I never met Stephen Covey personally, although he certainly became an influence in my life. The first time I saw him was at one of his seminars. I hadn't even (for shame!) read one of his books yet. The second time was at a movie.
The seminar was about twenty years ago, and was a requirement of my job at the time. Covey came to town to talk about his book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and when I first heard that we were required to attend I was less than thrilled.
My office at the time ran amuck with managers who liked to spit out phrases like, "Let's work smarter, not harder" and "find the synergy" without any practical application behind them. They also talked about Covey, and for that reason I expected the man to be filled with useless phrases that cluttered your mind but remained ineffective for any recognizable change in your life.
Boy, was I wrong.
First, let's talk about logistics here: that voice. It was deep and meaningful and commanded you to pay attention. His talk was peppered with personal stories and business tips that would change the way I approached life.
Typically at seminars I daydream. Not so with Covey in front of you. He asked you to absorb each point in a way that allowed you to teach it to someone else. Think about how different that is from most seminars, where you sit numbly for hours listening to one speaker drone on and on.
Even today, I use that tactic when learning new information. I take in things as if I'm required to go back to my friends or coworkers and teach it so they understand. Just a few weeks ago, I talked about this concept with a writer friend of mine. It has stayed with me for twenty years, and my learning process has evolved because of it.
Covey was also very funny in person. He cracked jokes with that deep, commanding voice of his. One of them: "When I'm running late to the airport I don't stress. I have an agreement with the airlines that if I'm late they should just go ahead and take off without me."
Even his jokes have stayed in my mind.
The second time I saw Mr. Covey was several years later. I had taken a girl's trip up to the Mall of America. Shopping isn't my thing, so to console me after a long (long!) day of marching behind my gal pals as they looked endlessly at clothes and jewelry and shoes, one of my friends agreed to go see a movie with me.
We chose Return to Me. The movie stars Minnie Driver and David Duchovny, and if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it. Covey sat behind us, and that voice again commanded my attention as he laughed and whispered to the people he was with.
I kept saying to my girlfriend, "That's Stephen Covey. Can you believe it?" I couldn't focus. Finally she suggested I say hello to him. But that's such a silly, fan-like thing to do, right? Except, now... I wish I had. Instead, I'll take his advice and teach the things I learned from his work. RIP, Mr. Covey.
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