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

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

Chapter 13 Example Principles 

You cannot change anyone,

but you can be the reason someone changes. ― Roy T. Bennett

It’s hard to make progress

when you have no one to study with

The most important personal development phrase

you will ever hear a good leader say to you is:

“Follow me!”

In the chapter on Intentional Principles,

I wrote about how I unsuccessfully searched for people

with growth plans who could help me learn

how to grow in 1972.

That led me to purchase the kit Curt Kampmeier offered

and start my own path of purposeful personal development.

That gave me a great start,

but I have to admit that my early development

was ruined or missed.

I learned by trial and error.

On the positive side,

personal development became my top priority.

I learned how to choose books to read,

lessons to listen to,

and conferences to attend.

At first I used the “batch” approach.

I embrace whatever appeals to me.

But I didn’t get the motivation I was hoping for.

Then I discovered

that I needed to focus on developing areas of my strength:



and communications.

As I did, my effectiveness in personal development began

to increase.

I also started learning how to glean what I was learning.

Resources are of little value

unless you can extract what you need.

That means taking helpful notes,

collecting quotes,

and reflecting on what you learn.

I often summarize whai

I have learned

and write milestones of action that are special

to me on the inside of the front cover of the book.

I also collect,


and save stories

and quotes on a daily basis.

I also apply whatever

I have learned as soon as possible.

All of these things have become part of the daily discipline

for the past 40 years.

My car became my classroom

when I listened to tapes and CDs afterwards.

My desk always has a stack of books

that I regularly read.

My document files are constantly growing.

I am growing, my leadership is improving,

and I have seen better results at work.

On the negative side,

I realized something also during this time.

Personal growth

without the support of personal mentors can take me so far.

If I want to be a leader

– and believe that God made me to be

– I need to find role models to learn from.

Why? Because it’s hard to improve

when you have no one to follow.

That is the lesson of the Principle of Modeling.

To become rich. You have to learn to think like the rich. ― Aysa Angel



I have learned a lot from people

I have never met.

Dale Carnegie taught me human skills

when I read Winning Human Hearts in middle school.

James Allen helped me understand that my attitude

and the way I think affects my life

when I read When People Think.

And Oswald Sander showed me the importance of leadership

for the first time when I read his book,

Spiritual Leadership.

Most people who decide

to develop themselves find their first mentors in the pages of books.

That’s a great place to start.

It’s also a great place to move on.

Every year,

I still learn from dozens of people

I will never meet.

But at some point,

you also have to look for personal role models.

If you just do it your way,

you’ll find yourself just walking around.

Most people who decide

to develop themselves find their first mentors

in the pages of books.

I have had the privilege of connecting

with many leaders whom I find very rewarding.

People like mentor Fred Smith,

speaker Zig Ziglar,

and coach John Wooden have helped me tremendously.

Other people “seem” interesting

but in person are disappointing.

That said,

you have to be selective about mentors and role models.

I smile every time

I think about the homeless guy sitting on a park bench.

The first guy said,

“I’m here because I don’t listen to anyone.”

The second guy replied,

“I’m here because I’ve heard everyone.”

None of the above actions helped.

You must choose carefully

who you will choose to be your advisor.

From the positive

and negative experiences

I’ve had with mentors,

I’ve come up with criteria to determine the “worthy”

of a role model for me to follow.

I share them with you in the hope

that they will help you make good choices

for this area of your development.

To earn more, you must learn more. — Brian Tracy


1. A good mentor is a worthy example

We become like the people we admire

and the role models we follow.

For that reason,

we should be careful when identifying

whom we ask to be our mentors.

Not only must they demonstrate professional excellence

and possess skill sets we can all learn from,

but they must demonstrate admirable character.

Many athletes,

politicians, and business leaders try

to refuse to be any role models

when others follow them

and imitate their behavior.

They want people to separate their personal behavior

from their work,

but that’s unthinkable.

Religious leader and author Gordon B. Hinckley offers this advice:

It is unwise to separate private behavior

from public leadership

– although many have tried

to argue that this is the only possible view

of “enlightened” individuals.

They were wrong.

They were deceived.

In essence, true leadership carries

with it the burden of being an example.

Is it too much to ask for any public servant,

elected by their constituencies,

to stand up straight

and be a role model

to everyone

– not only in terms of ordinary leadership

but also about their behavior?

If values are not established

and held firmly in the executive position,

the behavior of subordinates will be severely affected

and destructive.

Indeed, in any organization where this is the case

– be it a family,

a company,

a society or a country

– neglected values will gradually disappear over time.

As you look for role models and mentors,

examine their personal lives

and community performance carefully.

Your values will be influenced by their own values,

so you should not be too careless while choosing.

Big thinkers understand the importance of saving and investing,

so they focus on getting rich by serving people and solving problems. — Steve Siebold!


2. Always have an effective advisor available

Steel magnate and philanthropist Carnegie said:

“As I get older,

I care less about what people say.

I just watch what they do.”

In order for us to be able

to observe patterns up close

and see what they do,

we have to contact them.

That requires your reach

and the willingness of the other party.

For proactive mentoring,

we must spend time

with people asking questions

and learning from their answers.

“As I get older,

I care less about what people say.

I just watch what they do.”- Andrew Carnegie

When I was a mentor,

we usually only met formally a few times a year.

However, during that year,

we sometimes spent some informal time together.

Many of their mentoring questions are fueled by my actions,

not my words.

That thought broke my heart,

because I knew there were times

when I fell short of the ideals and values I taught.

As I often say,

my biggest leadership challenge is leading myself!

Teaching others is easy.

But setting an example for them is much more difficult.

My biggest leadership challenge is leading myself!

The best piece of advice

I can give about partner willingness is

when you’re looking for a mentor,

don’t ask too much too soon.

If you are considering entering politics

for the first time,

do not expect to receive advice

from the President of the United States.

If you’re a high school student thinking

of learning to play the cello,

you don’t need to be mentored by Yo-Yo Ma.

If you’re fresh out of college

and just starting your career,

don’t expect to receive in-depth consultation time

from the CEO in your organization.

You might be thinking:

Why shouldn’t I?

Why not start with the best?

First of all,

if you’re just starting out,

nearly all of your questions can be answered

by someone two

or three levels higher than you (rather than 10).

And their answer will be fresh

because they have just dealt

with the problems you are facing recently.

Second, CEOs need to take the time

to answer questions

from people close to their level.

I’m not saying you should never approach people at the top.

I’m just saying spend most of your time being mentored

by people who have the time,

are willing,

and are a good fit for your career stage.

And as you make progress in your growth,

find new mentors commensurate

with your new level of growth.

Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff.

It’s learning to live on less than you make,

so you can give money back and have money to invest.

You can’t win until you do this. — Dave Ramsey


3. An effective mentor is someone with proven experiences

The further you go in your pursuit of your potential,

the more you have to discover new things.

How did you figure out how to handle that?

As the Chinese proverb says,

“If you want to know

what the road ahead is,

ask the people

who are going back there.”

“In the early 1970s

when my church was growing rapidly,

I realized that I was moving into territory

I had never been to before,

and didn’t know anyone there.

To find out how to lead better in this new area,

I started looking for successful church leaders in major churches

around the country.

I have told many times the story of how

I offered to pay them $100 in exchange for their 30 minutes.

Many people happily agreed to meet me.

I would go to the meeting with a notebook full of questions

and collect answers from them.

I don’t know how much more I’ve learned from these encounters.

“If you want to know what the road ahead is like,

ask those who are returning from there.”- Chinese proverb

Every time I join a new project,

I seek advice from people

with proven experience.

When I started my first business,

I talked to successful entrepreneurs

who could give me advice.

When I wanted to write my first book,

I studied under successful authors

who could guide me.

To learn how to communicate more effectively,

I studied communicators.

Hearing about their bad experiences made me

aware of the potential problems

I would face along the way.

Hearing about their good experiences helps me predict

the potential opportunities ahead.

I don’t know successful people

who didn’t learn from people

who were more experienced than them.

Sometimes they follow in the footsteps of their mentors.

Sometimes they use their mentor’s advice

to explore new territory.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said:

“All leaders are influenced by people they admire.

Reading about them

and studying their personalities

will certainly allow an inspired leader

to develop his

or her own leadership traits.”

“All leaders are influenced by the people they admire.

Reading about them and studying their personalities

will certainly allow an inspired leader

to develop his or her own leadership traits.”- Rudy Giuliani


4. An effective advisor possesses wisdom

There is a famous story about a specialist

who was invited by a company

to review their production system.

It’s broken and everything is at a standstill.

When the expert arrived,

he brought nothing but a small black bag.

He quietly walked around the device

for a few minutes and then stopped.

When he focused on a specific area of the device,

he took the small hammer out of his pocket

and tapped it lightly.

Suddenly everything started running again,

and he quietly left.

The next day,

he sent in an invoice

that stunned the manager.

A $1,000 bill!

The manager promptly e-mailed the specialist saying,

“I will not pay this bill

without listing the repair items

and explaining in detail.”

Immediately he received a receipt

with the following content:

Hammer on the machine: 1 dollar

Cong discovered the place to type: $999

That is the value of wisdom!

Wise counselors often tell us

where to “hit the hammer.”

Their knowledge,

experience and knowledge help us

to solve problems

that we would not have been able

to handle on our own.

Fred Smith is a very influential mentor in my life.

One day I asked him

why very successful people often ruin their lives

and hurt their careers.

“Never confuse a person’s ability

with that of another,” he said.

Their abilities allow them to do great things

but the person can be emotional,

which ultimately causes harm.”

That little bit of wisdom helped me a lot.

First, it has helped me better understand

how to work with talented people

and help them grow.

Second, it’s also a warning

to me personally.

I know that having talent

in a certain area does not make me immune

to discipline or personality problems.

We are all just one step away from stupidity.

Wise people often use just a few words

to help us learn and grow.

They help us better understand other worlds

that we might not see without their help.

They help us through difficult situations.

They help us see opportunities

that we might otherwise miss.

They make us wiser than before.

“If you’re not as rich as you’d like,

there’s something you don’t know.”– David Wood


5. An effective mentor offers sincerity and support

The first question most mentors ask their mentors is:

“Are you interested in me?”

The reason for this question is very clear.

Who wants to be guided

by someone who doesn’t care about them?

The selfish person will support you only in moderation.

Good mentors offer sincerity and support,

making an effort to help you reach your potential generously.

Their mindset is expressed

through the comment of business coach

and author James S. Vuocolo,

as follows:

“Great things happen

whenever we stop seeing ourselves as a gift from God.

give to others,

and begin to see others as God’s gift to us.”

“Great things happen

whenever we stop seeing ourselves as God’s gift to others,

and start seeing others

as God’s gift to us.”– James S. Vuocolo

One evening

I was enjoying dinner

with former Girl Scouts CEO Frances Hesselbein

and author Jim Collins.

Both were mentored by Peter Drucker,

often called the father of modern management.

I met Drucker and learned from him,

but they had a long relationship with him

and knew him very well.

I asked them what they learned from him,

and their responses focused on

man’s friendship is more than his wisdom as an expert.

What Jim Collins told me that evening

was expressed very succinctly in an article

he wrote after Drucker’s death:

But for me, Drucker’s most important lessons cannot

be found in any text

or lecture but in the example of his life.

I went to Claremont, California in 1994

to seek wisdom

from the greatest management thinker of our time,

and I felt that I had met a man of compassion and kindness,

a genius with talented.

We have lost not only a great master

but also a respected professor

who welcomed students into his humble home

for a warm and inspiring conversation.

Peter F. Drucker is motivated not

by the desire to say something

but by the desire to learn something

from every student he meets

– and that is why he has become one of the most influential teachers

in the world,

with the greatest influence most of us have ever known.1

If the person offering you mentoring doesn’t really support you

and build a good relationship,

the relationship will always fall short of your expectations.

Knowledge without support is useless.

Advice without sincerity is aloof.

To be frank but heartless is cruel.

However, when you are helped

by someone who cares about you,

you feel emotionally fulfilled.

Development comes from both the mind and the heart.

Only supporters are willing

to share both with you.

The big money is not in the buying

and the selling, but in the waiting. ― Charlie Munger 


6. Effective mentors make a difference in people’s lives

A major theme in my life is the desire

to add value to people

and make a difference in their lives.

One of the ways

I do that is by mentoring them.

But my time is so limited

that I can only guide a few people.

This has frustrated me

and many people

who have asked me

to coach them

or train them to coach others are equally disappointed.

Finally, I have discovered a solution

to this problem.

In 2011, some friends helped me

create a coaching company called John Maxwell Team.

It has become one of my greatest “make a difference” commitments

as it allows me

to add value to many people

by helping train and certify coaches

who teach principles in my switch.

Together, we are making a difference in the lives of many.

“A ‘coach’ is still something or someone,

bringing a valuable person

from where they are to where they want to be.”— Kevin Hall

I like the word ‘coach’.

I read in the book Aprire by Kevin Hall,

a friend of mine,

that the word came from the draft horse trainers

that appeared in the town of Kocs in the fifteenth century.

The vehicles were originally used to transport nobles,

but during that time they also carried valuables,

mail and ordinary passengers.

As Kevin observes: “a ‘coach’ is

still something or someone,

bringing a valuable person from

where they are to where they want to go.”

So if you have a coach,

you know you’ll get where you want to go.

In a section entitled:

A Coach By Any Other Name,”

Kevin goes on to describe

what it means to be a coach. He wrote:

In other cultures and languages,

coaches are known by many different names

and titles.

In Japan, “sensei” is someone

who has a lot of experience.

In martial arts,

it refers to a master.

In Sanskrit, “guru” is a person of profound knowledge

and wisdom.

“Gu” means darkness,

and “ru” means light

– a “guru”

is someone who brings someone

from darkness to light.

In Tibetan, “lama” is a person

with the spirit and right to teach.

In Tibetan Buddhism,

the Dalai Lama is the highest teacher.

In Italy, a “maestro” is a master of music.

It stands for “maestro de cappella”,

which means bishop of chapel.

In France, a “tutor” is a tutor.

The term dates back to the 14th century

and refers to someone

who served as a watchman.

In the UK, a “guide” is someone

who knows and shows the way.

It denotes the ability to see

and point better directions.

In Greece, “mentor” is a wise and trusted advisor.

In The Odyssey,

Homer’s Counselor is someone

who is capable of protection and support.

All these words describe the same role:

a person who leads the way.

No matter what word you use to describe them,

coaches make a difference in the lives of others.

They help these people grow.

They improve potency.

They help increase productivity.

They help people achieve positive changes.

As my friend Andy Stanley says in The Next Generation Leaders,

“You will never maximize your potential in any field

without coaching.

That’s impossible.

You can do well.

You may be even better than everyone else.

But without outside input,

you’ll never do as well as you could.

We all do better

when someone is observing and evaluating…

Self-assessment is helpful,

but judgment from others is essential.”

“Self-assessment is helpful,

but judgment from others is essential.”— Andy Stanley

In my opinion,

good coaches have the following five things in common:

• Take an interest in the person they coach.

• Observe the coach’s attitudes,

behaviors and performance.

• Put the trained person in a position commensurate

with their own strengths

for maximum effectiveness.

• Communicate and give feedback on the coach’s performance.

• Help the coache improve life

and performance.

I have been supported

by hundreds of people over the years

who have become role models

for personal growth,

guided me through their successes,

and coached me to greater performance

by use these five characteristics.

I owe them deep gratitude.

The development process

with the help of a mentor often follows this pattern:

It begins with awareness.

You realize that you need help

and that doing it yourself is not a viable option

for effective personal growth.

I was fortunate to realize this very early in my career.

I realized that I didn’t have the experience,

the reputation,

and the role models in my relationship

to develop to my potential.

When a person realizes that,

one of two things can happen.

The first is that his pride is on the rise

and he won’t go and ask for advice on his own.

This is a common reaction.

In The Corporate Steeplechase,

psychologist Srully Blotnick says that people in their 20s

who start their careers tend

to be embarrassed to ask questions.

When they are 30,

their ego makes it difficult

for them to seek advice from their peers.

In order not to be humiliated in front of others,

they hide their ignorance.

Another reaction to that realization is

to put yourself down and say,

I need your help.”

That decision not only brings more knowledge,

but also makes us more mature.

It reinforces that people need each other

– not just when they are young

and just starting out in their careers,

but throughout life.

As Chuck Swindoll eloquently states in his book

The Finishing Touch that:

No one is a whole chain.

Each person is a link.

If any link is removed,

the chain will break.

No one is a team.

Each person is a player.

If one person is dropped,

the match will be lost.

No one is an orchestra.

Everyone is a musician.

Without one person,

the symphony would not be complete…

You know what I mean?

We need each other.

You need someone and someone needs you.

We are not isolated islands.

To make this a lifelong job,

we need to support

and rely on each other.

Give and receive.

Confess and forgive.

Reach and grab.

Release and lean on…

Since none of us are a whole,




let’s give up pretending to be that person.

Life is lonely enough

even if we don’t play that silly role.

Game over.

Let’s connect.

As I look back on my life,

I realize that my greatest asset

in my growth journey is people.

But then again,

it’s the biggest debt.

The people you follow,

the people you follow,

the mentors you ask for advice

make you who you are.

If you spend time with people

who are your “minus”

who devalue you or undervalue you,

every step forward you try

to make will be very difficult.

But if you find wise leaders,

role models,

and good friends,

you’ll find that they help speed your journey.

I have been fortunate

to have many great mentors in my life.

My first role models were my parents,

Melvin and Laura Maxwell.

I learned integrity and unconditional love from them.

Elmer Town and Zig Ziglar were

two of the first mentors outside of the family.

Elmer was the first to teach me to grow my church.

Zig was the first personal development speaker

I followed.

Both became good friends.

Tom Philippe and my brother Larry Maxwell have mentored me in business.

Les Stobbe helped me learn how to write my first book.

Peter Drucker helped me understand the importance

of developing people to the point

where they can replace me.

Fred Smith helped me refine my leadership skills.

Bill Bright showed me the impact

that business thinkers can have on the world’s faith.

John Wooden taught me

how to be a better person.

No matter who you are,

what you do,

whatever your status,

you can still benefit from

owning an advisor.

If you’ve never had a mentor,

you don’t know how it can improve your life.

If you’ve ever had a mentor,

you already know

– and you should start relaying the benefits

of being a mentor to others,

because you know it’s hard to progress without a mentor.

Money helps you live more comfortably,

opens doors and creates more opportunities. — Steve Siebold



1. Find a mentor for the next step.

Think about where you are in your career

and where you want to go.

Find someone you admire

who is two

or three levels ahead of you.

This person doesn’t have to be in your organization.

Look for the qualities needed in an effective mentor:

being a role model,

willing to help,

proven experience,

expertise and coaching skills.

If these qualities are present in an individual,

ask that person to help you.

Before any meeting with a counselor,

prepare three to five thoughtful questions,

the answers to which will help you tremendously.

After the meeting,

make an effort

to apply what you’ve learned

to your own situation.

Don’t suggest the next meeting

if you haven’t already done so.

At your next meeting,

start by letting your mentor know

how you applied what you learned

(or tried to apply it and failed,

so you can how to learn from those mistakes).

Then ask your new questions.

Doing it this way,

makes your instructor feel rewarded

for their efforts and contributions,

which in turn will likely be happy

to continue helping you.

“Money isn’t everything…

but it ranks as equal to oxygen.”– Rita Davenport


2. We all need people

who can help us strengthen specific strengths

or work through certain problem areas.

Who do you talk to

when you have problems related to marriage,


spiritual development,

personal discipline,

hobbies, etc.?

No one can answer all these questions.

You need to find personal “counselors”

to help you.

Take the time to make two lists.

First, list specific strengths and skills that you want

to improve to reach your potential.

Second, list specific problem areas

where you feel you need ongoing guidance.

Start looking for people with expertise in these specific areas

and ask if they’ll be available

to answer questions as you pose them.

Some people want it to happen.

Some wish it would happen.

Others make it happen. ― Michael Jordan


3. Do you have lasting role models that you observe,

follow and learn from

who can give you advice about your life

and career in general?

Or are you trying to improve yourself

while having no one to follow?

If you haven’t asked others

to help you on your journey,

it’s time to start doing this.

Most of us start by finding worthy role models

by reading about them through books.

Start from there.

But don’t just stop there.

Look for people

who are directly approachable in life.

For me, such a person is John Wooden.

For decades,

I have learned from him from afar.

I watched his teams play on television.

I follow his career.

I read everything he wrote.

However, when he was about 90 years old,

I had the privilege

of seeing him twice a year for many years.

I have learned a lot from him

and am grateful

for the time he spent with me.

When looking for role models and mentors,

I want to give you some advice.

Many times, there are people

who seem interesting from a distance,

but as you approach them,

you will discover qualities you don’t admire.

If that happens to you,

don’t let it discourage you.

There are many people out there

who deserve

to be respected

and followed (like John Wooden).

Just keep going and you’ll find them.

The rich know that no one is coming to their rescue

and that if their lives are in trouble,

they have to be the ones to solve it.

Their basic rule is to always be self-reliant and self-responsible. —Steve Siebold!

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