John Maxwell is the foremost authority on leadership in the world. He’s published 70+ books selling in excess of 21 million copies. He’s the founder of The John Maxwell Company and Equip, a non-profit organization that has trained over 6 million leaders in 177 countries around the world. John has given over 12,000 live presentations in his career to such diverse groups as the NFL, the U.S. Military, and United Nations.
And he’s been a mentor to me for over 20 years…
I first saw John speak in person at a business conference back in 2000 shortly after he published Failing Forward. His talk covered points from the book and it opened my eyes to how the most successful people in all walks of life deal with adversity and move on to success. For a driven individual like me, John’s message totally changed my perspective regarding failure.
“Failing forward” is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistake, and move forward in a better direction.”
– John Maxwell
“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
– John Maxwell
Fast forward to the fall of 2010 and I was invited to attend a leadership conference in Dallas, TX where John was the keynote speaker. Friday night he covered the basic principles from his new book, The 5 Levels of Leadership. Saturday morning was a Q&A format where the audience submitted questions and John fired back his best “from the hip” answers.
The one answer that stood out to me the most had to do with the value John places on education. He told the story about how his Dad, Melvin Maxwell used to pay John and his older brother and sister to read books for their weekly “allowance”. For the most part Melvin dictated the books to be read although he would occasionally let John and his siblings pick.
John asked his Dad early on why he paid them to read while their friends received their allowance for taking out the trash, and other chores around the house. Melvin’s reply was that if he wanted them to grow up to be garbage collectors, he would do the same. He had higher goals for his children and he knew reading and education were the keys. Besides Melvin said, “you were all born owing your Mother nine months room and board and you do household chores to make up for lost time and because you’re a part of the family.”
John said with much humility that by the time he graduated high school, he was literally miles ahead of his peers due to the years of extra reading. His Dad helped provide the educational foundation that would carry John on to the lofty heights of success that he has achieved. And today, almost fifty years later, John is more intentional than ever about his ongoing education.
After his Saturday morning talk, John was signing books at his booth. Unlike the majority who purchased new, I brought from home my copies of The Maxwell Leadership Bible and Leadership Promises for Every Day. When it was finally my turn, we shook hands and I briefly introduced myself explaining that my books were from home and that his Bible has been a treasured possession of mine for years. He signed both with what has become a life verse for me:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
I would have loved to talk with him further but due to the extensive line of people waiting their turn, I expressed my gratitude and walked away. John is primarily known for his teachings on leadership; however he has published books on a variety of other topics. The following list makes up my current Maxwell library.
The John Maxwell Leadership Bible
21 Laws of Leadership
17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork
25 Ways to Win With People
15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
How Successful People Think
Put Your Dream to the Test
Everyone Communicates Few Connect
Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn
Maxwell Daily Reader
5 Levels of Leadership
Developing the Leader Within You
Good Leaders Ask Great Questions
Leadership Promises for Every Day
John has benefitted me in so many ways and while all significant; to share the entire list would not be appropriate for the sake of keeping this post to a reasonable length. I do want to share the top two lessons that have made the biggest impact in my life. Hopefully they will in some way add value to yours as well.
Attitude: John places a tremendous importance on the way you think which directly determines your attitude. Attitude is a choice. It’s not a feeling. Attitude comes from within. It should not be based on outer circumstances. You ultimately choose your attitude by what information you allow to come into your mind.
Life is not fair and bad things happen to good people. You always have a choice in how you respond to life’s challenges and the better your attitude, the better choices you will make. Feed your mind daily with positive information. You don’t get a free pass on this. It takes a consistent effort to develop and maintain a positive attitude.
“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”
– John Maxwell
“If you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.”
– John Maxwell
The negative message of the “world” will beat a path to your door. Watch any news station for five minutes or scan the tabloids at any grocery store checkout line and you will realize how much we are bombarded daily with negative.
You have to seek out the positive with specific intent and take in an equal amount verses what you’re getting from the “world” if you’re going to have a shot at a positive attitude. From my experience, it is well worth it for the benefits to you, your family & friends, and basically anyone you come in contact with daily. People will perceive a difference in you…I promise.
Intentional Growth: John’s 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth was a game changer for me. I had been a student of personal development for most of my adult life but this one book took me to another level. Intentional really is the operative word because my educational efforts had been consistent but random.
“The more seriously you take your growth, the more seriously your people will take you.”
– John Maxwell
“The unsuccessful person is burdened by learning, and prefers to walk down familiar paths. Their distaste for learning stunts their growth and limits their influence.”
– John Maxwell
John introduced me to the idea of working in your areas of strength and then structuring your educational efforts around building your strengths. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And while the weaknesses should not be ignored, there’s only so much you can do to improve them.
On a scale from 1-10, if you’re a 3 in your math skills, the best you could ever hope for is to raise the 3 to a 5. If however you’re an 8 in leadership and you raise that skill to a 10, you will be considered excellent. People don’t stand in line for 5’s (average). People will pay big time to see 10’s show their stuff.
John is a big fan of StrengthsFinder as a tool for identifying your strengths. I’ve
taken the course and it totally changed my plan for how I structure my personal education. Further, in numerous ways it gave me clarity of my life’s major definite purpose. I would highly recommend this resource to anyone looking to improve themselves.
Closing Thoughts for My Readers
Do you have a positive attitude? Most people say yes and yet most people have never read the first book or taken a course on attitude. What are you doing daily to build and maintain your positive attitude? If your answer is “nothing” consider starting with John’s Failing Forward, Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn, and The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. These books will provide a foundation for building your attitude…and much, much more.
Do you know your strengths? If not, consider StrengthsFinder as a resource. Are you working in your area of strength? If you’re not, take action now. It may not make sense to “jump ship” from your current position, but at least formulate a plan to position yourself in the future to transition to a role that fits your natural gifts. Life is too short to not being working in a field which utilizes your natural abilities to the fullest.
Best of luck in your efforts and please let me know your thoughts.