Live Life In Crescendo: Stephen R. Covey’s “Last Lecture” Written With Cynthia Covey Haller – Episode 148

LFL 148 | Stephen Covey


Live Life in Crescendo is the inspirational, encouraging final book from the legendary leadership expert Stephen R. Covey, internationally bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Stephen Covey spent his long and storied career inspiring millions of individuals to make their lives more effective, compassionate, and meaningful. Near the end of his life, Covey felt a final component to his work: How to live your best life no matter your age? How to best respond to life-challenging experiences? How to approach the challenges and opportunities of middle to later life—like raising children, caring for your parents, leading and inspiring others, staying on top of your career, contributing to your community, and what follows next?

Live Life in Crescendo is Covey’s answer to these questions, outlining his vision for those in the prime of life, whatever age you may be. Covey urges all to “live life in crescendo,” continually growing in contribution, learning, and influence. In the same way that music builds on the previous notes, life, too, builds on the past and unfolds in the future. This crescendo mentality urges you to use whatever you have—your time, talents, resources, gifts, passion, money, and influence—to enrich the lives of people around you, including your family, neighborhood, community, and the world.

Co-written with his daughter, Cynthia Covey Haller, and published posthumously, Live Life in Crescendo is a life-changing and life-affirming book that befits the generosity and wisdom of the late Stephen R. Covey.

Listen to the podcast here


Live Life In Crescendo: Stephen R. Covey’s “Last Lecture” Written With Cynthia Covey Haller

In this episode, we’re going to learn what it’s like to live life in crescendo. We’re going to do that with the co-author of the book, Cynthia Covey Haller, who co-wrote this book with her late father, Stephen R Covey, who’s best known for his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book, in this environment, provides so much value. I believe that this book has been a treasure sitting on the ocean floor for a decade since her father’s death, and has been raised to the surface for us all to enjoy and appreciate all that it has to offer. I hope you enjoy this. Let’s get into it.

Cynthia, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Live Life in Crescendo. I was so excited to have an opportunity to read this in advance. To me, it was like finding treasure at the bottom of the sea. I’ll talk about that later, but you speak about being a steward for your dad and finishing this book. I was wondering if you could give a little background in terms of how this book came about initially.

Thank you so much for having me, Patrick. I’ve looked forward to being on your show. I appreciate it. I love the hidden treasure analogy. I hope that’s what it is. This happened many years ago. My father and I were discussing a lot of different projects he was doing. I foolishly said to him, “Dad, are you ever going to write anything as good as 7 Habits?” He was like, “What?” He acted insulted like, “Are you serious? Why do I get up every day to speak and write? Am I one and done everything that I have contained in the 7 Habits, and I’ve got nothing else to contribute?”

That wasn’t the case. He went on to write a lot of other books. It was insightful to me that he thought, “I still have important contributions ahead to make.” At that point, he asked me, “You asked this question so you can help me?” I had a lot of interest in his mission statement, the last ten years of his life, which was live life from crescendo. He said, “Why don’t you interview me and do all the leg work?” He wanted this book to be chock-full of stories, examples that were inspiring of famous and non-famous people that hopefully, people could see themselves in and say, “Maybe I could do that. I like what that person did.”

He wanted me to take that assignment to write the book, take his ideas, and go with it. We worked on it a few years together and then, unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly. I write about that journey of our family in the back of the book and some personal things that we shared. I felt like I have to take up the baton and finish it. Patrick, I’ve had to live in crescendo to finish the book. It was a rough road and some setbacks. My goal was to be his faithful translator of the vision that he had for this important message, “Live life in crescendo. Your most important work is always ahead of you.”

It’s been several years since he passed. What was that like when that first happened in terms of this book and finishing it?

He would always call me and say, “How is the book coming? Are you working on the book?” I was. I was collecting stories and quotes, doing what I could. I’m a mother of 6 children and have 21 grandkids, which keeps me busy. I was involved in the community and a lot of different positions and things I was doing. I couldn’t get to it how he wanted me to. I felt bad when he passed away, and we hadn’t finished it, but I had made a commitment that I would finish it and get this out. As a family, we recognize this as his last big idea and last lecture, so to speak, something that he wanted to share that was very personal to him and that he felt could impact people and bring out their best potential.

Was there a period before you picked this up again in terms of finishing this project, or has it been one that you’ve slowly been putting together over the last years?

We talked in 2008. That’s when it first started and since then, I’ve been picking away at it. I’m a slow writer. It took a long time. I wrote it in his voice, which is unusual. I went back and forth deciding, “Do I put Cynthia and then Stephen?” I never liked books like that. He asked me to write it, and I wrote it in his voice because it was his idea and the last big message he wanted to share. I provided the stories in a commentary.

The stories are so rich all the way through it. You do such a great job of bringing out the ideas here. One of the things that I love here is that it was both famous and well-known people, as well as people that were not well-known. That speaks to the belief that everybody is capable of this.

Everybody has greatness in them, and that was my father’s whole goal of his life. He spoke about life as a mission, not a career. The mission he felt was to unleash human potential. He did that through his speaking, books, and writings. This was the last one that he felt strongly about. I felt sacred stewardship to finish this. It has drawn us closer too. I felt close to him when I’m doing it. I can hear him say, “Hurry and finish it already. Get it out there.”

I had posted on this. As I was finishing this again and knowing that this had been such a period since it was going to be revealed to everybody, that’s how I thought of this. This thing had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but you knew it was there. It was a matter of time before this treasure was going to get raised. It’s coming to that point where it’s available for everybody to view. I feel so fortunate almost to have a preview of it and what’s in here.

Thank you. I love that analogy. I can see what you’re saying. It is something that’s been saved. Hopefully, people that have been inspired by my father’s books through the years will be excited like, “There’s one last big idea here that hopefully will help me in my life.”

One of the things that I noticed at the very beginning of the book is it talks about a four-square person. You mentioned writing for him: mental, physical, social, and spiritual. How important was that?

That was huge to him. When we would have birthdays, his compliment would be, “You’re a four-square person. You are successful in all those four areas: physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.” Those were the four areas that he would emphasize that they have to be balanced so that you could have a full life. If one was out of whack, it would disturb them all. My father wasn’t perfect at all, but he tried more than anyone I know to live what he taught. He sincerely tried to become a four-square person and be balanced in those four areas, which are fundamental to everyone.

LFL 148 | Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey: Physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional are the four areas that have to be balanced to have a full life.


The book is broken up into these four stages: midlife, the pinnacle of success, life-changing setbacks, and then the second half of life.

When you get older, what are you going to do and choose?

What I found interesting as I was reading that was at first I was thinking, “This is a book for people that get to their 40s.” It’s not. It’s a book for anybody at any age because even if you’re not at that midlife stage, it provides such a roadmap.

It’s not something to save until you’re old. It became about that in the first place because my father would keep getting asked, “Stephen, you’re getting up there. You’re going to keep writing, speaking and doing all this.” He couldn’t believe it. He said, “Of course. I still have passion for what I’m doing. I feel I have a purpose. I want to contribute.” In our world, retirement was the R word. You didn’t say it. It was a bad word. If you might retire from a job or a career, you never retire from making meaningful contributions.

To give your readers a little background, it mostly talks about the crescendo mentality. My father chose to use a musical analogy, which I like. In music crescendo, when you’re going to a concert, you feel a crescendo coming. It grows in power, strength, and energy. It’s incredible how it comes to a crescendo. It keeps expanding where the opposite side, diminuendo, slows and lessens in energy and power and eventually comes to a complete stop. The challenge that he gives throughout this book is at any age or stage of life, you’ve got to consciously choose to live in crescendo to increase in contribution and influence, growing and learning rather than the opposite.

You need to consciously choose to live in crescendo, increase in contribution and influence and grow and learn rather than the opposite. Click To Tweet

Something along those lines, in the book, there was a part that reads, “Choose the right yardstick.”

It was Clayton Christensen, one of my father’s friends, that talked about how society measures success so differently. He believes true success is measured by notoriety, wealth, influence, power, and prominence, which he would call that secondary greatness. Primary greatness is your character and to be successful in your most important roles in life. A father, a mother, a parent, a son or daughter, a sibling, a community volunteer, a humanitarian, or a leader are all important roles. He’s defining success as being successful in those roles rather than in the ones that society celebrates.

As you look over these four stages, is there one that resonated more with you as you were going through of maybe examples that you saw growing up?

I could give you a personal example that I was magnified in my life. I tell at the beginning of the book about a magical time that I had with my father going on a trip to San Francisco. I was 12 years old and the oldest of 9. I was chosen to go on this trip with him when he was speaking. We made a plan, and half of the fun was planning it a couple of months ahead and would go over it quite often every other day where we’d talk about our plans.

To a young twelve-year-old, this was going to be amazing. We would go and stay in this fancy hotel. My dad would speak all day while I would swim, relax and play around there. I would meet him at the back of the room. We would take off before people grabbed him and go ride the trolley cars. To think of going on the trolley cars in San Francisco was incredible. We’d ride those and go over to some of the fancy stores that they had in San Francisco. I could buy a few school clothes.

We were going to go to Chinatown and have some authentic Chinese food. It’s our favorite. Both of us love Chinese food. We’d take a taxi back to the hotel. Before it closed and even if it did close, my dad had ways of getting into swim before they shut it up. He would go under the little barrier and we’d swim real quick before we got kicked out. We’d go up to the hotel room and have a hot fudge sundae and watch a show.

That was the plan. We were so excited about it. It was going according to that plan. I was in the back of the room and my father was making his way toward me. When all of a sudden, one of his best friends greeted him that had moved away. They embraced and were so excited to see each other. I heard the friend say, “I’m so happy. I knew you were speaking now. I came to invite you to come with my wife and me. We’ll go eat down on the wharf and catch up.”

My father said, “Bob, that sounds great.” I saw my trolley card go down the hill without me. I thought, “I’m going to be stuck with two old people the rest of the night. What happened to our magical date?” He said, “I’d love to do that, Bob, but not tonight. My daughter, Cynthia, and I have a special date planned. Don’t we, honey?” He gave me a wink and grabbed my hand. We were out the door before Bob knew what happened.

It took me back. I said, “Dad, this is your good friend. Don’t you want to spend time with him tonight?” He said, “No. I wouldn’t miss this for anything. Let’s go catch that trolley car.” We then went off. In a young girl’s life, he modeled to me so many things that he taught like deep trust in our relationship, putting priorities and me ahead of somebody else who was also important to him and believing that this promise that we’d had together to do this would come about first things first. I learned so many. It was a foundation for our relationship looking back on my childhood. He tried to model what he taught. This was an example that meant a lot to me.

I loved reading about that story. As I’m reading along, I’m thinking, “I hope you don’t miss out on that opportunity.” From a leadership standpoint, one of the first behaviors you need is congruence alignment. It demonstrated that alignment of what your dad was saying and what he was going to do was the same thing. That’s so important.

He tried to live that. That’s our challenge to all of us. We all know more than we do, don’t we? We have deep values but sometimes, we don’t act on them. That was a reminder to me. You have to be congruent. You can’t have disparity in one part of your life and then the other speak about something else.

Another thing that I teased out as I was reading was the concept in there of faith plus work equals fruit. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that in your experiences.

My parents were united in teaching us good values but letting us also make choices too. We were taught to take responsibility for ourselves but to also carry that belief that they had in us of our potential that we were affirmed a lot. I talk a little bit about that in the book. If you look around you, who around you needs affirmation? Who we all can point to as someone who believed in us when maybe we didn’t believe in ourselves? If you ask people to identify that person, most people can think of someone. What about us? Who needs a mentor or someone to believe in us?

My father defined leadership as communicating another’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. That’s what a true leader does. We have that opportunity every day with those whom we mentor and who is around us. Maybe one of our children is going through a hard divorce and needs our support and belief that she or he still has great worth and potential. Maybe some grandkids are suffering. Maybe someone in business whom you work with in the workplace has been shot down with a lot of ideas that were presented to a boss. It wasn’t well-received and is discouraged. We have a chance to build that person and believe in them. Maybe they don’t believe in themselves.

John Wooden is mentioned in the book as being a pretty big influence on your dad. There’s a great story in there that you tell about that.

John Wooden was named as one of the greatest coaches ever but in the last third of his life, he had a work that he believed was his most important work, which was mentoring. He spent the first 2/3 as a coach but said, “Basketball is not everything and the most important thing. To teach and mentor is the highest priority.”

What an influence he had up until in his 90s when he wrote over a dozen books. He spoke so many times during the year in his 80s and 90s after his beloved wife died. He was a great example of being a mentor and blessing people’s lives by believing in them. I love this quote by Tom Peters that says, “Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” The whole goal is to create other leaders.

Along those lines, you talk about resourcefulness and initiative.

My dad used to call it R and I. It was funny. Growing up, we were never allowed to make excuses for ourselves. We would come home and say, “I hate my teacher. My math teacher is the worst.” Use your R and I.” We’re like, “He is a bad teacher, dad. He doesn’t help us. He doesn’t know how to explain.” We would give our excuses. He was like, “What does that have to do with anything? Use your R and I and make it happen,” which meant, “It’s up to you. You got to do extra work, switch your class, get in another class if you have to and get some extra help.”

We had a good balance because my mom would let us blame other people. We could say to my mom, “I’ve got the worst teacher.” She was like, “That’s terrible. We got to do something about that. This guy has got to help you more.” When we wanted our hearts massages, we’d go to her but if we wanted the truth and take responsibility, then we would go to my dad and he would say, “Work it out.” That principle applies to the crescendo mentality.

I’m thinking of a great example. If you don’t mind me sharing one, you asked earlier, “Which area did you like?” I liked all of them. It’s powerful but in the life-changing setbacks and the life experiences, that’s when you show the choice of choosing to live in crescendo or diminuendo. One of my favorite stories in the book that inspired me is about a man named Ray Hinton that lived in Alabama and was framed for two murders in his small town.

They couldn’t find who murdered these people. Ray was in a lockdown facility and at work 15 miles away when they were committed. He was racially profiled, charged with these crimes and sent to jail. He knew he was innocent and was a very good person. He trusted in the legal system but the next thing he knew, he found himself convicted of both those murders and on death row. He is devastated. His life is plummeting and he is despondent. He goes into his cell, throws his Bible under his bed and decides to shut down. He’s so insulted to be charged with this and full of despair that this happened to him.

For three long miserable years, he doesn’t speak to anybody around him in his nearby cells or the guards. He speaks only to his family and friends who visit him once a week. He’s living in diminuendo. He has no influence, power or options as far as he can see. One night at 2:00 in the morning, he hears his fellow cellmate next to him crying in pain and calling out for someone to please help him. Something awakens in Ray that was always there. This compassion came forward and he realized, “This rocked me that I’m a prisoner on death row. I can’t do anything about that.” He then said, “I had other choices I didn’t realize.” Despair and hate were choices, but so were love and compassion.

LFL 148 | Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey: Despair and hate are choices, but so are love and compassion.


He breaks his three years of silence and finds out what’s wrong with this prisoner. He found out that his mother had passed away, was devastated, and couldn’t go on. Ray spends the night comforting and talking to this stranger about his mother, even laughing and talking about great experiences that they had together and giving this prisoner hope to go on. From then on, he switched from living in diminuendo to consciously exercising his circle of influence around him and choosing to live in crescendo by being a light and a beacon to his fellow prisoners, even to the guards who sometimes came to him for advice.

For the next 28 years, and he’s in there so long, he finally draws the attention of Bryan Stevenson who worked for the Equal Justice Initiative. You might have heard of the Mercy film and that book. He takes his case and realizes he has been convicted wrongly. He took it before the Supreme Court after a long battle and finally, he was released. Ray comes out of prison after almost 30 years and says to his family and friends, “The sun does shine.”

Four years later, that’s the title of his book that tells of this journey, from despair to hope and the belief that life can get good again. It becomes a New York Times bestselling book. Ray Hinton who was once on death row and had no circle of influence, power and ability, through all these years, has expanded and was a light and a beacon to them. He is an advocate, a speaker and an author. His life is like the subtitle of this book, “Your most important work is always ahead of you.” His life has expanded and is doing incredible work for other people that are imprisoned. I thought that was so inspiring that he realized, “I can’t control being on death row but I can choose how to respond to what’s happened to me. I still have choices.”

As I was hearing you talk about that, there was another point in the book where one of the bullets says, “Believe in and give second chances.” It’s not just believing in second chances but also that we have to give. We always want a second chance but it’s much harder for us to give it.

We all need second chances. Bryan Stevenson said, “We’re all better than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Second chances talk a lot in this book. We do need to give them, as well as receive them. Many of your readers may have bought Dave’s Killer Bread, which is an awesome, healthy bread. This came about from a man that went to prison three times in a row. He spent more than fifteen years in prison and was given a second chance by his family when he got out to join the family bakery.

Eventually, he invented this great bread that’s all across the United States and everywhere. He hires people that have been convicted of felonies that can’t get a job because of their records. He gives them a second chance because his brother gave one to him. I buy his bread for that reason, besides it being delicious. We all are better than the worst thing we’ve ever done. We all need another chance to reinvent ourselves and start over.

We are all better than our worst thing we've ever done. We all need another chance to reinvent ourselves and start over. Click To Tweet

Of all of the parts, the life-changing setback is the area that resonated with me the most. I go back to I lost both my parents about a year and a half apart when I was a teenager to cancer. I remember that. Those are the things that in hindsight, maybe the strongest is going through those. Not that I would ever want to go through them again like that but looking back, I know that’s where our power oftentimes comes from.

CS Lewis said, “Hardships prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destinies.” It’s true. The resilience and what you had to draw from losing I can’t imagine that as a teenager, losing both your parents that closely together. What you learned from that and what you’ve gained or gone through, how powerful is that in your life, even though you would never choose that but maybe you’re able to have more compassion for orphans and people that don’t have a great lifestyle and a good family. You’re able to do a lot of good for them because of what you suffered and went through.

Without a question. We both come from large families. I’m one of ten. There was a lot of benefit to that in terms of support when our family is going through that.

I can’t imagine with ten children losing your parents. I’m sure the older ones had to step up, be the guardians and become parents to some of the younger ones.

We had a good bond. Our parents left a good legacy for us.

Look what you’ve done with that. That’s incredible what work you’re doing.

Thank you. I love the stories and the way the book is structured overall. After the stories are woven into them, there’s generally a quote that adds a different perspective and helps to build on it. One that stuck out to me is along this line around life challenges. It was by Goethe that said, “Only by joy and sorrows does a person know anything about themselves and their destiny.”

We are learning as we go through every age and stage of life. The crescendo mentality applies every time that we are at because whatever stage we’re at, we have to decide, “Am I going to choose to live in crescendo or am I going to give in and live in diminuendo? What influence will I have” We talked about quietly quitting. In this workplace and environment, some people are quietly quitting, which means they may not leave their job but in a sense, emotionally and physically, they have left it because they don’t feel appreciated. Maybe they feel stagnant and they don’t believe in themself.

Live Life In Crescendo: Stephen R. Covey’s “Last Lecture” Written With Cynthia Covey Haller – Episode 148 Click To Tweet

They need somebody to believe in them. With that, they’ve quietly quit contributing to their company, the business and the people around them. What a message to those people in midlife who may be going through the quietly quitting stage to realize, “I have choices that I can make. I can’t control if I like my boss, I’m micromanaged, or don’t feel like I’m appreciated and paid what I’m worth, but I can control my circle of influence. I can increase in contributing to those around me and those that I have influenced.” Pretty soon, little by little, that grows, expands, and could change your entire office and business.

Isn’t that R and I again?

It is. You don’t want to hear it but take R and I, and make it happen. No excuses. That’s not always a popular message. The other option is we know what it’s like to live in diminuendo in the workplace. We’ve seen it in the workplace, at home and in different venues. There’s no growth, learning and potential. You need someone who believes in you. We need to be a light and beacon to those around us to believe in them. That can spread.

We need someone who believes in us, and we need to be a light and beacon to those around us to believe in them. And that can spread. Click To Tweet

I will say what I appreciated toward the end of this book, Cynthia. There might be some people that are like, “That’s easy for you to say, Cynthia. You’re part of the Coveys. Things are always great. It’s easy to be in crescendo.” There’s a vulnerability here at the end where you talk about things that haven’t always been great and weren’t always great for your dad. That’s such an important point here. It brings so much trust to the reader as they’re going through it. You went through challenges as well.

I chose to share some personal things about our family for that very reason. You look at other people and we compare ourselves to others all the time. We shouldn’t because the definition of success is you’re successful in your most important roles without comparison to others but it’s a natural tendency to do that and think, “They have it all, got it all together and everything is perfect with that family. I’m the one that’s got problems with ours.”

Every family struggles and has things that they deal with. Some are evident and seen. Others are behind the scenes. With our family, I chose to show that we have a journey of living in crescendo and had to practice it in three examples in the book. The first one was my mom who had nine children and maybe that’s what it did to her body. She had back surgery and it didn’t go well. She was in the hospital for four months. When she was released, she was in a wheelchair.

My mom was the energizer but she never stopped. It’s for her to have to deal with being in a wheelchair, having people helping her get up and down, having that disruption, our family always having someone there and what our family had to deal with when we wanted our mom to be a normal person. She was consumed with her health problems for a time. We had to choose to rally together and support her. She had to choose to say, “I can’t help that I’m in a wheelchair but I have other choices. I can still be a mother and a matriarch, be an example in my community and raise money for this Covey Center for the Arts,” which she did and bring that about.

“I can still have influence, even though I can’t choose that I’m in a wheelchair the rest of my life.” That was one instance where like you, Patrick, we, as nine kids, had to come together, support each other and help our mom. The next thing that happened was we noticed our father was not normal and the same. This is something that isn’t generally known, but he started acting differently. His personality changed. He seemed apathetic. He didn’t seem to have the passion that he had anymore.

We thought he was reacting to our mother being ill. We found out that he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Four percent of those with dementia have this awful disease. It changed his personality and affects his frontotemporal lobe. We didn’t have either parent. You lost yours as a teenager. We lost ours both at about the same time later on in life. We were fortunate to have it that long but we had a mom in a wheelchair and a father that was struggling with dementia.

His whole life, he had exercised his body and his mind and then this disease happened. It can affect anybody. We realized that he was living in crescendo until he couldn’t do it anymore. He did it and faked it probably as long as he could. Finally, he succumbed to it. That was a hard thing for us. We rallied together and relied on each other, our faith and what we had been taught by our parents to get through this hard time.

If that wasn’t enough, my brother’s daughter, Rachel, passed away from the effects of depression two months after my father passed. That was devastating for us. She was the oldest girl of eight children. My brother, my sister-in-law, and all of us were so devastated by this great loss. My brother thought about it and someone told him, “You’ll always have a hole in your heart.” He thought, “That’s not right. I’m going to make a muscle where that hole is.” He realized that this can either destroy us, define us or strengthen us. He chose to let this strengthen our entire family. Sean, Rebecca, and he started a foundation called Bridle Up Hope.

LFL 148 | Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey: Our struggle can either destroy us, define us, or strengthen us.


Their daughter loved horses. It gave her great happiness and pleasure to ride horses. It helped some of her friends when they were depressed to go horseback riding with her. They started this nonprofit foundation that takes in young girls from 12 to 18, teaches them to ride horses, question training and also couples with some life skills. My brother, Sean, took my dad’s 7 Habits and wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and applied all of this to the teenage stage.

The third component is service. Over 1,000 girls have gone through Bridle Up Hope since Rachel passed away years ago. Rachel isn’t with them. They believe that they’ll be with her later. They can choose to make a difference in the lives of girls that struggle with anxiety, depression, abuse, suicide and trauma and change their lives. It has been life-changing for many of these thousand girls that have gone through the program.

That was our journey that I shared in crescendo. We have empathy for others. Some have gone through much worse things than those. Some don’t have family support like we did, having nine siblings that could depend on each other. We know others who suffered even greater but that was our journey and our attempt to live in crescendo, despite what life throws at us.

It’s such a powerful way to go about the ending of this book. Even though it’s not a diminuendo, it is still a crescendo of taking the experiences that we’ve dealt with, whether positive or tragic. The theme here is about service to others. The more we’re able to do for others, the stronger we become ourselves.

My father taught us that contribution is more important than accumulation and contributing to others’ lives through all these stages, the midlife stage where you don’t realize if you’re successful or not and you’re struggling, the pinnacle of success where you have had great success in your life. You’ve been like Jimmy Carter who was the President of the United States. He’s the best post-president we’ve ever had. People wouldn’t rate him very high in his presidency but his greatest work was still ahead of him, which is his humanitarian work. The life-changing setbacks that we’ve discussed. The last part is the second half of life. Some people think, “I’m 75. I don’t have a lot of money. What can I do to make a difference?”

An example in the book is a homeless advocate who said to this woman, “Could you donate one can of soup a week?” She said, “Yes, I could do that.” She said, “Imagine a single mother opening up that can of soup and feeding her family. They go to bed without being hungry that night. If you can contribute that, that’s an awesome contribution.” She did that for several years, and hundreds of meals were supplied by this one woman. Contribution is the most important thing that we can do that will help other people wherever they’re at, but at the same time, it saves us and blesses our lives because we bring light to other people.

Going back to that quote by Picasso, “The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.” It says in the subtitle, “Your most important work is always ahead of you.” You don’t know if you’re finished contributing. You may be older, going through a divorce, bankrupt or struggling in a bad relationship. Use your R and I. Do what you can to expand your circle of influence. You still have a lot to contribute to your life if you believe it and act on it.

We don’t know the second half of our life in terms of what age we’ll be at. Even if the second half of your life is in your 70s, and you’re in your 30s now, there’s still so much value in being able to look and say, “There’s so much throughout my life to be prepared for.”

A quote that we were raised on is, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Create it ahead of living it, “This is the future that I want. These are my goals. I’ve got these setbacks and difficulties, but so what? I can overcome them, expand my circle of influence and work hard to attain these goals.” I had to do that by writing the book. Most of your readers are struggling with far harder things. We wanted to inspire people to have hope that they still do have important things ahead of them. Their greatest contribution may still be to come. You don’t know when that is.

LFL 148 | Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey: Your most important work is always ahead of you, do what you can to expand your circle of influence. You still have much to contribute to your life if you believe it and act on it.


Thank you for that. As we wrap things up, is there one thing that you would hope people take away from this book?

Our main goal was to help them. Life is a mission, not a career. My father always believed that you don’t invent your mission. You detect them. This is something Viktor Frankl taught. Deeply think to yourself, “What is it that I could contribute to those around me, in my family, and neighborhood?” See a need. With your unique skills and talents, reach it. Do what you can to make a difference in someone’s life. Start thinking, “Who needs me? Who needs what I have to offer?”

LFL 148 | Stephen Covey

Live Life in Crescendo

Every person does have a unique mission. Usually, the greatest enjoyment that you have is from helping other people. Look around, see a need, and respond. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can where you are with what you have.” You have enough to make a difference in someone’s life if you will respond.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about this book before it’s launched. I’m so excited to see where this goes and the impact that this can have on so many people.

Thanks so much, Patrick. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you. You live in crescendo yourself. I love hearing your example of growing up. The things that you’re doing are a great mission of service I believe.

Thank you so much. Wishing you the best. Peace.


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About Cynthia Covey Haller

LFL 148 | Stephen CoveyCynthia Covey Haller is an author, teacher, speaker, and an active participant in her community. She has contributed to the writing of several books and articles, notably The 3rd Alternative by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make, both by Sean Covey. Cynthia has held multiple leadership positions in women’s organizations, served as a PTSA president, an organizer for refugee aid and food pantry volunteer, and she is currently working with her husband, Kameron, as a service volunteer helping with employment needs. She graduated from Brigham Young University and lives with her family in Salt


About Stephen R. Covey

LFL 148 | Stephen CoveyRecognized as one of Time magazine’s twenty-five most influential Americans, Stephen R. Covey (1932–2012) was an internationally respected leadership authority, family expert, teacher, organizational consultant, business leader, and author. His books have sold more than 40 million copies (print, digital, and audio) in more than fifty languages throughout the world and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the 20th Century. After receiving an MBA from Harvard University and a doctorate from Brigham Young University, he became the cofounder and vice chairman of FranklinCovey, the most trusted leadership company in the world.


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