“According to Dr. Stephen R. Covey, primary greatness is the kind of success that comes from contribution. By contrast, the trappings of success—position, popularity, public image—are secondary greatness. When you see the actions and behaviors of celebrities, famous athletes, CEOs, movie actors, or whatever, you’re seeing secondary greatness.
Primary greatness is on the inside. It’s about character. Secondary greatness is on the outside. As Dr. Covey taught, ‘Many people with secondary greatness—that is, social recognition for their talents—lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later, you’ll see this in every long-term relationship they have, whether it is with a business associate, a spouse, a friend, or a teenage child going through an identity crisis. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, ‘What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say.’”
~ Stephen R. Covey’s colleagues from the Preface to Primary Greatness
Stephen Covey is one of my favorite teachers.
In fact, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (see Notes) was *literally* the first book I ever read that introduced me to the idea that we could actually improve our lives and make a difference in the world.
On the first pages of my book, I share this quote from 7 Habits as it so powerfully captures the essence of my work:
“I believe that a life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth. I do not agree with the popular success literature that says that self-esteem is primarily a matter of mind set, of attitude—that you can psych yourself into peace of mind. Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.”
(Which came right after this Nietzsche quote, btw: “This is my way; where is yours?— Thus I answered those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the way—that does not exist.” :)
Stephen Covey passed away in 2012. This book was published posthumously and features a collection of wisdom focusing on the fact that private victory precedes public victory.
Primary greatness. It’s all about what’s on the INSIDE.
Covey tells us there are 12 levers of success—each with its own chapter in this great book. (Get a copy here.)
I’m excited to share some of my favorite Big Ideas so let’s jump straight in!
Unlock the full Optimize Experience
Start free trial
Get instant access to a ton of wisdom. Optimize every facet of
your life. Actualize your potential.