Today we begin a new series on The John Maxwell Leadership Podcast called “Making Today a Better Tomorrow.” But, this is not just about making today a better tomorrow; it’s about making this year a better next year. In this series, John teaches us that tomorrow can be brighter through the daily decisions we make and daily disciplines we practice.
In the application portion of this episode, Mark Cole and Jason Brooks dive into John’s lesson and discuss how to close the gap between your decisions and disciplines, and the importance of identifying and living out your values.
Our BONUS resource for this series is the Better Tomorrow 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. We are so glad you have joined us today. Today, I'm joined in studio with Jason Brooks and he and I are going to take John Maxwell's lesson today and apply it to you. Now, over the next two weeks, we're going to be sharing with you a lesson John did called Making Today a Better Tomorrow. Making Today a Better Tomorrow and today is part one. Now, I love it because this time of the year is the time of year to where we try to make this year a better next year. This is the time of year that many of us do year-end reviews. We kind of review this year in light of wanting to grow and build on next year's plan. And it's in that setting that I want to get your mind to not only think like John challenges us in this lesson to make today a better tomorrow, but let's take 2020 and let's make 2021 a better year.
In other words, let's not write off 2020 like I've heard so many people say. Let's actually make this year, the year of COVID, the year of shutdown, the year of polarization, let's make this year a better next year. If you haven't already, go to maxwellpodcast.com/bettertomorrow to download the bonus resource and to take notes with today's lesson. Now, we're going to do this in two parts, because I want to give you plenty of time to go and apply. So listen to John, come back and join Jason and I, as we illustrate and apply John's lesson today. Now here is John Maxwell.
John Maxwell: Basically, what I'm going to share with you in this lesson is what I do today has a direct relationship with what's going to happen to me tomorrow. And let me put it another way so we understand it. What I am today is a result of decisions I made yesterday. In other words, everything that I'm enjoying or realizing or suffering from today has something to do with decisions and disciplines that I put in order yesterday. So just like yesterday determined today, today determines tomorrow. So we're going to talk about it. The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. In other words, what you and I do daily is already determining our success. Here we are. Most people underestimate today and overestimate tomorrow. I see that happening all the time.
Most of us, we underestimate today and we overestimate tomorrow. In other words, we look at today and say, "Well, what are you doing today?" "Well, I'm just kind of hanging [inaudible 00:03:22]. I'm killing time." No, you're not killing time, you're killing opportunity. There's a lot of things you're killing. "Well, but you know what? Tomorrow, I'm going to turn this thing around, tomorrow, I'm going to get disciplined, tomorrow, I'm going to prioritize, and tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow." We overestimate tomorrow, we underestimate today. You see, what I'm doing today affects tomorrow. We overestimate what tomorrow is, we underestimate what today is. We overestimate what we're going to have, we underestimate what we do have.
My success agenda is determined by two things. The daily decisions that I make and secondly, the daily disciplines I practice. I have just given you the essence of success. Your daily decisions and your daily disciplines. If you today can make the right decisions and practice the right disciplines, success is going to be automatic, I guarantee you. Now let's look at the daily decisions I make quickly. You don't make decisions because they're easy and you don't make decisions because they're cheap. You don't make decisions because they're popular. You make decisions because they're right. That's only reason to make decisions, because they're right.
And my guideline for making right decisions are the following seven things. Number one, seek out wise counsel. I never trust myself to make right decisions without seeking wise counsel. People that have a pattern of making right decisions. Don't just seek out anybody, be wise in who you seek out. Seek out people who have made a habit of making good, solid wise decisions. Number two, look for patterns in the guidance that you are given. I have found that when I began to seek counsel from wise people, there's usually a set of patterns or principles that they give me follow that just seemed to be the same until I say, "Okay, there are three or four people have given me these patterns or these principles. I think I can buy into them."
Now, number three and four, again, I just want to say, this is my personal faith. So, whenever I do a lesson like this, I'm not trying to convert you but I have to be honest with you to who I am. So three and four go to my personal faith, okay? Number three is the Bible. For me, God's word gives me great direction. And number four is prayer. When I'm going to make right decisions, I'll seek wise counsel, I look for patterns in the guidance that I am given, I go to the Bible, I go to prayer. Number five, does this decision give me peace? Number six, what is the downside? I always ask the question, what's the downside? In other words, can I live with it? If this turns out wrong, can I live with it? If I'm in a business, I lose money, can I lose that much money? Look at the downside. Can I live with it? You got to always look at the downside.
And number seven, does this decision match my gifts and my abilities? And I have found those seven guidelines help me in making the right decisions, and the reason that's important is remember, my success is determined by the daily decisions I make and the daily disciplines I practice. Now, let me talk to you about the daily disciplines that I practice. Let me give you the common denominator of success. The common denominator of success is forming the habit of doing things that failures do not like to do. Boy, isn't that the truth? Just look what failures don't like to do and do it and it's almost a guarantee that you're going to be successful.
There are two types of pain in life. One is the pain of self-discipline. And everyone of us know what it's like to have to do something that we don't want to do but we know we should do it. That's the pain of self-discipline and it's eased by the reward of daily progress. When you're done at the end of the day, you said, "Man, I sure didn't like missing all that dessert, but man, this is good." If you don't practice the pain of discipline, you'll practice the second pain, the pain of regret. And regret increases with missed opportunities in age. One of the things I find is that, as people get older and miss opportunities, many times they have a lot more regret. "Boy, I wish I would have done this when I was that age. And I certainly wish I had made that decision back there."
Now, when I talk about daily decisions, I'm talking about goal-setting. Decisions I make, these are the things that I want to do today. When I talk about daily disciplines, I'm talking about goal-doing. One is setting the goal and the other is doing the goal. And again, I've already put it in your lesson, but I thought I should put it the second time because I want to really emphasize this. The secret of my success is determining in my daily agenda. And my daily agenda and my secret of success is composed of two things. I've already said it, but I'll say it again, the decisions I make and the disciplines I practice. What are the decisions I'm making today? What are the disciplines I'm practicing today?
So what I wanted to do is I wanted to give you in this lesson, decisions and disciplines that I make and practice daily. Now, this is from me, and I want to just say something before I give you this part of the lesson. This has been a process for me. Sometimes when I do a lesson, because I'm trying just to teach principles, I can sound better than I really am or I can look better than I really am. And I just want to tell you on the front end, I didn't just discover this at 18 and practice it every day. It's still a discovery for me. It's still a discipline for me.
There are days when I don't do as well in some of these areas as I should. So I just want to give you that setting before I start going through this, because what I'm going to give you is tremendous truth. What I'm going to give you is life-changing truth. But also I want you to understand, I'm still a work in process, but these are the daily disciplines and decisions that I try every day to make and follow through on.
Let's go. Number one, responsibility. I have decided to accept responsibility and be responsible daily. Couple of quotes, Michael Korda quote, "Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility, in the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility." Boy, that is a huge statement. Somebody comes and says, "Let me tell you about my abilities." You stop them right there and say, "Do you have the main ability?" "What's that?" "The ability to take on responsibility." Because if you don't have the ability to take on responsibility, no matter what your other abilities are, there'll be squandered. I promise you.
Erich Fromm says, "Today responsibility is often meant to denote duty, something imposed upon one another from the outside, but responsibility in its true sense is an entirely voluntary act. It is my response to the needs expressed or unexpressed of another human being." I just think that is a huge statement. Maturity doesn't come with age. It comes with acceptance of responsibility. [inaudible 00:11:10] but it's not in your notes. He said, "The reason people blame things on previous generation is that there's only one other choice." Haven't we met people like that? Just pick up your responsibility. It's a decision and a discipline that you make every day.
Number two, the second decision and discipline that you and I need to everyday make and practice is our values. Beside the word values, I put this statement, I had decided to embrace and practice right values. Now, let me give you the difference between a practice and a value. A practice is an activity that may work in some situations but not all, a value applies to all situations. So when a person talks about a practice, sometimes the practice works, sometimes it doesn't, values always work.
I'll give you a practice, to give you an example. When I was growing up, one of the disciplines my parents used on me was when I was out of line, they sent me to my room and made me stay in my room. Now, for a guy like me that is highly ordinary and relational, being in your room is no fun. There's worlds to conquer out there and being in your room is not exactly the place you want to be. I would take it a paddling. I'll give you a whole list of things to do to me but don't send me to my room and make me stay there for a couple of hours. Life is out there.
So when my daughter Elizabeth, when she was growing up, I thought this will be a good discipline for her. And I sent her to her room, when she was a little bit out of line, of which she loved going to her room. I knew I was in trouble when I'd say, "Elizabeth, you can now come out." And she wouldn't come out. And I'd go in there and she'd be in her room and she was just enjoying being by herself. She didn't have to be with anybody and have to talk to anybody. And she was just having the time [inaudible 00:13:04]. Now, see, it was a practice that worked with me. It was a practice that didn't work with my daughter. Practices are not always the same with people.
Values, now values they apply to all situations. Values are also different from principles. A principle is an external truth, that is as reliable as a physical law, such as the law of gravity. When Solomon said, for example, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." He stated a principle that is both universal and timeless. Principles are important because they function like a map, allowing us to make wise decisions. If we ignore them or deny their reliability, we become like travelers refusing to use a roadmap because we don't think it's accurate. While we may acknowledge the reliability of many principles, we only internalize those we deem important. When that happens, the principle has become a value, that serves as an internal map that we use to direct our lives.
A value then is an internalized principle that guides our decisions. Your values should not be determined by your business. They should govern your business. They're internalized in your life. They should govern your business. Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale said, "Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running a different race." Values, every day I embrace and practice the right values.
Mark Cole: All right, Welcome back. Jason, John did it. He has done it again. He's challenged me with this concept, not get so focused on tomorrow that I don't make today count and not get so focused on today that I don't keep tomorrow in mind. And here we are, you and I, one of the guys that I believe is just so well thought out, getting to debrief and illustrate this together. Glad we're on the podcast together today looking forward to discussing this with you.
Jason Brooks: I am too. This is hidden really close to home for me, not just because it's close to the end of the year, but this has been a challenging year for me personally. So I've been in a mindset quite often about evaluating how I can build on today to make tomorrow better in any number of ways. So I'm excited to talk to you about this particular subject, not only because it's where I'm living, but I know that this is something that you have. John said that he hasn't mastered it, so I know you haven't mastered it either, but you certainly exemplify this in a lot of ways as a leader. So I'm excited to talk to you about this and I just kind of want to come out of the gate and ask you a particular question.
I'm little bit more of an abstract guy, so John's here talking about making decisions. I'm really good at making decisions, I'm not as great at turning decision into discipline. So just right out of the gate, you're somebody that manages really well to bridge the gap between decisions and disciplines. So can you give maybe some folks like me or folks that are just struggling with this idea, what are some tips or what are some ways that you have learned to close the gap between decisions and disciplines in order to make today better for tomorrow?
Mark Cole: John does a whole teaching on procrastination. He does a teaching where he talks about how he got into his leadership activization, how to activate. And he talks about, he woke up 30 days in a row saying, "Do it now, do it now, do it now, do it now, do it now, do it now." He did that 50 times, 30 days in a row to get this mindset of we've got to activate. And I'll tell you, I don't know how to make decisions any easier for our podcast listeners. I don't know how to make discipline any easier. All I can tell you is you've got to create a propensity to overcome the distraction of procrastination, the distraction of excuses, the distraction of waiting until later to make a decision. I was privileged the day before recording this podcast, I was privileged to a guy named Jason Barry.
In fact, he communicates at a church that you go to, Jason and he was communicating yesterday about the sands of time, about time and the importance of time. And he made a statement, I won't quote it and say it quite as good as him, but he made a statement in essence that is a longest line. "Procrastination is believing my future person will be more proactive than my present person." And isn't that true? We put off tomorrow hoping that tomorrow we'll feel better. Our tomorrow we'll have greater clarity. Yet, the leaders that take procrastination as an out are the ones that always hope that tomorrow becomes better than today.
In the very beginning of mine and your conversation, I want to go back to what I said in the intro today. Many of you listen to this lesson and you go, "Okay, making today a better tomorrow." Well, I want to tell you, I plan on making 2020 great here as we close it out, so that 2021 will be even greater. I'm not going to live in the hopes that next year will be greater because this year has been so shabby. No, I'm going to focus on what I learned this year by making next year that much better.
Jason Brooks: I love that because John, immediately comes kind of off the top rope and as he's talking about the five decisions and disciplines that he practices daily, the very first one is responsibility. He says, "I have decided to accept responsibility and be responsible daily." And that really fascinated me because that's not where necessarily everybody would go. But as you're talking about 2020, it's a really beneficial place to start because a lot of people would just say, "Hey, 2020 has been crazy. It's been insane. It's a one-off kind of year. We can just throw it in the trash and forget that it's happened." And yet, here's John charging us to accept responsibility for the things that have happened in 2020. So why do you think responsibility is John's top decision and discipline and how have you seen this priority pay off for him in a way that maybe other leaders can learn from?
Mark Cole: Yeah. I don't think you can ever own something. I don't think you can ever be the owner until you take responsibility, until you have this buck stops here mindset. I can remember before I had a leadership position in John's company. This would have been 18, 19 years ago. I can remember feeling responsible for what was going on in another department in the organization that was not my department. I can remember flying on a plane with John one time. And this was way before I was a vice president or any level of leader in the organization. And John began to experience the challenges of an underperforming team that was totally unrelated with my organization. I went, "John, I knew that too. I wish I would have went by and just encourage those guys." And John kind of looked at me and I'll never forget this and he went, "That's a leader's response."
Well, here's what John... In my mind, I went, "If something's not going right around me, certainly there's something that I could do to make it go a little bit better." A non-leader's response is "Something's going wrong around me and it's nowhere near my responsibility. Good luck. Hope you all get that figured out." That's not a leader's responsibility. A leader goes, "Man, one, I should've known that that was going wrong because I want to think like a leader. Two, I should have figured out how I can contribute to help solve the problem."
So when John starts off with this as a decision and a discipline, Jason, I don't know how to teach this, but from early on, as the baby of five, I can remember taking responsibility for what was and was not working in our home, as a five, six, seven-year-old kid. Now, I have learned to perfect that, but it is by abdicating or resisting excuses and reasons why it doesn't work and say, "And you know what? If it's meant to be, it's up to me, I'm going to go and I'm going to own this." It's taking responsibility, not because it's your position but because it's your calling or your propensity to think leadership.
Jason Brooks: I love that because we all have more agency than we give ourselves credit for. And I'm of a similar stripe, I've always had a strong streak of feeling responsible. Now that can certainly, if you're not wise with it, it can certainly become a challenge for you and your leadership if you take on responsibility that isn't yours, but to keep it within the realm of what... You have agency and willingness to do, I think responsibility is definitely something that begins to make every day better. It makes us better as a result. And John, kind of moves on to his second daily decision or discipline and its values. This is something that we talk about a lot. You're going to hear it even more from us in 2021 as John moves into his new book, Change Your World. And we start sharing with you all how this book can impact you and your community.
But I kind of wanted to start here, John says that the decision and the discipline is to embrace and practice right values. And so, for some of our leaders or some folks that maybe don't know how to define this, how do you and John determine what are right values and how can other leaders check their values to make sure that they're similarly right?
Mark Cole: Well, I think values are subjective, Jason. In our corporate division, the John Maxwell Corporate Solutions Group, we actually have a deck of like 35 cards that we have the values exercise. Now, here's what lets you know, that our values are not 100% right. You know what? Five of those cards are blank where people can write in their values. And so, I don't know if I can help people know how to determine, "What is right values?" I can tell you what's right for our organization. I can tell you what's right for me, my family, what the people that I interact with to focus on a life well-lived, I can tell you what they are.
Here's what I do know. Every one of us have values and every one of us have either learned how to quiet the voice of conviction when we violate those values or we have learned to listen to that voice, to better live in alignment with who we are and what we were intended to do. I know that, every one of us. I can't tell you. For instance, one of my top values, I bet you nobody in podcast land will know this. One of my top values is passion. Man, if you've listened to more than one episode of the podcast, when I get on a roll, I just can't help myself. I'm like, if you could see me if this was a visual podcast, I'm flailing my arms, I'm preaching at Jake and Jason today. I'm just trying to convince people. Because this, I believe anything worth doing is worth doing with passion. I believe that.
Another one of my values is family. I value family, I value my faith, I value leadership, I value growth. That's my top five. We have been doing values exercise, one more note on this, Jason and then I want to get to attempting to answer your question in the way you framed it. We have been doing values in front of organizations for well over 15 years now. Do you know that in all of those years with literally tens of thousands of people that's went through this exercise, we've never been in one room where there were two people that shared the same top five values. In other words, values need to be yours, but when you get them, you need to embrace them, not ignore them. John says this in his lesson today, he says, "Values always work." And I would tell you that values not lived will always destroy. It's just a matter of time. Always.
You get somebody that knows their values, you get somebody that learns to ignore those values in their life, and they will eventually, and essentially destroy that person's effectiveness, because your values are meant to settle you and build the foundation. John made a statement a little bit earlier in the lesson that I want to go back and get that is really important for this concept that we're talking about with values. He said this, he said, "Killing time is not the problem. It's killing opportunity." We're just going to kill some time. Well, I'm going to tell you, not having values is not your problem, not living your values is the problem and you have them. You know the things that you value. In fact, if you don't, call us, we'll help you go through a values exercise. In fact, what Jason was talking about change your world, we're going to give you transformation values.
So, Jason, I spent a lot of time not answering your question of how do you help people get their values? To make this final statement, your values are within you and there are your values. And if you don't know them and you were waiting with a great pen and paper waiting for my profound way to tell you to go, what your values are? You need to go inside of yourself because they're in you. They're not in me. And the reason most people ask that question, Jason, is not you, I know who you are, I know you live by your values, but the reason most people want the quick fix, help me get my values, is because they're too loud and not listening to the quiet voice within them. The values are in you.
Jason Brooks: That is such a great answer. One, because John said, he talked about in the lesson, principle is an external truth. That is true, it's true for everybody in all places all times. A value is when you internalize a principle and commit to living it out personally. And wherever you're at, wherever you find yourself, you have to be the person that decide which principles matter to me, which principals are the ones that I want to internalize to pull myself forward to a better life. My top five values are family, fun, wisdom, growth and integrity. And those things, over the course of my life, I have internalized the principles that are attached to those values and I live by them every day. Some days better than others, but I still live by them every day. Even if I violate one of them, I'm still living by it because I'm aware that I've missed the mark.
Why do you think... And you alluded to this by saying that people want the quick fix answer of, "Hey, these are the right values." Why is it that we gravitate towards that as opposed to gravitating towards the work of determining for ourselves what our values are? Why do we look to other people to define those for us instead of defining them for ourselves?
Mark Cole: I think two big reasons, Jason. I love this question, just like I love the last one. The answer's in you on the last one. The answer to this is affirmation, that's the first reason. We want affirmation because we're concerned that we will have values that others won't approve of. And so we're looking for affirmation. Do you approve of my values? Let me tell you something, your values don't need any external affirmation. They don't. In fact, if you medicate on external affirmation of your values, I'll go and tell you, they're not your values. And so, that's the first reason I think most people want affirmation of what they already know. They're a little bit like [inaudible 00:30:56] they're a bit toward people-pleasing. I think the second reason that people don't know their values that are looking externally for their values, is they're uncomfortable within themselves.
They're uncomfortable to sit within themselves and wait for an answer. I grew up in a world that our faith or our pursuit of expression of things very deep to us was very vocal, very external, it was very loud. And so things like meditation or sitting in our thoughts and meditating was always taught as very taboo. It's probably some of you grew up that's listening to podcasts and people said, "Boy, if you meditate, that's taboo. That sounds all these different nasty words that they would put on it. You don't need that."
Well, I will tell you, you do need to meditate. You do need to sit quietly, even you extroverts that won't even be quiet and let Jason and I make a point on this podcast. You're pausing the podcast and you're telling your team how to communicate mine and Jason's points better. You know who I'm talking about. You barely slow down and listened to five minutes of the podcast most less 25, 30 minutes. My challenge to all of us extrovert or introvert. You need to go within yourself and learn and embrace and nail down your values because it's your lack of slowing down and listening that's robbing you from a conviction of who you really want to be.
Jason Brooks: That brings me back to John. John had seven guidelines that he uses. He introduced us [inaudible 00:32:38] that he uses making right decisions. The first one or the first two were about seeking out wise counsel, seeking out people who have made a habit of making good, solid, wise decisions, and then kind of looking for patterns, looking for commonalities between the advice that they give. But then his next two, as a person of faith, John said, it's the Bible and it's prayer. And not everybody is a person of faith, but it goes right back to what you were just saying, we all have an awareness of principles, which is what the Bible is, it's a collection of... It's not just the revelation of God, but there are principles to live by. So there's a list of guidelines or things that are true that you can meditate on.
And then when he's talking about prayer, that's reflection and meditation. And so if we're going to make better decisions, we have to first figure out where are we getting our principles from. And then, according to John, we have to spend time meditating and reflecting on which of those principles matter to us and then what are we going to do with them. And I think that's a great application exercise for our listeners. If they take nothing else out of this week's podcast, figure out where you're getting your principles from and then spend some time reflecting and meditating on which of those principles you want to internalize and turn into values, or that you have internalized and turned into values. Is there anything else that you would see or come out of that and say, "Hey, you guys need to do this as an application from this lesson?"
Mark Cole: Yeah. The last thing that I would just say, great, [inaudible 00:34:23] top as John's fifth point under his guidelines for making a right decision and that is, does the decision give you peace? It goes back to my affirmation comment. You're not trying to get peace within yourself by someone else. You need to be accountable to yourself when it comes to values. When it comes to making today a better tomorrow. The day that you start allowing today, or tomorrow to be held in other people's hands is the day you're captive. You can't do it. You lose, you become paralyzed. You become dependent on others. And so this cold concept, Jason of does the decision give you, not your family, not your co-workers, does it give you peace? I look forward to next podcast. I'm going to challenge all of you, you need to tune in next week, because John's going to go through the third decision and discipline that he makes and practices daily, the fourth and the fifth.
I'm also going to remind you that not only in this podcast, two-part series are we talking about making today a better tomorrow, we're talking about making 2020 a better 2021. We're talking about taking what you've been given and making tomorrow better because of how you've handled what you've been given. I hope we've helped you today. I hope if you haven't already, I hope you'll go to maxwellpodcast.com/bettertomorrow. I hope you'll download the bonus resource, which is the fill in the blank worksheet. And finally, I hope you'll share with others about this podcast. If you want to share what you're learning in this podcast, go to social media, whatever venue you like and hashtag Maxwell podcast, with your thoughts, with your reviews, with your takeaway. This has been an incredible lesson. Jason, thank you, John Maxwell, thank you. But most importantly, podcast listener, thank you for tuning in. Thanks for seeing us again next week. Thanks for sharing this. We will see you and until next week, let's lead.