Calling and Purpose

Yes, today is Tuesday. And, yes, we are releasing this podcast episode a day early. So, please rest assured that Tuesday did not somehow pass you by without your knowledge, and that you are, indeed, NOT going crazy! We wanted to release this episode early because we just couldn’t wait another 24 hours to share the news…

We’re excited to announce that, this year, you can attend Live2Lead virtually! If you haven’t heard, Live2Lead is our live annual leadership conference, and once again we have quite the lineup of speakers. So, in this episode, Mark Cole and John Maxwell have a timeless conversation about what it means to have a calling and purpose, and they share all the details you need to buy your tickets to Live2Lead 2020!

Our BONUS resource for this episode is the Calling and Purpose Worksheet, 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 to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. I am excited. It is not only September the 1st, I am sitting right here at the table, John, with you, John C. Maxwell. Good to have you at the table today.

John Maxwell:   Your friend.

Mark Cole:        Hey.

John Maxwell:   And all of our podcasts friends.

Mark Cole:        All of our podcast friends. Gang, it's not only special because John and I, whether we're sitting down doing a candid conversation or whether John's bringing you something burning on his heart, it's always special, John, to be in studio with you, to be connected with you. But today is really special because this day, September the 1st, we are launching, for the first time ever, a virtual Live2Lead simulcast event. Now, you say, "What is that? I'm not familiar with it." John, it's an event you've been doing for six years.

John Maxwell:   Absolutely.

Mark Cole:        It's an event that we partner with our John Maxwell Team coaches, and we host it in their communities. But this year, because of COVID-19, you have challenged us at every interval, "Team, pivot and do something unique." And today, you on podcast, you're hearing it first because you're in this community with John. We have pivoted, and we're making this event available, John, virtual for the first time ever.

John Maxwell:   First time ever, and you're hearing it for the first time ever too. So, we're very excited about today, because we're going to share with you information. We're not only going to have a great discussion on purpose and calling, but we're going to share with you information that you can take advantage of today, correct?

Mark Cole:        That's correct.

John Maxwell:   To become part of the L2L conference.

Mark Cole:        Yeah. And so, let me tell you what today really means for all of you on podcasts, for those of you that listen to other things of John, Leadership When It Matters Most on Mondays, we're starting an entire month of adding value to you, so that you can hear what you can expect on October the 9th at our virtual Live2Lead event. So, tune in. I mean, if you have been tuning in, great job. If you have, if you know people that have not, get them to tune in, because over the next four to five weeks, John, you're going to be bringing some special content. Some of your friends that are going to be speaking at our October the 9th event is going to be bringing some special content.

John Maxwell:   Oh, yes.

Mark Cole:        And you want to be a part. But if you want to just jumpstart to the end, let me go ahead and tell you. If you want to be a part of the virtual event that John's going to do, go to That event is going to be on October the 9th. Now, let me tell you who's going to be at this event this year, John, with you. You already know this because you invited them.

John Maxwell:   We loaded up the lineup, friend.

Mark Cole:        We did. Kat Cole, COO and president of Focus Brands.

John Maxwell:   Yeah, she could be the COO of the world. First time I ever heard her teach, I said, "This girl understands leadership big time." In fact, I remember, I looked at you and I said, "We got to book her as soon as we can for an L2L conference." You're going to love her.

Mark Cole:        Yeah. And then Alan Mulally.

John Maxwell:   Longtime friend, probably in the last 30 years, the best CEO in America. He turned Ford Motor Company down, when they were literally going to bankruptcy. Terrific leader, great communicator.

Mark Cole:        Also, CEO of Boeing before that. But then also, we're going to have Steve Harvey, entrepreneur, entertainer extraordinaire.

John Maxwell:   My friend, and there's no one that makes me laugh more than Steve. And when he's unplugged... We're going to unplug him in L2L. We're just going to say, "Steve, there's a subject you may want to follow, but would you just kind of have a good time with the people?" I will promise you, he'll unplug you before L2L's over.

Mark Cole:        He will. And then finally, your friend, a guy that you have mentored, Craig Groeschel, founder of Life.Church.

John Maxwell:   Terrific leader. Terrific leader. In fact, I listen to his podcast continually because I'm always learning. He's always helping me and developing me as a leader.

Mark Cole:        So, these global leaders, again, to be clear, these global leaders will be joining John at a virtual event that you are invited to on October the 9th. You can go to You can get more information. You can purchase your ticket. Don't delay, get in, and get a part of this. Again, for the next few weeks on this podcast, Live2Lead and other Leadership When It Matters The Most, you're going to get an opportunity to hear from some of these leaders.

Now, as usual, we have a worksheet for you to download, so you can capture notes from today's program. Make sure you visit Today, John, here's what I would love to do. I'd love to spend a little bit of time on talking to you about calling, about purpose. And I want, in this podcast... I know we're going to talk about it at Live2Lead. I know Live2Lead is a step to that, but I'd really like to spend a little bit of time with you talking about calling and purpose. Do you have any kind of foundational thoughts on that?

John Maxwell:   I sure do. Yeah, I'm really glad to do this. First of all, when you think of calling, I think that can be a very mystical word, Mark. I think sometimes, people look at calling, and they just got it backwards. "Oops, I don't think I'm that important. I don't think what I'm doing is that important." So, for just giving us kind of context today, listen, we're going to probably talk about purpose, because I believe every person is created with a purpose in their life, that we are here, not by accident. We are here to make a difference in the lives of people, and through our giftedness and through our opportunities and through our natural talents, we're to find and fulfill that purpose. I think that calling is purpose on steroids, if I could say that. It's purpose that has more of a bigger picture and perhaps a little bit more of an eternal thought to it.

And what I think is this. I think every one of you listening are created with a purpose. And we're going to talk about that. I think many of you that are listening, if you really work your purpose well, it begins to be a calling. Because what happens is, purpose is very expansive. What I mean by that, Mark, is once I get into my sweet spot and I begin to fulfill my purpose, opportunities begin to come my way that begin to open up new avenues for me to develop and grow and help people that I would never have imagined. And I think sometimes, purpose stewarded well begins to be a calling in a person's life, because they begin to understand that they truly are making a bigger difference than they ever could have possibly made. So, we're going to kind of use those two words interchangeably, and hopefully, we can certainly help you that are with us today on the podcast.

Mark Cole:        So, let's talk about when you first felt that purpose to leadership. You were a young man. I've heard this story. When you knew you wanted to do something with leadership, you were a pastor and you felt this purpose, this call to leadership. Tell us a little bit about that. What was that like?

John Maxwell:   Well, I think that all purposes, or callings, begin with something very simple, very tangible, and something that's doable. And mine began by just saying, "I would like to add value to people. I would like to make a difference in their lives, and I would like to add value to people." Didn't know how I was going to do it. Didn't know where I was going to do it. Didn't know when I was going to do it. But I just wanted to add value to people. And I think that in purpose, in calling, what we need to understand is, we don't wait for the big moment. We wait for the first moment. And the first moment that I have to begin to express my calling or my purpose in people's lives is where I begin to practice my way to a successful purpose in life.

So, you can't steer a parked car. You have to start moving. And I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to add value to people. I felt that that's what I was called to do. But it only expands as we move. And I think the miss that we have so many times is, we're waiting for the perfect time, the perfect opportunity. We're waiting to understand everything. Right? We're waiting to figure it out. If you wait to figure life out before you do life, you're just going to wait. Because life doesn't show you your whole movie screen all at once. It just shows you a snapshot of where you are and basically ask you to start moving there. And then, the movie begins.

Mark Cole:        Yeah. So, go back to that. Who was one of the first people, or some of the first group of people that confirmed that purpose in your life?

John Maxwell:   Well, my father was the first one and he just passed away this July 4th, so. And I shared with him, revealed that to him when I was 17. I mean, that goes back quite a few years. That goes back 54 years of my life. So, he was the first one to encourage me, although he was the one I didn't really want to tell because I knew that if I told him, I'd be accountable.

Mark Cole:        Yeah.

John Maxwell:   And I just kind of, really, for two or three years, kind of liked a life that was not accountable, that I could kind of not have to maybe fulfill somebody else's belief in me, so. But I told him, and I'll never forget. He held me and he wept. And he said, "I've always known that God would call you." It was so encouraging to me.

And then I went to college and I had Mr. Brown, I had Paul Dorsey. I had professors who just grabbed hold of me. And I remember, I spoke in chapel one day, and after that was over, so many of my profs came to me and said, "It's obvious to us that God has his hand on you." Of course, I'm a person of faith. Don't let that scare you. He has his hand on you too, even if you're not a purpose of faith. He still believes in you and has great plans for you. So, I just had people along the way. And I think also, I think another thing that confirms our calling is results.

Mark Cole:        Yeah.

John Maxwell:   In other words, I suppose if I was called to be a lifeguard, but I never saved anybody out of drowning, after a while, I kind of begin wondering if I was fulfilling my purpose and calling. So, I think there... I think it's good to have words of affirmation. I think it's also good to have works of confirmation.

Mark Cole:        Yeah. It goes into the next question I wanted to ask you, and you really just touched on this, but what are some other confirmations of your calling, of your purpose?

John Maxwell:   I think a fruitfulness.

Mark Cole:        Yeah.

John Maxwell:   The fact that you're good. Remember this, God created you with your purpose, and with that purpose, he gave you strengths and gifts to fulfill it. So, if you're in your strengths on your purpose or in your calling zone, you're in your gift zone. And if you're in your gift zone, you certainly ought to be having some fruitfulness.

I think another one is fulfillment. I often, I would not say every day, but I would say for sure every couple of days, I do something of which I... As I'm doing it. Maybe it's writing, maybe it's doing a podcast, like we're doing right now, where I just say to myself, "I was born for this." I just have this great fulfillment. Like, "This is what I was born do. I'm right now in the center of my sweet spot." So, I think fulfillment is another tremendous confirmation that you're right where you need to be.

Mark Cole:        I think back, John, to your story that you've shared even on this podcast. But when you left your denomination, as hard as that was on those very close to you, when you left your church and went to the business world, when you left training leaders to transformation leaders, and you step into another dimension of your purpose or your calling, and a lot of times, it's the... You're riding back on the plane going, "Man, I want to get back out here next week after I talk on Sunday at my church. I can't wait to get out next week." Sometimes, there's this prompting that we get to propel us toward our calling.

John Maxwell:   Hey, now, I love that, what you just said here, because that's very insightful, Mark. I want to tee off on it for a moment.

If you are a person of purpose, you never leave something. You go to something. If you don't have purpose, you leave something. And there's a lot of difference. If I felt like I left something and I'm not sure what I'm going to do and I start floundering, I'm going to keep turning back. I'm going to keep wanting to go back to what I knew and what I did, and quote the good old days. But the moment that your life has purpose and calling to it, it is progressive and it's expansive. It gets bigger and it goes longer.

And so, what I've discovered is that if you are living in your sweet spot of purpose and calling, you never leave anything. You just go to something that is better and more, and a step higher. And it's you... Your whole life is built on a foundation of, and building blocks of where you are today. And it's kind of, I call it layered learning. I call it layered living. And when you are a purposeful person though, you're going to something. You're not leaving something.

Mark Cole:        You said it's bigger and it's longer. And I love that. The other thing that it is for you, to me, is it's contagious. When you know your calling... John, I think back, for me, 2003. I put down on a life plan, a bucket list, I wanted to be available and approximate to you. I wanted to catch the mantle of your leadership.

John Maxwell:   That's your calling.

Mark Cole:        I wanted to take your calling further than beyond you. And being in this environment, I didn't know how to do all that. But being in an environment with someone that knows their purpose, there's also a contagious-ness to that calling, that kind of spills on to others.

John Maxwell:   I love it. It's the difference between "I got it" and "I caught it."

Mark Cole:        Yeah.

John Maxwell:   "I caught it" is contagious. "I got it" is not contagious.

Mark Cole:        Yeah.

John Maxwell:   Yeah, been there, done that. "I caught it" is like, "Oh, my goodness." I sometimes wonder, did I catch the purpose or did the purpose catch me? Did I catch the dream or did the dream catch me? Did I make the dream or did the dream make me? And I can't take them... I can't pull them apart. Because once you're caught in your dream and your purpose and your calling, no one has to motivate you. Nobody has to kind of pick you up every day and get you back on track. It's, you're self-propelled. You're self-initiative. Because it's who you are. It's not something you're striving to do. It's not someone you're striving to be. It's what you do and who you are. And that makes a big difference.

Mark Cole:        Something happened in 1976 that took your understanding of your calling to the next level. Tell us about that moment on July 4th.

John Maxwell:   Well, I was pastoring and, my goodness, you just have to imagine, if you go back to 1976. We had 5,000 people in church that Sunday. Now, there wouldn't have been five churches in America that had 5,000 people. And it was an outdoor rally. We couldn't put everybody in. We were celebrating the 200th anniversary of America. I was talking about our country. It was a patriotic teaching. And then halfway through it, I just felt God talked to me clearly and say, "The rest of your life, you're going to train leaders." It wasn't even a leadership setting, nor was it a leadership message. And I walked off that stage that day completely convinced that I had heard from God. Now, this gets a little mystical for some of you. And so, don't worry about that. Don't wait for something like that to be that dramatic in your life.

But I do know for me, that changed everything. From that moment on, doors began to open up for me to learn leadership and train leaders. And I've never looked back. Let me just say this too, Mark. Once you really have figured out what you're here for, once you've discovered your purpose and your calling, you just aren't going to be talked out of it. It takes the wishy-washiness out of a person, that "Well, maybe I could, maybe I couldn't. Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn't." There's none of that anymore. You just know who you are, you know what you're trying to accomplish, and you're very settled. And you don't mind everybody else talking to you, even maybe trying to... They may be trying to talk me out of it, but doesn't matter. I know who I am and I know what I'm supposed to be doing, and I'm not looking around for somebody else to give me the safe signal or "you're in" signal, or "we agree with you" signal.

That goes a long way to becoming a great leader, because courage is having confidence to do what you know is right, whether other people agree with it or not. And that's a big difference. I think that's birthed out of purpose and calling.

Mark Cole:        It's interesting, July 4th. And then July 4th this year, you got to see your dad pass over. He was a huge part of that. We just have experienced in the podcast the lessons you shared with us, that you learned from Melvin, that made that calling and that purpose stick. So, July 4th is a big day, a big moment.

John Maxwell:   Oh, it's a big moment.

Mark Cole:        Hey, for those of you listening to the podcast, October the 9th can be your big moment.

John Maxwell:   That's right.

Mark Cole:        I believe in these big moments, John and I, and I believe what you're doing by bringing your friends together for this event on October the 9th, called Live2Lead, and it's going to be a virtual event. Everybody on this podcast can be a part of it. This can be your moment that solidifies your leadership. That's the reason we've designed this thing.

John Maxwell:   Well, I can tell you, we have phenomenal speakers. So that, in itself, makes me say to all of you, become a part of this L2L conference. But at that day, as you know, I'm going to also talk about the book I wrote, Change Your World. And I'm going to give, I want to share with the people. They're going to be the first to hear my belief of values in small groups, and how that it can make an entire difference in your life and the life of your family and your community. And I think it's going to be a catalytic day for many of you. I think it's going to be a day for many of you that you're going to say, "I've always wanted to make a difference, but today, I discovered how."

Mark Cole:        Yeah.

John Maxwell:   I think there are a lot more people who want to make a difference than the amount of people who know how to make a difference. And Change Your World is all about, we're going to help you find that how to make a difference.

Mark Cole:        Let me just, I just want to close with two questions. The first one, as you look at the world today, where do you see the need for leadership?

John Maxwell:   Everywhere. My gosh, we have never been so desperate for leadership, but let me just say this. I didn't say we need more people that have leadership positions. We've got enough people in leadership positions already. What we need is some leaders that have some convictions and some courage and some kindness to them, and civility to them, to really help people, and not lead based on what they need or want or their agenda, but lead on what the people need and want. I think the big thing that's missing today in leaders is, they're too self-serving. And they're constantly saying, "What's my edge here that'll allow me to get what I want?" Instead of looking at the people and saying, "You deserve the best I have, and I'm going to give you my best."

Mark Cole:        John, we've got a lot of listeners that are either just starting out with leadership. They feel compelled to do something. We've got other leaders that are established leaders, but in these times, in coronavirus, they're not sure how to lead. Where do we start in trying to make a difference through leadership now?

John Maxwell:   Well, every day I take walks and every day, I'm listening to podcasts. Every day, I'm listening to other leaders talk and speak. And if somebody said, "John, okay, what is the best thing that you have to offer people right now, to help them understand and cope, and more than just hang on, but to do well, and even maybe prosper in a difficult time like this," I would say to every one of you, you need to listen to other leaders that are successful and have gone through what you're going through right now.

John Maxwell:   And the L2L conference, with the lineup that we have, is in itself very exciting, and you just don't want to miss it. I will promise you, you'll get leadership principles that will help you tremendously. But then, we've never, in an L2L conference until this one, and it happens to be the first virtual. Also, we have never had a session where I have spoken, where I also looked at people and said, "You can be the answer to the problem we have today." And it's one thing to give people hope through a speech. It's another thing to give people hope through a process and through a tool. So, this one is going to be more than, you learn something at L2L. We gave you something that you could do immediately to help become a positive difference maker in your community.

Mark Cole:        And of course, if you want to get a ticket today for this October the 9th, 2020 virtual Live2Lead event, you can go to John, thank you again for being a part. We love having you in this format. Thanks to all of you for listening today. We enjoyed having you. We hope we added value to you. Thanks for joining us on the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast.

5 thoughts on “Calling and Purpose”

  1. This was very good! My purpose throughout has been to serve people. I do it through my local Kiwanis group and when I worked in retail. I am currently on a journey of taking some risks which have included creating my own business, having a website created, learning about blogging & doing it etc. Still learning, still growing! The last 9 months have been busy and fun!

  2. Hi Guys

    You guys are so inspiring , I’ve been walking around in a dessert for so long and John / Mark your podcasts have inspired me to make a difference to this world .Still early days on the journey but I’m onboard .Thank you to The Holy Spirit who uses both of you to be great vessels. Sorry Awesome vessels . May God continue to grant you Grace and I pray for more Wisdom. I’ve just joined the programme so watch out world here i come with purpose and Calling. Gods Calling

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