John Maxwell: Get Started

UPDATED: May 11, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2011

Someone once asked me what the value was of being an initiator, a self-starter. I told him starting is the great separator. It separates the doers from the do-nots, the haves from the have-nots, the winners from the whiners.

Starting is absolutely essential for success. It’s not the last step, but the first step that is the most significant. If you want to win, you’ve got to start.

Before you look around and ask, “Where do I start?” you need to look inward and start with yourself first. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Everything we want to accomplish in life starts with you and me.

You see, leaders are either travel agents or tour guides. A travel agent sends people to places they themselves have never been. They give them a brochure and say, “Bon voyage.” Too few leaders are like tour guides, who take you to the places they have been and experienced. If you start by making the changes you need to make, you’ll lead from experience, and that will give you greater confidence and influence.

Some of the changes you need to make may include taking better care of yourself. It’s a matter of fact that if you are physically or emotionally depleted, you won’t have anything to give to others. What do the flight attendants tell you to do if the cabin loses pressure? Before assisting children or other passengers, take the oxygen mask and put it on yourself first. The lesson here is you cannot help others if you don’t help yourself first.

There is tremendous value in starting the changes early. In fact, the earlier you begin, the better it’s going to be. Several years ago I did a lesson called “I’m 40 and counting….” It laid out the 10 things you should know and do before you are 40. Regardless of your age, these are very simple and practical steps everyone should take. So… let’s get started.

Know yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you do well and what you don’t do well.

Settle your family life. Recognize what the issues are in your family and how to deal with them. Marriage is something that needs constant work and nurturing.

Determine your priorities. Know what’s important and what you want to give your time to. The following is a statement by Robert Bulwer-Lytton that I have carried in my briefcase for many years. It says:

The man who seeks one thing in life and but one may hope to achieve it before life is done; But he who seeks all things, wherever he goes only reaps from the hopes which around him he sows A harvest of barren regrets.

I hope you make a commitment to seek and spend time doing the things that give you the most joy.

Develop your life philosophy. What is your overall vision and attitude about your life? Know what you believe in, what you would die for and which things are optional.

Get physically fit. Early in life people give up their health to gain wealth. Later in life people give up their wealth to regain their health.

Learn your trade. I have discovered there are basically three steps in life: learn, earn and return. Through your life you will have many opportunities to learn and earn. But be sure to give back more than you receive.

Pay the price. There is no success without sacrifice. If we succeed without sacrifice, it is because someone who went before us paid the price. If you sacrifice and don’t see success, then someone who follows will reap success.

Develop solid relationships. Life’s greatest experiences involve people.

Prepare for the future. Next to my relationship with God and family, options are my most precious commodities. Live your life in such a way that you have options later in life.

Find purpose in your life. Success is knowing my purpose in life, growing to my maximum potential and sowing seeds that benefit others.

By starting early, not only do you increase your success, but you also have more options later in life. And for those of you reading this who are north of 40, don’t worry; just keep reading. It’s never too late to start making up for lost time.

Along the way, don’t expect to understand what it takes to get to the top; just take the next step. Too many people hesitate in the beginning because they cannot comprehend the entire journey. Understand the value of starting small. People ask me all the time how I write so many books. I tell them, for me, it’s one word a time. Here is a good formula to follow: Think big, start small.

Starting small encourages you to get started. When you accomplish a small step, you provide yourself encouragement that you can accomplish the next step. Small beginnings also allow you to prioritize and concentrate. Mother Teresa said it best, “If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed one.”

As you are starting with those first small steps, look toward the horizon. Abraham Lincoln said, “I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.” Lincoln understood that preparation was key to his success. He started with the end in view.

To start with the end in view, you need energy and direction. How do you do that? Let your passion pull you forward and let your planning give you direction.

So start now. Karen Lamb said, “A year from now you may wish you had started today.” And Lao-Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Why start now? Because today matters! We overexaggerate yesterday, we overestimate tomorrow and we underestimate today. We need to start today because we underestimate what can be done in one day. The great Ben Franklin illustrates this point beautifully: “One today is worth two tomorrows.”

It’s the job that never started that takes longest to finish. Simply put, you cannot win if you do not begin.

In closing, if you are someone who feels like you are too far down the road to change your life for the better, I have a wonderful quote by Carl Bard I’d like to share with you:

“Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.”