The keyword here is ‘Principles’ 

‘Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results’  -  James Allen

Chapter Objective

To show how we will construct this course by focusing initially on self-mastery, moving through development of good habits before improving our relationships. 

This course is about breaking down all the obvious notions and statements to the point that we really understand them, so let’s start with the title page

Why Masterclass? 

Firstly, it was based on an invitation James received some years back to address a management team on a subject of his choice, and he chose the Management Training Imperative For Africa starting with personal effectiveness – they called these ad hoc lectures the masterclass series, and so we kept the theme and the name.  

The second and more important reason is that this course is a synthesis of some of the best global thinkers and characters over the last 2 millennia. From Aristotle and Lao Tsu two thousand years ago to the Dalai Lama and Bill Gates in more recent times, and everyone in between – these are the real masters.  You will see the quote below from a Japanese philosopher: 

We seek not to imitate the masters, rather we seek what they sought

In other words, we simply need to be inspired by what inspired them.  This is an important distinction, because there will be a huge amount of valuable information to absorb on this course.  For you to get the most out of this course, you need to have that lightbulb moment, epiphany or inspiration - only then will you get the traction and commitment needed to turn a good idea into a decision, plan and habit.

Why Self Efficacy or Personal Development?

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This course is about traversing two key stairways - the personal journey from self awareness, through self-regulation, all the way to self drive and confidence, and then to add to this the stages of improved effectiveness.  The combination is powerful and culminates in self efficacy, or the belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or to accomplish a planned task.  Self efficacy tends to epitomise the achievers, accomplishers and those most likely to succeed more often than others.  This course is about improving your personal effectiveness – this requires a mindset that accepts that you want to grow, to develop and to excel, not versus others, but against your own potential and expectations. 

The introductory lecture shows how we will create the structure of this course, as summarized in the chart below: 

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The basis of this course is to establish a process whereby you are shown that you actually have more control than you believe you have over every aspect of your life.  In realising this fact, this will be the trigger for discovering ways of improving your life satisfaction, and in turn will allow you to become a better person by sticking closer to your core values.  The end goal of this course is to provide you with the tools to become a more effective individual in everything you do, both at home, in your communities and in the workplace.  

There are five key themes that underpin this course: 

  1. Choice
  2. Principle of Character 
  3. Maturity Continuum
  4. Habits
  5. Self Renewal

5 Key Course Themes


At the core of the course is the premise that you have four critical choices to make every day in every circumstance:

  1. The choice of how to respond: to an event, circumstance or thought
  2. The choice to act: will you act upon life or will you merely be acted upon? At the end of each day, do your actions provide the answers needed to overcome a challenge
  3. The choice of principle: How will you respond or act? The power of positivity alone is not enough, you need to enjoy a life rich in meaning and progress – this comes as you live in harmony with universal and timeless principles.  These are specific natural laws, much the same as pilots live by the four principles of flight that you cannot ignore (gravity, lift, thrust and drag) or farmers who know that you can only harvest what you sew or engineers who know you cannot overturn the laws of physics and opposing forces
  4. The choice of purpose: Why you will respond or act and for what meaning?  Have you made the right choices? Choices with value to yourself or to others? To what end or purposes will your daily choices lead? Do you just want to be busy, or do you want to be busy pursuing worthwhile purposes?  ‘What’ or ‘who’ will be your  guide.


Every life situation and business needs to be based on timeless values and principles, as someone quoted:

‘There is no real excellence in this world which can be separated from right living’

 To better understand the difference between principles and values:

  • Principles are natural laws that are external to us and ultimately control the consequences of our actions.   These natural laws are based on timeless principles, e.g. building character; be true to who you are; stop complaining about your problems and work on them instead; be proactive and stop waiting for others around you to do something and take action yourself.  Central to all of this is that the principle of character underpins all things.  Since no one is born with good or bad character, it makes sense that it can be developed if one is prepared to work on it
  • Values are internal and subjective and represent that which we feel strongest about in guiding our behaviour, e.g. humility is the mother of all virtues.  Continually trying to live what we teach, i.e. integrity is one of our most fundamental values

To weld the concepts - we must value principles to get results, notably the principle that character is at the heart of all things, where character is the sum of all your values and traits – this is the definition of lasting effectiveness.  The thrust of this Masterclass is not to teach any tricks of the trade or quick personality wins, but position you in the right framework of existence to allow you to become a consistently better and more effective person.  In other words, success based on strength of character.

We never master life’s principles. The more we know, the more we know that we don’t know.  First build a core of principles that are unchangeable and provide a relentless quest for improvement and continuous self-renewal.  All of these principles will come out in the lives of our children, our family members, communities and workplace, so we must start applying what we know.

‘To learn and not to do is not to learn, to know and not to do is not to know.


This Masterclass takes you through the steps that allow you to move and prosper through a character progression from:

  • Dependence, where the focus is on YOU – you care, you blame, you need help 
  • Independence, where the focus is on I – I am self-reliant, I choose, I am responsible
  • Interdependence, where the focus is on WE – we cooperate, we create together

The ultimate goal at the end of the course is to reach a level of confidence and existence in interdependence, but realising that effective interdependence is only a choice that independent people can make. Independence is itself an achievement and only such people have the habits that are needed for interdependence - courage, confidence, integrity.  Everything around us is about interdependence – nature, society, business, family, life, so we need to master this dimension.

We will embark on a journey to reach effective interdependence – you cannot be successful with other people if you haven’t achieved success yourself.  The first part of the course is therefore focused on self-mastery – ensuring that you fully understand yourself, you know what guides you, you have opted to be responsible for your own life and have the tools to manage this - real self-respect comes from dominion over oneself.  For those who have overcome adversity, these experiences cause us to reach a little higher, dig a little deeper and appreciate the fruits of self-mastery.


Whatever it is you want to improve, you will only get there if you change yourself first, by developing better habits.  The path of this Masterclass is therefore to build up the habits to be highly effective.  Many of the concepts are synthetized from Stephen Covey’s work on the same subject – the ‘’Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’’.  As with much of this course, the principles are timeless.  Aristotle mused that: 

‘Some thinkers hold that it is by nature that people become good, others that it is by habit, and yet others by instruction’

Although Aristotle himself backed habits, this course covers nature (character), habits and instruction.  William James in The Principles of Psychology in 1892 went one stage further - all life is a mass of habits and most of the choices we make each day may feel like considered decisions, but are in fact habits. 

Habits are like natural laws – just sewn together – synthesized, creating a user interface – a coherent conceptual framework – the standard operating system for personal effectiveness. The science of developing, sustaining and compounding habits, including the important habit of regular meditation or intense concentration are covered in detail on this course.


Balance between body, mind, heart and spirit.  You are your most important asset, but you must preserve and renew yourself continually for long term effectiveness. 

In the professional sense of the term FINDING BALANCE, every situation you are confronted with will need to optimally balance the product (P) or service that you are trying to deliver or produce and the production capacity (PC) or source of that product/service.  We will refer to this P/PC balance throughout the course.  Some examples of P/PC include: 

  • The parable of the hen that laid the golden egg – the owner became impatient waiting for a single golden egg each day that he tried to accelerate his wealth creation and killed the hen to extract more eggs – the end result: no more golden eggs (product) and no laying hen (productive capacity)  
  • Another example may be a new generator that is run down without oil change and servicing and finally ceases: no production (P= electricity) and now no machine (PC).
  • The most important asset in this programme is you – this course is about optimizing your delivery (P) whilst preserving you as an individual (PC)   

You will see that each of these themes blend together, e.g. in an independent situation, every P is a problem and every PC is an opportunity.  All the habits of effectiveness that we will cover in optimizing the P/PC balance look critically at current production and the capacity of renewal of production with physical, financial and human assets.  Why do some people thrive in chaos – they preserve the core and stimulate progress – this keeps a person and company vibrant.  PC is a balance between the short and the long term - it is the very essence of effectiveness.



Our application of the above principles is to use a standard approach in each lecture/chapter:

  • Provides the theme of the chapter - key objectives and conclusions
  • Identify the theme with a core value – there are over 100 values and key words highlighted in red throughout the text and you can refer to their definition and some examples of their use in Appendix A or by clicking on the word in red
  • A quotation which I believe encapsulates the chapter in a concise and illuminating way – the beauty of this course and this approach is that I and you can call on millennia of the most upstanding and effective individuals and some of the best minds of all time – what better way to capture timeless principles and values than being inspired by them
  • There is access to the accompanying lecture video on the chapter
  • Reference to other literature where relevant without choking you with too many different approaches and views – the idea of this course is that it synthesizes all these other works saving you time from delving into the 35 different texts and copious additional articles synthesised here (Appendix B)
  • Exercises (in green) in each section to allow you to test the concepts and better know yourself.  Each section starts off with a chapter objective and ends with a chapter conclusion before the exercises
  • A blog section to ask any questions or raise any issues, notably on the five issues that are not covered in this approach – language differences and interpretations, cultural norms which clash with adopted principles, alignment or not to religious beliefs and practices and the ever-present issue of political sensitivity and gender balance 


This is not a test - this course is about you against your own potential and expectations.  Here are some pointers on how to maximise the course:

  • You need to be inspired by aspects of the course and then take ownership of this inspiration, so find lightbulb moments that trigger a reaction and work on these
  • Breakdown and understand each concept until you really understand it and can explain it to others
  • Adapt the material and develop your own mini-course for family or work colleagues - the best way to learn is to teach
  • The classic still holds - what you put in is what you get out, so Invest the time and effort to reap the rewards - this is your life we are talking about - surely it is worth the investment
  • The course provides the road map and many  tools, but at the end of the day, you are the driver - it starts with you
  • There is no finishing line - this course is about continual development - this is just the starting line

Chapter Conclusion

I understand the structure of this personal effectiveness course and will endeavour to conceptualise my own view/framework of this course structure 


Have a look through the list of highlighted red value and principle words in the main text and provide the closest Shona or your own language word (if not English) to reflect this meaning with as much additional commentary as needed.  For each word, offer any insight on either cultural or religious aspects that could affect your considerations on this value: