This week, I want us to dwell more on a book so dear to my heart. A book I will recommend to every young person and more especially people doing so much in their lives yet have nothing substantial in terms of growth that should commensurate with the efforts they exert, to show for. I first came into contact with the book when it got recommended to me by Fuad Mohammed Abubakar, the Head of Ghana Cocoa Marketing Company in the United Kingdom. I received an unexpected and unsolicited message from him one day that I should look for that book and read it. I never understood the reason for that strange action until I grabbed the book that particular day and began digesting its content. I later had to recommend it to members of Success Book Club, the most active book club in Ghana and it was approved and read. The month-long interest it sustained and the subsequent discussion attested to the efficacy of the book in awakening the giant in every reader. The book, written by John C. Maxwell, the American author who has written copiously on leadership was published in October,2012 and is a great resource for every human being who wants to be elevated above his or her current station. I move to discuss the laws enumerated in the book briefly.
The first law the author discusses is the Law of intentionality, which emphasizes on the idea that growth in life doesn’t just happen. Great lives do not happen miraculously. Great lives are created and crafted by individuals who have the intention and desire to grow far above the station of common men, who want to make themselves stronger; believing that they have to contribute something substantial into their growth. Under this law, the author discusses eight misconceptions that hold people back. Many people assume they will grow automatically, some do not even know how to grow (pathetic), some have the misconception that the time is not right to begin growing, some are afraid of making mistakes (which is a problem of the youth of this generation who have nothing to lose yet never try anything for fear of failing). He added that some want things to be perfect before they start (he teaches progress over perfection over here), some are simply not inspired, some shrink because they think others are better than them and many think greatness comes with ease and the journey is rosy.
The second law is that of awareness. It is sad most of us do not know ourselves. We know more of celebrities that we know of our inner selves; our strengths and weaknesses, we do not have a sense of direction. He offers a nice quote to buttress his point that “the first step toward change is awareness. The second is acceptance.”
The author then calls the next one the law of the mirror which exhorts readers to see value in themselves and in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own ‘somebodiness’. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”
John C. Maxwell believes one of the invaluable laws of growth should be that of reflection. He believes readers should be able to pause and take stock of their lives. He states that reflection turns experience into insight, it allows experiences to move from being life markers to life makers and it expands and enriches thinking.
One very important law we need as humans is consistency. Under this law, he discusses starting with simple stuff, having patience, valuing the process and restating in other that “life runs according to its own agenda-not yours. Be patient and Trust. Be like the stonecutter-steadily chipping away, day after day. Eventually, a single blow will crack and reveal the diamond.” Ponder over this deeply.
The Law of environment is the sixth law the author discusses in the book. He states that growth thrives in conducive surroundings. An average student is more likely to be an exceptional student when he’s in a group of diligent and hardworking students than when he’s in a group of indolent and lazy students. That’s how effective our environment can be to us. The author believes “you cannot change where and when you were born. You cannot change who your parents are. You cannot change your height or DNA. But you can change your attitude about them. You must do your best to live with them.”
“Most people allow their lives to simply happen to them. They float along. They wait. They react. And by the time a large portion of their life is behind them, they realize they should have been more proactive and strategic. I hope that hasn’t been true for you. If it has, then I want to encourage you to develop a stronger sense of urgency and a pro-strategic mindset.” This is what the author discusses under the law of design. He stated that life is not a dress rehearsal. This is not a warm-up. A person has only one life and must design how it should pan out at the end.
The law of pain is next and John Maxwell discusses the fact that this life is fraught with pitfalls and perils and one day you will be dealt with a bad experience. How you are able to turn these bad experiences into great growth is the focus of this law.
The law of the ladder looks at the strength of your character as a human being. He believes that your character growth determines the height of your personal growth. The author emphasizes the point that the only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried in the character of a man. What a man is survives him.
The tenth law is the law of rubber band which focuses on making sure you hold tight the tension between where you are and where you could. The author, a pastor of long years of service reiterates the point that God gave every human being a gift, potential. Man’s gift to God is to develop that potential and this can only be achieved when you step out of your comfort zone.
By continually stretching- not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Life begins at the end of our comfort zone. We go there by stretching. The law says we should be willing to seize opportunities and accept challenges. Also, do more sowing instead of just harvesting.
The law of trade-offs is the eleventh law which analyzes the things we have to give up in order to ensure growth. You need a vision, hard work, personal growth, letting go of most things you love and value the most to be able to get to the next level. If you want to grow up your potential, you must be willing to give up some things you value. Everyone in life makes trades throughout life whether they know it or not. Unsuccessful people make bad trade-offs. Average people make few trade-offs. Successful people make good trade-offs. Nothing creates a greater gap between successful and unsuccessful people than the choices we make.
The law of curiosity exhorts us never to lose a holy curiosity in this journey of life. Curious people possess a thirst for knowledge. They are interested in life, people, ideas, experiences and events and they live in a constant state of wanting to learn more. Curiosity helps one to think and expand possibilities beyond the ordinary.
The law of modelling basically teaches mentorship. The book thinks it is hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow. The law of expansion tells us the potentialities in us is limitless and largely untapped and that we have to increase our capacity.
The last one which is the law of contribution says growing ourselves enables us to grow others and that we should be rivers and not reservoirs. Reservoirs continually take in water but only to fill themselves up but rivers give away whatever they receive.
The book is a solid one and ends with a great statement by George Bernard Shaw, the Noble Peace Prize winner for Literature in 1925. He boldly stated that “this is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
NB: The writer is a youth-activist and a student of knowledge.