Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, passed away this morning at age 79.
Apparently his death was due to complications from an April accident, when he lost control of his bicycle on a steep road in Utah and crashed.
I never had the chance to meet him, but I loved his books, especially the 7 Habits and First Things First.
The 7 Habits was one of the first personal development books I ever read (even though it’s often classified as a business book). I remember spotting it in a bookstore around 20 years ago and buying it when the title piqued my interest. At the time I had no idea it would become so immensely popular.
I really liked Covey’s character-based approach to personal growth, and I appreciated his distinction between correct principles (unchanging) and personal values (flexible). Being exposed to these ideas early on helped me pay attention to long-term, holistic development as opposed to a disjointed accumulation of skills and techniques.
The 7 Habits has a special place in my heart, since it’s one of the books that was influential in helping me recover from a very low point in my life. The focus on character development encouraged me to think about what kind of man I wanted to be and how certain character qualities, if I started developing them in my early 20s, would affect the way my life unfolded decade after decade. Instead of waking up wondering what mischief I would get into, I starting thinking about how I could live up to my new mission statement.
I also used the 7 habits as something of a guide when I was building my first business. I had to learn the hard way that other businesspeople don’t always “think win/win,” but as I got better at screening for like-minded people, I found as Covey did that life and business both flow more easily in high-trust cultures.
Covey left behind a fabulous legacy of contribution, influencing many individuals and businesses to think about creating mission statements, being responsible to all stakeholders, and putting first things first in their lives.
He will be missed.