Mark Cole: Hey, podcast family. Mark Cole here and welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. The podcast where we add value to leaders who multiply value to others. We always like to do something special for our Christmas episode and today, this year is no different. As you may know, John Maxwell spends the final week of every year looking back on the previous year with reviewing his journal, reviewing his notes, looking at his calendar and how he has spent his time and energy. He calls this exercise his year in review.
So this week, we're bringing you a lesson which John shares step-by-step his process for his year in review. This will help you set aside time for yourself and apply his proven practice of reviewing your life to your year. John has made some of the biggest life and business decisions during this week of the year. So we wanted to add value to you by giving you this powerful process. It's changed John's life. It's changed the lives of our team members. I've got to be honest with you. It's changed my life and it will change your life too.
Also, we're going to do something different by giving you something else. This week. Typically, I jump on with one of my co-host as John gives his lesson and gives you application, and I give you a deeper dive look into his teaching. But this week, we want to encourage you to take this time after the lesson and rather than hear from us on application we want to give you time to implement the themes that you learned. We want you to start your own year in review so that you can confidently step into the new year with the valuable insights that John has given that will make you, your year, your leadership better than the last year.
As always, if you would like to download a free Bonus Resource that we offer each episode, please visit maxwellpodcast.com/review. Click the Bonus Resource button just below the show notes. All right, that's it, everyone. Here is John Maxwell.
John Maxwell: I am very excited about today and when our team at the John Maxwell Company sat down with me and talked about doing what I would call an adding value call, which is what I'm all about, adding value to people. Most people know that at the end of the year, the last week, spend time reviewing my year looking at what I've done and evaluating, getting ready for a new year, making adjustments. Taking things off the calendar for the next year because they didn't turn out well. Putting things on the calendar that I should have enhancing it growing from it. I use that whole evaluation to kind of correct me for the next year.
And when the team came up and said, "Why don't we teach people how you do that?" And I thought it was such a great idea. So stay with me because you're just going to learn a lot, but let's talk about what I do. At the end of the year, I spend a week and I look at my previous year day by day, literally hour by hour and I reflect and evaluate. And I'm going to get into that in just a moment as I teach you how to do it.
The reason it's my favorite time of the year is because it's my most effective thing that I do. Now, listen to me very carefully. I get a huge return from doing my end of the year review. And the most fun things I do is the things that give me the greatest return. And I'm going to tell you unequivocally right now that if you will listen to me and learn from me today and apply what I do and do this, I will promise you you will say it would be the most effective application exercise in personal development, growth and success that you do your entire year.
The reason I know this, I've been doing this for 20-plus years. Basically what you're doing is if you're right on, it just enhances what you're going to do because now you can add the cherry on the top because you're right on track. And if you're not on track, which I've been off track many times, not a few times, many times. It's easy. It's easy to start your year right, but it's very easy to get off track. Just other stuff begins to creep in. Then what you get to do is you get to you to make some adjustments. And then I'm going to help you. I'm just going to give you practical things that'll help you really enhance that year and make the next better. So let's get going right now.
I had the privilege of being a lot of times with professional college teams and I'm with coaches a lot. What I've noticed is that the great coaches, what sets them apart from the good coaches is great coaches are just off the charts good at making what I call halftime adjustments. You see, every coach there's not a college football coach. Let's just take college football. There's not a college football coach that doesn't start off with a great game plan. The best game plan that they can prepare, but there's a problem with that game plan. Not that they have it. That's the right thing to do. But as soon as the game begins, things happened that that coach was not prepared for, surprises happen.
So what happens is the first half you watch what's happening in the game only to go into the locker room and say, "Now, here's what is really happening. The pregame is what I thought would happen. The real game is what is happening." And so what happens is you go into that locker room and say, "Okay, we're going to have to adjust these three things if we want to win this game." And the great coaches, they are better at halftime adjustments than others. In other words, they have the ability to take what's good and enhance it, but they have also the ability to take what's off course and what's not going well and change it. And that's what we're talking about.
I'm going to talk to you about how I do that because there are seven steps in what I call my success, get ready to grow, be receptive, trust me as I teach you now for the next 25 minutes in this area. This is just going to really add value to you. Number one, I create time to reflect. And you have to create this time. You have to make this time. This is not time that just is going to come to you average. You have to make it. So let's just talk about what does that mean. What it means is there are two challenges when you begin to create time to reflect. And the first challenge is that you have to value reflection, you have to value it. And then you have to find time to do it and what I found is the more that value reflected, the more I place the time to do it.
In other words, you find time for what you value. So what I tell people, they need to have more thinking time, reflecting time. Sometimes they look at me like a deer in headlights and they don't know what's happened to them. They have never known what happens when you set aside thinking time. So here's what I want you to understand. What I value is what I find time for. That's true of me. That's true of you. That's true of every one of us. What we value, we find time.
What I'm hoping to do in this teaching is to have you value it in such a way that you say, "Oh my gosh, I have got this set of time, this time for me to reflect and think upon it." You see, I have a statement. You've heard me say this before. So many people on the call if they listen to me at all, read my books and that is that leaders see more and before others see. That gives them the edge. They see more than others see. They see before others see. Can I tell you why that happens? Because they take time to reflect and to think because that reflection turns experience into insight and that insight is the leader's edge.
The leader's edge is the fact that I have taken time to think. And if I'm going to see more than others see and if I go see before others see, it's not because I'm smarter, faster and better than they are. It's because I understand that I need to take my experiences and pull back and reflect on them, and think on them and evaluate them and adjust them. I need to make adjustments. I just need to do this. Now, this is a huge challenge, although it's an edge for the leader to have this reflective time. The challenge is that as leaders we naturally are active. We just love action.
So what happens is whenever we see action, you know where we are? We want to be right in the middle of the action. We just dive in. I mean, that's who we are. We want to run something, lead something, give some direction, point some fingers. Let's go. But I'm here to tell you. Listen to me carefully again. My name is John. I am your friend. You are cheating yourself and losing the leadership edge if you don't take time to think.
I was just with Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta, a wonderful friend of mine, known him for several years. He's the fellow that when Delta went to chapter 11, probably they now 10, 12 years ago, financially were on the brink of bankruptcy. He asked me what I would do if I was the leader of Delta and I gave him a leadership culture plan of which then I had the privilege of going to Delta and leading all the top 3,300 leaders around the world through that plan. And now of course they're the most successful airline in the world. He's now the CEO of Delta.
We were just talking, just he and I together and he said to me the other, day. He said, "John." He said, "I love being CEO." He said, "My number one challenge right now is just taking the time to think." And he said, "I just have to now change." He said, "When I was the president of the company, I was in many of the meetings." He said, "I'm the CEO. I have to have the big picture I have to constantly think." And Ed was right on. He was right on. This is huge. I'm going to give you three reflective questions that I ask myself because the value of reflection is it heightens our awareness. And as our awareness is heightened, we see more, we see before. That gives us again the leadership edge.
So I've used these questions for years. I give them on all to you because they just work. Simple questions. Number one, what do I feel? Now, when I'm asking myself after an experience, what do I feel? That's now in the area of intuition. And we are intuitive in the area of our giftedness. So I don't need to ignore that question. I need to look at it. Because what I feel intuitively is telling me something.
The second question is, what do I know? What are the facts? First responsibility of the leaders is to find reality. And so after I come out of an experience I say, "Okay, here's what I know. Here's what I know happened in that experience." Now, this is what I feel happened in experience.
Now, the third question is what do I think? And when I ask myself, "What do I think?" Now I'm talking about possibilities because let me tell you what thinking does. Good thinking takes everything to a higher level, it always does. That's why I'm a passion thinker. I can promise you right now that the thinking part, that question just takes you to a higher level. It takes the other two. It takes what you feel, it takes what you know to a higher level. And here's the key on this, because I've practiced this for many, many years. You need to think out of that experience. You need to think on it until what you feel and what you know makes sense.
In other words, thinking literally is the bridge between feeling and facts. And some people never reconcile it. And I'm telling you it's not either/or. It's both/and. I don't want to follow a leader who's just pure intuitive that doesn't basically have realistic facts. And I certainly don't want to follow a leader that has basic facts, but has no intuition. So the bridge between feeling the facts is the thinking and it requires time. In other words, what I want is I want you to understand the best leaders.
Now, hang on gang. This is good. This is worth the whole call right here. The best leaders make their heart and head work together. Wow. When you can get your heart and head in sync, that's a good thing. So create time to reflect and you will create space. You'll create space between yourself and others who do not take that time. I think reflection time is the separator. I've talked about it as a leader's edge. Now I'm talking about it as a separator. Here's what I want you to understand. Listen to me carefully. I know this to be true because I have practiced it thousands of times. Sustained thinking beats smart thinking every day.
I'm telling you, Tracy, there are so many people smarter than me. I mean, they're just smarter than me. And I used to get in room and just say, "My gosh when it came to IQ, you know what I mean? God loved others a little bit more than me." And I'm smart, but I'm not the smartest person in the room. Almost always. Almost always somebody's smarter in the room. But I get into that room and I listen to them share their ideas and thoughts, and I just smile because I know that to be honest with you, I'm going to whip every one of them.
Because when they're done with that meeting, they're basically done in thinking about it. And I have developed the discipline of reflecting, evaluating everything I do and put sustained thinking with it. And sustained thinking will beat smart thinking every day. So gang, you got to create a time to reflect. You will only do that when you understand the value of reflecting time. But the moment that you create that time for it you'll begin to understand the value, especially if you go through my seven steps. Step number one, I just gave to you. Create time to reflect. Number two, prepare your materials.
Now let me ask you a question and when I was working on this lesson, Tracy, this is my favorite a part of working on this lesson. Then I thought, "I hope I can teach this good in about a three-minute, four-minute period of time. I hope I can do a good job of this." I never taught it before, but all of a sudden when I was working on it, it hit me and I thought, "John, you just pushed a button that has helped you be very successful."
So I'm going to start with a question. We're talking about now you're preparing your material for this halftime thinking adjustment reflection time. In preparing your materials, let me ask you a question. How many times do you want to read the same material? That's a huge question. Now, to be honest with you much, I know people just read it over and over and over and over. It's okay. I'm not opposed to that, but for me, for me, really once is enough if you do it right. If you read, write the first time you don't need to read again the second time, and I'll going to explain to you this.
When I was in high school, they used to have this review day at school where you're getting ready for a test. And so the teacher basically would say, "We're going to review what's going to be on the test." Very wonderful thing I think for teachers to do, getting the kids prepared for the test. I hated review day. In fact, I would go to the teacher and say, "Do I have to come?" Always. If I've asked one teacher once, "Do I have to come to this? Do I really have to come and hear you do what you've already done that I got the first time?"
You see, I didn't need a review day. Now, why did I not need a review day? Because as a kid, I'm talking about a 15-year-old kid, I developed a system when I was in school. And I'm going to give you that system right now. It's very simple. I'm sure you could get a better system than mine, but mine worked good for me so I'll give you what I know as best I could do. Because this is all about preparing your material. This about getting your materials ready. I did four things and these four things was all I needed.
Number one, I only marked the material that the teacher taught. I know kids, they read the whole textbook. I don't care about the whole textbook. When the teacher talks about it, I mark it because I know that's what the teacher thinks is important.
Number two, I ask why all the time. When a teacher would give us a teaching on something, I would hold up my hand and I'd say, "Now, why is that important to you?" And I tell you, they would tell me, "Well, that's important to me because" and they'd give this reason. And then I would note that is going to be on the test. If it's important to that teacher, that's going to be on the test.
Number three, I would then review and prioritize that material. Now, remember I'm only marking what the teacher taught. I'm asking why. So I got the reason for it. So all I'm going to do now is review and prioritize that material. I'll take it all and I'm going to say, "Of all the things we taught in the last six weeks before [inaudible 00:17:08] this test, these are the seven things. This is what I think the most important thing that I teach, the second most important thing." And remember this, I was always saying, "I just got to figure out what the teacher wants."
Then number four and this is it, this is it. I'm giving you gold, gold, gold. Every day I would take five minutes and I would put those notes in my test notebook. It only took five minutes. Today the teacher talked for 50 minutes, three things they emphasize today. Go to my test notebook, put those three things in. Perhaps the page where the lecture was taken off of that whole process because this was absolutely ... Just five minutes a day, just five minutes a day.
And while other kids are going home doing major homework, taking all that time, and then getting ready for tests and stand up for hours. I always looked at them and thought, "They have no clue. Why do they not understand that there's a simple system?" I just gave it to you. Mark only what the teacher taught, ask why, review and prioritize that material. And then take five minutes to put it aside in some kind of a note called a test notebook.
Now, the reason I'm giving that to you is when I decided the first year to look at my year as a whole, it was a disaster and it was a disaster for one reason. I didn't mark my days. So I went back and when I went back to January and December, I knew very little things I did in January because I wasn't acute enough to reflect and put down my five minutes of notes on that day. And so therefore you could only reflect on what you can remember and you can only remember what your system is. I just gave you a system in preparing your materials. And it just absolutely changed my life.
If you will take five minutes at the end of each day, five minutes is all and look at your day, look at your calendar. Where were you, who'd you see, what'd you do? And just say, "Okay, this is going to be a paragraph." It should not be more than a paragraph. I'm not asking you to journal. I'm not asking for pages, a paragraph. Here is the summation of my day and what I got out of it and my takeaways. Oh my gosh. Lesson could be over right now. Lesson could be over right now. I just shared with you a key of preparing your material to set you up for success.
So obviously materials that are needed, well, calendar, you got to have the calendar. And the question is very simple. Are you marking it? Are you marking the calendar? Are you marking it just like I mark what the teacher said? I was talking the other day to a person that I've done some mentoring with. And she was sharing with me that she's very hard on herself. And I looked at her and I said, "You know what you need to do? You need to mark your victories and go visit them." In other words, you need to look at your good day. Something good happened to you today, you need to say it.
Get a sign, a V saying victory. Put a V on that day and say what it is so you remember your victories. Just like if you're easy on yourself, you're one of these kind of people you just kind of look at life every day and you're just kind of happy with yourself. You need to mark the defeats and go visit them. You need to, hey, you need to look at, "When did I lose and how did I lose?" So you got your calendar for your monthly evaluation.
The second kind of material you need is a legal pad. And on my legal pad is very simple. All I put on my legal pad when I get my account out are my four priorities. These are the four things that I'm gifted in and I do well: communicate, create lead and then faith. I've got a fourth category called faith because of my relationship with God. That's it. And so when I look at my calendar, the first thing I do is I say, "Okay, what did I do this year that fit in those four areas?" Can I tell you something? If you go a day or two and you didn't do one of those four things, oh my goodness, you just discovered that you're spending time on things that are not going to give you a return.
So just get your priorities and put it on a legal pad. And by the way, I don't want 12 things. You've got to understand. I have to keep things simple. I've got to keep things very small. I'm not smart to be complicated. So those four things. And my first time I go through my calendar that year, all I do is mark how many times I communicate? What did I do this with? And I begin to weigh all that out. So you need your calendar, your legal pad. And then for me because I have a theme of the year, you all know that I usually have one word that's my theme. I ask myself all the time this year happens to be two words God room. I ask myself every day I look at the calendar, "Did I have God room in that day? Oh, no, God room that day. Oh no, God room that day."
Oh my goodness, it's amazing. It's amazing. No God room. So what happens in that process all of a sudden I realized for the theme of my year, I'm not spending much time on that theme. So those are the materials you really need. I hope what I shared with you, my little prep system for material. I'm not sure I did a good job teaching it, but I'm here to tell you I hope I did a good enough job for you to get it. Because if I were on this call I would say to myself, "I just got stuff." If you'll start doing this system in everything that you do, you will begin to find you won't have to be running around for all this stuff. And you won't be saying, "Oh God, what's next?" And it simplifies and keeps you in your sweet spot.
In fact, when I was a professor in school, I talked to the kids first day. I'd sit down and say, "Let me explain this to you. I want all of you to get A's. I'm your best friend. I want all your GPAs to go up." Listen very carefully. Here's the things I want you to do to get yourself prepared. So number three, you got to review the first half and that observations. Okay, what do I do? I look at it and I say, "Okay, I've got to review this. I got to have some observations." The first responsibility of a leader wants us to define reality.
And so here's what I want you to understand. When you review your calendar, write all of your observations. Just as I have one page with my four things that I do well and I'm just trying to find out how much each day I'm doing those four things to make sure I'm staying on target. I've got another page of just observations. It may be the third day of January where I made an observation and I write it down. Now, what I want you to know is every time I get an observation, I write it down. I usually get five pages of observations at the end of a year of which of the five pages there's about one page that's worthwhile, but I write them all down.
You can't take them out until you write them down. And you got to write them down because you don't know what. You see, at the first part of year that may be in a good observation. By the second part of the year, that may have been something that's not even worth reviewing now because you automatically corrected that. I don't know. But you write all of your observations down. For example, on the first half of this year I don't have time here, but I'm going to give you a couple of observations I made the first time this year.
Now I've been doing this for 20 years and my first observation is that I did not give myself enough margin time this year. Margin time is the space you have where you're not having to do something specifically so that you can reflect more. And because I didn't have enough margin for six months, my exercise and diet, which has been so important to me now got neglected. Hey, 15 pounds later, I'm now having to take it back off. I didn't have margins. Now what would've happened if I waited till the end of the year? Maybe it had been 30 or 40 pounds. I don't know, but I can correct it now. I can correct it now.
Another observation is that there's a priority shift in my speaking coming, I can tell. And so that's what I'm telling you. Write all your observations, but after you've written all your observations down and you've got your pages, whatever they are, then prioritize those on observations. I look at them then without the calendar and I just strike some and here's what I basically do. I strike the obvious ones, which just were just ... It was a thought, but it's not worth me carrying. And I put a star beside the one so I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is huge." So I do that the first time. Then I review it again in and I strike again. What's the next level of striking? Did I miss any stars? And I get it down to usually it's about a page though of observations that I have. That's how I review the first half.
So let's make sure we got this. Create time to reflect and you'll do that when you really value reflection time. Prepare your materials. I talk to you about how to do that. Reviewing your first half is when you make the observations. Number four, reflect on all of your findings. Okay? And this is where you begin to ask yourself questions. You ask yourself questions such as, "What should I do less or eliminate? What should I do more and embrace in my life?" But I want you to be sure to get this one because this one I don't hear anybody else talking about, but it's kind of like secret sauce. Okay? Because I think we all look at our year and start evaluating ourselves and say, "Okay, I want eliminate this. I want to embrace this."
But the third question is who should I share this with? This is where you'd begin to be successful because there are certain people you should share what you're finding about yourself. And the reason is is because they'll help you. They'll help you. So it's now you get, I don't know, two, three people around you and say, "These are a couple of observations. I just want you to know this. So help me with this." Which is number four, the fourth question is what will we do to improve this? And then the fifth one, I wish I had time to work on this one a little bit more. What do I feel? What do I know? What do I think? Remember, thinking is the bridge between what I feel and what I know. When you can line those three things up and you say what I feel, what I know and what I think is very much in the same path you have now began to make your reflection time of a good high return for you.
So number five, make crucial discoveries. And this is huge because when you start to do this, one does one of the add-ons you don't even think about is all the things that all of a sudden you discover and you have these Eureka moments and you all of a sudden you look at it and say, "Oh my gosh, had no idea." So I'm going to give you examples. I just sat down when I was working on this lesson a few days ago and I said to myself, "What discoveries have I made with my calendar and my schedule?" Everything I'm going to give you right now and I could give you 50. I'm going to give you half a dozen.
Everything I'm giving you right now are discoveries that I made because I do adjustment stuff. One, activity is not accomplishment. Number two, growth is not automatic. You're not going to grow just because you had a busy day. And so many times people just absolutely exaggerate and glorify their business. I had people say, "Oh my gosh, I work 16 hours a day." Can I tell you something? It means very little to me. I could show you people that work 16 hours a day and basically have very little return, quite worthless in their life. They don't know how to prioritize it.
Literally, I learned that activity is not accomplishment. I learned that growth is not automatic. Thirdly, I learned the bookends of success all's well that begins well. All's well, that ends well. Number four, reflection. I learned reflection. When I tell people that reflection turns experience into insight. The moment that I say that, I learned that from making adjustments. Another one, number five, the fastest doesn't win. It's the person who starts first.
You see, I start my new year and to be honest with you, the game is over by the first week. Most people go to the new year and they say, "Oh my gosh, I got a new year. I wonder what I ought to be doing here? [inaudible 00:29:07] I want a fresh page here." Can I tell you something? On January 1st, I'm running. And another lesson I learned in my early discoveries of doing this exercise is inspection is the foundation for expectation. And the moment that you inspect, you begin to have a hold different type of expectation. In fact, the thing that I do one word for the year, it came out of this exercise.
So here's what I want you to understand. You've got to deal with yesterday to best discover tomorrow. And I'm telling you, if you don't deal with yesterday you don't make the discoveries you want to tomorrow. I used to say this. You got to be able to touch the past before we can reach for the future. So number six, plan. I had the privilege of being with Hendrick Motor and of course their NASCAR people. They got their drivers' teams. I had the privilege of being with Mr. Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and all their drivers, et cetera a few months back.
And Jimmie Johnson who could be arguably without a question the top five NASCAR drivers ever. I think he's won five maybe national championships. Jimmie Johnson talked about it in his early years, everything was full speed. Just total full speed. He said, "My idea of a race was getting me on the track. I had to put the pedal of the metal and I have a lot of courage and I just stay full speed longer than anyone else." But he said, "I noticed that I was having a lot of crashes." And he was in some 1200 mile race in Mexico and he literally went over a cliff, he and his partner and they're driving. And it took a day for his team to even find him. And he said, "I had a whole day to reflect."
And in reflecting that day, he said, "I came to a conclusion that I had to finish the race if I was ever going to win it. And every time I crashed, I crashed and I kept myself out of the winning circle." And he said, "Then I realized in my reflection thinking time that the reason I crashed is because I was full speed all the time." This is what happens to you when you take your calendar, begin to look at it as I'm teaching you today.
So I ask myself questions when I plan the second half things like what must be changed? I mean, I can't do it the same. I asked myself, "What must be fueled? Hey, what do I got to put the gas to? Who's going to be responsible to lead this change in my life? How are we going to do it? Who do we need? Do we need somebody special to help us with this process?" But these are just questions I ask myself. Knowledge doesn't change anything. So you have to know what happened in the first half, but then you have to be willing to make those changes.
And so then you schedule them. You begin to schedule the things that you want to have accomplished. Let me define to you a worthless meeting because every one of you on this call, you've been in hundreds of meetings. In fact, I came to a conclusion many, many years ago that people meet way too often, that we have way, way, way, way, way too many meetings in our life. And I can tell you what a worthless meeting is. A worthless meeting is one that has no game plan in the beginning and no accountability in the end. You just show me somebody that goes into a meeting without a game plan and you show me somebody that comes out of that meeting without accountability.
Okay, now that we've had the meeting, who's responsible to move this ball forward? I've watched meetings stop and nobody had to carry the ball. In other words, hey, everybody walked in the room and guess what? They left the ball on the table and you sit there and say, "Excuse me. Somebody's got to run that sucker." So in scheduling things as you get ready in that seventh part of adjustment, that's just absolutely huge. So I'm so excited to be on the call today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for giving me the time.
Mark Cole: Hey, everyone, welcome back. We hope this episode added value you to you. But even more importantly, we hope you will do something with what you learned. As I mentioned before, instead of having a post-lesson discussion this episode, we encourage you to take this time and begin your own year in review. Find a quiet place in your home or your favorite coffee shop. Give yourself some time to look back on this year and figure out the things you did well, the things you want to improve, the new ventures you need to take on. And maybe some old ones you need to get rid of.
From our team at the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast, we hope this is a rich and fulfilling exercise for you. And by the way, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. We'll see you in the new year because we've got some amazing growth opportunities coming up.