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Growing your company. As a business owner, that’s always one of your main goals. But in that race to success, it’s sometimes easy to forget about another area of improvement—yourself. And that, says longtime leadership expert and best-selling author John C. Maxwell, is a huge mistake.
In fact, Maxwell, who has sold more than 21 million books and trained more than 5 million leaders, credits his intentional personal growth as the number-one reason for his success. He is so passionate about it, he has just written a new book on this very subject: The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.
Recently, John spoke to EntreLeadership Podcast host Chris LoCurto about how personal growth has been the greatest door opener of his life and how it can be yours too. Here’s a sampling of their conversation.
Chris: You just released your newest book on personal growth. Why did you decide to make it one of your “law” books?
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John: I started with The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and then I wrote The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. What makes these books work really well is that I qualify what a law is. A law is not gender biased. It works for males and females equally. It is not time biased. If the law worked 500 years ago, it will work 500 years from now. And it’s not culturally tied at all. I’ve taught these laws all over the world, and it doesn’t matter what country you’re in. They work.
So when I focused on personal growth, I wanted to do a book that no matter where a person was or their situation or circumstances, they could pick up these laws and begin immediately to apply them and grow in their life.
Chris: What do you think is the greatest barrier to growth for most people?
John: Personal growth doesn’t happen automatically. I realized that fact a long time ago at a breakfast at a Holiday Inn in Lancaster, Ohio. A man named Curt Kampmeier asked me about my plan for personal growth. When I told him I didn’t have one, he looked at me and said, “John, growth is not an automatic process. You don’t get better automatically.”
At that moment, a light bulb turned on for me. Before Curt, I assumed if I just kept living I would keep growing. I needed to figure out my growth plan and make it a daily part of my life. That was in 1974. Almost 40 years later, I have used this growth plan to develop myself and thousands and thousands of others. I found that if it worked for me, it’s going to work for them.
Chris: You’ve said that in the early days of leadership, you were trying to be the best person in the room. But then you decided to put yourself in groups of people better than you. Why is that?
John: I have a saying I use all of the time: “When you’re ahead of the class, you’re in the wrong class.” You’ll get around peers and very quickly you’ll do well. And all of the sudden, you think, You know what? I’m ahead of the class. The moment you realize it, get out of that class. You have to find others smarter than you.
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What’s really great is that there’s always going to be someone else faster, smarter and more successful than I am. So I never have any problem going to another class and being at the bottom of it. That’s healthy because that’s when I know I’m going to have to stretch.
Chris: What’s the difference between intentional and accidental growth?
John: Intentional growth is continuous; accidental growth is sporadic. You may accidentally get into a growing environment by being around some growing people, which is pretty amazing. And so, you learn. But it can also leave you just as quickly. Intentional growth is strategic. You discover and develop your strengths.
Chris: What are some of your habits or disciplines for growing?
John: What I try to teach is a statement I make often. “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” So when a person wants to work on something, they need to break it down to a daily routine. In other words, you’re either repairing what you didn’t do well yesterday or preparing tomorrow for success.
It’s kind of like a diet. When someone says, “I want to lose 30 pounds,” the question is then what are you doing today to lose half a pound? You’re not going to lose 30 pounds in one day. It’s behaviors you do each day to compound the success.
For more of the conversation with John and Chris, check out the latest EntreLeadership Podcast, which also includes a lesson from Dave. On this episode, Dave explains the “Wheel of Life” and how it applies to personal and professional goal setting.