In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Cynthia Covey Haller, a teacher, speaker, an active participant in her community and co-author Live Life in Crescendo: Your Most Important Work is Always Ahead of You. Cynthia Covey Haller shares what it means to live life with a crescendo and how to face challenges and opportunities in the middle to later stages of life. Cynthia Covey Haller also tells inspiring stories on how we can enrich the lives of people around us, the community, and the world. Finally, Cynthia Covey Haller discusses how to be a better leader, to communicate worth and potential to people and the legacy we leave behind.
- The importance of setting leadership examples and living its values
- Cynthia Covey Haller shares childhood stories with her dad
- The story behind “Live Life With Crescendo”
- Cynthia Covey Haller on “Live Life With Crescendo” and how it relates to leading our lives
- How can we approach our lives viewing it as a mission
- The secret to staying focus to your life mission amidst technology and social media
- Cynthia Covey Haller on fulfilling the most important roles in your life
- Love for service and how it plays a role in living life in crescendo
- How hardships can serve as a moment when we are living life in crescendo
- Cynthia Covey Haller shares practices and resources to a more effective leadership
Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Steven M.R. Covey (Listen to Steven M.R. Covey episode on Partnering Leadership)
Ken Blanchard (Listen to Ken Blanchard’s episode with Randy Conley on Partnering Leadership here)
Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others by by Stephen M.R. Covey
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
Connect with Cynthia Covey Haller:
Live Life in Crescendo: Your Most Important Work Is Always Ahead of You (The Covey Habits Series) on Amazon
Cynthia Covey Haller on LinkedIn
Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:
More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:
Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Cynthia Covey Haller, to talk about the newly released book, Live Life in Crescendo: Your Most Important Work Is Always Ahead of You. This is a book she co-wrote with Steven R. Covey, the international best-selling author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Steven Covey who spent his career inspiring millions of individuals to make their lives more effective, compassionate, and meaningful toward the end of his life, felt that there was a final component to his work and this is that final component, living life in crescendo and how our most important work is always ahead of us.
I really enjoy this conversation with Cynthia. I am sure you will too. I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. firstname.lastname@example.org. There's also a microphone icon on partneringleadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice message.
Now, here is my conversation with Cynthia Covey Haller.
Cynthia Covey, Haller. Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Thank you so much Mahan for having me. I'm just thrilled to be your guest and I appreciate your podcast so much.
Can't wait to talk about Live Life In Crescendo: Your Most Important Work Is Always Ahead Of You. Your father's last book, which you have co-written with him. But before we get to that Cynthia, would love to know about your upbringing growing up as the oldest of nine kids of Steven Covey.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
People say nine kids did they get around to all of you? Did they even know your names? But we had a big span. I was 22 when my youngest brother Joshua was born. So, there's a big span between us, but my parents weren't perfect, but they were wonderful people that tried as hard as they could to be great parents.
When they made mistakes, they apologized. They didn't act like they were perfect. We felt loved and secure with them and enjoyed a great family culture.
Now with that family culture, I was speaking with Steven a little while back and he says he was the smartest of the bunch growing up. But I don't know if you buy into that.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
No, that would not be the case. As the oldest, I did all the work for taking care of all the little brats, for years and I had to learn everything.
So, I think I should claim that being the oldest he's number three so, he's a middle child.
So, Cynthia growing up in this family, as you said, no, no family is perfect by any means and leadership in part is trying to live by values, whether it is in your family or outside.
How do you believe some of your upbringing was unique to the Covey family, as opposed to, if you had been in any other family?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
As my brother, Steven said, we were the Guinea pigs for my dad's ideas. When they first started out way that he did it was, he would try things out with us, with his students. He would speak about things a lot before he actually wrote. One of them was first things first, which became one of my dad's seven habits.
A little story I have about that, I was 12 years old and I think it was a little different. Most all my friends had parents that worked nine to five and my dad traveled a lot but I felt like he planned well, so he didn't miss any important events that we had scheduled.
So, one time when I turned 12, he invited me to go to San Francisco with him. So, this is a little kid's dream. I was thrilled. I've only been on a plane a couple time. And so, half the fun was in planning the whole trip. So, for a couple months, we planned everything that we were gonna do on the trip down to the tea.
So, our main night that we had time after his presentation, I was going to be swimming at this nice hotel and just enjoying myself while he was teaching. And then right before he was done, I would come to the room and medium. I was at the back of the room last 15, 20 minutes listening to him.
That was our plan to leave right then. So, he finished and some people came up and talked to him and then he almost made it to me. And one of his college friends caught him and saw him they were so excited to see each other and they embraced. He said, Steven, I haven't seen you for 10 years. This is amazing. I came to your conference so we could get together. Lois and I would love to go out with you tonight to dinner.
So, he acted excited, to see him and he said I brought my daughter with me on a special date here this weekend. And he said, oh, that's great. She can join us. I forgot to mention our plans. I'm just recalling our plans were that as soon as he was done, we were going to go on the famous trolley cars and to a little girl to think of these trolley cars that would go all over San Francisco. that was amazing.
So, we're gonna ride the trolley cars. We had school coming up, so I was gonna go shop in some of the fancy stores my mom told me about. Then we both love Chinese foods so, we're gonna go to Chinatown on a trolley car and eat there and then rush back, go swimming before they close the pool at night. Order a hot fudge Sunday and watch the together until midnight. And we had every minute planned from five until midnight.
So, getting back to the story, the friend says Hey, let's go down on the Wharf and have Chinese and have seafood. We can eat on the Wharf and of course your daughter's welcome to join us. He glanced at me and I thought, oh my gosh, I've betrayed all our plans for the great night alone. My trolley car was going down the hill without me and I was panicking but I thought he'd probably rather be with his friend than a 12-year-old anyway.
He was so excited to see him. I looked over at him and he put his hand on the friend's shoulder and said, Bob, it's so great to see you. I'd love to go with you, but not tonight. My daughter and I have a special date planned and I couldn't miss this for anything. So, I looked at him shocked, and the guy looked at him and we were out the door and I said, I was teary. And I said, are you sure dad? It's your best friend, the guy in college, wouldn't you rather spend time with him.
And he said, you'd rather have Chinese food anyway, wouldn't you? I wouldn't miss this for anything. Let's go get that trolley car. So, to me, looking back on my childhood, it's a seemingly unimportant uneventful thing that just happened a few minutes of a conversation. But to me, it conveyed that he practiced what he preached. He tried and he put first things first and that weekend I was first and I knew it and I felt affirmed and valued. So that was a wonderful experience for me.
What a beautiful story, Cynthia, and talking about first things first, leadership more than anything else is the example that we set. We can talk about first things first, but then our kids look at us or our team members look at us and see if we are truly living by those values, not just making the statements.
So that is an example of putting first things first. And in this instance, it was, you. And having dinner and the Chinese food
Cynthia Covey Haller:
The Chinese food. Back in those days. I did not like seafood. So, when he said the Wharf, I panicked.
So, your dad ended up writing a bunch of books. They were very successful, starting a very successful company. One of the books that he really wanted to write is this last one that he started writing with you. Why was this Live Life In Crescendo important to him?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
That statement Live Life With Crescendo was his personal mission statement for the last 10 years of his life. And I think as he grew older, he was around 65. He started seeing his mortality a little bit and everybody was saying to him, whoa, Steve, it's, almost time to hang it up. You're, getting up there and everything and to him, retirement, the R word is a bad word in our family.
And he was like, no. I still have a lot to contribute. Just because society says, this is when you stop work or you wind down, I don't buy into that at all. I asked him once I said, dad, are you gonna ever write anything as big as Seven Habits?
And I didn't mean to, but it insulted him. And he said, Are you kidding? He said, I've got 10 books in my head is my best work just the seven habits? Why do you think I get up every day? I get up to write and to contribute. I still have so much more in me that I wanna put out. I'm not one and done, give me some credits.
And one of these books was his mission statement, Live life from crescendo. It meant so much to him and it really resonated with me. I was at a stage of my life where my kids were getting older and he was so busy.
He says, I don't know when I can get to it. And I said, I love this book. I'm passionate about it. What if I write the stories and examples toward it and you give me the ideas, I'll interview you? And he basically said, great, you write the book and you can take my ideas and that will help me a lot and let's get it out there.
And that was 10 years ago. Mahan. I didn't realize how hard it was. I still had kids at school. I have six kids. I have 21 grandkids and I've been living in crescendo myself. I just turned 65. So, I'm living in crescendo just to finish the book.
And I began it and I wasn't able to get it done before he unexpectedly passed away much earlier than we thought he ever would cause he was in good help. But he did and I promised him when we interviewed, he said you finished this book cause this is my last big idea. He felt that it was a powerful concept that could really make a difference in people's lives.
It is a powerful concept for us to reflect on living life in crescendo. So, what is crescendo, Cynthia, and how does that relate to how we lead our lives?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Crescendo, as the symbol expands out. It's a musical symbol, which means that it continues to swell, to grow and Grande, to increase in energy and volume, to keep going.
If you think of crescendo in your life, your life should keep expanding. You may have ups and downs and challenges, you may have setbacks, but your whole mentality, and I talk about introducing the crescendo mentality is that you keep expanding. You keep learning and changing and reinventing. Where the opposite is diminuendo. It slows, it doesn't have much power or volume or energy, and eventually it stops and comes to an end.
So, one of the main concepts of the book is we must consciously in all ages and stages of our lives choose and it is a choice to live in crescendo rather than diminuendo. And that will make all the difference in, in our future and in our optimism and happiness for what's coming up.
In order to do that, you and your father mentioned that life is a mission, not a career. Careers come to an end; missions don't come to an end. So how can we approach our lives viewing it as a mission? Because for so long, we continually focus on our careers, career progression and then when that career ends for a lot of people, they are lost searching. So, how can we lead our lives? More like a mission, not just a career?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
I think that was one of the most important principles in the book. My father actually got that from his grandfather, Steven L. Richards. And he felt like nothing had impacted him more powerfully than that statement. Life is a mission, not a career. And you correctly said, we have all these roles and we do these jobs, and as soon as the job ends, or maybe you get sick and you can't do it anymore. Many say, what's left? We've gotta find our own unique mission, our own calling in life, and the most important thing is a mission contributes to others' lives.
So, if we can identify, what is my mission in life? Maybe you think that your mission and said would be partnering leadership is to help people develop leadership on their own. I'm sure that you feel passionate about that and feel like it can affect being a father or a mother and a student and, in a business, any different places that developing leadership is something powerful that you believe in. And it takes some time to find our mission.
Oprah said use me, God, show me how I can take what I am and what I'm good at for something greater than myself. And that's a powerful concept to think life isn't about a job or career, it's a lifetime mission. The crescendo idea that keeps expanding besides ups and downs and bumps in the road. And that keeps you hopeful.
I remember having read and then taken a seven habits program where you had to write your own mission statement. From the perspective of writing your own obituary.
Now, there are a lot of times, Cynthia, I find that we all say no one on their death bed said, I want to spend a day extra working in this job or doing these things or having gotten a bigger house or a faster, fancier car.
While that's understood a lot of the priorities on an ongoing basis aimed up pushing us in those directions. If anything, in what we are recognizing in success in business, what we are recognizing on social media is pushing us away from achieving that mission.
So, when you reflect on it and when you and your father both studied it, talked about it and wrote about it. How can we stay focused on achieving and going toward that mission rather than being distracted by all the shiny objects on social media and all the things that serve our ego?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
It's one of the greatest struggles of life, I think. How do we keep first things first? How do we have our priorities? GTE said the things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. But it's hard to do that.
The reality of it is you have to make a living; you have to provide for your family. You want to contribute in business. You want to make a name for yourself. But my father always talked about roles and goals, and the difference between primary greatness and secondary greatness are all the things that glitter that you mentioned.
Like you said, the death bed literature says you don't care about that at the end of your life. But you sure do while you're living. So, I think that you consciously have to develop a mission statement. What you're about his was live life from crescendo. I'm gonna keep contributing. I'm gonna keep coming out with new ideas, I'm gonna keep learning and growing.
But also, that the primary greatness things that we have to identify and prioritize is this a shiny object or are my relationships more important? Am I gonna sacrifice my relationships in my job? You really do have to organize yourself and decide, these are my priorities and I can't be distracted from 'em.
The other things I have to do as well, but I have to keep my eye on the ball. And one of the ways that he talks about doing this is writing down your different roles and goals for those roles that you feel are important, and they could be your personal ones.
I'm a father or mother. I'm a sister. I have relationships. I'm aunt or uncle. Those are some roles I have in the family. Now I'm a contributor in the community. I volunteer. I'm active in my church. I give to the poor. I look for needs. I serve. I'm a business person, I wanna be a good manager.
So, trying to figure out your mission and your purpose, and then just keep coming back to it. Checking in with yourself, how are the most important roles that I have being fulfilled? And am I being distracted and pulled away from that?
And that is one of the biggest challenges as you mentioned, Cynthia, that we see whether for us as individuals or in organizations and the community when there is a disconnect. And that disconnect sometimes happens because we haven't taken the time to reflect on some of those priorities and be intentional about it.
You mentioned in the book, one of my other favorite authors and thinkers, Clay Christensen, talking about choose the right yard stick. Then when we reflect and choose that right yard stick, we can live our lives in crescendo in a way that serves our future selves also not just what's pulling us at the moment.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Clayton Christiansen, what a wonderful book. How will you measure your life? He's saying the same things. Are you going to measure it by the titles and the degrees and the money? You think that's important to you and he talks about his reunions, how he would go to 'em and pretty soon all these great people that had the priorities in line when he knew them lost sight of that.
Didn't have relationships with some of their kids. They lived away from 'em and they couldn't connect. So, you do have to choose the right yard stick and hold yourself accountable to it.
My dad always liked to say that being on an airplane when you take off from maybe I live in Salt Lake City and I'm going back to Dallas. The airplane by the time it leaves until it gets there is off course most of the time, but it redirects. It has a goal to get there, but then the headwinds hit it and then the past winds and then different things happen. They might have a lot of static and things in the air. So, it corrects. So, we have to self-correct and that's part of crescendo, not being afraid to keep learning and keep trying new things and self-correcting.
In doing that, one of the things you mention is service and the importance of service. There are many quotes in the book. One of them is by Rabindranath Tagore. “I stepped and dreamt that life was joy. I woke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
So, you talk about that love for service. How does that play a role in living life in crescendo?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
It's the key to the whole book. This is basically a leadership book about one idea that as you serve and bless others in your life, you will fight meaning and purpose in your life.
One of the main ideas is life is about contribution, not accumulation that goes back to what you were talking a minute ago. We're taught to accumulate. We're taught to do all these things, but as we know, by the end of our life, it's about what have I contributed? How have I contributed to my family? How did I contribute to my community? To those in need? What special causes did I take up? Who have I served? Service is huge in this book because its where true joy is found.
I said in the book that the mission statement for the book could be a quote by Pablo Picasso. You wouldn't think this was a quote by him, but he says, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it.” And that kind of sums it up.
We have to find our unique mission and then we give it away. I've identified four different areas in the book where you have the opportunity to live life at crescendo, where a lot of times people may live in diminuendo.
And one is a midlife struggle where a lot of people go through a midlife crisis and they're not where they thought they would be, and they panic. And sometimes they do stupid things bail out of their family relationships or do something risky or crazy, or they just don't realize they're not where they were and they get nervous about it and they overreact.
Another one is pinnacle of success. This is the idea that many people are very successful in their life, but then what happens after that? Jimmy Carter, who's a wonderful president and yet the the pinnacle of success is he's the president of the United States.
You think? What's greater than that? He's found much more contribution through his habitat for humanity and through the Carter center and through brokering peace. He's become our greatest post President.
But the example I was thinking of is a man named Carl Raber, who was a self-made millionaire. He was a glider and he would go to these countries in south America on these gliding trips that just cost so much money.
Pretty soon the disparity between the lifestyle he had and what he saw just got to his conscience. It sickened him and he couldn't live with it anymore. He realized I've been working for 25 years for all these things that are supposed to bring me happiness and I don't feel any joy and I'm shackled by my possessions.
So, he sold his luxurious villa in the Alps. He sold his gliders in his cars and he decided instead to put money into micro loans for these third world countries, like Muhammad UN his model. And he helped business people with just a little bit of money with hardly any interest or no interest provide for their family and have a successful business where before they were barely making a couple dollars. They were caught in a poverty cycle.
So, he said for 25 years I worked like a slave for things I didn't want or need. Now, my dream is to have nothing. Nothing in material wealth, but everything in terms of real contribution and value. And for the first time he felt at peace and happy.
That's an extreme case. I'm not advocating, sell everything and give it away to the poor. But in the pinnacle of success stage, what are you going to do after a successful career? Are you gonna sit by the pool like the commercials temp check? Go to Florida, retire, travel the world, think of yourself, or look around you and think, I have a lot of skills. I have a great network. I care about some of these causes. I can see poverty everywhere. I can see great needs. I'm gonna respond to it. I'm gonna contribute. And after pinnacle of success, you're still succeeding. You're still in crescendo doing that. I really admire people that do.
This is the pinnacle of success, Cynthia, it's important for us to shift our focus of the types of people we've been celebrating to celebrate more people that serve who end up living their lives in crescendo. End up having a positive impact on the community.
So, I think part of it is we, as a society have gotten away from recognizing people for these types of contributions and have focused the recognition primarily on career success and material achievements.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Wouldn't that be a great society if the person that's down at the food bank every week, and those that give to others, if they were the celebrities, they got the bright lights. I'm sure these people wouldn't want that, but what if that was what had real value?
We talk about the circle of influence in this book that as you start, you have a small circle of influence. As you contribute, as you bring other people in and involve them, it grows and grows until it can become a mighty force for good. And you can be a part of some great cause that you're just a piece of, because you have a desire to contribute and you stick with it.
And living life in crescendo is serving and having that impact. Couple of beautiful quotes, life's most urgent question. What are you doing for others? That's Martin Luther King and Albert Schweitzer, who I also love much of his writing on leadership. I don't know what your destiny will be, but the one thing I know is the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who will have sought and found a way to serve.
So, you come back to the fact that service plays a role in living life in the crescendo and an authentic version of it. It's serving to serve, not serving for others to recognize us for serving.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Serving, because you want to serve not for the recognition. Adam Grant talks about that in his book Givers and Takers, and he says that a lot of people will wait till they have a lot of money and then they will start to serve and they'll start to share it and be more charitable, but the best way he suggests is that you do it all along.
You just work service and giving into your life when you're poor up until when do really well. I have an example, in my book about Mother Teresa, this beggar came up to her and said, mother Teresa, everyone gives you something for the poor and I want to contribute too. He was poor and he said, I want to give something too, but today I can only give, one 10th of a scent. And mother Theresa thought, if I take it, he could starve tonight. He won't eat tonight, but if I don't take it, I'll insult him. So, she took it and she said, I've never seen more joy on the face of anyone who gave money to me.
He had such joy because now he was a part of something bigger than himself. He was also in need, but he knew there were others that were in greater need and he wanted to be part of that. That's something you can't buy the feeling of satisfaction in yourself without the accolades.
That service is a big part of living in a crescendo. You also talk quite a bit about leadership and most especially about leadership in part being that the ability to communicate worth and potential to people. You quote Ken Blanchard, who I had a conversation with a few months back, “Unexpressed good thoughts are worth squat.”
So, how does communicating worth to other people play a role in helping us live life in crescendo?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Ken Blanchard is talking about affirming people. Positive affirmations. When you have a good thought, if you don't express it, it's not worth anything it's gone. A little word or two can change somebody's whole day and maybe even their life. And you're talking about leadership.
He's a medieval Knight, that's older and people think he's a little crazy.Leadership is a choice, not a position. Leadership has communicated another's worth a potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. The Men of La Mancha story, which was one of my father's favorites.
He comes into a town and he sees a woman whose name is Aldonza. She's a prostitute. People treat her poorly and she lives up to how they treat her. She's the lowest one. Everybody uses her, but they don't value her. And appreciate her. And he looks at her eyes and he see a person of great worth and potential. He sees greatness in her. She can't see it in herself. So, he gives her a new identity. It's beautiful that he decides to call her by another name and he chooses the name Dulcinea. Gives her this beautiful name and says, you're not Aldonza. You're a Dulcinea. You are a great lady. I see goodness in you. And she doesn't believe it. She rebuffs him and says, I'm a prostitute. Nobody respects me. I'm not some great lady. I'm not your great lady. He says, no, I see it in you. Little by little he affirms her so much that she comes to see herself as Dulcinea. People see that. Some aren't comfortable with it and they want her to be Aldonza again, but she sticks with it and they treat her so differently that she decides I am this new person I do have worth and potential, and I deserve respect.
So, at the very end she comes to him when he is dying and he affirms her again and says, never forget you are Dulcinea. It's such a beautiful concept of affirmations and the book talks a lot about mentoring and how powerful that is.
We all know if you think right now of two or three people who look up to you and admire you in your life could be your children. It could be someone at school. It could be a peer. What an opportunity we have to build a bridge for them for success. To take them under our wing, to affirm them, to see their potential and express it. What a difference that would make in a person's life who we mentor.
What a beautiful way for us to think about leadership, Cynthia, in that if we are able to communicate true worth and potential to people and help them blossom into their new selves, that is us living life in a crescendo service in a way that helps others blossom.
So, it's a beautiful way to reflect on leadership and the legacy we leave behind.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
I love that idea of leadership. We think sometimes leadership is being in charge of being the top guy and they, head honcho. You're the one that makes the decisions, but leadership is mentoring. If you think of someone like John Wooden. We write about his life and how he just says write out basketball is not the most important thing.
He said, the most important thing is to mentor and be mentored. And his greatest role, is that he was a teacher and he spent one third of his life after having a pinnacle of success named as one of the greatest coaches ever and yet his true success and where he found happiness is by mentoring.
And you've heard some of the people like Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Some of the others talk about how life changing. John Wooden was to a young basketball player who was a superstar in the NBA and had all the glittering things but yet he taught him about what life was really about and what mattered.
So, we have an opportunity every day to mentor others and it is definitely living in crescendo. Just look around and mentor someone that's struggling, maybe even in your own family or in your own organization and watch what happens. And also watch what joy you get out of it, as well as watching their lives change. What it does for them.
Cynthia, one of the things I find is that that makes sense with respect to living life in a crescendo. It's hardest a lot of times when we experience setback, and you talk about life changing setbacks as an opportunity to live life in crescendo. You quote CS Lewis; hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.
We read that. It sounds good, but it doesn't feel good to go through hardships. So, how can hardships serve as a moment when we are living life in crescendo?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
I think that's the hardest challenge ever is when you're going along your life and you have something awful happen to you. You have a big life changing setback. You might get divorced; you lose your job. Your health is going downhill. Someone dies that's close to you.
There's so many times when you have a big setback and we can't always control what happens to us, but the crescendo mentality teaches that you can control how you respond to it.
It's easier said than done. It takes a lot, but this book is different than some of my father's other books in that it has a lot of examples of famous people and non-famous people living life for crescendo in different ways.
One story is one of my favorites about Anthony Ray Hinton. He was a black man in Alabama who was accused of killing two people and was basically framed for the murder. They couldn't solve it. He was convenient. He had a great alibi. He was actually in a lockdown at work, 15 miles away and yet he was framed for this and sent to death row, and he just couldn't believe it. He just thought I'm innocent. And I trust in the legal system. Things will work out and the truth will come out. But because he was poor and didn't have a good defense, it did not work out that way in this community. This was back about 35 years ago.
He was so discouraged and full of despair with this huge life setback. He was just going along in his life and all of a sudden, he finds himself on death row with no future is what it seems. So, he went into the jail and death row and he threw his Bible under the bed. Just symbolic of, I don't have faith and hope anymore. He basically shut down. He started living in diminuendo. His life was coming to and he didn't care. He was done. For three years he didn't speak to anyone or have any communication or acknowledge the presence of anyone except for his family and friends.
No inmates, no guards, nothing. He just shut down his life. And so finally, one night he's in his cell and he hears an inmate right next to him, just sobbing, just crying so hard and desperately calling out for someone to help him. It awoken him something that had always been in there a compassion for another human in suffering, even though he was suffering.
He realized even in death row, he still some choices. And this is what he said. Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices and that knowledge rocked me. I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. Compassion was a choice and more than anything else love was a choice.
So, he broke his three-year silence and spent the night comforting this inmate on death row who had just gotten the news that his mother passed away and was beside himself and wanted to end his life. So, he talked to him about it and had him talking and connecting, and then he decided. He got the Bible under his bed. He dusted it off and renewed his faith and hope that I still have choices. I'm still in death row. I can't control that, but I can control how I act toward others. I can be proactive in trying to get out of here. I can give hope to others.
He'd been there 14 years. The next 14 years, he enlisted Brian Stevenson. If you know him with Jess Mercy and his equal justice initiative team and went to bat for him and realized this was appalling injustice. And through years and years, it still took 14, 15 more years. It was just horrific what he suffered. But all this time he was reaching out to inmates.
He started a book club in there and they discussed great idea. He gave them hope. He wasn't just a find that I'm on death row. He still lived in crescendo as much as he could in that prison. So, Brian Stevenson finally got him released after nearly 30 years. He was one of the longest serving condemned prisoners facing execution, the US who was innocent and was released.
He walked outside to his family and friends and shouted to them, the sun does shine and he ended up writing a book of that title that became a New York best time seller. He's an advocate. He works with Brian Stevenson, an equal justice initiative, and he has a mission. He found his purpose in life.
He emerged without bitterness, like Mandela did after his imprisonment. And he said, bitterness kills the soul. What would it profit me to hate? They took my thirties, my forties and my fifties, but what they couldn't take was my joy. So, he started his life again. 30 years later of imprisonment and he found his unique mission.
And that is to help other unjustly imprisoned people and to give hope to others. He is living in crescendo despite all those years that were in prison. What an inspiring story. I would hope I would have the courage to act as he did.
It is a beautiful story of the fact that in his case, what an extreme injustice and setback, but there were things he could control that added joy to his life and helped serve. Others communicating worth and potential to others, which helped him live life in crescendo even while that injustice was being done.
So, setbacks happen in all of our lives for some extreme injustice and horrible setbacks of 30 plus years. For others, as you mentioned, it can be loss of a job loss of a loved one. A separation. Other things that are setbacks. However, those setbacks by themselves shouldn't define us. It's how we choose to respond and that's a choice that can help define us.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
It is a choice as hard as it is. And you think I don't have a lot of choices, but as you exercise that choice and act upon it, your circle of influence expands. He was able to reach dozens of inmates, dozens of guards with his attitude and with his hopefulness and his personality. And that is an extreme case.
But in our own lives, we all have setbacks. We all have hard things happen to us. So, we have to step aside and say, okay, am I gonna be a victim of this or am I going to choose to live in crescendo and look for what I can do. I still have choices.
Michael J. Fox is another story in here he was diagnosed at the height of his career with Parkinson's. First, he drank. He said, I just was in denial and I ignored it and I drank to forget about it. And then he realized, the only thing I can't choose is to have the disease. All the other choices are up to me and look what an advocate he has been for Parkinson's. People would say he's playing his most important role right now. He's raised $1 billion. I just found out over his lifetime for Parkinson's research. And he's the face of Parkinson's.
And he could have shriveled up and just kept drinking and self-destructing and feeling sorry for himself. Then he realized, I still have other choices. I can control my disease and I can contribute. And I'm talking about the famous examples, but I have people that are ordinary that go through really hard things.
One woman who lost three of her four children buried three children before she died of her four and how people who didn't know this would never know that this cheerful serving woman had such heartache. But she still continued delivering crescendo despite the hard things that she faced and it's so admirable.
One of the other things that you mentioned in living life in crescendo is focus on changing yourself first. Quoting Nelson Mandela. One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others. So, focus on changing yourself first helps us live life in crescendo.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
I think that's the key and you think what's the big deal if I just changed myself, how is that gonna influence others? But Nelson Mandela is the perfect example for this, because if he would've come out of that prison, bitter and angry. And he went in as a violent man and came out a man that had learned the language of his captors and their culture had gone to church with them, understood them, took the time to change himself from the hatred that he had to forgiveness.
And at 71, he comes out of the prison. And you think 71, what can you do? You're 71. You got maybe a few more years or you're too old and a few years later, he's the president of South Africa and he helps usher apartheid with to clerk and he wins the Nobel prize for his efforts.
And, at 74 and five, he's the leader of this country. That's just emerging and waking up to all the opportunities they have. And diminuendo or crescendo.
The subtitle of the book, your most important work is always ahead of you is the key to living in crescendo. That means that no matter what has happened in the past, if you've been successful or if you've been a failure, or if you feel like you're old, or you have these setbacks, you've had something terrible happen to you in your life. You've gotta have the mindset, the crescendo mentality that your most important work is still ahead of you. It could be your greatest work. It may not be better than what you've done before, but in other ways it could be greater because it's still expanding. It could be full of service and contribution where maybe before it was all about yourself.
So that's the mindset of this whole book that to believe that I still have important things to accomplish. I'm not done. Don't count me out because I'm older or I had this accident or I just got divorced or I have no career right now. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm reinventing myself. Be confident and hopeful that I'm gonna figure it out. I have important things to contribute and I'm not done yet.
It's optimism through service and optimism through having a positive impact on the world and the people around us. Joy to them, which is why the book serves as a great framework for how to do that. And I really appreciated the thoughts that Steven Covey and you Cynthia shared all throughout and in many examples, as you mentioned, whether the famous people or the not so famous people, all going through the same process to be able to live life in crescendo.
Now, in addition to your book, what are some other leadership resources or practices, Cynthia, that you find yourself recommending when people want to become more effective leaders or live life in crescendo?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Mahan, if I could just add one more thing to what you said. There are times when you do have to take control of your life and act. Maybe you are heavily overweight. Maybe you are unhealthy. Maybe you have an awful job. You need to get out.
My dad talks about resourcefulness and initiative. You have to make it happen for yourself. And part of crescendo is that besides believing this, you have to take action and reinvent yourself. And there's many examples of people that started over and were in diminuendo and they decided I'm taking control. I'm not gonna be unhealthy anymore. I'm not gonna keep a been abused. I'm not gonna continue to abuse and they made changes. So, I think that's a powerful part of leadership.
But an answer to your question. I gotta recommend my brother's book, of course, Trust and Inspire. That's such a great leadership book. And just talking about the new ways of trusting and inspiring people rather than the old model of command and control. So that's been powerful, I just finished listening to it on audible again, and. It's really powerful. I think if just a shameless plug for my brother. But I like reading books that people reinvent themselves such as the Sun Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton.
Ryan Stevenson, Lives in Crescendo and he's got the just mercy and different contributions. I've been reading Essentialism And Effortless by Greg McEwen, which are powerful ways to take control of your life and prioritize. We're talking earlier about how do I, go through all the fray and do things that really matter.
These are powerful. Greg McEwen presents a lot of practical idea. You can follow to make things that are hard, more effortless, and to cut a lot of clutter from your life and only do what's essential. The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates is so powerful and inspiring.
Here she is the pinnacle of success. One of the richest women in the world and they both devote their time to their foundation and she could do this from. And she goes to these third world countries and she lives with people as a billionaire woman in these little hobbles that they have and sees their problems of deep poverty firsthand and realizes that women are being pushed in the margins.
Anyway, that's called the Moment of Lift which is a great book, how empowering women changes the world.
There are great recommendations, in addition to Steven's book, which is outstanding. We need much more trust and inspire leadership, and I believe what your father and you have written in live life in crescendo can help us get there because we need to live life in crescendo before we can become trust and inspiring
Cynthia Covey Haller:
We have to be whole ourselves. So, for the audience to find out more about you and this book, Cynthia, where would you encourage them to go?
Cynthia Covey Haller:
It's on Amazon right now. franklincovey.com. Will have some information about it also I have an Instagram and Facebook page as well. And Twitter, I just got into the Twitter and so that I can. LinkedIn.
So, that's the first for me, I'm living in crescendo. My main mission in life before this was raising my six kids. And now I reinvented myself and became a first-time author at 65. And I'm trying to live in crescendo to fulfill my father's wish to get this last powerful idea out, to impact people in a positive way.
As you said, serves in having serve as an example of living in crescendo, learning, growing, and moving up rather than winding down. I also love a quote, you actually opened the book with what we leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
So, what you and your father Steven Covey have done in Live Life In Crescendo is help more of us figure out and understand the fact that our most important work is always ahead of us in ways we can serve and make a difference. Help people. Recognize their worth and potential and make sure that we continue to have a positive impact in this crescendo.
I really appreciate you spending the time to write this book with your father, Cynthia. Completing it, and really appreciate the conversation for partnering leadership.
Cynthia Covey Haller:
Thank you so much. You've read the book. You understand the principles and we wanna challenge people to identify what they can do to serve right around them, to think of needs that they see. Maybe in their own family or their community and just to start to volunteer. To do something or to reach out to someone or to mentor somebody and see what a difference it makes in their life.
So, we hope to inspire that's our goal, and I sure appreciate being on your program. You're such a great host and have so many great ideas yourself. I can learn a lot from you. I appreciate your leadership ideas.
Thank you so much, Cynthia Covey Haller.
Cynthia Covey Haller: