I am delighted to have Mark Cole write a guest post for Keep Thinking Big. Mark serves as the CEO of all five Maxwell Organizations: The John Maxwell Company, EQUIP, The John Maxwell Team, The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, and Maxwell Motivation.

We often see thinking as a natural process, one that requires little effort and is best left unstructured. Or maybe it is our extravagant hope in the quick 3-step guide to success that drives us to this notion.

Staples, an office supply retailer with stores spanning the U.S., preyed on this cultural dilemma with a marketing campaign that they called “The Easy Button.” The campaign featured a button that when pressed would exclaim “that was easy!” and whatever you needed was taken care of. A genius strategy that painted the picture of a place that would take on your need and fill it with minimal effort required from you.

We have an Easy Button mentality.

Why are successful people successful?

Because they are good thinkers.

How do I become a good thinker?

By developing a process for how to think intentionally.

Good thinkers understand thinking is a discipline that can be cultivated and refined. They understand that effective thinking doesn’t just come at the push of a button.

At the end of each year, I take some intentional time for a few days to get away and think. Usually to the mountains or somewhere remote, any place I can get alone with limited distractions. Ultimately, I structure my time there around reflecting on the previous year and building out my personal growth plan moving forward. This year will be my 14th year away.

You may be thinking, “I can’t afford to do that every year.” And what I’m telling you is this, YOU CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO.

“Well, there’s just too much going on at the office.”

Empower people to lead.

“But I will be neglecting my family for taking that time away from them.”

You will come back refreshed, re-energised and ready to pour into them far more than before.

I share this with you because I believe that evaluated experience is not only a powerful force but essential for growth. John C. Maxwell says, “Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is.” Growth doesn’t just fall into your lap; you have to fight for it. Just because you spend time thinking throughout the day doesn’t mean that you are producing effective ideas.

From the book “Thinking for a Change” John C. Maxwell recommends his process for becoming a good thinker:

  1. Find a place to think your thoughts
  2. Find a place to shape your thoughts
  3. Find a place to stretch your thoughts
  4. Find a place to land your thoughts
  5. Find a place to fly your thoughts

Don’t miss this – everything about this process leads you to activating on your thoughts. This is the mark of good thinking: it always leads to action.

Without intentionally developing a process for thinking, our ideas can easily fade or be forgotten. Good thinkers understand that ideas have a short shelf life, so they find a way to maximise them.

As you develop your process, know yourself and your tendencies. If you have a hard time staying focused in crowded places, it’s probably not a great idea to pick the local coffee shop as a place to think your thoughts. Likewise, if you are an abstract thinker with a creative personality I would not suggest you stretch your thoughts with someone who is very calculated and detailed. However, that person might be an excellent choice to help you land your thoughts.

People who go to the top think differently than others. We all want to get to the top, but it’s only those that are willing to do what it takes to get there who make it. Which brings us back to the question we started with – what do all successful people have in common? Successful people are good thinkers.

Become a good thinker.

Fight for your process.

Realise your true potential by maximising your ideas.

Develop a process that works for you and be consistent – I promise you will not be disappointed with the results.

Mark Cole Bio

Mark Cole has more than 25 years of leadership and team development experience, which uniquely qualifies him to be the champion of the John C. Maxwell brand. With a passion for leadership development and organizational growth, he is committed to adding value to individual leaders and leadership teams. Mark has experience in both the non-profit and for profit sectors, and he has led companies through economic challenges, growth barriers, and disconnected team dynamics. These skills have led to Mark’s integral role with the John Maxwell brand and his responsibility for stewarding John’s assets in a variety of capacities.

Mark Cole serves as the CEO of all five Maxwell Organizations: The John Maxwell Company, EQUIP, The John Maxwell Team, The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, and Maxwell Motivation.  Prior to his current roles, Mark held leadership positions in two previous Maxwell entities, INJOY/Maximum Impact and INJOY Stewardship Services. In 2008, Mark launched his own consulting firm, the IRON League, which provides leadership advice to various high-level organizations. Mark and his incredible wife, Stephanie, have two daughters, Tori and Maci, and a handsome grandson, Ryder.  They reside in Atlanta, Georgia.  When Mark is not leading, he spends his time, golfing and snow skiing.