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Book Review: How Successful People Think

Juvaughn Mahabeer
Juvaughn MahabeerPublished on May 21, 2022

1. The Author’s Backstory.

John Maxwell was born and raised in Garden City, Michigan.

He received his bachelor’s degree at Circleville Bible College, a Masters’s degree of Divinity at Azusa Pacific University, and his Doctoral degree of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary.

He started many companies, one of which was The John Maxwell Company. This company’s bottom line is to help individuals and organizations improve in leadership and personal development.

John Maxwell shared his life’s mission in the following quote:

“You see, my passion in life is growing and equipping others to do remarkable things and lead significant and fulfilled lives.”

John is an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church.

He currently lives in South Florida with his wife, Margaret Maxwell.

2. Why did the Author write the Book?

The author wrote this book with the hopes that people would challenge their thinking.

At the end of each chapter, he shared a question to ponder to help you apply the thinking strategy.

For Example,

At the end of Chapter 10, Practice Unselfish Thinking, he shared this question to ponder:

Am I continually considering others and their journey to think with maximum collaboration?

In this question, I was able to consider and then implement the strategies to improve my thinking to work better with those around me.

3. What is the Author’s Thesis?

Change your thinking, change your life.

4. What is the Author’s Purpose?

The author’s purpose is to share the many different thinking strategies that can affect your life.

He attempts to share how each thinking strategy works and how it can help you succeed in your endeavors.

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5. What were two arguments the Author used in defense of his thesis?


Chapter 5 is entitled Utilize Strategic Thinking.

In this chapter, he shared that strategic thinking effectively plans for what’s to come while looking at all the variables.

He also highlights how most people perform their strategic thinking today and suggests ways of improving.

He talked about the further ahead into the future we plan is the more successful we will be.

The layers of strategic thinking that he talked about include:

1. Daily Planning

2. Weekly Planning

3. Monthly Planning

Or, in his case, planning for the next 40 days.

He preferred the 40-day plan because it enables him to get started on the schedule for the next month.

He shares six benefits to strategic thinking and seven strategies on how we can take action to make strategic thinking more a part of our lives.

Why should you release the power of strategic thinking? (BENEFITS)


Our workflow will drastically decrease as we put good strategies on repeat.

For example, John shared that he has created a filing system of quotes, articles, and stories that he can draw on whenever he has to prepare for a talk, writing project, or presentation.

Thus, the strategic thinking on repeat in this scenario is repeating his initial strategy to archive information, and this organized bank of information makes the process easier each time.


Strategic thinking is just really effective planning.

As we plan things through, we then reduced the number of errors we will ultimately make.

This is because when we plan, we are more aligned with our target. This alignment helps to increase the odds of succeeding.

How to release the power of strategic thinking?


For me, breaking down challenges into smaller manageable steps has been the only way I have been able to tackle big projects and get them done promptly.

So I believe this section is indeed a critical step to becoming a strategic thinker.

He shared that the method by which you break it down is not as important. The point is that you break it down.


The following quote is my favorite from this section,

“A strategy that doesn’t take into account resources is doomed to failure.”

Some examples of resources could be:

1. Time

2. Money

3. Materials, Supply, Inventory

4. Current Assets

5. What Liabilities or obligations might come into play?

6. Which people on the team can make an impact?

Being aware of all your resources will help you plan more strategically.


He shared that you should stick with the obvious when developing your plan to tackle a problem.

Obvious issues will make more sense to tackle first, and also, if you are working in a team, it will bring unity because people will more likely agree when the issue is one that everyone can identify.

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Chapter 7 is entitled 'Learn from Reflective Thinking.'

I believe Reflective Thinking, as outlined in this chapter, is one of the most beneficial practices you can engage in regularly.

Reflective thinking clarifies your past experiences, which then helps you make better decisions moving forward.

John Maxwell shares that when you think to reflect; you should examine your past successes and mistakes and determine what lessons you can draw from them, something that you should repeat or refine, and things that you should stop doing.

Taking the time to repeat this process daily will give you the mental clarity to navigate life’s challenges with power.

In this chapter, the author shared five types of reflective thinking and five different ways to embrace the lessons from reflective thinking.

Three of my favorite takeaways from these ten points were:

1. As you reflect on your experience, it will give you confidence in making decisions; this is because the more you remember, the more you create road markers around your experiences. Reflective thinking helps you skip steps in the thought process, thus enabling you to examine, analyze and come to conclusions faster. (Page 73)

2. I learned that experience in any field leads to insight, but that experience only becomes insight as we reflectively think on them. People can have lots of experience in a given area but lack wisdom because they fail to reflect on their experiences regularly. (Page 74)

3. My favorite lesson on embracing reflective thinking was the necessity of setting aside time free of distractions to reflect. The author shared that it is impossible to properly reflect on your experiences when you are near the TV, around noise, or with children in the room. Reflective thinking required solitude to some degree. He shared that it can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as a few hours, but we must make the time. (Page 75)

6. What was the Author’s Conclusion?

The author didn’t share a formal conclusion.

The last chapter of the book was entitled Bottom Line Thinking.

Bottom Line Thinking, according to the writer, is the base assessment by which we judge our success.

For Example

The bottom line for a retail company like Cosco might be monthly profits and happy customers.

Or the bottom line for a nonprofit organization that builds orphanages for homeless kids might be how many children they can house each month.

Long story short, the bottom line is where we learn who we are and what we value.

In this chapter, to illustrate his point, he shares the story of Frances Hesselbein and how she became the national executive director of the Girl Scouts of America.

And how by focusing on the bottom line, she transformed a dying organization into what it is today.

The bottom line that she came up with that turned things around was inclusivity, diversity, and happy girls.

Overall, I think this type of thinking is essential, and I believe it is the last chapter in the book because the author thought it was the most important.

I believe it was a vital topic to discuss, but I wouldn’t go as far as say that it was a formal conclusion. I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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7. What is my Conclusion about the Book?

My favorite quote from the book was,

“You can act your way into feeling long before you can feel your way into acting.”

I think this highlights the importance of acting and getting out of your head so that you can make actual progress, but this massive action should only come after you have thought things through and considered all the variables.

Overall this book was straightforward to understand. There was little to no filler information.

It was such a short read with only 124 pages; thus, it was necessary to keep things simple to cover a wide range of sub-topics.


I was pleasantly surprised by all the thinking patterns he shared. I truly felt informed on the benefits of the different thinking strategies.

His writing style was simple and easy to understand. He went for clear over clever as he elaborated his points.

He tried to keep the stories and experience short, thus they were mainly segments and not fully fleshed out, but it was just enough information to get his points across. Depending on the reader, this could either be a strength or a weakness.


A weakness I found was that the information he shared was not comprehensive.

His goal was to highlight the main ideas with as little wording as possible.

The information was sufficient to gain a general understanding.

I believe he could have shared more detailed stories or scientific research explaining further the types of thinking.


I believe the intended audience is anyone who is looking to take their thinking to the next level.

His thesis is that as you replace in-efficient thinking with practical thinking, you will become more successful overall in all facets of life.

Thus I believe that the people that would most benefit from this book are people looking for a quick read to learn strategies to change the way you think drastically.


This book was influential in getting me to start the journey to reprogram my brain to create better-thinking patterns.

I would recommend stopping after every chapter and practice the thinking strategies, for me they were pretty simple to implement.


The overall readability was okay; he shared his advice mainly in list format. These lists, in most cases, were categorized by answering a question about the topic.

The chapters were short, around ten pages each.

I thought the information in each chapter covered the bare minimum of what I considered satisfactory.


You can expect to be enlightened by all the many different ways that one can think. Many of the strategies I read were new to me, and they challenged me to be better.

I felt enlightened to the point where as soon as I finished reading, I made a post to my Instagram account sharing a summary with my family and friends. I did this with the hopes of encouraging them to read it.

You can expect eleven essential types of thinking that I believe are spot on in describing the average human mind.

I would give this book a rating of 4.0/5.

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