Skip to content

3 Key Insights on Learning That Turn Experience into Personal Growth

By Maxwell Leadership | September 19, 2023
3 Key Insights on Learning That Turn Experience into Personal Growth

This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s personal development resource, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost personal and professional leadership experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook for personal growth teaches you how to use everything – even losses – to your advantage. Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn is this week’s Book of the Week, so you can own this resource, as well as the Teens and Kids edition, for only $40.

In one For Better or Worse comic strip, a boy is playing chess with his grandfather.

“Oh, no! Not again!” cries the boy. “Grandpa, you always win!”

“What do you want me to do,” answers his grandfather, “lose on purpose? You won’t learn anything if I do that.”

“I don’t wanna learn anything,” complains the boy. “I just wanna win!”

It’s easy to see where the boy is coming from. Winning is fun and boosts our confidence. Learning can come at the cost of our time and our pride. But the truth is that winning isn’t everything—and learning is.

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

Author Doug Adams said, “You live and learn. At any rate, you live.” It is possible to win and not learn. However, for the person who puts winning ahead of learning, life will be difficult.

Our day-to-day hands us many experiences – losses, failures, mistakes, challenges, and so on. But those committed to personal growth can become habitual winners by becoming habitual learners. These three perspectives on learning will help you make the transition from experience to personal growth.


Complacency: that is the danger any successful person faces. Microsoft founder Bill Gates observed, “Success is a lousy teacher. It makes people think they can’t lose.” It also makes them think they don’t need to learn. In other words, the biggest detriment to tomorrow’s success is today’s success. This problem can manifest itself in many ways:

  • Been there, done that: Some people hit a milestone, and they make it a tombstone. They get bored, lose their curiosity, and disengage.
  • The banquet tour: When you succeed, people want to hear your story. However, there’s a real danger that you can replace doing with speaking. Consultant Gail Cooper advises, “When you win an award, set it up in the lobby and go back to work.”
  • Success guarantees success: Just because you can do one thing well doesn’t mean you can do all things well.
  • The momentum myth: People’s natural inclination after a win is to take a break. Bad idea. When you’re winning, capitalize on momentum.
  • The entitlement mindset: People who have something that they didn’t win for themselves start thinking they are entitled to more. That’s why many inherited businesses go bankrupt.

Any one of these wrong attitudes toward winning can sabotage your personal growth. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The number one rule of winning is don’t beat yourself!” These are some of the most common ways people get off track once they’ve achieved some level of success. Novelist John Steinbeck gives some insight into why this happens. In a letter to Adlai Stevenson published in the Washington Post on January 28, 1960, Steinbeck wrote, “A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much, and I would have it on its knees: miserable, greedy, and sick.”


Did you know that about 70% of those who win the lottery have lost their winnings within five years? One day they’re holding a check worth millions, and a few years later they’re right back to where they started. It’s called “sudden wealth syndrome.” Why is that? The reason they lose their money is that they don’t change their thinking. They may receive new money, but they hold on to their same old thinking. It’s not what we have that determines our success. It’s how we think. If they’d give up their thinking, then they might hold on to their money.

Generally, people who are always learning have one of three mindsets:

  • Don’t let what you know make you think you know it all: Writer and philosopher J. Krishnamurti asserted, “To know is to be ignorant. Not to know is the beginning of wisdom.” As you win, and learn and grow, you face a genuine danger of thinking you know it all. Don’t let that happen! You simply can’t learn what you think you already know.
  • Maintain a positive mental attitude: Think uplifting thoughts. Read encouraging books. Surround yourself with positive people. Do this long enough, and not only will your positive thoughts be stronger than your negative ones, they will be more comfortable, too. Maintaining a consistently positive mental attitude will be your greatest ally in personal growth. If you can remain positive, then even when things go wrong, you won’t break a sweat.
  • Embrace creativity in every situation: Creativity is the ability to free yourself from imaginary boundaries, to see new relationships, and to explore options so that you can accomplish more things of value. What holds people back from their potential is all the “imaginary boundaries” they have allowed to imprison their thinking and doing. Wonderful, workable options are the rewards for becoming more creative. Greater learning comes from better thinking. That requires us to change.


Humorist Will Rogers said, “There are three kinds of men. Ones that learn by reading, a few who learn by observation, and the rest of us have to pee on an electric fence and find out for ourselves.” Let’s face it: some people only learn things the hard way. 

Author and consultant Ken Blanchard says, “You haven’t learned anything until you take action and use it.” That’s an effective perspective for personal growth. Our knowledge is measured in tangible action. That’s why coach John Wooden used to continually say to his players, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, show me what you will do.”

The greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing. No doubt, you know many people who know what they are supposed to do, yet don’t take action on it. Sometimes it’s due to fear. Other times to laziness. Other times to emotional dysfunction. The problem is that knowing what to do and not doing it is no better than not knowing what to do. It ends in the same result: stagnation. You haven’t really learned something until you’ve lived it. Or, as poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” 

Ready to turn a step back into a step forward?

John Maxwell wrote the book Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn for the times when your expectations don’t match the eventual reality. Did you know that there are eleven elements that make up the DNA of those who learn from a loss? For a very limited time, you can get a special bundle of books that teach several generations (adults, teens, and kids) how to learn from loss and move forward. That’s right. It’s ONE bundle featuring all three of these books:

  • Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn (for adults)
  • Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn (for teens)
  • Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn (for kids)

Get the whole bundle for only $40. (You save $11.97). Get it here

More Articles

Do I Believe The Best In Others?
By Mark Cole | March 1, 2022

Do I Believe The Best In Others?

By John C. Maxwell | October 6, 2021


The 5 Key Resilience Traits You Need Right Now
By Valorie Burton | September 21, 2021

The 5 Key Resilience Traits You Need Right Now

Be the first to comment on "3 Key Insights on Learning That Turn Experience into Personal Growth"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *