How Successful People Think Chapter 6

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Success Notes of the Day: Chapter 6 Explore Possibility Thinking

How Successful People Think By John C. Maxwell


Above all, possibility thinkers believe they can succeed. Denis Waitley, author of The Psychology of Winning, says, “The winners in life think constantly in terms of ‘I can, I will and I am.’ Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have done, or what they don’t do.”

How often do you live in the past?

Maxwell illustrates a great example between Don Soderquist, former president of Walmart and Sam Walton.

“We went into one [store], and I have to tell you that it was the worst store I’ve ever seen in my life. It was terrible. There were no customers. There was no help on the floor. The aisles we cluttered with merchandise, empty shelves, dirty, it was absolutely terrible. He [Walton] walked one way and I’d walk the other way and we’d kinda meet out on the sidewalk. He said “What’d you think, Don?”

I said, “Sam, that is the absolutely worst store I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, did you see the aisles?”

He said, “Don, did you see the pantyhose rack?”

I said, “No, I didn’t Sam. I must have gone on a different aisle than you. I didn’t see that.”

He said, “That was the best pantyhose rack I’ve ever seen, Don.” And he said, “I pulled the fixture out and on the back was the name of the manufacturer. When we get back, I want you to call that manufacturer and have him come visit with our fixture people. I want to put that rack in our stores. It’s absolutely the best I’ve ever seen. And he said next,” Did you see the ethnic cosmetics?”


I said, “Sam that must have been right next to the pantyhose rack, because I absolutely missed that.”

He said, “Don, do you realize that in our stores we have four feet of ethnic cosmetics. These people had 12 feet of it. We are absolutely missing the boat. I wrote down the distributor of some of those products. When we get back I want you to get a hold of our cosmetic buyer and get these people in. We absolutely need to expand our ethnic cosmetics.”


“Now, Sam Walton didn’t hit me on the head and say, “Don, now what lesson did you learn from this?” He had already hit me on the head by looking for the good, looking how to improve, striving for excellence. It’s so easy to go and look at what other people do badly. But one of the leadership characteristics of vision that he showed me, and I’ll never forget it, is look for the good in what other people are doing and apply it.”


So call It what you like: the will to succeed, belief in yourself, confidence in your ability, faith. It’s really true: people who believe they can’t don’t.  But if you believe you can, you can! That’s the power of possibility thinking.”


Quotes from: John C. Maxwell, How Successful People Think (New York: Center Street, 2009), pages 63,67-68, 70.

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