First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy
by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill
A practical book to help us all balance the spiritual, mental, physical, and social elements of our lives.
Published by Simon & Schuster 1994, ISBN 0671864416 [Book,Kindle]
or Kindle Store
First Things First. To Live. To Love. To Learn. To Leave a
Legacy. Sounds like a terrific plan for a rewarding and balanced life. Stephen R.
Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill have created one of the best books I've
read to help us all balance the spiritual, mental, physical, and social elements of our
The book is in four sections:
Section One: The Clock and the Compass
Here the authors discuss time management problems we face in our
personal and business lives.
Our struggle to put first thing first can be characterized by the
contrast between two powerful tools that direct us: the clock and the compass. The clock
represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals, activities—what we do
with, and how we manage our time. The compass represents our vision, values,
principals, mission, conscious, direction—what we feel is important and how we lead
The section talks about the strengths and weaknesses of various
time management strategies.
Some of the main concepts discussed in the section are balancing
spiritual, mental, social, and physical needs. Balance is achieved by using personal
endowments such as self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination
to align to "True North" principles (the compass). Various exercises are
provided to help you explore these aspects for yourself.
Th first section introduces the following Urgency / Importance
quadrant that is used throughout the book as a way of looking at time priorities.
I Urgent - Important
- Pressing problems
- Deadline-driven projects, meetings, preparations
II Not Urgent - Important
- Values clarification
- Relationship building
- True re-creation
III Urgent - Not Important
- Interruptions, some phone calls
- Some mail, some reports
- Some meetings
- Many proximate, pressing matters
- Many popular activities
IV Not Urgent - Not Important
- Trivia, busywork
- Junk mail
- Some phone calls
- Time wasters
- "Escape" activities
Section Two: The Main Thing Is To Keep The Main Thing The Main
This section introduces Quadrant II Organizing: The Process of
Putting First Things First. The key here is identifying what our first things are in
relation to our life roles. There is a lot in this section, but perhaps the following
discussion of roles provides a good sample:
Our Natural Roles Grow Out of Our Mission
Where do we get our roles? If we haven't paid the price to work
them out in our deep inner life, they're probably a combination of feelings we have about
ourselves and the social mirror.
But if we have paid the price, our roles are like the branches of
a living tree. They grow naturally out of a common trunk—our mission, the unique
fulfillment of our needs and capacities—and common roots—the principals that
give sustenance and life. Our roles become the channels through which we live, love,
learn, and leave a legacy.
Again, the section is filled with discussions and exercises to
help you identify your mission, principles, and roles.
Section Three: The Synergy Of Interdependence
This section explores personal missions in the context of other
people. This involves developing shared visions with in organizations and developing
win-win relationships in personal, professional, and business life.
The Miracle of the Chinese Bamboo Tree
The Chinese bamboo tree is planted after the earth is prepared,
and for the first four years, all the growth is underground. The only thing visible above
the ground is a little bulb and a small shoot coming out of it.
Then, in the fifth year, the bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet.
Principal-centered leaders understand the metaphor of the bamboo
tree. They understand the value of working in Quadrant II. They know what it means to pay
the price to prepare the ground, to plant the seed, and to fertilize and cultivate and
water and weed, even when they can't see immediate results, because they have faith that
ultimately they will reap the fruits of the harvest.
And what wonderful fruits they are!
Your organization's culture is the one competitive advantage that
cannot be duplicated. Technology can be copied. Information can be acquired. Capital can
be bought. But the ability of your organization to collaborate effectively, to work in
Quadrant II, to put first things first, cannot be bought, transferred, or installed. A
high-trust, empowered culture is always home grown.
The same is true for a family, or any other group of people. A
quality culture must be nourished over time. Only by acting in harmony with correct
principles, exercising patience, humility, and courage, and working within your Circle of
Influence can you transform yourself and positively influence your organization. You can
only create empowerment from the inside out.
Section Four: The Power and Peace of Principle-Centered Living
The final section talks about moving from time management to
personal leadership and leaves us with the following question:
Is there something I feel I could do to make a difference?
Think about it. It may require a letting go—of illusory
paradigms, rationalizing, wants, urgency addiction . . . even your comfort zone. But deep
down, in all honesty of heart, do you feel there's something you could do, some
contribution you could make, some legacy you could leave that would impact your family,
your work team, your organization, your community, your society in a positive way?
If there is, we encourage you to act on it. As Ghandi dais,
"We must become the change we seek in the World." Whatever you are in terms of
becoming principle-centered, we encourage you to start exercising the attributes of your
heart. Make a promise and keep it. Set a goal and achieve it. There is peace in it. As
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you
peace but the triumph of principles.
Book,Kindle reviewed by
Tuesday, July 20, 1999
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