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The Teachings of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Habit 1 – Be Proactive (Part 5)

November 16, 2023
The Teachings of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Habit 1 - Be Proactive (Part 5)

Previous articles for this series can be found here.

Becoming a Transition Person

Becoming a transition person is the simple concept that when you come into someone’s life, their life has been greatly enhanced by having met you and from their interactions with you. One of the most effective examples is when you help people modify destructive behaviors and destructive patterns.

You probably find this a lot with your employees. Employees will come to work for you, and sometime during their employment, they hit a rough patch. It could be a financial problem, a family problem, you name it. But you help them through it, keeping them employed and doing what you can. And before you know it, they’ve gotten married, maybe even bought a house, and their life has turned around. You were a transition person. You helped that person change the course of their life. Because without you, the outcome may have turned out very different.

The Ultimate Price

I was speaking recently at the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, where I was in the second half of the 1990s. They have a 7 Habits program inside the prison. And they had invited me to come in as a keynote speaker because I was incarcerated at that facility, and they know my relationship with Dr. Covey and the program. I was to speak to 100 convicts who were graduating that day from the 7 Habits program.

When I arrived, the security guy brought me to the room and immediately one person stood out – my old cellmate. Now you have to understand, this guy has been in the penitentiary system for 30 years. He was my cellmate from 1996 to 2000, and he’s doing a life sentence.

And in the federal system, life is life. There’s no parole.

He’s been there in that same prison for 27 years. And we still correspond about twice every month. I send him some money and updates to try to lift his spirits when I can.

Now I’ve seen him a couple of times over the years because I’ve spoken there before. But when I saw him this time, he was the one emceeing the graduation. He went on to say during his speech, “I’ve been in this yard for 27 years, and I focus my life on creating value and making a contribution despite these circumstances…”

The Change

He began telling his story about having this cellmate back in the 1990s who was committed to these 7 Habits. He went on to tell more of my story, and then he introduced me to come speak.

But what really blew me away is how he’s mentored hundreds of men in the past 20+ years – with this same 7 Habits program.

Throughout that day at the prison, there were several other prisoners who got up and talked about how much he had helped them. And I thought to myself, what a perfect example of a transition person who’s helping people change their lives. When he went to prison, he had 4 young kids. He now has 17 grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Of course he only experiences most of them through pictures and letters.

And I just thought, wow. I mean, talk about being a transition person. He’s helping people modify destructive behaviors, and they have nothing to offer him directly in return. And he’s doing it under incredibly difficult conditions.

Why Do This?!

It would have been very easy for him to just be angry and say to hell with the world and not help anybody. He is never going to get his freedom back, and yet he still gives of himself and helps others reform their lives, giving them the tools to get back on track to a better life.

That’s what a transition person is. I don’t like to brag about a lot of things, but I’m especially proud to have helped inspire a person who’s gone on to inspire so many others. That’s the exact word – I have pride in my chest when I think of it and I’m getting emotional typing it.

So in your role as a leader, you’ll evolve into something greater when you are responsible for helping people, especially as a transition person during someone’s struggle. It may even come in the form of making sure an employee gets additional training to make them better at their career, even if they eventually part ways later. It will have been worth it to help them in a way that improves their future selves. Their lives are going to be better because of the experiences you gave them.