.” I almost
lost it and confronted him with how silly that kind of thinking was. But it
only resulted in him feeling that I was taking the side of the white man.
I remain convinced that the only person who can hold you back
Besides feeling like victims, reactive
•A re easily offended
•Get angry and say things they later regret
•C riticize and complain
•Wait for things to happen to them
•C hange only when they have to
Proactive people are a different breed.
•C an brush things off without getting offended
•Take responsibility for their choices
•Think before they act
•Bounce back when something bad happens
•A lways find a way to move forward
•Focus on things they can do something about, and don’t worry
about things they can’t
I remember starting a new job and working with a guy named
Randy. I don’t know what his problem was, but for some reason he didn’t like
me—and he wanted me to know it. H e’d say rude things to me daily. I mean,
like, all the time. Once I returned from vacation and a friend told me,
“Boy, Sean, if you only knew what Randy has been saying about you. You’d better
watch your back.”
H aving a nemesis is a drag. There were times I wanted to
pound the guy, but I somehow managed to keep my cool and ignore him. Whenever
he insulted me, I made it a personal challenge to treat him well in return. I
had faith that things would work out in the end if I acted this way.
In a matter of a few months things began to change. Randy
could see that I wasn’t going to play his game and began to lighten up. H e
even told me one time, “I’ve tried to offend you, but you won’t take offense.”
A fter being at the company for about a year, we became friends and gained
respect for each other. H ad I reacted to his attacks, which was my gut
instinct, I’m certain we wouldn’t be friends today. (I’m also certain that at
least one of us would’ve wound up missing a few teeth.) Often all it takes is
one person to create a friendship.
Mary Beth discovered for herself the
benefits of being proactive:
I’d taken a class at school where we’d talked about
proactivity, and I’d wondered about how to really apply it. One day as I was
checking groceries for a guy, he suddenly told me that the groceries I had just
rung up weren’t his. My first reaction was to say, “You idiot,” then put the
bar down between the other customer’s groceries. “Why didn’t you stop me
sooner?” So I have to delete it all and call to get the changes approved by a
supervisor while he just stands there and thinks it’s funny. Meanwhile the air
is rising and I’m getting real irritated. To top it off he then has the nerve
to question the price I charged him for the broccoli.
To my horror, I discovered that he was right. I had put the
wrong code numbers in the register for the broccoli. Now I was extra irritated
and so tempted to lash out at him to cover for my own mistake. But then this
idea popped into my mind: “Be Proactive.”
So I said, “You’re right, sir. It’s completely my fault. I’ll
correct the pricing. It will just take a couple of seconds.” I also remembered
that being proactive doesn’t mean you’re a doormat, so I reminded him nicely
that to avoid this kind of thing in the future he would need to always put the
bar down that separates orders.
It felt so good. I had apologized, but I had also said what I
wanted to say. It was such a simple little thing, but it gave me such inner
conversion and confidence in this habit.
A t this point you’re probably ready to shoot me and say, “N
ow come on, Sean. It’s not that easy.” I won’t argue with you. Being reactive
is way, way easier. It’s easy to lose your cool. That doesn’t take any control.
A nd it’s easy to whine and complain. Without question, though, being proactive
is the higher road and one that will take you much farther in the not-so-long
But, remember, you don’t have to be perfect. In reality, you
and I aren’t either completely proactive or reactive but probably somewhere in
between. The key then is to get in the habit of being proactive so you can run
on autopilot and not even have to think about it. If you’re choosing to be
proactive 20 out of 100 times on average each day, try doing it 30 out of 100
times. Then 40. N ever underestimate the huge difference small changes can
The fact is, we can’t control everything
that happens to us. We can’t control where our ancestors came from, who will
win the Superbowl, how much tuition will be next fall, or how others might
treat us. But there is one thing we can control: how we respond to
what happens to us. A nd that is what counts! This is why we need to stop
worrying about things we can’t control and start worrying about things we can.
Picture two circles. The inner circle is our circle of
control. It includes things we have control over—ourselves, our attitudes, our
choices, our response to whatever happens to us. Surrounding the circle of
control is the circle of no control. It includes the thousands of things we
can’t do anything about.
N ow, what will happen if we spend our time and energy
worrying about things we can’t control, like a rude comment, a past mistake, or
the fact that it’s raining on a good hair day? You guessed it! We’ll feel even
more out of control, as if we were victims. For instance, if your sister annoys
you and you’re always complaining about her weaknesses (something you have
control over), that won’t do anything to fix the problem. It’ll only cause you
to blame your problems on her and lose power yourself. Ignore the rude comment,
avoid making the mistake next time, and get an umbrella for the rain. You are
the star of your own life. Focus on what you can influence.
Renatha told me a story that illustrates this point. A week
before her upcoming volleyball game, she learned that the mother of a player on
the opposing team had made fun of Renatha’s volleyball skills. Instead of
ignoring the comments, Renatha became angry and spent the rest of the week
stewing. When the game arrived, her only goal was to prove to this woman that
she was a good player. To make a long story short, Renatha played poorly, spent
much of her time on the bench, and her team lost the game. She was so focused
on something she couldn’t control (a stranger’s opinion of her) that she lost
control of the only thing she could control, herself.
Proactive people, on the other hand, focus elsewhere . . .
on the things they can control. By doing so they experience inner peace
and are primed for whatever comes their way. They learn to live with the many
things they can’t do anything about, even to smile and laugh about them. They
may not like them, but they know it’s no use worrying.
L ife often deals us a bad hand but it’s up
to you to think to yourself: “I’ve got this. I can get through it.” By the way,
think of how boring you’d be if nothing challenging ever happened to you—you’d
never learn, and then you’d never change! Every setback is an opportunity for
us to turn it into a triumph, as this account by Brad L emley from Parade
“It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s what you do
about it,” says W. Mitchell, a selfmade millionaire, a sought-after speaker, a former
mayor, a river rafter, and skydiver. A nd he accomplished all this after his
If you saw Mitchell you’d find this hard to believe. You
see, this guy’s face is a patchwork of multicolored skin grafts, the fingers of
both his hands are either missing or mere stubs, and his paralyzed legs lie
thin and useless under his slacks. Mitchell says sometimes people try to guess
how he was injured. A car wreck? Vietnam? The real story is more astounding
than one could ever imagine. On June 19, 1971, he was on top of the
world—young, healthy, and popular. The day before, he had bought a beautiful
new motorcycle. That morning, he soloed in an airplane for the first time.
“That afternoon, I got on that motorcycle to ride to work,”
he recalls, “and at an intersection, a laundry truck and I collided. The bike
went down, crushed my elbow and fractured my pelvis, and the gas can popped
open on the motorcycle. The gas poured out, the heat of the engine ignited it,
and I got burned over 65 percent of my body.” Fortunately, a quick-thinking man
in a nearby car lot doused Mitchell with a fire extinguisher and saved his
Even so, Mitchell’s face had been burned off, his fingers
were black, charred, and twisted, his legs were nothing but raw, red flesh. It
was common for first-time visitors to look at him and faint. H e was
unconscious for two weeks, and then he awakened.
Over four months, he had 13 transfusions, 16 skin-graft
operations, and several other surgeries. Four years later, after spending
months in rehabilitation and years learning to adapt to his new handicaps, the
unthinkable happened. Mitchell was involved in a freak airplane crash, and was
paralyzed from the waist down. “When I tell people there were two separate
accidents,” he says, “they can hardly stand it.”
A fter his paralyzing plane crash accident, Mitchell recalls
meeting a nineteen-year-old patient in the hospital’s gymnasium. “This guy had
also been paralyzed. H e had been a mountain climber, a skier, an active
outdoors person, and he was convinced his life was over. Finally, I went over
to this guy and said, ‘You know something? Before all this happened to me,
there were 10,000 things I could do. N ow there are 9,000. I could spend the
rest of my life dwelling on the 1,000 that I lost, but I choose to focus on the
9,000 that are left.’ ”
Mitchell says his secret is twofold. First is the love and
encouragement of friends and family, and second is a personal philosophy he has
gleaned from various sources. H e realized he did not have to buy into
society’s notion that one must be handsome and healthy to be happy. “I am in
charge of my own spaceship,” he states emphatically. “It is my up, my down.
I could choose to see this situation as a
setback or a starting point.”
I like how H elen K eller put it, “So much has been given to
me. I have no time to ponder that which has been denied.”
A lthough most of our setbacks won’t be as severe as
Mitchell’s, all of us will have our fair share. You might get dumped, you may
lose an election at school, you may get beaten up, you may not get accepted to
the school of your choice, you may become seriously ill. I hope and believe
that you will be proactive and strong in these defining moments.
I remember a major setback of my own. Two years after I had
become the starting quarterback in college, I seriously injured my knee, had
surgery, fell behind, and subsequently lost my position. C oach called me into
his office just before the season began and told me they were handing the
starting job to someone else.
I felt sick. I’d worked my whole life to get to this
position. It was my senior year. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
A s a backup, I had a choice to make. I could complain,
bad-mouth the new guy, and feel sorry for myself. Or . . . I could make the
most of the situation.
L uckily, I decided to deal with it. I was no longer
throwing touchdowns, but I could help in other ways. So I swallowed my pride
and kept supporting the team, working hard and preparing for each game as if I
were the starter. I chose to keep my chin up.
Was it easy? N ot at all. I often felt like a
failure. Sitting out every game after being the starter was humiliating. K
eeping a good attitude was a constant struggle.
Was it the right choice, though? Definitely. I wore out my
bum on the bench all year but I contributed to the team in other ways by
supporting the new guy and helping to prepare our defense each week for the
opposing team’s offense. Most important, I took responsibility for my attitude.
I cannot begin to tell you what a positive difference this singular decision
made in my life.
One of the most intense and difficult
setbacks of all is coping with abuse. I’ll never forget the morning I spent
with a group of teens—mostly young women, but also some young men— who had been
sexually abused as children, were victims of date rape, or were otherwise
abused emotionally or physically.
told me this story:
Iwas sexually abused at fourteen. It
happened when I was at a fair. A boy from school came up to me and said,
“Ireally need to talk to you, come with me for a few minutes.” I never
suspected anything because this kid was my friend and had always been really
nice to me. He took me on a long walk and we ended up down at the dugouts at
the high school. That was where he raped me.
He kept telling me, “If you tell anyone, no one will believe
you. You wanted this to happen to you anyway.” He also told me that my parents
would be so ashamed of me. I kept quiet about it for two years.
Finally, I was attending a help session where people who were
abused told their stories and this one girl got up and told a story similar to
mine. When she said the name of the boy that abused her, I started to cry
because it was the same one who had raped me. It turned out that there were six
of us who were victimized by him.
Fortunately, H eather is now on the road to recovery and has
found tremendous strength in being part of a teen group that is trying to help
other abuse victims. By coming forward, she put a stop to more girls getting
attacked by the same boy. That is a proactive and powerful act.
Bridgett’s story, unfortunately, is very
At the age of five I was sexually abused by a family member.
Too afraid to tell anyone I tried to bury my hurt and anger. Now that I have
come to terms with what happened, I look back on my life and can see how it has
affected everything. In trying to hide something terrible I ended up hiding myself.
It wasn’t until thirteen years later that I finally confronted my childhood
Many people have been through the same experience as I have
or something that is related. Most hide it. Why? Some are afraid for their
lives. Others want to protect themselves or someone else. But whatever the
reason, hiding it isn’t the answer. It only leaves a cut so deep in the soul
that it seems that there’s no way of healing it. Confronting it is the only way
to sew up that bleeding gash. Find someone to talk to, someone you feel
comfortable with, someone you can trust. It is a long and difficult process,
but once you come to terms with it, it’s only then that you can start to live.
If you’ve been abused, it’s never your fault. A nd
the truth has to be told. A buse thrives in secrecy. By telling another person,
you immediately lighten the load you carry. Talk with a loved one or friend you
can trust, go to sexual-abuse support meetings, or visit a professional
therapist. If the first person you share your troubles with isn’t receptive,
don’t give up—keep sharing until you find someone who is. Sharing your secret
with another is an important step in the healing process. Take the initiative
to do it. You don’t need to live with this burden for one day longer. (Please
refer to the abuse hotlines listed at the back of the book for help or
•BECOMING A CHANGE
I once asked a group of teenagers, Who
are your role models? One girl mentioned her mother. A nother kid talked
about his brother. One guy was noticeably silent. I asked him whom he admired.
H e said quietly, “I don’t have a role model.” A ll he wanted to do was make
sure he didn’t turn out like the people who should have been his role models. U
nfortunately, this is the case with many teens. They come from messed-up
families and may not have anyone to pattern their lives after.
The scary thing is that bad habits such as abuse,
alcoholism, and welfare dependency are often passed down from parents to kids,
and, as a result, dysfunctional families keep repeating themselves. Sometimes
these problems go back for generations. You may come from a long line of
alcohol or drug abusers. You may come from a long line of dependency on
welfare. Perhaps no one in your family has ever graduated from college or even
The good news is that you can stop the cycle. Because you
are proactive, you can stop these bad habits and circumstances from being
passed on. You can become a “change agent” and pass on good habits to future
generations, starting with your own kids.
A tenacious girl named H ilda shared with me how she has
become her family’s change agent. Education wasn’t a priority in her home;
there were too many other things to worry about. Says H ilda: “My mom worked in
a sewing factory for very little money, and my father worked for slightly over
minimum wage. I would hear them arguing over the money and how they were going
to pay the rent. The highest grade my parents went to in school was the sixth
A s a young girl, H ilda vividly remembers her dad being
unable to help her with her homework because he couldn’t read English. This was
hard on her, and she could see the consequences of a lack of education.
When H ilda was in junior high, her family moved from C
alifornia back to Mexico. H ilda soon realized that there were limited
educational options for her there, so she asked if she could move back to the
States to live with her aunt. For the next several years H ilda made great
sacrifices to stay in school.
“It was hard to be crowded into a room with my cousin,” she
says, “and have to share a bed and work to pay them rent as well as go to
school, but it was worth it.
“Even though I had a kid and got married in high school, I
kept going to school and working toward finishing my education. I wanted to
prove to my dad that no matter what, he was wrong when he said than no one in
our family could become a professional.”
Hilda will soon be graduating with a university degree in finance.
She wants her educational values to be passed on to her kids: “Today, every
time I can, when I am not in school, I sit on the sofa and I read to my son. I
am teaching him how to speak English and Spanish. I’m trying to save money for
his education. One day he will need help with his homework, and I will be there
to help him.”
Iinterviewed another sixteen-year-old kid named Shane from the
Midwest who is also becoming a change agent in his family. Shane lives with his
parents and two siblings in the projects, a low-income section of town. A
lthough his parents are still together, they’re constantly fighting and
accusing each other of having affairs. H is dad drives a truck and is never
home. H is mom smokes weed with his twelve-year-old sister. H is older brother
failed two years of high school and finally dropped out. A t one point Shane
had lost hope.
Just when he’d thought he’d hit rock bottom, he got involved
in a character development class at school (that taught the 7 H abits), and he
began to see that there were things he could do to seize control of his life
and create a future for himself.
Fortunately, Shane’s grandfather owned the upstairs
apartment where Shane’s family lived, so Shane paid him one hundred dollars a
month rent, and he moved to that apartment. H e now has his own sanctuary and
is able to block out everything he doesn’t want to be part of on the floor
below. Says Shane: “Things have gotten better now. I treat myself better and I
show myself respect. My family doesn’t have very much respect for themselves. A
lthough nobody in my family has ever gone to college, I have been accepted to
three different universities. Everything I do now is for my future. My future
is going to be different. I know I won’t sit down with my twelve-year-old
daughter and smoke weed.”
You have the power within you to rise above whatever may
have been passed down to you. You may not have the option of moving upstairs to
escape from it all as Shane did, but you can figuratively move upstairs in your
mind. N o matter how bad your predicament is, you can become a change agent and
create a new life for yourself and whatever may follow.
The following poem is a great summary of
what it means to take responsibility for one’s life and how a person can
gradually move from a reactive to a proactive frame of mind.
OBIOG R A PH Y IN
FIV E SH ORT C H
From There’s a H ole in My Sidewalk by Portia N elson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in
the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same
There is a deep hole in
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same
There is a deep hole in
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
You, too, can take responsibility for your life and stay
away from potholes by flexing your proactive muscles. It’s a “breakthrough”
habit that will save your you-know-what more often than you could ever imagine!
Being proactive really means two things.
First, you take responsibility for your life. Second, you have a “can-do”
attitude. C an-do is very different from “no-can-do.” Just take a peek.
C A N-D O PEOPL E
NO-C A N-D O PEOPL E
Take initiative to make it happen
Wait for something to happen to them
Think about solutions and options
Think about problems and barriers
re acted upon
If you think can-do, and you’re creative and persistent,
it’s amazing what you can accomplish. During college, I remember being told
that to fulfill my language requirement, I would “have to” take a class that I
had no interest in and was meaningless to me. Instead of taking this class,
however, I decided to create my own. So I put together a list of books I would
read and the assignments I would do and found a teacher to sponsor me. I then
went to the dean of the school and presented my case. H e bought into my idea
and I completed my language requirement by taking my self-built course.
A merican aviator Elinor Smith once said, “It has long since
come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let
things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
It’s so true. To reach your goals in life, you must seize
the initiative. If you’re feeling bad about not being asked out on dates, don’t
just sit around and sulk, do something about it. Find ways to meet people. Be
friendly and try smiling a lot. A sk them out. They may not know how
great you are.
Don’t wait for that perfect job to fall in your lap, go
after it. Be bold. Send out your résumé, network with people you
admire, gain experience by volunteering to work for free.
If you’re at a store and need assistance, don’t wait for the
salesperson to find you, you find them.
Some people mistake can-do for being pushy, aggressive, or
obnoxious. Wrong. C an-do is courageous, persistent, and smart. Others think
can-do people stretch the rules and make their own laws. N ot so. C an-do
thinkers are creative, enterprising, and extremely resourceful.
Pia, a friend of mine, shared the following story. It took
place a long time ago, but the principle of can-do is the same:
I was a young journalist in a big city in Europe, working
full-time as a reporter for United Press International. I was inexperienced and
always nervous that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations of a
tough and much older male press crew. The Beatles were coming to town, and to
my amazement I was appointed to cover their stay. (My editor didn’t know how
big they were.) They were the hottest thing in Europe in those days. Girls
fainted by the hundreds just by their presence, and here I was going to cover
their press conference.
The press conference was exciting and I was elated to be
there, but I realized that everyone would have the same story—I needed
something more, something meaty, something that really would make front page.
One by one, all the experienced reporters went back to their papers to report
and the Beatles went up to their rooms. I stayed behind. I’ve got to figure out
a way to get to these guys, I thought. And there’s no time to lose.
I walked to the hotel lobby, picked up the house phone, and
dialed the penthouse. I guessed they would be staying there. Their manager
answered. “This is Pia Jensen from United Press International. I would like to
come talk to the Beatles,” I said confidently. (What did I have to lose?) To my
amazement he said, “Come on up.”
Trembling and feeling like I had hit the jackpot, I entered
the elevator and went up to the royal suites of the hotel. I was led into an
area as big as an entire floor—and here they all sat, Ringo, Paul, John, and
George. I gulped down my nervousness and inexperience and tried to act like a
I spent the next two hours laughing, listening, talking,
writing, and having the best time of my life. They treated me royally and gave
me all the attention in the world!
My story was splashed on the front page of the leading
newspaper in the country the next morning. And my more extended interviews with
each of the Beatles appeared as a feature in most of the newspapers of the
world within the next few days. When the Rolling Stones came to town after
that—guess who they sent? Me, a young, female, inexperienced reporter. I used
the same approach with them and it worked again. I soon realized what I could
accomplish by being pleasantly persistent. A pattern was set in my mind, and I
was convinced anything was possible. With this approach, I usually got the best
story, and my news career took on a new dimension.
George Bernard Shaw, the English playwright, knew all about
can-do. L isten to how he said it: “People are always blaming their
circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people
who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for
the circumstances they want, and if they
can’t find them, make them.”
Pay attention to how Denise was able to
create the circumstances she wanted:
I know it’s strange for a teenager to want to work in a
library, but I really wanted that job—more than I had ever wanted anything, but
they weren’t hiring. I would go to the library every day and read, hang out with
my friends, and just get away from home—what better place to work than
someplace I already hung out at? Although I didn’t have a job there, I got to
know the office staff, and I volunteered for special events and pretty soon I
was one of the regulars. It paid off. When they finally had an opening, I was
their first choice, and I found one of the best jobs I ever had.
So when someone is rude to you, where do you
get the power to resist being rude back? For starters, just push pause. Yep, just
reach up and push the pause button to your life just as you would on your
remote control. (If I remember right, the pause button is found somewhere in
the middle of your forehead.) Sometimes life is moving so fast that we
instantly react to everything out of sheer habit. If you can learn to pause,
get control, and think about how you want to respond, you’ll make smarter
decisions. Yes, your childhood, your parents, your genes, and your environment influence
you to act in certain ways, but they can’t make you do anything. Y
our life is not predetermined and you are free to choose.
While your life is on pause, open up your toolbox (the one
that you were born with) and use your four human tools to help you decide what
to do. A nimals don’t have these tools and that’s why you’re smarter than your
dog. These tools are self-awareness, conscience, imagination, and willpower. Y
ou might want to call them your power tools.
L et’s illustrate these tools by imagining a teen named Rosa
and her dog, Woof, as they go for a walk:
“H ere, boy. L et’s go outside,” says Rosa
as Woof leaps up and down, wagging his tail.
It’s been a rough week for Rosa. N ot only has she just
broken up with her boyfriend, Eric, but she and her mom are barely on speaking
A s she strolls down the sidewalk, Rosa begins thinking
about the past week. “You know what?” she muses to herself. “Breaking up with
Eric has really been tough on me. It’s probably why I’ve been so rude to Mom
and taking out all my frustrations on her.”
You see what Rosa is doing? She’s
standing apart from herself and evaluating and measuring her actions. This
process is calledself-awareness.It’s a tool that is
native to all humanoids. By using her self-awareness, Rosa is able to recognize
that she’s allowing her breakup with Eric to affect her relationship with her
mom. This observation is the first step to changing the way she has been
treating her mother.
Meanwhile, Woof sees a cat up ahead and
instinctively takes off in a frenzy after it.
Although Woof is a loyal dog, he is completely
unaware of himself. H e doesn’t even know that he is a dog. H e is incapable of
standing apart from himself and saying, “You know what? Ever since Suzy
(his dog friend next door) moved, I’ve
been taking out my anger on all the neighborhood cats.”
A s she continues her stroll, Rosa’s thoughts begin to
wander. She can hardly wait for the school concert tomorrow, when she will be
performing a solo. Music is her life. Rosa imagines herself singing at the
concert. She sees herself dazzling the audience, then bowing to receive a
rousing standing ovation from all of her friends and teachers . . . and, of
course, all the cute guys.
In this scene, Rosa is using another
one of her human tools,imagination.It is a remarkable
gift. It allows us to escape our present circumstances and create new
possibilities in our heads. It gives us a chance to visualize our futures and
dream up what we would like to become.
While Rosa is imagining visions of grandeur, Woof is busily
digging up the earth trying to get at a worm.
Woof’s imagination is about as alive
as a rock. Z ilch. H e can’t think beyond the moment. H e can’t envision new
possibilities. Can you imagine Woof thinking, “Someday, I’m going to have my
own dream dog house with a revolving door and a large bay window”?
Rosa feels a vibration in her pocket. She gets a text from her new friend
“H iii, whatcha doin’?”
“H ey! Takin’ Woof for a walk” replies
Just then she gets another message: “I heard about what
happened with u & Eric. Major bummer.”
Rosa is bothered by Taylor’s
reference to Eric. It’s none of her business. Although she is tempted to be
curt with Taylor, she knows Taylor is just trying to get to know her better and
doesn’t mean any harm. Rosa feels that being warm and friendly is the right
thing to do.
“Y ea, breaking up’s rough. A nyway, what’s
up with u?”
Rosa has just used her human tool
calledconscience.A conscience is an “inner voice” that
will always teach us right from wrong. Each of us has a conscience. And it will
either grow or shrink depending upon whether or not we follow its cues.
Meanwhile, Woof is relieving himself on Mr. N ewman’s newly
painted white picket fence.
Woof has absolutely no moral sense of
right and wrong. After all, he is just a dog. And dogs will do whatever their
instincts compel them to do.
Rosa’s walk with Woof comes to an end. A s she opens the
front door to her house, she hears her mom yell from the other room, “Rosa,
where’ve you been? I called you a dozen times.”
Rosa had already made up her mind to
not lose her cool with her mom, so, despite wanting to yell back “Get out of my
face,” she responds calmly,
“Just out for a walk with the dog, Mom . .
“Woof! Woof! C ome back here,” screams Rosa as Woof darts
out the open door to chase the mailman.
While Rosa is using her fourth human
tool ofwillpowerto control her anger, Woof, who has been
told not to chase the mailman, is overcome by his instincts. Willpower is the
power to act. It says that we have the power to choose, to control our
emotions, and to overcome our habits and instincts.
A s you can see in the above example, we either use or fail
to use our four human tools every day of our lives. The more we use them, the
stronger they become and the more power we have to be proactive. H owever, if
we fail to use them, we tend to react by instinct like a dog and not act
by choice like a human.
Dermell Reed once told me how his proactive
response to a family crisis changed his life forever. Dermell was raised in one
of East Oakland’s roughest neighborhoods, the fourth in a family of seven kids.
N o one in the Reed family had ever graduated from high school before, and
Dermell wasn’t about to be the first. H e was unsure about his future. H is
family was struggling. H is street was filled with gangs and drug dealers. C
ould he ever get out? While in his house, on a still summer night before his
senior year, Dermell heard a series of gunshots.
“It’s an everyday thing to hear gunshots,
and I didn’t pay it no mind,” said Dermell.
Suddenly one of his friends, who’d been shot in the leg,
burst through the door and began hollering that Dermell’s little brother, K
evin, had just been shot and killed in a drive-by shooting.
“I was upset and I was angry and I was hurt and I lost
somebody I ain’t never going to see again in my life,” Dermell told me. “H e
was only thirteen years old. A nd he was shot over a petty little street
scuffle. I can’t explain how life went after that. It was just straight
downhill for the whole family.”
Dermell’s kneejerk reaction was to kill the murderer. It
felt like the only real way he could pay back his dead brother. The police were
still trying to figure out who did it, but Dermell knew. On a muggy A ugust
night, a few weeks after K evin’s death, Dermell got hold of a .38 caliber
revolver and went out in the streets to get revenge on Tony “Fat Tone” Davis,
the crack dealer who had killed his brother.
“It was dark. Davis and his friends couldn’t see me. There
he was sitting, talking, laughing, having fun, and here I am within fifty feet
of him, crouched behind a car with a loaded gun. I was sitting there thinking,
‘I could just pull this little trigger and kill the guy who killed my brother.’ ”
A t this point, Dermell pushed pause and caught hold of
himself. U sing his imagination, he thought about his past and
his future. “I thought about my life in a matter of seconds. I weighed my
options. I weighed the chances of me escaping, not getting caught, the police
trying to figure out who I was. I thought about the times K evin would come
watch me play football. H e always told me I was going to be a pro football
player. I thought about my future, about going to college. A bout what I wanted
to make of my life.”
Pausing, Dermell listened to his conscience.
“I’m holding a gun, I’m shaking, and I think the good side of me told me to get
up and go home and go to school. If I took revenge, I’d be throwing away my
future. I’d be no better than the guy who shot my brother.”
U sing raw willpower, Dermell, instead of
giving in to his anger and throwing away his life, got up, walked home, and
vowed that he would finish college for his beloved dead brother.
N ine months later Dermell had made the honor roll and was
graduating from high school. People in his school couldn’t believe it. Five
years later, he’d become a college football star and a college graduate, the
first in his family.
L ike Dermell, each of us will face an extraordinary
challenge or two along the way, and we can choose whether to rise to those
challenges or to be conquered by them.
Elaine Maxwell sums up the entire matter quite well:
“Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force;
I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my
responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.”
kind of like the old Volkswagen commercials. “On the road of life, there are
passengers and there are drivers . . . Drivers wanted!” So let me ask you, are
you in the driver’s seat of your life or are you merely a passenger? A re you
conducting your symphony or simply being played? A re you acting like a can of
soda pop or a bottle of water? A fter all that’s been said and done, the
choice is yours!
chapter that follows, I’ll take you on a ride you’ll never forget called The
Great Discovery. Come along. It’s a thrill a minute!
The next time someone flips you off, give them the peace
Listen carefully to your words
today. Count how many times you use reactive language, such as “Y ou make me .
. .” “I have to . . .” “Why can’t they . . .” “I can’t . . .” Reactive language
I use most: ...............
Do something today that you have wanted to do but never
dared. Leave your comfort zone and go for it. Ask someone out on a date, raise
your hand in class, or join a team. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
If you don’t make it or get rejected, so what? It’s better than not trying at
Leave yourself a message—in your
phone or on a Post-it—that says: “I will not let ....................
decide how I’m going to feel.” Refer to it often.
At the next party, don’t just sit against the wall
and wait for excitement to find you, you find it. Walk up and introduce
yourself to someone new.
The next time you receive a grade
that you think is unfair, don’t blow it off or cry about it, make an
appointment with the teacher to discuss it and then see what you can learn.
If you get in a fight with a parent or a friend, make
amends and be the first to apologize.
Identify something in your circle of
no control that you are always worrying about. Decide now to drop it. Thing
that I can’t control that I always worry about:
send. Cool down first. Then decide how best to handle
10 Use your tool of self-awareness
right now by asking yourself, “What is my most unhealthy habit?” Make up your
mind to do something about it.
Most unhealthy habit:
What I’m going to do about it:
“Would you tell me please which way I ought
to walk from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”
said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said
“Then it doesn’t matter which way to
walk,” said the Cat.
FROM ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
It’s a rainy day and you’re stuck indoors. You and a friend
decide to put on some music and do a jigsaw puzzle, for old times’ sake. You
pour out all 1,000 pieces, spreading them out across a large table. You check
out the lid to the box to see what you’re putting together. But there’s no
picture! It’s blank! H ow will you guys ever be able to finish the puzzle
without knowing what it looks like? If you only had a one-second glimpse of
what it’s supposed to be. That’s all you’d need. What a difference it would
make! Without it, you have no clue where to even start.
N ow think about your own life and your 1,000 pieces (at
least 1,000!). Do you have an end in mind? Do you have a clear picture, even an
idea, of who you want to be one year from now? Five years from now? Or do you
H abit 2, Begin with the End in Mind, means developing a
clear picture of where you want to go with your life. It means deciding what
your values are and setting goals. H abit 1 says you are the driver of your
life, not the passenger. H abit 2 says, since you’re the driver, decide where
to go and draw a map of how to get there.
“U mmm, hold up,” you might be thinking. “I’m too young to
have an end in mind. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and frankly
right now I don’t care.” If it makes you feel any better, I’m grown up and I
still don’t know what I want to be. By saying begin with the end in mind, I’m
not talking about deciding every little detail of your future, like choosing
your career or deciding whom you’ll marry. I’m simply talking about thinking
beyond today and deciding what direction you want to take so that each step you
take is always in the right direction.
Begin with the End in Mind—What It Means
Y ou may not
realize it, but you do it all the time. Begin with the end in mind, that is.
You draw up a blueprint before you build a house. You read a recipe before you
bake a cake. You create an outline before you write a paper (at least I hope
you do). It’s part of life.
L et’s have a begin-with-the-end-in-mind experience right
now using your tool of imagination. Find a place where you can be alone without
There. N ow, clear your mind of everything. Don’t think
about texting your friend; forget about that zit on your forehead. Just focus
with me for a second; breathe deeply, and open your brain wide.
In your mind’s eye, visualize someone walking toward you
about half a block away. A t first you can’t see who it is. A s this person
gets closer and closer, you suddenly realize, believe it or not, it’s you.
But it’s not you today, it’s you as you’d like to be one year from now.
N ow think deeply.
What have you done with your life over the
H ow do you feel inside?
What do you look like?
H as your personality grown? (Remember, this is you as you
would like to be one year from now.)
You can float back to reality now. If you were a good sport
and actually tried this experiment, you probably got in touch with your deeper
self. You got a feel for what’s important to you and what you’d like to
accomplish this next year. That’s what beginning with the end in mind is all
about. A nd it doesn’t even hurt.
A s Jim discovered, beginning with the end in mind is a
powerful way to help turn your dreams into realities:
When I feel frustrated or get depressed, I’ve found something
that really helps me. I go someplace where I can be alone, and then I close my
eyes and visualize mentally where I want to be and where I wanna go when I am
older. I try to see the whole picture of my dream life—and then I automatically
begin to think about what it’s going to take to get there, what I need to
change. This technique started when I was a ninth grader, and today I’m on my
way to making some of those visualizations become a reality.
In fact, thinking beyond today can be really exciting and,
as this high school senior attests, can help you take charge of your life:
I’ve never planned a thing in my life. I just do things as
they pop up. The thought that one should have an end in mind never, ever
entered my mind. It’s been so exciting to learn, because I suddenly find myself
thinking beyond the now. I’m now not only planning my education but also
thinking about how I want to raise my kids, how I want to teach my family, and
what kind of home life we should have. I’m taking charge of me—and not blowing
in the wind anymore!
Why’s it so important to have an end in mind? I’ll give you
two good reasons. The first is that you’re at a critical crossroads in life,
and the paths you choose now can affect you forever. The second is that if you
don’t decide your own future, someone else’ll do it for you.
L et’s take a look at the first important
reason. So here you are. You’re young. You’re free. You have your whole life
before you. You’re standing at the crossroads of life and you have to choose
which paths to take:
Do you want to go to college? Graduate
Do you want to travel? L earn another
Should you try out for a team?
What type of friends do you want to have?
Will you cut class again?
Do you want to date? What kind of person?
Will you have sex before marriage?
Will you drink, smoke, do drugs?
What values will you choose?
What kind of relationships do you want with
What will your attitude toward life be?
What will you stand for?
H ow will you contribute to your community?
The paths you choose today can shape you forever. It’s both
frightening and exciting that we have to make so many vital decisions during
the seven years of teenagehood, when we’re so young and full of hormones, but
such is life.
A bout Friends?
Take your choice of friends as an example. H
ave you ever noticed what a powerful influence they can have on your attitude,
reputation, and direction? The need to be accepted and be part of a group is
powerful. But too often we choose our friends based on whoever will accept us.
A nd that’s not always good. For example, to be accepted by the kids who do
drugs, all you have to do is do drugs yourself.
The wrong group can lead you down all kinds of paths you
really don’t want to be on. A nd retracing your steps can be a long, hard
journey. Sometimes it’s actually better to just hang out alone, to be honest.
If you’re having trouble making good friends, remember that
your friends don’t always have to be your age. I once spoke to a guy who only
had a few friends at school, but he did have a grandpa who listened to him,
made him laugh, and was a great friend. It filled the “popularity” void he had
in his life.
It can feel empowering to connect with people over the
Internet or through apps, especially when you’re struggling to connect with
people in person. Ben’s story goes like this:
Last fall I got pretty into online gaming, and it was a
really good way to connect with people who were into the same kind of stuff as
me, stuff that other people called “nerdy.” I didn’t know that many people at
my new school, but I had this really amazing supportive community online.
There were chat threads that all the users commented on, and
there were some really interesting people on it. It felt safe to finally talk
with people who didn’t make fun of me for being into games, and I thought about
meeting a group of them in person. Then I remembered hearing news stories about
cyberstalkers and online harassment, and that kinda freaked me out. I just
realized that I had to be smart—I mean, all these people I was talking to
seemed cool, not dangerous, but I just knew I shouldn’t share personal info
with them or meet them—because really, I didn’t know who they were! So I told
them I didn’t feel comfortable meeting and most of them agreed that was cool,
so we just left it as an online friendship. Only once did someone really creep
me out—one user asked me for my address and photo, but before I even started
stressing about it, I realized I could be in control of the situation. I
blocked them and never heard from them again. Actually, having this community
online has made me more confident, and I’ve been making more friends at my new
You can’t be too careful about sharing personal info online,
and Ben seems to have got it down. Even if you video chat with someone or
follow them on Instagram and they seem nice or attractive—there’s no way of
knowing that they’re not a total psycho in person.
What about sending explicit texts or sexting photos of
yourself—even to someone you already know and trust? It might seem funny at the
time, but who knows what the person you’re sending them to will do down the
road. What if you and your boy- or girlfriend break up and they wind up sharing
your texts or photos to hurt you? Ouch! It seems like once a week some
celebrity or politician is getting in trouble for that sort of thing. If you
keep your end in mind and avoid these kinds of situations, there’s way less
risk of having someone take advantage of you.
The long and short of it is, just be wise when choosing
friends and partners. Be selective about the people you trust, because so much
of your future hangs on whom you hang out with.
A bout Sex?
A nd what about sex? Talk about an important
decision. If you wait until the “heat of the moment” to choose which path to
take, it’s too late. Decide now. The path you choose affects your health, the
way you feel about yourself, how fast you grow up, your reputation, whom you’ll
date and perhaps marry, and so much more. Think this decision through . . .
One way to do this is to imagine the kind of
person you hope to end up with. H ow do you hope your future mate is leading
his or her life right now?
In a recent poll, going to movies was ranked as the favorite
pastime of teens. I love movies, too, so I’m right there with you. But I’d be
careful about the values they promote. Most movies lie, especially when it
comes to issues like sex. They glamorize sleeping around and having one-night
stands without addressing the potential risks and consequences. The movies
don’t show you the life-altering reality of contracting a Sexually Transmitted
Infection (STI) or a disease like A IDS. They rarely address what it’s like to
become pregnant and to have to deal with everything that brings with it. They
don’t tell you what it’s like living on minimum wage because you had to drop
out of high school (and the father of the child is long gone and sends no
money), or what it’s like spending your weekends changing diapers and caring
for a baby instead of cheering on your volleyball team, going to dances, and
just being a kid.
We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the
consequences that come with them. H ave you ever gone water sliding? You can
choose which slide you want to go down, but once you’re sliding, you can’t very
well stop. You must live with the consequences . . . to the end. A teenage girl
from Illinois shared this story:
I had one bad year—my freshman year—when I did everything
from drinking, drugs, older guys, bad crowds, etc., mostly because I was
frustrated and unhappy. It just lasted a year, but I’m still paying for those
past mistakes. No one forgets and it’s hard to have to deal with a past you aren’t
too proud of. I feel as though it will haunt me forever. All kinds of people
still come up to my boyfriend and say, “I hear your girlfriend drinks, and
smokes, and is easy.” And things like that. But the worst is probably the fact
that every time I have a problem of any kind, I immediately think, “Maybe if I
hadn’t done that, everything would be okay.”
A bout School?
What you do about your schooling can also
shape your future in a major way. K rista’s experience shows how much beginning
with the end in mind in your educational pursuits pays off:
As a junior in high school, I decided to take an Advanced
Placement (AP) U.S. history class. At the end of the year, I’d have a chance to
take a national exam to qualify for college credit.
It was difficult to keep up, but I was determined to do well
in the class and pass the exam. With this goal in mind, it was easy to put in
my full effort.
One assignment was particularly time consuming. The
instructor asked each student to watch a documentary on the Civil War and write
a paper on each segment. The series lasted ten days and each segment was two
hours long. As an active high school student, it was difficult to find the
time, but I did. I submitted the report and discovered I was one of only a
handful of students who watched the series.
The day of the exam finally arrived. The students were
nervous and the air was thick. The test administrator announced, “Begin.” I
took a deep breath and broke the seal on the first section—multiple-choice.
With each question, I gained confidence. I KNEW the answers! I completed the
section several minutes before I heard, I finished “Pencils down.”
Next we would each write an essay. I nervously opened the
seal of the essay book and scanned the questions quickly. I answered a question
related to the Civil War using references from my reading as well as the
documentary. I felt calm and confident as I completed the exam.
Several weeks later I received my score in the mail—I had
•WHO’S IN THE LEAD?
Besides being at the crossroads of the most
important decisions you’ll ever make, the other reason to visualize your future
is because if you don’t, someone else will do it for you. A s Jack Welch,
former teen and current business executive, put it, “C ontrol your own destiny
or someone else will.”
“Who will?” you may ask.
C ould be anyone—friends, parents, the media. Do you want
your friends to tell you what you stand for? You may have fine parents, but do
you want them to draw up the blueprint for your life? Their interests may be
far different from yours. A nd how about the media? Do you want to adopt the
values portrayed in video games or gossip blogs or on TV?
By now you might be thinking, “I’m gonna chill and worry
about the future when it comes. I like to live in the moment and go with the
flow.” I agree with the live in the moment part. We should enjoy the
moment and not have our heads too far in the clouds. But I disagree with the go
with the flow part. If you decide to just go with the flow, you’ll end up
where the flow goes, and sometimes it’s headed straight downhill into a pile of
sludge. You’ll end up doing what everyone else is doing, which may not be your
end in mind at all. “The road to anywhere is really a life to nowhere,” the
saying goes. You need to decide what direction feels right to you. It’s really
never too early.
Without an end in mind of our own, we often wind up
following anyone who’s willing to lead, even into things that won’t get us far.
It reminds me of an experience I once had at a 10K road race. Some other
runners and I were waiting for the race to start, but no one knew where the
starting line was. Then a few runners began walking down the road as if they
knew. Everyone, including me, began following. We just assumed they knew where
they were going. A fter walking for about a mile, we all suddenly realized,
that like a herd of dumb sheep, we were following some dingus who had no idea
where he was going. It turned out that the starting line was back right where
we had begun.
ever assume that the herd must know where they are going because they usually
A Personal Mission Statement
S o if it’s so
important to have an end in mind, how do you do it? The best way I’ve found is
to write a personal mission statement. A personal mission statement is like a
personal credo or motto that states what your life is about. It is like the
blueprint to your life. C ountries have constitutions, which function just like
a mission statement. A nd most companies, like A pple and Pepsi, have mission
statements. But I think they work best with people.
So why not write your own personal mission statement? Many
teens have. They come in all types and varieties. Some are as long as a whole
Bible passage and some are as short as a 140-character Tweet. Some are poems
and some are rap lyrics. Some teens use their favorite quote as a mission
statement. Others use a picture or a photograph.
L et me share a few teenage mission
statements with you.
This first one was contributed by a teen
named Beth H aire:
and foremost, I will remain faithful always to my God.
will not underestimate the power of family unity.
will not neglect a true friend, but I will set aside time for myself as well.
will cross my bridges as I come to them (divide and conquer).
will begin all challenges with optimism, rather than doubt.
will always maintain a positive self-image and high self-esteem, knowing that
all my intentions begin with self-evaluation.
June’s mission statement comes from a quote
from her favorite musician, Taylor Swift:
“To me, Fearless is not the absence
of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears.
Fearless is having doubts. L ots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of
those things that scare you to death.”
I met a teen named A dam Sosne from N orth C arolina who was
familiar with the 7 H abits and was “on fire” about his future plans. N ot
surprisingly, he had a mission statement, which he volunteered:
So what can writing a mission statement do for you? Tons.
The most important thing it will do is open your eyes to what’s really
important to you and help you make decisions accordingly. A twelfth grader
shared how writing a mission statement made such a difference in her life:
During my junior year I couldn’t concentrate on anything
because I had a boyfriend. I wanted to do everything for him to make him happy,
and then, naturally, the subject of sex came up—and I wasn’t at all prepared
for it, and it became a nagging constant thing on my mind. I felt like I wasn’t
ready and that I didn’t want to have sex—but everyone else kept saying, “Just
Then I participated in a character development class at
school where they taught me to write a mission statement. I started to write
and kept on writing and writing, and kept adding things to it. It gave me
direction and a focus and I felt like I had a plan and a reason for doing what
I was doing. It really helped me to stick to my standards and not do something I
wasn’t ready for.
A personal mission statement is like a tree with deep roots.
It’s stable and it’s not going anywhere, but it’s also alive and continually
Standing like a tree with deep roots helps you survive all
of the storms of life that beat you up. A s you’ve probably noticed already,
life is anything but stable. Think about it. People are fickle. Your boyfriend
loves you one minute and then dumps you the next. You’re someone’s best friend
one day, and they’re talking behind your back the next.
Think about all of the events you can’t control. You family
has to move. Your mom loses her job. The country is at war. A family member
Fads come and go. Skinny jeans are popular one year and out
the next. Vampires are the thing. Vampires are overrated.
While everything about you changes, a personal mission
statement can be your deeprooted tree that never moves. You can deal with
change if you have an immovable trunk to hang on to.
A n important part of developing a personal
mission statement is discovering what you’re good at. One thing I know for sure
is that everyone has a talent, a gift, something they are good at. Some
talents, like having the singing voice of an angel, attract a lot of attention.
But there are many other talents, maybe not as attention grabbing but every bit
as important if not more—things like being a good listener, making people
laugh, forgiving, drawing, or just being nice.
A nother truth is that we all blossom at different times. So
if you’re a late bloomer, relax. It may take you a bit longer to uncover your
A fter carving a beautiful sculpture, Michelangelo was asked
how he was able to do it. H e replied by saying that the sculpture was already
in the block of granite from the very beginning; he just had to chisel off
everything else around it.
L ikewise, Victor Frankl, a revered Jewish-A ustrian
psychiatrist who survived the death camps of N azi Germany, taught that we
don’t invent our talents in life but rather we detect them. In
other words, you are already born with your talents, you just need to uncover
them. I’ll never forget my experience with finding a talent I never thought I
had. To fulfill Mr. Williams’s creative writing assignment for freshman
English, I excitedly turned in my first high school paper, entitled “The Old
Man and the Fish.” It was the same story my father had often told me at bedtime
while I was growing up. I just assumed he had made it up. H e didn’t bother
telling me he had stolen the plot directly from Ernest H emingway’s
awardwinning novel The Old Man and the Sea. I was shocked when my paper
was returned with the remarks, “Sounds a bit trite. L ike H emingway’s Old
Man and the Sea.” “Who’s this guy H emingway?” I thought. “A nd how come he
copied my dad?” That was my poor start to four years of rather boring high
school English classes, which were about as exciting to me as a clump of dirt.
It wasn’t until college, when I took a short story class
from an amazing professor, that I began to detect my passion for writing. If
you can believe it, I even majored in English. Mr. Williams would’ve freaked.
The Great Discovery
T he Great
DiscoveryI is a fun activity
designed to help you get in touch with your deeper self as you prepare to write
a mission statement. A s you walk through it, answer the questions honestly.
You can write your answers in the book or you can just think them through. When
you’re finished, I think you’ll have a way better idea of what inspires you,
what you enjoy doing, whom you admire, and where you want to take your life.
I. For additional worksheets of The Great Discovery,
please call 1-800-952-6839.
of a person who made a positive difference in your life. What qualities does
that person have that you would like to develop?
20 years from now-you are surrounded by the most important people in your life.
Who are they and what are you doing?
a steel beam (6 inches wide) were placed across two skyscrapers, for what would
you be willing to cross? A thousand dollars? A million? Your pet? Your brother?
Fame? Think carefully . . .
a time when you were deeply inspired.
10 things you love to do. It could seriously be anything-Web design, dance,
freestyle rapping, Pinterest browsing, eating ethnic foods, daydreaming . . .
anything you absolutely love to do!
you could spend one day in a great library studying anything you wanted, what
would it be?
years from now, a major news site is going to doing a feature piece on you and
they want to interview three people you’re close to. Who are they and what
would you want them to say about you?
of something that represents you . . . a flower, a song, an animal . . . Why
does it represent you?
you could spend an hour with any person who ever lived, who would that be? Why
that person? What would you ask them?
well with people
what will happen
Everyone has one or more talents.
Which of the ones above are you good at? Or write down some not listed.
Getting Started on Your Mission Statement
N ow that
you’ve taken the time to walk through The Great Discovery, you’ve got a good
jump-start on developing a mission statement. Below, I’ve listed four easy
methods to help you get started writing your own mission statement. You may
want to try one of them or combine all four of them in any way you see fit.
These are just suggestions, so feel free to find your own method.
Method #1: The Quote Collection. C ollect a
few of your very favorite quotes. The sum of these quotes then becomes your
mission statement. For some, great quotes are very inspiring. They put your
feelings into words.
Method #2: The Brain D ump. Speed write about
your mission for ten minutes. Don’t worry about what’s coming out. Don’t edit
what you’re writing. Just keep writing and don’t stop writing. Get all of your
ideas down on paper. If you get stuck, reflect upon your answers to The Great
Discovery. That should get your imagination in gear. When your brain has been
sufficiently purged, take another twenty minutes to edit, arrange, and make
sense of your brain dump.
The result is that in just thirty minutes, you’ll have a
rough draft of your own mission statement, that you’ve created yourself. Then
over the next several weeks, you can edit it, add to it, or do whatever else
you need to make it inspire you.
Method #3: The Retreat. Plan a large chunk of
time, like an entire afternoon, and go to a place you adore where you can be
alone and turn off your phone. Think deeply about your life and what you want
to make of it. Review your answers to The Great Discovery. L ook to the mission
statement examples in this book for ideas. Take your time and construct your
own mission statement using any method you see fit.
#4: The Big Lazy. If you’re really lazy, use the U .S. A rmy’s
recruiting slogan “A rmy
Strong” as your personal mission statement.
(H ey, I’m only joking.)
A big mistake people make when writing a mission statement
is that they spend so much time thinking about making it perfect they never get
started. You’re much better off writing an imperfect rough draft and then
improving it over time, learning as you go.
A nother mistake is trying to make your mission statements
look like everyone else’s. That doesn’t work. Mission statements come in many
forms—a poem, a song, a quote, a picture, many words, a single word, a collage
of images on Tumblr. There is no single right way to do it! You’re not writing
it for anyone else but you. You’re not writing it for your English teacher and
it’s not going to be graded by anyone. It is your secret document. So
make it sing! The most important question to ask yourself is, “Does it inspire
me?” If you can answer yes, you did it right.
Once you have it written, put it in a place where you can
easily access it, in your phone, or on your mirror for example. Then, refer to
it often, or, even better, memorize it.
H ere are two more examples of teen mission statements, each
very different in style and length:
This one was written by K atie H all. It is
short, but to her it means everything:
WH ITNEY NOZISKA’S
Care - ABOUT THE WORLD
-ABOUT MY SELF
L ove - MY SELF
-MY FAMILY- MY WORLD
Fight - FOR MY BELIEFS
-FOR MY PASSIONS
-TO DO GOOD
-TO BE TRUE TO
Rock - THE BOAT, DON’T LET THE BOAT ROCK ME
-BE A ROCK
A s you strive to begin with the end in mind
and develop a personal mission statement, watch out for dangerous roadblocks!
Watch-Out #1: Negative Labels. H ave you ever
felt labeled by others in a negative way? By your family, teachers, or friends?
“Y ou guys from the east side are all the
same. A lways gettin’ into trouble.”
“You’re the laziest bro I know. Why don’t you get off your
butt and do something for a change?”
“There goes L izzie. I hear she’s such a
I’m sure your school has its own labels. In my school we had
the C owboys, the N erds, the A irheads, the Pretty Boys, the Partyers, the
Preppies, the “It” Girls, the Burn-outs, the Jocks, the D-Wingers (you had to
be there), and many other groups. I was labeled in the Jock category. The term
“Jock” meant that you played sports, were totally stuck on yourself, and had a
brain the size of a peanut.
L abels are an ugly form of prejudice. Break down the word prejudice
and what do you get? Ta-da! Pre-judge. When you label someone you’re
pre-judging them; that means making conclusions about someone without knowing
them. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand it when I’m unfairly judged by
someone who doesn’t know a thing about me.
I are much too complex to be neatly shelved into a category like clothing in a
department store, as if there were only a handful of different types of people
in the world instead of billions of unique individuals.
If you’ve been falsely labeled, you can live with it. The
real danger comes when you start to believe the labels yourself, because labels
are just like paradigms. For instance, if you’ve been labeled as being lazy,
and you begin to believe it yourself, it will become a self-fulfilling belief.
You’ll act out the label. Just remember, you are not your labels. Don’t let
other people’s pre-judgments limit you.
Watch-Out #2: “It’s All Over” Syndrome. A
nother thing to watch out for is when you’ve made a mistake or three and feel
so bad about what you’ve done that you say to yourself, “It’s all over. I’ve
blown it. Who cares what happens now?” A t this point you’ll often begin to
self-destruct and let it all hang out.
L et me just say this. It’s never over. It seems that many
teens go through a time where they lose it and experiment and do a whole bunch
of things they aren’t proud of . . . almost as if they are testing the
boundaries of life. If you’ve made mistakes: C ongratulations, you’re normal!
Every teenager has. Every adult has. Just get your head screwed on straight as
quickly as you can and you’ll be fine. Promise.
So often, in our quest
to be more popular and to be part of the “in-group,” we lose sight of things
that are far more important . . .
Watch-Out #3: Wrong Wall. H ave you ever
worked really hard to get something you wanted only to feel totally unsatisfied
when you get it? So often, in our quest to be more popular and to be part of
the “in-group,” we lose sight of things that are far more important, like
self-respect, real friendships, and peace of mind. We’re often so busy climbing
the ladder of success that we never take time to see if our ladder is leaning
against the right wall. H aving no end in mind is a problem. But having an end
in mind that leads us in the wrong direction can be an even bigger problem.
I once played football with a guy who was an insanely good
athlete. H e had everything going for him, including being the team captain and
having the ultimate ripped body. Each game he’d excite fans with heroic efforts
and spectacular athletic feats. Fans praised his name, young boys worshipped
him, and women adored him. H e had it all.
Or so it appeared.
You see, even though he was shining on the field, he wasn’t
doing right off the field. A nd he knew it. A nd so did I, because I’d grown up
with the guy. A s his fame increased, I watched him turn away from his
principles and lose his direction. H e gained the high fives of the crowd but
compromised something else far more meaningful, his character. It doesn’t
really matter how fast you’re going or how good you’re lookin’ if you’re headed
in the wrong direction.
H ow can you tell if your ladder is leaning against the
right wall? Stop, take a moment right now and ask yourself: “Is the life I’m
living leading me in the right direction?” Be brutally honest as you pause and
listen to your conscience, that inner voice. What is it telling you?
Our lives don’t always require 180-degree shifts in
direction. More often, we need only small shifts. But small changes can make
huge destination differences. Imagine this: If you wanted to fly from N ew York
to Tel Aviv, Israel, but made a one degree change north, you would end up in
Moscow, Russia, instead of Tel A viv.
•GO FOR THE GOAL
Once you have your mission in place you will
want to set goals. Goals are specific and can help you break down your mission
into bite-sized pieces. If your personal mission was to eat a whole pizza, your
goal would be how to do it, a slice at a time.
Sometimes when we hear the word goals we go on a
guilt trip. It reminds us of what we should be doing and what we haven’t done
yet. But forget about any mistakes you may have made in the past. Follow the
advice of George Bernard Shaw, who said: “When I was a young man I observed
that nine out of ten things I did were failures. I didn’t want to be a failure,
so I did ten times more work.”
H ere are five keys to goal setting.
K EY N O . 1:C ount the C ost
H ow many times do we set goals when we
are in the mood but then later find we don’t have the strength to follow
through? Why does this happen? It’s because we haven’t counted the cost.
L et’s pretend you set a goal to get better grades in school
this year. That’s great. But now, before you begin, count the cost. What will
it require? For instance, you will have to spend more time doing math and
grammar and less time trolling the Internet. You will have to stay up late some
nights. Finding more time for schoolwork might mean watching less TV or staying
in on a Friday once in a while.
having counted the cost, consider the benefits. What could good grades bring
A feeling of accomplishment? A scholarship
to college? A good job? N ow ask yourself, “A m I willing to make the
sacrifice?” If not, then don’t do it. Don’t make commitments to yourself you
know you’re going to break because you’ll take withdrawals from your PBA .
A better way is to make the goal more bite-sized. Instead of
setting a goal to get better grades in all your classes, you might set a goal
to get better grades in just two classes. Then, next semester, take another
bite. C ounting the cost will always add a touch of needed realism to your
K EY N O . 2:Write It O ut
It’s been said, “A goal not written is
only a wish.” There are no ifs and buts about it, a written goal carries ten
times the power.
A young woman named Tammy told me how writing down her goals
helped her eventually choose the right person to marry. Tammy had been in an
emotionally abusive relationship with a guy named Tom for several years and
felt trapped. They were codependent and she was miserable. A visit from a
trusted friend one day finally gave her the inner spark she needed to make a
change. This is an excerpt from Tammy’s journal when she was eighteen:
Just yesterday I found enough strength and strong will to
leave Tom and the environment I was a part of for the past 21/2 years. I needed to make a 180-degree change in order to find inner
strength enough to succeed. I drew up a mental picture of where I wanted to be
in five years and how I wanted to feel. I had a vision of being my own person,
of having the strength to make good decisions for my life and most of all being
with someone in a good, healthy relationship. I came up with a list of
qualities I wanted in a relationship, and I think I’ll write them down now for
for a Relationship/Future Spouse:
support me in my pursuits/goals in life
sense of humor
laugh every day
me feel whole—not torn apart
10.Good father/good with children
12.Will make time for me and will want
the best for me in life
Now that I have this list documented I have someplace to turn
to get a glimpse of what the future can hold. It gives me hope when I read it,
and it reminds me of a better way to live life.
Tammy later met and married a great guy who
measured up to her standards. H appy endings do happen. Don’t settle for less.
A s Tammy discovered, there is something
magical about writing down your goals. Writing forces you to be specific, which
is very important in goal setting. A s actress L ily Tomlin has said, “I always
wanted to be somebody. But I should have been more specific.” K EY N O . 3:Just D o It!
I once read a story about C ortés
and his expedition to Mexico. With over five hundred men and eleven ships, C
ortés sailed from C uba to the coast of the Yucatán in 1519. On
the mainland he did something no other expedition leader had thought of: H e
burned his ships. By cutting off all means of retreat, C ortés committed
his entire force and himself to the cause. It was conquest or bust.
“To every thing there is a season,” says the Bible. A time
to say, “I’ll try,” and a time to say, “I will.” A time to make excuses, and a
time to burn your ships. Of course, there are times when trying our best is all
we can do. But I also believe there is a time for doing. Would you lend $2,000
to a business partner who said, “I’ll try to return it”? Would you get married
if your partner, when asked to take you as their lawfully wedded husband or
wife, said, “I’ll try”? A m I making sense?
I once heard a story about a captain and a
“L ieutenant, would you please deliver this
letter for me.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“N o, I don’t want you to do your
best. I want you to deliver this letter.” “I’ll do it or I’ll die, sir.”
“Y ou misunderstand, lieutenant. I don’t
want you to die. I want you to deliver this letter.”
Finally the lieutenant caught on and said
clearly, “I will do it, sir.”
Once we are fully committed to doing a task, our power to
complete it will increase. “If you do the thing,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson,
“you will have the power.” Each time I have committed myself to a goal, I seem
to dig up gold mines of willpower, skill, and creativity I never thought I
possessed. Those who are committed always find a way.
The following passage by writer W. H . Murray is one of my
all-time favorites. It describes what happens inside when we say “I will.”
U ntil one is committed, there is
hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. There is one
elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid
plans, that the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves
too. All sorts of things begin to occur which would never otherwise have
occurred, and a whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in
one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and material assistance which no
man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect
for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream
you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
In the words of Y oda, the great Jedi
Master: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
K EY N O . 4:Use Momentous Moments
C ertain moments in life contain momentum
and power. The key is to harness these moments for goal setting.
Things with starts and finishes or beginnings and ends carry
momentum. For example, a new year represents a start. Breaking up, on the other
hand, represents an end. I remember how sick I felt after breaking up with my
girlfriend after two years of dating. But I also remember the excitement of
realizing that now I could meet cool, new girls.
The following is a list of moments that can provide momentum
for you as you set out to make new goals:
•A new school
•A new job
•A second chance
•A n anniversary
•A n invention
•Moving to a new
•A new season
•A new home
•A new hairstyle
•A new day
Often, tough experiences can carry momentum. A re you
familiar with the myth of the phoenix bird? A fter every lifespan of 500 to 600
years, the beautiful phoenix would burn itself at the stake. Out of the ashes,
it would later arise, reborn. In like manner, we can regenerate ourselves out
of the ashes of a bad experience. Setbacks and tragedies can often serve as a
springboard for change. They motivate you, and make you stronger.
L earn to harness the power of key moments, to set goals and
make commitments when you are in the mood to do it. Be assured, as well, that
the mood to do it will pass. Sticking with it when you don’t feel like it is
the true test of your character. A s someone once put it:
Character is the discipline to follow
through with resolutions long after the spirit in which they were made has
K EY N O . 5:Rope Up
My brother-in-law, the mountain climber,
once escorted me and a friend up the 13,776-foot Grand Teton. It was
terrifying! A s we ascended, the mountain turned vertical. A t that point, we
“roped up,” or tied ourselves together with ropes to aid us in climbing and to
save our lives if one of us fell. On two occasions that rope kept me from
taking thousand-foot falls to my death. Believe me, I loved that rope as I’ve
never loved a rope before. By assisting each other and relying on the ropes, we
finally reached the summit safely.
You’ll accomplish much more in life if you’ll rope up and
borrow strength from others. L et’s suppose you set a goal to get in great
shape. N ow think. H ow could you rope up? Well, maybe you could find a friend
who has the same-sized goal as you, and the two of you could work out together
and be each other’s cheerleaders. Or maybe you could tell your parents about
your goal and get their support. Or maybe you could join an online community
with others who are trying to get into shape. Get creative. Rope up with
friends, brothers, sisters, boy or girlfriends, parents, counselors,
grandparents, pastors, or whomever else you can. The more ropes you have out,
the greater your chances for success.
•GOALS IN ACTION
When I was a sophomore in high school, I
weighed 180 pounds. My brother David, a freshman, weighed a whopping 95 pounds.
We were only one year apart, yet I was twice his size. But David had a mountain
of a spirit and did incredible things to get to where he wanted to go. This is
I will never forget when I tried out for the freshman
football team at Provo High. At five feet two inches and weighing only 90
pounds, I was even smaller than the stereotypical 98-pound weakling. I couldn’t
find any football equipment to fit me; it was all too big. I was issued the
smallest helmet they had but still had to tape three ear pads together on each
side of it to make it fit my head. I looked like a mosquito with a balloon on
I used to dread football practice, especially when we had to
crack heads with the sophomores. We used to line up facing each other about ten
yards apart with the freshmen on one side and the sophomores on the opposite
side. When coach blew the whistle, you were supposed to hit your opponent until
the whistle blew again.
I used to count the players in my line to see when my turn
would come up, and then count the players in the sophomore line to see who
would have the privilege of teaching me how to fly. It seemed that I always
ended up getting the biggest, meanest sophomore as my opponent. “I’m dead
meat,” was my constant thought. I would line up, wait for the whistle, and in a
moment find myself flying backwards and upwards through the air.
That winter I tried out for the wrestling team. I wrestled in
the 98-pound division. Even though I weighed in with all my clothes on after
eating a big meal, I still couldn’t tip the scales at 98 pounds. In fact I was
the only guy on the team who didn’t have to lose weight to wrestle. My brothers
thought I would be a good wrestler because, unlike football, wrestling allowed
me to compete with guys about my own weight. But to make a long story short, I
got pinned almost every match.
In the spring I tried out for track. But as luck would have
it, I was one of the slowest guys on the team. Little wonder— you should have
seen my pencil-thin legs.
One day after track workouts I just couldn’t stand it
anymore. “That’s it,” I said to myself. “I am sick of this.” That night, in the
privacy of my room, I wrote down some goals I wanted to achieve during high
school. To be successful in my athletics, I knew I had to get bigger and
stronger, so I set goals in these areas first. By my senior year I set a goal
to be six feet tall, to weigh 180 pounds, and to bench-press 250 pounds. In
football, I set a goal to be the starting wide receiver on the varsity football
team. And in track I set a goal to be an all-state sprinter. I also envisioned
myself being captain on both the football team and the track team.
A lot of nice dreams, wouldn’t you say? At that moment,
however, I was staring reality in the face. All 90 pounds of it. But I stuck
with my plan from my freshman until my senior year.
Let me illustrate. As part of my weight-gaining process, I
made a rule that my stomach would never be empty. So I ate constantly.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were merely three meals in an eight-meal day. I
made a secret agreement with Cary, the starting varsity linebacker for Provo
High, who stood six feet three inches tall and weighed 235 pounds. He promised
me that if I helped him with his Algebra II homework, he would allow me to eat
lunch with him every day for weight gain and protection purposes.
I was determined to eat the same amount he ate, so each day
at lunch I bought two lunches, three milks, and four rolls. We must have been a
hilarious sight together! I was also taking my Gain Weight Fast protein powder
along with my lunch. I would mix the sickening powder in each of my milks and
nearly barfed each time I drank it.
During my sophomore year I began working out with my good
friend Eddie who was also yearning to get big. He added another requirement to
my food list: ten full teaspoons of straight peanut butter and three glasses of
milk each night before bed. Each week we were required to gain two pounds. If
we didn’t “make weight” on the official weigh-in day, we were required to eat
or drink water until we did.
My mom read an article that said if a young kid slept ten
hours a night in a completely dark room and drank two to three extra glasses of
milk a day, he could grow one to two inches more than he normally would. I
believed this and followed it rigidly. After all, I needed to reach my goal of
six feet, and my dad’s height of five feet ten inches wasn’t going to help me. “Dad,”
I said, “I want the darkest room in the house.” I got it. Then I put towels
under the door crack and over the window. No light was going to shine on me!
Next I set a sleeping timetable: I went to bed around 8:45
P.M. and got up around 7:15 A.M. This ensured me 101/2 hours of sleep. Finally, I drank all the milk I could.
I also began lifting weights, running, and catching the
football. Each day I would work out at least two hours. When Eddie and I lifted
at the weight room, we would check out the XL shirts in hopes that one day we
would fill them. At first I could only bench-press 75 pounds, slightly more
than the bar.
As the months passed I began to see results. Small results.
Slow results. But results. By the time I was a sophomore I was five feet five
inches and about 120 pounds. I had grown three inches and gained 30 pounds. And
I was much stronger.
Some days I
felt like a lone man against the whole world. I especially hated it when people
would ask me, “How come you’re so skinny? Why don’t you just eat more?” I felt
like saying back, “You idiot. Do you have any idea of the price I’ve been
By my junior year I was five feet eight inches and 145
pounds. I continued with my weight-gain program, the running, the lifting, and
the skill development. In my track workouts, I made it a goal never to loaf,
not even for one sprint. And I never missed a practice, even when I was sick.
Then suddenly the sacrifice really started paying off. I got real big, real
fast. In fact I grew so fast that I have stretch marks across my chest, as if I
was mauled by a bear.
As I approached my senior year at Provo High, I had reached
my goal of becoming six feet tall and fell only five pounds short of my goal of
180 pounds. I became a starting wide receiver on the varsity football team and
was also elected as a team captain.
My senior year in track was even more rewarding. Again I was
selected as a team captain, became the fastest sprinter on the team, and one of
the fastest sprinters in the state.
At the end of the year, weighing 180 pounds and
bench-pressing 255 pounds, I was awarded “Best Body” by the senior girls of the
high school, the award that I loved most of all.
I did it! I really did it! I accomplished most of the goals I
had set that night in my room years ago. Truly, as Napoleon Hill wrote,
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, the hand of man can
N otice how David used the five keys to goal
setting. H e counted the cost, he wrote them, he roped up with his friends, he
set his goals during a momentous moment when he was sick of being a shrimp
(sorry, lil bro), and he had the raw tenacity to “just do it.” N ow, I’m not
endorsing being body-centered, as David was for a period. A nd I can’t promise
you that you can will your way into growing taller, no matter how much milk you
drink. I’m only trying to demonstrate the power that goals can play in your
A s David told me his story, it became clear that being a
ninety-pound wimp might have been a blessing in disguise. H is apparent
weakness (skinny body) actually became his strength (forced him to develop
discipline and perseverance). People who lack the native physical, social, or
mental gifts they desire must fight just that much harder. A nd that uphill
battle can produce qualities and strengths they couldn’t develop any other way.
That is how a weakness can become a strength.
So if you’re not endowed with all the beauty, biceps, bucks,
or brains that you covet— congratulations! You just may have the better deal.
This poem by Douglas Malloch says it well:
tree that never had to fight
sun and sky and air and light,
stood out in the open plain
always got its share of rain,
became a forest king
lived and died a scrubby thing . . .
timber does not grow with ease, The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
Make Your Life Extraordinary
L ife is
short. This point is emphasized in the classic movie Friday Night Lights.
C oach Gary Gaines tells his team of struggling high school football players:
“Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning.
It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family, and your
friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and
know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. A nd that
truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could’ve
done. C an you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love
in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman—you’re
Theologian H oward Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself
what the world needs. A sk yourself what makes you come alive and go do that,
because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” C arpe Diem! Sieze
the day! Make your life extraordinary!
A s you do this, remember, life is a mission, not a career.
A career is a profession. A mission is a cause. A career asks, “What’s in it
for me?” A mission asks, “H ow can I make a difference?” Martin L uther K ing,
Jr.’s mission was to ensure civil rights for all people, no matter their race.
Gandhi’s mission was to liberate 300 million oppressed Indian citizens. Mother
Teresa’s mission was to clothe the naked and feed the hungry.
These are extreme examples. You don’t have to change the
world to have a mission. A s educator Maren Mouritsen says, “Most of us will
never do great things. But we can do small things in a great way.”
heard of willpower. But have you ever heard of won’t power? That’s up next!
Determine the three most important skills you’ll need to
succeed in your career. Do you need to be more organized, be more confident
speaking in front of other people, have stronger computer programming skills?
The three most important skills I need for my career:
Reread your mission statement daily
for 30 days (that’s how long it takes to develop a habit). Let it guide you in
all your decisions.
Look in the mirror and ask, “Would I want to spend
time with someone like me?” If not, work to develop the qualities you’re
Go to your school guidance or employment counselor
and talk about college or career opportunities. Or, find an aptitude test
online that’ll help you evaluate your talents, abilities, and interests.
What’s the key crossroad you are facing in your life
right now? In the long run, what’s the best path to take?
Key crossroad I am facing:
The best path to take:
How to change it:
Iwatched the Indy 500, and I was thinking
that if they left earlier they wouldn’t have to go so fast.
STEVEN WRIGHT, COMEDIAN
I was listening to a speech comparing the challenges faced
by today’s teens to those of teens who lived 150 years ago. I agreed with most
of what the speaker said until this: “The challenge that teens faced 150 years
ago was hard work. The challenge that teens face today is a lack of hard work.”
U h, ex-squeeze me! I mumbled to myself. A lack of
hard work? What are you smokin’? I think teens are multitasking more than
ever. I see it with my own eyes every day. Between school, socializing,
extracurricular activities, clubs, athletics, part-time jobs, dealing with
family, and on and on, there’s barely time to breathe. A lack of hard work? H
a! Milking cows and mending fences doesn’t sound any more difficult than
juggling the multifaceted life of a twenty-first-century teen.
L et’s face it. You’ve got a lot to do and there’s just not
enough time. A fter school there’s rehearsal, followed by work. There’s also
that bio test tomorrow. A nd you’ve gotta text your friend relationship crisis
advice. On top of that, you should exercise. The dog needs a walk. A nd your
room’s a disaster. What’ll you do?
H abit 3, Put First Things First, can help. It’s all about
learning to prioritize and manage your time so that your first things come
first, not last. But there’s more to this habit than just time management.
Putting first things first can also help you learn to overcome your fears and
be strong during hard moments.
In H abit 2, you decided what your first things are. H abit
3, then, is putting them first in your life.
Sure we can have a nice list of goals and good intentions,
but doing them, putting them into action is the hard part. That’s why I call H
abit 3 the habit of willpower (the strength to say yes to your most
important things) and won’t power (the strength to say no to less
important things and to peer pressure).
The first three habits build upon each other. H abit 1 says,
“You are the driver, not the passenger.” H abit 2 says, “Decide where you want
to go and draw up a map to get you there.” H abit 3 says, “N ow, get there!
Don’t let roadblocks knock you off course.”
H ave you ever packed a suitcase and noticed
how much more you can fit inside when you neatly fold and organize your clothes
instead of just throwing them in? It’s really quite surprising. The same goes
for your life. The better you organize yourself, the more you’ll be able to
pack in—more time for family and friends, more time for school, more time for
yourself, more time for your first things.
I’d like to show you an amazing model called the Time
Quadrants that can help you pack more in (especially important things). It’s
made up of two primary ingredients, “important” and “urgent.”
Important—your most important things, your
first things, activities that contribute to your mission and your goals.
U rgent—things that have to be done A SA P,
in-your-face things, activities that demand immediate attention.
In general, we spend our time in four different time
quadrants, as shown below. Each quadrant contains different kinds of activities
and is represented by a type of person.
The Time Q uadrants
haven’t already noticed, we live in a society that’s addicted to urgency. It’s
N OW generation. That’s why we have Internet
on our phones, instant messaging, Instagram, crash diets, fast food,
140-character tweets, and online shopping. It reminds me of Veruca
Salt, the spoiled rich girl in Willie
Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, who keeps saying, “N ow, Daddy! N ow! I
want an Oompa-L oompa now!”
U rgent things aren’t bad, necessarily. The problem comes
when we become so focused on urgent things that we put off important
things that aren’t urgent, like working on that report in advance, going for a
walk in nature, or taking time to videochat with a long distance friend. A ll
these important things get interrupted by urgent things, like texts,
emails, deadlines, and other “in-your-face-do-it-this-second” things.
A s we dig a little deeper into each quadrant, ask yourself,
“What quadrant am I spending most of my time in?”
Q UA D RA N T 1:The Procrastinator
L et’s start with Q1, things that are both
urgent and important. There will always be Q1 things that we can’t control and
that must get done, like helping someone who is sick or sticking to a due date.
But we also cause many Q1 headaches because we procrastinate, like when we put
off doing our homework and then have to cram all night for a test or when we
neglect our bike for too long and then have to take it in to get repaired. Q1
is part of life, but if you’re spending too much time in Q1, believe me, you’ll
feel like a hot mess and you’ll seldom be performing to your potential.
Meet the Procrastinator, who hangs out in Q1. Perhaps you
know her. H er motto is, “I’m going to stop procrastinating—sometime soon.”
Don’t expect her to work on a paper or study for a test until the night before.
A nd don’t expect her to take time to get gas; she’s usually too busy driving.
The Procrastinator is addicted to urgency. She likes to put
things off and put things off and put things off . . . until it becomes a
crisis. But she likes it that way because, you see, even though it’s stressful,
doing everything at the last minute gives her a rush. In fact, her mind won’t
kick into gear until there’s an emergency. She thrives under pressure.
Planning ahead is simply out of the question for the
Procrastinator because it would ruin the excitement of doing everything at the
last possible moment.
I can relate to the Procrastinator because I was a cram
artist in high school. I used to think it was impressive to not study all
semester, then cram the night before and pull off a good grade. H ow stupid!
Sure I got the grade, but I didn’t learn a thing and I paid for it in college.
In many ways I’m still paying for it.
One procrastinating teen said it this way:
“What I do is I slack off until the end of the term and kill
myself for the last two weeks. When grades come out I get around a 3.7 to 3.8,
but I don’t feel I have earned it because everyone else turned stuff in on time
and does what they’re supposed to. They’re not stressed. That’s how I want to
The results of too much time in Q1 are:
UA D RA N T 2:The Prioritizer
We’ll save the best for last—I’ll keep you
in suspense for now!
Q UA D RA N T 3:The Yes-man
Q3 represents things that are urgent but not
important. It is characterized by trying to please other people and responding
to their every desire. This quadrant is deceptive because urgent, immediate
things feel important. In truth, they’re often not. I mean how many times do
you drop something to check your phone, when the only text you got is from a
friend responding “k” or “lol” and that’s it! N ot really worth the
interruption. Q3 is loaded with activities that are important to other people
but not important to you—things that you would like to say no to but can’t
because you’re afraid you might offend someone.
Meet the Yes-man of Q3, who has a hard time saying no to
anything or anyone. H e tries so hard to please everyone that he usually ends
up pleasing no one, including himself. H e suffers from FOMO—Fear of Missing
Out. H e can’t stop imagining that everyone’s having fun without him, and so he
tries to be a part of everything. H e often caves to peer pressure because he
likes feeling popular and he wouldn’t want to stand out. H is motto is,
“Tomorrow, I’ll be more assertive—if that’s okay with you.”
When his friends dropped by unexpectedly one evening and
wanted him to go for a night ride, he just couldn’t muster up the courage to
turn them down. H e didn’t want to disappoint his buddies. It didn’t matter
that he was taking a massive test the next morning and needed to study and get
H e told his sister that he’d help her with math, but he
couldn’t resist getting distracted by a texting marathon for most of the night.
Even though it wasn’t that important.
He didn’t really want to join the swimming team. H e preferred
graphic design. But hisdad was a swimmer and, of course, he didn’t want to let
Ithink all of us, myself included, have a little Q3 inside of us.
But we won’t accomplishmuch if we say yes to everything and never learn to
focus on what’s most important. C omedian Bill C osby has said it well: “I
don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.”
Q3 is one of the worst quadrants to be in because it has no backbone. It’s
fickle and will blow whichever way the wind is blowing.
The results of spending too much time in Q3
•Feeling like a
follower rather than a leader
•L ack of
•Feeling like a
doormat for others to wipe their feet on
Q UA D RA N T 4:The Slacker
Q4 is the category of waste and excess.
These activities are neither urgent nor important.
Meet the Slacker who hangs out in Q4. H e loves anything in
excess, like too much TV, too much sleep, too much PlayStation, or too much
time online. Two of his favorite pastimes include regular napping and binging
on an entire TV series each weekend.
H e’s a professional slacker. Sleeping in until noon takes
real skill, after all. School, of course, is the last thing on his mind, and a
summer job is out of the question. H e’d rather, you know, just hang out.
Yes, of course chilling out and watching videos online are
part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s only when they’re done in excess that they
become a waste of time. You’ll know when you cross that line. Watching that
first episode of your favorite TV show might be just what you need to relax,
and that’s okay. But then watching the second, third, or even fourth show (a
rerun that you’ve seen five times already) until 2 A .M. turns a relaxing evening into a wasted one.
The results of living in Q4 are:
•L ack of
•Missing out on
Q UA D RA N T 2:The
N ow back to Q2. Q2 is made of things that
are important but not urgent—like relaxation, friendships, working out,
planning ahead, and doing homework . . . on time! It’s the quadrant of
excellence—the place to be. Q2 activities are important. But are Q2 activities
urgent? N o! A nd that’s why we have trouble doing them. For example, getting a
good summer job may be very important to you. But since it’s weeks away and not
urgent, you may put off looking on C raigslist until it’s too late and suddenly
all the good jobs are filled. H ad you been in Q2, you would have planned ahead
and found a better job. It wouldn’t take more time, just a little more
Meet the Prioritizer. A lthough she’s by no means perfect,
she’s basically got it together. She takes a look at everything she has to do
and then prioritizes, making sure her first things get done first and her last
things last. Because she has the simple but powerful habit of planning ahead,
she’s usually on top of things. By doing her homework on time and writing
papers a little in advance, she does her best work and avoids the stress and
burnout that come from cramming. She makes time to exercise and renew herself,
even if it means pushing aside other things once in a while. The people who
matter most in her life, like her friends and her family, come first. A lthough
it’s a struggle, staying balanced is important to her.
She changes the oil in her car regularly. A nd she doesn’t
wait until she’s running on fumes to fill up with gas. She takes time to relax,
but knows there’s a time and a place to let loose.
She’s learned how to say no with a smile. When her friends
dropped by unexpectedly one evening to go to a party, she said, “N ah, I have a
huge test tomorrow. H ow about Friday night? L et’s go out then.” H er friends
were okay with that and secretly wished they’d had the courage to stick to
their guns, too. She’s learned that resisting peer pressure appears unpopular
at first, but that people come to respect her for it.
The results of living in Q2 are:
•C ontrol of
So in which quadrant are you spending the majority of your
time? 1, 2, 3, or 4? Since, in reality, we all spend some time in each
quadrant, the key is to shift as much time as possible into Q2. A nd the only
way you’ll find more time for Q2 is to reduce the amount of time you spend in
the other quadrants. H ere is how to do that:
Shrink Q 1 by procrastinating less. You’re
always going to have lots to do in Q1. That’s guaranteed. But if you can cut
your procrastination in half by doing important things early, you’ll be in Q1
far less often. A nd less Q1 time means less stress!
Say no to Q 3 activities. L earn to say no to
unimportant things that pull you away from more important ones. Don’t be so
interruptible. Trying to please everyone is like a dog trying to catch its
tail. Remember, when you’re saying no you’re really saying yes to more
C ut down on Q 4, slacker activities. Don’t
stop doing these things, just do them less often. You don’t have time to waste.
Shift this time to Q2. You need to relax and kick back, but remember relaxation
is Q2. Excessive relaxation is Q4.
In addition to spending more time in Q2, consider two other
suggestions to help you better manage your time and put first things first:
Start a calendar and plan weekly.
•GET A PLANNER
To start with, I highly recommend getting a
planner or calendar—on your computer, phone, on paper, whatever works. Just
somewhere with space to write down appointments, to-do lists, and goals. There
are some great apps for calendars, or if you want you can buy a paper planner
or make your own out of a spiral-bound notebook.
Some of you might be thinking, “I don’t want my life to be
tied to a planner. I like my freedom.” If this is you, keep in mind that a
planner wasn’t designed to tie you down but to free you up. With a planner
you’ll no longer have to worry about forgetting things or double-booking
yourself. It will remind you when your papers are due and tests are to be
taken. You can keep all of your important information in one place instead of
scattered all over. A planner is not meant to be your master but a tool to help
you live your life.
Take a few minutes each week to plan your
week and see what a difference it can make. Why weekly? Because we think in
weeks and because daily planning is too narrow a focus and monthly planning is
too broad a focus. Once you have a planner of some sort, follow this three-step
weekly planning process.
Step 1: Identify Your Big Rocks. A t the end
or beginning of each week, sit down and think about what you want to accomplish
for the upcoming week. A sk yourself, “What are the most important things I
need to do this week?” I call these your big rocks. They are sort of like
mini-goals and should be tied into your mission statement and longer-term
goals. N ot surprisingly, you’ll find that most of them will be Q2’s.
Y ou might come up with a list of big rocks
that looks something like this:
My Big Rocks for the Week
Great Gatsby for English
•A ttend C
•Finish summer job
•Party at A
•Workout 3 times
So how do you know which are your big rocks? Well, think
through the key roles of your life—student, friend, family member, employee,
individual, and whatever else you do and then come up with the one or two most
important things you want to get done in each role.
Planning your life around roles majorly
helps you stay balanced.
R OL E
MY BIG R OC K S FOR T H E WEEK
Get started on history report
Julio’s birthday Be more complimentary
Get Mother’s Day gift at the mall C all
Get to work on time
Go to Jayden’s gig Write in journal every
Research arguments Practice openings
Don’t get carried away when you’re identifying your big
rocks for the week. A lthough you may feel you have forty big rocks that must
get done, be realistic and narrow your focus to no more than seven to ten.
Step 2: Block Out Time for Your Big Rocks. Do
you know the big rock experiment? You get a bucket and fill it half full of
small pebbles. You then try to put several big rocks in the bucket, on top of
the pebbles. But they don’t all fit. So you empty the bucket and start over.
This time you put the big rocks in the bucket first, followed by the pebbles.
The pebbles neatly fill in the spaces around the big rocks. This time it all
fits! The difference is the order in which the rocks and pebbles were placed in
the bucket. If you put the pebbles in first, the big rocks don’t all fit. But
if you put the big rocks in first, everything fits, big rocks and
pebbles. Big rocks represent your most important things. Pebbles represent all
the little everyday things that suck up your time—such as chores, texting, errands,
and interruptions, etc. Moral of the story? If you don’t schedule your big
rocks first, they won’t get done.
During your weekly planning, block out time for your big
rocks by putting them in your calendar. For example, you might decide that the best
time to get started on your history report is Tuesday night and the best time
to call your grandma is Sunday afternoon. N ow block out those times. It’s like
making a reservation. If your big rock such as “give out three compliments each
day this week” doesn’t have a specific time attached to it, write it somewhere
in your planner where it can be seen.
If you block out time for your big rocks first, the other
everyday activities will fit in as well. A nd if they don’t, who cares? You’d
rather push aside pebbles than big rocks. Take care of ’em next week.
Step 3: Schedule Everything Else. Once you
have your big rocks booked, schedule in all of your other little to-dos, daily
tasks, and appointments. H ere’s where the pebbles go. Take note of upcoming events
and activities, like a vacation, a friend’s concert, or birthday.
A dapt D aily
You’ll probably need to rearrange some big
rocks and pebbles now and then. So adapt each day as needed. Try your best to
follow your plan, but if you don’t accomplish everything you set out to do, no
big deal. Even if you only get a third of your big rocks accomplished, that’s a
third more than you might have accomplished without planning ahead.
If this weekly planning method feels too rigid or
complicated, don’t scrap it entirely, just do weekly planning light. For
example, you may find you only want to schedule two or three big rocks for the
week and that’s about it.
The point is: The simple act of planning ahead each week
will help you focus on your big rocks and consequently accomplish so much more.
oes It Really Work?
Does this time-management stuff really work?
You bet it does. I have personally read numerous emails and letters from teens
who have had great success with the above suggestions. H ere are comments from two
teens who were taught about the Time Quadrants and began using a planner and
doing weekly planning:
I remember looking at the diagram of the Time Quadrants and
saying, “Man, this is true. I do a lot of last-minute things.” Like homework.
If a paper was due, I’d do it Sunday night to turn in Monday, or if there was a
test on Friday, I’d skip school on Thursday to study for my test. I was pretty
much in crisis.
Once I figured out what was important to me, I started to
prioritize and started using a planner. If I wanted to go fishing I would say,
“Well, this other thing is more important. I’ll do that first, and then maybe
tomorrow I will have the whole day to fish.” Eventually I started studying more
effectively, aced my tests, and everything just fell into place. My life would
have been less stressful if I only had used my time more effectively earlier.
My stress level has decreased because I am no longer
constantly trying to remember what I have to do a few days ahead. Now I can
just pull out my schedule and I’m all set. When I get in a bad mood and
stressed out, I look at my schedule and realize that I still have time to do
everything, especially the things just for me.
One of the few things that can’t be recycled is wasted time.
So make sure you treasure each moment. In the words of Queen Elizabeth I on her
deathbed: “A ll my possessions for one moment of time.”
Time management isn’t all there is to H abit
3. It’s only half of it. The other half is learning to overcome fear and peer
pressure. It takes courage and guts to stay true to your first things, like
your values and standards, when the pressure is on. I once asked a group of
kids, “What are your first things?” to which they answered, among other things:
“family,” “friends,” “freedom,” “excitement,” “growth,” “trust,” “God,”
“stability,” “belonging,” “looks.” I then asked, “What keeps you from putting
these things first in your life?” N ot surprisingly, “fear” and “peer pressure”
were two of the top responses. So we’re going to talk about how to deal with
The C omfort Z one and the C ourage Z one
Putting your first things first takes
courage and it’ll often cause you to stretch outside your comfort zone. Take a
peek at the C ourage and C omfort Z one diagram.
Your comfort zone represents things you’re familiar with,
your regular haunts, friends you’re at ease with, activities you love doing.
Your comfort zone’s risk free. It’s easy. It doesn’t cause you to stretch.
Within these boundaries we feel safe and secure.
On the other hand, things like making new friends, speaking
before a large audience, or sticking up for your values can totally freak you
out. Welcome to the courage zone! A dventure, risk, and challenge included!
Everything that makes us feel challenged (aka uncomfortable) is found here. In
this territory waits uncertainty, pressure, change, the possibility of failure.
But it’s also the place to go for opportunity and the only place in which
you’ll ever reach your full potential. You’ll never reach it by hanging out in
your comfort zone. That’s for sure.
What’s that you asked? “What’s so
wrong about enjoying your comfort zone?”
N othing. In fact, much of our time should be spent there.
But there’s something absolutely wrong with never venturing into unknown
waters. You know as well as I do that people who seldom try new things or
spread their wings live safe but boring lives! A nd who wants that? “You miss
100 percent of the shots you never take,” said hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Why
not show some faith in yourself, take a risk, and parachute into your courage
zone from time to time? Remember, the risk of riskless living is the greatest
risk of all.
N ever L et Your Fears Make Your D ecisions
There are a lot of sick emotions is this
world, but perhaps one of the worst is fear. When I think about all I
failed to do in my life because my fears got the best of me I ache inside. In
high school I had a crush on a cool girl named Sherry but I never asked her out
because my fears whispered, “She may not like you.” I remember quitting my
seventh-grade football team after one practice because I was afraid of
competition. I’ll never forget contemplating running for a student body office
but chickening out because I was too scared of speaking in front of the whole
school. Throughout my life there have been classes I never took, friends I
never made, and teams I never played for—all because of these ugly, yet very
real, fears. I like how Shakespeare put it in Measure for Measure:
doubts are traitors,
make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt.
My dad once told me something I’ve never forgotten. “Sean,”
he said, “never let your fears make your decisions. You make them.” That really
stuck with me. Think of all the heroic acts that have been accomplished by
people who acted in the face of fear. Think of N elson Mandela, who was
instrumental in ending the oppressive apartheid system in South A frica.
Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years (imagine that) for speaking out
against apartheid before being elected as the first non-white president of
South A frica. What if, because of his fears, he had never dared to fight the
system? Or consider the unyielding courage of Susan B. A nthony as she led the
long struggle that finally won women the right to vote under the U .S. C
onstitution. Or think of Winston C hurchill, prime minister of England during
World War II, who led the free world in its fight against N azi Germany. What
if, because of self-doubt, he had been fainthearted during the war? Surely all
great, risky deeds, whether by famous people or by everyday people, were
accomplished in the face of fear.
A cting in the face of fear will never be easy, but
afterward you’ll always be glad you did it. During my senior year in college I
was short a few credits, and so I skimmed through the class schedule looking
for something to fill the hours. When I came across “Private Voice
Instruction,” as in singing lessons, I thought, “Why not step outside my
comfort zone and give it a try?”
I was careful to sign up for private lessons instead of
group lessons because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself by singing in
front of other students.
Things went fine until the end of the semester when my
singing professor brought the shocking news. “By the way, Sean, have you
decided which song you want to sing at the recital?”
“What do you mean?” I asked in horror.
“Well, the class requirements state that you have to sing at
least one time in front of the other private voice students.”
“That would not be a good idea,” I said
“Oh, it’s no big deal. Y ou’ll do fine.”
Well, to me it was a huge deal. The thought of
singing in front of a group made me physically sick. “H ow am I going to get
out of this one?” I thought. But I couldn’t allow myself to do that because I
had been speaking to various groups over the past year advising them to never
let fears make their decisions. N ow . . . I was up to bat.
“C ourage, Sean.” I kept rehearsing in my
mind. “Y ou’ve got to at least try.”
That dreaded day finally arrived. A s I entered the “room of
doom” where I was to make my debut, I kept trying to convince myself, “Just
chill, ok? This can’t be that bad.”
But it kept getting worse. I became increasingly intimidated
as I discovered that nearly everyone in the room was either a music or theater
major. I mean, these people really knew how to sing. Since childhood they’d
been performing in musicals and choruses. My fear only increased when the first
student called upon sang a song from Les Misérables that sounded
better than on the soundtrack. The guy was incredible. Yet the class had the
audacity to critique him. “I think that your tonality was a little flat,”
someone said. “Oh, no! What will they think of me?”
“Sean, you’re up.” N ow it was my
A s I stood in front of the class, three million light-years
outside my comfort zone, I kept repeating to myself, “C ourage! U gh, I
can’t believe I’m doing this. C ourage! U gh, I can’t believe I’m doing
“I will be singing ‘On the Street Where Y
ou L ive’ from My Fair Lady,” I quivered.
A s the accompanist began playing the prelude and all eyes
fell upon me, I couldn’t help but think, “H ow? H ow in the world did I get
myself into this situation?” A nd from the smiles on everyone’s faces it looked
as if they were actually going to take me seriously.
“I have often walked down this street
before . . .” I rang out.
Even before I reached the second line, the expressions of
excitement on the students’ faces turned to anguish. I was so nervous that my
body felt as tight as jeans just pulled from the dryer. I had to squeeze each
N ear the end of the song is a really high note. It had
always been difficult for me to reach, even in practice. N ow I anticipated it
with terror. But as that note approached I thought, “What the heck. Go for it!”
I don’t recall if I hit that note or missed it. A ll I
remember is that a few students were so embarrassed that they couldn’t even
look at me.
I finished and sat down quickly. Silence. N
o one knew what to say.
“That was great, Sean.”
“Thanks a lot,” I shrugged, as if I believed them. But do
you know what? A lthough that experience nearly killed me, when I left that
classroom and walked alone through the empty parking lot to my car I was so
proud of myself. I felt a great sense of personal accomplishment, and I frankly
didn’t care what anyone else thought about my high note. I had survived and I
was proud of it.
A s gymnast and Olympic gold-medalist Gabby Douglas put it,
“The hard days are the best because that’s where champions are made—so if you
can push through, you can push through anything!” So the next time you want to:
•make a new
•break an old
•develop a new
•try out for a
•audition for a
•ask out the one
or even if you want to sing in public . . .
Do it! . . . even when all your fears and doubts scream out, “You loser,”
“You’ll fail,” “Don’t try.” N ever let your fears make your decisions. Y ou
Winning Means Rising Each Time You Fall
We all feel fear from time to time, and
that’s okay. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” goes the saying. One way I’ve
learned to overcome fear is to keep this thought always in the back of my mind:
Winning is nothing more than rising each time you fall. We should worry
less about failing and more about the chances we miss when we don’t even try. A
fter all, many of the people we most admire failed many times.
For instance, Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. A lbert
Einstein didn’t talk until he was four. Beethoven’s music teacher said, “A s a
composer he is hopeless.” L ouis Pasteur was graded “mediocre” in chemistry.
Rocket scientist Wernher von Braun failed ninth-grade algebra. C hemist Madame
Marie C urie experienced near financial ruin before creating the field of
nuclear chemistry and forever changing the course of science. Steve Jobs was
fired by A pple after he founded it and later returned to run the company and
invent the iPhone. Dr Seuss’s first book was rejected by twenty-seven publishers.
Below are events in the life history of a man who failed
many times but kept fighting back. See if you can guess who it is. This man:
business at age twenty-two
for the state legislature at age twenty-three
business at age twenty-five
•coped with the
death of his sweetheart at age twenty-six
nervous breakdown at age twenty-seven
for Speaker at age twenty-nine
for congressional nomination at age thirty-four
•was elected to
C ongress at age thirty-seven
renomination for C ongress at age thirty-nine
for the Senate at age forty-six
for the vice presidency of the U nited States at age forty-seven
defeated for the Senate at age forty-nine
This person was none other than A braham L incoln, elected
president of the U nited States at age fifty-one. H e rose each time he fell
and eventually reached his destination, gaining the respect and admiration of
all nations and peoples.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I
took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
ROBERT FROST POET
Be Strong in the H ard Moments
The poet Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads
diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, A nd that has made
all the difference.” I have come to believe that there are certain hard
moments, diverging-road moments, that, if we are strong in them, will make “all
the difference” down the road of life.
So what exactly are hard moments? H ard moments are
conflicts between doing the right thing and doing the easier thing. They are
the key tests, the defining moments of life—and how we handle them can literally
shape our forevers. They come in two sizes, small and large.
Small hard moments occur daily and include things like
getting up when your alarm rings early, controlling your temper, or
disciplining yourself to finish your homework. If you can conquer yourself and
be strong in these moments your days will run so much more smoothly (also you
won’t have to stress about ’em anymore). For example, if I’m weak in a hard
moment and sleep in (mattress over mind), it often snowballs and becomes the
first of many little failures throughout the day. But if I get up when planned
(mind over mattress), it often becomes the first of many little successes.
In contrast to small hard moments, larger ones occur every
so often in life and include things like surrounding yourself with good
friends, resisting negative peer pressure, and rebounding after a major
setback: You may get cut from a team or dumped by your first love, your parents
may get divorced or you may have a death in the family. These moments have huge
consequences and often strike when you’re least expecting them. If you
recognize that these moments will come (and they will), then you can prepare
for them and meet them head-on like a warrior and come out victorious.
Be courageous at these key junctures! Don’t sacrifice your
future happiness for one night of pleasure, a weekend of excitement, or a
thrilling moment of revenge. If you are ever thinking about doing something
really stupid, remember these lines from Shakespeare (Wow! Shakespeare twice in
What win I, if I gain the thing I
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine
These lines are about sacrificing your future for a brief
moment of joy. Who would want to give up the rest of his or her life for a toy?
Or who would want to buy a minute of happiness (mirth) for a week’s worth of
pain? Or who would destroy an entire vine for just one grape? Only a stupid
O vercoming Peer Pressure
Some of the hardest moments come when facing
peer pressure. Saying no when all your friends are saying yes takes raw
courage. H owever, standing up to peer pressure, what I call “won’t power,” is
a massive deposit into your PBA .
A counselor at a high school shared this:
A freshman girl rushed into my office before school with
tears streaming down her face. “They hate me! They hate me!”
She had just been dumped by her group of friends who told her
to get lost because she had been “too good” the day before to ditch school and
ride up to Chicago for the day. She said at first she wanted to go but then
thought how much it would hurt her mom when the school called home and told her
that her daughter wasn’t in school. She felt she just couldn’t do that to her
mom because she had made so many sacrifices for her. She couldn’t let her down!
She stood up and said no I can’t do it, and everyone just
blew her off. She thought the next day that everything would be okay, but it
wasn’t—they all told her to find new friends because she was too good for them.
Through the tears and pain she began to see that she felt
good inside, but lonely, as her friends didn’t accept her. But she accepted
herself and gained self-respect and inner peace despite outside rejection. A
life lesson learned and a moment of standing up for herself.
Sometimes peer pressure can be so strong that the only way
to resist it is to remove yourself entirely from the environment you’re in.
This is especially the case if you’re involved with a gang, a fraternity or
sorority, or a tight group of friends. For H eather, changing her environment
was the best solution:
Even though I knew for a long time that I needed to change my
friends, I just didn’t know how. My “best friend” would encourage me to do the
things she was, like sleeping around and doing drugs. Before long people at
school started to call me easy.
I still wanted to be friends with her, and my other friends,
because I would think about all the good times we’d had together. Yet when I
went out with them at night we would get into stuff we weren’t supposed to. I
knew I was holding on to things that I shouldn’t be.
I decided I
needed to change my whole environment and get away from it all. I asked my mom
if I could go and stay with my aunt to get a new start and find a better group
of friends. She agreed, and since then I’ve moved in with my aunt.
Now, around my new friends, I say whatever I feel is right,
and I am being more myself. I don’t care what people say about me, and if they
don’t like me, then oh well! This is me, and I am not going to change just to
fit in with them. I am going to change for me.
To overcome peer pressure, you’ve got to care more about
what you think of you than what other people think of you, as
this short poem by Portia N elson reminds us:
day of the week
I would choose to be “out”
myself . . . than to be “in” with others and out of touch with myself.
Why is peer pressure so hard to resist? It’s because
sometimes you’re just dying to belong. That’s why teens are often willing to go
through brutal hazing rituals to become a member of a club, or fraternity or sorority.
Some get into drugs and violence to become a member of a gang. Some feel they
have to suck up to certain people to be popular, then drop their old friends on
the way up the social ladder.
A t times you may need to take a
risk, resist the peer pressure, and do the right thing. Jon of Brooklyn told
Some of my friends in sophomore year started a page on
Facebook about hating one girl named in our class. It was really awful—they’d
make memes out of her photos and write terrible messages about her. There was
really no reason to do this, she was just kind of an outsider and people were
taking it so way out of control it wasn’t even funny.
Some of my friends were pressuring me to participate, but I
just refused. Finally, I reported the group for hate speech, anonymously, and
it got shut down. I knew it was the right thing to do. I also told the
principal, without naming names, that some people in the grade were
cyberbullying, and we had an assembly about it. I was scared of having to face
everyone the next day at school, but no one knew it was me who did it. In fact,
I went up and talked to the girl in math class, just to get to know her a little
and let her know she wasn’t alone. Turns out she’s a really cool, nice person.
We’ve been friends ever since and she still doesn’t know it was me who stopped
N ot all peer pressure is bad. In fact, much
of it can be very good. If you can find a friend who puts positive pressure on
you to be your best, then hang on to him or her, because you’ve got something
very special—someone who’s got your back.
If you find yourself wanting to stand up but instead you are
continually caving in to peer pressure, here are two things you can do.
First, build your PBA (Personal Bank A ccount). If your
self-confidence and self-respect are low, how can you expect to have the strength
to resist? What can you do? You can begin today to build your PBA , little by
little. Make a promise to yourself and keep it. H elp someone in need. Develop
a talent. Renew yourself. Eventually you’ll have sufficient strength to forge
your own path instead of following the beaten ones. (You may want to review the
chapter on the personal bank account.)
Second, write your mission statement and set goals. If you
haven’t decided what your values are, how can you expect to stick up for them?
It will be a whole lot easier to say no if you know what goals you’re saying
yes to. For example, it’s easier to say no to cutting class when you are saying
yes to your goal of getting good grades and making it to college. (You may want
to review the chapter on H abit 2, Begin with the End in Mind.)
In the final analysis, putting first things
first takes discipline. It takes discipline to manage your time. It takes
discipline to overcome your fears. It takes discipline to be strong in the hard
moments and resist peer pressure. A man by the name of A lbert E. Gray spent
years studying successful people in an attempt to figure out that special
ingredient that made them all successful. What do you think he found? Well, it
wasn’t dressing for success, or eating Greek yogurt, or having a positive
mental attitude. Instead, this is what he found. Read it carefully.
A lbert E. Gray’s C ommon Denominator of
All successful people have 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
What does this mean? It means that successful people are
willing to suck it up from time to time and do things they don’t like doing.
Why do they do them? Because they know these things will lead them to their
In other words, sometimes you just gotta exercise your
special human tool called willpower to get things done, whether you feel
like it or not. Do you think a concert pianist always enjoys hours of practice
each day? Does a person who is committed to earning her own way through college
enjoy taking on a second job?
I remember reading a story about an all-A merican collegiate
wrestler who was asked what the most memorable day of his career had been. H e
replied that it was the one day during his career when practice had been
canceled. H e hated practice, but was willing to endure it for a greater
purpose, his love of being the best he could be.
•A FINAL WORD
We’ve surveyed thousands of people on the 7
H abits and guess which habit is the hardest one to live? You guessed it! It’s
H abit 3. So don’t get discouraged if you struggle with it. Y ou’ve got
If you don’t know where to start with H abit 3, go to the
baby steps. That’s what they are there for—to help you get started.
Your teen years can be some of the most exciting and
adventurous years of life. So value each moment, as this poem so beautifully
realize the value of One Y ear,
a student who failed his or her AP exams.
realize the value of One Month,
a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of One
Week, Ask an editor of a weekly magazine.
realize the value of One D ay,
a daily wage laborer who has six kids to feed.
realize the value of One H our, Ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of One
Minute, Ask a person who missed their train.
To realize the value of One
Second, Ask the person who survived an accident.
realize the value of One Millisecond,
the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.
ahead we’ll talk about the stuff that life is made of. I think you’ll be
surprised what that stuff is. So keep moving! By the way, you’re halfway done
with the book. Congratulations!
Do a search and get a planner app on your tablet or smart
phone and use it to get more organized. Try it for 30 days before judging it.
Identify your biggest time-wasters. Do you really need to
spend two hours checking out other people’s Instagrams, or playing video games?
My biggest time-wasters: ...........................
Are you a “pleaser,” someone who
says yes to everything and everyone? If so, have the courage to say no today
when it’s the right thing to do.
If you have an important test in one week, don’t
procrastinate and wait until the day before to study. Suck it up; study a
little each day.
Think of something you’ve procrastinated for a long
time but that’s very important to you. Block out time this week to get it done.
Note your seven most important big
rocks for the upcoming week. Now, block out time on your calendar to accomplish
Identify a fear that’s holding you back from reaching
your goals—it could be fear of a person, fear of emotions, fear of getting
hurt. Decide right now to jump outside your comfort zone and stop letting that
fear get the best of you.
Fear that’s holding me back:
How much impact does peer pressure have on you? Identify the
person or people who have the most influence upon you. Ask yourself, “Am I
doing what I want to do or what they want me to do?”
Person or people who most influence me:
Relationship Bank Account
Stuff That Life Is Made Of
Is an All-Y ou-Can-Eat Buffet
5—Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
ou H ave Two Ears and One Mouth . . . H el-lo!
“H igh” Way
The Relationship Bank Account
THAT LIFE IS MADE OF
One of my favorite quotes, which, by the
way, always makes me feel guilty, is “On their deathbed nobody has ever wished
they had spent more time at the office.”
I’ve often asked myself, “What do they wish they’d
spent more time doing?” I think the answer might be “Spent more time with the
people they love.” You see, it’s all about relationships, the stuff that life
is made of.
What’s it like to be in a relationship with you? If you had
to rate how well you’re doing in your most important relationships, how would
HOW ARE Y OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH . . .
Y our friends?
Y our siblings?
Y our parents or guardian?
Y our girlfriend or boyfriend?
Y our teachers?
Maybe you’re doing pretty well. Maybe not. Either way, this
chapter is designed to help you improve these key relationships. But before we
go there, let’s quickly review where we’ve just come from.
In the Private Victory, we learned about the personal bank
account and H abits 1, 2, and 3. In the Public Victory section, we’ll learn
about the relationship bank account and H abits 4, 5, and 6. A s we’ve already
discussed, the key to mastering relationships is first mastering yourself, at
least to some degree. You don’t have to be perfect; you just need to be making
Why is success with self so important to success with
others? It’s because the most important ingredient in any relationship is what
you are. A s the essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Who
you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” In many cases, if
you’re struggling in your relationships, you probably don’t have to look much
further than yourself for the answer.
The Private Victory will help you become independent so that
you can say, “I am responsible for myself and I can create my own destiny.”
This is a huge accomplishment. The Public Victory will help you become
interdependent, that is, help you learn to work cooperatively with others, so
that you can say, “I am a team player, and I have the power to influence and inspire
people.” This is an even greater accomplishment. The long and short of it is,
your ability to get along with others will largely determine how successful you
are in your career and your level of personal happiness.
N ow back to talking about relationships. H ere’s a
practical way to think about them. I call it the relationship bank account (RBA
). In an earlier chapter we spoke about your personal bank account (PBA ),
which represents the amount of trust and confidence you have in yourself.
Similarly, the RBA represents the amount of trust and confidence you have in
each of your relationships.
The RBA is very much like a checking account at a
bank. You can make deposits and improve the relationship, or take withdrawals
and weaken it. A strong and healthy relationship is always the result of steady
deposits made over a long period.
A lthough there are similarities, the RBA is different from
a financial account in three ways, as a colleague of mine, Judy H enrichs, once
pointed out to me:
1.U nlike a bank where you may
have only one or two accounts, you have an RBA witheveryone you meet. Suppose
you come across a new kid in school. If you smile and say hello, you’ve just
opened an account with him. If you ignore him, you’ve just opened an account as
well, although a negative one. There’s kinda no getting around it.
2.U nlike a checking account,
once you open an RBA with another person, you can neverclose it. That’s why you
can run into a friend you haven’t seen in years and pick up right where you
left off. N ot a dollar’s lost. It’s also why people hang on to grudges for
years. 3. In a checking account, ten bucks is ten bucks. In an
RBA , deposits and withdrawals are not created equally. It usually takes many
deposits to make up for one withdrawal. One subtle but demeaning comment, like
“I didn’t know you could fit into a size 4,” can destroy weeks of deposits. So
be careful when you open your mouth.
So how can you build a rich relationship or repair a broken
one? It’s simple. One deposit at a time. It’s the same way you’d eat an
elephant if you had to. One bite at a time. There is no quick fix. If my
relationship with you is $5,000 in the hole, I’ll need to make $5,001 worth of
deposits to get it back in the positive.
I once asked a group of teens, “What’s the most powerful
deposit someone has made into your RBA ?” These are some of their responses:
steady stream of deposits my family makes that strengthen me.”
a friend, teacher, loved one, or employer takes the time to say, ‘You look
nice’ or‘Great job.’ A few words go a long way.”
friends made me a banner on my birthday.”
about me to others.”
I have made mistakes, they forgive, forget, and help and love.”
friend told me, after I read some poems I wrote, that I was brilliant and I
shouldwrite a book. It was hard to share some of those in the first place.”
mother called from C alifornia, as well as both of my sisters, to wish me a
happybirthday, before I left for school.”
brother would always take me to hockey games with his friends.” • “L ittle
have four really good friends, and just being together as friends and knowing
thatwe’re all doing good and are happy keeps me going.”
C hris says ‘H i, how are you, Ryan?’ it makes me feel so uplifted the way
had a friend who told me he believed I was very sincere and always myself. It
meanta lot that someone would recognize that.”
A s you can see, there are many kinds of deposits, but here
are six that seem to work every time. Of course, with every deposit, there is
an opposite withdrawal.
R BA D EPOSIT S
R BA WIT H D R A WA L S
K eep promises Break
Do small acts of kindness
K eep to yourself
Gossip and break
Talk too much
Say you’re sorry
Set clear expectations
Set false expectations
“Sean, I don’t want to ask you again. There
are trash bags in the trunk of my car from the party the other night. Please
throw them away.”
A s a carefree teenager, I somehow forgot to empty the trash
bags in Dad’s Ford, as I said I would, because I had a hot date that Saturday
afternoon. I had asked my dad if I could use the Ford, but he said no because
it wasn’t his car. It was a loaner that his friend at the dealership had
arranged for. But I took it anyway because he was busy and I was sure he
The date was awesome and I felt great. On the way home,
though, I rammed into the back of a car doing thirty. N o one was seriously
hurt, but both cars were nearly totaled. I’ll never forget the most miserable
call of my life.
“I had an accident.”
“Y OU WH A T? A RE Y OU OK ?”
“I got into a wreck. N o one’s hurt.”
“IN WH IC H C A R?”
“Y our car.”
“N OOOOOOOOOOO!!!” By this time I was holding the phone six
inches away. A nd it still hurt.
I had the car towed to the Ford dealership to see if they
could salvage it. Since it was Saturday, they told me they wouldn’t be able to
work on it until Monday. On Monday my dad received a call from the repair shop.
The manager said that when his people opened the trunk to repair the car, the
smell of rotting garbage (the garbage I forgot to empty) was so disgusting that
they refused to work on the car. If you thought my dad was mad before, you
shoulda seen him then.
For the next several weeks I was in the doghouse. It wasn’t
just the crash he was so mad about. H e was angry because I’d broken two
promises: “I won’t take your car, Dad,” and “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll take the
trash out of the trunk.” It was a huge withdrawal, and it took me a long time
to rebuild my RBA with my dad again.
K eeping small commitments and promises is vital to building
trust. You just gotta do what you say you’re going to do—otherwise, don’t say
you’ll do it. If you tell your mom you’re going to be home at 11:00 or that
you’ll do the dishes, then do it and make a deposit. Give out promises
sparingly, and then do everything you can to keep them. If you find you can’t
keep a commitment for some reason (it happens), then let the other person know
why. “A aah sis, I’m really sorry I can’t come to your play tonight. I didn’t
realize I have soccer later. Promise I’ll be there tomorrow!” If you’re sincere
and try to keep your promises, people will understand when something else comes
If your RBA with your parents is low, try building it by
keeping your commitments. When your parents trust you, everything goes so
much better at home. But I guess I don’t need to tell you what you already
H ave you ever had a day where everything’s
going wrong and you feel totally bummed out . . . and then suddenly, out of
nowhere, someone says something nice to you and it turns your whole day around?
Sometimes the smallest things—a “hi,” a smile, a compliment, a hug, a funny
text from a friend—can make such a big difference. If you want to build
friendships, start by doing the little things, because in relationships the
little things are the big things. A s Mark Twain put it, “I can live
three months on a good compliment.”
friend of mine, Renon, once told me about a $1,000 deposit her brother made
into her RBA :
When I was in ninth grade, my big brother Hans, who was a
junior in high school, seemed to me to be the epitome of popularity. He was
good in sports and dated a lot. Our house was always filled with his cool
friends, guys I dreamed would someday think of me as more than just “Hans’s
dumb little kid sister.”
Hans asked Rebecca Knight, the most popular girl in the
school, to go with him to the junior prom. She accepted. He rented the tux,
bought the flowers, and, along with the rest of his popular crowd, hired a limo
and made reservations at a fancy restaurant. Then, disaster struck. On the
afternoon of the prom, Rebecca came down with a terrible flu. Hans was without
a date, and it was too late to ask another girl.
There were a number of ways Hans could have reacted,
including getting angry, feeling sorry for himself, blaming Rebecca, even
choosing to believe that she really wasn’t sick and just didn’t want to go with
him, in which case he would have had to believe that he was a loser. But Hans
chose not only to be proactive but to give someone else the night of her life.
He asked me—me! his little sister!—to go with him to his
Can you imagine my ecstasy? Mom and I flew about the house
getting me ready. But when the limo pulled up with all of his friends, I almost
chickened out. What would they think? But Hans just grinned, gave me his arm,
and proudly escorted me out to the car like I was the queen of the ball. He
didn’t warn me not to act like a kid; he didn’t apologize to the others; he
ignored the fact that I was dressed in a simple short-skirted piano-recital
dress while all of the other girls were in elegant formals.
I was enchanted at the dance. Of course, I spilled punch on
my dress. I’m sure Hans bribed every one of his friends to dance at least one
dance with me, because I never sat out once. Some of them even pretended to
fight over who got to dance with me. I had the greatest time. And so did Hans.
While the guys were dancing with me, he was dancing with their dates! The truth
is, everyone was wonderful to me the whole night, and I think part of the
reason was because Hans chose to be proud of me. It was the dream night of my
life, and I think every girl in the school fell in love with my brother, who
was cool enough, kind enough, and self-confident enough to take his little
sister to his junior prom.
If, as the Japanese saying goes, “one kind word can warm
three winter months,” think how many winter months were warmed by this single
act of kindness.
You don’t have to look far to find opportunities for small
acts of kindness. A young man named L ee, who was taught about the RBA ,
I’m the junior class president at my school. I decided to try
the small kindness deposit I learned about by putting a simple note in the
boxes of just the student body officers I didn’t know well. I told them that I
appreciated the work they did. They took me about five minutes to write up.
The next day one of the girls I’d written a note to came up
to me and abruptly gave me a big hug. She thanked me for the note, and handed
me a letter and a candy bar. The note said that she had had a terrible day. She
had a great deal of stress and was very depressed. My small note had turned her
whole day around, helping her to happily accomplish the things that had caused
her so much grief. The strange thing was that I had hardly known her when I
gave her the note and I was sure that she didn’t like me anyway because she
never really paid any attention to me. What a surprise! I couldn’t believe how
much a simple note meant to her.
Small acts of kindness don’t always have to
be one-on-one. You can also team up with others to make a deposit. I remember
reading about a deposit the kids at Joliet Township C entral H igh School near
C hicago made in the life of an unsuspecting teenage girl named L ori when they
crowned her homecoming queen.
You see, unlike most of the students at Joliet, L ori was
had a disability and made her way around the school in a motorized wheelchair.
Because of cerebral palsy, her words were often difficult to understand and her
movements uneasy. Everyone at school knew her as super sweet and friendly.
A fter being nominated for homecoming queen by students in
Business Professionals of A merica, L ori made the first cut when students
narrowed the slate to ten. A t a pep rally soon after, it was announced that
she had won. The entire student body of twenty-five hundred started chanting,
“L ori! L ori!” A day later, people were still grinning at her in the hallways
and leaving roses at her locker.
When asked how long she intended to wear
her crown, L ori answered, “Forever.”
Follow the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want
them to treat you. Think about what a deposit means to someone else, not what you
would want as a deposit. A nice gift may be a deposit for you, but a listening
ear may be a deposit for another person.
If you ever have something nice to say, don’t let that
thought just rot, say it. A s K en Blanchard wrote in his book The
One Minute Manager, “U nexpressed good thoughts aren’t worth squat.” If
you’re unsure whether you should approach someone, just remember how good it’ll
make them feel to receive a compliment. Don’t wait until people are dead to
give them flowers.
A s a junior in high school, I’ll never
forget watching a high school basketball game with my friend Eric. I began
making fun of one of the players who always sat on the bench. H e was a nice
guy and had always been good to me, but a lot of other people made fun of him
so I thought I would, too. It made Eric laugh. A fter I’d dissed this kid for
several minutes, I happened to turn around and, to my horror, saw this kid’s
younger brother sitting right behind me. H e’d overheard everything. I’ll never
forget the look of betrayal on his face. Quickly turning back around, I sat
quietly for the rest of the game. I felt like a total jerk, about one foot
tall. I learned an important lesson about loyalty that night!
the biggest RBA deposits you can make is to be loyal to other people, not only
when they’re around but more especially when they aren’t around, when they’re
not present. When you talk behind people’s backs, you’re only hurting yourself
in two ways.
First, you make withdrawals from everyone who hears your
comments. If you hear me trash Ethan when Ethan isn’t there to defend himself,
what do you think I’m going to be doing when you’re not present? That’s right,
I may be gossiping about you, too.
Second, when you bad-mouth or gossip you make what I call an
“invisible withdrawal” from the person you’re attacking. H ave you ever sensed
that someone’s been trashing you behind your back? You didn’t hear it, but you
can feel it. It’s strange but true. If you sweettalk people when they’re facing
you but trash-talk them when their backs are turned, don’t think they won’t
feel it. It somehow gets communicated.
Gossiping is a huge problem among teens, stereotypically
among girls, but guys do it, too —everyone does it. Guys often prefer other
methods of attack (we call them fists), but girls seem to stick to words.
Why is gossiping so popular? For one thing, you hold someone’s reputation in
the palms of your hands and that’s a powerful feeling. For another, we gossip
because we’re insecure, afraid, or threatened. That’s why gossipers usually
like to pick on people who look different, think different, are self-confident,
or stand out in some way. But isn’t it kinda silly to think that tearing
someone else down builds you up?
Gossip’s rampant online. You see photos of what everyone’s
up to and it’s easy to feel jealous or excluded. It can bring out a desire to
tear other people down. Gossip and rumors probably have destroyed more
reputations and relationships than every other bad habit combined. This story,
told by my friend A nnie, illustrates their venomous power:
after high school graduation my best friend, Tara, and I were dating two really
cool guys. They were best friends, we were best friends, and so we’d all go out
together. One weekend Tara and my boyfriend, Sam, both went out of town with
their families. Tara’s boyfriend, Will, texted me and said, “Hey, let’s go see
a movie since Tara and Sam are out of town and we have nothing to do.”
We truly went out only as friends—Will knew that and I knew
that. Of course, someone saw us at the movies and misinterpreted the situation.
Well, in a small town, things have a tendency to grow. When Tara and Sam
returned, and even before I had a chance to talk to my best friend or my
boyfriend, photos of us together were out. There was no pulling back the
stories and rumors. When I called to say “hi” to them, I got a frigid blast of
arctic air. There was no explaining. There was no communication. My best friend
and my boyfriend chose to believe the pictures of us hanging out somehow proved
that Will and I were cheating on them. I learned a really tough lesson about
loyalty that summer that I have never forgotten nor even gotten over. And to
this day, my once-best friend still won’t talk to me.
In the above catastrophe, it seems to me that a little
loyalty and trust would have solved a lot of problem. So just what is it that
makes a loyal person?
Loyal people keep secrets. When people share
something with you and ask you to keep it “just between you and me,” then for
goodness’ sake, keep it “just between you and them” instead of running out and
telling every last soul on Gchat every juicy detail as if you had no control of
your bodily functions. If you enjoy being told secrets, then keep them secret,
and you’ll get more of ’em told to you.
Loyal people avoid gossip. H ave you ever been
hesitant to leave a party because you’re afraid someone might start gossiping
about you? Don’t let others think that about you. Avoid gossip like the plague.
Think well of others and give them the benefit of the doubt. This doesn’t mean
that you can’t talk about other people, just do it in a constructive way.
Remember, strong minds talk about ideas;
weak minds talk about people.
Loyal people stick up for others. The next
time a group starts gossiping about another person, either refuse to
participate in the gossip or stick up for that person. You can do so without
sounding self-righteous. K atie, a senior in high school, shared this story:
One day in my English class, my friend Matt started talking
about a girl I knew in my neighborhood, although we’d never been close friends.
His friend had taken her out to a dance and so he started saying things like
“She is such a snot” and “She’s so ditzy.”
I turned around and said, “Excuse me, but Kim and I have
grown up together and I think she’s one of the sweetest people I have ever
met.” After I said it, I was kind of surprised at myself. I had actually been
struggling to get along with her. Even though Kim never knew what I said about
her, my attitude toward her changed and we became really close friends.
Matt and I still are good friends. I think he knows he can
count on me to be a loyal friend.
Steering clear of a gossip pile-on takes courage. But after
the initial discomfort it may cause you, people will admire you. They’ll
recognize that you’re loyal to the core. I’d make an extra effort to be loyal
to your family members, since these relationships will last a lifetime.
A s illustrated so well in A .A . Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh
classics, people need to feel safe and secure in relationships:
Piglet sidled up behind Pooh.
“Pooh,” he whispered.
“Y es, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s
paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
L istening to someone can be one of the
single greatest deposits you can make into another’s RBA . Why? Because not
enough people these days listen, furthermore, listening can heal wounds, as it
did in the case of this fifteen-year-old named Tawni:
At the beginning of the year I was having communication
troubles with my parents. They were not listening and I was not listening. It
was one of those “I’m right and you’re wrong” kind of things. I would come in
late and just go to bed, and in the morning I would have breakfast and go to
school and not say anything.
I went to see my cousin, who is older than me and in her
twenties and said, “I need to talk to you.” We went for a drive across town so
we could be alone. She listened to me freak out and cry and scream for two and
a half hours. She really helped me a lot because she just listened to all of
it. She was optimistic that it would be all right and suggested that it might
help if I tried to win back my parents’ trust.
I have been trying to see things from
their point of view lately. We are not fighting anymore, and things are getting
back to normal.
People need to be listened to almost as much as they need
food. A nd if you’ll take time to feed them, you’ll create some fantastic
friendships. We’ll talk about listening a lot more when we get to H abit 5:
Seek First to U nderstand, Then to Be U nderstood. It’s just up ahead.
Saying you’re sorry when you yell,
overreact, or make a stupid mistake can quickly restore an overdrawn bank account.
But it takes guts to go to a friend and say, “L ook, I was wrong,” “I
apologize,” or “I’m sorry.” It’s especially hard to admit that you made a
mistake to your parents, because, of course, you know so much more than they
do. Seventeen-year-old L ena had this to say:
I know from experience how much an apology means to my
parents. It’s like they forgive me for almost anything and are ready to start
over if I admit my mistakes and apologize. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to
I recall one night recently when my mother confronted me with
something she didn’t approve of that I had done. I didn’t fess up to any of it;
on the contrary I ended up acting like they were total jerks and slamming the
door to my room right in front of my mother’s nose.
As soon as I got inside my room I felt sick about it. I
realized I probably had known all along I was wrong and that I had been
extremely rude. Should I just stay in my room and go to bed and hope it would
blow over, or should I go upstairs and apologize? I waited about two minutes
and then took the high road and went straight to my mom, gave her a big hug,
and told her how sorry I was for acting that way. It was the best thing I ever
could have done. Immediately it was as though it had never happened. I felt light
and happy and ready to concentrate on something else.
Don’t let pride or a lack of courage stand in the way of
saying sorry to people you may have offended. It’s never as scary as it seems,
and it’ll make you feel so good afterward. In addition, apologies disarm
people. Think about it: when people get offended their tendency is to take up a
sword, so to speak, to protect themselves in the future. But when you
apologize, you take away their desire to fight you and they will drop their
Seeing that you and I will continue to make mistakes the
rest of our lives, saying you’re sorry ain’t too bad a habit to get hooked on.
“I think that we should be seeing other
people,” your boyfriend or girlfriend might tell you. “But . . . I thought we
were starting to get serious,” you might reply.
“U m, no offense . . . but, like, not
“Well what about everything you told me? A
bout your feelings and stuff?”
“I didn’t really mean it that way . . .”
H ow often have you seen someone get hurt because another
person led them on by not communicating their real feelings? Our tendency is to
want to flatter and please others, and, as a result, we often set unclear or
To please your dad at the moment, you might say, “Sure, Dad,
I can help you fix up the car this weekend.” But, realistically, you’re booked
the entire weekend and don’t have a second. In the end, you disappoint your
dad. Y ou would have been better off being realistic up front.
To develop trust we need to avoid sending vague messages or
implying something that is not true or not likely to happen.
Maya says, “I had a great time, Jeff. L et’s for sure do
something next week!” What she really feels is: “I had a good time. L et’s just
be friends.” But since she’s created false expectations, Jeff will continue to
ask her out and Maya will continue to turn him down saying, “Maybe next week.”
Everyone would have been better off if Maya had been honest from the get-go.
It’s hard to do, but don’t be afraid to turn someone or something down. Y ou’ll
be hurting them more in the long run if you string them along and then
Whenever you get into a new job, relationship, or setting,
you’re better off taking the time to lay all expectations out on the table so
that everyone is on the same page. So many withdrawals are made because one
party assumes one thing and another party assumes something else.
Y our boss might say, “I need you to work
this Tuesday night.”
Y ou might reply, “I’m sorry, but I babysit
my brother on Tuesday nights for my mom.”
“Y ou should’ve told me that when I hired
you. N ow what am I going to do?”
Build trust through telling it like it is
and laying out clear expectations right up front.
A Personal Challenge
I ’d like to leave you with
a personal challenge. Pick one important relationship in your life that’s
damaged. It may be with a parent or a sibling or a friend. N ow commit yourself
to rebuilding that relationship one deposit at a time. The other person may be
suspicious at first and think “What’s up with you? Do you want something from
me?” But be patient and stick with it. Remember, it may take months to build up
what took months to tear down. But little by little, deposit by deposit,
they’ll begin to see that you are genuine and that you really want to be
friends. I never said it would be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.
love a buffet (and who doesn’t?), you’re gonna love the chapter that follows.
The next time you go out for the night, tell your mom or dad
what time you’ll be home and stick to it. As a bonus, text ’em when you’re
All day today, before giving out any commitments, pause and
think about whether or not you can keep them. Don’t say, “I’ll email you the
notes tonight,” or “Let’s go to the pool today,” unless you can follow through.
Do Small Acts of
Buy a sandwich for a homeless person
Handwrite a thank-you note to someone you’ve wanted
to thank for a long time.
Person I need to thank:............................
Pinpoint when and where it’s most
difficult for you to hold back from gossiping. Is it with a certain friend, in
the locker room, on social media? Come up with a plan of action to avoid doing
Try to go one whole week saying only positive things
about others online.
Take it easy and don’t talk so much today. Spend the day
Think of a family member you’ve never really taken the time
to listen to, like your mom, your big brother, or grandpa. Take the time.
Before you go to bed tonight, write a simple message of
apology to someone you may have offended.
Set Clear Expectations
10 Think of a situation where you and
someone else have different expectations. Put together a plan for how to get on
the same page.
What do we live for, if it is not to make
life less difficult for each other?
GEORGE ELIOT, AUTHOR
I attended a tough business school that utilized the
infamous “forced curve” grading policy. Every class consisted of ninety
students and in each class, 10 percent, or nine people, would receive what was
called a category III. A category III was a nice way of saying “You flunked!”
In other words, no matter how well or poorly the class performed as a whole,
nine people would flunk the class. A nd if you flunked too many classes, you
were kicked out of school. The pressure was insane.
The problem was, everyone in the class was smart. (I must
have been an admissions error.) So the competition became very intense, which influenced
me (notice I didn’t say made me) and my classmates to act in funny ways.
Instead of aiming for good grades, as I did in college and
high school, I found myself aiming not to be one of the nine people that would
flunk. Instead of playing to win, I was playing not to lose. It reminds me of
the story I once heard about two friends being chased by a bear, when one
turned to the other and said, “I just realized that I don’t need to outrun the
bear; I only need to outrun you.”
While sitting in class one day, I couldn’t help but look
around the room and try to count off nine people who were dumber than me. When
someone made a stupid comment, I caught myself thinking, “Phew, he’s guaranteed
to flunk. Only eight more to go.” Sometimes I found myself not wanting to share
my best ideas with others during study groups because I was afraid they’d steal
them and get all the credit instead of me. A ll these feelings were eating me
up inside and making me feel real small, as if my heart were the size of a
grape. The problem was, I was thinking Win-L ose. A nd Win-L ose thinking will
always fill your heart with negative feelings. L uckily, there is a more
excellent way. It’s called Think WinWin and it’s H abit 4.
Think Win-Win is an attitude toward life, a mental
frame of mind that says I can win, and so can you. It’s not me or you, it’s
both of us. Think Win-Win is the foundation for getting along well with other
people. It begins with the belief that we are all equal, that no one is
inferior or superior to anyone else, and no one really needs to be.
you might say, “C ’mon, Sean. It’s a cutthroat, competitive world out there.
Everyone can’t always win.”
I disagree. That’s not how life really is. L ife really
isn’t about competition, or getting ahead of others, or scoring in the 95th
percentile. It may be that way in business, sports, and school, but those are
merely institutions that we’ve created. It’s certainly not that way in
relationships. A nd relationships, as we learned just a chapter ago, are the
stuff life’s made of. Think how silly it is to say, “Who’s winning in your
relationship, you or your friend?”
So let’s explore this strange idea called Think Win-Win.
From my experience, the best way to do it is to see what Win-Win is not.
Win-Win is not Win-L ose, L ose-Win, or L ose-L ose. These are all common but
poor attitudes toward life. C limb aboard, strap yourself in, and let’s take a
look at each one.
“Mom, there’s a big game tonight and I need
to take the car.”
“I’m sorry Marina, but I need to get
groceries tonight. Y our friends can pick you up.”
“But, Mom. My friends always have to
pick me up. It’s embarrassing.”
isten, you’ve been complaining about not having any snacks in the house for a
This is the only time I have to get
groceries. I’m sorry.”
“Y ou’re not sorry. If you were sorry you’d let me take the
car. You’re so unfair. You don’t even care about me having friends.”
“L ook, fine. Go ahead. Take the car. But don’t come whining
to me when there’s nothing to eat after school tomorrow.”
Marina won and Mom lost. This is called Win-L ose. But
has Marina really won? Maybe she has this time, but how does Mom feel? A nd
what’s she going to do the next time she has a chance to get even with Marina?
That’s why in the long run it never pays to think Win-L ose.
Win-L ose is an attitude toward life that says the pie
of success is only so big, and if you get a big piece there is less for me. So
I’m going to make sure I get my slice first or that I get a
bigger piece than you. Win-L ose is competitive. I
call it the totem pole syndrome. “I don’t care how good I am as long as I’m a
notch higher than you on the totem pole.” Relationships, friendships, and
loyalty are all secondary to winning the game, being the best, and having it
Win-L ose is full of pride. In the words of C . S. L
ewis, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more
of it than the next man . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud, the
pleasure of being above the rest.”
Don’t feel too bad if you think Win-L ose at times,
because we have been conditioned to do so from an early age. I think this is
especially the case for those of us who’ve been raised in the U .S.A . where
there are some amazing opportunities, but everyone’s clawing to get at ’em.
To illustrate my point, let’s follow Trey, an ordinary
boy, as he grows up. Trey’s first experience with competition begins in the
third grade when he runs in the annual field day events and quickly discovers
that ribbons are given only to first, second, and third place finishers. Trey
doesn’t win any races but is excited to at least receive a ribbon for participation,
until his best friend tells him that “those ribbons don’t really count
’cause everyone gets one.”
When Trey enters middle school, his parents can’t afford
cool jeans and pricey sneakers, so Trey wears older, less cool stuff. H e can’t
help but notice what his wealthier friends are wearing and feels as if he isn’t
quite measuring up.
In high school, Trey begins playing the violin and joins the
orchestra. To his dismay, he learns that only one person can be first fiddle.
Trey is disappointed when he’s assigned second fiddle but feels very good about
the fact that he’s not third.
A t home, Trey’s been his mom’s favorite child for
several years. But now his younger brother, who happened to win a lot of
trophies at L ittle L eague, is taking over as Mom’s golden child. Trey begins
studying extra hard at school for he figures that if he can get better grades
than his brother, he might become Mom’s chosen one again.
A fter four years of high school, Trey is ready for
college. So he takes the SA T and scores in the 50th percentile, which means
that he is smarter than half his peers but not as smart as the other half. U
nfortunately, his score is not good enough to get into the college he wanted.
The college Trey attends uses forced-curve grading. In his
first chemistry class of thirty students, Trey learns that there are only five
A grades and five B grades available. The rest get C ’s and D’s. Trey works
hard to avoid a C or D and luckily earns the last B grade available.
A nd the story continues . . .
A fter being raised in this kind of world, is it any
wonder then that Trey and the rest of us grow up seeing life as a competition
and winning as everything? Is it any wonder that we often find ourselves
looking around to see how we stack up on the totem pole? Fortunately, you and I
are not victims. We have the strength to be proactive and rise above all of
this WinL ose conditioning.
A Win-L ose attitude wears many faces. The
following are some of them:
sing other people, emotionally or physically, for your own selfish purposes.
to get ahead at the expense of someone else.
or spreading rumors about someone else (as if putting someone else downbuilds
lways insisting on getting your way without thinking about other people’s
jealous when something good happens to someone close to you.
In the end Win-L ose will usually backfire.
You may end up on the top of the totem pole.
But you’ll be there alone and without
friends. “The trouble with the rat race,” said actress L ily Tomlin, “is that
even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
One teen wrote:
“I, for one, am a big peacemaker. I’d rather take the blame
for just about anything than get into an argument. I constantly find myself
saying that I’m dumb . . .”
Do you find yourself identifying with this statement? If so,
you have fallen into the trap of L ose-Win. L ose-Win looks humble on the
surface, but it’s just as dangerous as Win-L ose. It’s the doormat syndrome. L
ose-Win says, “H ave your way with me. Wipe your feet on me.
Everyone else does.”
L ose-Win is weak. It’s easy to get stepped on. It’s easy to
be the nice guy or girl. It’s easy to give in, all in the name of being a
peacemaker. It’s easy to let your parents have their way with you rather than
try to share your feelings with them.
With a L ose-Win attitude you’ll find yourself setting
low expectations and compromising your standards again and again. Giving in to
peer pressure is L ose-Win. Perhaps you don’t want to ditch school, but the
group wants you to. So you give in. What happened? Well, you lost and they won.
That’s called L ose-Win.
If you adopt L ose-Win as your basic attitude toward life,
then people will wipe their dirty feet on you. A nd that’s a real bummer.
You’ll also be hiding your true feelings deep inside.
A nd that’s not healthy.
There is a time to lose, of course. L ose-Win is just
fine if the issue isn’t that important to you, like if you and your sister
can’t agree on which show to watch or if your mom doesn’t like the way you hold
your fork. L et others win the little issues, and it will be a deposit into
their RBA . Just be sure you take a stand on the important stuff.
If you’re trapped in an abusive relationship, you’re deep
into L ose-Win. A buse is a neverending cycle of hurt and reconciliation, hurt
and reconciliation. It never gets better. There’s no win in it for you
whatsoever, and you need to get out. Don’t think that somehow the abuse is your
fault or that somehow you deserve to be abused. That’s how a doormat thinks. N
o one deserves to be abused, ever. (Please see the A buse websites in the back
of this book.)
L ose-L ose says, “If I’m going down,
then you’re going down with me, sucker.” A fter all, misery loves company. War
is a great example of L ose-L ose. Think about it. Whoever kills the most
people wins the war. That doesn’t sound like anyone ends up winning at all.
Revenge is also L ose-L ose. By getting revenge, you may think you’re winning,
but you’re really only hurting yourself.
L ose-L ose is usually what happens when two Win-L ose
people get together. If you want to win at all costs, and the other person
wants to win at all costs, you’re both going to end up losing.
L ose-L ose can also occur when someone becomes
obsessed with another person in a negative way. This is especially likely to
happen with those closest to us, like with Olivia, a high school junior.
My friend Maggie and I have been best friends since 7th grade.
The second we met, it was like—boom, this is my new BFF. Right away she was so
funny and great and opinionated. Deep down I also felt smart, and funny—but on
the surface I came off as shy and a little self-conscious. Maggie could see the
strength in me beneath the shy appearance, though, and that’s why I felt so
good around her.
The thing is, the older we got, like when we started freshman
year, it started to weigh on me that I was still quiet and self-conscious,
while Maggie was still bright and well liked. I started to feel like her
sidekick and I really resented her. I got jealous because she got a lot of
attention for being the smartest in class, and because guys were into her, and
girls thought she was really cool. I tried to act like she did, and wanted
everyone to treat me the way they treated her. I didn’t know how to be myself.
I’d get snappy at her whenever she told me about something
good going on in her life. Finally, one day I blew up at her over some little
thing, but it turned into a huge fight and she was like “Why are you friends
with me if you hate me?” I told her I didn’t hate her, I just was jealous. And
I felt like my own charm, and my own wit, and my own opinions were worthless
compared to hers. And I felt bad about myself in comparison. As I heard myself
saying all this, I knew how stupid it was, and also how unfair it was to
Maggie. It wasn’t her fault; she was just being herself. It was a rough patch
in our friendship for a while, but she was able to forgive my jealousy and I
feel like I’ve totally gotten over the competition. I realized I didn’t have to
drag her down with me to make myself feel better, I’m just glad to be around
such a cool person. And I didn’t have to go along with whatever she did to be
liked, I could accomplish that by just being myself.
L uckily Olivia and Maggie’s friendship turned from
a L ose-L ose back into a Win-Win. But it’s not just friendship that can be at
risk; if you’re not careful, boyfriend-girlfriend relationships can sour into L
ose-L ose, too. You’ve seen it. Two good people begin dating and things go well
at first. It’s Win-Win. But gradually they become emotionally glued and
codependent. They begin to get possessive and jealous. They constantly need to
be together, to touch, to feel secure, as if they own the other person.
Eventually, this dependency brings out the worst in both of them. They begin to
fight and “get back at” each other, resulting in a downward spiral of L ose-L
ose. It’s not fun for anyone.
Win-Win is a belief that everyone can win.
It’s both nice and tough all at once. I won’t step on you, but I won’t be your
doormat, either. You care about other people and you want them to succeed. But
you also care about yourself, and you want to succeed as well. Win-Win is
abundant. It is the belief that there’s plenty of success to go around. It’s
not either you or me. It’s both of us. It’s not a matter of who gets the
biggest piece of pie. There’s more than enough food for everyone. It’s an
My friend Dawn shared how she discovered the power of
thinking Win-Win in 10th grade:
In high school, I played on the girls’ basketball team. I was
pretty good for my age and tall enough to be starter on the varsity team even
though I was just a sophomore. My friend Pam, another sophomore, was also moved
up to be a starter on the varsity squad.
I had a sweet little shot I could hit quite regularly from
ten feet out. Seriously, it worked every time. I began making four or five of
those shots a game and began getting recognized for it. Pam, obviously, didn’t
like all the attention I was getting and decided, consciously or not, to keep
the ball from me. It didn’t matter how open I was for the shot, Pam flat out
stopped passing the ball to me.
One night, after playing a terrible game in which Pam kept
the ball from me most of the game, I was as mad as I had ever been. I spent
many hours talking with my dad, going over everything, and expressing my anger
toward my friendturned-enemy, Pam. After a long discussion, my dad told me that
the best thing he could think of would be to give Pam the ball every time I got
it. Every time. I thought it was literally the stupidest thing he had ever told
me. He simply told me it would work and left me at the kitchen table to think
about it. But I didn’t. I knew it wouldn’t work and put it aside as silly
At the next game I was determined to beat Pam at her own
game. I planned and plotted and came out with a mission to ruin Pam’s game. On
my first possession of the ball, I heard my dad above the crowd. He had a
booming voice, and though I shut out everything around me while playing
basketball, I could always hear Dad’s deep voice. At the moment I caught the
ball, he yelled out, “Give her the ball!!” I hesitated for one second and then
did what I knew was right. Although I was open for a shot, I found Pam and
passed her the ball. She was shocked for a moment, then turned and shot,
sinking the ball for two points. As I ran down the court to play defense, I got
a feeling I’d never felt before: true joy for the success of another person.
And, even more, I realized that it put us ahead in the game. It felt good to be
winning. I continued to give her the ball every time I got it in the first
half. Every time. In the second half, I did the same, only shooting if it was a
designated play or if I was wide open for a shot.
We won that game, and in the games that followed, Pam began
to pass me the ball as much as I passed it to her. Our teamwork was getting way
stronger, and so was our friendship. We won the majority of our games that year
and became kind of legendary at school. The local paper even did a write-up on
our ability to pass to each other and sense each other’s presence. Overall, I
scored more points than ever before.
You see, Win-Win always creates more. A n endless
buffet. A nd as Dawn discovered, wanting another person to win fills you full
of good feelings. By passing the ball, Dawn didn’t score fewer points but
eventually scored more. In fact, they both scored more points and won more
games than if they had selfishly kept the ball from each other.
You probably do more Win-Win thinking than you give yourself
credit for. The following are all examples of the Win-Win attitude:
recently got a promotion at the ice cream shop you work at. You share the
praiseand recognition with all of those who helped you get there.
were just elected to an important school office and make up your mind not
todevelop a “superiority complex.” You treat everyone the same, including kids
that are outsiders or sit alone in the cafeteria.
our best friend just got accepted at the college you wanted to get into. Y ou
didn’t makeit. A lthough you feel terrible about your own situation, you are
genuinely happy for your friend.
want to get dinner. Your friend wants to see a movie. You jointly decide to
download a movie and order in food to eat at home.
How to Think Win-Win
S o how do you
do it? H ow can you be happy for your friend when he just got accepted to a
college and you didn’t? H ow can you avoid feeling inferior to the girl next
door who has those cheekbones? H ow can you find solutions to problems so that
both of you can win?
Might I suggest two clues: Win the private victory first and
avoid the tumor twins. Trust me, you’ll see.
•WIN THE PRIVATE
It all begins with you. If you are
extremely insecure and haven’t paid the price to win the private victory, it’ll
be difficult to think Win-Win. You’ll still be threatened by other people.
It’ll be hard to be happy for their successes, or to share recognition or
praise. Insecure people get jealous very easily. This chat between A ustin and
his girlfriend is typical of an insecure person:
“Amy, who’s the dude who keeps liking
all your posts on Tumblr?” asks Austin.
“Who? Y ou mean Jon? H e’s an old
friend I went to camp with,” says Amy.
“Why do you respond to all his
“Because he’s my friend. I’ve known
him for a long time. We went to elementary school together.” “Then why’s he all
over you like that?” rants Austin.
“Austin, it’s not a big thing. H e
liked, like, two pictures.”
“Well he should leave you alone.”
“Austin, you already know you’re the
one I wanna be with. My guy friends are just that—friends.”
C an you see how impossible it would be for A ustin to be
comfortable in this situation when he’s this insecure and emotionally dependent
upon his girlfriend? A ustin needs to start with himself. A s he makes deposits
into his PBA , takes responsibility for his life, and gets a plan in place, his
confidence and security will increase and he’ll start enjoying other people
instead of being threatened by them. Personal security is the foundation for
•AVOID THE TUMOR
There are two habits that, like
tumors, can slowly eat you away from the inside. They are twins and their names
are competing and comparing. It’s virtually impossible to think WinWin with
C ompetition can be extremely healthy.
It drives us to improve, to reach and stretch. Without it, we would never know
how far we could push ourselves. For example: the glory of the Olympic Games is
all about excellence and competition, and it motivates young men and women to
work hard and become amazing athletes. In the business world, competition
drives innovation and growth.
But there is another side to competition that isn’t so
nice. In the movie Star Wars, L uke Skywalker learns about a positive
energy shield called “the Force,” which gives life to all things. L ater, L uke
confronts the evil Darth Vader and learns about the “dark side” of the force. A
s Darth puts it, “You don’t know the power of the dark side.” So it is with
competition. There is a sunny side and a dark side, and both are powerful. The
difference is this: C ompetition is healthy when you compete against yourself,
or when it challenges you to reach and stretch and become your best. C
ompetition becomes dark when you tie your self-worth into winning or when you
use it as a way to place yourself above another.
While reading a book called The Inner Game of Tennis
by W. Timothy Gallwey, I found some words that say it perfectly. Tim wrote:
When competition is used as a means of creating a self-image
relative to others, the worst in a person comes out; then the ordinary fears
and frustrations become greatly exaggerated. It is as if some believe that only
by being the best, only by being a winner, will they be eligible for the love
and respect they seek. Children who have been taught to measure themselves in
this way often become adults driven by a compulsion to succeed which
overshadows all else.
A famous college coach once said that the two worst traits
an athlete can have are a fear of failure and an inordinate desire to win, or a
I’ll never forget an argument I had with my younger brother after
his team beat mine in a game of beach volleyball.
“I can’t believe you guys beat us,” I said,
shaking my head in disbelief.
“What’s unbelievable about that?” he replied. “You think
you’re a better athlete than me?”
“I know I am. I mean, no offense, bro, but look at the
evidence. I went way further than you in sports.”
“But you’re using your own narrow definition of what an
athlete is. Frankly I’m a better athlete because I can jump higher and
“Bull! You’re not faster than me. A nd what does
jumping have to do with anything? I can kick your butt in every sport.”
“Oh yeah? Y ou wanna go there?”
“Y eah, I do actually!”
When we calmed down, we both felt like immature
man-children. We’d been seduced by the dark side. A nd the dark side never
leaves you with a good aftertaste.
L et’s use competition as a benchmark to measure ourselves
against, but let’s stop competing over boyfriends, girlfriends, status,
friends, popularity, attention, and just start enjoying life.
C omparing is competition’s twin. A nd
it’s just as cancerous. C omparing yourself to others is nothing but bad news.
Why? Because we’re all on different development timetables. Socially, mentally,
and physically. Since we all bake differently, we shouldn’t keep opening the
oven door to see how well our cake is rising compared to our neighbor’s, or our
own cake won’t rise at all. A lthough some of us are like the poplar tree,
which grows like a weed the moment it’s planted, others are like the bamboo
tree, which shows no growth for four years but then grows ninety feet in year
I once heard it described this way: L ife is like a great
obstacle course. Each person has their own course, separated from every other
course by tall walls. Your course comes complete with customized obstacles
designed specifically for your personal growth. So what good does it do to
climb the wall to see how well your neighbor is doing or to check out his
obstacles in comparison to your own? That’ll just distract you from your own
Building your life based on how you stack up compared
to others is never good footing. If I get my security from the fact that my GPA
’s higher than yours or my friends are more popular than yours, then what
happens when someone comes along with a higher GPA or more popular friends? C
omparing ourselves makes us feel like a wave of the sea tossed to and fro by
the wind. We go up and down, feeling inferior one moment and superior the next,
confident one moment and intimidated the next. The only good comparison is
comparing yourself against your own potential.
A ctress, singer, and songwriter A riana Grande has
taken H ollywood and the Internet by storm. But even with her fame, she’s
managing to maintain a healthy attitude when it comes to her body image and
comparisons. A s she says, “Too many young girls have eating disorders due to
low self-esteem and a distorted body image . . . I think it’s so important for
girls to love themselves and to treat their bodies respectfully.”
A riana goes on to say that, “Sometimes, people can be
extraordinarily judgmental and closed-minded to anyone different or special,
which is why it’s so hard for young people in this day and age to be
comfortable enough in their own skin to not listen to the people picking on
them. Be happy with being you. L ove your flaws. Own your quirks. A nd know
that you are just as perfect as anyone else, exactly as you are.”
Maybe this refreshingly healthy attitude is why everyone
loves her and her music and why she has so many Twitter followers. L et’s hope
this sweet actress-singer-dancer can continue to be such an inspiration.
I once interviewed a girl named A nne, who got caught in the
web of comparisons for several years before managing to escape. She has a
message for those who are caught:
My problems started in freshman year when I entered Clayton
Valley High School. Most of the kids there had money. How you looked and
dressed was everything. The big question was: Who is wearing what today? There
were so many unspoken rules about clothes—you could never wear the same thing
twice, and you could never wear the same thing as someone else. Brand names and
expensive jeans were everything. Y ou had to have every color, every style.
I had a boyfriend who was a junior and whom my parents didn’t
like. Our relationship was good at first, but after a while, he started making
me feel self-conscious. He’d say stuff like, “Why can’t you look like her?”
“How come you’re so fat?” “If you just changed a little bit you’d be just
I began to believe my boyfriend. I’d look at other girls and
analyze all the reasons I wasn’t as good as them. Even though I had a closet
full of clothes, I remember having anxiety attacks because I couldn’t decide
what to wear. I even began shoplifting because I wanted to have the latest and
best clothes. After a while, who I was hinged on who I was with, what I looked
like, and what kind of clothes I had on. I never felt good enough, for anyone.
To cope, I started binging and purging. Eating gave me
comfort and purging gave me some twisted kind of control. Although I wasn’t
fat, I was so scared of being fat. It soon became a big part of my life. I
started throwing up thirty to forty times a day. I’d do it at school in the
bathrooms, and anywhere else I could find. It was my secret. I couldn’t tell my
parents because I didn’t want to let them down.
I remember being asked by the popular group one time to go to
the football game. They were sixteen, one year older than me. I was so excited!
My mom and I worked and worked to find me the perfect outfit. I waited by the
window for hours, but they never came to pick me up. I felt worthless. I
thought, “I wasn’t picked up because I wasn’t cool enough or didn’t have the
Finally, it all came to a head. While I was on stage
performing in a play, I suddenly became totally disoriented and passed out. Waking
up in the dressing room, I found my mom at my side. “I need help,” I whispered.
Admitting that I had a problem was the first step to my
recovery, which took several years. Looking back now, I can’t believe I got
into that state of mind. I had everything I needed to be happy but I was still
so miserable. I was a cute, talented, healthy girl who got caught up in a world
of comparisons and was made to feel not good enough. I want to shout out to all
of us young people: “Don’t ever do this to yourself. It’s not worth it.”
The key to my recovery was meeting some really special
friends who made me feel that I mattered because of who I was and not what I
wore. They told me, “Y ou don’t need this. Y ou’re better than that.” I began
to change for myself, not because someone else told me that I had to change to
be worthy of their love.
The pearl of wisdom from the story is: Break the
habit. Stop doing it. C omparing yourself can become an addiction as strong as
drugs or alcohol. You don’t have to look like or dress like a model to be good
enough. You know what really matters. Don’t get caught up in the game and worry
so much about being popular during your teen years, because most of life comes
after. (Please see the Eating Disorder website in the back of this book.)
OF THE WIN-WIN
I’ve learned never to underestimate what can
happen when someone thinks Win-Win. This was A ndy’s experience:
At first I could see no point to Win-Win. But I started
applying it in my after-school jobs, and I was just blown away. I have used it
now for two years and it’s honestly scary how powerful this habit is—I wish I
had known about it much sooner in my life. It’s taught me to exercise my
leadership ability and to approach my job with an attitude of “let’s make this
job more fun. Let’s make it a win for both me and my employer.” I now sit down
with my manager monthly and tell her all the little things I can see in the
company that aren’t getting done that I am willing to do.
time we met she said to me, “I have always wondered how we could get all these
little loose ends done. I am so impressed with how you look for opportunities
and are so willing to perform.” And then she gave me a dollar an hour raise.
Believe me, this Win-Win stuff’s contagious. If you’re
big-hearted, committed to helping others succeed, and willing to share
recognition, you’ll be a magnet for friends. Think about it. Don’t you just
love people who are interested in your success and want you to win? It makes
you want to help them in return, doesn’t it?
The Win-Win spirit can be applied to just about any
situation, from working out major conflicts with your parents to deciding who
walks the dog, as Ben shared below.
My parents only let my sister and me use the family tablet
for an hour each every day. At first we’d fight over who got to have first
dibs, because we both wanted to use it—sometimes for looking up something for
homework, or sometimes just to go on Twitter or watch a show. We decided to try
something new. We’d alternate who got to go first every day, and then sometimes
we’d even Tweet or watch a show together, which actually made it more fun.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be
able to find a Win-Win solution. Or someone else may be so bent on Win-L ose
that you don’t even want to approach him or her. That happens. In these
situations, don’t get ugly yourself (Win-L ose) or get stepped on (L oseWin).
Instead, go for Win-Win or N o Deal. In other words, if you can’t find a
solution that works for both of you, decide not to play. N o Deal. For example,
if you and your friend can’t decide what to do one night, instead of doing an
activity that one of you might resent, split up that night and get together
another night. Or if you and your girlfriend or boyfriend just can’t develop a
Win-Win relationship, it might be best to go for N o Deal and part ways. It
sure beats going for Win-L ose, L ose-Win, or, worst of all, L ose-L ose.
A fifteen-year-old named Bryan, who was taught Win-Win by
his father, shared this interesting story:
Last year, my friend Steve and I wanted to make some money
during summer break. So we started a window washing and lawn care business. We
thought Green & Clean was kind of a cool name for our business.
Steve’s parents had a friend who needed his windows washed,
and before too long the word spread and we got a few jobs.
We used a program on my dad’s computer to make a little sheet
we call a Win-Win agreement. When we get to the house we go around and get the
window measurements and write down an estimate. We make it totally clear that
they are going to get clean windows for a set price. There is a line for them
to sign on. If we don’t do well, we know we won’t get hired back. After we’re
done, we walk them around and show them our work for their approval. We want
them to know we’re accountable.
We have a little Green and Clean fund. Once we started making
money, we split the money and then put some aside to buy window-washing
equipment. As long as our customers are happy, and they get clean windows, they
are winning. We win, because at fifteen, it’s a way for us to make some extra
Watch H ow It Makes You Feel
Developing a Win-Win attitude is not
easy. But you can do it. If you’re thinking Win-Win only 10 percent of the time
right now, start thinking it 20 percent of the time, then 30 percent, and so
on. Eventually, it will become a mental habit, and you won’t even have to think
about. It will become part of who you are.
Perhaps the most surprising benefit of thinking Win-Win is
the good feelings it brings on. One of my favorite stories that illustrates the
power of thinking Win-Win is the true story of
Jacques L usseyran as told in his
autobiography And There Was Light. The editors of PARABOLA
magazine, who wrote the book’s foreword, summarize L usseyran’s story this way:
“Born in Paris in 1924, [Jacques] was fifteen at the
time of the German occupation, and at sixteen he had formed and was heading an
underground resistance movement . . . which from a beginning of fifty-two boys
. . . within a year had grown to six hundred. This would seem remarkable
enough, but add to it the fact that from the age of eight, Jacques had been
A lthough totally blind, Jacques could see, in a
different way. A s he put it: “I saw light and went on seeing it though I was
blind . . . I could feel light rising, spreading, resting on objects, giving
them form, then leaving them . . . I lived in a stream of light.” H e called
this stream of light that he lived in “my secret.”
Yet there were times when Jacques’s light would leave him
and he became cloudy. It was whenever he thought Win-L ose. A s he put it:
“When I was playing with my small companions, if I suddenly
grew anxious to win, to be the first at all costs, then all at once I could see
nothing. L iterally I went into fog or smoke.
“I could no longer afford to be jealous or unfriendly,
because, as soon as I was, a bandage came down over my eyes, and I was bound
hand and foot and cast aside. A ll at once a black hole opened, and I was
helpless inside it. But when I was happy and serene, approached people with
confidence and thought well of them, I was rewarded with light. So is it
surprising that I learned to love friendship and harmony when I was very
The true test of whether or not you are thinking
Win-Win or one of the alternatives is how you feel. Win-L ose and L ose-Win
thinking will cloud your judgment and fill you with negative feelings. You
simply cannot afford to do it. On the other hand, just as Jacques discovered,
thinking Win-Win will fill your heart with happy and serene thoughts. It will
give you confidence. Even fill you with light.
upcoming chapter, I’ll share the secret to getting under your parents’ skins in
a positive way. So don’t stop now!
Pinpoint the area of your life where you struggle with
comparisons—clothes, physical features, friends, attention
from boys/girls, talents, etc.?
Where I’m struggling most with
If you play sports or competitive
games, show sportsmanship. Compliment someone from the opposing team after the
match or game.
If someone owes you money, don’t be afraid to mention
it in a friendly way. “Hey, remember that $10 I loaned you last week? I could
use it sometime this week.” Think Win-Win, not Lose-Win.
Without caring whether you win or
lose, play a game with others just for the fun of it.
Do you have an important test coming up soon? Form a
study group and share your best ideas with each other. Y ou’ll all do better.
The next time someone close to you
succeeds, be genuinely happy for them instead of feeling kinda jealous it
didn’t happen to you.
Think about your general attitude toward life. Is it
based on Win-Lose, Lose-Win, Lose-Lose, or Win-Win thinking? How is that
attitude affecting you?
Think of a person who you feel is a model of Win-Win.
What is it about this person you admire?
What I admire about
Are you in a Lose-Win relationship with a member of the
opposite sex? If you are, then decide what must happen to make it a Win for
you. Otherwise, go for No Deal and get out of that toxic relationship.
Before I can walk in another’s shoes, I
must first remove my own.
L et’s say you’re buying a new phone. The salesman asks,
“What kind of smartphone are you looking for?”
“Well, I’m looking for something that
“I think I know what you’d like,” he interrupts. “Everyone
is getting this new one. Trust me.”
H e rushes off and comes back with the
sleekest, slimmest smartphone you’ve ever seen.
“Just take a look at this baby,” he says.
“I mean, it’s nice, but it’s not what I
need. I can’t afford it.”
“It’s the hottest thing going right now,
you gotta get it before it sells out.”
“N o thanks, I don’t have the money.”
“I promise you’ll love it. Worth every
“L isten. I’ve been selling phones for ten
years and I’m telling you this phone is worth it.”
A fter this experience, would you ever want to go to that
store again? Definitely not. You can’t trust people who give you solutions
before they understand what your needs are. But did you know that we often do
the same thing when we communicate?
“H ey, Missy. Y ou look kinda bummed.
“Y ou wouldn’t understand, L ily. Y ou’d
think it was stupid.”
“N o, I wouldn’t. Tell me what’s going on.
I’m all ears.”
“Oh, I dunno.”
“C ’mon. Y ou can tell me.”
“Well, okay . . . uuhm . . . things
aren’t the same between Tyrone and me anymore.” “I told you not to get involved
with him. I just knew this would happen.”
“Tyrone’s not the problem.”
“L isten, Missy, if I were you, I’d just
forget about him and move on.”
“But, L ily, that’s not how I feel.”
“Believe me. I know how you feel. I went through the same
thing last year with Z ack. Don’t you remember? It practically ruined my entire
“Just forget it, L ily.”
“Missy, I’m only trying to help. I really
want to understand. N ow, go on. Tell me how you feel.”
It’s our tendency to want to swoop out of the sky like
Superman and solve everyone’s problems before we even understand what the
problem is. We simply don’t listen. A s the
A merican Indian proverb goes, “L isten, or
thy tongue will make thee deaf.”
The key to communication and having power and influence with
people can be summed up in one sentence: Seek first to understand, then to be
understood. In other words, listen first, talk second. This is H abit 5, and it
works. If you can learn this simple habit—to see things from another’s point of
view before sharing your own—a whole new world of understanding will be opened
up to you.
The Deepest Need of the Human Heart
W hy is this habit the key
to communication? It’s because the deepest need of the human heart is to be
understood. Everyone wants to be respected and valued for who they are—a
unique, one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-cloned (at least for now) individual.
People won’t expose their soft centers unless they feel
genuine love and understanding. Once they feel it, however, they will tell you
more than you may want to hear. The following story about a girl with an eating
disorder shows the power of understanding:
I was a professional anorexic by the time I met Julie, Pam,
and Lavon, my college roommates my freshman year. I had spent my last two years
of high school concentrating on exercising, dieting, and triumphing in every
ounce I lost. At eighteen years old and five foot eight, I weighed in at a
breezy ninety-five pounds, a tall pile of bones.
I didn’t have many friends. Constant deprivation had left me
irritable, bitter, and so tired I couldn’t carry on casual conversations. School
social events were out of the question, too. I didn’t feel like I had anything
in common with any of the kids I knew. A handful of loyal friends really stuck
it out with me and tried to help, but I tuned out their preachy lectures about
my weight and chalked it up to jealousy.
My parents bribed me with new wardrobes. They badgered me and
demanded that I eat in front of them. When I wouldn’t, they dragged me off to a
series of doctors, therapists, and specialists. I was miserable and convinced
my whole life was going to be that way.
Then I moved away to attend college. The luck of the draw
settled me into a dormitory with Julie, Pam, and Lavon, the three girls who
made my life worth living again.
We lived in a tiny cinderblock apartment, where all my
strange eating patterns and exercising neuroses were right out in the open. I
know they must have thought I looked strange with my sallow complexion,
bruises, thinning hair, and jutting hips and collarbones. When I see pictures
of myself at eighteen, I’m horrified at how terrible I looked.
But they weren’t. They didn’t treat me like a person with a
problem. There were no lectures, no force-feeding, no gossiping, no
browbeating. I almost didn’t know what to do.
Almost immediately, I felt like one of them, except that I
didn’t eat. We attended classes together, found jobs, jogged in the evenings,
watched television, and hung out on Saturdays. My anorexia, for once, was not
the central topic. Instead, we spent long nights discussing our families, our
ambitions, our uncertainties.
I was absolutely amazed by our similarities. For the first
time in literally years, I felt understood. I felt like someone had taken the
time to understand me as a person instead of always trying to fix my problem
first. To these three girls, I wasn’t an anorexic needing treatment. I was just
the fourth girl.
As my sense of belonging grew, I began to watch them. They
were happy, attractive, smart, and occasionally they ate cookie dough right out
of the bowl. If I had so much in common with them, why couldn’t I eat three
meals a day, too?
Pam, Julie, and Lavon never told me how to heal myself. They
showed me every day, and they really worked to understand me before trying to
cure me. By the end of my first semester in college, they were setting a place
for me at dinner. And I felt welcome.
Think of the influence these three girls had on the fourth
girl because they tried to understand her instead of judging her. Isn’t it
interesting that once she felt understood and not judged, she immediately
dropped her defenses and was open to their influence? C ontrast that with what
might have happened had her roommates turned preachy on her.
H ave you ever heard the saying “People don’t care how much
you know until they know how much you care”? So true. Think about a situation
when someone didn’t take the time to understand or listen to you. Were you open
to what they had to say?
While playing college football I developed some severe arm
pain in my bicep for a time. It was a complex condition and I had tried a
number of techniques to fix it—ice, heat, massage, lifting weights, and
anti-inflammatory pills—but nothing worked. So I went to see one of our more
seasoned athletic trainers for help. Before I had described my condition,
however, he said to me, “I’ve seen this thing before. This is what you need to
do.” I tried to explain more, but he was already convinced he knew the problem.
I felt like saying, “Wait a minute. H ear me out, Doc. I don’t think you
A s you might have guessed, his techniques actually made my
arm hurt worse. H e never listened, and I never felt understood. I lost
confidence in his advice and avoided him at all costs whenever I had an injury.
I had no faith in his prescriptions, because he never diagnosed the problem. I
didn’t care how much he knew, because he hadn’t shown me that he cared.
You can show you care by simply taking time to listen
without judging and without giving advice. This short poem captures how badly
people just want to be listened to:
When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
have not done what I asked.
I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way, you
are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem, you have
as that may seem.
All I ask is that you listen.
on’t talk or do—just hear me.
To understand someone you must listen to
them. Surprise! The problem is that most of us don’t know how to listen.
Imagine this. You’re trying to decide what classes to take
next year. You open up your class schedule and look at what’s available.
“H mmm . . . Let’s see . . . Geometry.
Creative writing. Beginning speech. English literature. Listening. Wait a
minute. Listening? A class on listening? Is this a joke?”
This would be a weird surprise, wouldn’t it? But it really
shouldn’t be, because listening is one of the four primary forms of
communication, along with reading, writing, and speaking. A nd if you think
about it, since birth you’ve been taking classes on how to read, write, and
speak better, but when have you ever taken a class on how to listen better?
When people talk we seldom listen because we’re usually too
busy preparing a response, judging, or filtering their words through our own
paradigms. It’s so typical of us to use one of these five poor listening
Five Poor L istening Styles
Spacing out is when someone is talking to us
but we ignore them because our mind is wandering off in another galaxy. They
may have something very important to say, but we’re caught up in our own
thoughts. We all zone out from time to time, but do it too much and you’ll get
a reputation for being out of it.
Pretend listening is more common. We still
aren’t paying much attention to the other person, but at least we pretend we
are by making insightful comments at key junctures, such as “yeah,” “uh-huh,”
“cool,” or throwing in an “lol” here and there when you’re chatting online. The
speaker will usually get the hint and will feel that he or she is not important
enough to be heard.
Selective listening is where we pay attention
only to the part of the conversation that interests us. For example, your
friend may be trying to tell you how it feels to be in the shadow of his
talented brother in the army. A ll you hear is the word “army” and say, “Oh
yeah, the army! I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately.” Since you’ll always
talk about what you want to talk about, instead of what the other person wants
to talk about, chances are you’ll never develop lasting friendships.
Word listening occurs when we actually pay
attention to what someone is saying, but we listen only to the words, not to
the body language, the feelings, or the true meaning behind the words. A s a
result, we miss out on what’s really being said. Your friend K im might say to
you, “What do you think of Ronaldo?” You might reply, “I think he’s pretty
cool.” But if you had been more sensitive, and listened to her body language
and tone of voice, you would have heard that she was really saying, “Do you
think Ronaldo likes me?” If you focus on words only, you’ll seldom be in touch
with the deeper emotions of people’s hearts.
Self-centered listening happens when we see
everything from our own point of view. Instead of standing in another’s shoes,
we want them to stand in ours. This is where sentences like “Oh, I know exactly
how you feel” come from. We don’t know exactly how they feel, we know exactly
how we feel, and we assume they feel the same way we do, like the salesman who
thinks that you should buy the newest phone so he can make a buck. Selfcentered
listening is often a game of one-upmanship, where we try to one-up each other,
as if conversations were a competition. “You think your day was bad?
That’s nothin’. You should hear what happened to me.”
When we listen from our point of view, we usually reply in
one of three ways, all of which make the other person immediately close up. We judge,
we advise, and we probe. L et’s take a look at each.
Judging. Sometimes, as we listen to others, we
make judgments (in the back of our minds) about them and what they’re saying.
If you’re busy judging, you’re not really listening, are you? People don’t want
to be judged, they want to be heard! In the conversation below, notice how
little listening and how much judging is going on in the mind of the listener.
(The listener’s judgments are
enclosed in parentheses.) Peter: I had literally the best time with
Katherine last night.
K arl: Oh, sweet! (Katherine? Why
would you want to go out with her?) Peter: I had no idea how hilarious
and awesome she is.
K arl: Oh, yeah? (H ere you go
again. Y ou think every girl who gives you the time of day is great.) Peter: Y
eah, man. I’m thinking about asking her to prom!
K arl: I thought you were
going to ask Jessica. (Are you crazy? Jessica’s way cuter than Katherine.)
mean I was, you know? But now I think I’m really into Katherine.
K arl: Well,
ask her out then. (Y ou’ll obviously change your mind tomorrow.)
K arl was so busy judging that he didn’t hear a word Peter
was saying and missed out on an opportunity to make a deposit into Peter’s RBA
Advising. This is when we give advice drawn
from our own experience. This is the when-Iwas-your-age speech you often get
from your elders.
A sister who needs a listening ear says to
“I hate our new school. Ever since we moved I’m like the
biggest outcast. I wish I could find some new friends already.”
Instead of listening to understand, the
brother reflects upon his own life and says:
“N o, you need to start meeting new people and get involved
in sports and clubs like I did.”
L ittle sister didn’t want any advice from a
well-intentioned brother, no matter how good it was. She just wanted to be
listened to, for heaven’s sake. Once she felt understood, only then would she
be open to his advice. Big brother blew a big chance for a big deposit.
Probing. Probing occurs when you try to dig up
emotions before people are ready to share them. H ave you ever been probed?
Parents do it to teens, like, all the time. Your mom, with every good
intention, tries to find out what’s going on in your life. But since you’re not
ready to talk, her attempts feel intrusive, and so you shut her out. “H i,
honey. H ow was school today?”
“H ow’d you do on that test?”
“H ow’re your friends?”
“Do you have any plans tonight?”
“N ot really.”
“H ave you been seeing any cute girls
“N o, Mom, c’mon. Just leave me alone.”
N o one likes to be interrogated. If you’re asking a lot of
questions and not getting very far, you’re probably probing. Sometimes people
just aren’t prepared to open up and don’t feel like talking. L earn to be a
great listener and offer an open ear when the time’s right.
So much of our communication happens through
text messaging or online, doesn’t it? But I think, if you have something major
to say, say it in person—that way someone won’t take it the wrong way. L
uckily, you and I never exhibit any of these five poor listening styles. Right?
Well, maybe just occasionally. There’s a higher form of listening, fortunately,
which leads to real communication. We call it “genuine listening.” A nd it’s
the kind of practice we want to put to use. But to do genuine listening, you need
to do three things differently.
First, listen with your eyes, heart, and ears.
L istening with just your ears isn’t good enough, because only 7 percent of
communication is contained in the words we use. The rest comes from body
language (53 percent) and how we say words, or the tone and feeling reflected
in our voice (40 percent). For example, notice how you can change the meaning
of a sentence just by emphasizing a different word.
I didn’t say you
had an attitude problem. I didn’t say you had an attitude
I didn’t say you had an attitude
That’s why when you have something major to say, it is
better to do it in person, rather than texting or online, so the other person
really understands what you mean. Too often texting someone about an emotional
issue creates more problems than it solves because people start jumping to
conclusions and “hearing” things you didn’t intend. So, when what you have to
say is sensitive or complicated, go face-to-face.
To hear what other people are really saying, you also need
to listen to what they’re not saying. N o matter how hard people may
appear on the surface, most everyone is tender inside and has a desperate need
to be understood. The following poem (one of my all-time favorites) captures
. . . H EAR
WH AT I’M N OT SAY ING
D on’t be fooled by me. D on’t be
fooled by the mask I wear. For I wear a mask, I wear a thousand masks, masks
that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art that
is second nature with me, but don’t be fooled.
. . . I give the impression that I’m
secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without;
that confidence is my name and coolness is my game; that the waters are calm
and that I’m in command and I need no one. But don’t believe it; please don’t.
I idly chatter with you in the suave
tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that’s really nothing, nothing of
what’s crying within me. So when I’m going through my routine, don’t be fooled
by what I’m saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not
saying; what I’d like to be able to say; what, for survival, I need to say but
I can’t say. I dislike the hiding. H onestly I do. I dislike the superficial
phony games I’m playing.
I’d really like to be genuine,
spontaneous, and me; but you have to help me. You have to help me by holding
out your hand, even when that’s the last thing I seem to want or need. Each
time you are kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand
because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings. Very small wings. Very
feeble wings. But wings. With your sensitivity and sympathy and your power of
understanding, I can make it. You can breathe life into me. It will not be easy
for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. But love is
stronger than strong walls, and therein lies my hope. Please try to beat down
those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands, for a child is very
sensitive, and I am a child.
Who am I, you may wonder. For I am
every man, every woman, every child . . . every human you meet.
Second, stand in their shoes. To become a
genuine listener, you need to take off your shoes and stand in another’s. In
the words of Robert Byrne, “U ntil you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins
you can’t imagine the smell.” You must try to see the world as they see it and
try to feel as they feel.
L et’s pretend for a moment that everyone in the world wears
tinted glasses and that no two shades are exactly alike. You and I are standing
on the banks of a river. I am wearing green lenses and you are wearing red.
“Wow, look how green the water is,” I say.
“Green? A re you crazy, the water is red,”
“H ello. A re you colorblind? That’s
as green as green gets.” “It’s red, you idiot!”
Many people look at conversations as a competition. It’s my
point of view versus yours; we can’t both be right. In reality, since we’re
both coming from a different point of view, we both can be. Furthermore, it’s
silly to try to win conversations. That usually ends up in WinL ose or L
ose-L ose and is a withdrawal from the RBA .
My little sister was once told this story by a friend of
hers named Toby. N otice what a difference standing in another’s shoes made:
The worst part about going to school was riding the bus. I
mean most of my friends had cars but we couldn’t afford a car for my own
personal use, so I had to either take the bus or find a ride. Sometimes I’d
call my mom after school to pick me up, but she would take so long it drove me
crazy. I remember many times screaming at my mom, “What took you forever? Don’t
you even care that I’ve been waiting for hours?!” I never noticed how she felt
or what she’d been doing. I only thought about myself.
One day I overheard my mom talking to my dad about it. She
was crying and said how much she wished they could afford a car for me and how
hard she had been working to try to earn the extra money.
Suddenly my whole perspective changed. I saw my mom as a real
person with feelings—fear, hopes, doubts, and a great amount of love for me. I
vowed never to treat her bad again. I even started talking more to her, and
together we figured out a way I could get a part-time job and earn my way to a
car. She even volunteered to drive me to work and back. I wish I had listened
to her earlier.
Third, practice mirroring. Think like a
mirror. What does a mirror do? It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t give advice. It
reflects. Mirroring is simply this: Repeat back in your own words what the
other person is saying and feeling. Mirroring isn’t mimicking. Mimicking is
when you repeat exactly what the other person says, like a parrot:
“U gh, Tom. I’m having the worst time in
school right now.”
“Y ou’re having the worst time in school
“I’m basically flunking all of my classes.”
“Y ou’re basically flunking all of your
“Man, stop saying everything I’m
saying. What’s wrong with you?” Mirroring is different from mimicking in the
MIMIC K ING IS:
MIR R OR ING IS:
U sing the same words
U sing your own words
C old and indifferent
Warm and caring
L et’s take a look at an everyday
conversation to see how mirroring works.
Y our dad might say to you: “N o! Y ou
can’t take the car tonight, Son. A nd that’s final.”
A typical seek-first-to-talk response might be: “You never
let me take the car. I always have to get a ride. A nd I’m sick of it.”
This kind of response usually ends up in a big yelling match
where neither side feels very good afterward.
Instead, try mirroring. Repeat back
in your own words what the other person is saying and feeling. L et’s try
“N o! Y ou can’t take the car tonight, Son.
A nd that’s final.”
“I can see that you’re upset about this,
“Y ou bet I’m upset. The way your grades have been dropping
lately, you don’t deserve the car.”
“So, you’re worried about my grades then?”
“I am. Y ou know how badly I want you to
get into college.”
“C ollege is really important to you, isn’t
“I never had the chance to go to college. A nd I’ve never
been able to make much because of it. I know money’s not everything, but it
sure would help right now. I just want a better life for you.”
“Okay, I see what you’re saying.”
“You are so capable that it just drives me
crazy when you don’t take school seriously. I guess you can take the car if you
promise me you’ll do your homework later tonight. That’s all I’m asking.
Did you notice what happened? By practicing the skill of
mirroring, the boy was able to uncover the real issue. Dad didn’t care so much
about him taking the car; he was more worried about his future and his
casualness toward school. Once he felt that his son understood how important
grades and college were to him, he dropped his defenses.
I can’t guarantee that mirroring will always lead to such
perfect outcomes. It’s usually, but not always, more complicated than this. Dad
might have replied, “I’m glad you understand where I’m coming from, Son. N ow
go do your homework.” But I can guarantee that mirroring will be a deposit into
another’s RBA and that you’ll get farther than you’d get using the “fight or flight”
approach. If you’re still a skeptic, I challenge you to give it a try. I think
you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
D isclaimer. If you practice mirroring but
don’t really desire to understand others, they will see through it and feel
manipulated. Mirroring is a skill, the tip of the iceberg. Your attitude or
desire to really understand another is the lurking mass of ice underneath the
surface. If your attitude is right but you don’t have the skill, you’ll be
okay. But it doesn’t work the other way around. If you have both the attitude
and the skill, you’ll become a powerful communicator!
H ere are a few mirroring phrases you can use when trying to
practice genuine listening. Remember, your goal is to repeat back in your
own words what another person is saying and feeling.
•“It sounds like
you feel . . .”
•“So, as I see
it . . .”
•“I can see that
you’re feeling . . .”
•“Y ou feel that
. . .”
you’re saying is . . .”
Important note: There is a time and a place for
genuine listening. You’ll want to do it when you’re talking about an important
or sensitive issue, like if a friend really needs help or if you’re having a
communication problem with a loved one. These conversations take time and you
can’t rush them. H owever, you don’t need to do it during casual conversations
or everyday small talk:
“Man, where’s the bathroom? I gotta go real
“So what you’re saying is you’re worried
you won’t find a bathroom in time.”
G enuine L istening in A ction
L et’s take another look at the sister who
needs a listening ear from her big brother to illustrate how different genuine
Sister says, “I don’t like our new school at all. Ever since
we moved I’ve felt like the biggest outcast. I wish I could find some new
The brother could use any one of the
“Pass the chips?” (Spacing out)
“Y eah, yeah, sounds great.” (Pretend
“Speaking of friends, my friend Julio . .
.” (Selective listening)
“What you need to do is start meeting new
people.” (A dvising)
“Y ou’re not trying hard enough.” (Judging)
“A re you having trouble with your
grades, too?” (Probing) But if big bro is smart, he’ll try mirroring:
“Y ou feel that school’s kind of tough
right now.” (Mirroring)
“It’s the worst. I mean I don’t have any friends. A nd this
girl Tabatha has been so rude to me. She is literally like the queen bee in Mean
Girls. Oh, I just don’t know what to do.”
“Sounds like you feel confused.”
“I mean, yeah! I’ve always been popular and then suddenly no
one knows my name. I’ve been trying to get to know people, but it’s not really
“I can see you’re frustrated.” (Mirroring)
“Y eah. I probably sound like I’m
psycho or something. A nyway, thanks for listening.” “N o problem.”
“What do you think I should do?”
By listening, big brother made a huge deposit into his
sister’s RBA . In addition, little sister is now open to his advice. The time
is now right for him to seek to be understood, to share his point of view.
A guy named A ndy shared this:
I was going through communication problems with my girlfriend
whom I cared very much about. We had been going out for a year and we were
starting to fight a lot. I was really scared to maybe lose her. When I learned
about seeking first to understand and then to be understood, and how to apply
the relationship bank account to relationships, I took it very personally. I
realized that I always had been trying to interpret what she was saying, but
never really listened with an open mind. It saved our relationship and we are
still together two years later. Our relationship is much more mature than most
couples because we both believe in Habit 5. We use it for big decisions as well
as little ones like going out to dinner. Every time I am together with her, I
honestly keep saying to myself, “Now shut up and try to understand her.”
C ommunication is hard enough by itself, but
throw Mom or Dad into the mix and then you’ve got storms ahead. I got along
pretty well with my parents as a teenager, but there were times when I was
convinced they had aliens living inside their bodies. I felt they didn’t
understand me or respect me as an individual, but just lumped me in with the
rest of the kids. But no matter how distant your parents may seem at times,
life will go so much better if you can communicate.
If you want to improve your relationship with Mom or Dad
(and shock ’em in the process), try listening to them, just like you would a
friend. N ow, it may seem kind of weird to treat your parents as if they were
normal people and all, but it’s worth trying. We’re always saying to our
parents, “You don’t understand me. N o one understands me.” But have you ever
stopped to consider that maybe you don’t understand them?
They have pressures, too, you know? While you’re worrying
about your friends and your upcoming history test, they’re worrying about their
bosses and how they’re going to pay for your braces. L ike you, they have days
when they get offended at work and go in the restroom to cry. They have days
when they don’t know how they’re going to pay the bills. Your mom may have too
much work stress to just sit down and relax at night. Your dad may get laughed
at by the neighbors because of the car he drives. They may have unfulfilled
dreams they’ve had to sacrifice so that you can reach yours. H ey, parents are
people, too. They laugh, they cry, they get their feelings hurt, and they don’t
always have their act together, just like me and you.
take the time to understand and listen to your parents, two incredible things
will happen. First, you’ll gain a greater respect for them. When I turned
nineteen, I remember reading one of my dad’s books for the first time. H e was
a successful author and everyone had always told me how great his books were,
but I’d never taken the time to even look at one until then. “Wow,” I thought
after finishing that first book, “Dad is smart.” A nd for all those
years I was convinced I was smarter.
Second, if you take time to understand and listen to your
parents, you’ll get your way much more often. This isn’t a manipulative trick,
it’s a principle. If they feel that you understand them, they’ll be way more
willing to listen to you, they’ll be more flexible, and they’ll trust you more.
One mother once told me, “If my teenage daughters simply took time to
understand my hectic world and did little things around the house to help me,
I’d give them so many privileges they wouldn’t know what to do with them.”
So how can you better understand your parents? Start by
asking them some questions. When’s the last time you asked your mom or dad, “H
ow was your day today?” or “Tell me what you like and don’t like about your
job” or “Is there anything I could do to help around the house?”
You can also begin to make small deposits into their RBA .
To do that, ask yourself, “What do my parents consider a deposit?” Jump into
their shoes and think about it from their point of view, not yours. A deposit
to them might mean taking out the recycling without being asked, or keeping a
commitment to be home on time, or, if you’re living away from home, calling
them on weekends.
Then Seek to Be Understood
I saw the results of a
survey in which people were asked what their greatest fears were. “Death” came
out as number two. You’ll never guess what the number-one fear was. It was
“speaking in public.” People would actually rather die than speak in public!
It takes boldness to speak up in public, no doubt about it.
But it also takes boldness to speak up in general. The second half of H abit 5,
Then Seek to Be U nderstood, is as important as the first half but requires
something different of us. Seeking first to understand requires consideration,
but seeking to be understood requires courage.
Practicing only the first half of H abit 5, Seek First to U
nderstand, is weak. It’s L ose-Win. It’s the doormat syndrome. Yet it’s an easy
trap to fall into, especially with parents. “I’m not going to tell Dad how I
feel. H e won’t listen and he’d never understand.” So we harbor these feelings
inside while our parents carry on never knowing how we truly feel. But this
isn’t healthy. Remember, unexpressed feelings never die. They are buried alive
and come forth later in uglier ways. Y ou’ve got to share your feelings or
they’ll eat your heart out.
Besides, if you have taken the time to listen, your chances
of being listened to are very good. In the following story, notice how L eigh
practiced both halves of the habit:
I was sick and missed a day of school. My parents were
concerned that I wasn’t getting enough sleep and that I was staying out too
late. Instead of coming up with a bunch of excuses, I tried to understand their
reasoning. And I agreed with them. But I also explained to them that I am
trying to have a fun senior year, and this includes spending time with my
friends. My parents were willing to look at the situation from my point of
view, and we reached a compromise. I was to stay in one of the days that
weekend and rest. I don’t think my parents would have been as lenient if I
hadn’t tried to understand them first.
Giving feedback is an important part of seeking to be
understood. If done in the right way it can be a deposit in the RBA . If
someone’s fly is open, for instance, give feedback. They’ll be very grateful,
believe me. If you have a close friend who has bad breath (to the point of
developing a reputation for it), don’t you think he or she would appreciate some
honest feedback, delivered gently? H ave you ever returned home from a date
only to discover that you had a big piece of meat between your teeth the whole
evening? With terror you immediately recall every smile you made that night.
Don’t you wish your date had told you?
If your RBA with someone is high, you can give feedback
openly without hesitation. My younger brother Joshua, a senior in high school,
One nice thing about having older brothers or sisters is the
feedback they give you.
When I come home from a high school basketball or football
game, Mom and Dad will meet me at the door and go over all the key plays I
made. Mom will rave about the talent that I have, and Dad will say it was my
leadership skills that directed the team to victory.
When my sister Jenny comes in the kitchen to join us, I’ll
ask her how I did. She’ll tell me how ordinary I played, and I’d better get my
act together if I want to keep my starting position, and she hopes I’ll play
better the next game and not embarrass her.
Since Jenny and Josh are very close, they can share feedback
candidly. K eep these two points in mind as you give feedback.
First, ask yourself the question “Will this feedback really
help this person or am I doing it just to suit myself and fix them?” If your
motive for the feedback isn’t with their best interest at heart, then
it’s probably not the time or place to do it.
Second, send “I” messages instead of “you” messages. In
other words, give feedback in the first person. Say, “I’m concerned that
you have a temper problem” or “I feel that you’ve been acting selfish
lately.” “You” messages are more threatening because they sound as if you’re
accusing. “Y ou are so self-centered.” “Y ou have a terrible
temper.” The other person will feel like they’re getting attacked!
Well, that should pretty much wrap it up. I don’t have a lot
more to say about this habit, except to end with the thought that we began
with: You have two ears and one mouth—use ’em accordingly.
find out how 1 plus 1 can sometimes equal 3. I’ll see you there!
See how long you can keep eye contact with someone while
they are talking to you. Yes it feels intense at first but it’s a powerful way
to communicate with someone. (Especially with a crush, btw.)
People-watch once in a while. See
how others communicate with each other. Observe what their body language is
In your interactions today, try mirroring one person
and mimicking another, just for fun (maybe just do the mimicking in your head,
though). Compare the results.
Ask yourself, “Which of the five poor listening
styles do I have the biggest problem with—Spacing Out, Pretend Listening,
Selective Listening, Word Listening, or Self-Centered Listening (judging,
advising, probing)? Now, try to go one day without doing it.
The poor listening style I struggle with
Sometime this week, ask your mom or dad, “How’s it going?”
Open up your heart and practice genuine listening. Y ou’ll be surprised by what
If you’re a talker, take a break and spend your day
listening. Only talk when you have to.
The next time you find yourself
wanting to bury your feelings deep inside you, don’t do it. Instead, express
them in a responsible, honest way.
Think of a situation where your constructive feedback
would really help another person. Share it with them when
the time is right.
Person who could benefit from my
Alone we can do so little: together we can
do so much.
H ave you ever seen a flock of geese heading south for the
winter flying along in a V formation?
Scientists have learned some amazing things about why they fly that way:
•By flying in formation, the whole flock can fly 71 percent
farther than if each bird flewalone. When a goose flaps its wings, it creates
an updraft for the goose that follows.
•A s the lead goose gets tired, he will rotate to the back of the V and allow another goose
to take the lead position.
•The geese in the back honk to encourage those in the front.
•Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it immediately feels the
resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation.
•Finally, when one of the geese gets sick or is wounded and falls
out of formation, two geesewill follow it down to help and protect it. They
will stay with the injured goose until it is better or dies and then will join
a new formation or create their own to catch up with the group.
Smart birds, those geese! By sharing in each other’s draft,
taking turns in the lead position, honking encouragement to each other, staying
in formation, and watching out for the wounded, they accomplish so much more
than if each bird flew solo. It makes me wonder if they took a class in H abit
6, Synergize. H mmm . . .
So, what does “synergize” mean?
Basically, synergy is achieved when two or more people work together to
create a better solution than either could alone. It’s not your way or my way
but a better way, a higher way.
Synergy is the reward, the delicious fruit you’ll taste as
you get better at living the other habits, especially at thinking Win-Win and
seeking first to understand. L earning to synergize is like learning to form V formations with others
instead of trying to fly through life solo.
Y ou’ll be amazed at how much faster and
farther you’ll go!
To better understand what synergy is, let’s
see what synergy is not.
SYNER G Y IS:
SYNER G Y IS NOT :
C elebrating differences
Thinking you’re always right
Finding new and better ways
Synergy is everywhere in nature. The great
sequoia trees (which grow to heights of 300 feet or more) grow in clumps and
share a vast array of intermingled roots. Without one another, they would blow
over in a storm.
Many plants and animals live together in symbiotic
relationships. If you have ever seen a picture of a small bird feeding off the
back of a rhinoceros, you’ve seen synergy. Each benefits: The bird gets fed and
the rhino gets cleaned.
Synergy isn’t anything new. If you’ve ever been on a team of
any kind, you’ve felt it. If you’ve ever worked on a group project that really
came together or been on a really fun group date, you’ve felt it.
A good song is a great example of synergy. It’s not just the
beats, or the vocals, or the lyrics —it’s all of them together that make up the
“sound.” Each musician and producer brings his or her strengths to the table to
create something better than each could alone. N o part is more important than
another, just different.
Synergy doesn’t just happen. It’s a process.
You have to get there. A nd the foundation of getting there is this: L earn to
I’ll never forget encountering in high school a kid from
Tonga named Fine (pronounced Fee-N ee) U nga. A t first, I was totally
intimidated by him. I mean the guy was built like a tank, strong as a bull, and
there were rumors going around that he was a street fighter. We looked,
dressed, talked, thought, and ate differently (you shoulda seen this guy eat).
The only thing we had in common was football. So how in the world did we become
best friends? Maybe it was because we were so different. I never quite knew
what Fine was thinking or what he would do next, and vice versa. That was
seriously refreshing. I especially enjoyed being his friend when a fight broke
out. H e had strengths I didn’t have and I had strengths he didn’t have.
Together we made a great team.
Boy, am I glad that the world isn’t full of a bunch of
clones who act and think exactly like me. Thank goodness for diversity.
The word diversity usually calls to mind racial and
gender differences, but there’s so much more to it. A s you’ve probably already
noticed, human beings have a wide variety of physical features—hair textures,
nose sizes, clothing styles. There are also endless differences in language,
wealth, family backgrounds, religious beliefs, lifestyle, education, interests,
skills, age, and on and on and on.
A s Dr. Seuss said in One Fish, Two
Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish:
see them come.
see them go.
some are slow.
some are low.
Not one of them is like
on’t ask us why.
ask your mother.
The world is a great melting pot of cultures, races,
religions, and ideas. Since this diversity around you is always expanding,
you’ve got an important decision to make regarding how you’re going to handle
it. There are three possible approaches you can take:
L evel 1: Shun diversity
L evel 2: Tolerate diversity
L evel 3: C elebrate diversity
Shunners are afraid (sometimes even scared
to death) of differences. It disturbs them that someone may have a different
skin color, worship a different God, or wear a different brand of jeans than
they do, because they’re convinced their way of life is the “best,” “right,” or
“only” way. They enjoy ridiculing those who are different, all the while
believing that they are saving the world from some terrible pestilence. They
won’t hesitate to get physical about it if they have to and will often join
gangs, cliques, or anti-groups because, as we’ve mentioned, there’s strength in
Tolerators believe that everyone has the
right to be different. They don’t shun diversity but don’t embrace it, either.
Their motto is: “You keep to yourself and I’ll keep to myself. You do your
thing and let me do mine. Y ou don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.”
A lthough they come close, they never get to synergy
because they see differences as hurdles, not as potential strengths to build
upon. They “put up” with your differences, but never try to understand or learn
from them. They don’t know what they’re missing.
C elebrator’s Profile
C elebrators value differences. They see
them as an advantage, not a weakness. They’ve learned that two people who think
differently can achieve more than two people who think alike. They realize that
celebrating differences doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with those
differences, such as being a Democrat or a Republican, only that you value
them. In their eyes, Diversity = C reative Sparks = Opportunity.
So where do you fall on the spectrum? Take a hard look. If someone’s
clothes are “different,” do you value their unique clothing styles or do you
think they’re “out of touch”?
Think about a group that has contrary religious beliefs to
yours. Do you respect their beliefs or do you write them off as a bunch of
If someone lives on a different side of town than you, do
you feel they could teach you a thing or two or do you label them because of
where they live?
The truth is, celebrating diversity is a struggle for most
of us, depending on the issue. For example, you may appreciate racial and
cultural diversity and in the same breath look down on someone because of the
clothes they wear.
It’s much easier to appreciate differences
when we realize that in one way or another, we are all a minority of one. A nd
we should remember that diversity isn’t just an external thing, it’s also
internal. Everyone has their own unique way of thinking—even about the same
topic. Think about how different you are from your friends or family members.
Do you all react to life problems in the same way? H ardly! Think about it:
some people, for example, are more easygoing and some are more tightly strung.
H ow else do we differ on the inside? Well . . .
We learn differently. A s you’ve probably
noticed, your friend’s or sister’s brain doesn’t work the same way yours does.
Dr. Thomas A rmstrong has identified seven kinds of smarts and says that kids
may learn best through their most dominant intelligence:
learn through reading, writing, telling stories
EMATICAL: learn through logic, patterns, categories, relationships
-KINESTH ETIC: learn through bodily sensations, touching
learn through images and pictures
learn through sound and rhythm
learn through interaction and communication with others
learn through their own feelings
One type isn’t better than another, only different. You may
be logical-mathematical dominant and your sister may be interpersonal dominant.
Depending on your approach to diversity, you might say she’s weird because
she’s so talkative, or you could take advantage of those differences and
get her to help you in your speech class.
We see differently. Everyone sees the world
differently and has a different paradigm about themselves, others, and life in
general. To understand what I mean, let’s try an experiment. L ook at the
picture below for a few seconds. N ow look at the picture on the bottom of page
194 and describe what you see. You might say that the picture on page 194 is a
squiggly drawing of a small mouse with a long tail.
But what if I told you that you were wrong? What if I told
you that I don’t see a mouse at all, but that I see a squiggly drawing of a man
with glasses? Would you value my opinion or would you think I’m a dork because
I don’t see the way you do?
To understand my point of view, turn to page 201 and check
out the picture in the middle of that page for a second. Then look at page 194
again. N ow can you see what I see?
It goes to show that all the events of your past have formed
a lens, or paradigm, through which you see the world. A nd since no one’s past
is exactly like anyone else’s, no two people see alike. Some see mice and some
see men, and both are right.
Once you catch on that everyone views the world differently,
and that everyone can be right, it will increase your understanding and respect
for differing viewpoints. You might want to try this same experiment with a
We have different styles, traits, and characteristics.
The following exercise is not meant to be an in-depth diagnosis but a fun look
at some of your general characteristics and personality traits. This exercise
was developed by the L egislator’s School in N orth C arolina and was adapted
from It’s All in Y our Mind by K athleen Butler.
Read across each row and place a 4 in the blank that best
describes you. N ow place a 3 in the blank for the second word that best
describes you. Do the same for the final words using a 2 and a 1. Do this for
N ow add up your totals (don’t include the example, of
course) for each column and place the total in the blanks below.
COLUMN 2 O ranges
COLUMN 3 Bananas
COLUMN 1COLUMN 4
If your highest score was in column 1,
consider yourself a grape.
If your highest score was in column 2,
consider yourself an orange.
If your highest score was in column 3,
consider yourself a banana.
If your highest score was in column 4,
consider yourself a melon.
N ow find your fruit below and review what
this may mean to you.
working in groups
learn best when they:
•Can work and
share with others
•Balance work with
may have trouble:
•Focusing on one
thing at a time
expand their style, Grapes need to:
attention to details
•Not rush into
•Be less emotional
when making some decisions
learn best when they:
•Can use trial and
may have trouble:
options or choices
expand their style, Oranges need to:
•Be more accepting
of others’ ideas
learn best when they:
•Have an orderly
•Can trust others
to do their part
may have trouble:
expand their style, Bananas need to:
•Express their own
of others’ views
•Be less rigid
learn best when they:
•Have access to
•Are respected for
may have trouble:
•Working in groups
expand their style, Melons need to:
Our tendency is to ask, Which fruit is
best? The answer is, That’s a dumb question.
I have three brothers. We have some stuff in common, like
nose size and parents, but we are very different. When I was younger, I was
always trying to prove to myself that my talents were better than theirs: “So
what if you’re more outgoing than me. I’ve always been better at school than
you and that’s more important anyway.” I’ve since seen the stupidity of that
kind of thinking and am still learning to appreciate the fact that my
brothers have their strengths and I have mine. N o one’s better or worse, only
That’s why you shouldn’t feel so bad if a member of the
opposite sex (whom you’re just dying to go out with) doesn’t go for you. You
may be the must luscious and mouth-watering grape around, but he or she may be
looking for an orange. A nd no matter how much you want a change of fruit,
you’re a grape and they want an orange. But don’t worry. A grape seeker is
bound to drop by. It all balances out.
Instead of trying to blend in and be like everyone else, be
proud of and celebrate your unique differences and qualities. A fruit salad is
delicious precisely because each fruit maintains its own flavor.
•ROADBLOCKS TO CELEBRATING
A lthough there are many, three of the
largest roadblocks to synergy are ignorance, cliques, and prejudice.
Ignorance. Ignorance means you’re clueless.
You don’t know what other people feel or believe, or what they’ve been through.
Ignorance often abounds when it comes to understanding people with
disabilities, as C rystal L ee H elms explained in an article submitted to mirror,
a Seattle-area newspaper:
My name is Crystal. I’m 5'1" with blond hair and hazel
eyes. Big deal, right? What if I told you I was deaf?
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t/shouldn’t matter. We don’t
live in a perfect world, though, and it does matter. The moment someone knows
I’m deaf, their whole attitude changes. Suddenly they look at me differently.
You’d be surprised how people act.
The most common question I get is, “How’d you become deaf?”
When I tell them, their reaction is as common as the question itself: “Oh, I’m
so sorry. That’s so sad.” Whenever that happens I simply look them in the eye
and I calmly inform them, “No, really, it’s not sad at all. Don’t apologize.”
No matter how good the intentions are, pity always makes my stomach churn.
Not all attitudes put me on the defensive. Some are just
plain funny. I was signing with my friends and some dude I didn’t know came up
to me and started talking.
“What’s it like being deaf?”
“I don’t know. What’s it like being hearing? I mean, it isn’t
like anything. It just is.”
Y ou see, the thing is this: if you meet someone who is deaf,
don’t write them off as disabled or disadvantaged. Instead take the time to get
to know them and find out what being deaf is all about. By doing this, you open
yourself to understanding not only others, but, more important, yourself.
Cliques. There’s nothing wrong with hanging
out with guys or girls you’re comfortable with; it only becomes a problem only
when your group of friends becomes so exclusive that they reject everyone who
isn’t just like them. It’s kind of hard to value differences in a closeknit
clique. Those on the outside feel like second-class citizens, and those on the
inside often suffer from superiority complexes. But breaking into a clique
isn’t hard. A ll you have to do is lose your identity, be assimilated, and
become part of the Borg collective.
Prejudice. H ave you ever felt stereotyped,
labeled, or prejudged by someone because of your skin, your gender, your
accent, or where you live? Isn’t it a sick feeling?
A lthough we’re all created equal, unfortunately, we’re not
all treated equally. It’s a sad fact that minorities and women often
have additional hurdles to leap in life because of prejudices held by so many.
The U nited States elected an A frican A merican president, but racism is still
a huge problem. This is N atarsha’s experience:
Racism can make succeeding tougher. When you’re a black
student in the top 10 percent of your class, maintaining a 4.0 grade point
average, some people have a tendency to feel threatened. I just wish that
people would realize that everyone, no matter where they’re from or what color
they are, deserves the same opportunities. As far as my friends and I are
concerned, prejudice will always be a battle.
We aren’t born with prejudices. They’re learned. K ids, for
instance, are color-blind. But as they mature they begin to pick up on the
prejudices of others and form walls, as is explained in Rodgers and H
ammerstein’s lyrics to a song from the old classic musical South Pacific:
ou’ve got to be taught to be afraid
people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a
diff’rent shade, Y ou’ve got to be carefully taught.
ou’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
you are six or seven or eight,
hate all the people your relatives hate, Y ou’ve got to be carefully taught!
The following poem by an unknown source tells the sad tale
of what happens when people prejudge one another.
TH E COLD
humans trapped by happenstance, in bleak and bitter cold, Each one possessed a
stick of wood, or so the story’s told.
dying fire in need of logs, the first man held his back, For of the faces
’round the fire, he noticed one was black.
The next man looking ’cross
the way saw one not of his church, And couldn’t bring himself to give the fire
his stick of birch.
third one sat in tattered clothes, he gave his coat a hitch, Why should his log
be put to use to warm the idle rich?
rich man just sat back and thought of the wealth he had in store, And how to
keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke
revenge as the fire passed from sight, For all he saw in his stick of wood was
a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn
group did naught except for gain, Giving only to those who gave was how he
played the game.
logs held tight in death’s still hand was proof of human sin,
didn’t die from the cold without—they died from the cold within.
Fortunately, the world is full of people who
are warm within and who value diversity. The following story by Bill Sanders is
a wonderful example of sticking up for diversity and showing courage:
A couple of years ago, I witnessed courage that ran chills up
and down my spine.
At a high school assembly, I had spoken about picking on
people and how each of us has the ability to stand up for people instead of
putting them down. Afterwards, we had a time when anyone could come out of the
bleachers and speak into the microphone. Students could say thank-you to
someone who had helped them, and some people came up and did just that. A girl
thanked some friends who had helped her through family troubles. A boy spoke of
some people who had supported him during an emotionally difficult time.
Then a senior girl stood up. She stepped over to the
microphone, pointed to the sophomore section and challenged her whole school.
“Let’s stop picking on that boy. Sure, he’s different from us, but we are in
this thing together. On the inside he’s no different from us and needs our
acceptance, love, compassion, and approval. He needs a friend. Why do we
continually brutalize him and put him down? I’m challenging this entire school
to lighten up on him and give him a chance!”
All the time she shared, I had my back to the section where
that boy sat, and I had no idea who he was. But obviously the school knew. I
felt almost afraid to look at his section, thinking the boy must be red in the
face, wanting to crawl under his seat and hide from the world. But as I glanced
back, I saw a boy smiling from ear to ear. His whole body bounced up and down,
and he raised one fist in the air. His body language said, “Thank you, thank
you. Keep telling them. Y ou saved my life today!”
If you’ve ever been bullied yourself you
know how it feels. It’s a terrible thing that no one should ever have to go
through. So watch out for those courageous moments when you can stop the
bullying of another person right in its tracks, whether live or online.
Finding the “High” Way
O nce you’ve bought into the
idea that differences are a strength and not a weakness, and once you’re
committed to at least trying to celebrate differences, you’re ready to find the
H igh Way. The Buddhist definition of the Middle Way does not mean compromise;
it means higher, like the apex of a triangle.
Synergy is more than just compromise or cooperation. C
ompromise is 1 + 1 = 11/ 2. C ooperation is 1 + 1 = 2. Synergy is 1 + 1 = 3 or more. It’s
creative cooperation, with an emphasis on the word creative. The whole
is greater than the sum of the parts.
Builders know all about it. If one 2" x 4" beam
can support 607 pounds, then two 2" x 4"s should be able to support
1,214 pounds. Right? A ctually, two 2" x 4"s can support 1,821
pounds. If you nail them together, two 2" x 4"s can now support 4,878
pounds. A nd three 2" x 4"s nailed together can support 8,481 pounds.
Musicians know how it works, too. They know that when a C and G note are
perfectly in tune, it produces a third note, or an E.
Finding the H igh Way always produces more,
as L aney discovered:
In my physics lab the teacher was demonstrating the principle
of momentum and our assignment was to construct a catapult, like in medieval
times. We called it a pumpkin launcher.
There were three of us in our group, two boys and me. We are
all quite different, so we came up with a lot of different ideas.
One of us wanted to use bungee cords to make the launcher
flip. Someone else wanted to use tension and ropes. We tried each without much
success and then we figured out a way to use both of them together. It gave a
lot more spring than either would have alone. It was cool because it doubled
the length of our shot.
Synergy occurred as the founders of the U nited States were
forming their government structure. William Paterson proposed the N ew Jersey
Plan, which said that states should get equal representation in government
regardless of population size. This plan favored the smaller states. James
Madison had a different idea, known as the Virginia Plan, which argued that
states with greater populations should have greater representation. This plan
favored the larger states.
several weeks of debate, they reached a decision that all parties felt good
They agreed to have two branches of C
ongress. In one branch, the Senate, each state would get two representatives,
regardless of population size. In the other branch, the H ouse of
Representatives, each state would get representatives based on population.
A lthough it is called the Great C ompromise, this famous
decision could really be called the Great Synergy, because it has proved to be
better than either of the original proposals.
•GETTING TO SYNERGY
Whether you’re arguing with your parents
over dating and curfew guidelines, picking teams to shoot hoops, or simply not
seeing eye to eye with your best friend there’s a way to get to synergy.
H ere’s a simple five-step process to help you get there.
THIS ACTION PLAN AND PLACE IT WHERE Y OU CAN REFER TO IT OFTEN.
L et’s give the action plan a try on a
problem to see how it works.
The V acation
Dad: I don’t care how you
feel. Y ou’re going on this vacation whether you like it or not. We’ve had this
planned for months, and it’s important that we spend some time together as a
Mom: I don’t want you staying here
by yourself. I’d worry about what you’re doing and who you’re hanging out with.
We want you with us.
DEFINE THE PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY
In this case, we have a problem. It’s this:
My parents want me to vacation with
the family, but I would rather stay home and go out with my friends.
THEIR WAY(Seek first to understand the ideas of others.)
Try using the listening skills you learned in H abit 5 so
that you can really understand your mom and dad. Remember, if you want to have
power and influence with your parents, they need to feel understood.
By listening, you learn the following:
This vacation is very important to my
dad. H e wants to have a family bonding time. H e feels it won’t be the same
without me. Mom feels that she would worry so much about me being home alone
that she wouldn’t enjoy the vacation.
MY WAY(Seek to be understood by sharing your ideas.)
N ow practice the second half of H abit 5 and have the
courage to share your feelings. If you’ve taken the time to listen to them,
they’ll be much more likely to listen to you. So you tell your parents how you
Mom and D ad, I want to stay home and
be with my friends. They are very important to me. We have a lot of things
planned, and I don’t want to miss out on any of the fun. Besides, I go crazy
when I have to drive in a car all day with a little sister.
BRAINSTORM(Create new options and ideas.)
This is where the magic happens. U tilize your imagination
and create new ideas together that you could never think of alone. A s you
brainstorm, keep these tips in mind:
•GET CREATIV E:
Throw out your wildest ideas. L et it flow.
•AV OID CRITICISM:
N othing kills the flow of creativity like criticism. Resist.
•PIGGY BACK: K eep building
upon the best ideas. It’s called piggybacking. One great idea leads to another,
which leads to another.
Brainstorming produces the following ideas:
said we could go to a vacation spot that I would enjoy more.
mentioned that I could stay with relatives close by.
suggested I could take a friend with me.
mentioned using my savings and busing out to meet them, so I wouldn’t have to
drive in a crowded car.
was willing to cut the vacation short so it would be easier for me.
suggested staying home for part of the vacation and joining them later.
was willing to let me stay home if I would clean up his computers so they’d run
faster while they were gone.
HIGH WAY(Find the best solution.)
A fter brainstorming for a while, the best idea will usually
surface. N ow it’s just a matter of going with it.
We all agreed that I could stay home
during the first half of the week and then bus out with a friend to join the
family for the second half. They even offered to pay the bus fare for my friend
and me if I would clean up the computers. It’s not hard work, so I will still
have time to hang out with my friends. They’re happy, and so am I.
If you will follow the basics of the above formula, you’ll
be amazed at what can happen. But it takes a lot of maturity to get to synergy.
You have to be willing to listen to the other point of view. You then need to
have the courage to express your point of view. Finally, you’ve got to let your
creative juices flow. See how this eleventh grader named Erica got to synergy:
As a senior editor of the school paper, I had a lot of
responsibility to delegate. I wanted to add in a new section this year, to
switch things up a little, so I came up with this idea: we’d do a feature on a
different kid every week, and interview them about their talents and interests.
My co-editor wanted to just pick popular kids from the older grades, but I
said, why don’t we reach a bigger crowd? What if there are some freshmen with
awesome talents who are too shy to show off their skills?
So I posted on the newspaper’s Twitter page about how we were
looking for kids in school with unique stories and skills, and people started
posting and Tweeting at us right away. One guy was a really amazing
break-dancer and he sent in a video for us to upload. Another girl showed us
how she is completely bilingual in Spanish and English and translated a poem
for us to publish in the paper. This shy kid in my art class sent in a video of
himself playing bass in his band, and it turns out he’s a really good musician!
My co-editor really came around to this open call—I think he
caught on pretty quickly how limited we would have been if we’d just sought out
popular kids. Last week, he and I suggested to the student council to start a
talent show so everyone could do this stuff in person, not just online!
Overall, it’s been a surprisingly awesome way to see how the student body is a
synergy of each individual with unique talents and personalities.
G o for It
The Getting to Synergy A ction Plan can be
used in all kinds of situations:
just been assigned a group project for biology with three people you don’t
charge of social media at your summer job and you have to juggle multiple
•Y ou want
to go to college, but your parents aren’t willing to help you pay for it.
•A s a
student body officer, you and your team are in charge of planning H omecoming.
•Y ou and
your stepmom disagree on your curfew.
always fighting with your brother about who gets to use your mom’s laptop.
The Getting to Synergy A ction Plan is a guideline, nothing
more. The steps don’t always have to be in order, and you don’t always have to
do all of them. If your RBA is extremely high with someone, you can virtually
skip the first three steps and jump right into brainstorming. On the other
hand, if your RBA is low, you may need to take more time listening. It may take
several conversations to solve some problems. Be patient.
Despite herculean efforts on your part to find the H igh
Way, sometimes the other party won’t make any effort at all. Y ou may just have
to keep building the RBA in these situations.
H ow do you normally solve conflicts? Most of the time it’s
usually fight (with words or fists) or flight (you don’t speak up or you take
off). Well things are looking up . . . The Getting to Synergy A ction plan
offers an alternative.
Pretend you and your best friend have just run for different
Student C ouncil offices in your high school. You won. She lost. Ever since the
election she’s hardly talked to you. Each of you feels the other person isn’t
doing enough to stay in touch, dispel the jealousies, or keep the friendship
going. It’s creating tension. H aving recently learned about synergy, you
decide to give the Getting to Synergy A ction Plan a try while on a phone call
with this best friend.
DEFINE THE PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY
Y O U : I feel like it’s been pretty
hard since the election, you know. I guess I don’t know what’s really going on.
(only silence) It just seems like whenever we see each other there’s this weird
energy, you know, either we don’t talk at all or things turn into some sort of
argument. (more silence) You wanna try and figure this out?
TH EM: I guess.
THEIR WAY(Seek first to understand the ideas of others.)
Y OU : Well, to start with, how are
you feeling about everything?
TH EM: That’s easy. Ever since you
won you just think you’re better than me. You got this meeting and this club
and this game . . .
Y OU : It’s just that things got so
crazy so fast, you know?
TH EM: No, I don’t know, wish I did, but
I didn’t win, remember? Y OU : Look, I’m sorry you didn’t win, I really
am, but— TH EM: Whatever. I mean, are you really too busy to text me?
Y OU : Y ou’re feeling that I’m too
busy for you?
TH EM: Totally. It’s like you’re a
different person or something. And you’re always hanging out with all these
Student Council kids and I feel like a total loser.
Y OU : This whole thing has really
TH EM: Y ou have no idea. H ow would
you feel if you lost and I won and I stopped talking to you all of sudden?
Y OU : I’d feel bad, too.
TH EM: Y eah, sure.
Y OU : So, it’s like your best friend
suddenly thinks she’s better than you and doesn’t have time for you and you’re
totally left out of everything. Is that it? TH EM: Y ou got it.
MY WAY(Seek to be understood by sharing your ideas.)
Y OU : I’m sorry you feel like that.
Would you mind if I shared what I’m going through?
TH EM: I think I already know, but go
Y O U : It’s just that I’m so tired
after school and meetings and everything I just get home and collapse. It’s not
you. I don’t really feel like talking to anyone.
TH EM: That busy, huh?
Y OU : And then it’s like your
punishing me for winning.
TH EM: Y ou’re probably right. I
shouldn’t take it out on you.
BRAINSTORM(Create new options and ideas.)
Y OU : Well why don’t we figure out
how to get together more?
TH EM: H ey, how ’bout you come over
after school Friday, we could hang out like we used to?
Y OU : I would if I could but I have
a meeting with my committee and then we all gotta go to the game, ride some
goofy float. H ey, you could come to the game?
TH EM: I have to work.
Y OU : Starting when?
TH EM: An hour or so after the game
Y OU : And you can’t get it off?
TH EM: No way, I just started.
Y OU : So I guess I’m not the only one
TH EM: H uh, good one, guess not.
Y OU : H ey . . .
TH EM: What?
Y OU : Well, it’s just an idea, and
you might not want to, but what if you joined my committee? We need another
girl and then we’d be seeing each other a lot.
TH EM: Really? I can just do
that? I don’t have to run or anything? Y OU : I’m in charge now,
remember, I can do anything.
(you both laugh)
HIGH WAY(Find the best solution.)
TH EM: Well, that’d be awesome.
Y OU : In fact, how about just coming
to the meeting Friday, then come to the game for a while until you have to
TH EM: That’d be perfect.
Y OU : I think so.
TH EM: H ey, thanks so much for
taking the time to talk, I’d hate it if I wasn’t your friend. Y OU : Same.
It’s not always this easy. But, on the other
hand, sometimes it is.
•TEAMWORK AND SYNERGY
Great teams are usually made up of five or
more different types of people, with each member playing a different but
Plodders. Sure and steady,
they stick to a job until it’s done.
Followers. They are very supportive of
leaders. If they hear a great idea, they can run with it and follow through on
making it work.
Innovators. They are the
creative, idea people. They offer the sparks.
H armonizers. They provide unity and support
and are great synergizers as they work with others and encourage cooperation.
Show-offs. Fun to work with, they can be tough
at times. They often add the spice and momentum needed to bring the team
Great teamwork is like a great piece of music. A ll the voices
and instruments may be singing and playing at once, but they aren’t competing.
Individually, the instruments and voices make different sounds, play different
notes, pause at different times; yet they blend together to create a whole new
sound. This is synergy.
The book you are holding is dripping with synergy. When I
first decided to write it, I felt overwhelmed. So I started in the only way I
knew how. I got help. I immediately asked a friend for assistance. I soon put
together a bigger team. I identified a few schools and educators from around
the country who agreed to give feedback on drafts at different stages. I began
interviewing teens one-on-one and in groups. I hired an artist. I put together
contests asking for stories dealing with teens and the 7 H abits. By the end,
there were well over 100 people involved in the creation of this book.
Slowly but surely it all came together. Each person brought
his or her talents to the table and contributed in a different way. While I
focused on writing, others focused on what they were good at. One was good at
collecting stories. One could find great quotes. A nother knew how to edit.
Some were plodders, some innovators, some show-offs. It was teamwork and
synergy to the max.
The wonderful by-product of teamwork and synergy is that it
builds relationships. Basketball Olympian Deborah Miller Palmore said it well:
“Even when you’ve played the game of your life, it’s the feeling of teamwork
that you’ll remember. You’ll forget the plays, the shots, and the scores, but
you’ll never forget your teammates.”
keep reading, you’ll discover the real reason why Beyoncé looks like a
million bucks. Just a few more pages and you’re done!
When you’re around someone with a disability or impairment,
don’t feel sorry for them or avoid them because you don’t know what to say.
Instead, get acquainted—it’ll make everyone more comfortable.
Habit 7—Sharpen the Saw
Y ou’ll Move Mountains
The time to repair the roof is when the
sun is shining.
U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY
Do you ever feel imbalanced, stressed-out, or empty inside?
If so, H abit 7 is going to be a huge help, because it’s been specially
designed to deal with these problems. Why do we call it “Sharpen the Saw”?
Well, imagine that you’re going for a walk in the forest when you come upon a
guy furiously sawing down a tree.
“What’re you doing?” you ask.
“I’m sawing down a tree,” comes the curt
“H ow long have you been at it?”
“Four hours so far, but I’m really making
progress,” he says, sweat dripping from his chin.
“Y our saw looks pretty dull,” you say.
“Why don’t you take a break and sharpen it?”
“I can’t, you idiot. I’m too busy sawing.”
We all know who the real idiot here is, now, don’t we? If
the guy were to take a fifteenminute break to sharpen the saw, he’d probably
finish three times faster.
H ave you ever been too busy driving to
take time to get gas?
H ave you ever been too busy living to take
time to renew yourself?
H abit 7 is all about keeping your personal self sharp so
that you can better deal with life. It means regularly renewing and
strengthening the four key dimensions of your life—your body, your brain, your
heart, and your soul.
Read, educate, write, learn new skills, create.
relationships (RBA, PBA), give service, laugh, learn to love yourself.
The ancient Greeks’ famous saying “N othing
overmuch” reminds us of the importance of balance and doing everything in
moderation. Some people spend countless hours building the perfect body but
neglect their minds. Others have minds that can bench-press 400 pounds but let
their bodies go to pot or forget about having a social life. To perform at your
peak, you need to strive for balance in all four dimensions of life.
Why is balance so important? It’s because how you do in one
dimension of life will affect the other three. Think about it: if one of your
car’s tires is out of balance, all four will wear unevenly. It’s hard to be
friendly (heart) when you’re exhausted (body). It also works the other way.
When you’re feeling motivated and in tune with yourself (soul), it’s easier to
focus on work (mind) and to be friendlier (heart).
During my school years, I studied some great artists,
authors, and musicians, like van Gogh, H emingway, Mozart, and Beethoven. Many
of them were known for being emotionally messed up. Why? Your guess is as good
as mine, but I think it was because they were out of balance. It seems they
focused so hard on just one thing, like their music or art, that they neglected
the other dimensions of life and lost their bearings. A s the saying goes, Balance
and moderation in all things.
FOR A TIME-OUT
Just like a car, you too need regular
tune-ups and oil changes. You need time out to rejuvenate the best thing you’ve
got going for yourself—you! Time to relax and to treat yourself to a little
tender loving care is essential. This is what sharpening the saw is all about.
Over the next several pages, we’ll take a look at each
dimension, the body, mind, heart, and soul, and talk about specific ways to get
your saw razor sharp. So read on!
for Your Body
hated junior high. I felt awkward and unsure about who I was, and my body
started undergoing all sorts of weird
changes. I remember my first day in gym class. I had bought my first jock ever,
but I had no idea how to put it on. A nd all of us boys were so embarrassed at
seeing each other naked for the first time that we just stood around in the
showers and giggled.
You may have already found that during your teenage years
your voice changes, your hormones run rampant, and curves and muscles start
springing up all over. Welcome to your new body!
A ctually, this ever-changing body of yours is really quite
an amazing machine. But you only get one, and you can either handle it
with care, or you can abuse it.
There are so many ways to stay physically sharp. You can eat
good food, get enough sleep, keep good hygiene, do push-ups or crunches in your
room (you don’t have to pay for a gym membership), lift weights, take time to
relax, go for a walk, dance, do yoga, or try a hundred other things.
For now, let’s focus on nutrition and
There’s much truth to the expression “You are what you eat.”
I’m not an expert in nutrition, but I have found two rules of thumb to keep in
First rule of thumb: L isten to your body. Pay careful
attention to how different foods make you feel and, from that, develop your own
handful of do’s and don’ts. For example, whenever I eat a big meal right before
bed I feel horrible in the morning. A nd whenever I eat too many nachos
or too much pizza I get a “grease rush.” (H ave you ever had one of
those?) These are my don’ts. On the other hand, I’ve learned that eating
lots of fruit and drinking tons of water makes me feel on top of my game. These
are my do’s.
Second rule of thumb: Be moderate and avoid extremes. For
many of us, it’s often easier to be extreme than moderate, and so we find
ourselves jumping back and forth between eating like a rabbit and eating like a
pig. A little junk food on occasion isn’t going to hurt you. (I mean, what
would life be like without an occasional Slurpee?) Just don’t make it your
Teen obesity is on the rise and it comes with a boatload of
health risks, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and other
problems you don’t want. If you are overweight, it doesn’t have to get in the
way of the rest of your life. You can take control. It’s simply a matter of a
healthy diet and moderate exercise. Talk with a doctor or health expert for
advice. Read up on nutrition and exercise. For starters, just try losing 10
percent of your body weight at a healthy rate (1–2 pounds a week and no more)
and watch how good you’ll feel.
The U SDA MyPlate is a balanced approach to nutrition that I
recommend. A s you can see, it encourages us to fill half our plate with fruits
and vegetables. The other half should be filled up with whole grains (like
oatmeal or whole wheat bread) and healthy proteins (like fish, chicken, nuts,
or beans). On the side is a smaller circle for a cup of low fat milk or yogurt.
It also tells us to eat less fast food and processed food, which are
often loaded with fat, sugar, salt, and other gook and to drink 6–8 glasses of
water every day, which is essential to your body. Just make sure you’re near a
bathroom a lot.
One of my favorite classic movies is Forrest
Gump. It’s the story of a naive young man from A labama with a good heart
who keeps stumbling into success in spite of himself. A t one point in the
movie, Forrest is frustrated and confused about his life. So what does he do? H
e starts to run, and keeps on running. A fter running back and forth from one
coast to the other two and a half times, Forrest feels better and is finally
able to sort his life out.
We all feel depressed, confused, or apathetic at times. It’s
at times like these when perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves is to
do what Forrest did: exercise ourselves better. Besides being good for your
heart and lungs, exercise has an amazing way of giving you a shot of energy,
melting stress away, and clearing your mind.
There’s no single best way to exercise. Some teenagers play
competitive sports; some prefer running, walking, biking, skateboarding,
dancing, doing yoga, or lifting weights. Still others just like to just get
outside and move around.
“Pain” doesn’t have to be the first thing that comes into
your mind when you hear the word “exercise.” Find something fun that you enjoy
doing, so that it’s easy to maintain a consistent workout schedule. For best
results, you should exercise for thirty minutes or so, at least three times a
But be careful. In your quest for a better
physique, make sure you don’t get too obsessed with your appearance. A s you’ve
probably noticed, our society is hung up on “looks.” To prove my point just
look at how celebrities are viewed in the public eye: gossip tabloids praise
their beauty, and then criticize their every flaw and bit of cellulite. By comparison,
it can really make a person feel self-conscious about his or her appearance!
A s a kid, I was very self-conscious about my fat cheeks. My
dad told me that when I was born my cheeks were so fat the doctors didn’t know
which end to spank.