Maxwell 'loses his marbles' and now lives with No Limits


The long-time American leadership coach, best-selling author and pastor John C. Maxwell used to keep a jar of marbles on his office desk, with each orb representing a week in what he projected as the remaining span of his life.

Then one day, the 70-year-old's friend Bill Hybels learnt of this jar and scolded him thus: "John, have you lost your marbles?… Why limit yourself? What is wrong with you?"

Maxwell said it was a wake-up call; while he saw himself as being on the way out, his friends like Hybels believed he still had much learning and experiences to benefit everyone.

Thus chastened, Maxwell dumped his entire jar of marbles on the floor in front of his staff and began approaching life as having "no limits", which is also the title of his latest book.

No Limits, then, is chock-full of tips for you to, as he says, "come alive" to new ideas and possibilities, and touch the lives of others positively.


    By John C. Maxwell
    Center Street, paperback/ 315 pages/$23.65 with GST from leading bookstores or on loan from the National Library Board under the call number English 158 MAX

He is rather repetitive and derivative in it, though, but that is not all bad as No Limits doubles as a compendium of pithy quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, as well as Maxwell's late mentor Robert H. Schuller and those of Schuller's ilk such as Anthony Robbins and the late Stephen "Seven Habits" Covey.

Sadly, Maxwell notes, most people treat life as "The Niagara Journey", as if they are in a boat heading downriver and just letting its current take it wherever it flows, even if it eventually sends them over raging waters akin to the famous falls.

Conversely, he has found that those who enjoy continuing success are always "alive" to new ideas and possibilities, as they believe that what they are doing now will be better than anything they have done before; that they can do better than before; and that however old they are, they can still improve themselves. Those who want to keep growing ask themselves "How far can I go?", not "How long will it take?"


1. If you want to know if your workplace is able to nurture your personal growth, ask yourself: "Who brings out the best in me in this organisation?" and "Who do I bring the best out of in this organisation?"

2. Don't be what Maxwell calls an "ask hole", or someone who keeps asking for advice but seldom follows it.

3. To keep others from controlling you unnecessarily, associate each of them with two numbers, each on a scale from one to 10. The first number is what Maxwell calls your "belief" number, in which you almost always rate everyone a 10 because he has potential. You then base the second number on your actual experiences with each person you meet. If you find yourself giving him a consistently low rating, you might want to interact less with him.

4.Train yourself to be more creative in your spare time by regularly tackling problems that seem impossible to solve, as patience and constant experimentation hone creativity.

5. You have to get on well with your colleagues first if you want them to adapt to your agenda. Ask them: "Will you help me to help you?" Their responses to that will enable you to track and measure how invested they are in your organisation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Maxwell 'loses his marbles' and now lives with No Limits'. Print Edition | Subscribe