Making Today a Better Tomorrow (Part 2)

In part two of the Making Today a Better Tomorrow series, John Maxwell talks about growing and improving daily, and investing in healthy relationships.

During the application portion of the episode, Mark Cole and Jason Brooks discuss the importance of a leader’s physical and mental health, and how to identify which measurables matter when trying to improve a particular area of leadership.

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 visiting and clicking “Download the Bonus Resource.”


Mark Cole:       Hi, welcome back to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Our commitment is to continue challenging you to grow and to better your leadership. Today, we are in part two of Making Today A Better Tomorrow. In fact, I very rarely do this because sometimes we do part ones and part two, but I'm going to challenge you. If you haven't heard last week, part one, you're going to want to go back because John lays an incredible foundation in this lesson about making today a better tomorrow. Last week he shared several principles and disciplines, and then we got into decisions and disciplines he makes and practices on a daily basis. Today, we pick up the lesson, and it's lesson number three, lesson number four, lesson number five of what he's learned about decisions and disciplines that need to be made daily. So I hope you'll join us in listening to John. And then Jason Brooks is back with me. He and I are going to give application, and we're going to share with you how to not only make today a better tomorrow, but make this year a better next year.

So go to, click on the bonus esource button. You will be able to download today's show notes. We look forward to seeing you after we hear from John. Here is John making today a better tomorrow part two.

John Maxwell:  Number three, I have decided to grow and improve daily. George Knox and Leadership Magazine said, when you cease to be better, you cease to be good. When you stop growing, you cease to be useful, a weed in the garden of prosperity. We are what we are today because we were what we were yesterday and our thoughts today will determine our actions tomorrow. And the path from ordinary to the extraordinary is continual improvement. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to daily choose to improve. Are you improving every day? Have you made the decision and have you developed a discipline in which every day you say, I'm improving. I'm improving physically. I'm improving, hopefully, mentally. I'm hopefully improving relationally. What's your gauge? How do you keep growing? How do you keep improving?

So let me give you some improvement insights. Number one, don't be afraid to admit you were wrong. And the reason that you and I should not be afraid to admit that we were wrong is it proves you're wiser today than you were yesterday. Ain't that great, huh? Boy, if you never admit you're wrong, you're saying, I'm not growing. I'm not wiser. So don't be afraid, just admit you're wrong. Number two, you will never change your life until you change something that you do daily. I love that statement. I could camp there for the next 20 minutes, because you cannot change your life until you change something daily. The change in your life is determined about the change that you make today. Again, the secret of your success or my success is discovered in our daily agenda.

Number three, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. So what you've got to do is you've got to identify the areas that growth is essential to your success, and you have to be able to measure them. Now, just a simple example, but we come up to New Year's, New Year's resolutions. Somebody will say something like, I'm going to read more this year than I read last year. Okay, that's wonderful, but it's not the way to do it. If you really want to improve, don't say you're going to read more next year than you did this year. Say, every day I going to read two chapters of a book this year. Now you see what I've done. I've got your intentions measured now. And every day you gauge your intentions by did I read two chapters in a book or did I read one chapter or did I read two books a month? Or did I read one book a month? Okay, in other words, take your intentions and take your goals and make them measurable.

Number four, set realistic expectations for your improvement. What can you tackle in a day? Because whatever you've tackle today you need to tackle tomorrow and the next day. So you got to get it down there because that's where the compounding always comes in. Number five, continual change is essential for continual improvement. They go together. One of the great paradoxes of success, the things, oh, this is true. The things which got you there are seldom the things which keep you there. Wow. Continual change is essential for continual improvement.

Number six, motivation gets you started, habits keep you going. Number seven, another improvement insight. We overestimate what we can do in a month and we underestimate what we can do in a year. That's just true. We are infatuated with big and fast boy, if I can just get there quicker, if you've got a shortcut, how big is it going to be, big and fast. Number eight, I'm still on improvement insights. Number eight, focus. William James, noted psychologist said, if you would be rich, you will be rich. And if you would be good, you will be good. And if you would be learned, you will be learned, but wish for one thing exclusively and don't at the same time wish for a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly. Focus is what he's saying. I love this statement. [inaudible 00:06:19], my goal was to retire when I reached 40. I have been partly successful, I reached 40.

Well, I totally one time said I always wanted to be somebody, but I should've been more specific, not another improvement insight. Number nine, number nine, spend 80% of your time working on your strengths. And you've heard me in conferences say before people don't pay for average, got to work on your strengths, got to stay where your gifts and your abilities are. If you work on something that is a weakness, I can promise you it's just not going to get very good. It just really isn't it, from a one to a 10 if you're a three, you may work hard and get up to four. You may be able to get up to five, but you're still average. You work on your strengths, spend 80% of your time working on your strengths. Now I'm talking about skills by the way, I'm talking about skills.

There are two weak areas that will hurt you and that you must work on. One is self-discipline, which is what we're really talking about in this lesson, decisions and daily disciplines. And number two is attitude. You see if you have all the skills and strengths of the world, but you lack self-discipline or you have a bad attitude, you will literally sabotage yourself. Insight number 10, is what I am doing today getting me closer to my goal tomorrow. What are we talking about? We're talking about making daily decisions and practicing daily disciplines. We've talked about three so far let's go to the fourth one, health. I've decided to practice good health daily. Health is huge. Wow. Let me stop here for a moment to get personal. Four years ago, I had a heart attack and I went out of that and for two and a half years, almost three years. I never cheated on a diet and I exercised every day.

And then about three years ago, my heart doctor said, John, quit worrying about yourself. Don't consider yourself a heart patient. You're doing good. He should have never told me. I began to slide in my exercise. I began to cheat in my diet and for about a year I went this cycle and just in the last month, I've started to pull it back together again. Now what I'm saying is again, practicing the daily disciplines, making the right decisions every day. And it's not an issue of me not knowing the right decisions. Is that true? We never suffer from lack of knowledge we suffer from lack of discipline. We already know, we don't need another instruction and we don't need another teaching we just have to sometimes come back to get in back in reality. Health, making daily health decisions, important. Number five is relationships. The daily relationships I make and the disciplines I have are going to make a difference.

I have decided to invest in healthy relationships daily. You see there's a law of relationship that says every person is merely four people away from any other human on earth. Think of it. This simply means that you know Bill who knows Judy, who knows Charles, who knows anyone else you would ever want to know. You're already networked with the entire world, huge statement. The reciprocity rule of human behavior says over time, people come to share reciprocally similar attitudes toward each other. In other words, if I have a low opinion of you, then while you may, for a time, have a high opinion of me, it's unlikely that your high opinion will persist. There's a time when I'll bring your opinion down to my opinion. It's the law of reciprocity. Here's some relationship questions I think we all need to ask ourselves. Always start a relationship by asking, do I have an ulterior motive for wanting to relate to this person?

Is my caring conditional, am I trying to escape something? Am I planning to change the person? Do I need this person to help me make up for a deficiency in myself? See if you answer any of these questions, yes, leave the person alone. He or she is better without you, almost all of our sorrow spring out of relationships with the wrong people. Last quote, every day of his adult life, this is huge. Ben Franklin set aside the time to examine two questions. The morning question was, what good shall I do today? The evening question was, what good have I done today? Is an absolute fact. That Benjamin Franklin understood that what you and I do today determines tomorrow. So he determined in his life that in the morning he would ask the question, what good can I do today? And in the evening he'd asked the question, what good have I done today?

What Benjamin Franklin realized is if you do that every day, it will compound and you will do a lot of good for a lot of people. And one day you'll get amazed and say, you know what? I've made a difference in a lot of people's lives. And when you look at that and you're recognized for that, and some people will kind of want to give you credit for that today. Just understand, as one of my friends said, one time, all my life, I've worked hard at being an overnight success.

Let your daily decisions be the right decisions, let your daily disciplines be the right disciplines and do them every day, day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out. And one day they'll compound. And one day you'll be surprised. You'll not only be surprised, but people around you will be surprised at the good that you have done. And you'll understand that you didn't do it in a day, but you did it every day. And because you did it every day, one day, you got recognized for it.

Jason Brooks:   Man Mark. I mean, what a great conclusion to what we began last week and just talking about the decisions and the disciplines that John makes daily. And he's offering this as a challenge to us to consider what we need to do daily in order to be better tomorrow than we are today. Jake, our podcast producer reminded us if you haven't listened to it. We did an interview a few weeks ago with Andy Stanley. Andy has a new book out and we did a great podcast between him and Mark and John. And they talk about some of the necessary things for making really good decisions. And I encourage you if you get a chance to go back, it's just a great interview to kind of give you a little bit more of a flavor for what we mean when we're talking about the power of decisions.

But John talks about the third daily decision and discipline that he gets into and that's improvement. And I love that because John, the whole point of this lesson is about improving about being better tomorrow than you were today. And he says that the decision that he makes is to grow and improve daily. And there's just, there's so much that we can impact here. Because he goes in, he gives us 10 different insights about improvement that we could discuss. But I kind of want to just throw it to you first Mark, and just say, what have you learned in your daily discipline of improvement? Because, you're a person that's extremely committed to growth. So what are some of the things that you've learned about making improvement a daily discipline and decisions?

Mark Cole:       Well, I love this section and it's where I just kind of, for a moment I get out of this thing I can challenge you with this being in December. If you're listening live we're one week away from the beginning of 2021. So many people excited for 2020 to go out the door. And I can challenge you both last week and this week, not only look at this from making today a better tomorrow, but look at this as making a 2020 a better 2021. But this particular point, Jason gets down to the real meat, the nitty gritty of what it means to be quote unquote, an overnight success as John talked about. I worked a lot of days, a lot of years to be the overnight successor of John Maxwell's legacy, the overnight success of a business leader, I've worked a lot of times. And it's those day in and day out.

It's those constant commitment to daily incremental but tangible improvement that is the difference maker. So for a moment, I can challenge you a lot to look at this year compared to next year, but just for a moment less strength that back down to just making today count. John wrote a book Today Matters. It was then put into a book called Make Today Count. And in both of those books, whether you have Today Matters, Make Today Count, go order it if you don't. John talks about his daily dozen, the things that matter for him in a day basis, in fact, much of this list comes from things he builds out in that book. And I really do believe the point here, Jason, that improvement happens daily, improvement, tangible quantifiable improvement happens daily, but it is not noticeable usually but in a longer timeframe. It takes a longer time to see that quantifiable change.

I had someone compliment my communication the other day, we just got finished with some of our big events that we normally do. They're not so big during COVID shut down, but we got finished and several people went, "Wow, Mark I can't tell you how much better your communication is." Well, that didn't just happen one day, it was bad and the next day it was better. It's been incremental. It's been over time. And our challenge that we've got to overcome as leaders, impatient leaders is tomorrow we want to see light years of comparable difference than today, and it won't be light years tomorrow. It'll be light years when you step back and have a snapshot of time, but your commitment and the difference maker is deciding to grow and improve daily.

Jason Brooks:   It reminds me one of John's favorite books from this year is James Clear's book, Atomic Habits. He's talked about that a lot in a lot of different contexts, it's really influenced his thinking. And one of the things that Clear talks about in that book is a 1% improvement over yesterday. If you were just 1% better in a certain area than you were yesterday, then that's the road to developing the right kind of habits. And John talks about continual improvement, realistic improvement, and that 1% number feels small, but definitely something all of us could achieve. So, let me ask you this, in your experience what's been the most effective 1% improvement that you've implemented on a daily basis? If there's one thing that you have really focused on, let me just be 1% better at this tomorrow than I was today. What do you think would be the most impactful focus or discipline that you've chosen?

Mark Cole:       Thinking of solutions, thinking of options, John's an option leader. He doesn't believe, he says that he believes there's always an answer and most of the time there's more than one. And what that really is John expressing that he is an options leader. He wants options. So I never bring John a problem unless I bring him two, if not three plausible solutions are ways to address or deal or solve that problem. I think probably the thing that I do on a daily basis is challenge my mindset when I see a problem to think about viewing that problem differently, I view it from a senior leader's perspective. Would this really be a problem to John if he knew this? I view it from somebody that really is in a very critical time in their life. And I go, and would they really see this as an issue if they had this?

And I try to look from different angles when I come to problems. Here's what that does for me Jason, is what it's done over time. I now, when I communicate solutions to problems as a leader, I now can frame that in a deliverable that is applicable to more people because I challenged myself to look at that problem from different angles. And I really on a daily basis I will take a problem and I will look for ways to view that problem from a different perspective. And it's helped again, it's helped my solutions have become better. My communication about the solution has also become better.

Jason Brooks:   That's a great answer because not only as you just said, not only did it help you in multiple areas, but it's leaning into something else that John said about the ability to make improvement a daily discipline. And that was having the ability to measure what you're actually growing in. I think that's an area where a lot of leaders struggle. What advice can you give to maybe younger leaders or leaders who are just now getting into this lifestyle of discipline? What are some of the ways that you found to be able to discover and really nail down, which measurables matter? John talked about the idea of, okay, don't just say you're going to read more say you're going to read two chapters a day. That's taking an abstract and making it concrete. What are some other ways, or maybe give us an example of an area where you shifted from an abstract to a concrete, so you could measure it and make it a growth goal?

Mark Cole:       I started out growth plans, yearly growth plans. I started out growing by stating, the first year I had a growth plan. I'm going to read X amount of books. I'm going to attend X amount of conferences and I'm going to listen to X amount of people as a mentor in my life. And that was good. That was great. But it became life-changing when I put a word to capture the books that I was going to read, the places I was going to go, I call that my word for the year. I now have a word that guides my thinking, that guides the books that I read in a given year, that guides the way that I interact with mentors. The way I've graduated to that again is with what I call life plan. I have five areas in my life that I want to see substantive, quantifiable, tangible growth in every given year.

So not only do I have five pillars of my life, is what I call them. I have five sub categories, sorry, three sub categories of each of those five. So there are 15 areas in my life that I have matured to the point to say, I want quantifiable, tangible results. Now, how do we do that? You can't exceed expectations Jason, if you don't set expectations. So I work very hard in a life plan or in a daily discipline if you will to say, I have this daily discipline so that I will have X in my life, that X is incredibly important. And if it's not quantifiable and measurable, it's not an X. In fact, I'd say it differently. If it's not quantifiable and measurable, it's still an X, it's an unknown. So you've got to have the quantifiable measurable results in any area you want to grow in. And when you have that and you put in disciplines to grow every day, you will over time see measurable results from what you're trying to accomplish.

Jason Brooks:   That is such good advice and solid advice for so many different reasons. But I love the fact that the way you make measurements count is to have the right framework for why the measurement exists.

Mark Cole:       Jason, on that point, John made a point under these improvement insights that he covers under number three. John made a point and he says, you will never change your life until you change something you do daily. I absolutely believe that. I spent 30 years of my life wanting to have a better life, but I never quantified it. Therefore, since I never quantified it, I never had tangible things to change in my daily disciplines. And because I never had anything to change in my daily disciplines, I couldn't quantify growth therefore I didn't accomplish the life that I wanted. But when I realized that I wanted the best relationship at home that I could possibly have, and I put measurements on what that looked like and the things I wanted my wife to tell her friends when I'm not around, I began to accomplish that by daily disciplines toward that desired outcome and I got a much better life in that area than I had long time ago.

Jason Brooks:   That's exactly, I was just thinking about, if I thought about the one change that I've made over the last X number of years is spending time every day, I'm a person of faith, every day for the last seven years. There've been a few that we've missed because of circumstances, but almost every day, my wife and I pray together at least 30 minutes a day. And that has become not just a, it started out as a decision, but it's now become a discipline and the time has expanded. But out of that one discipline, there's so many aspects of my life that have been touched and improved, and I can measure the growth that's come out of that one discipline.

Just having that focus, that filter, that expectation really does make such a huge difference. The fourth thing and I don't want to get too personal here because health is an extremely personal decision and discipline. It's definitely one that I've spent a lot of time thinking about this year because of some of my circumstances, but what are some of the most helpful health daily disciplines that you've seen John enact or that you've enacted that has made the biggest difference for you?

Mark Cole:       Much like the values conversation that we had last week, I think your health is something that is really a very personal battle, a very difficult one for all of us. What I'll tell you is what works for me, for me, I have to have every year, I have to have a big goal, like running a marathon. And I have to have daily goals either, as well. Like I have to have weekly goals rather, I want to work out four or five times a week. I have to have daily goals. I want this much kind of food or calorie intake. So I have to have the big goal or I get bored. And I'm like, oh man, this is not, I want that extra Coca-Cola, that's my big deal. I want whatever it is. If I don't have the big goal, the interim goal and the short-term goal to drive my health factors, I'm not successful with it.

Now that's not everybody. Some people just like, man, I love health so much, I'm going to get up every morning at 5:00 AM and workout. Good for you teach us something. Hey, hashtag Maxwell Podcast and tell us how you do that. But for me, I have to have the short term, I got to be working out everyday. Everyday I got to be thinking food, every week I got to be thinking a certain amount of times. And every year I got to be going after something that's going to stretch me to get me there. And so John was very candid about his health, my health, the older I get, the more challenging that has become. And back when 25, 30, I didn't even think about it. It didn't matter. Now the older I get, I have to have these short-terms, midterms, long-term goals to keep me on point for that. So it's not just a daily, it's not just the monthly, I got to have an audacious thing that I'm going after each year.

Jason Brooks:   That's such a great point. And I think if I were to add anything in this area at all is don't just make the assumption that when John talks about health, it's physical health only. I was diagnosed with cancer, stage four cancer back in March is treatable. You've been a great, just a fantastic leader for me through all of this, an encouragement, a support, a shoulder. And I have learned that, I know how to manage my diet. I know how to take all of my pills. I know how to check in with the doctors. I've gotten better at communicating about my physical needs, but one of the things that I've really had to work on this year is the emotional, mental aspect of this. How do I stay healthy in my head, as well as my body. And again, I'm not here to tell anybody how to do it, but don't short change those aspects of your life, particularly as a leader.

And if you're carrying a heavy load, don't just think that it's all about working out or eating well, that's great do that, but don't neglect the other aspects of health as well, because it's so important as leaders. And if you find yourself as a leader, struggling with mental or emotional health, please talk to someone, find help, find a qualified counselor, find a mentor that you trust. But don't, I would just say out of my experience this year, don't carry it by yourself because everybody needs help.

Mark Cole:       Yeah. And let me say this, I'm so glad you brought this up before we go to relationships. This idea of mental health and emotional health. It's not just you, Jason, you said, but for me and with cancer or COVID, I'm going to tell you at no other time in my 25, 30 years of leading and in my 50 years of life, have I seen so much mental challenges and emotional challenges. And perhaps some of that's COVID, some of that's the difficulty of life, perhaps some of that is political and some of the other polarized things that we have going on in our society right now. But I'm going to tell you whatever the cause is or whatever the contributors, I'll tell you this right here, your mental, emotional health needs just as much and in fact, sometimes more attention than your physical health. And so really Jason, that's a great sense of encouragement there and do some assessment on that. If you want a better tomorrow in your mental, emotional health make today better, make tomorrow better by making today better.

Jason Brooks:   Well, you mentioned, and this is the last area that John talks about. And it does dovetail with all of these previous disciplines and decisions that John's talking about. But the final one is relationships. John talks about investing in relationships, healthy relationships daily. Again, what a healthy relationship looks like it's going to be a little bit different for everybody, but I did want to ask you, are there key relationships that every leader should at least consider investing in everyday? I'm not asking you to be prescriptive. You've talked about family. You've talked about your relationship with John, are there, can we extrapolate out of your experience any, just suggestions for some of our leaders that, hey, don't neglect these relationships. These are good places to invest.

Mark Cole:       My mind goes in that question. My mind goes to a leadership lesson that I heard from our friend T.D. Jakes recently in a series that he did. And he talks about how every one of us on our team we have three types of teammates, from a leadership perspective. We have the confidant, we have the constituent and we have the comrade. The confidant is people that are called to you leader, they're called directly to you. They love what you do. They love what you stand for. But the fact is, is they're called to you and if you tweaked it a little bit, did something a little different, they're going to go be a part of what you're doing. They're a confident. Then there is the constituent that there are for the same things you're for, they're pursuing the same thing that you're for.

And as long as you stay on point with a mission, that really is their mission they will support you as their leader. But just be aware, don't treat them like a confidant because they will stay whether you go or leave, they will stay even if you go. Then there's the comrade. They're not for you and they're not for what you're for. They're against what you're against. They're on the team because you're fighting the same enemy. And too many times as a leader, we don't do an inventory of the relationships in our leadership. And we think everybody that's with us now is going to euphorically be with us for the rest of our leadership journey. And it's not true. It's not healthy. And it's going to destroy you and your leadership if you don't quickly assess who people are, why they're on your team, why they are loyal to your leadership and when it's time for them to move on, or you to move on.

I'm a relational person. The hardest thing for me to learn from John was how to stop trying to be a leader everybody loved and start trying to be a leader that everyone respected. And or how trying to, I had to make a determination, am I going to lead or be loved? And sometimes you can't have both. Now like the days that you can have both, that's kind of nice for Mr. Relational leader, Mark Cole, but you've got to do an inventory of relationships. We inventory our time, we inventory where we spend our money, we inventory the things in our closet. I mean, we pay attention to a lot of things in life, but we don't our relationship yet as parents, those of you that are out there parents, what's the biggest and most consistent advice you've ever given to your kids? Watch out who your friends are, watch out who you hang with. Who are those people?

And somehow as adults, we quit doing an inventory on ourself and our relationships, who we're spending our time with, who is on our team, who's not on our team. And as you can tell, Jason, I could really extend this podcast out much longer by talking about relationships and maybe we'll come back sometime and do it. But I'll tell you this. It's the time of the year that I'm going to challenge you to decide who you're going to invest healthy relationships with on a daily basis, do an inventory and be prepared to purge your relationship inventory. Be prepared to add some things into your relationship inventory that is needed to be most effective with what you're trying to accomplish in your life.

Jason Brooks:   That's such great advice. I literally had a, we had a customer service ticket that came in today asking a question about John's law, about the inner circle. And if you haven't read the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, it's a must read in John's world. I recommend highly that you go grab it. But the law of the inner circle is basically, you need to have people in your orbit on a daily basis that you can trust that make you better, that are invested in you and helping you grow. Some people just don't take that into consideration. They don't, like you said, they're not doing an inventory. They're not worried about relationships. They're not really paying attention to who's speaking into them, not just from a physical perspective, but what voices are you reading, what voices are you taking in on podcasts? What news are you consuming?

There's a lot of relational aspects that I think as we're talking about this, not just as a daily discipline, but as a year-end discipline, really listening and really thinking about and paying attention to the relationships that are influencing us is a key component for leadership. I don't have anything else, Mark. I would love to ask you, out of what we've heard here today, out of what John has taught, what's a great application that we can send our listeners away? Is it the relational inventory or was there something else that stood out to you?

Mark Cole:       It really is. I mean, you look at the daily disciplines that you have. I think if you started with where you're spending your time and who you're spending your time with, I think you are getting started in a decision making filter that makes today a better tomorrow, that makes this year a better year for tomorrow. Are you listening to too much news? I mean, that's a relationship. Are you getting really distorted? I mean, how are you and the information that you're taking in? Is there too much negativity, too much negative talk around? Again, we've got to bring hope to this world. It is needed. And I'm depending on the listeners of this leadership podcast to do that. Jason, we are really out of time, but I really do hope we can pick this relationship thing back up. I hope that those of you listening to the podcast, I hope that you are after two episodes, I hope you are committed to making today a better tomorrow.

In fact, if you've not already go to, click on the bonus resource button and you will be able to get the worksheet to go back and keep yourself focused. If you're listening live it's two days before December the 25th, Merry Christmas to you. I hope you're having a good time, but more importantly, in what we're talking about here, what are you going to do between Christmas and new year's to make sure that 2020 is not a bust, but it is a build for an incredible 2021? I hope you've enjoyed this. I hope you'll be back with us next week for an incredible new episode that we're going to put together for you. And until next week let's lead.

2 thoughts on “Making Today a Better Tomorrow (Part 2)”

  1. Good day
    I am always amazed about the music in the beginning and end of the podcast. Do you have someone in your Content department that composes the music?

    Thank you for being such a big blessing

    1. Hi Christian, thank you for the kind words. We try to match the music to the mood of each episode and series. We have a license with the video production site Motion Array, which is where we pull most of our intro music from. Glad you’re enjoying it!

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