[Following is a condensation of the book ‘Your Road Map to Success’ by John Maxwell.  I have used these principles to train up my 2 sons.  I wish my dad had done the same for me.  Had I followed the principles laid forth in this condensation, it would have saved much pain and grief.]


The journey is more fun if you know where you’re going.

What is your definition of success?  The traditional definition of success is something like the wealth of Bill Gates, the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Cindy Crawford), the intelligence of Albert Einstein, the athletic ability of Michael Jordan, etc.  It sounds absurd but it’s closer to the truth than we’d like to admit.


Success is not:

  • Wealth – How much money is enough? Just a little bit more.
  • Happiness – You will be on a continual roller coaster, changing from successful to unsuccessful with every change of mood.
  • Specific and worthwhile possessions – Think back on something you really wanted and finally got. It made you feel great at the moment but how do you feel now? Possessions at best are a temporary fix.
  • Power – Power is a great test of integrity because of its ability to corrupt. But everyone, even benevolent dictators, eventually lose power.


So what is success?  Two things are required:  the right picture of success and the right principles for getting there.  The picture of success is different for any two people, but the principles for getting there are the same for everyone. Success is a journey because you’ll never exhaust your capacity to grow toward your potential or run out of opportunities to help others.


Success is… knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.


 Knowing Your Purpose

Most people in life are just putting in time, being blown to and fro by the vagaries of chance.  If you don’t actively try to discover your purpose in life, you’re likely to spend it doing the wrong things.  Each of us has a purpose for which we were created.  Our responsibility—and our greatest joy—is to identify it.


For what am I searching?  All of us have a strong desire buried in our hearts, something that speaks to our deepest thoughts and feelings, something that sets our souls on fire.  Some of us find it sooner than others.  But no matter what, it’s there.  We only need to find it.


Why was I created?  Think about your unique mix of talents, resources, personal history and opportunities.  No one else in the world is the same as you.  That’s why it would be a serious mistake to try to become someone other than yourself.  Identify the factors that make you unique and discover the desire of your heart and you’re a long way toward discovering your purpose in life.


Do I believe in my potential?  You cannot consistently act in a manner inconsistent with the way you see yourself.  If you don’t believe you have potential you will never try to reach it.  If you’re unwilling to work toward reaching your potential, you will never be successful.  You can only do what you can with what you have where you are.  And by the way, do it now.


Growing to Your Potential

Don’t scatter yourself in 20 different directions.  Reaching your potential requires focus.  Discover your purpose and then concentrate on it. Remember, the only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have been and what we have become.


Know that there is no success without sacrifice.  If you’re satisfied to accomplish little, then sacrifice little.  If you desire to accomplish much, then be willing to sacrifice much.



The past is long and its load heavy.  You can’t make momentum toward tomorrow if you’re dragging the past along behind.  Drop it.  Maybe you’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, or you’ve had an especially difficult past with many obstacles.  Don’t let it prevent you from getting a little better each day.  Each day you get a little better it moves you one step closer to your potential.


Knowing Your Purpose

If you don’t know where you’re going, just about anywhere will do.  A cruise to nowhere may be a fun way to occupy a few days of vacation time, but it’s no way to spend your life.  In other words, you can’t fulfill your purpose and grow toward your potential if you don’t know what direction you should be going.  You need to discover your dream.


A person who has a dream knows what he is willing to give up in order to go up.


Think about a personal vision that grows out of a heartfelt desire.  Contemplate what it’s going to take to make it happen.  Here are some points that will help you think it through.


  • Believe in your ability to succeed. You can’t do it if you don’t believe it.
  • Get rid of your pride. If you’re full of yourself, you don’t have much room left over for a dream.
  • Cultivate constructive discontent. Complacency never brings success. You must desire positive change.
  • Escape from habit. Habit is what you do without thinking. Habit can kill a dream because you stop thinking.
  • Balance creativity with character. Finding your dream is one thing, but you have to have enough character to produce it with your own hands.


Articulate a Statement of Purpose

Once you’ve given more thought to your dream, and it has started to become clearer in your mind, you’re ready to take another step:  writing a statement of purpose for yourself based on your dream and what you intend to be doing while you’re going in that direction.  Your goal is to end up with a concise single statement that expresses what you want to do in your life.  Your definition of success, your goals, and 80 percent of your daily activities should fall within the context of your purpose statement.


How Far Can I Go?

In the summer of 1970 I helped my grandfather tear down an old building in the middle of town.  From the early 30’s to the mid 60’s it had been Doc Thornbury’s office.  In a crawl space under the floor, I found some of the old magazines he had kept for patients to read while waiting.  Of particular interest were 2 old Reader’s Digests, one from 1934 and another from 1960.  There were articles in both magazines of why man would never go to the moon.  Indeed, when President Kennedy announced to Congress on May 25, 1961 that we should commit ourselves to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade, many people thought he had lost his mind.   Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s we were in a space race with the Soviet Union.  We were losing and the situation seemed hopeless.  Kennedy not only made the impossible our goal, but he gave it a deadline.  In July of 1969, almost one year exactly before I found the magazine articles, Neal Armstrong took “…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”


Your attitude determines your altitude.  In the blink of an eye, John F. Kennedy’s speech took the thought of a lunar landing from an impossible dream to an obtainable target.  The president’s goal contained the dream and prompted the attitude that enabled it to happen.  A dream coupled with the right attitude suddenly makes the impossible possible.


When our attitudes outdistance our abilities, even the impossible becomes possible.



However, if your dream is not coupled with the right attitude, or vice versa, you won’t go very far on your journey.

  • A dream without a positive attitude produces a daydreamer.
  • A positive attitude without a dream produces a pleasant person who can’t progress.
  • A dream together with a positive attitude produces a person with unlimited possibilities and potential.

Your attitude—not intelligence, talent, education, technical ability, opportunity, or even hard work—is the main factor that determines whether you will live your dream.  This is so important I’ll put it another way:  If you have intelligence, talent, education, technical know-how, opportunities, and a strong work ethic, yet lack the right attitude, you will never enjoy the success journey.


Your attitude means the difference between success and failure.  Basketball coach John Wooden said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”


Seven Signs of a Great Attitude

  • Belief in Self – Many people succeed when others don’t believe in them. But rarely does a person succeed when he does not believe in himself.
  • Willingness to See the Best in Others – In many ways, the way you see others is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Ability to See Opportunity Everywhere – The Greek philosopher Plutarch wrote, “As bees extract honey from thyme, the strongest and driest of herbs, so sensible men often get advantage and profit from the most awkward circumstances.”
  • Focus on Solutions – People with positive attitudes focus their time on solutions, not problems.
  • Desire to Give – Nothing has as much positive impact on people as giving to others.
  • Persistence – Calvin Coolidge said, “ Nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
  • Responsibility for Their Lives – Successful people understand that nothing positive happens until you’re willing to step forward and take full responsibility for your thoughts and actions.


Top Tips for Getting Your Attitude in Tip-Top Shape

  • Claim Responsibility not Rights – Continually fighting for your rights in an imperfect world can make you resentful, angry, hateful and bitter.
  • Associate with Positive People – If you choose negative friends, you are also choosing to have a negative attitude.
  • Make the Present Moment Your Happiest – Whenever you focus on the past or the future, you rob the present of its potential.
  • Find Constructive Ways to Relieve Stress – Find an activity that requires both physical effort and mental concentration that you enjoy.
  • Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously – You’ll go farther in life and have a better time doing it if you maintain a sense of humor, especially when it comes to yourself.


If you wait until you feel like it to try to change your attitude, you will never change.  Dr. William Glasser maintained, “If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior.  In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become.  Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away.”



So now you have a great attitude and you know your purpose in life.  What’s next?  It’s sort of like having a great car full of gas and you know your destination is somewhere in California.  The problem is you don’t know where you’re starting from and you have no road map.


First of all, observe your starting place.  To become different of what we are, we must have some idea of what we are.  Examine yourself as honestly as you can.  Once you have a sense of where you are, ask yourself the following questions:


  • How great a distance will I have to travel? If your goal is to become a doctor or engineer, then you need to contact universities to get information on programs of study, tuition costs, admission policies, and so on. No matter what you want to do, you will have to travel some distance to make it happen.  You need to know how much ground you’ll have to cover.
  • What do I have working for me? Look for things that are going to give you a head start. Look at your inherent abilities, circumstances, resources and contacts.
  • What must I overcome? You will also have some things working against you. You have to take an honest look at from where you’re starting and overcome the obstacles.
  • What will it cost to make the trip? Every trip has costs associated with it. These costs may be in terms of time, energy, finances, choices, sacrifices, or a combination of factors.  You will have to decide whether you’re willing to pay that price.


You need a clear picture of your dream to know what you’re willing to give—and give up—to become successful.


Now define your goals.  Goals are points of reference on your road map.  They will be activities or accomplishments that you plan to complete to fulfill your purpose, develop your potential, and help others.  Use the following guidelines to keep your goals on target.  Goals must be:


  • Written
  • Personal
  • Specific
  • Achievable
  • Measurable
  • Time-sensitive


A wise man once said, “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”  Only 2 out of 100 make realistic goals and follow through and actually make them happen.  The trick to acting on your goals is getting started.  Don’t be afraid of going slowly; only be afraid of standing still.  Remember, success is not a destination but a journey.


As you work on achieving your goals, think about this:  Although you should strive to write a purpose statement for yourself that will last a lifetime, you should plan to review and update goals on an almost continual basis.


Finally, celebrate as you accomplish your goals.  One of the greatest motivators in the world is success.  Each time you accomplish a small goal, you experience success.  That’s motivating!  Accomplish enough of the small goals, and you’ll be taking a major step toward achieving your purpose and developing your potential.


Retail department store founder J. C. Penny declared, “Give me a store clerk with a goal and I will give you a man who will make history.  Give me a man without a goal and I’ll give you a store clerk.”