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July 16, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, died today at age 79. According to Covey's family, the death was due to "the residual effects of a bike accident he suffered this past April." The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People has sold more than 20 million copies since its initial publication in 1989, and is one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential Business Management Books." 7 Habits popularized the concepts of "win/win," "interdependence," and "paradigm shift" in self-help and managerial vocabularies.
posted by catlet (41 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
#1: Cycling downhill at high speed in your twilight years...
posted by aeshnid at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2012


He did a pretty decent job of presenting Aristotle's ethics to a lay audience. Eudaemonia FTW!
posted by leotrotsky at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"the residual effects of a bike accident he suffered this past April."

He looked tired.
posted by hal9k at 12:23 PM on July 16, 2012


You can't ride your way out of what you've cycled yourself into.
posted by godugu at 12:24 PM on July 16, 2012


I don't think he began that ride with this end in mind, but at least he's out of suffering. Funny how many companies who liked his and the Dale Carnegie stuff were rah rah on the main points but petered out at supporting sharpening one's saw.
posted by tilde at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


52 grandchildren!
posted by sweetkid at 12:30 PM on July 16, 2012


52 grandchildren!

"Born in 1932 in Salt Lake City, Covey eventually served an LDS mission to England and, at the age of 29, was called as the first president of the Ireland Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Covey graduated from the University of Utah, earned a master's in business administration from Harvard and received a doctorate from Brigham Young University. In 2010, Covey joined the Utah State University Huntsman School of Business as a professor and was named the first incumbent of the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in Leadership."
posted by jquinby at 12:32 PM on July 16, 2012


I always liked McSweeny's 7 habits of highly successful people:

1. Skiing
2. Yachting
3. Snorkeling
4. Golf
5. Polo
6. Dinner parties
7. Shopping
posted by pdq at 12:41 PM on July 16, 2012 [34 favorites]


.

I'm a high school teacher that used to be somewhat cynical of books and programs like Covey's. Then I had a building principal who lived and embodied the habits. It always just seemed like common sense until I encountered someone who ACTUALLY DID THINGS THE RIGHT WAY. It was incredibly eye-opening and transformed our school. He was always reinforcing the habits and we thought it was kind of corny, but when he moved on and was replaced by someone less principled we sure did miss it. I got to know this principal well on a personal level and now he's a close friend with whom I golf frequently. He rarely fails to refer our time on the golf course as "sharpening the saw."
posted by sciencejock at 12:44 PM on July 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


My heart goes out to his family.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:53 PM on July 16, 2012


.

Hi works had a big influence on my life. This is very sad but he leaves a great legacy. As he would have wanted.
posted by vac2003 at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2012


.

A musician friend lent me a copy of his seminal. Not normally my bag yet some nuggets were found.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 1:18 PM on July 16, 2012


.
posted by The World Famous at 1:40 PM on July 16, 2012


He also wrote a series of kids books where famous people were accompanied by a cartoony friend representing a virtue. I loved that series as a kid.

.
posted by drezdn at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2012


My mother-in-law was always reading a book or listening to an audio tape of his.

She's now involved with three separate multi-level marketing organizations. I haven't read his stuff; is there a connection or crossover market there?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:47 PM on July 16, 2012


.
posted by tommasz at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2012


I don't know of I saw Donnie Darko too many times, but I couldn't sit through the Covey lectures without being reminded of the Patrick Swayze character.

If Filapino boy slaves are roaming the streets of SLC muttering about win-win, we'll know for sure.
posted by dr_dank at 2:06 PM on July 16, 2012


I was wondering who was gonna make it a trifecta.
posted by symbioid at 2:37 PM on July 16, 2012


sciencejock: ". He was always reinforcing the habits and we thought it was kind of corny... got to know this principal well on a personal level and now he's a close friend ""

REACH OUT IN THE DARKNESS!!!!
posted by symbioid at 2:39 PM on July 16, 2012


The one thing I remember about the Covey class the company sent me to is there was an exercise where we put on a blindfold and had a sighted person lead us around the woods, then traded places--blindfolded became un- and vice versa. This was to build trust.

American corporate employees are the two-faced back-stabbingest bunch I have ever seen. The training was well-meant but I don't think it did diddly. Also I still have a brass egg tchotchke they gave us after three days of that shit. I pitched the stupid book a long time ago.
posted by bukvich at 3:12 PM on July 16, 2012


.

I can't claim to be a devotee, but my first professional manager mentioned these habits early in my employ and focused on the planning and putting first things first bits. Over the years I've built on that and learned to embody all of them to one degree or another. They are useful not only for your personal practice, but also to help see what's missing when you aren't being effective. Thanks for putting such basic truths in similar terms so that more can learn and recognize these patterns.
posted by meinvt at 3:13 PM on July 16, 2012


.

My son's elementary school embraced the 7 habits at the beginning of his kindergarten year (he's entering 3rd grade)...it seemed kind of hokey and I was skeptical, but they stay on message and simply use the habits as a way to frame all of the standard desired behaviors and it works.
they also helped me break the 'good job' mantra by tying his accomplishments to one of the habits as a way of encouragement.
I still get a laugh when he rolls his eyes and says "Dad...the habits aren't real at home. they're just for school!"
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:22 PM on July 16, 2012


$
posted by nickyskye at 3:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to an Inc. magazine article I read on a flight a long time ago, Seven Habits was an outgrowth of his dissertation, which apparently surveyed the field of every self-help book on the shelf at the time, which they said was over 200. If so it was a brilliant move to frame it as a survey of successful people, and it probably helped a lot of people in over their heads, who had no other way to cope with the stress of management.
posted by Brian B. at 4:00 PM on July 16, 2012


I see he had it penciled in on his calendar in the Urgent and Important Quadrant.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:42 PM on July 16, 2012


The 7 Habits had a profound and positive impact on the way I've thought about my life. I read them when I was 21, just after graduating college and just before starting law school, and it was a time in my development that I was particularly receptive.

"Be Proactive" and the "big rocks" parable of "Put first things first" are things I still think about on at least a weekly, if not daily basis, and have helped me make many important decisions.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:20 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


All I remember from my foray through 7 Habits is Sharpening the Saw, and I still do it from time to time.

.......
posted by ladygypsy at 5:49 PM on July 16, 2012


I rolled my eyes at the 7 Habits, but secretly read it in Barnes & Noble on my lunch hour - it does seem like what it says should be common sense, but...well...lucky you if you already know this stuff.

At any rate it had a big effect on me at the time and I jumped a big hurdle in my career.

Maybe I should take a look at it again. I really like the idea of forcing yourself to look at all the different roles you play in your world, not just work.

It's very sad that he died this way.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:01 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If there's any interest, a while back I wrote a book that I call "7 Habits of Ineffective People." I've never actually gotten it published, but I can make available a Word document describing the first five (I'll send the rest when I finish it).
posted by octobersurprise at 6:29 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


At the risk of invoking a near-Godwin, at the time my former boss handed out copies of 7 Habits to all of his minions, I happened to be engrossed in Alan Bullock's Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, a comparative biography of two of the worst dictators of the 20th century. And I was struck, repeatedly, by how well Stalin embodied the 7 Habits; this was a guy who was always, always focused on putting first things first and directing every action to achieving his goals.

(Hitler, not so much. Hitler was often the pawn of his passions, easily distracted and strangely sentimental.)

To prove to my boss that I had read the book I wrote a "book report" in which I used Papa Joe to illustrate the 7 Habits. I also mailed off a copy to the 7 Habits Institute, whose address was thoughtfully included in the book.

Effective is not the same as good or moral, I concluded.

The "book report" was not well-received, sad to say.
posted by SPrintF at 6:38 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Effective is not the same as good or moral, I concluded.

In your analysis, did you find that effective people who are good and moral deviate significantly from Covey's 7 Habits in ways that effective people who are not good and moral do not?
posted by The World Famous at 6:46 PM on July 16, 2012


I have to say the three-day "training" in the 7 Habits was one of the worst experiences of my life. The indoctrination was absolute, including twinbig-screen TVs brought out to show "Dr. Covey" hypnotically speaking to us and reaching out towards the camera.

The low point: the concept of the Three-Person Teach. Ready? Any time you teach the principles of the 7 Habits, there are three people present: the teacher, the learner, and Dr. Covey.
posted by argybarg at 6:50 PM on July 16, 2012


The indoctrination was absolute, including twin big-screen TVs brought out to show "Dr. Covey" hypnotically speaking to us and reaching out towards the camera.

But wasn't it awesome when everyone was encouraged to go up and lick the TV screens?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:06 PM on July 16, 2012


R.I.P. for someone who I am sure I would disagree with on just about everything except how to get through life. I have had managers/directors/VPs that paid lip service to SHAHEP and ones that actually lived it. The former were the scum of the earth but the later (which were far fewer) were actually quite good at their jobs and easy to work for. And they always paid attention to sharpening the saw.
posted by Ber at 7:31 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


In your analysis, did you find that effective people who are good and moral deviate significantly from Covey's 7 Habits in ways that effective people who are not good and moral do not?

Principle-centeredness, one of Covey's key concepts, is flawed at its core. It does not recognize its own limitations. (Yes, your cherished, undying principles may, in time, prove wrong.) It does not recognize the value of other perspectives. It places ideology above common-sense and simple humanity. (I could make the comparison to Objectivisim, if I wished to waste my time on that.) It encourages blinkered intolerance and aggressive stupidity.

Good and moral people are occasionally motivated by kindness, altruism and art. And humility. This most of all: humility, and the realization that they are imperfect, yet part of something greater than themselves. There are transgressions against simple humanity that they will not cross, even at their own disadvantage. 7 Habits people would dismiss them as weak, I think, or "impractical".

A good and moral Stalin would not have murdered the kobzar. An effective ruler would have seen the logic in it. I know that I understood his motives. But I, as a moral actor, would have said: no, this is too far.

Here's an odd thing: I sympathize with Stalin, a little. He was a small man who tried to do great things. He did his best, every day. He could probably have argued that everything he did was right and proper, for the greatness of Rodina. He was principle-centered, after all. And, yet, in the end, his legacy is a graveyard, because he could never tell himself, "no, this is too far."

Back on topic: I don't want to paint Covey as some sort of dictator-enabler. I just want to point out that "effectiveness" should be tempered with compassion. Once you set aside compassion, you become a monster.
posted by SPrintF at 8:46 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Years ago, I was on a plane coming back to the U.S. with my boyfriend. We were madly in love. That week, his Dad gave him The 7 Habits book. The next week, he dumped me. The day after I had signed a year's lease, naturally.

I guess I was in his Circle of Concern, but not in his Circle of Influence.
posted by sfkiddo at 8:49 PM on July 16, 2012


The indoctrination was absolute, including twin big-screen TVs brought out to show "Dr. Covey" hypnotically speaking to us and reaching out towards the camera.

When did they bring out the evil parasites that ate into your brain and took over your (zombified) body? Sorry, I just read The Apocalypse Codex, great book Charlie!
posted by Chekhovian at 9:30 PM on July 16, 2012


Back on topic: I don't want to paint Covey as some sort of dictator-enabler. I just want to point out that "effectiveness" should be tempered with compassion. Once you set aside compassion, you become a monster.

His entire premise assumes a dystopia of self-made independence, though this is the hardest part for consumers to grasp because it requires a self-awareness beyond his program.
posted by Brian B. at 10:02 PM on July 16, 2012


Someone gave me Seven Habits as a present for getting into university.

I liked the bits about being proactive and beginning with the end in mind, in particular; like the fact that Covey had done a study of self-help literature before he came up with his, dislike how the book has become quasi-religious for a lot. Absolutely dislike how the enterprise had jumped the shark, the last I checked; they had diversified the 7 Habits brand into specific demographics, as I recall.

.
posted by the cydonian at 11:07 PM on July 16, 2012


Among my friends are those who are goal-oriented and those who are live-in-the-moment types. I don't mean to put value on either position, I know lots of great people in both categories. But, if you're the sort of person who does steady work at the office (or coffeeshop or whatever) and then instantly puts it out of your mind as soon as you walk out the door because your real life as a parent/surfer/artist/whatever is starting, you're probably going to have a hard time understanding what drives the goal-oriented types who tend to read stuff like this. And vice versa.

I don't know much about Mr. Covey but the 7 Habits seem to be pretty good advice for goal-people.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:32 AM on July 17, 2012


When I was a federal employee, I spent an entire 40-hour week in "Covey Training." Boring doesn't even begin to describe it.
posted by Sassenach at 8:00 AM on July 17, 2012


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