It was with sadness that I recently read about the death of Stephen Covey. As my regular readers will know, I have a great deal of admiration for the man and his work, and he exercised a strong influence on my own thinking. BBC News reported that he died as a result of complications, following a bicycle accident, on July 16th, aged 79 years old.
Stephen will probably be best remembered for his landmark book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; a book that I have always recommended to attendees at my workshops. It is not a book to read, but a book to study. I personally have three copies of it – I have it in paperback, on tape (yes tape) and on CD. I would often listen to that book, and his other books too, as I drove to clients and today, after … oh, it must be about 15 years or so, I am still working on those habits.
I can vividly remember him suggesting an exercise, taken from his book on The 7 Habits, in which he encouraged people to think about their own death. He asked people to think about who would be present; family, extended family, friends, professional contacts and so on. He suggested that there would be three speakers: one from your family, one from your profession, one from your church or social network.
“Think deeply about these things” he said, “and then write the eulogies!”
It was an exercise related to habit #2 – Begin with the End in Mind. Although, I actually taught The 7 Habits as part of my management course, I could never quite bring myself to ask people to perform that particular exercise. But it would be an exercise he would, no doubt, have completed himself.
It would be very interesting to have heard the actual eulogies of his life from those sources. His achievements might well have outstripped those his imagination had been able to produce. A professor at Jon M. Huntsman School of Business (Utah State University) when he died, Covey’s academic achievements included:
A Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Utah, an MBA from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Religious Education (DRE) from Brigham Young University. He was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. He was awarded ten honorary doctorates. – Wikipedia
At one time (in a presentation about The 8th Habit) I can remember he said that his own Grandfather (Stephen L Richards) had given him what he considered to be a part of his own mission:
Life is a mission and not a career, and the purpose of all our education and knowledge is so that we can better represent him and serve that mission of life in His name and toward His purposes. – The 8th Habit
And, reaching down my copy of The 8th Habit from my bookcase, I see those are also the words he had used to conclude that book. Dr Stephen R Covey (The ‘R’ is for Richards – his Gradfather’s name) has completed the race but not before handing the batton to the next generation.
Today we pay trubute to Stephen Covey who lived a full and complete life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia