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John C. Maxwell! 15 Golden Rules of Personal Development! Contribution Principles

John C. Maxwell! 15 Golden Rules of Personal Development!

Chapter 15. Contribution Principles

“Man is born to be rich or will surely get rich

through the use of his mind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Developing yourself helps you develop others

If you’re not doing something with your life,

it doesn’t matter how long your life is!

I started my growth journey

after my conversation with Curt Kampmeier 40 years ago,

I had no idea where it would take me.

At first I just knew that I needed to grow

and that I was intentional about it.

I must confess that from the very beginning,

my motivation for personal development was very selfish.

I want to grow so I can be successful.

There are goals and milestones

that I want to achieve.

But along the way,

I made a life-changing discovery.

My progress in personal development also opens doors for others.

It made it possible for me to contribute to them.

It leads us not only to success,

but also to meaning in life.

In addition to what I receive,

I can also give in the process of self-development.

The confidence I gained gave me credibility

and made me believe

that I could start developing others.

And in the process,

I found life’s greatest joy and reward.

I hope that this final chapter inspires you

to help others become

who they can be.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

But if you have made an effort to learn

or earn something,

you are likely to pass it on to others.

If you live by the Contribution Principle,

you will have a lot to give

because self-development allows you to develop others.

The person who doesn’t know where his next dollar is coming from,

usually doesn’t know where his last dollar went. – Grant Cardone



Adding value to others is a priority in my life.

This desire appeared in my life as a teenager

when I read about Benjamin Franklin,

who once wrote:

“I would rather be referred to

as ‘he lived a productive life’ rather than ‘he died. in velvet’.”

More than words,

that’s how Franklin lived.

For example, when he developed

what became known as the Franklin stove,

he could patent it

and make some money from it.

Instead, he decided to share the invention with the world.

“I’d rather be referred to

as ‘he lived a productive life’ rather than ‘he died in luxury’.” – Benjamin Franklin

According to Dr. John C. Van Horne of the Library Company of Philadelphia:

“Franklin’s philanthropy is

what I call collective nature.

His sense of compassion has helped his fellow human beings,

contributing to the beautification of society.

In fact, in a sense Franklin’s philanthropy,

his sense of compassion, was his religion.

Doing good for people is,

in his opinion,

a very sacred thing.”

Franklin didn’t see the world based on

how much money he could make from it.

He saw it in terms of the number of people he could help.

He helped develop the concepts of loan libraries

and local fire departments.

Even his work as a printer reflects his desire

to share ideas,

not hoard them.

As a teenager,

I’ve known that every day Franklin asked himself in the morning,

“What am I going to do today?”

And in the evening:

“How well did I do today?”

That inspired me.

It has helped me realize

that I can become more intentional about my ability

to help others

and hold myself accountable

for it on a daily basis.

As I got older,

that changed

from a mere idea to my greatest wish.

Every day Franklin asked himself in the morning,

“What am I going to do today?”

And in the evening:

“How well did I do today?”

This became clear to me

when I had a stroke in 1998.

While in my hospital bed,

not knowing if I would survive,

I was not afraid of death.

I had two thoughts:

First, I wanted to make sure the people closest

to me knew how much I loved them.

But the second thing is

that I still have a lot of work to do.

There are still contributions I want to make.

51 years old is too young to die.

I later learned that David Rae of Young Presidents said that most CEOs

are less afraid of death than they are of not being able

to contribute to their world,

so my feelings were clearly normal.

CEOs are less afraid of death

than they are of not being able to contribute to their world,

so my feeling is clearly normal.

“Money requires you to sell,

not your weakness for the foolishness of people,

but your talent for their reason.”– Ayn Rand



My desire to help others doesn’t just come

from reading about great leaders,

such as Benjamin Franklin.

I was also inspired by my parents’ example.

Over the years I have seen my mother,

a longtime librarian,

become the main source of encouragement

and confidant of many girlfriends at the college

where my father served as president.

She has made a difference in the lives of so many.

I also saw that from my father.

I saw him serving the parishioners

when he a local pastor.

Then I saw him serve and add value to pastors

when he was district superintendent.

And he continuously adds value to students

and faculty as he manages the university.

And dad is still helping others.

A few years ago,

Dad was getting ready to move into a new nursing home,

and he let me know

that he wanted to be the first to move in when it opened.

“That’s very important, son.

I need to be the first,” he insisted.

Now, it’s characteristic of the Maxwell family

to want to win at anything and everything,

but I suspect Dad has something on purpose.

“Why do you want to go there in the first place?” I ask.

“You see,” he replied,

“a lot of old people will move into that facility”

– I was almost 90 years old then!

– “and it will be strange to them.

They will be scared.

I want to be there first

so I can greet them

when they arrive,

introduce myself, show them around

and let them know that everything is going to be okay.”

When I get older,

I want to be like my father.

People calculate too much and think too little. ― Charlie Munger



How do you increase your chances of helping others

and making a significant contribution in your life?

Treat yourself like a river instead of a reservoir.

Most people who consider personal development a part of life

do it to add value to themselves.

They are like reservoirs,

constantly receiving water

but only filling themselves.

On the contrary,

the river is always flowing.

Whatever water it receives,

it gives.

That’s how we should do it as we learn and grow.

That requires an abundance mindset

– the belief that we will continue to receive.

But the longer you stick with personal development,

the more you will never experience scarcity

and will always have plenty to give.

Recently Margaret and I listened to Gordon MacDonald talk.

He challenged us to find someone

who could encourage us

and then be a source of encouragement to others.

He asked the following questions:

Who mentors you and provides you with basic insights?

Who mentors you to inspire you

to be a better person?

Who challenges you to think?

Who cheers your dream?

Who cares enough to reprimand you?

Who has mercy when you fail?

Who shares stressful moments with you without your asking?

Who brings joy and laughter into your life?

Who gives you vision when you’re dismayed?

Who inspires you to follow God’s path?

Who loves you unconditionally?

These questions are a great way

to help you identify someone

who can encourage you

to be the best person you can be.

But we should also put ourselves in their shoes

to think about our similar roles to others.

Who will you advise?

Do you share in moments of pressure

without the person offering to help?

As former President Jimmy Carter once said,

“I have one life and one chance to make it meaningful…

My faith holds that I can do anything I can,

anywhere wherever I can,

whenever I can,

as long as I try to make a difference.”

“I have one life and one chance

to make it meaningful with something…

My faith holds that I can do anything I can,

wherever I can,

wherever I may be whenever I can,

as long as I try to make a difference.” – Jimmy Carter



Giving away your time, expertise,

and resources

without expecting anything in return is an act of generosity

that makes the world a better place.

We need more givers.

I can’t explain why that works,

but as you focus more on the needs

and wants of others,

many of your own needs and wants are also met.


when you choose to hoard what you have,

instead of giving it away,

you become the center of your own lonely universe,

and you become lacking in diversity.

As a result, you repel both people

and potential blessings.

You can become a more generous person and give more,

even if you have those qualities.

However, to do that,

you have to be a developer.

And you must be purposeful in your efforts

to add value to others.

Here are some suggestions

to help you cultivate a contributing attitude:

You are the master of your destiny.

You can influence, direct and control your own environment.

You can make your life what you want it to be. — Napoleon Hill


1. Be grateful

Those who are not grateful are not givers.

They rarely think of others;

They only think about themselves.

They are always looking to others for help,

for support, and for service.

And whenever others fail to meet those expectations,

they wonder why.

Their conceit makes them unable to be seeders

and their ingratitude makes them wonder why they have nothing to harvest!

When I was a kid,

my father helped me understand

that everyone depends on each other

and gets each other’s help.

He used to say,

“When you were born,

you owed me nine months of heavy labor!” And

I started pursuing personal growth,

the concept of getting help

from others in that process was solidified.

In 1975 when I went to hear Zig Ziglar speak for the first time,

he said,

“You can have everything in life you want

if you help enough people get what they want.”

Those words are bold in me.

And I know well that many people have helped

– and are still helping me along the way.

Every author has written the books I’ve ever read.

Every leader has taken the time to teach me.

Every individual works as a volunteer at my church.

No one succeeds alone.

Many years ago,

I came across the following sentences

that helped capture this idea.

I don’t know who wrote them,

but I quoted them

and tried to live by them

– for 40 years:

There is no success

without sacrifice.

If we succeed

without sacrifice,

it is because someone

before us has to make sacrifices.

If you sacrifice

and don’t see success,

someone who follows will reap the rewards of your sacrifice.

I am the recipient of many achievements

that I do not deserve

and do not have to sacrifice.

Someone paid for them.

I’m so grateful!

How do I show my gratitude?

By investing in others

and teaching them things that help them go further

and achieve beyond

what I have achieved.

When you receive,

I hope you will give as well.

Some people want it to happen.

Some wish it would happen.

Others make it happen. ― Michael Jordan


2. Put everyone first

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of others.

Everything in life is only temporary.

People are important.

Your career, hobbies and other passions will die with you.

Everyone is not.

What you help others make them high enough

that they can give to others.

It’s a cycle that can continue long after you’re gone.

Being kind to others not only helps people,

it also helps us navigate our lives better

and puts us in a place where we can learn from others.

As George Washington Carver observed:

“How far you go in life depends on your flexibility with the young,

your respect for the elderly,

your sympathy with the poor,

and your tolerance,

towards the weak and the strong.

Because one day in your life,

you’ll probably end up like them.”

If you are a leader,

putting people first is even more important,

because your actions affect so many people.

For example,

you always hear that in every organization,

people are always the most valuable asset,

but many leaders don’t behave as if that is the case.

I should know:

As a young leader, I made the mistake of thinking

that my vision should come first.

I believe that my most important responsibility is

to make people respect me,

where I have been, what I do, what I ask.

I think people are obligated to serve me for the sake of the vision.

The problem with that kind of attitude is

that the line between encouraging people

and manipulating them is thin and easy to cross.

When a leader tries to engage people,

the first question they ask is not:

“Where are you going?”

but “Do you care about me?”

This is true whenever two people want

to do something together,

not just between leaders and employees.

But people especially want to know

that they matter to their leader

and that they can trust that person.

Once people feel secure that your motives are right

and that you will put them

before your own interests,

then they will be ready

to be your partner on the journey.

That’s what they aspire to be,

not a passive follower

– or worse, a tool to be manipulated.

The measure of success is not the number of people serving you,

but the number of people you serve.

When people hold the

#1 position in your life,

it becomes natural

to add value to them.

You do it as part of your lifestyle.

You add value to people because you value them

and you believe they are valuable

for you to value.

The measure of success is not the number

of people serving you,

but the number of people you serve.

The road to success is always under construction. — Aysa Angel


3. Don’t let things rule you

According to my friend Wille Wille,

people can be divided into three groups:

yes, no, and not paying

for what they have.


more and more people are being added

to the third group every day.

People are becoming slaves of desire to have.

That is one of the reasons the United States

and Europe are in such dire financial crises.

They continue to borrow

to compensate for their spending habits.

“Owning things is an obsession in our culture,” writes Foster.

If we own it, we feel it will bring us more joy.

It was an illusion.”

Owning everything does not bring real satisfaction.

In general,

if you try to meet mental

or emotional needs with material things,

it will

It just makes you crave for more.

It does not bring satisfaction.

However, if you meet those needs properly,

then you can be content with having

or not having much wealth.

No one should become a slave to his tools.

No one should want more just

because they want more ownership in their work.

There is a story in the Bible about a man

who let everything control his thoughts and life.

His selfishness keeps him from seeing the big picture.

He is only focused on accumulating wealth

and feels this will go on forever.

However, his life is short

and he cannot invest in the lives of others.

Author John Ortberg writes about him:

He devoted his life to the wrong things.

If you had to make a list of his priorities,

it would probably look something like this:

What’s most important

1. Harvest bountiful crops

2. Build a large barn

3. Financial security

4. Eat

5. Drinking alcohol

6. Have fun

7. Remember not to die

And of course,

the last item is one of the really tough ones.

Sooner or later we will have to return to Mother Earth.

And to whom will the things you hoard belong?1

In 1889, millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie

wrote an essay called “Gospel of Wealth”.

In it, he said that a rich person’s life should have two stages:

a time to accumulate wealth

and a time to distribute them.

The only way to maintain a generous attitude is

to make it a habit to give:

your time,

your attention,

your money,

and your resources.

Richard Foster advises:

“The mere act of giving away money,

or other valuables,

creates something in us.

It destroys your greed.”

“The mere act of giving away money,

or other valuables,

creates something in us.

It destroys your greed.”– Richard Foster

If you want to master your heart,

don’t let what you own control you.

The question is:

“Do you own your tools or let them own you?”

Contributors use their tools

to make the world a better place.

And they do this no matter how much

or how little they have.

Opportunity is missed by most people

because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. — Thomas Edisongreat


4. Don’t let others own you

When Margaret

and I first got married

and I started my career,

we had very few resources.

Basically, we have to live hard.

During that time,

we became friends with a wealthy couple.

Every Friday night,

Jack and Helen would take us

to a fancy restaurant and invite us to dinner.

That was the highlight of my week,

because Margaret

and I never had enough money to eat there.

Over a period of two years,

we have benefited greatly from this friendship,

and we are very grateful.

After three years in that position,

I received an offer to become the leader of a larger church.

It’s a great opportunity

with great advancement opportunities and potential.

When I announced

that I was leaving to take that opportunity,

Jack was not pleased.

I will never forget his words:

“John, how can you go after all

that I have done for you?”

That’s when I realized Jack was slowly starting to possess me.

He’s in a winning position

and I don’t know it!

It was a wake-up call.

That was the day I made the choice.

I will always strive to give more than

I receive in relationships.

And I will never hold the part in control.

From that day on,

I never let one of my leaders take the bill at a restaurant.

I will be on the giving side whenever possible.

Obviously I still get from other people.

I explained that.

I am blessed for receiving so much that others do for me.

But I don’t want giving to control my life.

It’s hard to give when someone else owns you.

I want to be able to judge people

without being tied down to anything.

A life of giving should be liberating

for yourself and for those you help.

“I define my success by the seeds I sow,

not the crops I reap.”– Robert Louis Stevenson


5. Define success as sowing, not reaping

Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said,

“I define my success by the seeds I sow,

not the crops I reap.”

That’s how we should measure

not only success in our industry but our lives.


most people sow very few seeds

but expect a bountiful harvest.

Their focus is on the day of the harvest.

Why so?

There is clearly a problem of natural selfishness.

But I think there’s more to it than that.

My friend Nabi Saleh,

who owns Gloria Jean’s Coffee, once told me,

“After sowing, there is a period

when it seems like nothing has happened.

All development happens below the surface.”

People often don’t realize it,

nor predict it,

and plan it

for it. They become impatient.

And they give up.

“After sowing,

there was a period of time

when it seemed as if nothing had happened.

All development happens below the surface.”- Prophet Saleh

In his book Halftime,

Bob Buford wrote about an executive

looking for advice on how to live.

Buford wrote:

A friend of mine who was the president

of a large publishing company was once

looking for a world-renowned Zen master.

After telling the great enterprise of his life to the Zen master

that elicited many reactions in him,

he decided to remain silent for a moment.

The Zen master began to pour tea into a cup

until the water overflowed onto the grass

and flowed towards my friend.

At that time, my friend asked the Zen master

what he was doing.

The Zen master replied:

Your life is like a cup of tea, overflowing.

There is no room for anything new.

You need to take away, not add.2

If you sow seeds only to quickly reap in life,

then you will often be dissatisfied with the results

and cannot continue to give and live and wait.

On the other hand,

if you sow a lot of seeds and sow continuously,

you can be sure that you will have a good harvest in the right season.

Successful people know this and focus on planting the seeds,

knowing they will reap the rewards.

This process is automatic.

If you live with purpose about making a difference in the lives of others,

your life will be full.

I like the way George Washington Carver interprets this idea.

“No individual has the right

to enter the world and go out

without leaving clear and legitimate reasons

for having gone through it,”

he said. That is something we must always keep in mind.

“No individual has the right

to enter the world and walk out

without leaving clear and valid reasons

for passing through it.”- George Washington Carver


6. Focus on self-development, not complacency

One of the more important things my mentor,

consultant Fred Smith,

taught me is to never focus on complacency in your life.

He said:

The complacent person thinks about how something serves him.

Self-developed people think about how something helps them

to serve others.

With complacency,

feeling good is the product.

With self-development,

feeling good is a by-product.

What is the main difference?


Complacency means doing

what I enjoy most

and will receive the most praise for doing it,

while self-development means doing

what I am most qualified and fit to do,

which becomes a responsibility.

Pursuing complacency is like pursuing happiness.

It was a feeling that couldn’t be sustained.

It depends too much on the circumstances.

It depends on one’s mood.

On the contrary,

you can develop yourself no matter how you feel,

your situation,

your financial situation

or the people around you.

Gratitude builds a bridge to abundance. ― Roy T. Bennett


7. Keep growing to keep giving

Whenever people stop actively learning and growing,

the clock starts to go back to a time

when they had nothing left to give.

If you want to keep giving, you have to keep growing.

If you want to keep giving, you have to keep growing.

Sometimes people stop learning

because they become complacent.

They believe they have developed enough,

or they just want to make the most of

what they already have in terms

of skills and knowledge.

But when that happens,

they start to stabilize and then fall.

They lose their creative spirit.

They start thinking about efficiency

instead of breakthrough.

They cut costs instead of investing in development.

Their vision becomes narrow.

And instead of playing to win,

they started playing not to lose.

The second thing that happens to people

who stop trying for positive growth is

that they lose their passion.

We all love to do what we’re good at,

but being good at something requires us to hone our skills.

Limited skills lead to less enthusiasm

and ultimately dissatisfaction.

If we reach this stage,

we will begin to look behind us,

because that was our golden age.

We think of the beautiful,

glorious days that have passed.

At that point,

we’re just a few feet away from obsolescence.

No one wants to learn from a “used to be”.

What can we contribute

if we get to this point?

I want to give everything I have.

To do that I have to keep growing

until I can’t grow anymore.

To curse money is to curse liberty,

to curse life,

which is nothing,

if it be not free” — Remy De Gourmont



In December 2009,

a legendary teacher, writer,

and personal development mentor passed away.

His name is Jim Rohn.

As a child,

Rohn grew up on a farm in Idaho.

After graduating from high school,

he attended college but only stayed there for a year.

“One year in college,

and I think I was well educated,” says Rohn.

Rohn became a stockbroker at Sears,

but he only made enough money to live on.

At the age of 25,

he started to get discouraged.

I hope to find a

way better.

A friend of Rohn’s invited him

to attend a seminar presented by J. Earl Shoaff,

a speaker and salesman. Key message:

Put more effort into yourself than on work;

your income is directly related

to your philosophy,

not the economy;

For things to change,

you have to change.3

Shoaff mentored Rohn for five years,

encouraging him to develop himself

and follow his dreams

to create a better life for himself and his family.

By the age of 31, Rohn was a millionaire.

Rohn may have had a success story

that very few people know about,

but then his life took an unexpected turn.

A friend invited him to share his successes at a Rotary Club meeting.

Rohn accepted and delivered the message he called

“From the farm boy in Idaho

to Beverly Hills”.

It was a hit. Others began to invite him to talk.

He initially spoke at service organizations,

high schools,

and colleges.

But he soon realized that people were coveting

what he wanted to teach.

In 1963, he founded an event organization.

During a career in people development spanning more than four decades,

Rohn has written more than two dozen books,

spoken at more than 6,000 events,

and grown about five million people.

And during that time,

he never stopped learning and growing.

“The biggest gift you can give someone

is your personal growth.

I used to say,

‘if you take care of me,

I’ll take care of you.’

Now I say, ‘

I’ll take care of myself for you

if you take care of yourself for me.’”

“The greatest gift you can give someone is your personal growth.”– Jim Rohn

One of the biggest gauges of Rohn’s influence

is the number of established authors

and human developers who consider him a mentor.

At a party honoring him held in Anaheim,

California on February 6, 2010,

guests honored him including famous speakers and mentors such as:

Anthony Robbins, Les Brown, Brian Tracy ,

Chris Widener, Denis Waitley and Darren Hardy.5

How can Rohn help so many people grow?

And how have you helped so many people become famous teachers

and mentors on their own?

By continuously developing yourself.

He understands that self-development allows you

to develop others.

He lives by the Contribution Principle.

George Bernard Shaw,

the writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925,

understood that the best use of one’s life was in the service of others.

He said:

This is the true joy of life,

used for a purpose recognized

by oneself as an extraordinary person;

be a force of nature instead of a body full of selfish afflictions

and complaining that the world won’t make an effort

to make you happy.

I think my life belongs to the whole community,

and as long as I live,

it’s my privilege to give whatever I can.

I want to be fully utilized until I lie down,

because the harder I work,

the more meaningful my life becomes.

I am happy to enjoy life.

Life to me is not a faint candle.

It is a bright torch

that I hold for a moment and cause it

to burn brightly before handing it on to future generations.

If you want your life to burn brightly

before passing it on to others and future generations,

keep growing.

The secret to their success is to focus on becoming the person

who is capable of achieving the desired results. — Steve Siebold



1. What is your basic desire in life:

Is it complacency or self-development?

Are your efforts designed to make you feel good?

Or feel the best?

Is your goal to be successful?

Or to gain meaning?

Are you trying to achieve results so you can feel happy?

Or are you trying to put yourself in a position to help others win?

These differences may be very small,

but they really make a difference.

Trying to feel fulfilled is a constant jittery

because you will never be completely satisfied with your progress.

Self-development is a never-ending journey

and will always inspire you,

because every progress is a victory;

But there will always be new challenges

to excite and inspire you.

“Wealth flows from energy and ideas.” – William Feather


2. Make sure no one owns you.

Make a list of the important people in your life.

Now think about each relationship

and determine

if you are a major or moderate giver or receiver.

If you are primarily the receiver,

then you need to adjust

so that the other party does not have control over you.

How do you do that?

By making an effort to give in life

without bothering to receive.

You can do this not only with your family and friends,

but even with your superiors.

Strive to do more than the organization pays you to do.

Not just the people you do

giving and working with will value you

and you will also add value to them.

And if you have the opportunity

to move on to bigger and better things,

you’ll be able to do so thinking

that you’ve always given your best.

Money was made for the free-hearted and generous.” — John Ray


3. I have one last applicable exercise for you in this book,

and that is to put people first in your life.

Write down your top three to seven goals and dreams.

Now write down the names of the most important people in your life.

Be honest with yourself.

Who is first?


Or your goals and dreams?

If you’re like me in the early years of my career,

scheduling comes first.

Fortunately, I soon realized after marriage

that Margaret was the first priority.

That opened the door for me to be less selfish

in other areas of my life.

Then when my children were born,

I prioritized them over many other things.

The older I get,

the more important people become to me.

At this stage of my life,

nearly everything I do

– even in regards to personal growth

– is motivated by a desire to help others.

Decide to put others first in your schedule.

Put family before work.

Put everyone’s growth in the workplace ahead of your own.

Serve others instead of yourself.

Commit to it,

and then invite others in your life

to observe to hold you accountable.

And remember,

sometimes the seeds you plant take a long time to grow.

But you will always see a good harvest.

 “Wealth has nothing to do with intelligence

but with encouragement and inspiration.”– Jim Rohn

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