There are motivational writers and motivational speakers, and then there's John Maxwell. John has been called America's No. 1 leadership authority by the American Management Association, and has won the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network. He has trained more than 6 million leaders in 196 countries.
John Maxwell literally wrote the book -- or more accurately, 13 books -- on leadership. He's written dozens of other books on relationships, preparation and other subjects. But his latest book, "Intentional Living," is an absolute must-read, no matter what occupation you are in.
I've known John for many years, and he never fails to amaze me with his energy and passion for living. And now, he has generously documented his formula for the benefit of all.
Drawing on the assumption that everyone wants his or her life to matter, John explains how age, wealth and fame are not necessary ingredients for making a positive impact on the world.
Rather, he says, the key to living a life that matters is being "intentional." John writes, "If you possess the desire to make a difference, place a high value on people, and are willing to team up with others, significance is within your reach."
John's inspiration came from a gift his assistant gave him 40 years ago. It was a book titled "The Greatest Story Ever Told." But when he opened it, he was surprised to find all the pages were blank. Between the pages she had included a note that read: "John, your life is before you. Fill these pages with kind acts, good thoughts and matters of your heart. Write a great story with your life."
So that's exactly what he did. John was determined to make every day matter.
He writes: "We should never let what we cannot do keep us from doing what we can do. A passive life does not become a meaningful life."
In other words, he challenges us to start small, but dream big.
John is a master list-maker. His advice is easy to follow, because he lays out the important elements of an intentional life. He includes plenty of self-evaluation questions, and identifies the trade-offs that lead to greater opportunities.
I was especially taken with John's analogy about positive anticipation. "To me, living a life that matters is like building a house," he writes. "The process started as I opened the first door, which was 'I want to make a difference.' Once I went through that first doorway ... I discovered some wonderful ways that I could make a difference in the lives of others."
He goes on to add a second room: doing something that makes a difference. That room led him to discover his strengths, like leading, communicating and connecting.
The third door was doing something that makes a difference with people who make a difference. "This new room was filled with people who were potential partners in significance," he explains. "I'm grateful for this because of my personal limitations. Alone I can do only so much."
For many years, his house of significance had just three rooms. Then he found another door of opportunity: at a time that makes a difference. He says, "People who open this door live with intentionality ... They are living the significance cycle: anticipation, action, abundance, anticipation, action, abundance."
In short, John has removed all the excuses that can sabotage an intentional life.
One of my favorite sayings, courtesy of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, is that our lives basically change in two ways: the people we meet and the books we read. I've collected friends and networked vigorously, and my library is bursting at the seams with self-improvement and inspirational books.
And no matter how many books I read, I realize that nothing will change until I make up my mind to change. I can't rely on anyone else to do it for me. I have to make the best of my opportunities, and create opportunities when none seem to exist.
Mackay's Moral: It's not enough to have good intentions; you have to live them.