Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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

John C. Maxwell’s book titled Success - What Every Leader Needs to Know distills success down to its essential components. It is a short and easy-to-read volume wherein Maxwell shows you exactly what success looks like. He provides specific steps you can take and ways you can overcome obstacles that might otherwise keep you from achieving success. He cherry-picked the essentials in subjects such as leadership, attitude, relationships, teamwork, and mentoring and put them into a format that you very likely can read in one sitting. Or you can easily toss a book into a briefcase or purse and read here and there as time allows. However, this book dwells from the perspective of success.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part describes the right picture of success, the second part outlines the core qualities for success and the third part unfolds success at the next level. The book preludes with the quote of Maltbie D. Babcock, “One of the most common mistakes and one of the costliest is thinking that success is due to some genius, some magic, something or other which we do not possess.”

Maxwell spells 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 reveals that more new information has been produced in the last thirty years than in the previous five thousand. A single weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than most people in seventeenth-century England were likely to encounter in their lifetimes.

He provides four principles to put you on the road to growing toward your potential:

concentrate on one main goal; concentrate on continual improvement; forget the past and focus on the future. He observes that leaders in the middle of an organization often have to deal with what he calls “the ABCs energy-drain.”

• Activity Without Direction-doing things that don’t seem to matter.
• Burden Without Action-not being able to do things that really matter.
• Conflict Without Resolution-not being able to deal with what’s the matter.

He outlines four fold process of building character: search for the cracks, look for patterns, face the music and rebuild. He provides tools to improve your teachability such as observing how you react to mistakes; trying something new - go out of your way today to do something different that will stretch you mentally, emotionally, or physically; and learning in your area of strength. In addition, he unveils time management techniques as follows:

80 percent of the time-work where you are strongest
15 percent of the time-work where you are learning
5 percent of the time-work in other necessary areas

Maxwell reveals that organizations have only three kinds of people when it comes to momentum. There are momentum breakers- people who sabotage the leader or organization and actually sap momentum as a result. These people have terrible attitudes and represent the bottom 10 percent of the organization (At General Electric, Jack Welch made it his goal every year to identify and fire these people.) The second group is comprised of the momentum takers-people who merely take things as they come. They neither create nor diminish momentum; they simply flow with it. These people represent the middle 80 percent. The final group is the momentum makers-the people who move things forward and create momentum. These are the leaders in the organization and comprise the top 10 percent. These momentum makers make progress. They overcome obstacles. They help move others along. They actually create energy in the organization when the rest of the team is feeling tired or discouraged.

For freeing your mind from clutter, Maxwell refers from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great as follows:

“Most of us lead busy, but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding “to do” lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing-and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who build the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of “stop doing” lists as the “to do” lists. They displayed a remarkable amount of discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.”

About giving your best, Maxwell explains about General George Washington. During the entire course of the Revolutionary War, he won only three battles. But he gave all he had, and when he did win, it counted. British general Cornwallis, who surrendered to Washington at Yorktown to end the war, said the American commander, “Sir, I salute you not only as a great leader of men, but as an indomitable Christian gentleman who wouldn’t give up.”

Maxwell cites the example of the Greek orator Demosthenes who stuttered! The first time he tried to make a public speech, he was laughed off the rostrum. But he had a dream of being a notable speaker. He pursued that dream and grew toward his potential. It is said that he used to put pebbles in his mouth and practice speaking over the sound of crashing surf at the seashore. His persistence paid off. He lived his dream: he became the greatest orator of the ancient world.

Napoleon, despite humble parentage, became an emperor. Beethoven brought to life his inner vision for music when he composed symphonies, even after he lost his hearing. Charles Dickens dreamed of becoming a writer and became the most-read novelist in Victorian England – despite being born into poverty.

Oliver Wendell Holmes noted. “The great thing in this world is not so much where we are but in what direction we are moving.” This is also one of the great things about having a dream. You can pursue your dream no matter where you are today. And what happened in the past isn’t as important as what lies ahead in the future. As the saying goes, “No matter what a person’s past may have been, his future is spotless.” You can begin pursuing your dream today!

Maxwell refers the quotes of A.L. Williams who says, “You beat 50 percent of the people in America by working hard. You beat another 40 percent by being a person of honesty and integrity and standing for something. The last 10 percent is a dogfight in the free enterprise system.” To improve your tenacity, work harder and/or smarter, stand for something and make your work a game.

Successful people face the danger of contentment with the status quo. After all, if a successful person already possesses influence and has achieved a level of respect, why should he keep growing? The answer is simple:

• Your growth determines who you are.
• Who you are determines who you attract.
• Who you attract determines the success of your organization.

Chaplin’s Excellence

Charlie Chaplin always strived for continuous improvement and excellence as an artiste. He explained his desire to improve to an interviewer as follows:

When I am watching one of my pictures presented to an audience, I always pay close attention to what they don’t laugh at. If, for example, several audiences do not laugh at a stunt I mean to be funny, I at once begin to tear that trick to pieces and try to discover what was wrong in the idea or in the execution of it. If I hear a slight ripple at something I had not expected to be funny. I ask myself why that particular thing got a laugh.

Ben’s Brief Biography

Maxwell outlines the biography of Benjamin Franklin as follows: One of the seventeen children, Franklin was the son of a tradesman, a candlemaker, who was far from wealthy. He experienced a typical childhood. He attended schools for only two years. He invented numerous items such as the potbellied stove, the catheter, and bifocals. Maxwell further adds, “The evidences of Franklin’s talents were many. He helped establish Philadelphia’s first library. He started the nation’s first fire department. He developed the concept of daylight saving time. And he held many posts serving the government.” Like Benjamin Franklin, all highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking why. After all, the person who knows how will always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be the boss.

When you think about people who are competent, you’re really considering only three types of people:

• Those who can see what needs to happen.
• Those who can make it happen.
• Those who can make things happen when it really counts.

Maxwell concludes the book with the quote of Donald McGannon, former CEO of Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation, who stated, “Leadership is action, not position.” Taking action - and helping others to do the same in a coordinated effort - is the essence of leadership. Do those things where you are, and you won’t remain long there.

Great Quotes

“You have to pay the price. You will find that everything in life exacts a price, and you will have to decide whether the price is worth the prize.” - Former U.S. senator Sam Nunn
“He who makes no mistakes, makes no progress.” - Teddy Roosevelt
“The only conquests which are permanent and leave no regrets are our conquests over ourselves.” - Napoleon
“As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.” - Ray Kroc
“The greatest mistake once can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” - Elbert Hubbard
“For everything you gain, you lose something.” – Emerson
“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired – you quit when the gorilla is tired.” - Robert Strauss
“Every successful person finds that great success lies just beyond the point when they’re convinced their idea is not going to work.” - Napoleon Hill
“The meaning of earthly existing lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul.” - Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Laureate
“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Anonymous
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore Roosevelt
“The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what it is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.” - Henry Ford
“If silly things were not done, intelligent things would never happen.” - Tom Peters
“Judge the results. We get paid to produce results. We don’t get paid to be right.” - said Goizueta


1. You cannot achieve what you have not defined.
2. You will never go farther than your dreams take you.
3. You will not succeed unless you are willing to fail.
4. The first step toward success is leading yourself exceptionally well.
5. It is no exaggeration to say that the ability to work with people is the most important ingredient for success.
6. Trust is the foundation of all relationships.
7. To hit the mark, aim above it.
8. Quitters never win and winners never quit.
9. The day you stop growing is the beginning of the end of your success.
10. Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.
11. Successful people become go-to players.
12. To reach the next level, lead others to success.

Final Word

The book contains several research studies, quotations and illustrations. In John Maxwell’s book, each and every word is important as it contains invaluable information based on his vast experience. He has the uncanny ability to connect with readers by arousing and sustaining their interest until the end of the book. It is an amazing book emphasizing on success that takes you to next higher level. Enjoy reading!

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.


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