Memo to the President

Bill Clinton has enlisted personal development guru Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, to revive his presidency. A secret White House memo predated this disclosure ...
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CONFIDENTIAL. Re: Stephen R. Covey and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People I have been assessing the Covey material as you requested - the book and a tape of the man himself. There's plenty here we can work with and I know we need a boost now that Gingrich is kicking ass all over Capitol Hill, but I've got to say I have big reservations (which I'll come to later).

Basically what the guy's on about is changing the way you see the world. He says each of us is a composite of our habits, and a habit is where knowledge, skill and desire meet - "the what to do, the how to do and the want to do".

The seven habits he says you need are: 1. Be Proactive 2. Begin with the End in Mind 3. Put First Things First 4. Think Win 5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood 6. Synergise 7. Sharpen the Saw: the Habit of Self-renewal One to five we can live with, six we'll skip and I guess seven just means keep up the jogging.

Then there's some stuff about how learning the habits moves you from dependence through independence to interdependence, which is the highest state of all. And your goal is a "paradigm shift", which means a new way of seeing things: "The way we see the problem is the problem".

This is great, but do we have time for it? I listened to the tape and there's this dreamy, Haight-Ashbury kind of woman who introduces him and says "It's important to know this is not a quick-fix program. You have to be willing to learn it, teach it and

then do it."

What she's saying is we're going to have to sit back and inhale this one. Meanwhile, Gingrich has given himself 100 days to build a new America. After 100 days we'll be standing around with glazed eyes and kaftans and diddly squat to show except tickets for a fast train back to Arkansas.

There's more. It's the language that worries me. There's some stuff here about "third generation time managers" that should play well with Trekkies and the sci-fi crowd but most of it sounds like George Bush dictated it. Try this for size: "The Seven Habits move us progressively on a Maturity Continuum to interdependence. Interdependence is the paradigm of We." Sure. And London is the capital of France.

But the scariest stuff is about halfway through. Talking about "Emotional Bank Accounts" and the "Six Major Deposits" is not going to play well when it's laid next to Whitewater. And I don't mean to be smutty, but the press corps are going to have fun with the sections headed "Apologising Sincerely When You Make A Withdrawal" and "Deposits of Unconditional Love" however we handle it.

I hope that we know each other well enough for me to speak frankly. When you appointed me Counsellor for New Age Affairs I expressed my disappointment at being removed from your press bureau, but entered into the spirit of the work and respected your request that this remain a confidential job title. Regrettably, this assessment project has given me a new understanding of the job. I quit.

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