Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Today, I am honored and grateful to share some special tributes to THREE authors and thinkers whose work proved FOUNDATIONAL to the 13-year development of the Self-Action Leadership Theory & Model.

John Donne
The English poet John Donne (1572-1631) once wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main."

So it is with you, and so it has been with me. No one is an island. Despite any talents or abilities I may possess, the development of the SAL Theory & Model would have been impossible without the aid of countless other men and women who have profoundly influenced my personal journey. From Shakespeare & Chaucer to Abraham Lincoln & Martin Luther King, Jr.; from Emerson & Longfellow to C.S. Lewis & M. Scott Peck; from Abigail Adams & Florence Nightingale to Confucius & Jesus Christ; from brothers, sisters, and parents to uncles, aunts, cousins, and ancestors, my journey has been touched on every side by men, women, and Divine Beings, whose examples became a "lamp unto my feet." (Psalm 119:105).

Sir Isaac Newton
One of the first things I share in my book, Self-Action Leadership, are three tributes to individuals whose life's journey and work has been particularly important and foundational to mine. These individuals are: Hyrum W. Smith, Stephen R. Covey, and Charles C. Manz.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

– Isaac Newton



Tribute #1


Hyrum W. Smith

Co-Founder of FranklinCovey Company & Author of: What Matters Most

Hyrum W. Smith is a Co-Founder of FranklinCovey Company and an originator of the world famous Franklin Day Planning System. Brilliant in business, sales, and public speaking, Smith is one of the World’s premier authorities on time management and personal development.

If it weren’t for Hyrum Smith, I may not be here today – literally. To explain why, let’s turn back the clock more than a half-century.

In 1962, Smith crossed the Atlantic to serve a two-year, full-time, voluntary mission in the British Isles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. About a year later, my Father, unknown to Smith at the time, traveled to England for the same purpose. During their concurrent service in England, Hyrum Wayne Smith and Rex Buckley Jensen served together as missionary companions on three different occasions in three different locations during three different calendar years. Meant to be? Coincidence? Either way, when my father returned home to attend Brigham Young University in 1965, Hyrum introduced him to his little sister, Pauline. The two were married in 1966. Fourteen years later, I was born – the sixth of seven children.

I was eight years old when I first attended one of “Uncle Wayne’s” time management seminars and obtained my first Franklin Planner. It was a pivotal event in my young life, and planted early seeds that would eventually spring forth into my choice of profession.

Hyrum is a magnanimous man whose personal generosity has reached down to bless my life on many occasions. He also has a good sense of when to say no. For example, he wisely declined my request for financial backing when I first incorporated my company over a decade ago. Knowing his own achievements were earned through self-reliance and successfully passing through the “School of hard knocks,” he knew giving me money would do more harm than good in the long run. How right he was!

It was a bitter pill to swallow at a time in my life when I was being rejected at every turn and everything seemed to be going wrong. This was good, too, because Life prescribes a brimming bottle of “Bitter pills” to everyone, and those who seek to grow must choose to humbly consume, dutifully digest, and honorably transcend each one. It does no good to kick against the pricks.

Hyrum’s discretion, borne of experience-based wisdom, trumped my well intentioned, but ultimately naïve zealotry borne of youthful inexperience. And now I am glad of it. In the words of Garth Brooks: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

Instead of money, Hyrum gave me endorsement quotes and good advice. He even invited me down to his Ranch for a weekend so I could pick his brain. He gave me everything I really needed while wisely withholding what he knew would provide only short-term benefits—and might even harm me in the long run.

Hyrum’s decision provided a golden opportunity to further apply the very principles and practices I ardently yearned to share with the world. Rather than retard my long-term progress, his wise declination actually accelerated it by lending greater credibility to the message of Self-Action Leadership, and bolstering my ethos as its messenger. Looking back, I am grateful for his judicious response to my shortsighted request. It was a key “course” I had to take and pass in my own education in Self-Action Leadership and adversity. I am a better man for having taken that course, and am grateful to my professor for loving me enough to hurt me in the short run in order to help me in the long run.

Hyrum’s life has blessed and inspired my own journey in countless ways. From my earliest memories of him, I always had a deep sense that he was a great man; and indeed he is. Thank you, Uncle Hyrum, for everything you have given and taught me—knowingly or unknowingly. Your life’s example has helped to shape my life’s story.

I am grateful for an uncle and father – whose friendship was a seedling of my mortal existence – who chose to teach me correct principles and then let me govern myself. Such liberty and opportunity, empowered by the lessons gleaned from their respective precepts and examples, is something I will always cherish. It is, for me, a proof of the purview of Providence upon this project from inception to completion.

Tribute #2

Stephen R. Covey

Co-Founder of FranklinCovey Company & Author of the World-Famous: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

While Hyrum and I share a blood relation, I may actually have more in common with FranklinCovey’s other Co-Founder—Dr. Stephen R. Covey. This is because my native skill set – like Covey’s – is rooted more in philosophy, pedagogy, administration, and composition, than in sales, marketing, business, or profit. While I begrudgingly accept my duties in the latter, I welcome and embrace my opportunities in the former. In my heart of hearts, I am – and always will be – a pedagogue, philosopher, and poet before I am a businessman or entrepreneur.

Many capable self-help authorities helped to pioneer the modern self-help movement (i.e. Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill, et al.). What will Covey’s place be in the pantheon of self-help gurus? The answer is subject to history and opinion. In my view, Carnegie is its father, and Covey its more recent godfather.

I first read, listened to, and studied Dr. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in 2001 as a college freshman. I read the book to fulfill a requirement in a summer leadership course at Brigham Young University. It profoundly impacted my life.

The lesser-known subtitle of Covey’s classic is: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. As I hungrily consumed the 7 Habits material, a growing realization of the personal power I possessed to change, as well as to consciously design and direct my own life, resonated deeply in my mind, heart, and spirit. I took particular interest in Habits One, Two, and Three, which focus on personal leadership, at a time in my life when I desperately needed to lead myself through a series of deep and difficult personal obstacles involving romantic relationships and mental illness.

Covey’s words opened my mind to my own personal deficiencies and inadequacies while simultaneously illuminating my potential and enlivening my desire to overcome them, and then teach others to do the same. Quite simply, his work changed my life, and led directly to the writing of this book. Before I had even finished the book, I began sensing that one of my life’s primary callings was to write a comprehensive analogue to the 7 Habits that could serve future generations as ably as Covey’s work had served previous ones.

It was an audacious ambition, and an incredibly rewarding goal. Once my mind and heart had been touched by the power and profundity of the principles Covey organized, and his unique capacity to articulate them, I became completely consumed with the meaningfulness and importance of promoting a Pedagogy of Personal Leadership throughout the world. There was no going back. I have been on an almost obsessive mission ever since (OCD has not been all bad for me).
Aided by Covey’s words, the Inspiration of the Ages, and the driving, and sometimes naïve, ambitions of youth, I zealously went to work. Though fraught with disappointment, failure, rejection, financial duress, and disillusionment all along the way, this difficult journey – now in its 13th year – has simultaneously produced countless blessings, insights, moments of euphoria, and extraordinary personal growth.

This 13-year effort is now finished – or perhaps begun, depending how you look at it. Were Stephen alive to review this present manuscript, I hope he would find it to his satisfaction, and choose to endorse it this time around.

After more than a decade of putting Stephen’s teachings to work in my life on a daily basis, I continue to vouch unequivocally for their clarity, concision, cogency, and veracity. As I have worked with thousands of business professionals in hundreds of audiences throughout the English Speaking World, I have quoted him and taught his material more than any other author or teacher. My seminar attendees rarely leave one of my seminars, regardless of the topic, without a clear understanding of my passion for the work of Stephen R. Covey, and a growing understanding of his work.

Dr. Covey passed away in 2012. In the years since I first studied the 7 Habits, I have sometimes wished I could have spent more time with him personally. Despite two chance meetings – neither of which he would likely recall – and a generous phone call on Christmas Eve, 2003, in response to a letter I had written to my hero desiring to meet him, I did not know him personally beyond second-degree familial connections. Nevertheless, the ripples of his work have penetrated—and continue to reverberate powerfully throughout—the depths of my mind, heart, and soul in ways that proved providentially foundational to this work.

Another vital professor in my existential education, Stephen—like Hyrum—also taught me some invaluable, albeit just as painful, life lessons by saying “No.” I share the experience of one such rejection in this book. Like the lessons Hyrum taught me, I would not, in hindsight, change anything even if I had the power to do so. I am even more thankful for what Hyrum and Stephen didn’t give me as I am for what they did give me.

Such experiences taught me that many of life’s greatest blessings arise not from tangible assistance, but from intangible inspiration derived from the simple, but powerful, moral force of one’s example, teachings, and legacy. Instead of giving me a few fish I would have quickly consumed, Hyrum and Stephen both – and mostly without knowing it – taught me how to fish. This book displays the results of my “catches” thus far. Whatever its weaknesses, I am proud of the harvest, and grateful to my teachers. I hope they will be proud of it also.

I am, and always will be, profoundly grateful to Stephen for providing a vital substructure (theoretically and culturally speaking) to the SAL theory and model. I publicly acknowledge the impact of his life’s example on mine as well as the profundity of his life’s work – a work I believe he continues in another realm. It is my explicit intention for Self-Action Leadership to serve the World in coming decades as capably as the 7 Habits did throughout the turn of the last century.

Tribute #3

Charles C. Manz

Father of the Self-Leadership field in the Academe, and Professor at the University of Massachusetts

Dr. Charles C. Manz is the Father of the self-leadership field in the Academe. His pioneering academic publications on the subject date back to 1983, when I was just 4-years old.

It is interesting to me that it took until the mid 1980s for universities to begin addressing this vital subject as a topic of legitimate scholarly inquiry. The credit for this worthy legitimization – as well as for much of its subsequent proliferation – goes to Dr. Manz.

Addressing self-leadership at the doctoral level would have been much more difficult without the pioneering efforts of “Chuck” and his capable colleagues around the country (i.e. Chris Neck, Arizona State University, Hank Sims, Jr., University of Maryland, and Jeff Houghton, West Virginia University).

The work of these scholars has provided a vital academic foundation to the superstructure of new ideas I put forth with the SAL Theory & Model. Charles Manz is a highly accomplished, distinguished, and capable scholar and educator. He is also a man of integrity and a generous human being. I will forever be indebted to him for his foundational academic work in the field of self-leadership. I appreciate so very much all he has accomplished, and am deeply honored he chose to endorse this work.

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