Gandhi’s Lesson in Creative Cooperation

This is the sixth blog post in a weekly series on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

(This 7-part series is done in honor of author Stephen Covey who passed away this summer at the age of 79 due to complications from a cycling injury)

Today’s post is based on the Habit of Creative Cooperation, and that is to Synergize.

Synergize means to value and celebrate differences to develop better solutions.

When you seek different perspectives openly, you become a more effective leader.


The following story about Gandhi provides a memorable example for us all.

(Source: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey)


There was a six-year old boy living in the same Indian community as Mahatma Gandhi.

This boy had a very strong sweet tooth.  He couldn’t resist sugar.

Because he was diabetic, the sugar created painful boils all over his body.

His parents took him to the doctor, who said the boy must avoid all sweets; otherwise, the ailment would not go away.

The parents nagged the boy every day to stop eating sugar, but this was a challenge the boy wasn’t willing to overcome.

In desperation, the boy’s mother came to Gandhi and asked if he could please convince her boy not to eat sweets.

Gandhi said, “Come back in 15 days and I’ll speak to him then.”

So the mother came back after 15 days.

Gandhi took her son aside and spoke to him for a few minutes.

The boy went home and immediately gave up sweets.

The mother was puzzled.

She asked Gandhi later, “Why did you ask us to come back after 15 days? And what miracle did you perform to get my son to quit eating sweets?”

Gandhi replied that it wasn’t a miracle.

Said Gandhi, “When your boy first came to me, I too had been eating sugar.”

He had told the boy that he couldn’t ask him to do something he, Gandhi, wasn’t willing to do himself.


What is your reaction to this memorable story?

What advice or experience do you have for creative cooperation?


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About the Author

Brent Peterson, PMP, MS, MBA, is the creator of Interview Angel, a comprehensive guide and toolkit for job seekers to use in interviews.

Brent’s first customer was a father who purchased Interview Angel as a graduation gift for his daughter.  Since then, clients have included government workforce centers, university programs, and Goodwill Industries.  The product has also been used as an affordable outplacement solution for businesses going through layoffs.

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