The 5 Choices: A book review by Bob Morris

5 ChoicesThe 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity
Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne
Simon & Schuster (2015)

“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker

I cannot recall a prior time when it was more difficult than it is today for executives to respond effectively to challenges (i.e. the “5 Choices”) such as those that Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne examine in this book:

1. Act on what is important rather than react to what seems (but may not be) urgent
2. Go for the extraordinary results rather than settle for mediocrity
3. Allocate resources (especially time) to major rather than minor initiatives
4. Control technology rather than be controlled by it
5. Nourish your “fire” rather than become burned out

These admonitions are similar to those that Stephen Covey advocates in The 7 Habits of Effective People (1989):

1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the End in Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win-Win
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the Saw

Obviously, no list of key points — however worthy each may be — has any value unless and until there is sufficient commitment to achieving the given goals, and, sufficient resources (including talent, skills, and experience as well as funds) to do so.

Here is an especially interesting passage in Caroline Arnold’s recently published book, Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently, she recalls a turning point during her struggles to keep commitments. Years ago, after numerous struggles and frustrations, she tried something different: “I assigned myself a small but meaningful behavioral change – a [begin italics] microresolution [end italics] – and I succeeded in changing myself immediately. Yet it was only after succeeding at several microresolutions modeled on the first that I realized I had stumbled onto a method for making targeted mini-commitments that succeeded virtually every time.” She had established a new pattern of behavior, a habit. This is precisely what Aristotle has in mind when observing, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

I agree with Kogon, Merrill, and Rinne that “everyone has the capability to do extraordinary work. Everyone has the potential to go to bed at the end of each day feeling satisfied and accomplished.” Alas, many (most?) don’t, not because they can’t but because certain habitual habits inevitably result in failure. Invert the key issue in each of the 5 Choices and these habits are revealed: a focus on what seems to be urgent rather than on what is really important, being satisfied with mediocrity, wasting resources (e.g. time and energy) that are needed elsewhere, being controlled by technology (e.g. mails and text messages), and (in Jackson Browne’s words) “running on empty.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kogon, Merrill, and Rinne’s coverage:

o How Well Are You Using Your Brain? (Pages 26-29)
o How to Create Your Own Q2 Culture (51-53)
o Why Go for Extraordinary? (65-66)
o Creating Balance Among Your Roles (83-84)
o The Power of Purpose (87)
o The Big Rocks and the Gravel (94-95)
o Technology: Your Drug of Choice? (114-117)
o A Digital System (122-126)
o The 3 Master Moves (131-132)
o Master Move #1: Win Without Fighting, and, Optimizing This Move (132-138)
o Master Move #2: Turn It into What It Is, and, Optimizing This Move (139-146)
o Master Move #3: Link to Locate, and, Optimizing This Move (146-150)
o Five Drivers of Mental and Physical Energy (165-168)
o Keeping Calm When the Heat Is On (188-192)
o How to Install the 5 Choices in Your Culture (221-222)
o FranklinCovey’s Time Matrix™ (231-233)

I commend Kogon, Merrill, and Rinne on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices (in Chapters 1-5) that include “Simple Ways to Get Started” exercises to apply material covered in the given chapter and “To Sum Up” reviews of key points. These and other devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the material that is of greatest interest and value to each reader.

Obviously, a brief commentary such as mine cannot possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne provide. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of this book. The nature and extent of improvement of productivity achieved will ultimately depend, however, on how effectively the material in this book is applied.

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