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Overcoming the Leadership Development Myths We Tell Ourselves About Success

By Maxwell Leadership | August 9, 2022
Overcoming the Leadership Development Myths We Tell Ourselves About Success

Are you stuck in a false narrative about success? Or is your focus on success defining your life and keeping you from growing beyond your achievements?

We’ve all been told (and tell ourselves) various things throughout our leadership development and personal growth journeys about what it takes to be successful—from ways we need to change to the people we need to meet and the steps we need to take.

But is all of it true? And are there things we’ve come to believe about success that are actually holding us back from realizing our maximum potential and experiencing true growth?

Debunking 5 Success Myths in our Personal and Professional Development Journeys

Below, we explore five myths about success and how to start telling ourselves a different story about how we live and influence others—a story that leads to a better, more significant life.


Success can be a tricky term. People define it in very different ways, and if we’re not careful, we can adopt too narrow of a definition and assume that what we define as success is how others define it—or vice versa.

John C. Maxwell describes success as “knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”

If you start to view success through this lens rather than a single goal or destination, then you’ll not only start to broaden your definition of success, but you’ll also avoid measuring your success against someone else’s.

“Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.” – John C. Maxwell


Whether or not you’re a competitive person, many of us have grown up with the belief that success means winning—and more specifically, winning over others. Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden once said that “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

By viewing success as an effort to reach our own maximum potential, we can overcome the myth that success is a competition with others and start doing the work it takes to grow, rather than win.


Quite simply, you can’t. Even if you’re an independent thinker, work best on your own, and are responsible for all the heavy lifting it’s taken to reach your goals so far, at some point you’ll need the help of others to realize your success.

In his book How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, Maxwell shares that one of the keys to successful thinking is “shared thinking”—in other words, working with others to compound results.

Whether they are providing an important introduction, an encouraging word, an exchange of ideas, or just a shoulder to lean on so you can focus on pursuing your goals, other people are one of the defining factors in achieving success.

If we are willing to share our success journey with others, not only can we open the door to greater possibilities and ideas beyond our own limitations, but we might also benefit others in their own journeys.


Success is for everyone, but not everyone becomes successful. While everyone might have the capacity for success, the reality is, achieving success is hard. It takes daily discipline, challenging yourself, working outside your comfort zone, risk, a dedication to personal growth, the list goes on.

If we look at Maxwell’s description of success again, it’s for anyone who knows their purpose, grows their potential, and sows seeds that benefit others. That’s a rare feat for many people, and if that’s what you want, then you have to grow beyond your capacity for success and work toward becoming one of the rare individuals who achieves not only success, but also significance.


Sometimes we get so caught up in achieving what we’ve defined as success that we lose sight of our purpose in life. We let our quest for success become a destination and define too much of who we are in the process. It may be cliché, but the notion that success is a journey is true. It’s a journey of discovering your purpose, committing to personal growth, and helping others.

If we limit ourselves to seeing success as a single event or destination, then we’re limiting our ability to grow and influence others. And if we view success as the destination, we’re missing out on an even greater calling in life—a life of significance that adds value to others and leaves a legacy of powerful, positive change.

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Need some additional resources to fuel your personal growth and leadership development journey?

Whether you’re looking for more on topics like this one or material to inspire your leadership development skills and personal growth, we have you covered!  Check out best-selling titles like the 25th anniversary edition of John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and more from our world-renown leadership experts and thought leaders on our online store.

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