An Interview with John C. Maxwell

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: September 11, 2012

John Maxwell is sitting on the patio of a Palm Beach County, Fla. marina restaurant to discuss his latest book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth with SUCCESS writer Chelsea Greenwood. She’s familiar with his works, having read several of his books and interviewed him on the phone for other SUCCESS articles, but this time is a little different. She’s toe to toe with the 19-million-books-sold author, who is sharing the irrefutable “laws” of his own success, as one of his best-selling books The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership suggests.

In this SUCCESS exclusive interview, Maxwell says his epiphany came when he realized that working hard doesn’t guarantee success. In the early ’70s, as a 24-year-old pastor, Maxwell had been offered the chance to lead one of the biggest churches in his denomination, but he didn’t feel experienced enough for the task. He sought help from an executive coach who asked him about his plan for personal growth.

“I had no plan,” Maxwell tells SUCCESS.

That’s why his “Law of Intentionality” opens the book and is No. 1 on his list. It states that growth doesn’t just happen. (The rest of the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.) “If you want your life to improve, you must improve yourself,” he says.

Read the entire cover story in the October issue of SUCCESS, on newsstands Sept. 11. (Click here to preview the digital issue and subscribe.)  


In this web exclusive, read excerpts from Maxwell’s new book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential.

► John Maxwell on Potential

“When I started my career, I was intentional about working, reaching my goals, and being successful. I had a strategy: hard work. I hoped that would get me where I wanted to go. But working hard doesn’t guarantee success. And hope isn’t a strategy. How do you get better at what you do? How do you improve your relationships? How do you gain more depth and wisdom as a person?  How do you gain insight? How do you overcome obstacles? Work harder? Work longer? Wait for things to get better?”

► John Maxwell on Action

“You cannot win if you do not begin! The people who get ahead in the world are the ones who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them. That means taking initiative. It means doing something specific every day that will take you another step closer to your goal. It means continuing to do it every day. Nearly all successes are the fruit of initiative.”

► John Maxwell on Getting Started

“Most of the accomplishments I’ve achieved in life I began to attempt before I was really ready. When I was teaching pastors leadership in 1984 and they asked for ongoing teaching, I wasn’t ready to give it to them. But during a conference with thirty-four people in Jackson, Mississippi, I decided to pass around a legal pad and get the contact information for anyone who wanted to receive a monthly leadership tape. All thirty-four signed up. Was I ready to start a monthly leadership subscription series? No. Did I start it anyway? Yes.”

► John Maxwell on Priorities

“Rework your calendar so you have a sixty-minute appointment with yourself for personal growth every day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year. You might be thinking, what? I don’t have time for that! That’s probably true. Do it anyway. If you want to succeed, you need to do whatever it takes. Get up an hour early. Stay up an hour later. Give up your lunch hour. Put in extra time on the weekends. If you don’t, you’ll have to prepare to give up your dreams and any hope of reaching your potential.”

► John Maxwell on Purpose

“People say there are two great days in a person’s life: the day you were born and the day you discover why. I want to encourage you to seek what you were put on this earth to do. Then pursue it with all your effort.”

► John Maxwell on Curiosity

“Give yourself permission to be curious. The single greatest difference between curious, growing people and those who aren’t is the belief that they can learn, grow, and change. As I explained in the Law of Intentionality, you must go after growth. Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom will not seek you out. You must go out and acquire it. The best way to do that is to remain curious.”


The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

by John Maxwell
Excerpted from John Maxwell’s upcoming book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, in bookstores Oct. 2.

1.  The Law of Intentionality: Growth Doesn’t Just Happen  

2.  The Law of Awareness: You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself  

3.  The Law of the Mirror: You Must See Value in Yourself to Add Value to Yourself  

4.  The Law of Reflection: Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up with You  

5.  The Law of Consistency: Motivation Gets You Going—Discipline Keeps You Growing    

6.  The Law of Environment: Growth Thrives in Conducive Surroundings  

7.  The Law of Design: To Maximize Growth, Develop Strategies  

8.  The Law of Pain: Good Management of Bad Experiences Leads to Great Growth  

9.  The Law of the Ladder: Character Growth Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth

10. The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be  

11.  The Law of Trade-Offs: You Have to Give Up to Grow Up  

12.  The Law of Curiosity: Growth Is Stimulated by Asking Why?  

13.  The Law of Modeling: It’s Hard to Improve When You Have No One but Yourself to Follow  

14.  The Law of Expansion: Growth Always Increases Your Capacity  

15.  The Law of Contribution: Growing Yourself Enables You to Grow Others

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