“Profound knowledge.” These are the words of the late Edwards Deming—the management/quality guru who helped bring America back to economic prominence in the 1970s and ’80s. He used this phrase to describe the deeper knowledge of human nature and principles needed to understand and make practical knowledge work.
Profound knowledge is literally what this book is. In fact, what I would say is “profound wisdom,” because it interweaves timeless, universal, self-evident principles into all of the knowledge that is given. The great educator Alfred North Whitehead differentiated knowledge from wisdom in this way:
In a sense, knowledge shrinks as wisdom grows; for details are swallowed up in principles. The details of knowledge which are important will be picked up ad hoc in each avocation of life, but the habit of the active utilization of well-understood principles is the final possession of wisdom.
Rebecca and Roger Merrill are not only truly marvelous people, they are a remarkable couple. As will become wonderfully obvious to you, they practice and live what they teach.They didn’t just learn these things; they earned them, often the hard way, as they clearly, humbly acknowledge.
I hope you share my passion for this remarkable book. I would like to share with you my experience with both Roger and Rebecca. I believe the more you understand them and my experiences with them both, the better you will understand the material in this book.
I have known Roger almost my entire adult life. We have been involved together in many enterprises and projects, and I can honest- ly say that he is one of the finest people I have ever known—a beautiful blending of heart, mind, and spirit. I also esteem him to be one of the finest and wisest teachers I have ever seen. He has been teaching material like this in his professional work all over the world for over 35 years.
Rebecca has been a godsend to me. Her faithful editing and contributions to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, from my point of view, were absolutely indispensable to the success of that book. Her editing and writing contributions together with her husband, Roger, to our book First Things First were core to it becoming, to my knowledge, the best-selling, hardcover time management book ever written. Rebecca also helped enormously in editing and creatively producing The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, which also, to my under- standing, is the best-selling, hardcover family book ever published. There is no one I have worked with who is more diligent, more conscientious, more second-mile, or more empathic and supportive than Rebecca. You will come to “feel” what I’m saying as you read her personal stories, learnings, and “earnings.”
After working with Roger and Rebecca on First Things First,I learned so much about technology and tools in managing time. I’ve always thought of Roger as a techno nut. He pays such a price in analyzing all the different alternatives before purchasing technology tools to optimize effectiveness and efficiency that I simply give my confidence to his conclusions and save my time in the research and analysis. The way that Roger brings to Rebecca all this amazing technology has wonderfully leveraged her special gifts.
You will find, as you read this material, the spirit of good teachers, because they always start with the student’s mind, understanding, concerns, needs, and hopes. For instance, they softly but powerfully expose popular myths and misconceptions in order to give a platform for sharing insights—myths that most people have unconsciously come to believe such as:
“Balance means equalizing the scale.”
“Faster is better.”
“Work and family are natural enemies.”
The Merrills quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, who once said, “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.” When, in this book, you get into the four fields of work, family, time, and money, you will come to see and feel that you are learning the simplicity on the far side of complexity. And what they call the three “gotta do’s” organizes the material excellently.
Another very unique contribution of this book is their insights on money and personal finance. You will see how well the principles presented in the first three sections are applied to this vital and often painful area of our lives. It will give you a great cumulative sense of confidence in the underlying principles, in yourself, and in your ability to apply the principles personally and in your family.
Organizations will also find great value in teaching these principles of effectiveness to their people. Our research has shown a direct—and I feel obvious—connection between how well harmonized people’s personal lives are and their effectiveness at work. Ultimately, organizational productivity comes from each individual’s ability to focus on and execute around the top strategic priorities of their work group and organization. By implementing the “optimizers” described in “Work Matters” and creating this dynamic life balance that the Merrills describe, people will significantly increase their value to their organizations.
I would like to offer two ideas on how to get the very most from this book:
First, teach or share each of the seven chapters with your loved ones, friends, or professional associates. Almost everyone knows that it is when you teach something that you really learn it. I would do it slowly and carefully.
Second, discuss and apply the ideas step by step. Start with baby steps, if you wish.
I will tell you what will happen if you do these two things: you will make the positive changes in your life legitimate with others because you will be sharing what you, yourself, are learning. When you share with others what you are learning in the spirit of humility, it will cause them to see you in a new light. This will tend to break down old labels. It will literally make change legitimate in your family and professional culture. It will also enroll those with whom you share and discuss your learnings to become part of your support team. One of the things that we’ve learned in the field of personal change is that a nurturing support team is almost essential, particularly if you seek change that is real and sustainable.
To learn and not to do is really not to learn.To know and not to do is really not to know. As you come to understand and then share this material with others—not with the intent of shaping them up, but with the intent to sincerely share what you, yourself, are genuinely learn- ing—you will be on your way in all four of these areas, particularly if you make internal commitments and begin making the necessary changes. If you “fall off the wagon” from time to time, reread the last chapter on wisdom and get inspired by the various ideas and quotes. You might also go back to the first two chapters so that you have a burning sense of purpose and fire that come from understanding the “why” of things.
Even though I have worked with the Merrills for over 20 years and have seen them in many different contexts, I was both surprised and delighted with all of their new material, new insights, and new learnings. Seriously, this is profound stuff. It is deep and enormously practical.
This material is anything but trite, success-formula blather. You will discover fresh new angles in every subject. Look for them.You will see the larger context given and principles introduced before the practical side is approached. Illustrations are abundant. The reading flows.
How many couples do you know that could synergistically produce such a magnificent book? Synergy means “one plus one equals three or more.” In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This book is a synergistic product wherein the differences between Roger and Rebecca become strengths. The fruit of their synergy will enable people in all situations and walks of life to identify with practical common sense in the four fields of work, family, time, and money. The significance of this approach? Common sense is not common practice.
But it could be.
Stephen R. Covey