7 Habits of Highly Effective Jews: Covey-ish vs. Jewish

October 14, 2018

6 min read


With apologies to Stephen Covey.

In 1989 Stephen Covey noticed we humans weren’t a very effective people. He wrote a book. I’ll summarize (forgive me Steve). Effectiveness is the balance of getting what you want but still caring how you get it. In other words, don’t be a bulvan (a selfish ox with no class).

We Jews need to read this? We have a whole dictionary for the mensch-less from bulvan to yutz! Not that Stephen needs improvement (the man sold 25 million copies plus), but We Jews can always do a little futzing, a little adding, a little interpreting to make habits Jewsier.

7 Highly Effective Habits of Jewish People (with apologies to Mr. Covey).

1-Covey-ish: There’s the Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern. Work from the center of your influence to expand it. Don't sit in a reactive mode waiting for problems to happen (Circle of Concern) before taking action.

Jewish-ish: Make a Circle of Catastrophe. Work from the center of your influence to expand it. Then take extreme action based upon what might, could, may happen. For example: If your mamala is 15 minutes late, either tie a digital alarm around him or call Emergency Services to check if there were any accidents involving a Chassidic school bus in your vicinity.

2- Covey-ish: Envision what you want in the future. You need to act based on principles and constantly review. Are you - right now - who you want to be? What do you have to say about yourself? How do you want to be remembered? Grow and stay humble.

Jewish-ish: Envision what you want now to get to the future. You need to act based on wishes and constantly review. Am I happy? If not, how could I be happy-ish? Who/what can make me happy-ish? For example: “I could be happyish if my Eli got into Harvard in 14 years.” Work from there. “We’ll take a second mortgage send Eli to Ramat GeniusKinder pre-school.” Yes? “I’m happyisher.” But sha. Tell no one your plan. You want to be remembered as humble.

3- Covey-ish: Leadership in the outside world begins with personal vision and personal leadership. Define what is important and what is urgent. Priority should be given in the following order: a) Important and Urgent; b) Important and not Urgent; c) Not Important and Urgent; d) Not Important and not Urgent.

Jewish-ish: Every Jew has the personal vision he or she is a leader. Israel has 6.5 million leaders. (You go be a leader of 6.5 million leaders!) Why is this? We’ve learned that priorities should be given equally. Everything is Important and Urgent. Period. This makes us a very busy people who are geniuses at multi-visioning. After all, when you spend thousands of years running not knowing where you’re going, towing 10 children, with a house on your head, and anti-Semites on your sandals who has time to make Urgent/Important Lists? “Should we leave little Moishe behind?” “Should we not take the cow?” “My sandal strap broke!” See? “Urgent? Important? Not Important?” Even Mr. Covey would have a coronary

4- Covey-ish: Value and respect people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten their way.

Jewish-ish: It’s nice to negotiate where everybody (even the yutzem) wins over the small stuff. If Rhoda, your machetaniste wants to make Sukkot and you give in and make Pesach? Excellent. Not only don’t you have to build, but most important, it makes you the better person! On more important matters it’s not about “winning” it’s about protecting from foolishness. If your daughter wants to explore the back roads of Shropshire, casually show her the kidnap figures of young girls on lonely roads in England. Then “surprise” her with a young people’s tour of Tiberius run by the IDF. See? “Winning” can save a life!

5- Covey-ish: Use empathetic listening to genuinely understand a person which compels them to take an open mind to being influenced by you

Jewish-ish: Use empathetic talking, with visuals and back up resources (that can’t be found on Google) if necessary until they’re influenced. First, what do they know? Second, repetition and teaching others to “give in already” is a mitzvah. For example: “Darling, I know you love to mime and by all means if nothing else, I hear you, even if no one else can. But, instead of climbing to nowhere in our upscale mall, better you should climb to nowhere in your room! In your room. Now repeat sweetheart: ‘I will climb in my room.’” Done.

6 – Covey-ish: Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork so as to achieve goals that no one could have done alone.

Jewish-ish: Remember #3. We are 6.5 million leaders. Through positive teamwork, the strongest leader will emerge, who will then, with menschkeit, make the other machers feel it’s “teamwork.” For example, you’re on the Board of your Sisterhood planning a fund-raiser. Bring a sheaf of notes and in the basic tone say: “Darlings, I did a little prep. Now, Reva, your kosher mini franks are a hit, so you, mamala, should be VIP of catering. Sophie, our P.R. genius could get Freddie Roman to perform, and Lynda with a “y” is married to Sol, the manager of the Ramada Inn, so we should be able to get a free room for Freddie. Meanwhile, Rhonda darling, your calligraphy is the best. What do you say about being the VP of flyers?” Now that’s teamwork.

7 – Covey-ish: Through our conscience, along with meaningful and consistent progress, the spiral will result in growth, change, and constant improvement.

Jewish-ish: Through your conscience and consistent practice, you will continue to renew and more, add to your resources, to maintain a sustainable, long-term, effective Jewish lifestyle with great nakhes and service to society. And remember the words of the great Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk:

“If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.”

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