The setting was midwestern America during the Depression, in an average town, with ordinary people, all looking to simply survive. A young boy enters a store and, in keeping with the times, asks the store owner if he can work for him that day.

“I can’t afford to hire anyone, son,” the owner says.

“That’s okay,” the boy replies. “I’ll work for free.”

The owner pauses for a minute, and the puts the lad to work. He works all day, doing odds and ends that free the owner up to focus on what few customers come through the door. At the end of the day, he thanks the young boy for his hard work, and tells him how much he wishes he could pay him.

“Well, thank you,” the boy says. “If you’re hiring in the future, would you please think of me?”

The owner promises to contact the boy if he ever has an opening, and the boy walks out the door, back to his house. The next morning, the boy wakes up, walks to a different store, and asks the owner if he can work for him that day.

“I can’t afford to hire anyone,” the owner answers.

“That’s okay,” the boy says, smiling. “I’ll work for free.”

On and on that pattern goes—each day the boy waking up, each day the boy offering to work for free in stores where no one is hiring. After a few weeks, the boy receives a call from one of the store owners. A part-time position has come available, and while it’s not much, the owner would like for the boy to take it.

The boy agrees.

Soon after, another store owner calls on the boy and offers him part-time work. The boy accepts, and he accepts again when a third store owner offers him a part-time job.

During one of America’s worst economic periods, a time when able-bodied men couldn’t find or keep jobs, one midwestern boy somehow manages to secure not one, but three jobs to help keep his family afloat.

How’d he do it?

  • While so many around him were focused on the hardship of the Depression, the boy was looking at the opportunities the hardship afforded.
  • While others lamented there was no work to be found, the boy realized there was work to be had, if you were willing to do it for free.
  • While others felt trapped by the times, the boy understood they were really trapped by their thinking—and he freed himself by thinking differently from everyone else.

My friends, that’s the secret of all successful people—they think differently. They understand that as they think, so they are, and they make it a point to think successfully.

I’ve taught this principle—good thinking is what sets successful people apart—for years, and the older I get, the more I appreciate how true that statement really is. There’s no substitute for good thinking. It’s one of the most overlooked essentials of all successful people.

It’s why I wrote my book, How Successful People Think. It’s why my team just released our digital course by the same name. If you want to change your life, you must change your thinking, and I’ve spent years studying and practicing good thinking habits.

Those habits are condensed for you in my FREE Pocket Guide to Thinking. If you’ll click on that link, you’ll be able to download a free PDF guide that will help you learn and apply the secrets of successful thinkers. It’s a simple and effective tool to help get started on your journey toward better thinking.

In a world where even the slightest advantage can be a significant one, learning to think well might just be the most effective tool in your toolbox. That certainly was the case for the young boy I mentioned in the opening of this blog. His creative and unique thinking—and his willingness to think outside the box of circumstance and prevailing opinion—allowed him to thrive at a time when others struggled.

It also allowed him to pass that legacy of successful thinking on to his children.

How do I know that?

Because that boy’s name is Melvin Maxwell. He’s my dad. And he has proven to me time and time again that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is how they choose to think.

It’s a lesson I learned well, and it’s the lesson I’m happy to share with you in my Pocket Guide to Thinking. Download it. Study it. Learn from it.

And then apply it.

You’ll be glad you did.


  1. Ellen (me) Farquharson on October 22, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Yes please

  2. Debbie (Lowing) Pettis on October 22, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Dr. Melvin Maxwell served as president of Circleville Bible College when I attended there. Great guy!

  3. Samuel Nyantakyi on October 22, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks for all the nuggets of wisdom. Its blessing us beyond imagination

  4. Bachir on October 23, 2019 at 3:30 am

    Thanks for the pocket book its very handy

  5. emma on October 23, 2019 at 10:35 am

    Because that boy’s name is Melvin Maxwell. He’s my dad. And he has proven to me time and time again that the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is how they choose to think.

  6. Joyce McMurran on October 29, 2019 at 12:30 am

    Love, love this book and the lessons John shares… One of my favorite chapters is ‘Harness Creating Thinking” . Always thought I was not very creative until reading this book and understanding the characteristics of creative thinking. THINK > COLLECT > CREATE > CORRECT>CONNECT! Yes, Yes!

  7. Ratsamy Souvannamethy on November 1, 2019 at 2:26 am

    I have already brought Jonh C Maxwell Book but I am happy to have an electronic version

  8. mayeth corpuz on January 15, 2020 at 1:46 am

    Great idea ebook!

  9. […] Source link […]

  10. IBRAHIM NGUGI GATIMU on September 24, 2020 at 3:43 am

    Wow! I like the escape from “boxed in” thinking. Quite liberating to me personally.

    Ingenious!! This is very close as SoW!SE AFRICA’s slogan when facilitating leaders and the youth is that we do not have exams in all our sessions but we guide and encourage self examination. Self examination is thinking creatively, realistically, possibility, opportunity to serve community, strategically among others.
    Thanks John Maxwell for rekindling my spirit and my commitment to thinking right. I will surely pass this to others.

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