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Thinking for a Change11 Ways Highly Successful People ...
By John C. Maxwell
Warner BooksCopyright © 2003 John C. Maxwell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUnderstand the Value of Good Thinking
"Nurture great thoughts, for you will never go higher than your thoughts."
What Were They Thinking?
"Things are more like they are now than they ever were before."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower, thirty-fourth president of the United States
What one thing do all successful people have in common? What one thing separates those who go to the top from those who never seem to get there? The answer: Good Thinking! Those who embrace good thinking as a lifestyle understand the relationship between their level of thinking and their level of progress. They also realize that to change their lives, they must change their thinking.
A Different Way to Think
I've been a student of good thinking all my life, so I know how important it is for making progress. In the first book I wrote back in 1979, titled Think on These Things, I said, "Your life today is a result of your thinking yesterday. Your life tomorrow will be determined by what you think today." The title of that book was inspired by the words of the Apostle Paul, who admonished us,
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
My father, Melvin Maxwell, often quoted those words to me. He felt they were important. Why? Because he is an example of someone who changed his life as a result of changing his thinking.
If you met my dad, he would tell you that he was born with a naturally negative bent to his thinking. In addition, he grew up during the Depression, and when he was six years old, his mother died. He was not a happy or hopeful child. But as a teenager, he began to see that all the successful people he knew had one thing in common: they filled their lives with positive thoughts about themselves and others. He desired to be successful like them, so he embarked on the daily task of changing his thinking. To his delight, after much time and effort, his thinking changed him.
People who know him today see Dad as a totally positive person. They would be surprised to find out that he started his life with a negative mind-set. This change in his thinking allowed him to rise to a level of living that seemed above his potential. He went on to be the most successful person in his professional circle. He became a college president and touched the lives of innumerable people. To this day he is my hero.
Changing from negative to positive thinking isn't always easy, especially if you have a difficult time with change. For some, it's a life-long struggle. Do you know what most people's number one challenge is when it comes to making positive personal changes? It's their feelings. They want to change, but they don't know how to get past their emotions. But there is a way to do it. Take a look at the truth contained in the following syllogism:
Major Premise: I can control my thoughts. Minor Premise: My feelings come from my thoughts. Conclusion: I can control my feelings by controlling my thoughts.
If you are willing to change your thinking, you can change your feelings. If you change your feelings, you can change your actions. And changing your actions-based on good thinking-can change your life.
Who Will Change Your Mind?
Most people in our culture look to educational systems to teach them and their children to think. In fact, many individuals believe that formal education holds the key to improving lives and reforming society. James Bryant Conant, chemistry professor and former president of Harvard University, asserted, "Public education is a great instrument of social change.... Education is a social process, perhaps the most important process in determining the future of our country, it should command a far larger portion of our national income than it does today."
Many educators would have us believe that good grades lead to a better life, and that the more formal education you have, the more successful you will be. Yet education often can't deliver on such promises. Don't you know highly educated people who are highly unsuccessful? Haven't you met college professors with Ph.D.s who cannot manage their lives effectively? And conversely, don't you know of dropouts who have become very successful? (Think of Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Federico Fellini, Steve Jobs.)
William Feather, author of The Business of Life, remarked, "Two delusions fostered by higher education are that what is taught corresponds to what is learned, and that it will somehow pay off in money." Educational reformer and former University of Chicago president Robert M. Hutchins observed, "When we listen to the radio, look at television and read the newspapers we wonder whether universal education has been the great boon that its supporters have always claimed it would be." Perhaps we would be better off if we took the advice of Mark Twain, who said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education."
The problem with most educational institutions is that they try to teach people what to think, not how to think. Contrary to what Francis Bacon said, knowledge alone is not power. Knowledge has value only in the hands of someone who has the ability to think well. People must learn how to think well to achieve their dreams and to reach their potential.
Why You Should Embrace the Value
of Good Thinking
Georgia State University professor David J. Schwartz says, "Where success is concerned, people are not measured in inches or pounds or college degrees or family background; they are measured by the size of their thinking." Becoming a better thinker is worth your effort because the way you think really impacts every aspect of your life. It doesn't matter whether you are a businessperson, teacher, parent, scientist, pastor, or corporate executive. Good thinking will improve your life. It will help you to become an achiever. It will make you a better businessperson, teacher, parent, scientist, pastor, or executive.
Take a look at just a few reasons why good thinking is so important:
1. Good Thinking Creates the Foundation for Good Results
In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen, philosopher of the human spirit, wrote, "Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not cooperate with it.
It may seem obvious that the quality of people's thinking leads to the quality of their results. I believe most people would agree that:
* Poor thinking produces negative progress.
* Average thinking produces no progress.
* Good thinking produces some progress.
* Great thinking produces great progress.
Yet, one of the reasons people don't achieve their dreams is that they desire to change their results without changing their thinking. But that's never going to work. If you expect to reap corn when you planted nettles, you're not going to get corn-no matter how much time you spend watering, fertilizing, or cultivating your plants. If you don't like the crop you are reaping, you need to change the seed you are sowing! Do you want to achieve? Then sow the "seed" of good thinking.
My friend, Bill McCartney, is a three-time Big Eight Conference coach of the year and two-time UPI coach of the year. In 1990, he led the University of Colorado football team to a national championship. He understands what it takes to win in sports. What may surprise many is that he says the mental aspect of the game is more important than the physical. Coach Mac observes, "Mental is to physical what four is to one." No matter how gifted athletes may be physically, if they don't have what it takes mentally, they won't succeed.
I was reminded again of that truth at a recent leadership conference. I told the attendees that I was working on a book called Thinking for a Change. During one of the breaks, a man named Richard McHugh came up and told me a little about his experience as a competitive bull rider. After the conference, he sent me a letter telling the whole story. He wrote,
Dear Dr. Maxwell:
I discovered the importance of "thinking" my way to success during my career as a bull rider. I started bull riding with the amateur bull-riding circuit. Not long after I moved to the top of the amateur circuit I yearned to join the professional bull riding association, so I looked to the top for a teacher. I met and started a relationship with a world champion bull rider who lived in my area. His name was Gary Leffew.
Gary invited me to his professional bull-riding arena at his ranch. After it became clear to Gary that I had committed myself to a career as a bull rider, he agreed to help me. He told me that the first thing I would have to do is quit the amateur rodeo circuit. Gary said, "As long as you are hanging around amateurs, you will think like an amateur, and you will not improve your skills." That day I went from the top of the amateur bull riders to the bottom of the professionals.
After getting my professional cowboy association permit, I went back to Gary's rodeo arena, and I was ready to get on some bulls. Much to my surprise, Gary met up with me that day, gave me a book, and sent me on my way. The book was Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Now, you have to understand that for a cowboy, this was a major paradigm shift. All of the other seasoned bull riders were telling me, "If you want to ride bulls, the secret is just getting on as many bulls as your body can withstand in terms of the pain." But they were not World Champion bull riders like my mentor was. So I took Gary's advice instead, and I went home and read the book.
When I finished, I went back to Gary, and I couldn't believe what he did next: he gave me another book on thinking! A few more visits to Gary's ranch netted me more books. I read every one.
Now, some people might think this is crazy, but I yearned to ride a bull. On one visit to Gary's, I finally told him that I had read every book that he gave me, but now I wanted to get on some bulls! Gary explained to me, "Rich, before you ride bulls," and pointed to his head, "you've got to ride BULLS!" [meaning that the process of visualization had to come first]. Now I understood what he was doing: preparing me mentally for riding bulls! "Okay," I told him, "so now that I've read all those books, I'm ready to get on a bull!" I was wrong. The next step, Gary explained, was cassette tapes. Volumes of tapes!
When Gary finally said I was ready to get on a bull, it was a stationary barrel bull! There I learned how to visualize every bull movement and counter movement.
The next lesson I learned was about association. "Who you hang around with," Gary explained, "can influence how you think." As I began traveling in the professional bull riders circuit, I learned that it was important to be with the riders who were winning. My mentor told me that if I couldn't find any winning bull riders to ride with, then I was to travel alone to protect my new winning mental attitude.
Dr. Maxwell, I'd like to tell you that I went on to win the world championship; I didn't. But I did win a lot of rodeos, and I did make a lot of money riding in the professional bull-riding circuit. This cowboy eventually left the rodeo circuit and married a wonderful woman. We now own one of the largest employment agencies on the central coast of California.
I guess I'm still thinking my way to the top.
Sincerely, Richard McHugh
To make progress in any field, you have to take action. But the success of the action you take depends entirely on how you think beforehand. What Claude M. Bristol wrote in The Magic of Believing is true: "The successful people in industry have succeeded through their thinking. Their hands were helpers to their brains."
2. Good Thinking Increases Your Potential
Author James Allen believed, "You will become as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration." Or to paraphrase the words of King Solomon, wisest of all ancient kings, "As people think in their hearts, so they are." If your thinking shapes who you are, then it naturally follows that your potential is determined by your thinking.
In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, I wrote about the Law of the Lid, which states, "Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness." In other words, in any endeavor with people, your leadership is the lid. If you're a poor leader, your lid is low. If you are a great leader, your lid is high. I believe that your thinking has a similar impact on your life. Your thinking is the lid for your potential. If you're an excellent thinker, then you have excellent potential, and the words of Emerson ring true: "Beware when the great God lets loose a great thinker on the planet." But if your thinking is poor, then you have a lid on your life.
Achieving your potential comes from making progress, and progress is often just one good idea away. That was certainly true of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. He explained, "I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything was: a town of less than 50,000 in population cannot support a discount store for very long." But Walton did not think the way his competitors thought, and for that reason, his potential was greater. While other merchants followed popular thinking, Walton thought for himself and struck out on his own. That has paid off in a remarkable way. Today Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, employing more than one million people and achieving annual sales in excess of $191 billion. Every week more than 100 million customers visit Wal-Mart stores. How's that for potential! No wonder Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, said, "The hero is the one with ideas."
The greatest detriment to many people's success tomorrow is their thinking today. If their thinking is limited, so is their potential. But if people can keep growing in their thinking, they will constantly outgrow what they're doing. And their potential will always be off the charts.
3. Good Thinking Produces More Good Thinking IF ...
Excerpted from Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell Copyright © 2003 by John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission.
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