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Launched My Blog on Huffington Post—“Our Children and the Crisis in Education”

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I am pleased to announce that I am now a contributor to the Huffington Post. My first blog appeared on Wednesday, April 21. I chose the topic of education in the U.S. and the opportunities we have to really make a big, positive impact in the way we educate our children.

For far too long, we’ve neglected educating our children to become people who can think for themselves, take responsibility, be tolerant and respectful, and work with others in creative ways. Character development is central to the education process but has been lacking for some time. To fill that need, we need stronger partnerships between schools and parents to unleash the potential of every child—to learn, grow and become leaders of their lives. 

One successful program called The Leader in Me Process has been applied at A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. At its core is teaching children, starting at kindergarten, habits of leadership. They are learning how to be accountable, treat others with respect, solve problems creatively, listen to understand and be trustworthy. Academic scores have dramatically improved and behavior problems have significantly dropped. The whole school is involved with this process and parents are thrilled to partner with their school to promote leadership principles with their children at school and at home.  

This Leader in Me Process is being applied in over 200 schools worldwide with remarkable, measurable success. To learn more, please see my blog: “Our Children and the Crisis in Education.” 

You may also be interested in reading my book, The Leader in Me—How Schools and Parents Around the World are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time. 

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Finding Freedom in Prison—The Weldon Long Story

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

How do you find freedom in prison? I invite you to read the story below as written by Weldon Long. I had the profound pleasure of meeting him in person recently…here are my thoughts after meeting him and reading his book.

I was inspired and thrilled to meet Weldon Long, the author of The Upside of Fear, at a meeting focused on strengthening families. I’ve loved and endorsed his book and I’m convinced that he has a very special mission in life. He’s such a handsome and pleasant person, and it was a very emotional experience for me as well to visit with him and know the kind of influence he can have, particularly with people who have been in the same kind of situation he was in, and to see his courageous and thrilling path to freedom, prosperity and family happiness. We were both emotionally connected, and I am profoundly grateful to God for his exemplary life and desire to serve God’s other children. I pray to God for his dear wife and son and other children that they might have. I felt an instant love for him.

Weldon Long’s story:

On June 10th, 1996, my father died and my life changed forever.

At the time I was in federal custody on mail fraud and money laundering indictments – it was my third time in prison. In fact, I was a career criminal, high-school drop-out, homeless alcoholic. I had abandoned my three-year-old son and broke every promise I had ever made.

I was the personification of the bottom of the barrel.

In the days following my father’s death, the regret and remorse of a wasted life crushed me.  For the first time in my life I saw myself for what I truly was, and I was sickened by what I saw. I knew I had to change.

But there was a small problem: I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I found the book that changed everything.  In a small room that served as the facility’s library I found a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by Dr. Stephen Covey.

As I began to read the book I felt a sense of excitement I had never before felt. I felt as though Dr. Covey was speaking directly to me. For the first time in my life I began to seriously consider the values that had governed my life, and I realized that I had not been breaking the universal principles of success – I was breaking myself against them. The personality ethic had governed my behavior as I pretended and faked my way through life. My only hope was living my life according to the character ethic described by Dr. Covey.

After reading 7 Habits I set out to rebuild my life and become a man I could love. Moreover, I resolved to be the father to my son I had never been.  Over the next 7 years as I served my third prison sentence, I began to see the fruits of implementing the 7 habits.  I began to take responsibility for my responses to whatever came my way in life. I began to visualize how I wanted my life to be years in the future. And I began to get my priorities straight.

By the time I left prison in 2003, I had earned my BS in Law and an MBA in Management. Within six months of getting out my son was living with me, and within a year I had married the most amazing woman I had ever known. Within three years of getting out my new wife and I owned the largest residential HVAC company in Southern Colorado.  And within four years of getting out of prison my wife and I owned a beautiful home on Maui. I had completed my transformation from Prison to Paradise by implementing the things Dr. Covey had taught me through those lonely prison years.

Today, my wife and I have successful companies and my son, who is now 16, is a happy, outgoing teenager with a bright future ahead of him. I have written a book about my journey called The Upside of Fear, which outlines my twenty year cycle of prison, poverty and addiction and how I broke the cycle. My hope is that others will learn from my story and come to realize the dreams really do come true – if we work for them.

My story would be amazing if it ended right there, but there is even more… way more.

In addition to writing, I do motivational and inspirational keynotes as a professional speaker. Recently I delivered a presentation to a group of Colorado Springs’ business leaders and professionals. Just before I began my presentation a man in the front row stood up and announced that Dr. Stephen Covey would soon be in Colorado Springs to address a small group. He said that if anyone was interested in attending the upcoming event to see him before leaving.

Dumbfounded, I heard the voice of the host introduce me, and as I stood before the audience I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It was all I could do to stay focused on my task at hand and deliver the message I had prepared.

After my presentation I spoke with the gentleman who had announced Dr. Covey’s visit to Colorado Springs. He invited me and my family to attend the event and offered to get a copy of The Upside of Fear to Dr. Covey. As it turned out his daughter was Dr. Covey’s personal assistant. I could hardly believe my ears.

A month later I sat in the audience as Dr. Stephen Covey spoke. As I listened to his words I thought back to the time thirteen years earlier when I read 7 Habits in a dark, lonely place. I couldn’t believe the man whose words saved my life stood just a few feet away from me.

At the conclusion of Dr. Covey’s presentation a line formed as audience members approached the stage to shake the hand of the man who had no doubt impacted them all in some way. I approached the opposite side of the stage and took the opportunity to thank the man and his daughter who had made this special night possible for me and my family.

As we discussed the impact of hearing Dr. Covey live, I was approached by someone from behind. I turned to see the face of the man who had changed my life. There, no more than a foot in front of me, stood Dr. Stephen Covey.

I was speechless.

“I really enjoyed your book, Mr. Long,” Dr. Covey said.

“I, uh, I really enjoyed yours too. It saved my life,” I stammered. Seeing my nervousness, Dr. Covey softly smiled.

Suddenly I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t believe the man who wrote the words that transformed my life was right there. I tried to speak, and I am sure I said something that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Suddenly he reached out and put his arms around me, and I began to weep.

It was one of the most profound moments of my life. The man whose words had comforted me in the darkest hours of my life was now comforting me again – this time the way a father comforts a frightened child.

For the next several moments, as I began to regain my composure, Dr. Covey told me I had a “Divine Destiny” and that I would have the opportunity to help others with my story. I thanked him for all he had done for me and my family. We shook hands and he quietly moved on to greet others in the crowd.

I stood there with my family and friends in circumspect silence. I thought about how my life had changed, and I was grateful for everything I had learned and the wonderful life those lessons had brought me.

A few days later I learned that Dr. Covey had agreed to write an endorsement for my book. The endorsement read:

“This book comes from a magnificent person who learned the lessons of life out of profound prison experiences. Despite the harsh language, Wally Long is a true diamond in the rough who produced this inspiring and illuminating account of the path he took to freedom and prosperity.”
Stephen R. Covey

I read the words and couldn’t believe the generosity of a man who had sold millions of books and is one of the most influential leaders of our time. The endorsement was written on June 10, 2009, exactly 13 years to the day my father had died and I set out on a journey to change my life.

I guess dreams really do come true.

Weldon Long – Author, The Upside of Fear: How One Man Broke the Cycle of Prison, Poverty, and Addiction.

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Most Important Habit?

Friday, December 5th, 2008

I am often asked if there is one habit out of the 7 Habits that is more important than the others. Of course, all the habits are important and they form an inter-connected whole or a continuum. For maximum effectiveness, you have to build from one to the other and apply them consistently. From that perspective, Habit 1: Be Proactive provides the foundation for all the other habits. Habit 1 is, undoubtedly, the foundation for leadership at home or at work because it begins with the mindset “I am responsible for me, and I can choose.”All the other habits are dependent upon being proactive and choosing to master and practicing principle-centered living.

The key to being proactive is remembering that between stimulus and response there is a space. That space represents our choice— how we will choose to respond to any given situation, person, thought or event. Imagine a pause button between stimulus and response—a button you can engage to pause and think about what is the principle-based response to your given situation. Listen to what your conscience tells you. Listen for what is wise and the principle-based thing to do, and then act.

Being proactive (Habit 1) becomes much more powerful when connected and related to the other habits. The key to the habits is the power of their combined synergy and meaningful purpose. Leaving one habit out is like having a four-legged chair—when you remove one leg the chair is out of balance.

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The Greater Identity Theft is Our Cultural DNA

Friday, November 14th, 2008

We are warned more and more about the threat of identify theft. However, the greater identify theft is our cultural DNA; it’s not someone taking your wallet and using your credit cards—that’s very superficial. It’s about the profound identity threat that comes from people being raised in a comparison-based culture, so they focus more on secondary greatness, to become rich and famous, rather than primary greatness, which deals with character and contribution. This switch to secondary greatness is alluring and occurs throughout cultures of the world—secondary greatness has replaced primary greatness, and, as a result,  trust has deteriorated, confidence has gone down, and we’re living with its consequences, as evidenced by the global financial crisis.

So it’s a healthy thing to be humbled by this or any other crisis, to realize that we have to take an inside-out approach in learning to be humble, to focus on integrity and character and on making a contribution, to serve other people, and serve worthwhile causes. How is the crisis affecting you? Are you focusing your efforts on strengthening your primary greatness—your character and ability for contribution? Set a goal to make a difference for someone else at work, at home, in your neighborhood, or community. The more you focus on serving others, the more authentic you will feel; your character strength will grow, you will be build trust, and you will build your worth based on principles versus on the need to gratify our cultural values, which often center on instant gratification and becoming an enviable figure in public. This will help to prevent your identify theft and help you resist your negative cultural DNA.

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AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS

Exclusive and limited offer.

To help usher in the holiday season, and as a thank you to all of the supporters of his new blog, Dr. Covey has autographed a limited number of his best-selling books; The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The 8th Habit, and Everyday Greatness. These autographed books, with new, handsomely designed jackets and box set packaging, are available only while quantities last.

Click here to order yours today, there are only a few left.

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