A quick summary of the habits:
1) Be Proactive - accept that while you can't control what happens to you, you can always control how you respond
2) Begin with the End in Mind - imagine what you'd like people to say about you at your funeral, live each day with that vision of your best self in mind
3) First things First - don't let the urgent take precedence over the important - make sure you devot time/energy to your highest priorities
4) Understand before Seeking to Be Understood - make sure you really listen to others, reflect what you hear, before trying to tell them anything
5) Think Win-Win - life works better when you don't see things as a battle, but as an opportunity to allow both/all parties to succeed
6) Synergy - ok, this was a little vague, but basically by working together you can achieve more
7) Sharpen the Saw - make sure to take time to renew yourself - exercise, sleep, recharge, learn new things, and keep yourself operating at the highest levels.
RIP Stephen. Tremendous respect for what you've embodied.
Based on the reaction to his death here on HN however I'll give it a shot.
There are two other excellent "self-help" books that should be part of everyone's bookshelf. They are:
* "Getting to Yes" which I think is the greatest book on negotiation. "How to deal"
* "Sources of Power" by Gary Kline talks about how people make decisions. "How to decide"
Give me these four books, and a firm place to stand, and I will move the world.
I'm pretty please with the impact I'm having on the world.
My lack of formatting skill makes it look like there are four books instead of two.
As a result, most of the things it talks about are common parlance these days, because the people who read it 20 years ago have internalized it, remixed what they learned, mentored others, and otherwise disseminated its gems. That said, it remains on my list of books to generically recommend to anyone.
But I certainly agree that 7 Habits is an excellent book.
This thread is affected by the Michael Jackson effect. I would get my reading advice from a less biased one.
I use an Alfred plugin (http://trepmal.com/alfredapp/random-password/) to generate logins.
I also just finished "It's Okay To Be The Boss" (different author)... I think one of the main takeaways from both books is: Focus. You need to focus and think about what you are trying to accomplish and manage yourself and others properly and proactively.
The principles are obvious, and Covey states this in his appendix of the Kindle edition. He claims credit only for packaging them in an accessible way.
7 Habits was effective for me because I answered the questions it posed throughout the text. The book presented a self-evident principle, such as "Put First Things First", then forced me to consider a dozen ways I could implement it. Then, all the positive effects those implementations would bring. I would try to put one of these ideas into practice each day I read. Repeat for 6 more principles.
I put in a good deal of effort and got out a framework that slowly increased my output at work, my understanding at home, and my patience under stress.
No road to Damascus here, just compounding interest over the months since I finished the book. I recommend it based on that.
By the time most people get to 25, this is mind-blowingly obvious. Yet for me it was profound...
ADDED: I remember feeling compelled to get out a highlighter while reading both of these books (so many gems). Unfortunately, they're in storage, so won't be able to share the things that really stood out. However, there are excellent summaries of both books online if anyone is interested.
In either case, it's likely that "highly effective people" will have acquired a number of different habits...but maybe our grandchildren will find interest in the comparison.
The best tools and information don't always cost money, but sometimes they do.
OR, for free, at your local public library 
It's not free.
It's a copy that you and others in your area had purchased for you, by your local library, with money collected through the tax mechanism.
Yes, technically someone - whether a donor or taxpayers - had to buy the book, construct the building, fund ongoing operations, and so on. But any of your tax money that you might have paid for this is a sunk cost - there's no additional user fee you pay in order to take out Seven Habits (or any other book).
No taxes involved.
His association with Darl McBride (of SCO vs. IBM lawsuit fame) doesn't particularly impress me either, in the "judge 'em by the company they keep" sense. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darl_McBride
Covey took an obscure term from psychology and rather utterly changed its meaning. "Responsive" or "anticipatory" work fine. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/proactive
Covey's book is decent. It's by no means the best. The truths it speaks are pretty obvious.
And I suppose this is my own take to his principle #2.
Think of all the simple and obvious things we read, write and discuss every day: "find customers before building a product", "don't solve problems you don't have yet", "write tests first before writing code".
These are all "simple and obvious" but you couldn't possibly derive any value from reading only those statements without any discussion or analysis of what they really mean.
Likewise, if we take the stuff Covey says about being "principle centred". Reduced to it's simplest summary this says "base your character on unchanging principles to avoid fluctuations". So simple it's basically axiomatic: of course if you base something on an unchanging foundation, it will be less subject to change than if you didn't.
But without his discussion about what the other options are, what it means to be centred in money, self, family, work etc. you don't have a good enough reference point to judge what action you would need to take in order to change your attitude, behaviour or character.
I think most great truths are like that. The Golden Rule is a good example.
First off, I'd suggest buying "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People", and NOT read it. Burn it, it's a great symbolic gesture. 
After that I read the book and it's actually not that bad. It helps.
Incidentally if you read the GNU coding standards I think you'll find they really ARE that bad (http://www.gnu.org/prep/standards/html_node/Formatting.html#...)
Holy crap. Function calls with a space? foo (x,y);
Braces indented halfway into the "else" keyword? Ugh. I'm no C guru but even has a freshman cs major I'd recognize that as ugly.
I am saddened by this news and will surely take some time today to reflect on the lessons I have taken from his work.
It's funny how it seems obvious when you read it, but sometimes we need someone else to summarize and restate the obvious to look at it clearly and objectively.
Covey's anecdotes seal the deal: instead of vague platitudes he gives specific (if idealized) examples. Definitely unscientific, but certainly helps understand.
This brings to mind one of my favorite Covey quotes:
"What is common sense is not always common practice."
One thing I'll say though is that this is how I want to die-- Biking steep roads in the foothills, living to the fullest regardless of age, and then be comforted in the end by my children and their families.
This man died well.
Sorry to hear, it's a great book.
Still, the Carnegie book is great.
Since I first read it 10 years ago, I kept calling the 7 habits my "bible" (I am not religious). Every sentence of the book teaches you something new. Each time you read the book, you learn something you.
This book had such a big impact on my personality that I can't recommend it enough.
I even developed a Time Management tool based on his habit 3 First Things First: http://weekplan.net
Stephen, I wish I had attended one of your seminars. I regret I haven't.
She finally started to read it under advice from a mentor, and it is really having an impact on her effectiveness.
It was just yesterday we were discussing some of the points of 7 habits over wine.
RIP Stephen. I will remember to "Sharpen the saw".
Good reading for just about anyone.
One of the best things about his work is that it focused on deep change and fundamental principles and values, not quick-fixes. He never promised that self-improvement or improving your relationships with others was easy, but he did show many people a way that worked well.
Same here. My crash was hard enough it cracked the helmet I was wearing and knocked me unconscious as it was. If I'd been going sans helmet, I doubt I'd be here writing this message now. :-(
Though the importance of your PSA still stands.
Doctors are wary of operating on the elderly under the best conditions.