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

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

Chapter 6 Environmental Principles

“The first step to success is

when you are not rejected by your environment.”— Mark Caine

Growth flourishes in favorable environments

I believe that at some point in everyone’s life,

the need to change the environment

in order to grow will arise.

That seems obvious in the case of someone like Johnnetta McSwain,

to whom I referred in the Mirror Principle chapter.

She grew up in extreme circumstances

and was horribly abused.

But I also believe the same is true for those

who grew up in a positive,

supportive environment.

If we want to grow to reach our potential,

we must be in the right environment.

That often requires us to change our own lives.

“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” –Michael Jordan



I was raised in a wonderful family environment.

My parents love me.

My father was the one

who led my family in a proactive direction,

helping my three brothers find their purpose and develop their talents.

Mom loves us unconditionally

(and believe me,

I am stubborn at times,

because I don’t like rules

and always push boundaries).

I have many friends.

I got a decent education.

I got to do the job I love after marrying the person

I’ve loved since high school.

What could be better than this?

But after working for nearly 10 years at that job,

I realized that the environment was not favorable

for me to reach my potential.

Almost 30 years old,

I was promoted to the position of top church leader in the diocese.

I wanted to learn more,

and because they rated me

for that position so early in my career,

I felt like they were implying that I was “best in class.”

What is the problem?

If you’re always at the top of your class,

you’re in the wrong class.

The best place to learn is

where others are always better than you.

If you’re always at the top of your class,

you’re in the wrong class

So that you don’t think I’m bragging,

I need to let you know

that I’m just an “average fish in a very small pond”.

I’m not as good as they believe I am.

The people in my sect are good people.

I admire the character and integrity of their previous leaders.

So that’s not the problem.

I just know I need more space to grow.

To do that, I will have to change the environment.

I went to my father,

a pastor with a lifelong association with that organization,

who was a college student body president

and a member of the parish board,

to talk to him about this issue.

He agreed that I needed to “go to a bigger pond”

so I could grow more easily.

It required understanding

and encouragement from my father,

because after I left,

he remained with the organization,

and my father would have to endure a lot of criticism

from others because of my change.

But he did it with mercy,

and always supported my decision.

And I feel certain that

if I stay where I am,

I won’t be able to grow the way

I did and I won’t get far.

Show up early,

treat people with respect and perform at the highest levels

till the world can’t deny you. – Grant Cardone



You’ve probably seen the word develop change.

It is possible to change without development,

but not to grow without change.

One of the keys to the right change that allows us

to grow is knowing the difference

between a problem or challenge,

which I can change,

and a fact of life,

which I cannot change.

For example, one day as a teenager,

I looked in the mirror

and suddenly realized something.

I’m not a handsome guy.

It is a fact of life.

I can’t change the face.

What will I do?

I have made a decision.

I will change my attitude about that.

I will smile.

Will that change my face?

No, really not.

But it did make my face look better.

Like me, you have to deal with many realities of life.

You cannot change where

and when you were born.

You cannot change your parents.

You cannot change your height or personality.

But you can change your attitude about everything.

You have to do your best to live with them.

Every problem is different.

The point is something you can change.

It’s something you can develop.

How? Ironically,

it started with the same step:

Change the attitude.

When you change your attitude about an issue,

you open up many opportunities for growth.



and speaker Nido Qubein asserts:

“It has nothing to do with your circumstances

whether you succeed or fail in life;

which has more to do with your choices.”

What choices do you need to make

in order to be in a favorable environment

where you will grow further?

When it comes to environment,

I believe we need to make the following six choices

to put ourselves in a better development position:

“Whether you succeed or fail in life has nothing

to do with your circumstances;

which has more to do with your choices.”– Mido Qubein


1. Assess your current environment

Professor and evangelist Ernest Campbell tells the story of a lonely woman

who bought a parrot from a pet store.

Just a day after she got it, she returned to the store

and told the owner how disappointed she was.

“The parrot can’t say a word!” she lamented.

“Did you buy a mirror for her?”

asked the shop owner.

“The parrot likes to look in the mirror.”

So the woman bought a mirror and returned home.

The next day she returned,

informed that the bird still did not speak.

“What about the ladder?”

The shop owner asked.

“The parrot likes to go up and down the ladder.”

So she bought the parrot a ladder again and went home.

On the third day,

she returned with the same complaint.

“Does the parrot have a swing?”

That’s the seller’s solution.

“He likes to relax on a swing.”

She bought the swing and went home.

The next day,

she returned to the store

and announced that the bird was dead.

The salesman said,

“I’m sorry to hear that.

What did the bird say before it died?”

“That’s right,” said the girl.

“It said, ‘don’t they sell food there?'”

What lesson does this silly story teach us?

Changing just

because you want change will not help you

If you want to make changes,

you have to make sure they are the right changes.

How do you do that?

Start by assessing where you are

and why you want to change.

When considering changing

from one job to another,

I took the time to examine

why I wanted to change.

For me, there are three main reasons to change:

• I moved to the top too quickly.

• I don’t feel challenged enough.

• There is no other place in the organization that I would like to go.

Those factors were enough

to make me look at the inconvenient truth about the need to change

where I am

and what I’m doing.

One way to gauge whether you are growing

and are in an environment conducive

to development is to determine

whether you are looking forward

to what is working

or looking back at what has been done.

If the future seems bleak,

or cramped, you may need to start looking for ways to change.

Like me, you can intuitively sense

whether you’re in an environment

that promotes self-growth.

However, if you find it difficult

to make judgments about your situation,

you can approach it

from a different direction.

You can ask yourself questions to help you understand

who and what nourishes you,

and then analyze whether

or not you get those things.

Here is a list of questions to get you started:

Music – What songs help me relax?

Thoughts – What do ideas mean to me?

Experiences – What experiences make me feel young again?

Friends – What do people encourage me to do?

Recreation – What activities help me regain energy?

Mentality – What mental exercises make me stronger?

Hope – What dreams inspire me?

Family – Which family members take care of me

Gifts – What blessings affect me?

Memories – What memories make me smile?

Books – What books have I read that changed who I am?

You understand the problem.

I’m sure you can add more ideas

and questions to help you understand

what motivates you to grow.

The main idea is to get to know yourself

and assess whether you are getting

what you need in your current environment.

If so, congratulations.

If not, prepare yourself to make some tough choices.

The ability to sell is the number one skill in business.

If you cannot sell,

don’t bother thinking about becoming a business owner. — Robert Kiyosaki


2. Change yourself and your environment

If you need to make a major change to your environment,

you need to keep this in mind:

You also have to identify changing yourself at the same time.

Here’s why:

If you try…

Change yourself but not your environment

– ​​the process of change will be slow and difficult;

Change your environment,

not yourself

– development will be slow and less complicated;

Change your environment and yourself

– development will be faster and more successful.

By changing both at the same time,

you will increase and accelerate your chances of success.

When I first realized

I needed to grow after the encounter with Curt Kampmeier

that I recounted in The Principles of Intentionality.

I found it hard to actually do it.

Few people share my enthusiasm for change.

I have very few role models.

Most of the people around in my little world are satisfied

with working hard and making a living.

I want more than that.

I want influence.

During that time

I remember sitting down

and envisioning the ideal development environment.

For weeks I have been writing about

what I call “My Development Environment”.

It’s been helping to navigate decision-making regarding personal growth

since I wrote it in 1973.

It states that, in a development environment…

Others are ahead of me

I am constantly challenged.

My focus is on moving forward.

The atmosphere is affirmative.

I often get out of my comfort zone.

I am excited to wake up every morning.

Failure is not my enemy.

Others are growing.

Everyone wants change.

Development is modeled and expected.

When I intuitively said

that the current environment was not conducive to personal growth,

I reviewed the list

and found most of those statements did not match my current situation.

So I resolved to change myself and my environment.

If you read that list

and feel most of those statements don’t apply to your life,

then you need to change too.

I learned a lot about changing myself in 1975

while attending a seminar in Waterloo, Iowa.

There I met the “great” Charles Jones for the first time.

There, I also met the author of my favorite books:

Elmer Tows.

I was surprised but delighted when he invited me

to sit next to him on the flight

to Chicago on the way home so we could talk.

During our conversation,

he taught me the Hot Sticks Principle.

“Do you know how to heat a poker?”

Elmer asked me.

“By placing it next to the fire.”

He went on to explain that we are like the metal in the poker.

If our environment is cold, we are cold.

If it’s hot, we’re hot.

“If you want to grow,” he said,

“Spend time with great people;

visit interesting places;

attend major events;

read good books,

listen to useful tapes.”

Those words led me on a quest to meet leaders across America

who were more talented than I was.

That changed my life as you plan

to change yourself and your environment,

think about the factors that the right development environment provides:

The right soil to grow:

What nourishes me? Evolution.

The type of gas to breathe:

What keeps me alive? Purpose.

The right kind of environment to live in:

What helps me maintain?


They say if you put a squash in a jar the size of a walnut,

it will grow to the size and shape of the vase

and never get bigger.

That can happen with one’s mindset.

Don’t let that happen to you.

“Your greatness is limited only

by the investments you make in yourself.”– Grant Cardone


3. Change who you spend time with

When I was young,

I learned the importance of the right environment

and the people I spent time with.

My parents are very knowledgeable about this.

Although my parents didn’t have a lot of money

when we were growing up,

they created a home environment

where all our friends wanted to come

and spend time there.

My father built a basketball court by pouring a concrete base

and erecting a basketball pole there.

Parents have turned the basement

of the house into a children’s paradise,

with a pool table,

PingPong table and chemistry lab kits.

We had no reason to go anywhere but at home,

and our friends had every reason to stop by.

And my mother was always around

so she knew almost all of my friends.

She influenced all of our friends as much as she could,

and warned us about the behavior

of those who could get us into trouble.

My parents understood that birds of the same flock fly together.

And their efforts have paid off.

Children flock to our house.

Even today more than five decades later whenever

I meet someone who grew up with me,

they still talk about coming to my house as a kid

and playing in the “basement cafeteria”.

My home became a destination.

According to research

by social psychologist David McClelland of Harvard University,

people who are related to you in terms

of their environment are often referred

to as your “reference group”,

and these people identify 95% of your success or failure.

Many people recognize this fact.

King Solomon of Israel wrote,

“Go with the wise and become wise,

for he who walks with fools will suffer.”

The famous “great” Charles Jones

Because of the saying,

“The friends you are today are the same

as you five years from now except for two things:

the people you hang out with and the books you read.”

And Jim Rohn asserts

that we become the average of the five people

we meet most often.

Rohn meant that we can judge the quality of our health,

our attitudes,

and our income by looking at the people around us.

He believes that we begin to eat like them,

talk like them,

read what they read,

think the way they do,

watch what they watch and dress like them.

We become the average of the five people we meet most often.

I like the way Sue Enquist looks at the problem.

Enquist is known as the John Wooden of women’s softball.

She played for the UCLA team from 1975 to 1978,

returned in 1980 as an assistant coach,

and then served as the club’s head coach from 1989 to 2006.

As a bridge player and coach,

she helped win a total of 11 NCAA softball titles.

She retired with a coach world record of 887-175-1,

a win rate of 835 placing her among the five greatest NCAA coaches of all time.

Enquist implemented the 33% rule.

You can categorize people at school,

in groups, at work,

or anywhere,

she says,

into three groups of bottom,

middle, and top,

and they always have the same characteristics:

people in the bottom group attract give up your life

because nothing is good enough for them.

They drain energy

and motivation from the environment.

People in the middle group are happy

and positive when things are going well,

but depressed during difficult times.

The situation describes their attitude.

The top team maintains a positive attitude

even in difficult times.

They are leaders, activists and game changers.

Those are the people we should strive for

and spend our time with.

While it’s not always comfortable,

it’s always beneficial to associate

with people who are better than you.

As the Italian proverb says:

“Associating with good people,

you will help increase the number of such people.”

What kind of better people should we spend our time with?

Righteous people.

Positive people,

those who are ahead of us in the profession.

Those who lift us up instead of bringing us down.

And above all, the growing people.

They should be like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau,

who will ask each other when they meet:

“What have you learned since we last met?”

I recommend that you also find a responsible partner

to accompany you on the path of growth.

He or she will help you stick

to the right decisions

and keep you away from mistakes.

A responsible companion should:

Love you unconditionally.

Wishing you success.


Ask yourself consistent questions.

Help you when needed.

You can’t be alone on the path of growth

if you want to reach your potential.

The most remarkable element in any person’s environment is the person itself.

If you focus on changing the human element in your life

for the better,

your chances of success will increase tenfold.

Therefore, think carefully

and carefully about the people

you are spending a lot of time with,

wherever they are going,

you will get there.

“Successful salespeople know

how to make somethings. – Aysa Hazan


4. Challenge yourself in a new environment

I once heard a story about a Japanese artist painting on a large canvas.

In a lower corner he drew a tree

and on the branch there were some birds.

The rest of the canvas is left blank.

When asked what he would paint

to complete the picture, he said:

“Oh no, I have to make room for the birds to fly.”

One of the best things about being in a growth environment is

that it gives you space to grow,

but you have to purposefully seek out

and create those growth opportunities.

You must develop the habit

and discipline of challenging yourself.

One of the first methods

I used to challenge myself was

to make my goals public.

Nothing motivates a person more than deadlines and audiences.

That doesn’t mean I always achieve my goals.

But I found that if I told others about my intentions,

I would work hard to not feel ashamed

of my efforts even

while everyone was watching.

Another way I’ve challenged myself both

when I first started and to this day is

to find a huge growth opportunity each week,

try to do it, and learn from it.

Whether it’s a get-together with friends,

lunch with an advisor,

a conference I’m attending or a speaking event

where I can spend time sitting with leaders of great caliber,

I always prepare in the same way,

by asking five questions before that time of study.

I ask:

• What are their strengths?

This is what I will learn the most.

• What are they learning?

This is how I was able to capture their passion.

• What do I need now?

This helped me apply what I learned to my situation.

• Who did they meet,

what did they read,

or what did they do to help themselves?

This helps me find additional growth opportunities.

• What did I forget to ask?

This allows them to point out

what changes I need to make from their point of view.

A good development environment won’t help you much

if you don’t do everything in your power to make the most of it.

Like an entrepreneur

who is given money to seize new opportunities

but never uses the money.

You must seize the growth opportunities you have

and make the most of them by challenging yourself.

Do what you have to do

until you can do what you want to do. ― Oprah Winfrey


5. Focus on the moment

The changes we want to make in our lives are only in the present.

What we do now governs

who we are and where we will be in the future.

We live and work in the present.

As Harvey Firestone Jr.

“Today is when things really begin,” said.

If you need to change yourself and your environment,

don’t worry about your past”.

“Today is when things will really begin.”- Harvey Firestone Jr.

I read that former movie star

and diplomat Shirley Temple Black learned the power

of living in the present from her mother-in-law.

When her husband, Charles,

was a baby, he asked his mother,

“What was the happiest moment of your life?”

“This moment, right now,”

replied the mother.

“But what about the other happy moments in your life?

What about when you’re married?”

Charles asked.

She smiled and said,

“My happiest moment was then.

And my mother’s happiest moment right now is right now.

You can only live in the present moment.

For her it was always the happiest moment.”

Mother Teresa observed:

“Yesterday is over.

Tomorrow has not come yet.

We only have today.

Let’s get started.”

If you need to change yourself

and your environment,

don’t shy away from the past.

You cannot change it.

Don’t worry about the future.

You cannot control it.

Focus on the present moment

and what you can do right now.

 Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions.

Small people always do that,

but the really great make you believe

that you too can become great. ― Mark Twain


6. Keep moving forward despite the criticism

In the classic book The Science of Getting Rich,

author Wallace D. Wattles writes:

“Don’t wait for environmental change before you act.

Let’s change the environment with action.

You can act on your current environment

so you can move on to a better one.”

Growth always comes from action,

and action always brings criticism.

Still, you keep going.

To reach your potential, you must not only do

what others believe you cannot do,

but also what you even believe you cannot do.

Most people often underestimate themselves.

They aim for what they know they can access.

However, they should instead reach for goals

that are beyond their reach.

If you don’t try to create the future you want,

you will suffer the future you get.

When you act to change yourself

and your environment,

you will almost always be criticized for it.

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson admitted:

“Whenever you decide to do something,

someone will always tell you that you are wrong.

There are always difficulties that arise

to make you believe that your critics are right.

To create a plan of action

and follow it to the end requires courage like a soldier.

Peace means victories,

but to have those victories,

brave people are needed.”

When I felt that I needed to change my career environment,

the organization offered me the best position they had.

It was a very generous thing they did for me,

but I knew for sure that I had to change

and go in a different direction,

so I declined their offer.

Unfortunately, they feel left out.

And they criticized my decision.

No problem. As speaker Les Brown puts it:

“Someone’s opinion about you doesn’t have to be your reality.”

Their words may have hurt me,

but they didn’t make me doubt my decision.

“Whenever you decide to do something,

someone will always tell you that you are wrong.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Albert F. Geoffrey asserts:

“When you take charge of your own life,

you no longer need to ask permission

from others or society at large.

When you ask permission,

you give someone the power to veto your life.”

Before making a big change,

seek wise advice where possible,

but make your own decisions.

You are the person most responsible

for the choices you make in your life.

“In order to get to the next level of whatever you’re doing,

you must think and act in a wildly different way

than you previously have been.

You cannot get to the next phase of a project,

without a grander mind-set,

more acceleration,

and extra horsepower.” ― Grant Cardone



As I progressed in my career

and began leading larger organizations,

the challenge of personal development began to change.

My need to grow has always been there,

and my need to find mentors has never changed.

However, as the leader of an organization,

I have come to realize that creating a positive growth environment

for others is my responsibility.

I did it using the same list created in 1973

and applied it to help others.

I try to create a place where…

Others are ahead of me.

I am constantly challenged.

My focus is on moving forward.

The atmosphere is always affirmative.

I often get out of my comfort zone.

I am excited to wake up every morning.

Failure is not my enemy.

Others are growing.

Everyone wants change.

Development is modeled and expected.

As a leader, it is my responsibility

to proactively create such an environment.

It’s hard work,

but the effort is always worth it.

Many have succeeded,


and become leaders.

When leaders assign people

to different positions in the organization,

it’s not enough to look at

what they’ve done in the past.

They also have to consider what people can do

if the environment allows them to grow.

Similarly, helping people understand

what they lose

by leaving a development environment

is a very interesting idea.

I always try to do that during severance interviews

with people who are leaving any of my organizations.

I would tell them:

“You are leaving an environment where growth is a priority

and everyone is encouraged and expected to grow.

If you don’t go to a similar environment,

don’t expect the same results.

And you will have to work harder to keep growing.”

Some people understand that

and face the challenges ahead of them.

Others see only what they once hoped would be greener pastures

and don’t understand the importance of a good environment

until they hit walls they’ve never experienced before.

Never forget the Environmental Principle:

Growth happens in favorable environments.

If you’re in an active development environment,

be grateful for it.

Thank the people who helped create it,

and repay them by striving to reach your potential.

If not, do what needs to be done

to change the environment and yourself.

And if you are a leader,

do everything in your power to develop yourself

and create the right environment in which others can thrive.

It will be the best investment you can make as a leader.

A man’s worth is no greater

than the worth of his ambitions. ― Marcus Aurelius



1. Evaluate your current development environment by answering true

or false for the following 10:

1. Others are ahead of me.

2. I am constantly being challenged.

3. My focus is on moving forward.

4. The atmosphere is affirmative.

5. I often get out of my comfort zone.

6. I wake up excited every morning.

7. Failure is not my enemy.

8. Others are developing.

9. People want change.

10. Development is modeled and expected.

If you answer wrongly for more than five things,

your current environment may hinder your growth.

You will need to determine how you need to change

or improve your environment to reach your potential.

Ambition is the path to success.

Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in. — Bill Bradley


2. Assess your personal development needs

in the three main areas covered in this chapter:

The right soil to grow:

what nourishes me?


Use this list or create your own to gauge what nourishes you:

Music – What songs help me relax?

Thoughts – What do ideas mean to me?

Experiences – What experiences make me feel young again?

Friends – What do people encourage me to do?

Recreation – What activities help me regain energy?

Mentality – What mental exercises make me stronger?

Hope – What dreams inspire me?

Family – Which family members take care of me?

Gifts – What blessings affect me?

Memories – What memories make me smile?

Books – What books have I read that changed me?

The kind of gas to breathe:

what keeps me alive? Purpose.

Review your answers to the questions

at the end of the Cognitive and Consistency Principles.

Use them to develop a statement of your life purpose.

Don’t expect it to be perfect or last forever.

It will probably continue to grow

and change as you do,

but it will give you a stronger sense of direction in the present.

The right kind of environment to live in:

what helps me maintain?


Make a list of the people

who are having the biggest influence on your life:

friends, family,


business owners,

mentors, etc.

Be sure to include any people you spend on your list

with a considerable amount of time for them.

Then go through the list and determine

who on the list is “mightier” than you are:

more skilled or talented,

better at career growth,

more consistent in character,

or superior at anything to another specific aspect

If most people can’t help you grow,

you need to find more people

who will help you change and grow.

There’s nothing wrong with having a steady paycheck,

unless it prevents you from accessing higher income opportunities,

based on what you deserve.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. And often so. – T. Harv Eker


3. Significant growth won’t happen in life

if you don’t constantly challenge yourself in your environment.

Set specific goals for yourself

to exceed your current capacity.

Also, review your work schedule

for the next month.

Look for the best potential growth opportunities each week

and plan for them

by asking yourself the questions in this chapter.

Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer

to where you want to be tomorrow. ― Paulo Coelho

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