Great Lessons from John Maxwell


Lessons Learned from John Maxwell 3

“Success is not a destination thing, it’s a daily thing.” – John Maxwell

When I think of leaders and leadership, I think of John Maxwell.

He is a speaker and author, and leadership is his super skill.

He leads by example but more importantly, he’s created an amazing knowledge base of leadership patterns and practices through his books and speaking engagements.

John Maxwell is a Leader of Leaders

Maxwell’s life’s work is writing and talking about leadership.


His books take up multiple shelves at the bookstore.

In fact, he’s written more than 50 books.

The beauty of John Maxwell’s books is that he talks with you, not at at you, while at the same time challenging you to become a better version of yourself.

John Maxwell’s books equip you with a wide range of ideas and language to help you frame out and master key areas of your life including your attitude, relationships, leadership skills, and success.

Personal Development and Leadership Skills for Work and Life

Along the way, he shares stories to bring the ideas to life and to share how he learned these lessons from the school of hard knocks and from multiple mentors.

From failing forward, to going on your success journey, to building a positive attitude, to winning with people, Maxwell covers a variety of  personal development and leadership skills that you can use in work and life.

I hope you enjoy these lessons as much as I’ve enjoyed putting them together …

25 Best Lessons from John Maxwell

Here are 25 great lessons that capture and distill what I think are some of the most important insights from John Maxwell:

1. Leadership is influence.

Maxwell defines leadership as influence.  It’s simple, effective, and precise.

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell says, “True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned.  It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated.  It must be earned.  The only thing a title can buy is a little time – either to increase your level of influence with others or to erase it.”

2. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.

Leadership starts right where you are, from the inside out.

Maxwell says,  “Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, ‘I’ll get a bigger job, then I’ll learn how to be a leader.’ But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.”

3. Just do it.

Forget motivation and just do it.

Maxwell says, “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation.   Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever.

Do it without motivation. And then, guess what?  After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”

4. Your attitude towards life is still under construction.

According to Maxwell, your attitude towards life is constantly being shaped by the following factors:

  1. personality (who are you)
  2. environment (what’s around you)
  3. word expression (what you hear)
  4. adult acceptance/affirmation (what you feel)
  5. self-image(how you see yourself)
  6. exposure to new experiences
  7. association with peers (who influences you)
  8. physical appearance (how you look to others)
  9. marriage, family, and job (your security and status.)

Maxwell believes that your environment shapes you more than your personality or other inherited traits, and that your outward actions are a direct reflection of your self-image (we tend to act consistently with how we see ourselves.)

In Attitude 101, Maxwell says, “Whether you are eleven, forty-two, or sixty-five, your attitude toward life is still under construction.  It’s never too late for a person to change his attitude.”

5. Use principles to guide you.

Drive from durable principles instead of a bunch of rules and policies.

According to Maxwell, “policies are many, principles are few, policies will change, principles never do.”

6. Leadership is a collection of skills.

Leadership is something you can learn and improve at.

Maxwell says, “Although it is true that some people are born with greater natural gifts than others, the ability to lead is really a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved.”

7. Build trust through competence, connection, and character.

You won’t follow somebody you don’t trust.  As a leader, you have to build trust.

Maxwell says, “There are three qualities a leader must exemplify to build trust: competence, connection, and character.”

8. Success is a journey, not a destination.

Don’t think of success as a place.  Think of it as a path.   Success is a journey you can enjoy a day at a time.  Take the right people with you on your success journey.

In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell identifies 10 things to look for when figuring out who to invest in or who to bring with you.

The 10 things to look for are:

  1. they make things happen
  2. they see and seize opportunities
  3. they influence others
  4. they add value
  5. they attract other leaders
  6. they equip others
  7. they provide inspiring ideas
  8. they possess uncommonly positive attitudes
  9. they live up to their commitments
  10. they have loyalty

9. Success is a daily thing.

You can be successful one day or one decision at a time.

Maxwell says, “If you can handle today correctly, tomorrow will take care of itself.”

10. Success is a decision at a time.

Success is a progressive snowball that builds on itself and compounds over time.

Maxwell says, “You don’t become a success when you get your diploma.  You became a success when you decided to go to college.  When you get your diploma you get the rewards of success.”

11. Success is a by-product of dreaming and doing, a day at a time

Hack away at your success by dreaming and doing.

In Success One Day at a Time, Maxwell shares 7 steps for success.

The 7 steps for success are:

  1. make a commitment to grow daily
  2. value the process more than events
  3. don’t wait for inspiration
  4. be willing to sacrifice pleasure for opportunity
  5. dream big
  6. plan your priorities
  7. give up to go up

12. Look for the landmarks of success.

The highest levels of success require a series of significant trade-offs.

Maxwell identifies the following trade-offs that serve as landmarks:

  1. achievement over affirmation
  2. excellence over acceptability
  3. personal growth over immediate pleasure
  4. future potential over financial gain
  5. a narrow focus over scattered interests
  6. significant over security

13. Leadership is a visual thing.

The greatest leadership is by example.

Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

14. Everybody needs encouragement.

No matter who you are, you still need encouragement.

Maxwell says, “Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”

15. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

While trying to be all that you can be, don’t forget you are human.

You will make mistakes.  Keep your sense of humor and get back up.

In Your Roadmap for Success, Maxwell says we need to be able to laugh at ourselves.

Maxwell writes, “… success depends more on your attitude than it does on how important you think you are. Life should be fun.

Even if your job is important and should be taken seriously, that doesn’t mean you should take yourself seriously.

You’ll go farther in life and have a better time doing it if you maintain a sense of humor, especially when it comes to yourself.”

16. Use failure as a springboard.

Unsuccessful people avoid taking any risks to try and avoid failure.  Successful people turn failure into feedback.  They don’t dwell on mistakes or the negative consequences of failures.

Instead, they focus on the rewards of success and on learning from their mistakes.  In Your Road Map for Success,

Maxwell shares 10 ways to fail forward effectively:

  1. appreciate the value of failure
  2. don’t take failure personally
  3. let failure redirect you
  4. keep a sense of humor
  5. ask why, not who
  6. make failure a learning experience
  7. don’t let failure keep you down
  8. use failure as a gauge for growth
  9. see the big picture
  10. don’t give up.

17. Win with people.

Growing people is the key to growing your success.

Maxwell says, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership” and “true success comes only when every generation continues to develop the next generation.”

In 360 Degree Leader, Maxwell says, “Great leaders don’t use people so they can win.  They lead people so they can all lead together.

If that is truly your motivation, you can become the kind of person that people want to follow – whether they are beside, above, or below you in the organizational hierarchy.”

Maxwell makes people development a priority.

To avoid spreading himself too thin, he focuses 80 percent of his time developing only the top 20 percent of the people around him.

Maxwell says, “your time is limited, and it makes more sense to help a few learn how to fly and reach their potential rather than show a big group only enough to whet their appetite.”

18. Let people fly with you for a while.

In Maxwell’s experience, the most effective way to mentor and ramp people up is the same way craftspeople have done for years:

  1. do it
  2. I do it — and you watch
  3. you do it – and I watch
  4. you do it

19. Ten principles for personal growth.

In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell shares 10 principles for improving your personal growth:

  1. choose a life of growth
  2. start growing today
  3. be teachable
  4. focus on self-development, not self-fulfillment
  5. never stay satisfied with current accomplishments
  6. be a continual learner
  7. concentrate on a few major themes
  8. develop a plan for growth
  9. pay the price
  10. find a way to apply what you learn

20. Don’t make happiness your measure of success.

Happiness is fleeting while success is a stable path.

In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell writes, “The continual search for happiness is a primary reason that so many people are miserable.

If you make happiness your goal, you are almost certainly destined to fail.  You will be on a continual roller coaster, changing from successful to unsuccessful with every mood change.

Life is uncertain, and emotions aren’t stable.  Happiness simply cannot be relied upon as a measure of success.”

21. Achievement over affirmation.

Focus on achievement rather than worry about fitting in.  Maxwell says, “Affirmation from others is fickle and fleeting.  If you want to make an impact during your lifetime, you have to trade the praise you could receive from others for the things of value that you can accomplish.  You can’t be ‘one of the boys’ and follow your destiny at the same time.”

22. Four kinds of people when it comes to relationships.

In Success 101, Maxwell says there are 4 kinds of people when it comes to relationships: 1) some people add something to life (we enjoy them), 2) some people subtract something from life (we tolerate them), 3) some people multiply something in life (we value them), 4) some people divide something in life (we avoid them.)

23. Lead yourself exceptionally well.

Leadership starts from the inside out.  Lead yourself first.  In Success 101, Maxwell identifies 7 areas that successful people must self-manage: 1) you emotions, 2) your time, 3) your priorities, 4) your energy, 5) your thinking, 6) your words, and 7) your personal life.

24. Treat people like a “10.”

Who gets your better effort? … a leader who treats you as a “2” or a leader who treats you as a “10”?

Maxwell says that in his experience, people usually rise to the leader’s expectations – if they like the leader.

Treat people like a 10 if you want their best.

Maxwell says one way to do this is to focus on a skill or strength that somebody has that is a “10.”

If you can’t find a “10” in terms of skill, then rather than write somebody off, look to a non-skill area where the person can grow into a “10”, independent of skill, such as attitude, desire, discipline, and perseverance.

25. Focus on production over politics.

In the 360 Degree Leader, Maxwell says there are two ways to get ahead: production and politics.

Maxwell says avoid office politics and instead focus on production.

Maxwell says that people who rely on production:

“…depend on how they grow, focus on what they do, become better than they appear, provide substance, do what’s necessary, work to control their own destiny, grow into the next level, base decisions on principles.”

On the other hand, people who rely on politics:

“,,,depend on who they know, focus on what they say, appear better than they are, take shortcuts, do what’s popular, let others control their destiny, hope to be given the next level, base decisions on opinions.”

Maxwell shares 6 ways to avoid politics:

  1. avoid gossip
  2. stay away from petty arguments
  3. stand up for what’s right, not just for what’s popular
  4. look at all sides of the issue, 5) don’t protect your turf
  5. say what you mean, and mean what you say

Success Defined

Maxwell defines success in a very simple, but elegant way that’s empowering:

“Success is … knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

One of Maxwell’s greatest contributions to the leadership body of knowledge is the identification of 21 laws of leadership.

Here are John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

  1. THE LAW OF THE LID — Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness.
  2. THE LAW OF INFLUENCE — The True Measure of Leadership is Influence — Nothing More, Nothing Less.
  3. THE LAW OF PROCESS — Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day.
  4. THE LAW OF NAVIGATION — Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course..
  5. THE LAW OF ADDITION — Leaders Add Value by Serving Others.
  6. THE LAW OF SOLID GROUND — Truth is the Foundation of Leadership.
  7. THE LAW OF RESPECT — People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves.
  8. THE LAW OF INTUITION — Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias.
  9. THE LAW OF MAGNETISM – Who You Are is Who You Attract.
  10. THE LAW OF CONNECTION – Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand.
  11. THE LAW OF THE INNER CIRCLE – A Leader’s Potential is Determined by Those Closest to Him.
  12. THE LAW OF EMPOWERMENT – Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others.
  13. THE LAW OF THE PICTURE – People Do What People See.
  14. THE LAW OF BUY-IN – People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision.
  15. THE LAW OF VICTORY – Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win.
  16. THE LAW OF THE BIG MO – Momentum is a Leader’s Best Friend.
  17. THE LAW OF PRIORITIES – Leaders Understand that Activity is Not Necessarily Accomplishment.
  18. THE LAW OF SACRIFICE – A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up.
  19. THE LAW OF TIMING – When to Lead is As Important as What to Do and Where to Go.
  20. THE LAW OF EXPLOSIVE GROWTH – To Add Growth, Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders.
  21. THE LAW OF LEGACY – A Leader’s Lasting Value is Measured by Succession.

If you’re familiar with the original 21 laws, you’ll note the following changes:


You can explore the 21 laws in depth in Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You .

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

Maxwell identified 21 qualities of a leader:

  1. CHARACTER: Be a Piece of the Rock
  2. CHARISMA: The First Impression Can Seal the Deal.
  3. COMMITMENT: It Separates Doers from Dreamers.
  4. COMMUNICATION: Without It You Travel Alone.
  5. COMPETENCE: If You Build It, They Will Come.
  6. COURAGE: One Person with Courage Is a Majority.
  7. DISCERNMENT: Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries.
  8. FOCUS: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are.
  9. GENEROSITY: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another.
  10. INITIATIVE: You Won’t Leave Home Without It.
  11. LISTENING: To Connect with Their Hearts, Use Your Ears.
  12. PASSION: Take This Life and Love It.
  13. POSITIVE ATTITUDE: If You Believe You Can, You Can.
  14. PROBLEM SOLVING: You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem.
  15. RELATIONSHIPS: If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along.
  16. RESPONSIBILITY: If You Won’t Carry the Ball, You Can’t Lead the Team.
  17. SECURITY: Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity.
  18. SELF-DISCIPLINE: The First Person You Lead Is You.
  19. SERVANTHOOD: To Get Ahead, Put Others First.
  20. TEACHABILITY: To Keep Leading, Keep Learning.
  21. VISION: You Can Seize Only What You Can.

You can explore the 21 qualities in depth in Maxwell’s book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader : Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow.

Top 10 John Maxwell Quotes

Here are my top 10 favorite quotes by John Maxwell:

  1. Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
  2. “Do not take the agenda that someone else has mapped out for your life.”
  3. “Growth inside fuels growth outside. “
  4. “Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”
  5. “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
  6. “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
  7. “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
  8. “We all stand on the shoulders of the past generation.”
  9. “We cannot lead anyone farther than we have been ourselves.”
  10. “You must manage your thought life daily and then you can manage your life.”

Quotes by John Maxwell

I’ve included some of my favorite John Maxwell quotes below. For simple scanning, I’ve organized them using the following categories:

  1. Choice and decisions
  2. Communication
  3. Daily Impact
  4. Growth
  5. Leaders and Leadership.
Category Quotes
Choice and Decisions
  • “Everything begins with a decision. Then, we have to manage that decision for the rest of your life.”
  • “If you don’t change the direction you are going, then you’re likely to end up where you’re heading…”
  • “The law of the [Cub Scout] pack guides the boys to move in the direction of being helpful, friendly, courteous, trustworthy and promote qualities which parents and the community are looking for. The whole purpose of scouting is to help the children grow up making good decisions in life.”
  • “There are two paths people can take. They can either play now and pay later, or pay now and play later. Regardless of the choice, one thing is certain. Life will demand a payment.”
  • “We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.”
  • “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
  • “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”
  • Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple.
  • “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”
  • “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
  • “Relational skills are the most important abilities in leadership.”
  • “Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”
  • “Talk to People, Not Above Them.”
Daily Impact
  • “As you begin changing your thinking, start immediately to change your behavior. Begin to act the part of the person you would like to become. Take action on your behavior. Too many people want to feel, then take action. This never works.”
  • “Doing the right thing daily, compounds over time.”
  • “Doing the wrong thing daily, compounds over time.”
  • “It is truly one day at a time.”
  • “Stay focused instead of getting offended or off track by others.”
  • “The law of process says — leaders develop daily, not in a day.”
  • “The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. – John C. Maxwell
  • “Today matters.”
  • “What is the main event today? What do you want me to focus on today?”
  • “What you are going to be tomorrow, you are becoming today.”
  • “Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.”
  • “A difficult time can be more readily endured if we retain the conviction that our existence holds a purpose, a cause to pursue, a person to love, a goal to achieve.
  • “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”
  • “Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent.”
  • “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”
  • “Image is what people think we are; integrity is what we really are.”
  • “The depth of your mythology is the extent of your effectiveness.”
  • “Life doesn’t do anything to you. It only reveals your spirit.”
  • “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.”
  • “The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.”
  • “You must do right before you feel good.”
Leaders and Leadership
  • “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”
  • “A leader is great, not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others.”
  • “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
  • “A leader who produces other leaders multiples their influences.”
  • “Believing in people before they have proved themselves is the key to motivating people to reach their potential.”
  • “Encourage the many; mentor the few.”
  • “Everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone.”
  • “Leadership is developed daily, not in a day.”
  • “Leadership is influence.”
  • “Leaders must live by higher standards than their followers.”
  • “Most People have a desire to look for the exception instead of the desire to become exceptional. “
  • “Not everyone will become a great leader, but everyone can become a better leader.”
  • “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.”
  • “The first step to leadership is servant hood.”
  • “The law of process says leaders develop daily, not in a day.”
  • “The more credible you are, the more confidence people place in you, thereby allowing you the privilege of influencing their lives.”
  • “There are three qualities a leader must exemplify to build trust: competence, connection, and character.”
  • “What is the main event today? What do you want me to focus on today?”
  • “You can’t become a leader in one conference.”
  • “Happiness simply cannot be relied upon as a measure of success.”
  • “If you start today to do the right thing, you are already a success even if it doesn’t show yet.”
  • “Once our minds are ‘tattooed’ with negative thinking, our chances for long-term success diminish.”
  • “Successful leaders have the courage to take action while others hesitate.”
  • “Successful people are willing to do things unsuccessful people will not do.”
  • “To collaborative team members, completing one another is more important than competing with one another.”
  • “True success comes only when every generation continues to develop the next generation.”
  • “We all stand on the shoulders of the past generation”
  • “You don’t become a success when you get your diploma, you became a success when you decided to go to college when you get your diploma you get the rewards of success.”
  • “You have to sow excellent seeds to have an excellent life. You must start with sowing excellent thoughts.”

Books by John Maxwell

John Maxwell has so many books that I organized them into categories.   I organized them by the following categories: 101 Series, Power Series, Workbooks, Attitude, Leadership, Relationships, and Success.

Category Books
101 Series
  • Attitude 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know (101 Series)
  • Equipping 101 (Maxwell, John C.)
  • Ethics 101: What Every Leader Needs To Know (101 Series)
  • Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know
  • Mentoring 101
  • Relationships 101 (Maxwell, John C.)
  • Self-Improvement 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know (101 (Thomas Nelson))
  • Success 101
  • Teamwork 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know (101 (Thomas Nelson))
Power Series
  • The Power of Attitude
  • The Power Of Influence (Power Series)
  • The Power of Leadership
  • The Power of Thinking Big
  • Developing the Leader Within You Workbook
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook: Revised & Updated
  • The 360 Degree Leader Workbook: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
  • Be All You Can Be: A Challenge to Stretch Your God-Given Potential
  • Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success
  • How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life
  • Living At The Next Level Insight For Reaching Your Dreams
  • The Difference Maker: Making Your Attitude Your Greatest Asset
  • The Winning Attitude Your Key To Personal Success
  • Think on These Things: Meditations for Leaders: 30th Anniversary Edition
  • Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life andWork
  • Your Bridge to a Better Future
  • Developing the Leader Within You
  • Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential
  • Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading
  • Leadership Promises for Every Day
  • Leading From The Lockers – Guided Journal
  • Maxwell Leadership Bible, Revised and Updated
  • Running with the Giants: What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership
  • The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player: Becoming the Kind of Person Every Team Wants
  • The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team
  • The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader : Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
  • The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day: Revitalize Your Spirit and Empower Your Leadership
  • The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
  • The Right to Lead: Learning Leadership Through Character and Courage
  • 25 Ways to Win with People: How to Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks
  • Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships
  • Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others
  • Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently
  • Partners In Prayer
  • Teamwork Makes The Dreamwork
  • Treasure of a Friend Journal
  • Winning with People: Discover the People Principles that Work for You Every Time
  • Dare to Dream . . . Then Do It: What Successful People Know and Do
  • My Dream Map
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions that Will Help You See It and Seize It
  • Success: One Day At A Time
  • Talent Is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent
  • The Choice is Yours
  • The Journey from Success to Significance (Maxwell, John C.)
  • The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You
  • There’s No Such Thing as “Business” Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions
  • Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrows Success (Maxwell, John C.)
  • Your Road Map for Success: You Can Get There from Here

Catalog of John Maxwell’s Resources

Maxwell has a wide range of resources, from blog posts to videos.  For simple scanning, I organized Maxwell’s collection of resources into the following buckets: Key Links, Videos, and Popular Posts.

Category Items
Key Links
  • Hope
  • Joyce Meyer – Attitude Adjustment with John Maxwell part 1
  • Joyce Meyer – Attitude Adjustment with John Maxwell Part 2
  • Joyce Meyer – How to Simplify Your Life with John Maxwell
  • Joyce Meyer – Words of Affirmation with John Maxwell Part 1
Popular Posts

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  1. whoa!!
    loved this one especially – it resonated with me a lot:
    “People Do What People See.”

    Visalization rules 😉

  2. […] here: Lessons Learned from John Maxwell – Sources of Insight Share and […]

  3. Oh, boy what a post J.D.;-)
    I am just bookmarking it all! and shouting out to my part of the world to do the same;-)
    THANK YOU, for your shipment.

  4. Oh my, J.D. There’s so much here… Each phrase is a stand-alone nugget of wisdom. What a tremendous resource you’ve offered; I need to print it for reference, because I’ll never remember half of it [grin].

    The wonderful thing about all this is that “success” isn’t applicable only to business. Every meaningful goal we set for ourselves in life is an opportunity for us to practice these lessons and tips. “Leadership” is a quality we can cultivate just for ourselves. What comes to mind is parenting: a young mother wanting to homeschool an active child, for instance, must learn to “lead” herself properly in order to attain her goals of being the best wife, mother, and teacher she can be.

    All the work you put into distilling Maxwell’s lessons…just, thank you.

  5. @ Alik — It reminds me of a leadership training where we had to “draw your vision.” It sounds simple until you try it, then it quickly explains why people will or won’t follow.

    @ Ivana — Thank you. Maxwell really makes it easy to flow the insights.

    @ Julie — I agree — it’s beyond business. It really is a set of lessons for life, where work just happens to be one channel to put yourself to the test. Thank you.

  6. Hey there JD,

    Great lessons learned from a man I truly look up to, one I call my personal mentor.

    If anyone wants to become a leader, then taking a lead from John Maxwell and the lessons you learned directly from him is a very WISE thing to do.

    What you learned here is lessons that can applied to all aspects of our lives. That is truly remarkable.

    Great looking blog by the way!

    Have a great and blessed day,
    Jerome Ratliff

  7. J.D. This is just one of your best, most comprehensive, most inspiring posts ever!!

    There is so much good stuff in this, I will read it again after I post this comment, and would love to commit it all to memory. Just such beautiful principles for all areas of life, work, relationships and play.

    Thanks for this incredible gift of sharing John Maxwell with us!


  8. @ Jerome — I think Maxwell is a great mentor for work and life. I really like the fact that he lives his calling and that he scales himself through writing and speaking. He has a great way of looking at things and shining a light on things in an interesting way. Thank you!

    @ Fred — I’m a fan of learning from doing and I really like the one day at a time to build momentum approach.

    @ Jannie — Thank you! It felt great to go to the balcony and take a look across Maxwell’s work and find the key themes and patterns. He has a great way of putting insights into words.

    @ Khalil — Indeed, Maxwell is a master all-rounder. Thank you.

  9. JD –

    These posts are my favourite thing in the blogosphere at the moment and I’m sharing them like crazy. I hadn’t come across Maxwell before, however he seems to have a great handle on leadership and success. I like his Zen approach – success happens one decision at a time. That is so true – take care of today and tomorrow will start taking control of itself. Thanks for sharing – so much to digest here.


  10. Whops! A fantastic round – up, truly balanced. It makes you think, reflect and question.
    We are far more revealing by the questions we ask than the answers we give /provide. The sum of us can be more powerful (and fun) than one of us. sometimes. The confounding thing is exactly how we make it happen…We have the opportunity to either step away or stay steadfast in creating something greater than we can alone….”We are moving from sharing to cooperation to collective action.” –Clay Shirky. “Groups need both carrot and stick-based rules to remain stable.” –Robert Axelrod. “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr
    Yet one of the characteristics of the human species is that it does not have the capability of transferring the written word (tons of literature on how to reduce the misery of human beings) into action! That is amazing. Here are all the bright ideas and no clear suggestion on how we go from sensible arguments to any kind of action!? Years ago, we naïvely assumed ,that getting into Operations Research and Management Science, the precision those two areas promised in looking at problems and trying to understand management, would carry with it, an acceptance on the part of management. We all believed that we could trace the problem o implementation of research findings, by undergoing a really drastic change, even in the language of management, and introduce a mathematical, more precise way and then use measurements. So we conducted some sort of survey to the authors of 13 articles in the field:
    “Dear author, you wrote a brilliant article on inventory (or queuing or whatever the topic was) and we are interested, to know what you did about it ? Did management accept your research and could you see haw successful you were in practice ?” There was only one author
    who even had the idea what happened. We were very anxious about implementation. The other 12 did not. So implementation was not taken seriously.
    Then it was decided to find out how general this was and ran some experiments. We studied
    Five 5 MBAs running a little business with 3 products. They had to decide on the price of each product, the scheduling of each process, the production schedule, and the way the way in which they would respond to demand. There were the ideal solution, so there was no excuse.
    We ran the experiment 40 times and, with two 2 exceptions, not one individual implemented the solution which was told to them. We primed one member and told him the solution and he tried to tell it to the others.
    Well we came into the MBA world. The MBA world is made up of unreal problems that have solutions and that was what we gave them. But, that was not what was blocking managers.
    Our result was the same as that which you’d find in the real world of practice ..was using the
    Solution, yet companies were using a lot of money to find these solutions….
    So the real fun in industry is getting big things to be done with imperfect people…If you wait to assemble a team of perfect people people you will be left at the post.
    Sometimes, reading through posts like ‘Lessons learned from John Maxwell’ aimed for the
    ordinary ‘Under Dog ‘, I start thinking that our ‘Age of Over –Think” is never ending.
    I still believe so strongly in the need of risk –taking at all management levels in an organization, I am not that sure that your generation of highly educated managers and other people is going to do that better, than my generation, which has relied more completely on intuition. You have a greater potential than we ever had Your generation knows more about nearly everything, is not willing to live life that dangerously and will hopefully take advantages of the opportunities which luck offers you. Still I wonder if we are not trying to ‘over-think’ and ‘over –analyze’ some problems. Maybe we need more people who, after they have though through a problem, will have the courage to act. Education in the broad sense can help you think things through ; but unless you are willing to assume the risks of making a decision in the face of uncertainty, your education won’t do you any good and you are missing most of the fun in life. The real test here is developing a capacity to become a better risk taker; to be able to take full advantage of circumstances as you find them, even though you can never be sure in advance that you are right. Remember that freedom is not always
    the best thing. Most people prefer dying rather than accepting the responsibility of speaking
    their minds. Dying is easy; speaking up I very difficult. Strangely enough, Man not always wants to be free. Half of humanity are stupid and have nothing to sat. Very well, to be stupid is a basic human right. But nearly everybody wishes to be a slave of conformism and the right to be a slave is also one of the fundamental human rights. There is a strong desire in the bosom of man to be free; and an equally strong desire to remain a slave; to be told what to do; to crawl.
    Luther and Calvin were not the only religious leaders, who taught us to humiliate ourselves before the sight of God. All religions have invented God, or Gods, so that people could abase themselves before Him or Them. God, is great , while we human beings are worms in the mud, helpless, unworthy and miserable insects. This is the kind of Love of Freedom installed in us at tender age. Millions of brave people have sacrificed their lives in order to be permitted to remain slaves in their own way and to crawl in the dirt before divine or human masters- according to their hearts’ desire.

    Daily Ponder What happens if a sheepherder counts his blessings instead of sheep?

  11. @ Phil — Thank you! I think you’ll really enjoy Maxwell’s work. It’s sticky. He has a way of framing and naming things that makes it easy to get the point, and is specific enough to be useful and relevant. I too really like the fact that he made success a process over something far off into the future.

    @ Michael — Well put and I agree — the biggest challenge is turning insight into action. For the last 10+ years, my job has been to find principles, patterns, and practices and turn them into prescriptive guidance. We use the term “prescriptive” guidance because we “prescribe” actions instead of simply describe the space. The key thing I learned is that any problem domain can be broken down into questions and tasks for a user — either “answer my question” or “show me how.”

    I have actually shared our “prescriptive guidance” approach with our Learning and Development group at Microsoft and they suggested that the approach I use for building prescriptive guidance, would be enormously beneficial for education — turning insight into action and mapping out problem spaces with principles, patterns, and practices. I should probably do a write up on my approach at some point. My post on Writing Books on Time and On Budget shares some of the process.

  12. Hi J.D.
    Good stuff. I love this — “Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.” And as for not taking ourselves too seriously… well, I trip over that one all the time.

    I too hadn’t heard of John Maxwell before. I like his philosophy about the ‘journey’. If we can be open to that mindset, it’s a great way to not try to hold on to what we think is success.

  13. Hi JD .. it’s interesting how many leaders or captains of industry .. started at the bottom of an organisation, or with nothing and developed their skills and knowledge over time. Just do it – is such a good maxim .. and do it today, because today counts. Leadership is knowing the way, goes on that path and shows others the way .. smile and be open – everyone will feel better around you.

    Thanks for show us Maxwell’s definition of Success; the 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership .. thanks for setting them down for us, and noting the changes .. especially the Law of the Picture .. people do what people see … and the 21 characteristics of a leader .. the first person you lead is you = how true .. then your top 10 quotes, and categorising the other quotes for us ..

    This is brilliant JD – I know I haven’t given it the time I should .. but I’ll be back to read .. you have such a wealth of info here .. and it’s great that I know about it .. thank you so much – have a lovely weekend .. Hilary

  14. @ Davina — That’s what’s so interesting about Maxwell — on one hand he’s insanely popular and fills the shelf at bookstores, on the other hand, I run into a lot of people that haven’t heard of him. I like that. It’s like an unsung hero and secret gem, yet significant influence in some pretty key niches.

    @ Hilary — You hit a very key point — working your way up through the ladder builds a firm foundation of know-how and empathy. Just do it is a perfect maxim — especially given how easy it is to analyze or talk ourselves out of something. It’s about figuring out the right thing to do, then just doing it (and your success build both momentum AND motivation 😉

  15. JD, I loved this post, made me smile because you’ve always reminded me of a Maxwell-type leader, *in your own beautiful way mind you. 🙂 I just thought it was neat that you had all this info on him! I was wondering if he is one of your mentors? Often we naturally become like those who we learn from, or at least I have found that to be so.

    There is so much here! I think my favorite nugget is that success is a daily thing. and his definition of success: “Success is … knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”

    Also, I remember listening to an audio of him speaking a few years back and I never forgot the feelings and reverence that came with it. I can’t remember the title or any of the labels but it stayed so strongly with me because of his humility as a leader. I want to always be humble and polite and considerate and a servant leader as he is. I remember a part that he shared from that audio, he spoke about “being a leader you know the first and best spot before any one else, and so no one would know if you took it and got cushy, but he has learned to never take that for granted and to always be thinking of another person. It felt like an audio of a “last speech” type for new leaders coming on board and it was so helpful and I remember crying by the end because I was like.. “This man is so beautiful in his spirit and his heart” and really making an impact!! I was just so blessed and have always greatly respected him!

    As I leave this note, I want to say thank you JD for being a leader of character as well. Your integrity shows through and your helping traits are so appreciated! *I am excited to have you as my first guest blogger next month!

    blessings to you,

  16. @ Jenn — Thank you. When I first read some of Maxwell’s work, I really didn’t know who he was. But his writing reminded me of the way I try to convey things — deliberate, precise, and punchy where possible.

    The more of his writing I read, the more it felt like deja vu — as if we took different paths, but landed in the same town. I think it’s because we share a focus on principles — in my day job, that’s exactly what I focus on … finding and sharing principles, patterns, and practices (although for technology.) Maxwell, Covey, Robbins, de Bono, etc. are “evergreen” writers that tend to focus on principles and patterns. Even though they all have different styles — they seem to be “truth” seekers and continuous learners.

    I also like the fact that Maxwell not glitzy or glam. He’s solid. Humble too. And very human. I like that.

    Given how I’ve filled my shelf with Maxwell, I would consider him a mentor and influential source of insight.

  17. This brings a smile to my face! 😉 you don’t know how many times I came to your place here and was like wow of this Maxwell thought, with a twist! and so very neat! I like how you described it also where the patterns of focus are similar and landing in the same town. I can see why you would mention Covey also. I’ve read a bit of his stuff. I like how you break it down for bite-size portions. I also like how you “know” what you’re going for and make it happen! For example the Guinness world insights feeling! You’re definitely capturing that feeling here, and rising with more presence! It’s fun to watch the renovations and the growth here! Not trying to be flattery, but quite genuine! I am very excited for you and see a lot of potential here!
    have a great week, JD! ~Jenn

  18. tonight I had more time to read through and these were my favorites from the first scan. I was most drawn to the growth, leadership area.

    “Life doesn’t do anything to you. It only reveals your spirit.”

    “The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.”

    “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”

    “Believing in people before they have proved themselves is the key to motivating people to reach their potential.”

    “Encourage the many; mentor the few.”

    “Leadership is developed daily, not in a day.”

    “Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent.”

    “The first step to leadership is servant hood.”

    “You have to sow excellent seeds to have an excellent life. You must start with sowing excellent thoughts.”


  19. @ Jenn — I think there’s a common bond among people who have a passion for getting more out of life. I hope that passion comes through and Sources of Insight gives people a strong foundation for a better life … with skill.

    I can see why growth and leadership is a sweet spot for focus — it’s onward and upward.

  20. The takeaway from this is staying focused on taking care of today and building strong habits, so tomorrow is easier and more productive. I’ve actually never read any of Maxwell’s books, looks like I have some reading to do.

  21. […] Lessons Learned from John Maxwell – Sources of Insight […]

  22. This is a great Blog. I am a Big fan of John Maxwell and I am quite impressed with the structure of the Blog!! Love it!!!

  23. Want to know about BUSINESS ETHICS – read this (then read John C. Maxwell’s book There’s no such thing as business ethics.

    I came to this web site looking for information about John C. Maxwell ; I just finished reading his book “There is No Such Thing as Business Ethics (There is only one rule for making decision)“. In a world where superlatives are overused “ad nausium” I remain inclined to state that this book is the best one on business ethics I’ve ever read. It’s not only to the point, it puts ethical considerations clearly into focus in simple and memorable ways. Maxwell’s elaboration on the principle he champions (that the “Golden Rule” should be one’s guide – in business too) is outstanding.

    It’s widely accepted that ethics is an important topic in business. America’s business schools focus on it (at both the undergraduate and the MBA level) as part of the standard business curriculum. However as many people who have experience in business know actual practices employed by managers and executives can be another matter entirely, whether or not they understand business ethics. Maxwell makes the point that that no one claims to be unethical; but it’s what one DOES that counts, not what one SAYS – is extremely well taken.

    Can you imagine a student in an MBA class discussing ethics standing up and saying openly something like … “When I get there (in a business position) I’m going to screw all the customers and torque more money out of them to fatten our bottom line”, or “My plan for promotion includes identifying my chief competitors within our company and finding ways to discredit them and run their careers”? Of course not. Maxwell’s point is clear – no student in his or her right mind would say anything like that – in the classroom in front of the professor and other students. Such a student would be immediately chastised, and he or she knows it. But it doesn’t matter at that time anyway. Maxwell says it’s what they DO later on that matters. And in so saying he puts his finger on the crux of the problem.

    What does matter is what those same people do years later when they are actually in business jobs, have positions of authority and are subject to the “pull” of unethical behavior. Maxwell does a really good job of showing WHY people succumb to ethical failure. There are real, and powerful reasons for this. Consequently it takes a lot more than just having “good intentions” to resist. It takes strength of moral conviction and a good understanding of the circumstances involved to stand up for doing what is right when the time comes and when circumstances conspire against it.

    So why then have we seen ethical transgressions such as at former “Big 6” accounting firm Arthur Anderson (which subsequently drove the company out of business and destroying 100% of shareholder value)? And what about the reactions from the business school community that took place at that time. The Wharton School of Business (Univ. of Pennsylvania) stepped up its focus on business ethics right after the Arthur Anderson scandal (of falsifying financial audits). But ethics had been a regular part of the educational fare at all business schools, including at Wharton – for years. Would Wharton’s extra emphasis on it “fix the problem”?

    All the teaching about ethics that takes place in the classroom will do no good whatsoever if business school graduates don’t carry out ethical principles once they are “out in the profession” (and far removed from their well meaning professors and classmates from college). Only belief that good ethics and success go hand in hand will accomplish this. Maxwell does an outstanding job of showing that exemplary ethical behavior in fact paves the road for business success. It’s not a “luxury one can afford” if you are successful. That implies that it’s a drain on profits (aka – and therefore bad). In fact Maxwell shows how good ethics can be the cornerstone upon which business success is built, and that it maximizes everything from employee productivity to customer value, and hence profitability.

    Of course the path a business takes is what it is. There is no way in business to run a “controlled test”, a shadow business run in a different manner with which to compare outcomes. The lack of empirical evidence from a controlled test leads business managers to assume and to claim that their choices were the best. Consequently it’s important that people understand how ethical practices organically lead to best business practices. Maxwell provides not only examples from real businesses, but also scenarios that are intuitively comprehensible that show how ethical actions lay the foundation for growth. This stands in opposition to unethical practices which merely “take from others” resulting in a zero sum game. As any business analyst can tell you, only growth leads to the pinnacle of success.

    But since recall of why “doing the right thing” (when decision times come) can be problematic, Maxwell has a good approach to ethics for business by focusing its essence as the embodiment of the Golden Rule. And his treatment of the subject (which is easy to digest in a small 120 page book) makes it easy to get up to speed on as well. Since “remembering ethics” in the future seems to be the problem “hanging ones hat” on the widely known, and easy to remember Golden Rule seems like a good idea. Since we already know the Golden Rule it’s easy to remember – which should also make it hard to forget. And that (forgetting at opportune times) is the problem with business ethic. Remembering, therefore, is central to how this shortcoming can be fixed.

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