#1558 Areté +1° #127: The Big 3, An Origin Story

Covey + Robbins + Freud

Hi, this is Brian.

Welcome back to another Areté +1°, a micro-chapter from our new book, Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential.

451 ideas in here. Here's one of my favorites from Objective III, which is on optimizing the Big 3: Your Energy, your Work, and your Love.

Here is the first chapter in that Objective.


Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was, literally, the very first self development book I ever read.

Quick story…

It’s the summer of 1995. I’m a twenty-one-year-old student at UCLA—studying Psychology with a minor in Business. At the time, there was no such thing as “Positive Psychology.” I thought about getting my PhD, but I couldn’t see how I’d study what I wanted to study.

Then, one day, I found myself behind a one-way mirror tracking the behavior of some kids. I was sitting next to the husband of the PhD student for whom I was working.

This guy worked for the old Arthur Andersen. We hit it off. Long story a little shorter, they wound up recruiting me to join them and sent me off to a global leadership event at their corporate headquarters.

THAT’s where I was introduced to Covey and the idea that we could, with wisdom and effort, deliberately change our lives.

As a first-generation college student with hard-working but very conservative Catholic parents, this was a revelation to me.

My life changed that weekend. I could SEE that I had a LOT more power than I used to think.

I didn’t know what I would do with that awareness yet, but simply KNOWING that we could deliberately strive to become the best version of ourselves (in service to the world) was an insight that profoundly influenced my life.

One of the things Covey taught was that we each have “Roles” in our lives and that we’d be wise to get clear on the “Goals” we have for each of those Roles and then architect our lives around them. He captured this idea in the phrase “Roles and Goals.”

I loved that idea. Only, at least for me, I found that it was REALLY easy to get REALLY overwhelmed by ALL the Roles I play. These days, I’m a father and a husband and a philosopher and a CEO and a friend and a teacher and an athlete and… Where do I begin and where does it end and what should I prioritize and…?

Fast-forward a few years.

It’s now 1999. I can still vividly remember driving a U-Haul from the east coast to Los Angeles while listening to Tony Robbins’s Personal Power II CDs after winning the business plan competition at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and getting ready to raise $5 million in the midst of the dot-com boom of the late 90s.

Tony had a similar framework to Covey.

Rather than Roles and Goals, he called them “Categories of Improvement.” I diligently tried to master each of the “Categories” of my life but, again, quickly found myself overwhelmed. There were SO MANY areas of my life I wanted to dial in! They were basically near infinite.

Fast-forward another decade and a half.

I’ve dedicated my life to studying and teaching these ideas.

I encounter Sigmund Freud’s quip that a good life is, essentially, all about two things: Work and Love.

A choir of angels sang at PRECISELY that moment.

“Work and Love.”


That’s it.


If we have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning because of poor lifestyle choices, we’re going to have a REALLY hard time giving our best to our Work or to our Love.

Therefore, we need to start with ENERGY and then focus on Work and Love and…


We have our Big 3: Energy, Work, and Love.

Get those right and we’re at least 80% there.

That’s Part I of the Big 3 origin story.

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