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Thank you, Stephen R. Covey, Author of 7 Habits
In the Last Analysis
In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.
Stephen R. Covey (1932 - 2012)
I knew Stephen R. Covey through only one of his books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Millions of others knew him the same way, as the book was a best-seller for over 25 years, and tens of thousands knew him better than I did.
I hope many found their lives as much improved by knowing him as I did. I'm sure many did.
Stephen R. Covey's death was announced today. He was 79 years old, yet he died due to a bicycle accident. I'm glad he was still riding his bicycle, taking care of his health - sharpening the saw, as he would have said - right up to the very end.
So many great leaders and role models - from Bill Clinton to Tiger Woods to (in a much more serious way) O. J. Simpson - have not lived up to the respect we had for them due to their early successes. It is good to see a man who taught integrity and kept his integrity to the very end. For that, perhaps more than anything, thank you, Stephen R. Covey. In the last analysis, Dr. Covey, you showed that you were who you said you were. That is integrity, the highest of all human qualities.
And we have many other things to thank him for, as well.
Facing Today's Most Challenging Issues
Stephen Covey faced the most challenging issues in today's world. In his view, effectiveness was about far more than business success or personal achievement. To be effective meant, in his view, to have the desired effect. And the desired effect was to be a better person living in a way that makes the world a better place.
He also looked deeply at the difference between ways of living that are genuinely effective, and those that promise success but are superficial. He showed us the flaw of the Personality Ethic so highly touted by Norman Vincent Peale and Dr. Denis Waitley, which gave us approaches to life that failed, as we see in the case of O. J. Simpson, who overcame great difficulties as a child and was a poster-boy for these methods, but who ultimately descended into a life of crime, drugs, and a long prison sentence.
Teaching Us to Look Deeply
Stephen Covey did not do our thinking for us. Rather, he encouraged us to think for ourselves. In the opening section of 7 Habits, he takes 70 pages to teach us to think carefully about how we think. He challenges us not to look at the world through our usual lens, and not to reject that which would challenge us and make us better people. He encourages self-awareness, and teaches us how to cultivate it, saying that, for any major problem, the way we see the problem is the problem.
Dr. Covey held a Harvard MBA and a Ph.D., probably in religion. His dissertation was on the history of the American ideas of success and self-improvement. And this led to his life-work. It is rare for someone to bring a philosophical and religious perspective to business and life issues without dumping his own values and beliefs on us.
Thank you, Dr. Covey, for getting us to think without telling us what to do.
How Great is the 7 Habits?
Showing the Way, Step by Step
When I first heard the title The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, way back in 1995, I thought it was going to be some kind of results of a survey of business leaders. I did not expect - but was glad to get - a deeply thoughtful step-by-step guide to leading a rich and successful life.
The 7Habits are not seven rote, linear steps like driving directions. Rather, each is a deep way of looking at life and acting in life that enriches us and everyone around us. And, while they can be learned and practiced in order, they can also be used singly. Each one nourishes and deepens the others.
In honor of Stephen R. Covey's generous life, I've written an overview the Seven Habits based on my own life with them, and a series of seven articles, one on each habit of effectiveness. These articles do not replace his rich and deep book. For some, I hope they will be an introduction to that very important work. They also reflect my own 17 years of deeply lived experience learning and cultivating the 7 Habits.
Thank you, Dr. Covey, for helping me learn to be a better person!