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Review: How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell

Until I saw this book, I had no idea who John C. Maxwell was and why he was qualified to write a book on how successful people think. Maxwell is a “leadership expert” and a New York Times bestselling author who has sold over 16 million books. He’s also a speaker, having spoken to Fortune 500 companies, government leaders, NFL, UN ambassadors, and many other groups. At first I thought his website was making a case of why Maxwell was a leadership expert, but in the case of this book, How Successful People Think [3], it merely explains why Maxwell is qualified to write this book. He knows how successful people think because he’s talked with, worked with, and interacted with plenty of successful people.

I was very surprised with out action oriented this book was. I don’t real many personal improvement books for Bargaineering but this one has many qualities I like in a book – it’s short, action oriented, and easy to understand. At about 115 small pages (the book is 6″ tall by 4.5″ wide), the book is not long at all. It’s action oriented in that he establishes a framework for both “how to think” and “how to get yourself to follow his framework of how to think!” Finally, to illustrate what I mean about easy to understand, here’s what he says about how you can become a better thinker.

How to Become a Better Thinker

First, expose yourself to good input by reading magazines, books, listening to the news, and interacting with other good thinkers. Put yourself in a situation where you’ll think good thoughts. Schedule in a “thinking period” during the day, week, or month so that you have time to think. Then, act on your thoughts. “Ideas have a short shelf life.” Then start the cycle over by using your emotions to create other good thoughts. Don’t wait until you feel like acting, act and then use that momentum to keep the process going over and over again.

At this point you probably think the book has a bit of hocus pocus. While the previous paragraph, where I paraphrased his steps for becoming a better thinker, seem a little too theoretical, the rest of the book goes into the various steps (that section comes from the introduction by the way). For example, the first chapter is Cultivate Big-Picture Thinking, where he discusses how you can help formulate the big picture and gives you a vision from which to lead. Without a big picture and an idea of where you’re going, you can’t lead or go anywhere. Without a big picture, you don’t know how to get from here to there since you don’t know where there is.

How do you formulate the big picture? By thinking about where you want to go without requiring your future be absolutely certain. Big pictures must be flexible and change with reality and you must get input from a variety of individuals. From that variety of inputs, you can broaden your own mind and come up with a big picture.

In addition to actionable type thinking, such as big picture thinking, Maxwell also discusses creative and possibility thinking, which I always think is a lot of fun. Possibility thinking is where you think of what’s possible, even if it seems impossible. The chapter starts with a great quote from Sam Ewing, “Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said could not be done.” It’s only impossible until someone finds a way to do it, so it might as well be you! 🙂

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s a business book, rather than a personal finance book, and a good fit for someone in a leadership position or seeking a leadership position. It puts a framework in place for an activity we all probably do haphazardly, so if you’re in need of some focus for your thinking, this book isn’t a bad choice for helping you gain that focus.