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Words from Winterbilt

The habits of Highly Unsuccessful People

Shannon Bohrer

A while ago there was a very popular book, The 7 Habits of effective People, which I read and very much enjoyed. The author; Dr. Stephen Covey, made appearances around the country and I considered myself very fortunate to attend one of his presentations. During the presentation Dr. Covey asked the audience questions about themselves and their bosses. When he asked how many people felt their boss should be at the presentation for the purpose of learning, I raised my hand. The gentleman sitting to my left gave me a queer glance and I half lowered my hand. The gentleman to my left was my boss. At break my boss went into the lobby. He never asked me if I wanted anything, he just got up and left. He did not talk to me the rest of the day?

After reading the book and attending the lecture I came to the conclusion that I should write my own book. There are literally hundreds of books on self improvement, management and supervision. The problem from my perspective was that all of the good material had been taken. But then I started to think about the opposite habits of the good habits, hence the title of this paper is the title of a book that I have been writing. I started with "The 7 habits of highly unsuccessful government employees" Then I changed it to the "The 11 habits of highly unsuccessful government managers" then "The 16 habits of highly unsuccessful people" then "The many habits of unsuccessful people" and then "The habits of dumb people." I have still not settled on the final title. I have not written very much since I have been busy working on the title.

I have been involved with this project for some time by way of collecting a large volume of reference materials'. The reference materials are easy to find. News papers and the internet provide a substantial volume of material on the business and political events of our time. If I already had the book written with our current economic and political environment it could be a best seller. There are so many examples of poor behavior that I briefly considered changing the title to "Examples of Poor Behavior." When my wife saw that title she commented "I thought you were writing a book about other people." She has such a sense of humor.

One of the very first pieces of reference materials that I collected was the story of a CEO of a large company. The individual has a salary of 100 million dollars a year. Not 1, not 10, not 50, but 100 Million! You would think that this individual had to be very smart to climb the corporate ladder and deserve a salary of $100 Million. Well if he was smart, when he got to the top - he took a dumb pill. The individual bought art work, a yacht, decorated his home(s) and paid for a birthday party - with company funds! He was convicted of defrauding the company and went to jail. 100 million a year is really good money, I would think he could afford to purchase what he wanted out of his own salary. My problem with this example is what bad habit should I attribute to his dumbness? Is dumbness a habit?

Another example involved a CEO who started his own telecommunications company (in the south). Over the period of several years the company grew, went public, and made the CEO very rich. If he retired at that time, lived for 50 more years and spend several million a year, he would not have run out of money. Well, that was not good enough so he started borrowing money from the company, which was now public owed, to purchase land. Further it appeared that he was not going to pay the money back. Well the justice department does work, he was arrested, convicted and went to jail. Is this another case of Dumb?

It is easy for the average person to view and examine behavior like this and say "What was he thinking"? When the average Joe, or Jane, hears of millionaires that steal it becomes difficult to understand and/or explain. Maybe these individuals started as smart people after all they did rise to the top, but then became dumb at the top? Of course a problem for me is to convince people that dumb is a habit. If I can do that then it won't take long to finish the book.

A recent example of poor behavior is the politician that was convicted of taking bribes. The FBI films a congress person physically taking money. Later, with a search warrant THE FBI recovers the money in the congressman's home freezer. I wonder if the term "Cold Cash" was coined by congress. The congressman has been convicted and awaiting sentencing. I find it shocking that one of our representatives in congress was dishonest.

Why would seemingly smart people be so dumb? The news reports often say something like "The individual succumbed to greed" as if greed was always there, just under the skin waiting to take hold of the individual. Is that possible? My theory is that everyday people understand common sense. If you work for money to feed and clothe your family, you understand the value of money. Apparently some very smart people (at least they were smart) after being very successful sometimes lose their common sense. I call this "Inflationary Importance of Self". My definition of the term is that the individual believes they are so important they can do anything they like. Additionally, individuals suffering from this "Habit" (do you like how I worked that in) feel no obligation to the others around them. How else could you describe the actions of Bernie Madoff?

"Oh, I don't blame congress. If I had $600 billion at my disposal, I'd be

irresponsible, too." Lichty and Wagner

There are people that don't mind spending other people's money, and not always for the benefit of either one. Of course if that was the definition then we could just call it the congress illness. I have not made much progress on my book but I have made progress on the title. The progress includes all of the titles that I don't like. My wife thinks I should add a chapter on procrastination. I think that would be good but I have to give more thought.

My boss, who was with me at the lecture, he was later fired. I don't know why.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer