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A Few Words From the Memorial Service of Stephen Covey

Saturday, my wife and I were in Salt Lake City with thousands of others to attend the memorial service for Stephen Covey.

Covey was one of the most influential business authors of our generation, having penned the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989 and then watched as the book sold more than 20 million copies. He authored several other amazing books that combined to sell another 20 million copies.

Several months ago his children asked if I would author their father’s biography, one of the great honors in my career. In the last few months I’ve gotten to know the Covey family and have reveled in the stories they’ve shared about how this amazing thinker came to shape the world.

At the memorial, which was public but also served as Stephen’s family funeral, each of his nine children stepped up and shared their greatest memories of growing up with a father that US Presidents and dozens of foreign leaders have asked for counsel. As we listened to each child, the word that hung over every story was “Authentic.” What made Stephen Covey so great as a leader – and as a father – was that “As good as he was in public, he was even better in private,” as his oldest son Stephen M.R. Covey said.

The youngest Covey child, Josh was the last of the family to speak at the service. He told a story of being a young boy, four years old, who so wanted to be like his father that he wanted to dress just as he did, right down to wearing the same belt buckle. Then Josh told the story of being the final child to speak to his father the previous Sunday night, just hours before his father would pass, when the family gathered in his hospital room. Josh said he wanted desperately to have the right words to say in that moment.” I told my father that as a boy I wanted to be like him so I dressed like him,” Josh said as tears welled in his eyes. “Now as a man, I want to be like him so I want to live like him. As a boy, it was on the outside. As a man, I want to be like him on the inside.”

What a tribute.

Tips from a Great One

A few of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey

“Live life in crescendo!”

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

“Live out your imagination, not your history.”

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

“There are three constants in life…change, choice, and principles.”

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.”

“We are free to choose our actions…but we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.”

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

“Wisdom is the child of integrity–being integrated around principles. And integrity is the child of humility and courage.”

“Live, love, laugh, and leave a legacy.”

Has Stephen Covey and his work impacted your life? Share your story about this great man with me.

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Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)

About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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