Mark Cole: A Leader’s Most Damaging Expression


Photo by Aneta Foubíková on Unsplash

Last week on the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast, I asked John how he stays fresh and remains excited while doing things he’s already done.

This is a question I consider a lot when it comes to John and his career. Think about it: after 106 books and 31 million copies sold, after traveling the world to meet with top leaders to literally help transform entire countries, don’t you think it would be easy for him to say “been there, done that”?

So, when I posed the question to John, his first response was clear:

“I believe the most damaging expression that any leader can live by is, ‘been there, done that.’”

At first glance, that doesn’t seem to be so bad. After all, to really excel in life, you need to find your strength zone and consistently do the things you do well. In order for that to happen, you must have been there and done that.

But when you begin to rely on “been there, done that” to stay in the game, you begin to lose excitement and creativity.

Babe Ruth said it best, “Yesterday’s home run doesn’t win today’s game.”

Good leaders have learned how to push themselves to the next level while remaining in the same game. They understand it’s not about finding a new game, a new field or a new skill; it’s about consistent repetition in your strength zone.

As John always says, consistency compounds. If you want to become a master of your work you have to live in the “been there, done that.” Otherwise you will never gain enough experience to become great.

You can’t stay in that lane. You can’t live in yesterday and expect it to bear the weight of today.

I’ve seen far too many careless leaders cheat themselves and stunt their growth because they didn’t value the present moment.

So, how do you stay fresh when you’ve “been there, done that?”

John’s answer: anticipation.

Anticipation fuels you to show up and drives you to stay in the game until you get a win.

If you’re struggling in this area, the first thing I would do is change “been there, done that” to “going there, doing that.” You need to bring it into the present tense.

How do you do that? Anticipation. Everything changes when you go into a task with anticipation.

Sure, you’ve been here before, but now you’re back and you’re doing it better.

People ask John all the time, “What is your favorite book?” And his answer is always, “The one I’m writing right now.”

No matter how well you did today, you should have anticipation for improvement tomorrow.Here’s something I want to give you to work on this week that I believe will help you stay fresh.

Do an inventory on your life. Where are you stale?

What are the things that you’re doing, the relationships that you have and/or the businesses you’re a part of, that have become stale?

Where do you need to create a fresh focus, a fresh perspective, or a fresh approach?

Now—go figure out how to build anticipation back into the area or areas where “been there, done that” has become the mantra, and change it to “going there, doing that.” Bring it back to the present tense. Build some anticipation for growth and improvement. As you do this, the energy and excitement you need to be successful will follow.

4 Comments

  1. Antigha Hogan on May 26, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Nice right up…quite educating

    • Eddie Amanam on June 18, 2019 at 11:07 am

      It was uplifting to know that been there and done that are anti progreys, killed enthusiasm. Anticipation and passion create joy of fulfillment. Thanks for sharing

  2. Stefan on May 27, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Great wise words. Leadership and personal growth do not see a finish line. Steadily trying to do things better is important when you really want to create legacy.d

  3. Gangadharan. S on May 27, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Great truths i learned from this post. Thanks Jhon Maxwell

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