Thank you, Stephen Covey.

Sometimes, books come into your life at just the right moment and make a significant difference that lasts for years.  You may or may not be able to explain why it was so.  Whatever the reason, they just affect you more profoundly than the average book.

Today, I heard the news that Stephen R. Covey passed away.  As I paused to reflect on his works, I realized that his famous book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, was one of those landmark texts for me.  A quick scan of the contents reminded me of the impact and the number of “sticky” concepts put forth. Even if you’ve grown tired of the terminology (due to the success of the book), I think you’ll still admit that it’s good content.  I’m not going to list them all, but these stood out to me today:

“Begin with the End in Mind”-

Just yesterday, I spoke with a man who was pitching an idea for a new initiative.  One of my questions to him was, “If you do this and you accomplish what you want to accomplish, what will you have done?”  I used different words, but I was saying to him, “Begin with the End in Mind” (think about what you are trying to accomplish, then back up and figure out what has to be done to get there.)

“Put First Things First”-

If we don’t make time for the most important things, everything else will choke them out. (Remember the Big Rocks illustration?)

“Think Win-Win”-

Many people only see polarized positions.  Either this or that.  This leads to fighting and not much accomplishment.  “Thinking Win-Win” means you seek to find a third alternative that works for everyone.

“Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”-

Instead of just thinking about what we’re going to say next, we should really listen to what people are saying to us.  And, not just what they are saying, but what they are NOT saying…and why they are or aren’t saying it.  If we really seek to understand the other person’s perspective, we’ll come to find out that people aren’t near as nasty as we thought they were. This kind of understanding fosters mutual concern and good problem solving.

Stephen Covey was also the first person that I heard speak about an abundance mentality (vs. a scarcity mentality).  An abundance mindset says that there are enough resources and successes available to share with others.  The scarcity mindset says “get what you can, because there’s only so much” and leads to destructive and unnecessary competition.

I also benefited greatly from his efforts in Time & Life Management.  The Franklin Planner and corresponding system served me well for about a decade! (I even worked as a Productivity Consultant for FranklinCovey for a while.)

I’m saddened at the passing of this life.  I wish the best for his family and friends who are currently grieving.

A friend of mine recently reminded us to publicly appreciate what others have done.  So, today, I’ll be grateful for his contribution.  And, hopefully, my life will also be one that continues to seek truth and pass it on, investing in other people as he did.

Thank you, Mr. Covey.