Back in August 2016, my wife and I were at the bi-annual John Maxwell Team event. It was a real blessing to attend and get to know other speakers and coaches from around the world who are invested in adding value to others and bring leadership to their respective communities. There were many great moments during those three days of workshops, training, and speeches. We were trained by some of the most respected authorities in speaking, coaching, and business. One thing stood out above all others for me though.
We had just been given a great teaching by John Maxwell himself and it was close to supper time. As we were about to leave, he let everybody know that he could be found right after in the lobby to sign books from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. He added that there were two titles he would put no limit on signatures, one of them was The John Maxwell Leadership Bible. In other words, even if you brought 20 Bibles with you, he would sign them all. And then he said this: “I will be out there for three hours to make sure that all of you get your books signed, because I care about you. I also want you to know I will sign books on the last day as well. I will be doing this because I want to add value to you – my team; but also because I want to be an example. I want to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. I want you to see leadership not just hear about it.”
To be honest, when he said this I though it was very nice of him,but I didn’t realize how daunting a chore it was to sign book, after book, after book for three hours straight – on an empty stomach. I understood the work he was doing on our behalf later, when I got in line after having supper with my wife. It was a very long line and it had been since 6:00 pm. There were 3500 attendees at the event, and many hundreds got in line for this book signing. We got in line at 8:15 pm – so we were late comers. We waited a good 40 minutes until it got to be our turn. When only a couple of people were left ahead of us, that’s when I got it – that’s when understanding hit me. There I saw my mentor, my teacher, my friend (as he always calls himself); a 69 year old man who, from the looks of it, was exhausted and very haggard. He had spent hours signing thousands of books (I don’t even know how he could feel his hand anymore). He lifted up his head and his eyes had trouble following the upward movement, as he turned to his assistant and asked – “Are there many more?” And yes, it turned out there were quite a few more people left in line. So John went back to the conference hall, where we were gathered for fellowship, and made an announcement to everybody that he would keep signing books until 10:00 to make sure nobody got left out. And when he walked away from the stage, I saw two people aiding him going down the stairs – probably because he was (understandably) dizzy and tired. This is what stood out for me during those three days of leadership training. This is what made the deepest impression on my heart and mind. It’s not the teachings, the preaching, the phenomenal ambiance, the size of the hotel, the friendships, or the food that I remember most. No. What impressed me the most was to see this 69 year old world-class leadership teacher actually lead through sacrifice – not just in word, but in deed. That, my friends, is the deepest lesson John Maxwell has ever taught me: without sacrifice, there is no leadership.
My wife and I will never forget his tired face; and we will forever remember his giving heart.
John, if you’re reading this: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way. I know your life’s mission statement was to add value to people. Well, you surely accomplished that with me. May God richly bless you.