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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thank You, Stephen

I don't remember how or where I got my first copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I no longer have my original highlighted, dog eared copy.  I hope whomever I loaned it to loved it and used it and passed it on.  It seems strange not to be able to trace back something that was so life elevating.  I picture those life altering events to be memorable, "scrapbookable".

I was in my mid twenties with real life just starting.  I'd grown up with such confidence; fear and longing weren't really a part of my day to day thoughts.  I just lived, one job at a time, one relationship at a time with everything going pretty well.  Then I found the 7 Habits.  It was a like the menu to a success I had never really considered before.  Thinking about what I wanted, planning it out, strengthening my relationships.  It worked.    Jobs turned into careers, careers turned into management positions and management positions turned into a life I'm not sure I could have dreamed up on my own.

I know in my very core that I can't remember how I acquired my first 7 Habits book because I didn't find it, it found me.  God put it in my hands.

Ten years later I would find myself interviewing for a company called FranklinCovey.  I knew it was involved with The 7 Habits book but I didn't have much understanding about what they did past that.  I was drawn in by my love for these habits and their profound impact on my life.  Another Divine intervention to land me a career I hadn't ever planned for that would be my biggest blessing after my husband and kids.  In fact, without my connection to Dr. Covey's work and the FranklinCovey company, I'm not sure I could have grown into this marriage and raised these kids.  I've been blessed beyond measure.

I remember my first trip with a colleague to visit what would become my FranklinCovey family, my clients. In my beautiful new planner there was a stack of business cards with my name beside the name FranklinCovey.  I sat a little taller, planned a whole lot better, and smiled at my good fortune.  My life had been changed and now I was to be paid to pay it forward.  Pinch me.

The first time I met Dr. Stephen R. Covey, I was nervous with anticipation.  He was my hero.  We were at a conference and I was trying to play it cool but inside I was giddy.  He was in that first meeting, what I grew to rely on for our future meetings; warm, present and genuine.

Over time my career thrived and my opportunities to interact with Dr. Covey increased. During a large event, we gathered backstage to prepare and my husband joined me.  Dr. Covey stopped his conversation with another and greeted my husband with a warm handshake and embrace. He looked him in the eye and said, "Are you taking good care of her?  We need her in this company and we need your family to be strong."  My husband stood a little taller taking the challenge to lead our family. Stephen had that impact on you.  You wanted to rise to the occasion.  He asked if we had our family mission statement crafted and were prepared to weather the storms ahead.  Our marriage had been facing some storms.  He was a prophetic man, able to feel your need and invite himself in to help with genuine concern. We took that small exchange and kicked it up a notch to work on winning at home as much as we were winning in our careers.  That's the biggest blessing.  I'd 'been given the tools and it was up to me to choose their application.

My greatest memory with Stephen was a series of events requiring us to spend 3 days together presenting and teaching clients.  For one engagement, I was to teach The 7 Habits, followed by Dr. Covey teaching The 8th Habit. Another "pinch me" moment.  I don't remember much about that presentation except Stephen's response to me after.  "You are a teacher, Rebecca."

We left the event to ride via small private jet to our next event.   Stephen, his assistant Julie and myself.  A thrilling opportunity.  We sat in very close quarters with a chance to really connect.  He immediately was concerned for how hard Julie and I had worked that day.  "Ladies, please take your shoes off and relax, you've both worked so hard today.  What a great event you put on."  Then we laughed and joked and he told stories of his craziest moments that had me in stitches the entire ride.  Not enough people know how darned funny he was because he was so serious about his work.

I won't be attending the funeral this weekend.  I considered it of course.  Then I looked at the family responsibilities I would need to reschedule, the sadness I would feel from my daughter for leaving on another trip and I decided the best way to honor this man was to do as he told us, take care of our families, keep them strong.  Without a strong family, not much else will matter. I'll honor this man that I loved this weekend not by boarding a plane, but by staying home with my family to live the principles he taught me so well.  

I mourn the loss of this man, however, I do it with gratitude and a weighty responsibility to live what he taught me and to pass it on.  It is now up to us to carry the torch.  He lit the flame in each of us, now we must do it for another, the way he planned and taught.

Dust off that copy of 7 Habits, maybe you have the copy I loaned you 20 years ago.  Read it with fresh eyes.  My guess is your life is filled with new-found application of these timeless principles.  Read it, live it, then pass it on, just as Stephen intended.