Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review “Attitude” Authored By John C. Maxwell –Professor M.S.Rao, Reviewer

John C. Maxwell’s book titled Attitude What Every Leader Needs to Know helps you make you as a successful person and leader. It contains Maxwell’s invaluable experiences and anecdotes. The book is divided into three parts with the part one dealing with the impact of attitude, the second part describing the formation of attitude and the third part projecting the future with the right attitude. The book preludes with Maxwell’s passion for basketball.

Maxwell shares about attitude as:

It is the advance man of our true selves.
Its roots are inward, but its fruit is outward.
It is our best friend or our worst enemy.
It is more honest and more consistent than our words.
It is an outward look based on past experiences.
It is a thing which draws people to us or repels them.
It is never content until it is expressed.
It is the librarian of our past.
It is the speaker of our present.
It is the prophet of our future .

He compares a person with a positive attitude is like a bumblebee. The bumblebee should not be able to fly, because the size, weight, and shape of its body in relationship to its wingspread makes flying aerodynamically impossible. But the bumblebee, being ignorant of scientific theory flies anyway and makes honey every day.

Maxwell outlines the equation of abilities, attitudes and results as follows:

Great Talent + Rotten Attitudes = Bad Team
Great Talent + Bad Attitudes = Average Team
Great Talent + Average Attitudes = Good Team
Great Talent + Good Attitudes = Great Team

He reveals the research findings, “The Stanford Research Institute says that the money you make in any endeavor is determined only 12.5 percent by knowledge and 87.5 percent by your ability to deal with people. He outlines the equation for success as follows:
87.5% people knowledge + 12.5% product knowledge = Success

Maxwell narrates the story of two shoe salesmen who were sent to an island to sell shoes. The first salesman, upon arrival, was shocked to realize that no one wore shoes. Immediately he sent a telegram to his home office in Chicago saying, “Will return home tomorrow. No one wears shoes.”

The second salesman was thrilled by the same realization. Immediately he wired the home office in Chicago saying. “Please send me 10,000 shoes. Everyone here needs them.” In another instance, Maxwell shares, “In ancient Israel when Goliath came up against the Hebrews, the soldiers all thought, He’s so big we can never kill him. David looked at the same giant and thought; He’s so big I can’t miss.”

He unfolds the factors that influence a person from pre-birth to the age of 61 as follows:

Pre-birth : Inherent personality/temperament
Birth : Environment
Ages 1-6 : Word expression, adult acceptance/affirmation
Ages 6-10 : Self-image, exposure to new experiences
Ages 11-21 : Peers, physical appearance
Ages 21-61 : Marriage, family, job, success, adjustments, assessment of life

Maxwell reveals the formula for growth as follows: New experiences + teaching applications x love = growth. He suggests to replace few words by better and positive words such as ‘I can’t’ by ‘I can’, ‘If’ by ‘I will’, ‘doubt’ by ‘expect the best’, ‘I don’t think’ by ‘I know’, ‘I don’t have the time’ by ‘I will make the time’, ‘may be’ by ‘positively’, ‘I’m afraid of’ by ‘I am confident’, ‘I don’t believe’ by ‘I do believe’, ‘It’s impossible’ by ‘all things are possible’ and finally minimize the usage of ‘I’ and maximize the usage of ‘you’ In addition he explains about the importance of failure. He says that tumble will make you humble.

Maxwell motivates readers by listing out the great people who initially failed miserably like Erma Bombeck who shot to fame to Time magazine cover girl from newspaper copy girl; Wolfgang Mozart, a musician; Thomas Edison, an inventor; Albert Einstein, the greatest thinker and Harry S.Truman, President of America. He unfolds three fold approach while leadership such as valuing people; praising their efforts; and rewarding their performance. He outlines the definition of success as:

Success is ….
Knowing your purpose in life,
Growing to reach your maximum potential, and
Sowing seeds that benefit others.

Maxwell believes that God created every person for a purpose. According to psychologist Viktor Frankl, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life. Everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” Each of us has a purpose for which we were created. Our responsibility – and our greatest joy – is to identify it.

He says, “Usually the person who rises within an organization has a good attitude. The promotions did not give that individual an outstanding attitude, but an outstanding attitude resulted in promotions.” He adds further, “There is very little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”

What is Success?

Most people have a vague picture of what it means to be a successful person that looks something like this:

The wealth of Bill Gates,
The physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger, (or Tyra Banks)
The intelligence of Albert Einstein,
The athletic ability of Michael Jordan,
The business prowess of Donald Trump,
The social grace and poise of Jackie Kennedy,
The imagination of Walt Disney, and
The heart of Mother Teresa.

However, Maxwell says that comparing with others is not success. Success comes at a cost. Success comes from struggles and sacrifices. Maxwell reveals the success story of Erma Bombeck who shot to fame from newspaper copy girl to Time Magazine cover girl in his book Attitude as follows:

For slightly more than thirty years, Erma Bombeck wrote her humor column. During that time she published fifteen books, was recognized as one of the twenty-five most influential women in America, appeared frequently on the television show Good Morning America, was featured on the cover of Time magazine, received innumerable honors (such as the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor), and was awarded fifteen honorary degrees.

But during that span of time, Erma Bombeck also experienced incredible troubles and trials, including breast cancer, a mastectomy, and kidney failure. And she wasn’t shy about sharing her perspective on her life experiences.

Maxwell about Failures

Psychologist Martin E. Seligman believes we have two choices when we fail: we can internalize or externalize our failure. “People who blame themselves when they fail … think they are worthless, talent less, unlovable,” says Seligman. “People who blame external events do not lose self-esteem when bad events strike. ” (Reference Brodin “The Key to Bouncing Back,” Discipleship Journal, issue 109, 1999, 67.) To keep the right perspective, take responsibility for your actions, but don’t take failure personally.

In The Psychology of Achievement, Brian Tracy writes about four millionaires who made their fortunes by age thirty-five. They were involved in an average of seventeen businesses before finding the one that took them to the top. They kept trying and changing until they found something that worked for them.

Great Quotes

Maxwell provides good number of quotes in each of his books. Let us look at few of the important quotes:
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” - President Thomas Jefferson
“All my country has is spirit. We don’t have petroleum dollars. We don’t have mines of great wealth in the ground. We don’t have the support of a worldwide public opinion that looks favorably on us. All Israel has is the spirit of its people. And if the people lose their spirit, even the United States of America cannot save us.” - The former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir
“There is plenty of security in the cemetery; I long for opportunity.” – David Sarnoff
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that people can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” - Philosopher William James
“The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top.” - Dr. Joyce Brothers, Psychologist
“Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.” - William Saroyan said, American novelist
“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thought.” - James Allen, Author
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord Acton, English historian
“He who does not look head remains behind.” - Spanish proverb
“What you will become in five years will be determined by what you read and who you associate with.” - Charles “Tremendous” Jones, Author of Life Is Tremendous
“In science, mistakes always precede the truth.” – Horace Walpole


1. Attitude is really about how a person is. That overflows into how he acts.
2. When confronted with a difficult situation. A person with an outstanding attitude makes the best of it while he gets the worst of it.
3. Generally, people with certain temperaments develop specific attitudes common to that temperament.
4. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
5. Fall in love with the challenge of change and watch the desire to change grow.
6. In order to achieve your dreams, you must embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.
7. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
8. Higher the level of leadership you want to reach, the greater the sacrifices you will have to make.


• Attitude is always a “player” on your team.
• Your attitude and your potential go hand in hand.
• A lot goes into an attitude – but a lot more comes out of it!
• They key to having a good attitude is the willingness to change.
• The greatest battle you wage against failure occurs on the inside, not the outside.
• Every successful person is someone who failed, yet never regarded himself as a failure.
• Attitude determines how far you can go on the success journey.
• Leaders have to give up to go up.

Final Word

The book provides several research studies, quotations and illustrations. It contains pearls of wisdom based on the rich experience of Maxwell. He has the uncanny ability to connect with readers by arousing and sustaining their interest until the end of the book. It is an inspirational book emphasizing from the perspective of attitude. It is worth reading not only to build right attitude but also to excel as a successful leader.

Professor M.S.Rao
Founder and Chief Consultant,
MSR Leadership Consultants, India
Blog: http://profmsr.blogspot.com
Where Knowledge is Wealth
Email: profmsr7@gmail.com

Dear readers,

I would appreciate your comments about this article.


swapna said...

i got more knowledge from your blogs sir thank you sharing your ideas

Anonymous said...

Hello Sir, thanks for the breakdown of this great literature. I read this book few years ago and I'm having some challenges to beat right now, and came to consult and get some positive attitude energy.

However, how do you interpret this quote from Horace Walpole: "in science, mistakes always preceed the truth"?