Mark Cole: Hey! Welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast! It is another great opportunity to sit down with John Maxwell and have another candid conversation. How are you doing today, John?
John Maxwell: I’m doing terrific! We just had a great time together, haven’t we?
Mark Cole: We have! I don’t know if I talk any differently, John, but we’re halfway through a month long in Israel. Do you think I’m, kind of, picking up some Hebrew?
John Maxwell: No, no, no, no. That was my hope. I was hoping when I brought you to Israel that you would talk different. You are still, folks, I do my best at putting him in environments where I can get the southern out of his accent, and it just doesn’t work.
Mark Cole: It is deep rooted. That is for sure! Hey, John, I’ve got to thank you, you’ve allowed Stephanie, my wife and I and fifty others to be in Israel with you for almost two weeks now. We’re sitting here back in Tel Aviv today because guess what? We’re going to do it all over again! We’ve got another fifty people coming in and I’m going to tell you, I don’t want to steal your lesson. I don’t want to make any more preliminary comments because today we’re going to break down how you have made this a memorable time. One of your biggest passions is to create memories for people that will forever mark them. And, I’m going to tell you, we just said goodbye last night to fifty people who will never, ever be the same.
John Maxwell: They’re marked. They’re marked.
Mark Cole: You are very intentional with that. So, we are getting ready to do it again for another fifteen days or so. I’d love for you to just spend some time talking about how you made this an unforgettable two weeks for some people.
John Maxwell: Well, Mark, it was an unforgettable trip, and we just had a blast, didn’t we? It was so much fun! You know it starts out with, let’s get the context, as you know, we decided to do a great trip to Israel with donors for our non-profit organization. So, we put a high fee on it because we were going to do some unforgettable things for them, but it’s also to help the charity, so we charged them $20,000 individually, and our statement to the bunch, “You can go to Israel for $5,000 or you can go with me for $20,000.” And, I promise, if you’ll remember, one bus. Small, intimate group, we don’t want to have, you know, I mean, I’ve been to Israel with three hundred people before, so I know what the caravan looks like. So, remember, we put it out with that price and everything, I thought, “Well, we’ll get thirty, thirty-five and then over the next few months, fill it up.” And, it was like seventy-two, or what?
Mark Cole: Yeah, seventy-four.
John Maxwell: Seventy-four people?
Mark Cole: In forty-eight hours we had seventy-four people.
John Maxwell: Okay, it’s like, “Whoops! I promised one bus!” So, the reason we’re really doing two trips back to back—same trip, same tour, is because we promised one bus, and this is the preface for unforgettable. Anybody can come over with two or three buses and have an average tour. But if you’re going to have a tour that is unforgettable you’ve got to have a lot of good personal time with people. What I love is, if you talk to the fifty people that just finished this trip with us and said, give us one word of this trip that word would be unforgettable. Everyone would, it would be a hundred percent they would say it’s unforgettable. So, what I’m excited about this podcast is I love coming to you and talking about what I’m learning, and what I’m doing because I wanted to add value to you and help you in your leadership, obviously. I mean, it’s a candid conversation but I think leaders tend to have a tendency to come to be with us on this. And, really, I can remember us having a conversation with Jack Welch, and by the way, he just passed away. But he was a wonderful man, a wonderful friend. If you’ve ever heard Jack Welch or read any of his writings, he would talk about getting out of what he called the “People Pile”. He said there’s a pile in an organization and in that people pile, somehow, you’ve got to distinguish yourself from everybody else. How do I do that? So, I would sit down, and he and I would have conversations about, in general, like how did he get people out of the people pile? Well, if you want to be unforgettable remember this, there’s a whole mass of people out there that are doing average work and they are forgettable every day. So, how do I get out of that people pile? There’s a question that you ask yourself, and I love this! This is going to be practical, I’m so excited you’re with me today! You ask yourself a question…the question is this, how can I separate myself from others in a positive way? How can I separate myself from others in a positive way? That is the question that you have to ask yourself to be unforgettable.
Now, when you ask this question, then all kinds of things begin to come together. Now, watch this, for example, this question requires me to be intentional. If I’m asking myself, “How can I separate myself from others in a positive way?” Okay, now I’ve got to be very intentional with what I’m going to do that will make me unforgettable. It also calls for me to be creative. What am I doing? I’m doing something different than other people. That means I’m not doing what other people do. There’s a creativity that this question calls for. Then, it calls for me, Mark, to ask questions. Because if I want to be unforgettable, I got to go around other people and ask them how they’re unforgettable. I have to have a seekers passion to ask questions or to learn from other people that are unforgettable. So, I’ve got go outside of myself. So, it calls for intentional thinking, creativity, passion to get out [inaudible]. And, number four, a passion to get out of the pile. And this is what I think a lot of people miss. I think a lot of people, they’re in the pile, and it never enters their mind that they can get out of the pile and they just don’t have a passion to get out of it. I think, one more thing, it requires a great deal of confidence because you are going to be different. The moment that you’re different, your confidence or your security gets attacked. I see that happening with people—everyone of you that is listening to me right now on this podcast have known at times you should do something, and you didn’t do it. Not because you didn’t know it but because you said, “This is different. What will people say? What will people think?” So, I love this question and it really builds off of those things that I just gave you. Let me give you one quick example. When I was young in my thirties, I got on a pretty good speaking circuit with Cavett Robert and Zig Ziglar and Paul Harvey and they had what they called these positive, motivational PMA rallies, and so I got on the circuit with them. They were all motivational speakers, and they were really good, and I loved them, and they were wonderful to me! I would clap and cheer with the crowds, standing ovation, the whole deal. But after being with them for about eighteen months, I thought to myself, “If I’m not careful, I’m going to get lumped with all those guys.” Now, they are pretty good people to be in the company with because they were all, in fact, bigger, better, faster, more successful than me. But I had enough sense to realize I had to set myself apart. But how am I going to set myself apart? Well, they were motivational speakers, and so after some time of thinking, I said, “I’m going to be a motivational teacher. I’m going to make people happy and enjoy my speaking but I’m going to give them practice so that when I’m done, they know what to do with.” Now, that’s getting out of the power. That’s being unforgettable.
Mark Cole: Yeah, so watch this, John. I love this teaching on unforgettable. In fact, forget the experience in Israel. I mean, you can just camp out right here. But listen to this, first day you’ve got fifty high potential, highly gifted people in a bus, the first thing you do, you start the wave! Now, you’re talking about being confident…I’ve seen too many leaders take themselves too seriously. They’re not going to get up and just be silly to get people to have an unforgettable moment! Now, I’ve been to Israel one other time, eleven years ago and we were the “Baal Busters”. You know how I remember we were the “Baal Busters”? Because on our bus of four, you made an unforgettable moment for us in Israel eleven years ago that’s still indelibly placed in my mind. I remember going to the Garden Tomb, I remember going to all that. But I’m going to tell you, I remember being the “Baal Busters” as much as anything because you created a contest with the other buses—you’ll remember this, I’ll never forget this moment! We finally created this competition, they were all trying to—we had left them so far in the dust, but one day they thought they had us and they came out with hats on with their team, or they came out with hats on to identify themselves and we came off the bus, I’ll never forget this, with our name of our bus “Baal Busters” already on the hat. It crushed them! It crushed the competition! Now, here’s where I’m going with this…
John Maxwell: Hold your thought! Then remember, it was because that was on Mount Scopus overlooking Jerusalem. Then remember, we did a rap song! We wrote a rap song about “Baal Busters”, remember? Our whole bus sang the rap song and we rapped, and I moonwalked! Remember? With the Temple Mount behind me! Well, everybody knows me, I can’t moon walk. I’m a fat, clumsy person, and you know, the only moon I want to be walking is landing on my moon when I fall backwards! Don’t care, don’t care at all! In fact, it just makes it better. But remember, it set us apart.
Mark Cole: Ghostbusters became Baal Busters! I remember indelibly. Now, here we are. First trip, everybody has traveled around the world to get here, you get them on the bus, and the first thing you do is establish we are going to do something unique, and you started the wave on the bus to Israel.
John Maxwell: Which was a blast, and everyday we would do the wave when we take off for our deal and remember, we did it different ways and combinations and made it more complicated, and one day I completely got out of my league, and I couldn’t lead it well, and everybody knew I didn’t know what I was doing and we just laughed at ourselves and had a big time. But, again, it sets us apart. One of the things that I like you starting off with that is very simple, but when people think of being unforgettable, or setting themselves apart, sometimes they think, “Well, I’ve got to go buy an expensive gift for somebody.” Or, I’ve got to do something…they think of something unbelievably great instead of doing just the simple things. If you’ll go back there for a moment, Mark, that wasn’t the first impression we had, because the first impression is where they land in the most secure airport in the world, Tel Aviv. I mean, the “Father of all Security”, and when they get off of the plane thinking, we could be here for two, three hours—in Tel Aviv Airport be there for two or three hours coming or going. We had our people meet them, take their passports, walk them around all the security, go ahead, take care of that, all their luggage for them while they sat in a nice lounge…unforgettable.
Mark Cole: Well, and not only that, John, on that same point, I never worried about luggage. You know my best—we had three different hotels, my greatest concern with luggage was getting it out in time for the people to pick it up and get it to my next hotel room. Never worried about it again. There was just this touch, this class, that didn’t require a whole lot more, but it required a whole lot of intentionality to make it unforgettable.
John Maxwell: But you’ve got to go back to our team, Mark. I mean, you got to go to Stephanie and Linda, the team, Frost that we used. All of our players, they all were in this unforgettable theme, and we talk about having a leadership culture, let me just talk to you for a moment here. We talk about having a leadership culture, which culture each vision for lunch because vision is what you see, culture is what you do. We talk about, okay, how do you get people in this culture to lead well? Well, we are talking today about setting yourself apart, getting out of the people pile, we’re talking about an unforgettable culture. Now, here’s what I want you to see, because this is very important, a bunch of this stuff that we are going through that made us unforgettable, I didn’t do it…our team did it. They went ahead and they thought of these ideas and things that we could do. So, what you have to understand is if you’re unforgettable as a leader, and you begin mentoring your people, they begin to be unforgettable, because you want to be unforgettable in every area of your life because that’s where you attach the great relationships and that’s where you begin to extend the influence! It’s through just being unforgettable in every area of your life.
Mark Cole: Yeah, you know, so, let’s go, and again, as all of you know, John is a tasteful person of Faith; and I have to say it like that because I’ve been around some untasteful people of Faith, and obviously, you’re in Israel and there’s a huge Christian heritage to Israel and so I’d like to get into some of these sites that we went to that you created unforgettable. One of them we went to, we didn’t do this last time, one of them we went to was The Valley where King David, he wasn’t King at the time…
John Maxwell: He was kid David!
Mark Cole: …he was kid David! Where David met Goliath. Talk to us a little bit about how you made that such a memorable, unforgettable experience.
John Maxwell: First of all, we had a great spot, right in The Valley of Elah where this battle happened, you know, Goliath was the leader of the Philistines, he was a giant, and the story of David, young, little, David. There was a standoff and basically, the Philistines were pitting Goliath against the best soldier of Israel, and there were no takers because Goliath was a better soldier then the rest. It was going to be a one-on-one kind of deal, whoever won the one-on-one battle, you know, then victory for the country. Of course, David went there, and he heard the challenge, and I taught about how to be a giant killer, if you’ll remember. “The 5 Characteristics of being a Giant Killer.” I did that because, again, we have a lot of businesspeople on our trips, and they’re having to constantly slay giants in their business and overcome huge, sometimes, almost insurmountable obstacles and barriers. We shared with the team, David when he went up against Goliath, he went down to a brook and he picked up five stones and he had a sling and he went up to take on the big boy, but he picked up five stones because Goliath had four brothers, and David was saying, “I’ll take one stone for Goliath, but the brothers may come around, and they may give me a hard time, I may have to take them all out.” So, he picked up five stones which is symbolic of courage, it’s all of the things that made David a giant killer and eventually King. So, when I finished doing the lesson, if you’ll remember, we had already given them on the way up to the hill, we had given them a little pouch like a shepherd’s pouch where David would have put his five stones. And, we gave it to them and at the end, remember? We had taken the stones of the valley and just scattered them out from that little peak where we told the story, and everybody picked up five stones and put them in their pouch. I have these businessmen and women who are just—and they’re saying, “Oh! I’m going to take my pouch and I’m going to put it in my office!” You know, five stones a pouch, but it makes you again, unforgettable. You could tell the story—we could’ve told the story, everybody got off the hill and said, “Great story!” No wonder they’re going to remember. Are they going to remember my outline on the five characteristics of a giant killer? Probably not. But they’re going to say, “Oh, look at these stones! These stones came from The Valley of Elah! These are stones just like David picked up when he took on the big boy!” Unforgettable.
Mark Cole: Unforgettable. You took us on the Sea of Galilee, and of course, your lesson there, I hope next week or next podcast you’ll do some lessons that you taught us on the Sea of Galilee as well. But you created an unforgettable moment there. So, let me set this up…you had one the world’s most renown song writers, performers, on the trip. Not to overpower people with a bunch of worship, no, there was a lot of security and other things on this. But every once in a while at a pivotal point, you had Michael come in. Well, Michael brought his family on the first one and Wyatt. How old was Wyatt?
John Maxwell: Nine years old.
Mark Cole: You had Wyatt and tell us what you got Wyatt to do. It impacted all of us.
John Maxwell: Yeah, well, we went out and had a beautiful day! I mean, that sea was like glass. So, we went out on the Sea of Galilee and of course, in the stories, the Biblical stories, you know, that’s where Peter, James, and John were fishermen and they were always casting their nets and catching fish. So, we got out there and I told Wyatt, by the way, when we got on the boat that day I said, “Now, Wyatt, I’m going to need you. I have a special project for you today.” He said, “Well, what is it?” I said, “Let’s wait until the time.” So, you can see this little nine-year-old kid, he’s just as antsy as could be! “What am I going to do?!” You know that whole process. So, we got out to a certain part and kind of shut the boat down, we’re just out in this beautiful sea. Of course, they knew the net story, and I was going to teach on it, in fact. So, we had Wyatt with, obviously, the crew there on the boat, cast the net. So, here’s this nine year old kid who’s casting out on the Sea of Galilee, and last night, if you’ll remember, when we closed our trip and we’re asking people what was the most memorable moment of their time, here’s Wyatt, nine year old, he said, “Casting the nets out on the sea.” He’ll never forget it! He’ll never forget! But, again, we could have gone out on that boat but let’s take some nets with us and let’s cast them. And, let’s let a nine-year-old boy get that experience. It’s again, a way of thinking of how can I separate myself from all the other boats that go out on the Sea of Galilee? And, basically tell the same story on the same sea, same kind of boat, coming out of the same port. How do I set myself apart?
Mark Cole: Well, and I got to tell you, my fisherman’s luck paid off because we cast on one side of the boat, didn’t catch anything, cast on the other side of the boat, didn’t catch anything! We should have thrown me over [inaudible]
John Maxwell: Yeah! We should have done a Jonah thing on you about right there! You were as worthless as could be on that catching fish part of the boat.
Mark Cole: Hey John, we got to celebrate the Sabbath here while we were in Israel. You created a shabbat dinner at the King David Hotel with a Rabbi. You found a Rabbi friend that would come in and just create the whole experience for us. Tell us a little bit about that.
John Maxwell: Well, I wanted to do that. Of course, this is a leadership trip. There’s a spiritual pilgrim each year, but it’s leadership too. A lot of stuff we did had no spiritual connotation it was just the security of Israel. Remember, one of our guides who is head of all the security of Israel took us around, explained the laws. Remember, we had the Arab Journalist who is the number one correspondent for NBC come in and talk to us about Arab, the PLO Israel relationships. So, we had all these wonderful people around us that were just coming along side of us, and they were just assisting us, and helping us to tell the story; and to make it really work. I say that again because what I think is really essential about unforgettable is the fact that the space you go from average to above average, there’s a distance there. There’s a distance as far as effort, intentionality, but there’s a distance. There are some people that they’ll go to above average. That is a good place to be because people notice them then. But, the difference between above average and unforgettable is about the same distance as average to above average. Most people never take that trip. In other words, if they get out of the pile—okay, now people notice that they are out of the pile. There’s another level where you say, “I don’t only want to get out of the pile, but I want to get out of the pile to add value to people.” To take a trip like this, or an experience like this or a business deal like this, and when it’s done, they never forget it. I’ve been to Israel where you sit at a seminar and they tell you all the things that happen in shabbat, I said, “Well, that’s nice. Why don’t we find a Rabbi to do a shabbat with us?” And we went in the King David room where all the leaders have made great decisions. That’s the historic leadership hotel in the history of Israel. Again, so leadership meetings. So, we’re having a spiritual setting and having a Rabbi showing us shabbat, but we’re in a leadership room. We put those things together continually, Mark, throughout the whole trip. Again, unforgettable!
Mark Cole: You know John, we’ve got just a couple of more minutes here, but I think about the Dead Sea Hotel [inaudible] tent dinner. Dinner under the Western Wall. The City of David Pilgrimage which was an excavation site you took us to. The Garden Tomb, that whole experience, I mean, I’d love for you to talk about every one of those…
John Maxwell: Well, remember, the Garden Tomb, the Garden Tomb remember, we reserved it! We reserved it so that we could have it all to ourselves. You know, there were two thousand people lined up outside of us after we were done. We were able to have the service just by ourselves. Again, I remember the last night we literally were going under the Western Wall and we had our meal inside—okay, this will be the last thought on unforgettable, okay? I found out that they had a place under the Western Wall that you could, perhaps, set up tables and have a dinner there, but you couldn’t get permission from it. So, we sent our people, and Stephanie, kind of, led the charge on this, we said, “Okay, let’s see if we can get permission.” Because you had to get the permission from the Chief Rabbi. Four times the Chief Rabbi said no. Four times. Stephanie kept going back—this is going to be so significant to the people, make a long story short, it was number five that she got the “yes” from the Chief Rabbi. When people walked in…now, we’re under the Western Wall, folks, the fact that we were in, if there are a million visitors and tourists and that go to Israel, let me tell you something…not one get’s into that one. That’s how beautiful and how set apart it was. When you walk in there, and you saw these incredible tables with these beautiful decorations all over them, and the candles…it just, the people just, they stood at the entrance and they didn’t even want to walk in, they just took in the environment and the atmosphere that just made it an unforgettable dinner and making it an unforgettable trip.
Mark Cole: So, John, I want you to close us out by challenging us. You say people don’t pay for average…and they don’t. These people did not pay an average price, you said that at the very beginning of this. But, I’m going to tell you, when people that are above average pay for above average, and you give them exceedingly above average, here’s what happens, I sat there and watched every one of them, “John, when’s the next trip?” “What do we do next? I’m all in.” You gave them an opportunity to respond to your non-profits! They had already given like crazy to the non-profits. You gave them a chance to respond to the non-profits. They’re clicking every box you gave them! Talk to us just a little bit, I want to give a last challenge to close out the podcast. How do leaders, we that lead, we always challenge our self to exceed expectations, it’s colloquialism, but how do you so intentionally exceed expectations knowing people won’t pay for average and then get them to sign up for above average over and over again? How do you consistently do that?
John Maxwell: That’s a great question, Mark! By the way, you know, in fact, I totally might do it, another trip in 2022, maybe not to Israel but maybe a Greek Cruise or something like that. You know that a hundred percent have already signed up. I don’t mean this unkindly; I don’t need to recruit I just need to say, “Here’s where we are going next.” It’s kind of like Exchange for us. When people come to Exchange and spend three days, and we do leadership experiences with them in a different city in America, when we’re done, Mark, we say, “You want to do Exchange in a different city?” And, we’ll tell where the city is but we’re not going to tell them what we’re going to do because we don’t even know ourselves yet we just now got to go get ready for that Exchange event. And, they just check the box, check, check, check. “Here, I’m in for the next Exchange!” Why? Because they know that if they come to be with us, we’re going to exceed expectations. So, I’m going to go to your question and try to answer quick because it’s huge question! A lot of people on the podcast [inaudible]. There’s an answer to it, here it is:
Have higher expectations of yourself than other people have of you. It never starts in leadership with others. It always starts in leadership with me. It goes back to the what’s my greatest leadership challenge? Leading myself. It always starts with me. So, I have high expectations of my ability to deliver. Much higher than anybody on that trip. I don’t need anybody to set my expectations for me. I got my expectations set for myself. In fact, I tell people all the time, if you’re in a company and people are coming in and trying to up your expectations…can I tell you something? That’s a problem. Nobody has ever come to me and said, “John, let me talk to you. You’ve got to lift this thing up a little bit more.” Hello! If you’re coming to tell me I’ve got to lift my improvement, my performance up…can I tell you something? That’s already a white flag signal saying, “Wait a minute! This guy doesn’t have the ability to make the company better on his own.” See, if you have the ability to make the company better on your own because you’re better, then everybody in the company gets better. But if I’ve got to everyday motivate Charlie, or if every day I’ve got to walk over there and lift up Susie, it doesn’t work. So, I have high expectations of me that are higher than anyone else.
I’m willing to pay more money, more time, more effort, more energy into the project than most other people are. So, when most people would be satisfied with two or three unforgettables—I mean, as I’m talking to you, one of the things that I love about candid conversations is, I didn’t know you were going to ask me this question. So, I’m just going through this. I’m counting them right now…I’ve got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…okay, I have right here in my little iPhone, I have fifteen unforgettable experiences.
Mark Cole: Truly unforgettable!
John Maxwell: Yeah! And we didn’t cover—maybe, we covered half of them, but here’s the point…fifteen! Fifteen of them! Some people are satisfied with one or two. If one’s good, two is better, three is even more wonderful, and four—I mean, again, if you’ll stay consistent in providing for people an outstanding experience in their life, they’ll sign up for you every time and I go back to my mentor in books. This will my last story. As you know, when I started writing books, and I went out and I gave my mentor in Colorado Springs, after I had written, this is book number, like maybe six, I gave him the first book off of the press, and I said, “This is my book.” He looked at me and he said, “John, congratulations!” I could tell he was proud of me. He said, “Let me ask you a question, is this your best book?” I said, “It’s my best book.” He said, “Good!” Because you’re only as good as your last book. Changed my life. What does that mean? I’m only as good as my last book. I’ve written eighty—how many?
Mark Cole: Eighty-six!
John Maxwell: Yeah! I was going to say, the other day…okay I’ve written eighty-six books. Now, what does that mean? What that means is I’m only as good as book number eighty-six. Book forty-three doesn’t bail me out. Book number one doesn’t set me apart. I’m only as good as book eighty-six. If book eighty-six was my best book, guess what? When book eighty-seven comes out, people will buy the book. In fact, sometimes they even look at the title before they buy it! They don’t need to see the title; they just need to see the name. When people see your name, do they see excellence? Do they see consistency in excellence? And, the question is, do they see unforgettable? That gets you out of the people pile.
Mark Cole: Well, thank you, John. And, you expecting that of your team, you creating a new partnership. We had a new partnership helping us with this. We used them before, but John, since our last podcast, you’ve celebrated your seventy-third birthday! Happy birthday!
John Maxwell: Thank you!
Mark Cole: You’ll remember, we had a birthday dinner. I think it might have been my first birthday dinner with you. We had a birthday dinner in Israel, but here’s what they did, now, we had been pushing them. We want to be under the Western Wall having dinner, we want to be doing a shabbat dinner with a Rabbi. We’d been pushing, pushing, pushing. We pushed them so much and this is what they told, and I was waiting for this podcast to tell you, they gave you a Israeli flag that had flown over the Western Wall as their birthday gift to you!
John Maxwell: One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received in my entire life!
Mark Cole: It’s going to go in the Maxwell Leadership Center. We’re going to have it in there.
John Maxwell: I mean, it literally flew! They told me, over the Western Wall!
Mark Cole: I said, “Guys, how did y’all think to do that kind of a gift?” They said, “We realized after a year of planning this trip that John loved exceeding expectations, and so we wanted to do something that is something we’ve never done to anybody else because John and the team challenged us to think up leveling.”
John Maxwell: I didn’t know that!
Mark Cole: Now, here’s the deal…happy birthday to you! But here’s the last challenge on this candid conversation, thanks to you for listening, I hope it’s added value to you. I hope you’ll pass the link along to someone else and I hope you will subscribe. But when you are consistent at exceeding expectations and it being unforgettable…you know what you do? You actually replicate or reproduce unforgettable thinking. John, that’s what you did with your birthday! You challenged unforgettable, unforgettable, unforgettable, and they gave you an unforgettable birthday because they had been around you for a little while, and they did something they had never done before.
John Maxwell: And I’ll always remember it because it was unforgettable!
Mark Cole: Absolutely! Thanks for listening to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast! We hope to see you next week!