When business guru John Hamm came to San Quentin in early January, it wasn’t his first time at this historic land- mark. Hamm is a huge fan of the entrepreneurial program, The Last Mile (TLM). He believes that it is one of the best chances for inmates to succeed, once paroled.
Hamm was at San Quentin to lecture TLM students enrolled in its computer coding program, called Code 7370. He’s given the same lecture about staying focused and path-finding countless times to CEOs and other business executives.
Hamm stood in front of a white board where he’d listed the habits of highly effective people no matter where they are — prison or free.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey is a guide for better living. It took me a weekend to digest the book that in more than two decades has sold in the over 25 million copies worldwide. The book is well organized and written in accessible language that stuck with me – it might stick with you too, pushing you to live a principle-centered life.
Hamm tells the students that the first order of business is to take charge of their lives.
“You get to choose how you feel and how to react to what happens to you.”
Hamm explained that not reacting to everything that happens, means being proactive. “How many times have you said, ‘I wish I didn’t say that?”
Hamm pointed out that choice is both easy and hard at the same time.
“There’s no need to say something immediately. You can drive a Ferrari 30 miles an hour,” Hamm said. “These kinds of people are elegant. They are thoughtful. There’s a mastery of this kind of proactivity.”
Hamm told the students that understanding why the habits in the book are important and then living by them is especially challenging for incarcerated people.
“That’s why I have such high regard for you guys. You are in here, planning your lives outside of this place.”
In the outside world, he said, there are not the chronic situations of control and lack of choice as found in prisons. He described prison as the ultimate place of patience: “At the end of the day, we only control ourselves.”
Hamm stressed the importance of team building. Effective people develop the habit of keeping the end goals in mind when thinking and planning, which can’t be done single-handedly.
To make “it” happen, the book includes phrases like “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” which requires “empathic listening,” and “independence to be interdependent.” He suggests living by the “Win-Win or No Deal” philosophy for success.
Readers also learn the need to have good relationships and to value them.
Central to the book’s teachings is knowing your personal values and principles. These help to set priorities, essential in determining what needs to be done and what should be done.
The lessons worked for me. After the two-day class ended, I felt energized and ready to be more effective in my everyday life.