CBP: I donít think a lot of people know your testimony; do you want to share that?
John: I grew up in the home of a pastor, and my earliest memory is that God really had a plan for my life and that I was special Ė this is really weird Ė but I felt that. I felt the hand and the call of God in my life that I would be doing ministry and trying to serve Him the best that I could. Although I really didnít settle stuff spiritually until I was 17 years of age. But through my teenage years I just knew that someday I had to settle accounts and get things straightened up and move in that direction. So I started out in the ministry, went to college, started as a pastor, pastored for basically 25 years. That was a good time, I really enjoyed it.
But it was while I was pastoring that I began to realize that pastors were not growing churches because they didnít understand leadership because they were not trained, adequate leaders. So it was in the mid-70ís, Ď74 or Ď75 I started doing leadership conferences for pastors and in Ď79 I wrote my first book ďThink On These ThingsĒ, which is still in print and having itís 25th anniversary. So I said Iíll write books to help them, and I did. And I hold conferences, and the result of that was that the secular community also started picking up my stuff, and pretty soon they wanted more. So I realized I could not only minister to the Christian community, but I could also minister to the corporate community. So my books started crossing over, and then I began to intentionally have them cross over.
I was greatly affected by a guy named Rob Briner, who died about five years ago, who wrote a book called ďRoaring LambsĒ, which is a book on how to be salt and light in the secular community. And I kept saying to myself, this is a calling that God has given me. And so with intention I said, ďOkay Iím going to write books not only for the Christian community, but also for the secular community.Ē I found it really rewarding because the last one to use my gifts and advantages to people who look at church as not on their radar screen at all, it gives me favor with Ė I do a lot with Fortune 500 companies now. And the key word in the church community is relationships, you know brother and sister in Christ. In the corporate community the key word is respect. In the corporate community you donít get a relationship until they respect you first.
So Iíve worked very hard at giving excellent training and good materials, resources, books, and then the corporate community gives me respect. And Iím finding now that they really want a relationship with me, theyíre letting me in their lives, and of course, when you get in their lives you find a tremendous need for God. Done correctly, it can be a very effective way to penetrate the corporate community. So anyway, thatís the Readerís Digest version Ė
CBP: You talk a lot about success. How do you define success?
John: I literally wrote a book on it called Your Roadmap For Success. And in it I said success is three things: knowing my purpose in life, I think itís impossible for anybody to be successful until they really discover why theyíre here on earth and what God has planned for them; secondly, growing to my maximum potential, I think success has a lot to do with my own personal growth. You know, my potential is what God gives me Ė thatís His gift to me Ė what I give back to Him is what I do with that potential.
So itís knowing my purpose, knowing my potential, and thirdly, sowing seeds to benefit others. In other words, itís getting beyond you. Itís not about me. And what am I doing with the gifts that have been given and the opportunities that are mine to make things better for others? I think itís always Ė success has to be beyond the person who is themselves working for personal success. Itís also got to be helping someone else.
CBP: So your new book, Today Matters, you kind of take people by the hand and say, ďLook, this is how you can make a success of your life.Ē In a sense, by making the right decisions to begin with.
John: As you know, Stacy, I do a lot of conferences, a lot of leadership training. For about six or seven years Iíve been making this statement Ė every time I make it, I can see people just kind of Ė itís just one of those light bulb moments. I keep telling people that the secret of their success is discovered in their daily agenda. What they do daily is going to determine their success. And thereís a tendency for us to think that the secret of our success is something that is mystical and maybe someday my time will come. And itís certainly out there somewhere; itís around the bend; itís at the top of the hill.
And when I made that statement that the person discovers the secret of their success by their daily agenda, all of a sudden it hit me that if I could teach people to make today count; if I could really teach them what they need to do today to have a good day, that tomorrow would really take care of itself. We over-exaggerate yesterday. We either think it was better or worse than it was Ė you know, the good old days. We over-estimate tomorrow; we think we can do more than we can Ė always. And thatís why we put off everything till tomorrow. So you realize that we over-exaggerate yesterday, we over-estimate tomorrow and we underestimate today. We think, ďWell, Iím going to kill time,Ē ďIíll get back to this tomorrow.Ē
So what I did in the book, Today Matters is I tried to help a person make their day Ė every day -- their masterpiece. And to help them understand that what you shortcut today, cannot be made up tomorrow. So itís like, Iím not going to do anything today, and Iím going to do the wrong thing today and somehow tomorrow it will get a lot better.Ē It wonít happen, in fact, -- I say this in the book, we either spend our day repairing or preparing, and if I havenít taken good care of my todayís, they accumulate. So all of a sudden today what Iím doing is Iím going back, Iím repairing bad relationships and wrong decisions, and Iím digging a hole. Iím not making any progress because Iím in a repairing mode, versus if I really make today count that prepares me for tomorrow. Tomorrow really will take care of itself if I do the right thing today.
So in the book I talk about successful people make important decisions early in their life, and then they manage those decisions the rest of their life. And you cannot manage a decision you havenít made. So I talk about my daily dozen in the book. Twelve things that are certainly attainable by any of us that we need to manage every day. But I tell people, you canít manage these twelve things, these daily dozen, unless youíve made a decision to do so. A person sometimes canít make a decision unless they know what decision to make. So I kind of clarify what the twelve daily dozen things are, and I say, make the decision, and as soon as you make the decision, the rest of your life you just manage that decision on a daily basis.
When I was 17, I made the decision to have a good attitude. I was a junior in high school; the coach said I was going to be the captain of my basketball team. I thought Ė that surprised me because I wasnít the best player. John Thomas was better than me, and I was probably second or third best player. And I kept thinking, ďWhy am I going to be the captain?Ē I think everybody else was thinking that too. And the coach then answered, ďThe reason John is going to be the captain is he has the best attitude on the team. He encourages others, he believes we can win, he never gives up.Ē I remember as a seventeen-year-old kid saying, ďIf attitude made me captain of this team, Iím going to have a good attitude all my life.Ē Okay, now the decision was made; now what I do is I manage that decision. And I teach them in the book how Ė know what decision to make and then how to manage those decisions. Itís a very Ė itís a personal growth book; thatís what it is.
CBP: And what I appreciate about it is that youíre very honest about your own struggle. That you just recently made a decision on your health...
John: Well, in fact, Stacy, of the daily dozen, the last decision I made was my health when I had a heart attack when I was 51. Itís by far the hardest decision Iíve had to manage. Because I had 51 years of doing it wrong. So I had a horrible life habit that I had to change. And I think itís very true, the later we make decisions in life that are important, the harder it is to manage those decisions. The reason I do that though is when people read a book sometimes is Ė have you ever gone to a seminar or read a book and you just got depressed because you just thought Ė
CBP: That guyís got it all together; he doesnít know what Iím going through.
John: Yeah, youíve got this huge gap. I donít like that because I think we impress people by our success, but I think we impact them by our failures. I tried to write the book with integrity and say, health is one of my daily dozen, and I work on it, but I donít have this right.
CBP: That really jumped out at me, I thought, ďWow, heís a really honest human.Ē And that really impacted me.
John: I donít think anybody can read the daily dozen Ė probably health wasnít your problem Ė but I think if you look at the twelve with openness and honesty, you probably had one or two that you said, ďOh my goodness Ėď
I thought if I was open and honest, it would help the reader to get open and honest, and they also would realize sometimes when you write a book, people think youíre an expert and thatís not always true. I want to always be viewed by my readers as a friend and not as an authority or an expert. I would rather be viewed by the reader as Iím just taking a journey with you, and hereís what Iím learning, what are you learning? Oh, you do this better than me. Than to be viewed as kind of like an authority. I guess Iíd rather be loved than respected. Anyway, I just tried to be honest.
CBP: What is the thing that you see people struggling with the most?
John: You mean of the twelve?
John: You know whatís interesting? What I find them struggling most isnít with one of the twelve; I find them struggling with what decisions to make. And so therefore, theyíre not managing. I tell a person, ďIf I could go home with you tomorrow and you and I could spend the day together from maybe 8:00 to 6:00, and we went out to a restaurant at 6:30, I could tell you with a high degree of accuracy how successful youíre going to be.Ē Thatís huge because Iím just going to look and see, what kind of attitude do you have, how do you relate to people, how well do you prioritize your life? Iím going to see all of those things in the process of a day. And I think once a person realizes that they are every day either sowing into their life either potential success, or sowing into their life potential failure, they would all of a sudden go okay, Iíve got to figure out what Iím going to do. So I think the hardest thing for a person is to know what those twelve things are that they need to work on that will bring the return of success to their life. Thatís why I identified it. And I donít think every person is going to have the same twelve, but I think out of the twelve I have, nine of them every person will have. Three of them are a little bit of an option, but I say go get your own three, itís no problem.
CBP: Well, do you think it boils down to Ė Iím sure that you value good health, or youíve made the decision to have good health. So do you think itís a lack of self disciple on our part that we donít have successes in certain areas?
John: Yeah. Sometimes I think itís a lack of knowing the areas. Obviously, everybody knows that health is important so thatís Ė but why was I not doing the right thing? Because I was deceived. I thought that because I wasnít a sickly person Ė I never have been Ė I thought I was healthy. So I assumed health. I didnít have it. I think that self-discipline has to be accompanied by passion. Sometimes I hear people talk about discipline of self and I think, if you donít have passion, I might discipline myself for a week or two but only passion will hold me steady. And I think passion and discipline are wonderful, complementary things. I think passion gives you the energy to do what is right, and discipline makes sure you do what is right. So I look at them as kind of cousins maybe.
CBP: Like motivation and then the action carries it through.
John: Can I say one more thing?
John: I wrote the book because I have a passion to help people personally grow. Really what it is, itís a personal growth book. And for many many years, Iíve taught, not only leadership, but Iíve taught people that they need a personal growth plan. Growth is not an automatic process for you or me or anybody. And Iíve had a real passion for it, and people say, ďJohn, whatís your personal growth?Ē And ask ďHow do you grow?Ē And I tell them. I thought, ďWhy do I keep telling them, why donít I just write a book on what I call personal growth?Ē And thatís what this book is.
Hereís what I suggest to all of your readers: When you finish reading the book, take the daily dozen and list them in order of how well you do them. For example, the one that I would put at the highest for me is attitude or relationships because Iím really strong at both of those. At the bottom would be health. What I tell people is, ďTake one month and work on one of the daily dozen for a whole year.Ē In the first month start on your number one strength, because if I started on my worst one, Iíd throw the book out the window in the first two days. After doing a month of your strength, you say, ďHey, I can do this.Ē So I say, ďDo one then twelve, then go back up to two, down to eleven, and keep working until you get to the middle.Ē And so itís really a one-year personal growth plan. So I hope your readers really get the book and use it as a personal growth book because I can tell you right now, that has huge return. We cannot accomplish as much as we think we can in one day and we can accomplish more than we think we can in a year. Isnít that true?
We are so blessed, we get hundreds of emails a day that say, ďJohn, Iíve worked this plan for one year and I can really see my growth.Ē So what I would love is for readers to do that for a year and then email me.