I’ve stated before that I like to compare Stephen Covey’s material with that provided by other learned people, and here is another nugget I found.
In his book ‘The Only Way to Win’ (Hyperion, 2012) Author and coach to tennis stars Jim Loehr makes the observation that there are two kinds of character, although when he explains he is talking about two types of characteristics.
He writes about Performance Characteristics, and Moral Characteristics. He provides examples of each, suggesting that Performance Characteristics relate to excellence, resilience, perseverance, self-control, bravery, commitment, positivity and so on. Moral characteristics include truthfulness, kindness, honesty, gratitude, patience, respect and so on.
Next, he proposes that the Performance Characteristics are external – they tend to promote and provide external results, results that are dependant upon others in the sense that doing them requires they be done for others, and they require relationships to make them work. They tend to be ‘doing’ characteristics, in that without visible action they have no meaning.
Moral characteristics are internal – they relate to the value we place upon, and the relationships we have with, ourselves. They tend to be ‘being’ characteristics, where their invisibility doesn’t matter because ‘we know’.
The problem, opines Loehr, is that while society rewards performance character, a lack of moral character underpinning it creates the Madoffs, the Epsteins, the Nixons, and so on. Performers are great, until their corrupt morals muck it up for everyone, including themselves.
The Second Resolution, written about in the early 1970s by Covey, speaks of the desire to overcome pride and pretension using Character and Competence. Isn’t Loehr just repeating what Covey says, but in different words? Performance Characteristics relate to Competence, while Moral Characteristics relate to Character.
I am not saying Loehr poached Covey’s idea! What this reflects is two things – first of all, great minds always come to the same conclusion when independently exploring the same material. And second – it underpins the fact that the findings are correct, universal, external and timeless truths.
Loehr applied his philosophy to developing moral character in his tennis prodigies as much as he ever did their tennis competence. In fact, moral character was his main focus. John Wooden, famed US Football Coach, did the same with the young people he coached. Both created winnners, but winners with a higher purpose than self- aggrandisement.
Are you a winner? If so, great. But if you are a winner at someone else’s expense, shame on you. I’m not saying competition isn’t good – it is. When I suggest ‘someone else’s expense’ I am talking about whether your objective is ‘Me Me Me’ or a genuine effort to be better so that others may be entertained, or so that your greater purpose can be achieved, e.g. teaching others. Andre Agassi ( a Loehr trainee) said that it wasn’t until he decided to use tennis as a means to find efforts to teach others and develop young people, his game was never right. In fact, he credits his resurgence with that realisation – that serving others (moral) was a better motivation than any self-serving goal (performance).
In essence, the Moral (Character) serves the Performance (Competence), but it is the former which matters most of all. If Agassi hadn’t been tennis seed No 1, then his later revelation would still have made him a great teacher.
You don’t have to be famous to be successful. But you really do need to ‘be’ your best, perhaps more than ‘doing’ your best.
For more about The Three Resolutions, listen here: