One of the arts of leadership that I urge strongly is that leaders distill and internalize maxims—short statements of wisdom. I urge them to memorize these maxims, to live them, to talk about them, and to be generous in passing them on to the young. This is part of the way you build a noble culture around you.
When I said this to a group of leaders recently, they immediately asked me about my own maxims. I realized I had never shared these with my Leading Thoughts band of leaders. So, here are the maxims that guide my life—at least the maxims I’ve distilled and internalized so far. Use them. Build on them. Pass them along. By the way, I’ve also mentioned the source for each maxim. I want you to see how informally wisdom can come into your life.
- Take God seriously and very little else.
This is all me. I’m a confirmed believer in not sweating the small stuff and that it’s pretty much all small stuff—except for God.
- Live every day as though it were your last, for one day you are sure to be right.
This is a line from the movie Breaker Morant. I live it out every day.
- Fortune favors the bold.
A sentiment of the ancients. I believe it completely.
- You have a destiny and your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others.
The truth here is from scripture but the language is mine.
- We make a living by what we earn, but we make a life by what we give.
Attributed to the grand Sir Winston Churchill.
- The best things in life are seasonal.
This is from my beloved wife, Beverly, the wisest woman I know.
- The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation. Don’t be one of them.
A combination of Henry David Thoreau and me.
- Life is too short for bitterness, anger, and self-pity. See them as the enemies of your happiness.
All me and only because I’ve both fallen short of this and learned to live it out.
- A change is as good as a rest.
Again, from my mentor Sir Churchill.
- Do something every day that scares you.
Eleanor Roosevelt taught us this truth. Watch what happens when you give yourself to it.
- The generous man prospers.
This is scripture: Proverbs 11:25.
- The man who is self-defined is defined by a fool. We need the perspective and counsel of others to be our best.
Again, from me but drawn from the lives of others and from my own years of falling short of this. No more!
As you can see, some of your life maxims will be original with you. Most will come from others. The important thing is that you fill your life—and the lives of others—with truths that make a full and meaningful life. This is part of the art of leadership.