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Primary Greatness

The 12 Levers of Success

By Stephen Covey
  • Read in 16 minutes
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  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Primary Greatness by Stephen Covey

Primary Greatness (2015) explains that anyone can live a fulfilling life. It’s as simple as prioritizing the things that are truly important. Instead of trying to appear successful by accumulating status, fame and money, you should focus on finding true success by developing your inner character – a task that the 12 levers of success make simple.

Key idea 1 of 10

Inner character is the driver of true success, and it can be developed.

What does success look like? Is it Armani suits, Rolex watches, cherry-red Ferraris and a daily glass of champagne on the deck of a Long Island beach house? Sure, these might be some of the symbols of wealth – but they’re certainly not signs of success.

True success can’t be seen. It comes from within and is generated by what the author calls primary greatness, which naturally comes to those who embody admirable qualities such as integrity, honor, persistence, selflessness and a commitment to a purpose that transcends the personal.

Secondary greatness, in contrast, can be seen. It’s the appearance of success – the money and the fame and all the attendant status symbols, from cars to suits to houses.

However, whereas primary greatness leads to fulfillment and inner peace, secondary greatness dead-ends at fleeting pleasures and financial security.

Now, if you haven’t spent your life fostering stalwart inner attributes like honor and selflessness, don’t fret. It’s been scientifically proven that such traits can be developed.

In Michigan, back in 1965, the Perry Preschool Project began following the lives of 123 inner-city preschoolers. They were divided into two groups – test and control – and the test group learned, at an early age, to delay gratification by engaging in boring and low-reward tasks.

Fast-forward 50 years, and those in the test group were much more successful. Compared with those in the control group, more of the test-group members had graduated and found employment, and fewer had been arrested. All this because, in preschool, they’d built some primary greatness by developing attributes like integrity and persistence.

So what can you do to develop your character?

Well, as you’ll soon learn, there are 12 levers of success, a set of principles that will serve as the foundation for your primary greatness. These levers are integrity, contribution, priority, personal sacrifice, service, reciprocity, diversity, responsibility, loyalty, learning, teaching and renewal.

These 12 levers are the result of the author’s extensive research. He’s taught and learned from thousands of people worldwide, and distilled his findings into the essentials for primary greatness.

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