Tell the truth: how many times have you read a business or self-help book, said, "Wow, that was cool," and then, well, nothing changed? Well, you're not alone. That's the whole problem with that genre; it's always someone's idea of what works for him or what he thinks will work for others. It really doesn't account for the billions of variations on the theme of human intelligence.
Still, Stephen R. Covey's got millions of fans who swear by his seminal book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I'm not one of them, but that's because I'm different. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know - and I know lots of them - just don't fit the mold of folks who can actually benefit from a cookie-cutter set of habits. Instead, they tend to carve their own paths through life -- and they do it their own way.
So, with all due respect to Covey, here's an adaptation of his seven habits that I think fits innovators and entrepreneurs (You'll find Covey's in parenthesis at the end of each habit):
The 7 Habits of Highly Innovative People
Habit 1: Be Passionate. Finding your passion is not only the key to happiness, but also the key to business success. As Steve Jobs once said, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle." (Be Proactive)
Habit 2: Do Something. You don't always know where it's going to lead, but it's always better to do something than to suffer analysis paralysis. Legendary oil-man and entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens has a way of quickly sizing up a situation, coming up with a plan, and acting. There's no sitting around or endless analysis and debate. It seems to have worked for him. (Begin with the End in Mind)
Habit 3: Put First Things First, Second, and Third. Covey says prioritize, but I'll take it one step further. Whoever said, "don't sweat the small stuff," was right, and I'll add, "don't do or even think about the small stuff." Every successful innovative person I know jumps on hot opportunities and critical issues like they're the only things that matter on god's green Earth. (Put First Things First)
Habit 4: Think Win. Former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner may have been a world-class a-hole, but he was a remarkably rich and successful world-class a-hole who let nothing stand in the way of the only thing that ever really mattered to him, winning. Bill Gates, Larry Ellison - show me a successful entrepreneur and I'll show you someone who puts winning first. (Think Win/Win)
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to Innovate. The key to innovation is to first understand a big hairy problem that, to date, nobody's been able to solve. Once you've got that, then, and only then, does it even begin to make sense to do something about it. Otherwise you'll just end up with a great product nobody needs. (Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood)
Habit 6: Energize. With rare exception, successful innovators are high-energy people with a unique ability to stimulate and motivate others. That's called leadership. Without it, you can have the most effective habits or the best ideas in the world, but nobody will ever know it, because nobody will care and nothing will actually get done. (Synergize)
Habit 7: Question the Status Quo. Andy Grove built semiconductor powerhouse Intel on several principles, two of which were "only the paranoid survive" and "constructive confrontation." That means never rest on your laurels, continually challenge your own assumptions, and always question the status quo. That's how Intel became a high-tech dynasty. (Sharpening the Saw)
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