Instead of making videos threatening hell and brimstone, Boko Haram would have done better by simply sending the president a copy of Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
I was working at a job that was paying me a little over the minimum wage when an opportunity came for someone in my department to attend a new training. It was Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People training. I had read the book more than once. Its principles sounded good but they were not things I could apply to my life without guidance. I was still battling with how to be effective. So I signed up for the eight-session all-day training.
Based on a 1989 Steven R. Covey’s book of the same title, the training presented an approach to attain our goals in harmony with the world around us. The first three habits are geared toward becoming a master of yourself. They aim at moving you from dependent position to that of independent.
Habit One talks about being proactive. This entails taking initiatives through choices that are inline with your life’s goals, anticipating things yet to occur and preparing to deal with the consequences of your choices.
Habit Two teaches you to begin with the end in mind as you identify what roles are crucial in your life. The end you desire should be your guiding light. The end does not justify the means. Instead it helps you in choosing the means.
Habit Three asks that you put first things first and make sure they satisfy the most important roles of your life. What is the most important role of your life? Is it being a parent? A professional? A gadfly? A Transformational leader?
The next three habits discuss how to work with others in an interdependence way.
Habit Four proposes adopting a win-win outlook in all your dealings because in the long-run it benefits everyone. The win-lose alternative suck up energy needed to soar.
Habit Five goes on to advice an empathic disposition in relationships. It asks that you seek to understand others before you want them to understand you.
Habit Six advices that the strength of people should be brought together to create a synergy which will produce results that will be better than what you as a person can do alone.
Habit Seven is about constantly improving and renewing yourself and the drive to continue to advance your goals. Covey calls it sharpening the saw.
The habits are wonderful in their exploration of the self. They put together some concerns we all have in a way that we can see the patterns of what works and what doesn’t work.
But what really changed my life were three principles Stephen Covey created. The first two are related- Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern is the aggregate of things we are concerned about. The Circle of Influence is the range of things we have influence over. I am concerned about the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, accepting a civil service position of Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa state, fourteen years after she took a leave of absence to campaign for her husband who was running for the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa state. I am concerned that she was paid for many years while she was out of work. I am concerned about how she would do the job she was sworn in to do while perambulating around the world as First Lady. My concern is beyond Patience. I am concerned about the precedence she is setting for future First Ladies.
But can I influence this matter? The job of the commentator, especially a political commentator in a dysfunctional country like Nigeria, is simply playing around the Circle of Concern and not Circle of Influence. I scream and then hope that posterity will remember. I may sound angry in my writings but people who know me can attest that I am a jolly good fellow. In my private life I can separate my Circle of Concern from my Circle of Influence.
You may be concerned about the world ending today but can you influence it? You may be concerned about your relation getting married but can you influence it? The Circle of Concern is wider than the Circle of Influence. They do mash at some points. Covey says that we must not confuse the Circle of Concern with the Circle of Influence. He says that for us to be effective, we have to channel our resources to our Circle of Influence and stop wasting them on our Circle of Concern.
For so long, that has been my bane. I spend more time on things I cannot change. These are things that concern me but I have no way of influencing their outcomes. By doing so, I neglect and deny resources to those things that I can influence.
The other principle that Covey teaches is the Abundance Mentality.
Most of us were brought up in environments where things were scarce. It creates what is called the Scarcity Mindset. This is the mindset that tells us that resources are not enough to go round so we have to hoard things. It tells us that the success of another means that we are out of luck. It is the source of all the destructive competitions in our society.
Abundant Mentality says that there are enough resources for everyone and someone’s success does not foreclose ours. For example, the success of the railway does not foreclose the success of transportation companies. So there is no need for transport operators to sabotage and frustrate efforts to build effective railways. Effective railways will reduce the need to transport heavy loads on the road. By doing so, it extends the life of the roads. And roads in good condition extend the lives of vehicles that ply them, which is a good thing for transporters. The same applies to electricity supply. The success of constant electric power supply does not foreclose the success of importers of generators. If there is an efficient electricity supply, there won’t be the need for all these air polluting generators. But there would be an explosion of demands for various gadgets needed at home and offices like irons, microwaves, A/C, refrigerators, fans, TV, blenders, sewing machines, coffee makers, exercise machines, toasters, etc. Those former importers of generators will have more things to import.
The same applies in every field of human endeavor. In writing, despite what ethnic jingoists on the sideline espouse, the success of Wole Soyinka did not foreclose the success of Chinua Achebe and vice versa. And so it is that the success of Pius Adesamni will not foreclose the success of Okey Ndibe. So there is no need for either Okey of Pius to approach their crafts from the standpoint of Scarcity Mindset. Nobody’s success forecloses your success. Your success does not foreclose anyone’s success. Those who have Abundant Mentality are able to share ideas with others and genuinely celebrate the success of others. In a relationship where there is Abundant Mentality, responsibilities, profits, and credits are easily shared. A philosopher said that, “When you help another person get to the top of a mountain, you will arrive there also.” But to reach the Abundance Mentality, one has to be a master of (the) self.
Covey’s principles can be applied at the work place, in our families, to our business dealings and to how a president runs a country. It is adaptable to all forms of relationships.
President Goodluck Jonathan has confessed that Boko Haram group disrupted his agenda for the nation. What really happened to him was that he did not imbibe the principles in the Seven Habits. He was not proactive when he had all the goodwill. Otherwise he would have anticipated things to come and won’t be lost in Aso Rock quenching one fire after another. He does not operate with the end in mind. The end is not how much money he walks away with but how much permanent good history will attribute to him when he leaves the stage. He does not put first thing first. He is engrossed in PDP’s win-lose mindset. He does not seek to understand others before he wants others to understand him. He is not doing enough to create synergy. And finally, he is not renewing and improving himself. He still carries around the same lame smile that appears at the most inappropriate time.
In today’s world, to be effective is not a choice. It is either you are effective or you are carried away by the tide of activities around you.
So Boko Haram, decommission your bombs. Keep your baptismal water. Get President Jonathan the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And hope that he can still sit up and read.
If the president finishes this book, the very next day, he will declare his assets in public. He will slash the salaries of public officials in his government and those that he has no power to cut, he will publish them in the newspaper for Nigerians to behold and choose how best to put pressure on these officials to reduce their salaries and allowances. He will also sack the minister of petroleum and the minister of aviation and all incompetent and corrupt public officials. He will triple the jail houses in Nigeria and unleash an aggressive anti-corruption force after past and present public officials. He will invite credible members of the opposition party to join his government. He will declare an end to “business as usual” in Nigeria. Then he will set the stage for a genuine National Conference.
I know. I know what you are thinking. Malaria parasites have gotten hold of my senses again. In which case I say, please correct me if I am right.