Steve Varnum

"Seek first to understand": Stephen Covey left us a gift

By Steve Varnum

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was filled with down-to-earth, provocative, gentle and brilliant advice.

I don't read a lot of business books that aren't about communication and social media. But when I moved from journalism to nonprofits 11 years ago I read Stephen Covey's best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

This wasn't one of those do-this-tomorrow self-help books. Covey described some different paths from which we less-effective mortals could perceive and navigate the world around us. His advice was down-to-earth, provocative, gentle and brilliant. By the time I closed it, 7 Habits was littered with Post-It notes, many of which migrated from its pages to my computer terminal and the walls around my desk.

These days I'm more likely to look to blogs for ideas and inspiration. One of my favorite bloggers, Tom Suddes of For Impact, eulogized Covey today by reviewing, through the filter of For Impact's nine guiding principles, the concepts that Covey popularized.

If you work in nonprofit communications, marketing, philanthropy or fundraising, I invite you to get to know Suddes's inspirational work. His How to be a social entrepreneur poster hangs an arm's length from me right now, and I've spread copies around to friends and colleagues.

As for me, I'm going to re-read 7 Habits and think about the distance I've traveled, and the distance left to go.

Steve Varnum is the communications guy at the Community Loan Fund.