on 27 June 2004
Look around, and you will see that a lot of people in our society don't think. Our television shows have laugh tracks to tell us when something is supposed to be funny. Our coffee cups now warn us that the contents may be hot. Labels on our hair dryers remind us not to use them underwater. We are so used to having someone else do our thinking. What would happen if we woke up and started...thinking for a change?
Right away Maxwell establishes that successful people think differently than unsuccessful people. In Part I, he develops a foundation by explaining the merits of good, changed and intentional thinking. Part II reveals the 11 ways that successful people think -- big-picture instead of small, focused instead of scattered, creative instead of restrictive, realistic instead of fantasy, strategic instead of random, possibility instead of limited, reflective instead of impulsive, innovative instead of popular, shared instead of solo, unselfish instead of selfish, and bottom-line instead of wishful.
Each chapter explains one of these facets of thinking and allows you to evaluate yourself in each area. Maxwell then gives you action steps to develop that type of thinking in your life. This is an excellent resource to help you jump-start and expand your thinking beyond where it is today. If you are ready for a change, this book will get you thinking...for a change.
Larry Hehn, author of Get the Prize: Nine Keys for a Life of Victory
By now Maxwell has earned and thus deserves a reputation for some excellent thinking about leadership. In this volume, somewhat of a departure from his usual concerns, he shares some excellent ideas about the thinking process itself. He asserts (and I wholly agree) that successful people think differently than do unsuccessful people. Specifically, he identifies and then carefully examines eleven different types of thinking. "Those who embrace good thinking as a lifestyle," he suggests, "understand the relationship between their level [and quality] of thinking and their level [and degree] of progress. They also realize that to change their lives, they must change their thinking." Agreeing with Abraham Maslow, Maxwell suggests that unsuccessful people focus their thinking almost entirely on survival, average people focus their thinking almost entirely on "maintenance' (i.e. keeping whatever they now have), and successful people focus their thinking entirely on progress.
Maxwell devotes a separate chapter to each of the eleven types of thinking: Big Picture, Focussed, Creative, realistic, Strategic, Possibility/Potentiality, Reflective, Popular (thinking which creates agreement, consensus, teamwork, etc.), Shared/Collaborative, Unselfish, and Bottom-line. According to Maxwell, his book "does not try to tell you what to think; it attempts to teach you [in italics] how to think." At the conclusion of each chapter, he thoughtfully includes a brief exercise which requires the reader to apply the key points in the chapter to her or his own circumstances. I have no problem with the fact that there is some redundancy in Maxwell's presentation of material. First of all, the eleven types of thinking are interrelated, interdependent. Strengthening one inevitably helps to strengthen the others. Also, certain key points need to be reiterated for purposes of both review and emphasis. Presumably Maxwell agrees with me that there is a compelling need for new thinking about how to change one's way of thinking. Metaphorically, we need both new wine AND new bottles but also new, better ideas about the process of producing wine.
Paradoxically, as the prophet Eccelesiastes asserts, "there is nothing new under the sun." I am not damning with faint praise when suggesting that there is (essentially) nothing new in Maxwell's book. Almost all of the key concepts in this book can be found in the works of Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Immanuel Kant, William James, and others. (Maxwell duly acknowledges a wealth of resources.) For me, the great value of this book is not derived from any original insights offered by Maxwell; rather, from his brilliant organization and presentation of essentially fundamental ideas about the process of thinking clearly on so many different levels, from so many different points of view. This may well prove to be his most important contribution to our understanding of what can and should be accomplished by more effective use of the abundant resources which are already available...between our two ears.
This is the only new book I have ever read that I would recommend for absolutely everyone. Those who cannot read should have it read to them.
More effective thinking is the foundation for accomplishing whatever potential we and those we are in touch with have. Dr. Maxwell has created an effective book for "how" each of us can be better thinkers, role models and leaders. The title refers to two observations: One, most people go with the flow, the crowd or their emotions rather than thinking through their choices so good thinking is a change they should make; and two, making positive changes in your life requires thinking through your choices and acting on the best one.
Dr. Maxwell returns here to a subject he addressed in his first book, Think on These Things, written in 1979. The subject is central to him for his life has been illuminated by the observation of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8, "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 those things." As a Christian minister, Dr. Maxwell cites the Bible as one source of examples, but people who are of different faiths and people who are not interested in spiritual matters will find the book relevant and valuable.
The book is comprised of two parts and an afterthought. The first part addresses how changing your thinking can change your life. The second looks in detail at 11 thinking skills that should be combined. The afterthought is to improve your effectiveness and that of any organization you are involved with by seeking out those whose thinking skills balance out your lacks of thinking skills. It's a powerful and important point!
The book has several structural strengths that will help you. Key observations are inset as quotes to help you see the big picture. Also, each chapter ends with a question or questions to help you assess what you need to work on to become a better thinker. Following that come action steps to help you start making the necessary changes. The lessons are captured both by logical argument and by compelling lengthy anecdotes of what both ordinary and famous people have done. The anecdotes are amazing in their depth and perceptiveness. Even when they were written about people I know well, I was struck that Dr. Maxwell captured nuances that I had missed in my understanding of these peoples' lives. For instance, Frances Hesselbein, the legendary former head of the Girl Scouts has a son but no daughters. She originally volunteered for the organization because of a need for more leaders in her community, even though her own family would not directly benefit. Dr. Maxwell also interweaves occasional references to his and other important books so that you can see how each perspective fits together in the context of this book. He is generous in his credit to others, which is part of what makes the book so credible. Finally, he cites his own experiences . . . both good and bad . . . rather than setting himself up as a model of perfection so that you can understand the struggles and potential solutions that may work for you. For example, his many references to how he uses his appointment calendar to improve his thinking made me realize more about the potential value of that tool for time management than any time management book that I have ever read.
Dr. Maxwell's argument for improving our thoughts goes something like this. If we change our thoughts, we can change our feelings and our focus. It's the quality of our thoughts . . . not the quality of our education that determines what we can accomplish. With better thinking, we can learn to focus on progress. That?s certainly been true in my life, and I enthusiastically endorse those observations.
What do most people think like now? Dr. Maxwell characterizes most thinking as being too small, scattered, restrictive, removed from reality, random, limited, impulsive, influenced by what is popular, disconnected from involving others in thinking, selfish and wishful.
He addresses each in a separate chapter, with lots of examples to encourage you to look at the big picture, be more focused on what's important, develop creative thoughts that are not restricted, consider realities that must be addressed rather than fantasies that are impossible, be strategic in focusing on what will make a difference, be open to possibilities that can lead to new solutions, reflect before acting on your impulses, look for innovative solutions rather than following the conventional wisdom, share your thinking with others to find better solutions, be unselfish, and keep the ultimate goals well in mind.
My own reaction to the book was to see more clearly my thinking strengths and weaknesses. I had never thought of the benefits of combining all of these characteristics into every thought. I came away with a clear idea of what I need to do differently, and found that I immediately began to change.
I recommend that everyone in a family or a work unit read this book at the same so that they can share helpful observations with one another. The 14 chapter topics would make for great separate discussions over lunch or dinner.
The best anecdote I have ever read about Jack Welch is in this book. He explains what a leader wants someone to do when they get an assignment to answer a question. Mr. Welch says that the leader wants the answer, but also wants value added to the answer and new questions that need to be addressed to provide more helpful dimensions to the original question. It's worth the price of the book for most people in business to just understand that section.
on 22 June 2005
Anyone can apply the principles in John C. Maxwell's book, in any business, in any circumstance, in any stage of life. Great thinkers have an unlimited capacity to achieve, and Maxwell tells you how to become one. While books of this nature are typically geared toward entrepreneurs or those in leadership roles, we recommend this book to any person who is committed to ongoing personal development and living life with purpose. You will benefit from learning more about the different specific thinking skills that have an impact on your daily decisions. Maxwell teaches an unusual skill: how to make conscious choices that shape your thoughts, your actions and, ultimately, your success. Think about it.