Focus on the Future

Happy Thanksgiving, Podcast Family! As many of you know, here in the U.S., we take this week of Thanksgiving to spend time with loved ones and reflect on the things that we are grateful for. Gratitude is truly a trait of great leaders. But, as we take time to look back on the past, let’s also not lose sight of our brilliant futures. Today on the podcast, John Maxwell shares some thoughts on how we, as leaders, can stay focused on the future. 

For the application portion of this episode, Mark Cole and Chris Goede share how they use these principles to focus on the future in their own leadership, and they offer some application to help us practice this in our leadership and relationships.  

In addition to our Bonus Resource this week, we are offering a free PDF of John Maxwell’s Holiday Conversation Starters, which will help you create meaningful conversations and lasting memories around the table with your loved ones this holiday season. Click here to download the free PDF. 

Our BONUS resource for this episode is the Focus on the Future Worksheet, which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below. 


Mark Cole:       Hey, welcome back to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Mark Cole here, and for all of our US listeners, well really for everybody around the world, I am excited today to say to you Happy Thanksgiving. Tomorrow here in the United States we have a holiday set aside for gratitude, for thankfulness. And today I get to share with you Chris Goede, myself, and the opportunity that I have, that I'm grateful for every day, to carry the legacy, the banner, the baton of John Maxwell's influence. And I get to do that with you, our podcast family.

So Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you are going to have a great day. I hope that you express gratitude because I believe gratitude really is a great trait for incredible leaders. So in this episode, we're going to challenge you to take your gratitude to the next level. In fact, we're going to talk today about focusing on the future.

And as usual, we'll hear from John Maxwell for a few minutes, and then Chris Goede and I will join together. And we will share with you about focusing on the future, how we're doing that personally, how we're that in our company. And in the process, we desire to inspire you to focus on your future. So be ready, grab a pen, grab a paper. John Maxwell is coming.

But first I want to challenge you to download the Bonus Resource for this episode. It's a fill-in-the-blank sheet that will allow you to take notes as John teaches. If you'll head over to you'll click on the Bonus Resource button, and then you will have your fill-in-the-blank notes. Thank you for being a part of the podcast today. Thanks for being a part of the family. Now, here it is John Maxwell.

John Maxwell:  Momentum is developed by pointing to a better day ahead. Picture and momentum is drained by looking back to what might have been. Jack Hayford in his book Taking Hold of Tomorrow, the quote in your notes, said "The past is a dead issue and we can't gain any momentum moving toward tomorrow if we're dragging the past behind us."

Now, I wrote down some of my very favorite thoughts to help you focus on the future, which is a momentum maker time. Number one, you reveal your potential by where you focus. If you're focusing on yesterday, can I tell you something? That was your best day. I never knew a person that focused on yesterday that had a better day tomorrow. So wherever you are now focused, that is exactly where your potential is.

Number two, the second thought I want to give you about the future, is that the future comes fast. And that's so scary to me. Somebody said the trouble with the future is that it keeps getting closer and closer. Thought number three on the future: a double-minded focus depletes energy. If you want to get tired real quick, get double-focused. Someone once said the most tiring exercise in the world is carrying yesterday on your back. Wow.

Number four: Until you believe in yourself, you won't believe in your future. I have never seen or met a person who lacked self confidence in themselves that had great confidence in their future. There's a reflection about how I feel about myself compared to how I feel about tomorrow. Number five. Oh, I love this one. Losers yearn for the past and get stuck in it. Winners learn from the past and let go of it.

Alvin Dark. Remember him? Used to manage for the Kansas City Athletics a long time ago. Alvin Dark's way before your time, most of you. He's 20 years ago, 25 years ago. When I was in high school, college, Alvin Dark was manager, He made a great statement one time. He said when he went out to take a pitcher out of the game, because later innings. He said, "I never take a pitcher out. I'm always bringing a pitcher in."

Now, there is tremendous philosophy in that statement. What he was basically saying is, and it's a great life management principle. And that is, you're not mad at the guy that you're taking out. You just have to deal with the next pitch. And so therefore, as a leader, you always have to be focused on what's going to happen, not what has happened. So when you remove somebody, you're not taking them out because they were so bad, as much as you're putting somebody in to get the next batter out. It's a different philosophy that really helps us understand life itself.

Okay? Number six: It's better to construct the future than to varnish the past. Oh in fact this was so good, I don't want you to miss this. A lot of people spend all their time varnishing the past, picking up old experiences, old relationships, old successes, and old failures and shining them over and over again. This is why Paul said one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind I press on to the mark.

Now watch this. The past, however delightful or disastrous is behind us. Varnish it all you can, you still cannot bring it back. All we have is the future, the limitless opportunities before us out of which we can construct new experiences, and new relationships, and new successes. But isn't that a great statement? It's better to construct the future than to the varnish the past. Don't you know all kind of people, their whole life is sustaining the past? Got some more varnish? Going to make a little more gloss on yesterday.

Number seven: The future is that time when you'll wish you had done what you aren't doing now. Oh my goodness. Let me explain that. Let me illustrate that for a moment. Here's what I'm saying. I know a lot of people who have wishes for tomorrow, dreams for tomorrow. What they don't understand is the viability and the assurance that they're going to arrive at that dream destination they have is not based on tomorrow. It's based on right now. In other words, the decisions you and I make today, determine what we're going to be tomorrow. And so therefore, one of the reasons that I ensure my future, if you can ensure a future. And I say that in a very humble way, because you can't ensure your future. What is life? I mean, before the day's over my life may be gone.

But if God is good to me, and he gives me life, the best way I ensure my future is by doing the right thing today. So when somebody says, "You know, I'm going to be this tomorrow. Boy, I'm going to arrive to that position." I look at him and say, "I don't want to talk about that. Can I talk to you about now? What are you doing today that ensures you of arriving position tomorrow?" You see that's the difference between a real dream and wishful thinking. If you aren't doing today something that'll ensure your future tomorrow, you're not dreaming. You're wishful thinking. It's pie in the sky. It'll never happen to you.

So understand the discipline that it takes in a dream. The discipline of a dream is very simple. Do today what you want to be tomorrow. And if you do it well enough, tomorrow you'll arrive.

Mark Cole:       Hey, welcome back. It is good. By the way, it's good to be talking with you, but it's good to see you. Many of you that are listeners, you've been listening for perhaps years, two or three years. You're a podcast junkie. You're a regular. We are today, even though we're not in studio, Chris, because of the old famous word we've been talking about a long time, COVID. We are today for the first time producing a video of podcast. And again, it's Chris and I in two different locations for today. But head over to YouTube, and you'll be able to see Chris and I interact visually as well as to be able to hear the podcast. And by the way, Jake, speaking of gratitude, thank you for making this possible. I know the YouTube version of our podcast family is going to be thanking you along the way.

Chris, I thought about, as we heard John talk today and give us thoughts on focusing on the future. I again thought about this idea of gratitude. I believe gratitude is a muscle. I believe you have to exercise it. I believe you have to practice it. There's some days that it's kind of like going to the gym. You don't want to go. You don't want to be grateful, but you know, you'd better. And Jake made a great point as we were prepping for the podcast today, that if we can practice gratitude you today for what we have and what we've been given, in our bright, brilliant future, we will have exercised the muscle of gratitude and be more grateful in the future.

So I love the parallel here because we are talking about the future and gratitude oftentimes is for what the past or past relationships have given us today. But yet we're exercising a gratitude muscle because of the opportunities, and the potential, and the excitement around 2022 and beyond. We will be grateful for that as well. So, Chris, I'm excited to dig into the lesson today with you and excited to see you. I see you a lot, but I'm glad the team can see you, Chris. You and I, well, you have a voice for radio. I don't.

Chris Goede:     That's right.

Mark Cole:       Me and you both have a face for radio.

Chris Goede:     That's right? Yeah. Clarify that.

Mark Cole:       But it's good to see you today.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Thanks. Excited to be here. And to your opening, Jake did a ton of work. We're going on YouTube and here we are virtual and they can't see the studio that Jake's created for us. But in the future, you'll be able to see that. But I'm excited to be here.

Hey, here's what I was thinking about. As you were just talking, I was thinking about this lesson that John gave us, and then the conversation we had with Jake about gratitude and the anticipation. And here's what I was thinking of. I was thinking about the weight that you carry right now of where we're going in the future of our enterprise. And I was thinking of the gratitude that all of us have for John, and the point that we've gotten to today because we stand on his shoulders. But yet we have this anticipation of what is to come in the future.

And I was thinking about, John talks about in his first point here. He says, "Hey, you reveal your potential by where you focus." And a lot of times I, running our corporate division, will talk to our team members. I'll talk to our customers to try to figure out what are their future needs. You are sitting in a seat right now where you're talking to John every day about what is it that is in the future. What do you desire? What's inside your heart for that? What do you want your legacy to be?

And so I just want to open up right here. And I wanted to say, man, you are having the opportunity to ride shotgun with a guy that's in essence explaining to you on a daily basis, you're seeing him live it out, what the future is for our enterprise. Talk a little bit about that. Talk a little bit about the weight of focusing on the future and everything that you're learning from John as you're going through and leading our enterprise in this experience.

Mark Cole:       Well, thank you, Chris. And let me be relatable, I think, to most every one of our podcast listeners. Have you ever stepped into the shoes of a previous leader? Set out to define the future, and you spent more time focusing on what they did right, or what they did wrong? And all of us leaders do that. We're tempted. We want to come in and we want to make a splash. But yet if the leader that we superseding or succeeding, if they're a great leader, we have a temptation to be just like that leader. "Oh, they did this. So I better do this because I don't want to mess up the mojo, the good formula of success."

Or some of us have probably had the assignment of following a poor leader. And we wanted to come out with a bang and show what they did wrong and that we are different. I believe both perspectives are incorrect. Focusing on the future is you leader, me leader. Focusing on our best self. It's like putting on the armor of somebody else. King David, the old king of Israel that followed Saul, and Saul wanted him to put on his armor to go fight the giant in the famous story. And David was like, "I can't do this. I just got to go out with my sling and my stone. And I've got to do something."

Well in following John, the days that are not so good are the days I realize how incredible he is, how I will never be as good as John, and how I don't know if I can envision a few brighter than John. All that's comparative.

Chris Goede:     Yes.

Mark Cole:       The days that I was struggling when I did follow more difficult leaders was the day when I went, "Oh, they did it like this, but I want to do it like this. They did this, but that didn't work for them. I want to do this." Neither one brings out the best of me. Where I get. And you get, podcast listeners, where we get the greatest traction is when we go, "This is what we've been given. This is what we're grateful for. We're thankful for it. These are the shoulders, the broad shoulders, that I stand on. But this is the potential of where me and my team can go."

And as you focus on the future, one of the greatest things that I can give you, don't do it with comparative analysis. This is what was so good about the previous leader. This is what was so bad about the previous leader. This is how I'm going to be different. Focus on the opportunity and the anticipation of you becoming the best version of you.

And as a company leader, the day that I... John says about writing books, Chris, you've heard him say this. People ask him all the time, "John Maxwell, what's your favorite book out of 86?" And he says, "The one I'm writing now," which is so funny and people kind of laugh. "Of course, of course. Yeah. John, of course." But no, it's really true. And John carries on and makes that point much more poignant. He says, "The day I'm not more most excited about what I'm doing right now is the day I should have hung up the hat and stopped."

Now to me and you, Chris, the day that we believe yesterday was better than what we can make and anticipate for tomorrow is the day we need to stop leading the organization.

Chris Goede:     That's so good.

Mark Cole:       Listen to me, leaders. I want to bang on my home office desk right now. Stop glorifying the good old days and start anticipating the exceptional days ahead. That's the best way to embrace the future.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, John actually, in point number three, exactly what you just said, right? He says a double-minded focus depletes the energy. And listen, what you're saying to us is honor. Honor our traditions. Honor the purpose of our organization. Honor the culture. And if you do that right, that'll help you power and create a new future.

But don't stay there. Right? Leaders are change agents. We talk about that a lot. And as you begin to think about that, leaders, I think what Mark's challenging us to do is we have got to be a change agent. We've heard John say it all the time, right, that the future comes fast. And I think you're feeling that as a leader. I think we feel that. And as leaders we need to be looking out and focusing on the future. I think his statement is that that leaders should see more, and before others. See further. All those things that we need to be focusing on, I think you just explained to us, is so so important.

Mark Cole:       Yeah. And let me say one more thing. I want to highlight that, pull out something that John said. But it just really underscores and kind of synthesizes what you and I have been talking about right here. John said you can't have it better tomorrow by focusing on yesterday. It's impossible. You can appreciate yesterday, and have a better tomorrow. You can be grateful, back to the week of Thanksgiving. You can be grateful, but if you are focusing on yesterday, you cannot be certain of a better tomorrow because you're looking back. You're focusing on the past and the past should be stood on, not visualized.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Yeah. Now, as you mentioned, it's Thanksgiving time and for us here in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, but we don't want to let this go. We'll probably talk about it for a long time. Our Atlanta Braves just became World Series champions. And I love this analogy. You and I both love sports. And John talks about the quote from the Kansas City Royals representative, where he says, "You never take a pitcher out." And I love this because we're tying it to what you just talked about in the past and where we're going in the future. He says, "You're always bringing a pitcher in."

And I've seen you live this out for years in regards to team members, and what that does for culture, what that does for morale, what that does for where we're going in the future. And I've also heard John talk a lot about just being transparent, that oftentimes that inner circle, the people that got you there may not be the ones that get you there in essence.

And so talk a little bit about the philosophy of that and the lessons you've learned, and how you apply that. Because I love that illustration from me being a sports guy, the pitcher, I never thought about it like that, but I will from now on. Talk about that from your perspective.

Mark Cole:       Yeah. Go Braves by the way.

Chris Goede:     That's right.

Mark Cole:       [crosstalk 00:19:04], and forgive Chris and I for probably being overbearing to some Los Angeles Dodgers fans and some Houston Astro fans. We're sorry, but hey, it has been a long time coming-

Chris Goede:     Long time.

Mark Cole:       ... for Atlanta. And that is in any sport. We're just thankful. But I too love this analogy, Chris, because as the senior leader in our organization, and I've been here for now 12 years. But as the senior leader, there are times when a transition is imminent. It's impossible to deviate or detour from. There's got to be a staffing transition. Chris, just like you, just like many, if not all of our podcast listeners, as a participant, as a follower, and now for 11, 12 years as a leader, I've had to orchestrate and tolerate and live through staff transition.

So going back to this, I never want a staff transition to be punitive. I've had to let some people go because of certain things that just could not be tolerated. I would much rather put a pitcher in than take a picture out. I keep saying picture. Take a pitcher out. And the reason for that is because I always want to be going to something. It's going back to the topic of the podcast this week. I always want to be going to something, not fixing something. I want to be proactive, not reactive. I want to be forward thinking, not rear thinking.

And staffing changes has got to be that too. I've made a lot. Chris, we've talked a little bit about that. Number one, I don't make staff transitions for the good of the company, except in rare cases when, again, there's been some things that just are not matching the values or the expectations of staff members. I always want to make a transition for the best of the person.

Now listen to me, leaders. We're coming to the end of the year. We've got to start 2022 with a bang. Some of you have been tolerating teammates. You're the leader. You're tolerating teammates that are in neutral, and in some cases are in reverse. They're not getting better. Trust me on this. As hard as the transition will be for you, for them, and for the organization, you are not leading if you're allowing somebody to stay in neutral or in decline.

Chris Goede:     That's good.

Mark Cole:       Because we, especially at the John Maxwell company, we are about people development, not people backing up. We're about progress, not about a retreat. And so if that's true, then if you have a teammate that is just surviving, that is just kind of neutral, that is kind of pulling back. You need to transition them for their sake, because every individual needs to be in an opportunity that is inspiring them to become a better version of themself, to be a better leader. So always make transitions about the person. "Your time of growing contribution in this role, in this organization is over. So I'm going to set you free so you can go pursue something that brings out the best." That's as an individual, I want that.

As an organization, I never want our team to feel like that we're transitioning somebody from a punitive standpoint, but we're transitioning so that we can up level the opportunity of our bigger, better, more brilliant future. And that mindset even on staffing transitions is really important in focusing on the future. It's imperative that we do that in every single decision we as leaders have to make.

Chris Goede:     Hey Mark, I want to challenge our listeners. This is something that's inevitable as leaders. This is something that happens every single day, that we literally, I love your statement, right? We're not running from. We're running to. And in order to do that, we're going to have to make some changes. I want to encourage you to go back and re-listen to that, because that is so important when it comes to staffing and where we're at as an organization.

Now, as we work towards wrapping up, I'm going to put you on the spot. I'm going to throw a question to you that I want you to think about. I'm going to make a comment and then I'm going to let you answer, and wrap our session up today. My question for you is this, as you carry the weight of this enterprise, and as a leader in John's legacy, what is the number one challenge that you deal with internally, that you're facing when it comes to focusing in the future?

I was sitting there listening to you and I was like, man, all of this is yes, yes, yes. But I know the weight that you carry. I know the leaders that are listening right now carry a weight, maybe bigger than the one that we do. Maybe it's not. But it's not all rose-colored glasses. Right? And so I want you to think about that, and I want you just to talk to our listeners about what is the number one challenge that you face, that you deal with on a daily basis as a leader? And then how you're working through that?

Before you give us that answer and wrap up. Here's what I was thinking about from an organization standpoint. Leaders, as you focus on the future, it doesn't happen by accident. We talked a lot about you've got to honor the purpose and the culture, but change has to happen. It's moving at a fast pace. We're change agents. My encouragement to you is make sure you know what I call the organizational change capacity.

We call it your change power. You've got to be able to make changes for the future as you focus on it at the pace which your team and organization can handle. Because if you don't, it may all implode on you, and there may be no future. And so I just want to encourage you to think about that. It's a complex discussion today around this future. So Mark, take it away. Wrap up, and talk a little bit about what your number one challenge is when you face this focusing on the future for us as an enterprise.

Mark Cole:       Thank you for that question, Chris. I really want to process this in a way that it's helpful for our podcast listeners. John made a point and I do hope, podcast listeners, that you go to the Bonus Resource that we give you and download the notes and then share those with others. But in the notes, for those of you watching on YouTube, here they are right in front of me and Chris as we teach.

John's fourth point says, "Until you believe in yourself, you won't believe in your future." Now you got to understand. John Maxwell for years has said I'm the best second man he's ever had. And then it felt like he just put a piece of dynamite under my rear end and propelled me to first man, while he's still in the game with me.

Chris Goede:     Sitting on the front row.

Mark Cole:       Sitting on the front row. Sometimes sitting on the stage right beside me telling me. I had a comment the other day on social media. It was actually on John's social media calling me out for being arrogant, in assuming that I should be the one carrying John's baton and saying that how they were completely turned off, and of all the leadership decision they've ever seen John make, the decision to hand the baton to me was his worst ever. And that was a comment on social media. I got that and I went, "I kind of agree with the guy." How could John, who's the smartest leader in the world, pick me.

I've commented back to the person. In fact, I need to go on social media. He's probably commented back to me now. I commented back and I said, "I completely see your point." Because, Chris, going back to your question on my greatest challenge as a visionary, it's keeping the humility yet having the confidence that we can build a bigger, better, more brilliant future.

Now, in some ways that feels like one of the most asinine things I could say, one of the most arrogant things I can say. That John Maxwell, who has written 86 books, 34 million copies and counting sold, impacted millions of people with his nonprofit and for-profit efforts, could have some kid that talks as Southern as me come in and cast a vision of a bigger, better, more brilliant future. There are sometimes, Chris, that I say that, and I go, "Mark Cole, what are you saying? And what have you been drinking? And were you smoking something at the same time?"

Yet to really be believable, there has got to be a certainty in a leader that we can lead to bigger, better brighter things. And to do that when I've been the second man to one of the greatest leaders in the world will ever see, is one of the greatest challenges I have. Is that symbiotic relationship between humility of who am I and confidence that I'm supposed to be the man, the leader, to take us to the next level.

And that would be the greatest challenge. The days that I don't do well with that challenge is the days when I focus on the past accomplishments of John, and myself, and our team. And the days that I'm doing better about that are the days that I'm looking forward and saying, "We really can be better. We really can get there. This is believable. I can do it." And not to be too distracted with people that think that optimism of the future is nothing more than arrogance of someone really challenged, or someone really not capable or equipped to do what John Maxwell has asked me.

Hey, speaking of listeners, Chris, and comments on social media. We get great fuel by your comments, good or bad. I just mentioned one that wasn't really good. But we get great fuel. And I want to challenge you on two things today, as we wrap up. One, I want to talk about Tanya. Tanya's one of our podcast listeners, and she gave us a comment this past month. And she said, "Thank you always for providing such rich content. I'm an avid listener and reader of John Maxwell. I listen to the episodes two to three times, take notes." Tanya, you listen for the second and third time to see if Chris and I will get any better. But Tanya says, "I listen two to three times and take notes. Thank you for being so generous with this incredible powerful lessons that you provide."Tanya, you are why we do what we do. Now, we're so passionate about your feedback. We're so passionate about tangible life change... We call it transformation... that we've now set up a platform to where you can share a video of how you've been impacted by something John said, or something that myself and one of our co-hosts say. You can go to My impact story. Share a video. It just may be that, just like with Tanya, we may mention you live. We may start on our YouTube channel in the future showing your video of impact. But I want to challenge you. We want to capture the video of your transformation and we can do that

So what is the sticky idea of today's podcast? The future is up to you. It's up to you. There's the sticky idea. Are you focusing on that future? Are you reaching for the past? And the answer for the brightness, and the potential, and the possibility of your future rests in that perspective.

Thanks for listening today. Please pass this along. If you have not subscribed, go subscribe to the podcast today. We'll drop you an email reminder each week. We're doing this to add value to you so you will multiply value to others. Until next week, listen, learn. Let's lead.

3 thoughts on “Focus on the Future”

    1. Hi Michaela, you can download the Bonus Resource by clicking the Bonus Resource Button above and filling out the form. After this you will be directed to a page where you can download the worksheet. Please let us know if we can assist you with anything else.

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