Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review “Be All You Can Be” Authored By John C. Maxwell – Professor M.S.Rao, Reviewer

I have read John C. Maxwell’s book titled “Be All You Can Be – A Challenge To Stretch Your Potential” with great interest. The book contains 13 chapters. It breaks the ice with a foreword, ‘Yes You Can’ that can program your mind for success. Maxwell maintains conversational tone throughout the book and makes readers glued to the book. The book contains several anecdotes with an emphasis on Christianity as Maxwell was a pastor.

Maxwell differentiates between leaders, followers, and losers. Leaders stretch with challenges. Followers struggle with challenges. Losers shrink from challenges. He says that most of our problems are in our heads. It’s not what happens to us; it’s what happens in us. Joy is a by-product of following right principles.

Maxwell compares people with plows and bulldozers, “We can either work with people or war against them. We can be plows or bulldozers: The plow turns over the earth, stirring it up, cultivating it, making it a good place for seed to grow; the bulldozer scrapes the earth, pushing obstacles aside. Both plows and bulldozers are useful instruments, but one wrecks while the other cultivates. The plow type of leader sees in people riches waiting to be uncovered and cultivated; the bulldozer type of leader sees in people obstacles to be destroyed. Be a cultivator!”

Maxwell recalls the story as follows: When Berlin was being divided into East Berlin, controlled by the Communists, and West Berlin, part of the free world, a group of East Berliners dumped a whole truckload of garbage on the west side. The people from West Berlin thought they’d pick up all the garbage, put it on a truck, and dump it back on the east side. Then they decided that wasn’t the way to handle it. Instead they filled a dump truck with canned goods and other non-perishable food items, went over the east side, stacked it neatly, put a sign beside it. The sign read, “Each gives what each has to give.”

John C. Maxwell says about conviction and leadership as follows: “People don’t follow a leader because of character; they follow a leader because of conviction. People do not do something because it is right; they do something because they feel that it’s right. When we act on our conviction, others are drawn to us. Without conviction we may communicate truths, but we’ll develop no disciplines. We will have people who have the right answers, but we won’t have people who live the right lives.”

Maxwell reveals the research, “Approximately 95 percent of us have never written out our goals in life, but of the 5 percent who have, 95 percent have achieved their goals. In 1953 at Yale University, 3 percent of the graduating class had specific, written goals for their lives. In 1975, researchers found that the 3 percent who wrote down their goals had accomplished more than the other 97 percent put together.” He recalls reading an article n 1972 in Life magazine. It was entitled, “One Man’s Life of No Regrets.” It was about a forty-seven-year-old man who had set out at the age of fifteen with 127 specific goals in his life. By the time he was forty-seven, he had reached 105 of his goals.

Maxwell unfolds, “The average person’s lifetime includes twenty years of sleeping, six years of watching television, five years of dressing and shaving, three years of waiting for others, one year on the telephone, and four months of tying shoes.”

Maxwell reveals, “Most people only use 10 percent of their potential; if they use as much as 25 percent, they’re called geniuses. If we can go from using 10 percent of our potential to using 20 percent, we could double our productivity and still have 80 percent of our potential untapped.”

Maxwell motivates readers about personalities with tenacity, “Cripple (a man) and you have Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in prison and you have John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Fore and you have George Washington. Raise him in poverty and you have Abraham Lincoln. Strike him down with infantile paralysis and he becomes Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Burn him so severely that doctors say he will never walk again and you have Glen Cunningham, who set the world’s record in 1934 for the outdoor mile. Deafen him and you’ll have Ludwig van Beethoven. Call him a slow learner, retarded, and write him off as uneducatable and you have Albert Einstein.”

He differentiates between a dreamer and a person who has a ream. There are thousands and thousands of dreamers, but there are very few people who have dreams – and there’s a world of difference between them. Dreamers talk too much but do little. A person who has a dream talks little but does much. You may not hear all about the dream, but if you watch, you’ll see it happen. This kind of person is driven by the dream.

He describes that many great dreams die because the dreamers lack conviction to act on them. There’s a difference between commitment and conviction. Commitment keeps me going when things get tough. Conviction keeps others going when things get tough.

Purpose makes the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. A person with a purpose does things out of the ordinary, above average. Personality doesn’t make a person extraordinary. Neither does intelligence nor education. What makes a person extraordinary is purpose – the consuming desire to accomplish something in life.

Maxwell provides a good formula to remember regarding timing and decision-making as follows:
The wrong decision at the wrong time = disaster.
The wrong decision at the right time = a mistake.
The right decision at the wrong time = unacceptable.
The right decision at the right time = success.
Now you have the five stages of decision making. Don’t underestimate the value of understanding and practicing this process. A leader’s ability to make decisions and see them work means the difference between success and failure. Remember, success is not for the chosen few, but for the few who choose.

Age, Achievement and Vision

Maxwell describes that age is not a deterrent to achieve success in life. For instance, Colonel Sanders at seventy years of age discovered “finger lickin’ good” chicken. Picasso still painting at eighty-eight, and George Washington Carver, who at eighty-one became head of the Agriculture Department. There’s Thomas Edison who at eighty-five invented the mimeograph machine, and John Wesley, who was still traveling on horseback and preaching at age eighty-eight.

We all hear about vitamin B and vitamin C, but the best vitamin you can have is vitamin V - the vision vitamin. When people take vitamin V, they are revitalized daily. Age never becomes an issue because they still have a goal, they still have a dream, and they still have a vision. At eighty-five years of age, Caleb was ready to go to war for the land. His strength had not abated. Why Vitamin V. He had a vision.

Maxwell emphasizes the importance of vision in life. He advises never be content with having reached a goal; don’t rest on your laurels. History is filled with examples of people who, though they had accomplished great things, lost sight of their vision. When Alexander the Great had a vision, he conquered countries, when he lost it, he couldn’t conquer a liquor bottle. When David had a vision, he conquered Goliath; and when he lost his vision, he couldn’t conquer his own lust. When Samson had a vision, he won many battles; when he lost his vision he couldn’t win a battle with Delilah. When Solomon had a vision, he was the wisest man in the world; when he lost the dream God had given him, he couldn’t control his own evil passion for foreign women. When Saul had a vision, he could conquer kings; when he lost his vision, he couldn’t conquer his own jealousy. When Noah had a vision, he could build an ark and help keep the human race on track; when he lost his vision, he got drunk. When Elijah had a vision, he could pray down fire from heaven and chop off the heads of false prophets; when he lost the dream, he ran from Jezebel. It’s the dream that keeps us young; it’s the vision that keeps us going.

Leadership Means Dissatisfaction

John Wesley was one who understood that leadership means dissatisfaction. He averaged three sermons a day for fifty-four ears, preaching more than forty-four thousand times altogether. To do this, he traveled by horseback and carriage more than two hundred thousand miles, or about five thousand miles a year. He was greatly devoted to pastoral work. During a later period in his life, he was responsible for all the churches in England. To get his work done, he rose at four every morning and worked solidly until ten at night, allowing brief periods for meals. At age eighty-three he was upset to discover that he could not write more than fifteen hours a day without hurting his eyes. At age eighty-six he was ashamed to admit that he could not preach more than twice a day and he was angry that he would sleep until 5:00 a. m.

Charles Spurgeon was known as the prince of preachers. Like Wesley, he was not satisfied with just being a great orator; he had a passion for the work of god, and he was never satisfied with the number of souls that he had won.

Problem Solving Principles

The happiest people on earth are not people without problems. The happiest people on earth are people who have learned to appreciate the possibilities for growth that problems bring. Maxwell provides blueprint for solving problems. The first key to handling problems is to get the right mind-set: Every problem is solvable.

• Define your problem clearly on paper.
• Organize to divide and conquer your problems. If you have a problem that needs attacking, divide it into parts. Suppose you look at it and see five areas of difficulty; ask yourself which area you could handle most quickly.
• Keep going until the problem is gone.
• No man is an island, and no man solves problems by himself. This is an area that is too often overlooked in problem solving.
• List all the possible courses of action that you can think of.
• Visualize these different courses of action.
• Choose the best course of action and get going.
• Never let problems stop you from making the right decision.

Handling Disruptions

When we have disruptions, do we react or respond? I continually need to remind myself of the importance of responding. People who are schedule oriented, who have their to-do lists, and who have strong goals will always have some tension over disruptions. We have to remember the leadership is more than taking a pen to our to-do lists and marking off numbers.

A good example of somebody who knew how to deal with his disruptions positively was the great boxer Gene Tunney, who took the heavyweight title from Jack Dempsey. When Gene Tunney was in World War I, he broke both his hands. His doctor, who was also his manager, told Tunney that he had brittle hands; he would no longer be a boxer. But Tunney decided to try a strategy change. Instead of relying on the hard punch, as he had before, he became a strategic boxer; he learned to move well, to score points, and to be an artful dodger. He changed his strategy but not his goal. That is exactly what we have to do with our disruptions.

Ten Conflict Commandments

1. Love people more than opinions. Anyone who loves his opinions more than he does his friends will defend his opinions and destroy his friends. People who are not effective in relationships usually have a higher regard for their opinions than they do for people. We need to step back and look at what is really important to us. Is it helping or hindering our relationships with people?
2. Give others the benefit of doubt. When working with yourself, use your head; when working with others, use your heart. Give other people the benefit of the doubt.
3. Learn to be flexible.
4. Good leaders learn how to say, “I’m sorry” more quickly than followers.
5. Provide an escape hatch for the person in conflict.
6. Check your own attitude.
7. Don’t overreact to conflicts. You’re going to have conflicts; don’t make them worse by overreacting to them. Don’t drop a bomb when a slingshot will work. If you expect conflicts, you will be better prepared to handle them sensibly.
8. Don’t become defensive.
9. Welcome the conflict. Conflicts will either give you ulcers or understanding: You choose which it will be.
10. Take a risk.

People and Problems

Maxwell says that we have developed a society in which people would rather take the easy way out; we have become a relief-syndrome culture. This type of society does not make good leadership training ground. But those who are willing to pay the price will make it, and the world will sit back and wonder how these successful men and women ever got so lucky. Luck has nothing to do with it; they were simply willing to do what all the rest of the people were unwilling to do.

It is popular in our society to believe that we are victims of our situations. Society looks at a person and says, “That poor person was born on the wrong side of the tracks and doesn’t have a chance.” Society emphasizes the problem rather than the person. That’s a major mistake. Your problem is not your problem. If you can get the person right, the problem will be fine.

The person who expects to live in a problem-free society is going to be as frustrated as the fellow who thought that he was going to rid his lawn of all the dandelions.

Problems defeat us when we lack purpose in life. Goal-oriented people don’t let problems deter them from their goals. If they want to reach them badly enough, they’re going to reach them.

Successful Failure

In fact, on an average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times. That’s not a lot of difference, is it? Actually, there are several similarities between the person who fails three out of five times and the person who fails two out of five times, even though one would be classified as successful and the other one would be classified as unsuccessful.

We successfully fail when it stirs us to keep trying. The setbacks that look as though they will finish us off can spur us on to come out on top. A Louisiana farmer’s favorite mule fell into a well. After studying the situation, the farmer came to the conclusion that he couldn’t pull the mule out, so he might as well bury him. He got a truckload of dirt, backed up to the well, and dumped it on top of the mule at the bottom of the well. When the dirt hit the mule, it started snorting and tramping. As it tramped, it began to work itself up on top of the dirt. So the farmer continued to pour dirt in the well until the mule snorted and tramped its way to the top. It then walked away, a dirtier but wiser mule. What was intended to bury it turned out to be its salvation. That’s a successful failure.

Maxwell concludes the book with, “Commitment will free you and let you loose to do great things for God.”

Great Quotes

“Success means a person is reaching the maximum potential available to him at any given moment.” - Ted Engstrom
“You can always tell when you are on the road to success: it’s uphill all the way.” - Paul Harvey
“I start where other men leave off.” - Thomas Edison
“In matters of principle, stand like a rock. In matters of taste, swim with the current.” - Thomas Jefferson
“A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats the little man.” – Carlisle
“Nothing will be attempted if all possible obstacles must first be removed.” - Samuel Johnson

Leadership Lessons

• We tend to overestimate events and underestimate process. Events are good for making decisions and for picking up a few valuable nuggets.
• If you make it your discipline to do little bit of growing every day, in just a few years you will be amazed by your transformation.
• The best way to define success from the world’s standpoint is that it’s the power with which to acquire whatever one demands of life without violating the rights of others.
• Sometimes we are afraid because success puts pressure on us to continue to succeed.
• People who have poor self-images will always shy away from success.
• It’s lonely at the top. Risk is another reason; people don’t want to stick their necks out.
• If you want to unlock your hidden potential, spend your time with people who will stretch you.
• If you find a path that has no problems, you will find that it leads nowhere.
• 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.
• Happiest people in the world are growing people. Your happiest moments happen along the way, not at the end of the trip.
• We will never reach our potential unless we follow our dreams, unless we fulfill our visions.
• There are too many people in leadership positions who are not successful because they’re not facing problems head-on.
• Learn to live for tomorrow.
• We see our problems based on three things: past experiences, present environment, and personal evaluation.
• As our purpose increases, our problems decrease. As our goal decreases, our problems increase.
• We will continue to fail until we die.
• The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
• No failure is significant enough to sink a person.

• Affirm personally, and don’t be afraid to affirm in front of others. Nothing is more encouraging than to receive honest praise in front of your peers.
• There is a difference between taking shortcuts and working smart.
• The poorest person in the world is not the person who doesn’t have a nickel. The poorest person in the world is the one who doesn’t have a vision. If you don’t have a dream – a goal and a purpose in life – you’re never going to become what you could become.

The book highlights mostly from the perspective of Christianity. Maxwell maintains conversational tone throughout the book and advises to transform possibilities into realities. In Maxwell’s book you will find pearls of wisdom in each sentence. The book is worth reading for stretching your potential and for converting your problems as prospects. 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.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Brilliant. Thank you so much for such a thorough review. Very much appreciated and life changing:

Jennifer Baulch said...

Great review! Thanks! Needed this to buy this particular book for someone with the hope the book it is useful in life discovery! :-)