The book talks about a set of habits which differentiates successful people from the normal. It criticizes [recently popular] personality ethic which it terms as deceptive and manipulative and calls for character ethic which is a fundamental change in human character. This change must begin from inside and spreads out [inside-out] and reverse is not possible.

The book is divided into three parts

  1. Private Victory
    • Be Proactive
      focus on where you can do something (focus on circle of influence instead of circle of concern)
    • Begin with end in mind
      while starting something thinking about what to do after its attained
      (The book also talks about how most people are centered around someone/something like spouse-centered, money-centered, job-centered and suggests that being principle-centered in the highest form)
    • Put first things first
      Successful people don’t do what they like to do but what they have to do.
      The author divides all our activities into four quadrants [important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important and neither urgent nor important]. He points out that most people focus on urgent things, we should instead focus on important things]
  2. Public Victory
    • Think Win/Win
      Integrity
      Maturity
      Go away with scarcity syndrome [accept abundance mentality]
      stop thinking win/lose
    • Seek first to understand and then to be understood
      try doing empathic listening
    • Synergize
      Admire people different than you and try to understand how differences can help you both.
  3. Renewal
    • Sharpen the saw
      four dimensions of renewal – physical, mental, social/emotional, spiritual
      keep learning new skills
The book aims at providing primary skills [paradigm shift] in thinking instead of secondary skills [personality ethic].