Five Unforgettable Bits of Wisdom from John Maxwell

Recently I went to Atlanta, GA, to help serve John Maxwell at a conference. It was a bit of a sacrifice, and I fell behind in my work by at least two days. I also paid my own way just to be there. You heard me correctly…I invested my time and hard-earned money to volunteer.

And I can tell you unequivocally that I would gladly pay to be able to serve, again and again. Spending 10 hours in a room with a master that had devoted his entire life to systems of leadership and constant growth was an honor.


Most would say that John Maxwell is a book writing machine (80 plus and counting), but I believe that he has merely chosen to be intentional, full of purpose, and dedicated to what he has been called to do in his vocation. Those simple decisions are all that it took for him to become the best in the world.

I have over 20 pages of notes on the topic of growth laws but I went ahead and developed the five top takeaways from the weekend along with my thoughts on them:

1. “Good becomes great when you change a life.”

As leaders, this should always be our sole goal in all that we do. Positively impacting and changing the lives of all of the people that we serve is what it’s all about. However, how often do we let ourselves get bogged down with the [not as] important, everyday activities? How often do we focus on our P&L, and only analyze the output numbers?

Those are good behaviors and overall mindset; but it’s one of the keys that separates the good from the great. Greatness transpires when a leader chooses to make a commitment to change lives of the people that they serve, and refuses to dilute their efforts with mediocre behaviors.

2. “Transformation begins within yourself. Start with you, and go from there.” 

Too often we set out to change and mold others when we’re the ones with the major character flaws. Before a flight takes off, who do the flight attendants tell you to take care of first in case of an emergency when the oxygen masks fall from the overhead compartment? For all of those that are too busy getting in those last second emails or watching Inception on your portable DVD player, they tell you to take care of yourself so that you can then care for others. You can’t help anyone if you’re on the floor gasping for air.

The same applies to engaging our people. If we can’t take care of ourselves, and lead in the way that the rest of the world is counting on us to; then there will be no one to follow us.

3. “Every day, get a win. Do something for someone that they couldn’t for themselves.” 

If we’re winning every single day, and celebrating those successes; then we’re making progress. The key to servant leadership is providing value to others by giving them something that they can’t do alone. Most people tend to overthink this component when it’s actually quite simple at its core.

Can people listen to themselves, and give tidbits of wisdom that they’ve never heard before? Can people learn something new that they currently know nothing about? Nope, and that’s where you, as the leader, need to step in and be proactive about how you can help others. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know.”

4. “Don’t tell me, show me what you’re going to do.”

How many people do you know that are still talking about what they’re going to do, and all of the amazing plans that they have? If you’re honest with yourself, do you have the tendency to be one of those leaders as well at times?

This is especially pertinent when it comes to how you lead your people. They don’t care what you were, or are, going to do for them. They want to see how you can serve them, add value to them, and make their lives better. This is your responsibility and calling as a leader.

5. “No matter how far you go, you have to remember where you came from. That’s who you are, and that’s your foundation.” 

John ended his talk with a walking stick that reminds him where he’s been and what he has accomplished. Various areas of success have a way of putting us on a “feel good” drug where it becomes about you and what you’ve been able to achieve. In my estimation, John’s “walking stick” is the perfect symbol.

The walking stick helps support us when we’re dreary and want to give up. It helps us stay the course with where we’re going. It serves as a constant reminder with where we’ve been, what we’ve conquered, and helps keep us grounded.

This was my number one takeaway: “Where have you come from, and who are you, really?”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is John presenting the same content to Nerium, a network marketing company that achieved over $1b in sales in just under six years. Nerium went “all in” on John Maxwell’s teachings, and the results show that the proof is in the pudding.



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Leadership in three words: Leaders Open Doors

Bill Treasurer, best-selling author of Courage Goes to Work has a simple message for today’s leaders. To effectively lead, you need to open doors. Leaders Open Doors is the title of his latest book.

Leaders Open Doors Book

The lesson came from his Bill’s son. Ian, a pre-schooler, came home one day and proudly proclaimed he had been the leader for the day. When Bill asked what that meant, Ian proudly shared, “I got to open doors for people.” That simple statement became the impetus for the book.

NOTE: Before I jump into a review, let me share share something important about Bill Treasurer and a “little extra” about this book. Bill walks the talk in terms of the Goldfish Principle. He understands the gift of “Paying it Forward.” One hundred percent of the royalties from the book are being donated to organizations that “open doors” for people with special needs.

If there is one overall takeaway in the book, it’s that “Great Leaders Care.” How do they demonstrate that they care? They show it by opening doors. The book describes a half-dozen doors: the Proving-Ground Door, the Thought-Shifting Door, the Door to a Second Chance, Opening Doors for Others, the Door to Personal Transformation, and the Door to an Open Heart. The book is a quick read. Treasurer spares the fluff and gets right to the point using pertinent examples.

Here are five of my favorite takeaways from Leaders Open Doors:

  1. There is no try: Open Door leadership is not about keeping your door open and being reactive. Great leaders focus on doing . . . getting out, taking action and opening doors for others.
  2. Glass half full: Great leaders are fillers, not spillers. Spillers lead through fear by immediately jumping to the worst possible extrinsic outcomes. Fillers by contrast appeal to intrinsic motivation and position challenges as opportunities for greatness.
  3. Little doors lead to big doors: Great leaders provide opportunities for team members to excel in absorbable doses. These proving ground chances are called lead-up opportunities.
  4. You can’t make an omelette without being willing to break a few eggs: Growth requires discomfort. Forcing people to stretch opens the door for courage. Great leaders create safe opportunities of purposeful discomfort (starting with themselves)
  5. Dropping the velvet hammer. Great leaders deliver feedback in a way that doesn’t raise defenses. It’s about finding the balance between assertiveness and diplomacy.

This book is truly a gift. Bill Treasurer strips leadership down to its essence. You’ll benefit, your staff will grow and your customers will be enriched through the lessons of Leaders Open Doors. Buy it today.

Here’s a video about the book:

Disclaimer and a lagniappe: I recently had a chance to meet Bill at a BK Author Marketing Workshop in Atlanta. He provided me with a copy of the book as a gift.  Here’s my lagniappe to pay his generosity forward. Buy Leaders Open Doors on Amazon by clicking here.  Be one of the first ten people to send me a picture of your receipt [email stan at] and I’ll send you a free copy of either Purple Goldfish or Green Goldfish.