Stephen R. Covey Speaks About Positive Tickets

Stephen R. Covey Foreword to Breaking With the Law: The Story of Positive Tickets

Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Prior to Stephen’s sudden passing, he wrote this passage for my book Positive Tickets. As Stephen so eloquently puts it ” Such creativity and focus in a community can lead to other breakthrough ideas aimed at keeping youth on a healthy, productive path.” I hope this inspires you to find your own creativity and positive problem solving approach. Remember – the ticket is the gateway to the relationship.

Many years ago, I heard a story about a waterfall. This particular waterfall was situated on a river that had recently become popular for whitewater sports—rafting, kayaking, etc. The drop-off to the waterfall was somewhat camouflaged. Most people didn’t see it coming until they were going over the edge. After several accidents at the waterfall, the agency in charge of river safety was called in to investigate. Of course, the public was outraged that such a waterfall was allowed to exist on this popular river. Politicians demanded action.

Members of the river safety agency conducted many studies on the waterfall. They measured its height. They determined the impact of various-sized watercraft that would be going over the falls. They studied the depth of the water at the base of the falls and the composition of the riverbed under the water to determine the types of injuries people might sustain. They partnered with local hospitals to prep them for waterfall victims. They partnered with the Search and Rescue department to have a diver on site to help people who didn’t immediately bob to the top. They worked with an ambulance service to set up a remote ambulance station on the banks at the bottom of the falls. Finally, they set goals with each partner and developed a scoreboard so they could track and measure their progress.

At the end of the whitewater boating season, the agency published its results. Of the 347 victims who had gone over the falls, only 10 had died immediately, a mere 3 percent. This number, they showed, had plummeted since the extra safety measures had been implemented. All of the surviving 337 victims were transported to the hospital within 10 minutes—a credit to the remote ambulance station and the dedication of its personnel. But the real hero of the day was the Search and Rescue diver. He had plunged into the river 102 out of 347 times to drag the bodies of the victims out of the swirling water. A feature in the local newspaper heralded his bravery. And though not as important as human life, it was also interesting to note that 95 percent of the watercraft boats were successfully recovered, though all were in need of repair.

By now you must be rolling your eyes at this story. How ridiculous! The solutions in this story are so obtuse that it becomes cynically comical. You’ve probably developed several much better solutions in your head already—post signs along the river warning people of the waterfall, build an easy take-out well before the waterfall, position a Search and Rescue boat at the top of the falls to help people who don’t make the take-out, build a fence or catch net across the river well before the top of the falls, or even close down this portion of the river to whitewater crafts. Any of these measures would be more effective and cost efficient. And instead of 10 fatalities and 337 injuries, you could have no fatalities and dramatically fewer injuries.

The answer seems so obvious. Now let’s take a real-world situation and see if it’s still as obvious. According to government statistics published by the U.S. and Canada, on any given day, roughly 92,800 juveniles are in custody in the U.S. and 1,898 in Canada. In essence, these are the kids who have gone over the “waterfall.” And we spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and resources at the bottom of the “falls.” We hire more police officers, we build larger detention facilities, we sign up more foster families, we develop inmate programs, we develop transition programs, etc. All of these things are “bottom of the fall” activities. They are reactive. The problems have already occurred and we are now trying to fix them.

This book, Breaking With the Law: The Story of Positive Tickets, is about one relatively simple, yet powerfully effective, proactive strategy in building relationships with youth and preventing them from “going over the falls.” Positive Tickets is effective for three reasons. First, it’s completely proactive. Second, it focuses on the root cause. And third, its source of energy is synergy.

Positive Tickets Is Proactive

In my book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 1 is called Be Proactive. Be proactive is another way to say take initiative or take responsibility. For many years, I have admired and respected Ward Clapham’s work in law enforcement. When I heard about what he was doing with youth and with Positive Tickets, I was immediately fascinated and curious. As I learned more, I came to realize that Positive Tickets is almost a utopian application of Habit 1. The habit is really about living your life at the top of the waterfall instead of at the bottom. Think how much more efficient (in terms of resources and dollars) and effective (in terms of number of youth who stay out of the juvenile justice system) our work with youth in the community would be if we focused on proactive activities instead of reactive ones. Instead of catching kids doing something wrong, Positive Tickets is about catching kids doing something right. The program is not just discouraging youth from breaking the law; it’s encouraging them to lead an active, productive lifestyle.

This type of approach seems commonsensical, yet it’s amazing to me how many communities would rather focus their time and effort on reactive programs than proactive ones. Skeptics toss out comments such as, “Shouldn’t law enforcement officers spend their time catching delinquents and trouble-makers instead of hanging out at the park with kids and handing out free tickets? Why aren’t they doing real police work?” These types of comments shine a bright light on faulty logic. In essence, these critics are at the bottom of the waterfall looking around for the ambulance and Search and Rescue diver. They fail to recognize that the party has now moved its position to the top of the waterfall. What they also fail to recognize is that hardly anyone is going over the edge anymore. Proactive policing activities prevent juvenile crime from ever happening. Real police work is as much about prevention as it is about suppression. If hanging out in parks with kids; building relationships with them; and handing out tickets to fun, free activities reduces juvenile calls for service by upwards of 50 percent, then real police work is most definitely happening.

The free tickets themselves encourage youth to be proactive. Most tickets are to some sort of activity that encourage health and positive social interactions, such as bowling, skating, swimming, etc. Perhaps without the kids realizing it, the tickets are helping kids to stay fit, improve their social skills, and have fun—the part that matters most to them.

Positive Tickets Focuses on the Roots

American author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Positive Tickets strikes at the root of youth problems. The program is not primarily about the free tickets. It’s about the relationship between the adult giving the ticket and the youth receiving the ticket. Building relationships of trust focuses on root problems that many kids experience. They desperately need positive mentoring and guidance from adults, which many are lacking. The ticket is simply the device that enables adults to build relationships with the kids. The ticket is the means to the end, not the end itself. Research shows that it takes three to five caring adults to raise a child. Positive Tickets is providing one of those important adults.

Positive Tickets Uses Synergy

Positive Tickets is a community effort. No one person or organization can do it alone. It takes the creative thought, energy, and passion of many people to make it work. In other words, it takes synergy. As you work together, the best ideas for implementing the program emerge. Your interactions with youth help you see what works and what doesn’t. Ideas and input percolate to help Positive Tickets leaders make the best decisions about the program. Such creativity and focus in a community can lead to other breakthrough ideas aimed at keeping youth on a healthy, productive path.

A Final Word

Leonardo da Vinci said, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Our efforts to help youth in our communities grow up to enjoy healthy, successful lives come from action. Positive Tickets is an immediate, actionable program that yields enviable results. This proactive, preventive model inspires the best in everyone involved. It’s a program worthy of consideration by any community interested in helping the next generation make the most of themselves.

Stephen R. Covey
Author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

More on Positive Tickets

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It’s Not Easy Being the Boss

Welcome to being a Leader! Maybe you’ve been doing it for a while? Maybe this is all brand new to you? Regardless, nobody said it was going to be easy. Rest assured you are going to have days from hell.
Regardless of your tenure, here are a few simple rules and realities that all leaders need to keep top of mind…I suggest thinking about this all the time.

On Being a Leader

This does not mean being an autocratic, micromanaging, iron fisted ruler…
This does not mean being a push over, laissez faire, or “don’t rock the boat” carefree employee
Being a Leader is Not a Popularity Contest
Being Their Friend and Their Leader (Boss) is a slippery slope – one you must navigate carefully on. It requires changing roles between “on and off duty”. And when you are on duty, it means…
Taking Charge – Taking Command (but in a shared leadership approach)

It also requires Managing Expectations
What is “Managing Expectations”?
Simply put, tell me up front what you want from me.

It is Positive Discipline – Rules, Regulations, Expectations, Policies understood up front
It is giving clear direction, managing expectations, and holding one accountable to these expectations.

You Manage Things – You Lead People

You do both. Depending on your role, you may be required to be more of a manager than a leader.

Management – Leadership Balance

You are both a Manager and a Leader
You Manage Things
You Lead People
Mistake Commonly Made is…
Treating People Like Things

This is Management

This is Leadership
Preferred future

Leadership is about inspiring the preferred future through your people. It is hard to get inspired when you are micromanaged, and not trusted.

Here is my simple rule…
Go Hard With the Issues, But Soft on People

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Attack, Don’t React

In communities, organizations, and business too often we wait until problems happen to react—a defensive, treatment-type of position. But our mode should really be one more of attack—an offensive, inoculation position. Using innovation, creativity, and a break-with mentality, we can solve problems before they ever happen. A proactive approach is not about working harder, it’s about working smarter.

In How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins, he describes a rivalry between two electronic superstores—Best Buy and Circuit City. Collins explains how Best Buy was innovative and creative. They saw changes in the market and too advantage of them. They used a consistent rationale based on their mission to flex and adapt as needed. Circuit City, on the other hand, did not stay focused on their core business. They ventured into fringe electronic products that didn’t pay off in the end and even bought the used car business CarMax.

Circuit City did not revitalize itself around its core business with passion, innovation, and creativity. On November 10, 2008, Circuit City announced that it had filed for bankruptcy. On the other hand, Best Buy continually evolved, modifying their approach with creative improvements and intelligent adaptation. Best Buy is flourishing today as #294 on the 2010 Forbes 2000 List with a market value of over $15 billion.

My point is that Best Buy was proactive and innovative. They went on the offensive to gain market share. They figured out what the customer wanted and then delivered their products and services with passion and intensity. Best Buy stayed true to the principles that made them. With creativity and ingenuity, they inoculated against bankruptcy when their competitor did not.

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Investment Can Yield a 94% Chance Youth Will Not Engage in Crime

No child grows up wanting to be a criminal… so what goes wrong?

How could we, as a society, help these kids from heading down the wrong path? By watching and acting on early risk indicators for criminal behaviour, we can invest in a better future. If we neglect our children when they are young, crime is the cost we will have to bear. This observation is based on research-based evidence and my 30 years of first-hand experience as a police officer.

Risk Factors for Criminal Behavior

Crime is a phenomenon influenced from a variety of factors including education levels, cultural factors and the economy of a particular region. Kids are not born criminals; a number of factors come into play that make kids more likely to find themselves in a life of crime either as juveniles or later in life.

Very few juveniles commit crime; a small number of juveniles are responsible for the majority of juvenile crime and these juveniles show a number of at-risk indicators. These at-risk behaviors could include: failure in school, family problems (a history of criminal activity, abuse, neglect, abandonment), substance abuse, conduct problems (stealing, running away), and involvement in gangs. The Government of Canada provides a chart outlining the cumulative and interactive effects of risk factors by age group and the CDC outlines a similar chart of risk behavior by grade and gender. Youth who exhibit multiple risk factors are most likely to become career criminals; so, what can we do to prevent these risk factors from turning into future criminal behavior?

Pay Now or Pay Later

There is a cost to preventative services and programs that often prohibits their widespread adoption; ironically, this up-front preventative cost is lower than the costs of later crime.

Crime exacts a heavy cost, both financially and socially. From violent crimes and property crimes to drug and alcohol abuse, the costs is immeasurable. How can you measure the loss of a life? Can any victim put a cost on their experience? If juvenile risk factors can be a predictor of future crimes, why aren’t we stepping in to offer help before these crimes take place? If we can reduce crime by investing in our youth, why aren’t we?
It is our fault that crime continues to be such a problem; our inaction has allowed many kids to enter into a life of crime rather than becoming productive members of society. Our lack of courage and coordinated action at the front-end are exerting too high a cost.

Develop Positive Assets in Our Youth:

Investment Can Yield a 94% Chance They Will Not Engage in Crime

Research from the Search Institute has found that positive experiences (assets) and characteristics for young people have a correlation with reduced high-risk behaviors in youth (alcohol, violence, drugs, sexual activity). The more of these assets that children have, the greater the reduction in these negative behaviors and an increase in positive behaviors and attitudes such as leadership, good health, and success in school. Simply put, once a young person has 31 or more assets in their life, the chance that they will be involved in crime is less than 6%.

The asset we should be encouraging in our youth are developed from factors such as family dynamics, support from community adults, school effectiveness, peer influence, values development, and social skills. In essence, these protective factors create a resiliency in youth to help protect them from risk factors.

Based on these factors, it’s clear to see that early attempts to increase these assets can reduce future problem behavior. Through the development of programs, services, and counselling, we can help our youth to follow a better path in life. It is our responsibility to work to create programs to develop positive assets and to identify risk factors in our youth as an opportunity for additional intervention.

For those who are just starting off on a criminal path, we should consider that juvenile crime can also be an opportunity for intervention. Here we’re not talking necessarily about preventing crime but about working in the middle of the crime cycle – of finding ways of correcting crime that is already happening before it becomes worse.

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Leadership Lessons from the 2012 Summer Olympics

Part 1 of several of leadership lessons I learned from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games

1) If you mess up, fess up and dress up. People understand and accept we are only human. Nothing goes further than acknowledging the mistake, taking ownership and accountability, and fixing it.

2) When you are the greatest, and on world stage – Do and say something to inspire the masses. Instead of saying how great you are, inspire others – maybe through your struggle to get to the top… or maybe honor somebody else that inspired you.

3) The Mighty Will Fall – be nice to the people on the way up, because you will be meeting them on the way down. In other words, check your arrogance and ego at the front door. Walk and talk the life of a servant leader. That makes me proud to be your fan.

4) There is no quick fix – shortcuts will come back to haunt you. Your options are “Pay now or Pay later”… you are going to pay as everyone gets caught somehow, some day. The law of the harvest – long term investment will ensure your legacy.

5) Winning and Losing showcases the true character of the person. I saw more winners that placed dead last in their heats or games. The way they handled defeat, adversity and humiliation speaks way more about their true character and who they are, then a medal.

6) Humility is mother of all virtues. Win or lose, share your happiness, showcase others, honor your opponents, put them above you – hold them the pedestal (the podium). Do that and I will become your biggest cheerleader and follow you through thick and thin.

7) Tell me about your journey, more than the moment – a split second race ends pretty quickly. Your daily struggle, habits and focus is what inspires me the most to want to be like you. Because at the end of the day, we will forget about the race and be thinking about the “what’s next”. Teach me the journey as that will sustain me during the good, the bad, and the ugly.

8) Even though all of us cannot have a gold medal, all of us can have a gold medal performance. Meaning… no quick fixes or shortcuts; put her all on the track; pick yourself up if you fall and get back into the game; and in that moment of choice, leave your legacy by doing something to honor and inspire.

More lessons to come next week

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Lessons from the Next Leadership Paradigm

Lessons Learned

When you’re caught in your paradigm, you only see and hear what fits inside your established model.

In the moment of choice, I made the connection

Step outside the established rules and see what happens…

As I stepped out, my paradigm was questioned…trust your intuition!

Engage the innocence of new people…outsiders who do not understand our paradigm

Embrace and understand the present paradigm today will not work to solve the current problems.


Something is missing

a new way to listen

Seize your chance – your moment

Chance to play, when you have nothing to lose

Successful break withs’ require a new leadership model – an outsider sees things differently.

Model the Behavior you Expect

– try a different way

– think everything through in advance

– get innovative and creative

– remember – it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

– measure the ROI – but think in “higher math” terms

And remember… shift happens!

Tell your people they are doing a great job

Here is a question…have you ever met anyone that has complained that they are recognized by their boss too much?

When the answer is clear – act on it!

Taking risks is not all that difficult

Sometimes you just get damn lucky

Invest in your people is more than just words

In achieving a true breakthrough, you leadership model must change

Not everything is a QUICK FIX

Leadership is about letting go

Leadership is about swimming upstream

It has to be more than just words

How Does It Happen?…action

How Do You Start? Try Letting GO

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The Legacy of Dr. Stephen R. Covey Lives On

He was my friend, my coach and my mentor. No single man has had a greater influence on who I am, and who I want to be as a person, and leader, than Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Last week, a piece of me also died when he passed on. However his legacy will live on…through me and many others that learned from his “one in a billion” wisdom.

Because of a special relationship I had with Stephen, I would like to begin to share some of the lessons he shared with me throughout our synergistic partnership over the years. I am calling these lessons… Lessons from the Next Leadership Paradigm

You see, Stephen R Covey saw taught from the new leadership paradigm. He was already there, and I think his wisdom and teachings has even yet to be fully understood by the masses…but his day will come – I truly believe he was well ahead of his time.

I was one of the very lucky ones – I had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Covey through a number of different paths over the past 10 years.

It started when Dr. Covey called me to the stage with him Utah after he heard about the Positive Ticket movement from Richmond BC RCMP Detachment after the filming of the updated 7 Habits training video called Q2 Policing. It continued when I had the honor to co-present with him to senior police leaders in London, England. During this time, I also had the honor to work with him in the research and co-writing of his book titled “The End of Crime” (yet to be published). Stephen also invited me to contribute my leadership story in his recently released book “The 3rd Alternative”. Finally, Stephen also supported my own writing endeavours through 2 forewords he wrote for my books (1) Breaking With the Law: The Story of Positive Tickets and (2) Lead Big: Discovering the Upside of Unconventional Leadership.

As a result of these, and other special encounters with Dr. Stephen R. Covey, I would continue his legacy from my unique vantage point.


One day when I was sharing with Stephen how my community in Richmond British Columbia, Canada had give me my Chinese name (that translates into “3 ears”) I had told him the Chinese community gave me that name for being a good listener. I was telling him how I had my business cards printed out in both English and Chinese with my new name, and I was telling him how the community appreciated my attempt to be legitimate to the diversity that I worked within. It was after I told him the story, that he reached into his brief case and gave me a gift… he gave me his “talking stick” that he used during his speeches and presentations to teach about the power of listening – seek first to understand, then to be understood… he said “Ward, there is nothing more powerful than listening. Keep this as a reminder and always listen with your heart, your eyes and then your ears – truly listen and the magic will then happen”.

Think about this for just one minute… What was he saying?
What does all this mean?

Listen with your heart.

What does that mean? Well, here are some suggestions…How about, caring about the other person more than caring about you. How about trying to put you in their shoes and feel the emotional rollercoaster they are riding. How about just feeling their pain, their fear, their joy as they speak. Simply put, how about opening up your heart with love, care, forgiveness, and genuinely true interest.

Listen with your eyes.

What does that mean? How about looking at their situation, their position from a new lenses, a new filter – I call it “inverted lenses”. How about looking past just your place – your world, and your situation and seeing from another point of view. How about looking at body language and other tell tale signs of communication and emotion. Simply put, how about seeing the situation differently… seeing with inverted glasses (new lenses), and widening your vision past your limited perspective… having a SUPER Vision.

Then listen with your ears.

What does this mean? How about paying attention to every word, trying to understand what they are really trying to say. Wipe your mind clear of what you want to say, what you rebuttal might be…get rid of that and clear you mind to truly hear. After they are finished speaking, allow some time for silence and then ask clarifying questions to get to that deeper understanding.

There is nothing more powerful than listening.

Listen with your heart, your eyes and then your ears – truly listen and the magic will then happen.

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10 Surefire Ways to Sink Your LeaderSHIP

Crime and Punishment

Sure Fire Ways to “Sink Your Leadership”

1. Keep Them Guessing
– who needs a vision, or direction

2. Don’t Ask – Don’t Listen
– we already know everything

3. High Tech Without High Touch
– the big “disconnect” in a connected world

4. Employee Wellness is for Wimps
– suck it up and get back to work

5. Pay Cheque is Enough
– recognition? ya right…be happy you got a job

6. Keep Work as a Serious Business
– fun and laughter decreases productivity

7. Training is a Liability
– investment in people is optional

8. It’s All About the “Bottom Line”
– leave your passion at the door

9. Ensure Rigid Compliance to Policy
– trust is a dirty word

10. Create a Culture of the Unexceptional
– disengage and disconnect

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The Paradox of Our Age – Dalai Lama

How can you argue the wisdom in this quote from the Dalai Lama. Our individual and collective challenge to “fill the room”

The Paradox Of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense;

more knowledge but less judgment;

more experts, but more problems;

more medicines but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,

but have trouble in crossing the street to meet our new neighbour.

We built more computers to hold more copies than ever,

But have less real communication;

We have become long on quantity,

but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall men but short characters;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window

But nothing in the room. — the 14th Dalai Lama.

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Breaking With Theory

Breaking With Theory

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn, changed the way the scientific field viewed progress and evolution. Instead of a linear approach, Kuhn posited that scientific theory advanced from a set of changing intellectual circumstances and possibilities.

To support this concept, Kuhn was the first to popularize the terms paradigm and paradigm shift in a scientific sense. He stated that periodic paradigm shifts mark the emergence of new paradigms of which previous generations could never have conceived.

These shifts essentially constitute a break with the old paradigms and thought processes. Kuhn said, “Rather than being an interpreter, the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like the man wearing inverting lenses.” The world itself hasn’t changed, but the way the person sees it is completely different.

“Every breakthrough first requires a break-with…a break with tradition, a break with the status quo, a break with the old ways of doing things”

Try looking at a problem wearing inverted lenses… maybe you will see completely different.

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