Anyone who wonders whether one person can have much effect on the world ought to study the life of Stephen R. Covey. The Utah-born author, scholar, motivational speaker and father died this week from complications of a bicycle accident earlier this year. He left this earth having improved the lives of many, and his legacy will undoubtedly continue to improve lives for many years to come.
Lots of people author best-selling books. Covey's famous, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," however, changed the way millions of people think of themselves. He didn't just instruct, he changed people. He laid out, in simple terms, keys people can use to take control of their lives and succeed. He helped readers prioritize their lives and the ways they work.
Covey would be the first to acknowledge his ideas were not all original. As a scholar, he researched great thinkers throughout history on the subjects of leadership and productive habits, bringing old ideas back into the forefront. But it takes a certain amount of genius to assemble the thinking of great minds and process the best of what they had to offer in terms that make sense and are marketable to a modern world. Many scholars conduct research, but brilliance lies in the ability to effectively communicate what is found. His "7 Habits" book, published in 1989, sold more than 20 million copies in at least 38 different languages. It launched a business empire with headquarters here in Utah, and it became required reading for employees in many businesses.
Perhaps the biggest key to the book's success was that Covey himself believed in and followed its advice. Among the many condolences and fond memories offered at Covey's passing, the most powerful were the personal testimonials as to how he conducted his own life. Warren Tate of Holladay was among those who spoke of Covey's own habits. Tate, who served as a missionary under Covey's leadership as mission president, told the Deseret News, "Everything he said and taught, he has lived. ... He has never disappointed me. ... His life has been in absolute congruity with what he has taught."
Author, speaker, consultant to Fortune 500 companies and political leaders, and business entrepreneur — all are titles Covey held and mastered. But father must also be added to the list. Covey's own formula for effective conduct helped give him the precious time he needed with his own children and grandchildren. His son Sean said Covey's greatest legacy is rooted in his family, which speaks volumes as to the things he valued most.
Covey is one of Utah's greatest sons, and he will not soon be forgotten.