Review of "How Successful People Think"

By John C. Maxwell
Hachette Audio, 2009
Review by Anthony R Dickinson, Ph.D. on Apr 20th 2010
How Successful People Think

A significant addition to the 'must read' library of any aspiring business manager or entrepreneur, whether ceding small or larger scales, Maxell's How Successful People Think outlines exactly what the title suggests. Not only does he do this, however, he also advices his readers how they might also learn to think about their business (albeit clinical, corporate, commercial, personal, even spiritual), in such a way as to enhance the likelihood of success. This text would certainly make a great gift for anyone thought by others to not yet have achieved their much sought after 'success' ! Although the current reviewer has not seen the print version, the content of this audiobook presentation covers territory that will be familiar to the reader of 'how to xxx' and other 'tips for business development without tears'-type books, organized by Maxwell as readily digestible 'lists' of whys and hows with respect to 11 categories of thinking expertise.

Presented as 42 parts over 3 audio CDs, each part lasts 4-5 minutes, and covers an introductory section (Why Change Thinking, and How to Become a Better Thinker) followed by the 11 thinking style chapters. Each 'thinking' chapter then uses the same format (why do this kind of thinking, thereafter, how to do that of thinking), reminiscent of Tom Peter's 'Essentials Series', with its lists of key points to think about, and remember. Such a format lends the listener (if not the reader ?) to require considerable concentration and note taking, but with easy replay/review as each part is relatively short. Maxwell's key thinking categories for success include Big Picture Thinking, Focused Thinking, Creative Thinking, Realistic Thinking, Strategic Thinking, Possibility Thinking, Reflective Thinking, Popular Thinking, Shared Thinking, Unselfish Thinking, and Bottom-line Thinking. The why section of each chapter lists 4-8 reasons for developing better thinking skills of the sort being explored, followed by 4-6 ways to actually become better able to think in that way. Such an organization of his material affords the listener easy access to Maxwell's information/advice once realized, but the current reviewer would have preferred to hear more examples of 'success' following their implementation (and admittedly at the expense of generating a much longer text). The reading thus appears to sound a little 'preachy' at times (and noticing the unusually large number of biblical references, we later discover that the Maxwell is indeed a Christian pastor), though well intentioned, respectful and presented with significant humility.

Many How to xxx texts organized in this way in the past have tended to offer much repetition (even contradiction) across their different chapters, but somewhat refreshingly, this is not the case here. And although the 11 types of thinking explored by Maxwell will seem arbitrary to some listeners/readers (most of us could propose several other 'types' of thinking one might also include), repetition of specific advice list items were minimal -- notable repeats involved the need to check/recheck one's assumptions, 'removing oneself from distractions' and 'asking the right questions'. Possible contradictions were also largely absent, though some listeners may rightly be concerned with reconciling the advice concerned with not spending time with people of the same mind set as yourself (Avoiding Popular Thinking chapter), yet at the same time trying to follow the suggestion to think with others 'thinking in the same direction' (Benefitting from Shared Thinking chapter). Without any references to the many quotes or other resources reviewed, Maxwell's text cannot be easily checked or followed up (as with most audiobook presentations), so it is difficult to be sure of the factual validity of examples that are given (e.g., the nuclear bomb was not built and tested in 1945 as the author suggests, but at a much later date).

Also available in print and already a NY Times listed best seller, the current reviewer enjoyed the audio version presentation very much (as read by Chris Sorensen), the whole text manageable within a single afternoon session walking in the hills. In using the 11 thinking style typology as proposed, Maxwell does not, however, offer his typology of thinking-style assessment to be used with candidate application screening (recommending the use of standardized professional personality tests such as DISC or the ARL-MBTI+ to do that), instead proposing that any person may (indeed, should), change their thinking in a number of distinct ways (by following his advice), in order to more efficiently achieve their goals and dreams. In preparing for this review, I found that I eventually needed to write continuous notes whilst listening a second time, and only then discovered the organization of the text, once noting that I had essentially produced written four pages of itemized lists – each referencing a different kind of thinking skill, why I should wish to develop them, and then how to set about doing such, in order to achieve greater success.


© 2010 Tony Dickinson


Dr. Tony Dickinson, Academic Research Laboratory, People Impact International Inc.


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