Happy New Year. My father, Stephen R. Covey, used to teach that we should live our lives in crescendo and hold on to the belief that our greatest work is always ahead of us. When he passed away four years ago, he was actually working on a book with this very title: Life in Crescendo. My sister is currently finishing up this book, which will be released in the next year or two.
“Crescendo” is a musical term that means to play music with a gradual increase in energy and volume. The opposite is “diminuendo,” which means a gradual decrease in energy and volume in a piece of music. This concept can be transferred to our lives. Are we living our lives in crescendo or diminuendo? Are we growing or diminishing? There seem to be four distinct fork-in-the-road situations in which we can choose to either increase or decrease:
1. Midlife crisis. Life may not be turning out the way we wanted it to. Do we get discouraged and start our decline, or use this as an inflection point to make the changes we need?
2. Major setback. Loss of a loved one, a divorce, a serious illness, etc. Are we able to regain our emotional traction after a serious setback, or do we allow a setback to weaken us or define us?
3. Major victory. Financial windfall, big promotion, we reach our prime, etc. Do we believe it will never get any better and that we will never have as much influence as we now do?
4. Retirement. Do we believe that our greatest work is behind us and that we can now relax and coast, or do we see even greater contributions ahead?
People would often ask my dad, “Will you ever write anything as powerful as The 7 Habits?” His response was always, “Yes, my greatest work is ahead of me.” Life in crescendo isn’t just a nice idea, it is a true concept. Here are some quick examples:
Harland “Colonel” Sanders had a relatively successful restaurant and motel in Kentucky. But when Interstate 75 opened, his business suffered greatly. In midlife, he began to franchise his restaurant. Today his restaurants operate in over 18,000 locations around the world.
Craig Sager was a well-known sports reporter and inductee into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame who recently passed away. His biggest impact was the determination and grace he showed during his battle with leukemia.
Bill Gates has had tremendous financial success and could sit back and enjoy it. Instead, he uses his influence and wealth to try and solve some of the toughest problems in the world through his foundation. He believes his greatest impact is ahead of him.
Laura Ingalls Wilder could have been content in her 60s, yet it was then that she set out to write the Little House on the Prairie series.
If you live life with this paradigm, you will never run out of work that excites you. As we begin a new year, I challenge you to live this year in crescendo. Whatever has happened in your past, your greatest work is ahead of you!
Education Practice Leader
FranklinCovey | Education