How often have we heard “they’re too young” or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or something along those lines? If you believe the clichés, there’s some magic span of time in our lives where growth is permitted. Some call it the “peak years” or the “productive years.” Young people are encouraged to “wait,” for what, we’re never really told. And older folks are expected to coast on past successes, to get out of the way of progress. Don’t buy into that. No matter where we are in life, we have value and we have opportunity. I was reminded of this listening to one of my mentors, John Maxwell, at a recent leadership team conference.
There is absolutely no doubt that leadership guru John Maxwell has made an impact on the world. He has sold more than 19 million books and enriched the lives of tens of millions in a ministry and leadership development career spanning nearly five decades. If anyone has earned the right to coast, to rest on his laurels, it would be John. Of course, that’s not who he is. Today, even after so much success, he’s a 70-year-old man growing now more than ever.
Over the past six months, I have seen him shift the focus of his leadership. He’s still pouring into people through his books and seminars, and he is also clearly focusing on building up the leaders who will carry his vision forward. That begins with Mark Cole, who is CEO of all Maxwell companies. During the conference, Mark shared John’s commission to us as leaders — that now was the time to step up… This was a room full of leaders who have built a career mentoring other leaders, and I watched them lean in, connect in a way I haven’t seen before. I was so incredibly excited to be a part of that. The message birthed with John Maxwell is becoming generational. There’s a torch being passed with the full confidence that those who now carry it will inspire others to do the same.
The lesson here is as simple as it is profound: when we trust people, the best thing for everyone is to get out of their way. Younger, older … whatever their age or level of experience … if someone has earned our trust, the best gift we give them is freedom to act. We will make mistakes, sure, and we will learn from them. We must not allow the potential for mistakes to hold us back … or to cause us to hold others back.
This is something John has taught by his example. As a man who has made his mark, he is still growing, still learning, still actively engaged in intentionally increasing his capacity to influence other lives for the better. He is still “all in” the game, more significant now than ever, and fully aware he has two choices: step forward in growth, or step backward into safety.
That is the same choice that faces every leader at every age.
- Do I take a risk or hold on to what’s familiar?
- Do I challenge my own thinking or demand that others think like I do?
No matter what our age, no matter where we are in life, these are great questions to ask and answer for ourselves. Every day offers value and opportunity. I have learned from John that the only way to guarantee tomorrow offers more value and opportunity is to grow today. That means embracing responsibilities and risks, learning from both success and failure … and investing in others who are working, growing and living with us.
I left that conference excited and inspired by a room full of people all asking the same question: “What is my growth plan today to build more value and create a better opportunity tomorrow?”
So, that’s my question for you. What is your growth plan today to expand your horizons tomorrow? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below, or connect with me here.
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