Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
When I first heard the news of Steven R. Covey’s passing, the Robert Frost post came bursting to the forefront of my mind.
Growing up, I was subjected to Steven R. Covey from a very young age. When I say subjected, I mean that my father was a huge fan of Covey and he was always quoting or paraphrasing something he had said or written. In a way, I resented Covey and disliked him because my dad made us read Covey’s books, or at least read them through my father. In 1989 when Covey published what is arguably his best-known book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, his name once again took center stage in the home, and my dad couldn’t stop talking about what a wonderful book it was.
When I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah as a 19-year old missionary, one of the speakers at a large group meeting was Steven R. Covey. I remember writing in my missionary journal, noting that my father’s hero would be speaking at the MTC. Part of me questioned how worthwhile it would be to have Covey speak about time management skills, or anything else he might share with the missionaries. I was there to learn how to share the gospel; not to become an effective human being.
After listening to Covey speak, my heart softened a bit and I actually enjoyed listening to him. His message resonated inside of me and rang true. I resisted embracing Covey entirely, but went about my way, setting aside the message for another day.
Fast forward to 2010. Facing a dilemma about graduate school, I resolved that I did not want to be just another professional with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). I wanted to do something different. Something that would set me apart from a crowded field of MBA’s. With that in mind, I settled on a degree program offered at Northern Arizona University (NAU), a Master of Administration, which was offered through their downtown Mesa, Arizona campus.
I decided that I would focus on project management since I had worked for two years managing capital expansion projects for one of Motorola Semiconductor’s 200mm wafer fabrication facilities. It was a known entity and something I felt would serve me well professionally.
The first class in the program I took was titled “Self and Leadership.” After the first few classes taught by a charismatic and brilliant professor, I questioned why I should not change my degree focus from project management to leadership studies. One night after class, I approached the professor and asked him for his opinion on what I should do. As any good professor would do, he responded to my question with another question. “Is project management something you can only learn through NAU?” he asked. I thought for a moment and answered, “No, I suppose I could get a project management certification outside of graduate school.” He then said, “I am sure whatever you plan to focus on, you will do what is best for you.”
That settled the question for me: leadership studies would be my focus for the next two years.
As I continued in that first graduate class, and through subsequent classes, the principles taught by Covey and others in the field of leadership studies, I came to appreciate Covey and embrace the principles of good leadership for which he stood and promoted.
When I read of Covey’s passing, I sent a text message to my father, who was on the road and likely unaware of his death. I felt a genuine sadness come over me as I recognized and understood the impact that Covey had on my father’s life, and on mine. I am grateful that my father insisted on sharing Covey’s books and principles with me from a young age. As much as I resisted them when I was younger, I am equally passionate now about embracing them and sharing Covey’s principles with my children.
The world has lost a great leader with the passing of Steven R. Covey.
Robert Frost was right: Nothing gold can stay.