“How Successful People Grow” by John Maxwell: Book Summary

1 Line Summary

“How Successful People Grow” by John Maxwell suggests that, to be successful one should deliberately work on improving every day, making small changes and learning new things to become the best version of one’s own self.

What Will You Learn

You’ll learn how to:

  • Improve by following the 15 principles of growth,
  • Recognize your own worth to add value to yourself,
  • Understand who you are to facilitate personal growth, and
  • Continuously keep growing.

Best Quotations from the Book

  • You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself.
  • You Must See Value in Yourself to Add Value to Yourself.
  • Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up With You.
  • Motivations Keeps You Going, Discipline Keeps You Growing
  • Good Management of a Bad Experience Leads to Great Growth.
  • Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension between Where You Are and Where You Could Be.
  • It’s Hard to Improve When You Have No One But You to Follow.

Book Summary

Potential is a beautiful word, it implies greatness, hints fulfillment, looks forward with optimism, is filled with hope and promises success.

To discover your purpose, you need to grow in self-awareness. To be better human, you need to grow in character.

Here is a list of principles, how successful people grow:

1. Become an Intentional Learner

If you focus on goals, you may achieve them but that doesn’t guarantee growth. If you focus on growth, you grow and always hit goals. If you have dreams you need to grow to achieve them.

Here is a list of misconceptions about growth, which might hold you back:

·         The Assumption Gap – “I Assume I’ll Grow Automatically”

Nobody improves automatically, you need intent to improve. You have to take ownership of yourself for self improvement.

·         The Knowledge Gap – “I Do’t Know How to Grow”

Be intentional towards growth, make a list of things which take you closer to the goal and work with discipline for achievement.

Upon active work you discover a crack in the door of personal growth, which opens possibilities and opportunities everywhere. Your world begins to open up.

·         The Timing Gap – “It’s Not the Right Time to Begin”

The best time to begin is “now”; once you start growing intentionally, you can keep growing and keep asking “What’s Next”.

·         The Mistake Gap – “I am Afraid of Making Mistakes”

If you want to grow, you need to overcome the fear of making mistakes. To become intentional about growing, expect to make mistakes every day, and welcome them as an indication of moving in the right direction.

·         The Perfection Gap – “I Have to Find the Best Way Before Starting Up”

Growth is like moving on an unfamiliar road at night. Road reveals itself as you slightly move forward; if you want to see more of the way you have to keep moving.

·         The Inspiration Gap –  “I Don’t Feel Like Doing It”

You don’t see immediate results; commit to stick with the goal for at least 12 months. You’ll fall in love with process and after reflection you’ll realize how you have come compared to your first day.

·         The Comparison Gap –“Others are Better than Me”

Great men are always willing to share ideas. So if you are aware of others being better than you, don’t feel discouraged.  Be glad that others are there to help show you the way.

·         The Expectation Gap –“I Thought It Would Be Easier Than This”

Growth and reaching the top is not easy, however, people create their own luck. Here’s how:

Preparation + Attitude + Opportunity + Action = Luck

You can’t change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight”- Jin Rohn

If you want to achieve your goals, become intentional about personal growth; it will change your life.

How to Transition Intentional Growth

Here’s how to make a transition about growth:

·         Ask the Big Question First

Growth is a lifelong process. You need to ask yourself:

  • Where do you want to go in life?
  • What direction do you want to go?
  • How far can you imagine going?

Try to make the most out of everywhere you’ve been by investing in yourself and making yourself the best you can be.

·         Do It Now

Don’t fall into the trap of giving growtha “later priority”. Whatever you want to do, start now.

·         Face the Fear Factor

We all have both, fear and faith. Ask yourself, “Which emotion will I allow to grow stronger”. Better option is to feed your faith and starve your fear.

·         Change From Incidental to Intentional Growth

The only difference between a rut and grave is the length. People tend to go in ruts in life; they get in easy grooves and try not to come out of it. Remember, growth just doesn’t happen you to face the grind and go after it.

2. Develop Self Awareness

For growth, you must know your strengths, weaknesses, interests and opportunities. Knowing yourself is like knowing “You Are Here” on map to chart out the further course.

There are three kinds of people when it comes to having a direction in life:

·         People Don’t Know What They Would Like To Do

Most people fall in this category- such people are confused. They can’t reach their potential because they aren’t clear of what to aim for.

·         People Who Know What to Do But Don’t Do It

They are frustrated- they spot a constant gap between what they want and where they stand right now. They are usually unwilling to pay the price associated with the learning, growth and moving closer of where they want to be. Sometimes fear prevents them changing the course to pursue their passion. They too miss their potential.

·         People Who Know What to Do And Do It

They are fulfilled- they know themselves, possess a strong sense of passion and focus; they grow in areas that keeps them tracing their passion. They explore themselves as they explore growth.

How to Find Your Passion and Purpose

Here are ten questions that will help you start working through that process:

  • Do You Like What You’re Doing Now
  • What Would You Like To Do
  • Can You Do What You Would Like To Do
  • Do You Know Why You Want to Do What Would Like To Do
  • Do You Know What to Do So You Can Do What You Want To Do
  • Do You Know People Who Do What You Like To Do
  • Should You Do What You Would Like To Do With Them
  • Will You Pay the Price for Doing What You Like To Do
  • When Can You Start Doing What You Like To Do
  • What Will It Be Like When You Get To Do What You Like To Do

3. Believe In Yourself

You Must See Value in Yourself to Add Value to Yourself.

If you don’t realize that you have genuine value and you are worth investing in, then you will never put time and energy to grow your potential.

·         Self Esteem is Most Significant to a Person’s Behavior

It is impossible to consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves. We can do very few things in a positive way if feel negative about ourselves”. Zig Ziglar

·         Low Self Esteem Puts a Ceiling on Our Potential

People can never out-perform their self-image.

·         The Value We Place on Ourselves is Usually the Value Others Place on Ourselves

You should be concerned about what you think of yourself rather than what others think of you.

How to Build the Self Image

Listed below is a list of steps to build a strong self-image:

  • Guard Your Self-talk
  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
  • Move Beyond Your Limiting Beliefs
  • Add Value to Others
  • Do the Right Thing Even If It is Hard
  • Practice Small Discipline Consistently In a Specific Area
  • Celebrate Small Victories
  • Embrace a Positive Vision for Life Based on What You Value
  • Pick One Word that Best Describes You and Follow It as a Lead Measure
  • Take Responsibility for Your Life

4. Set Aside Time to Reflect

Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up With You.

Here is a list of observations concerning the power of pause and how reflection can help you to grow:

·         Reflection Turns Experience into Insight

Experience is not the best Teacher, Evaluated experience is!

·         Pausing Helps You Recognize Life Markers

Pausing and reflecting allows experiences to evolve from Life Markers to Life Makers.

·         Pausing With Intentions Expands and Enriches Thinking

Every great person in the present and past has spent an enormously constructive “lone time”. Alone time allows people to sort through their experience, put into perspective and plan for the future.

·         Use 4 I’s (Investigation, Incubation, Illumination and Illustration) when You Pause

Ask solid and true questions from yourself and find answers to these. If you ask high quality questions, they will create a high-quality life for you.

Never forget that your objective is to strive for and reach your objective. To do that, keep pausing, keep asking questions and keep growing every day.

5. Embrace Discipline Daily

Motivations Keeps You Going, Discipline Keeps You Growing

How to Grow in Consistency

Take time to ask following four questions about your growth:

  • Do You Know What You Need to Improve
  • Do You Know How are You Supposed to Grow

Here are four suggestions for the needful:

  1. Match your personality type with your motivation,
  2. Start With Simple Stuff
  3. Be Patient
  4. Value the Process
  5. Do You Know Why You Want to Keep Improving
  6. Do You Know When are You Supposed to Grow
Goal ConsciousnessGrowth Consciousness
Focuses on destination.
Motivates you and others
Challenges You
Stops when goal is reached
Focuses on destination
Matures you and others
Changes You
Keeps you growing beyond the goal

6. Seek Out a Positive Environment

Growth Thrives in Conducive Environments.

Growth depends upon change. It is possible to change without growth but it’s impossible to grow without change. We need to make following six choices to put ourselves in a better place for growth:

·         Assess Your Current Environment

Change must be in the right direction, you must know where you stand right now and the reason you want to change. You must be in the right environment to bring change.

·         Change Yourself and Your Environment

Change your self and the environment at the same time, because:

  1. You’ll face slow and difficult growth if you change yourself but not the environment,
  2. You’ll face slow and less difficult growth if you change your environment but not yourself,
  3. You’ll face explosive growth if you change yourself and the environment.

You need right people and right purpose with yourself to keep growing.

·         Change Whom You Spend Your Time With

Your “reference group” determine 95% of your success and failure in life, as per a research by Harvard University. It is always profitable to associate yourself with people with high integrity, who are professionally better than us, who uplift us, who always take a high road and possess an intention to continuous growth.

·         Challenge Yourself in the New Environment

A positive environment gives you room to embrace and expand your potential. You can challenge yourself towards a goal by having a public display of accountability or having an accountability partner.

·         Focus on the Moment

Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday has done, Tomorrow has not yet come, We only have today, Let’s begin”.

·         Move Forward Despite Criticism

Growth always comes from taking actions and taking action always brings criticism. Move forward any way and try to reach your potential.

7. Become Highly Strategic

To Maximize Growth, Develop Strategies.

You must develop a stronger sense of urgency and a pro-strategic mindset. You can’t simply let things happen to you, wait and react on situations. Remember:

  • Life is simple but keeping it simple is very difficult,
  • Designing your life is more important than designing your career,
  • Life is not a dress rehearsal
  • In planning you life multiply everything by two, because important things in life take longer than expected and cost more than the anticipated. As a general rule, multiply everything by two to have a real time picture. Develop strategies, devote time and energy and do whatever it takes to achieve what you want.

To accomplish something strategically on a consistent basis, you need to develop systems that work for you. Consider following qualities of an ideal system:

  • System is a process for predictably achieving a goal based on specific, orderly and repeated principles.
  • Systems are deliberate, intentional and practical.
  • They improve personal performance.
  • A life without a system is a life where a person faces every task and challenge from the scratch.

How to Create a System

To create a system, consider following guidelines:

  • Effective Systems Consider Bigger Picture into Account,
  • Effective Systems Make Use of Priorities,
  • Effective Systems Include Measurement of their Results. Measurement is the key to big results. It enables you to set goals, evaluate progress, judge results and diagnose problems.
  • Effective Systems Include Applications. Any time you have a goal but you think you can’t reach it, don’t adjust goal. Adjust the action steps.
  • Effective Systems Employ Organization. Being organized gives you a sense of power. Make you systems, make you as organized as possible.
  • Effective Systems Promote Consistency.

8. Turn Negatives into Positives

Good Management of a Bad Experience Leads to Great Growth.

Each time we have a bad experience, we get to know ourselves better. Pain prompts us to face who we are and where we stand. Here are some facts about bad experiences:

·         Everyone Has Them

No matter who you are, where you live, what you do, what your background is, you have to deal with bad experiences. You have to set realistic expectations when it comes to pain and problems; you can’t avoid them.

·         No One Likes Them

When we are in the middle of a bad experience, we find it painful. But if it managed well, we like to talk about it afterwards.

·         Few People Make Bad Experiences Positive Experiences

When tough times come, few people respond well; that’s why learning to handle bad experiences well is essential for continuous growth.

How to Turn Pain into Gain

Following actions can be embraced to lead pain into an experience of explosive growth:

  • Choose a Positive Life Stance. Life is not what it is supposed to be. It is what it is. The way you cope with it makes the difference.
  • Embrace and Develop Creativity. See possibility with the problem. Creativity begins at the end of comfort zone.
  • Embrace the Value of Bad Experiences. Facing bad experiences is inevitable, learning from them is optional.
  • Make Good Changes After Learning from Bad Experiences. Our choices will lead to either pain of self-discipline or the pain of regret.
  • Take responsibility of Yourself. No matter what you have done in life or what you are doing, you have the opportunity to grow from it.

9. Grow from the Inside Out

Character Growth Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth.

Most people spend too much on competence and too little on character. Good character with honesty and integrity as its core is essential to succeed in any area of life. That’s why you need to grow from inside out.

Here are the essential “rungs” of character ladder:

Focus on Being Better from Inside than Outside- Character Matters

  • Inside influences the outside
  • Inside victories precede the outside ones
  • Our development is totally in our control

Follow the Golden Rule- People Matter

Do unto others what you expect others doing unto you. It encourages us be empathetic, think of other people and help others doing well in their circle of influence.

Preach What You Believe- Passion Matters

Individuals who lack passion and principles becomes bland and colorless; and teaching what you don’t practice makes us hypocrite.

Value Humility Above All Values- Perspective Matters

Anyone who is honest with himself realizes he falls short of where he could or should be in his life.

  • Remember the big picture
  • Recognize everyone has weaknesses
  • Be teachable
  • Be willing to serve others
  • Be grateful

Strive to Finish Well- Faith Matters

Keep doing good, keep building character and live the highest standard of character till the last breath.

If we desire to grow and reach our potential, we must pay more attention to character than results.

10. Get Used to Stretching Yourself

Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension between Where You Are and Where You Could Be.

Here’s why stretching has a great value:

·         Few People Want to Stretch

We must be aware of the gap between us and our potential, and let the tension of that gap strive for keep doing better.

·         Settling for the Status Quo Ultimately Leads to Dissatisfaction

Getting into comfort zone leads to mediocrity. You would only reach your potential if you have courage to push yourself out of the comfort zone and break out of the mindset of mediocrity.

·         Stretching Always Starts from Inside Out

Our situation in life is mainly due to the choices we make and actions we take or fail to take.

·         Stretching Always Requires Change

It’s impossible to focus on your past and change in present. You have to take risks to grow, evolve and change. Innovation and progress are often initiated by people who push for change.

·         Stretching Sets You Apart from Others

Successful people often succeed because they initiate the improvement others need. When you get better, others are benefitted as well. Excellence spreads the same way, mediocrity spreads.

·         Stretching Gives You a Shot at Significance

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing is gap between good and great. What closes this gap is the willingness to stretch.

11. Make Smart Trade-Offs

You have to give up some of the things you love to grow up, and that’s the thing most of the people ignore. Life has many intersections; they give us chances to go up or down. At these intersections, we make choices to add or subtract something to our lives or exchange something we have from something we don’t.

Here are some insights to understand trade-offs:

·         Trade-offs are Available Throughout the Life

Unsuccessful people make bad trade-offs, Successful make good trade-offs and Average people make few trade-offs.

·         View Trade-offs as an Opportunity to Grow

Nothing creates a bigger gap between successful and unsuccessful people than the choices we make. Ask two things to yourself when making a trade-off:

  1. What are the plusses or minuses of this trade-off,
  2. Will I go through or grow through this change.

·         Trade-offs Force Us to Make Difficult Personal Decisions

The difference between what we are and what we will be, depends upon the change we make in ourself. Remember:

  1. Change is Personal,
  2. Change is Possible,
  3. Change is Profitable, But
  4. Change is not easy.

Loss of a Trade-off is Often Felt Long Before a Gain

  • A few trade-offs Often Come Only Once
  • The Higher You Climb, Tougher the Trade-off
  • Trade-offs Never Leave Us the Same

Here are five trade-offs that may help you to develop your guidelines:

  • I am willing to give-up financial security for potential tomorrow,
  • I am willing to give-up immediate gratification for potential growth,
  • I am willing to give up fast life for good life,
  • I am willing to give up security for significance– Opportunities to help others become who they really are-that’s significance
  • I am willing to give up Addition for Multiplication.

12. Learn to Ask Good Questions

Growth is stimulated by Asking Why!

Curiosity is the key to being a life-long learner and if you to keep growing and developing, you must keep on learning.

Here are a few suggestions to cultivate curiosity:

  • Believe You can be Curious
  • Have a Beginner’s Mindset
  • Make Why your Favorite Word
  • Spend Time with Curious People
  • Learn Something Everyday
  • Partake in the Fruit of Failure
  • Stop Looking for the Right Answer
  • Get Over Yourself
  • Get Out of the Box
  • Enjoy Your Life

13. Find a Good Mentor

It’s hard to improve when you have no one but you to follow.

Most people who decide to rise and grow find their mentors in the pages of books. Here is a criteria to develop a good “role model”.

A good mentor:

  • Is a Worthy Example,
  • Is Available,
  • Has Proven Experience,
  • Possesses Wisdom,
  • Provides Friendship and Support
  • Is a COACH who makes difference in People’s Lives

A COACH has following capabilities:

C: Care for the people they reach

O: Observe people’s behavior, attitude and performance

A: Align people with their strengths for peak performance

C: Communicate for feedback

H: Help to improve people’s lives and performance.

14. Focus on Enlarging Your Potential

Growth Always Increases Your Capacity.

If you are breathing and possess a sound mind, then you can always keep increasing your capacity.

How to Increase Your Thinking Capacity

Most experts believe that most people use only 10% of their potential. To use rest of 90% can be tapped by keep changing how we think and what we do. Let’s start by looking at how we need to think to increase our capacity:

·         Stop Thinking More Work and Start Thinking What Works

Ask yourself:

What am I required to do?

What gives me the greatest return?

What gives me the greatest reward?

·         Stop Thinking Can I, Start Thinking How Can I

Can I is a question filled with doubt; How Can I is a motivation filled thinking. To change your thinking from Can I to How Can I, you need to first change from I Can’t to How Can I…

·         Stop Thinking One Door and Start Thinking Many Doors


  • There is more than one way to do a thing,
  • The odds of arriving anywhere increase with creativity and adaptability,
  • Movement with intentionality increases possibilities,
  • Failures and setbacks are the greatest source of learning,
  • Knowing today is essential, controlling today is possible,
  • Success is a result of continued action filled with continual adjustments.

The greatest challenge you’ll ever face is of expanding your mind.

How to Increase Your Capacity for Action

To start expanding your thinking capacity, you may take following three steps:

  • Stop Doing Those Things You Have Done In the Past and Start Doing Those You Should Do and You Could Do,
  • Stop Doing What is Expected and Start Doing More Than Expected,
  • Stop Doing Important Things Occasionally, Start Doing Them Daily.

15. Help Others Reach Their Potential

Growing Yourself Enables You to Grow Others.

You can’t give what you don’t have but if you worked, learnt and earned something you definitely can pass it on.

Be a River, Not a Reservoir.

Try to develop an abundance mindset, as long as you keep learning and growing, you’ll never face scarcity.

Here are a few suggestions to develop an attitude of contribution:

  • Be Grateful; ungrateful people are not the givers. By daily pouring onto others, things will allow you to achieve beyond what they have achieved.
  • Put People First. People are what matter, people continue on. Treating others well helps us navigate well and puts us in a place where we can learn from others.
  • Don’t Let Stuff Own You. If you want to be in-charge of your heart, don’t allow possessions to take charge of you.
  • Don’t Let People Own You. Give with no strings attached; a giving life should be liberating to yourself and to those you help.
  • Define Success as Sowing, Not Reaping.
  • Focus on Self-Development, Not Self-Fulfillment.
  • Keep Growing to Keep Giving.

Don’t wait for opportunity—create it. Unlock your potential and embark on a journey of self-improvement with John Maxwell’s “How Successful People Grow”.

Refer Related Content:

  1. The 360-Degree Leader” by John Maxwell
  2. Failing Forward” by John C. Maxwell
  3. “Find You WHY” by Simon Sinek
  4. Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins
  5. Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakhiani
  6. Relation between Self Awareness and Personal Fulfillement

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