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#9: The Law of the Ladder

Updated: Feb 11

Character Growth Determines the Height of Your Personal Growth


“Good character, with honesty and integrity at its core, is essential to success in any area of life. Without it, a person is building on shifting sand.” — John C. Maxwell

We often think about success in terms of a ladder, with the rungs representing the steps we take to reach greater heights in our endeavors. While it is important to continue moving upward, let’s take a moment to think about the foundation on which we’ve set our success ladder.

When you think about growth, the areas that come to mind first are likely competency-based, but your strength of character will determine the height of your personal growth and your ability to reach your potential. It acts as the foundation for your ladder. If your success ladder lacks the proper foundation, you can still climb the ladder, but the higher you go, the more precarious your position becomes until suddenly the world shifts, and you’re free falling back to the ground.

Ladder of Success

John Rohn once said, “Character is a quality that embodies many important traits such as integrity, courage, perseverance, confidence, and wisdom. Unlike your fingerprints that you were born with and can’t change, character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing."

So how do you grow your character?

John Maxwell gives five key takeaways when building that firm foundation.

1 - Focus on Being Better on the Inside than the Outside Because Character Matters

Your character represents who you are on the inside. While it’s natural to be concerned about outward appearance, do you care more about how you look on the outside and what others believe about you or how you are on the inside?

The good news is that if you focus on being better on the inside, you will also be better on the outside with time.

  • The inside influences the outside; what you do or neglect to do in the privacy of your daily life impacts who you are.

  • Inside victories precede outside ones. The right motions outwardly with wrong motives inwardly will not bring lasting progress.

2 - Focus on Adding Value to People Because They Matter

In all of our relationships, we are either a plus or a minus in the lives of others. Think about that a moment; are you adding value to the people you interact with, or do you subtract value from them with your thoughts, words, or actions?

3 - Focus on Standing On Your Beliefs Because Passion Matters

Your belief system gives you a starting point for growing character, giving you the energy and motivation to keep going! Borrowed beliefs have no passion and no power. John Maxwell says individuals who lack principles and passion become beige people. I want my life, work, and relationships to be full of color and passion!

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he hoped to make it.” — J. M. Barrie

4 - Focus on Humility Because Perspective Matters

I think we can all admit if we’re honest, we fall short of where we could or should be in our growth and life, but this provides us with an excellent opportunity to practice humility.

  • Recognize that everyone, including you, has shortcomings.

  • Be teachable: ask questions, listen, try new ideas, and look at the world differently; never stop learning.

  • Be willing to serve others because putting others first helps you maintain a proper-sized ego and perspective.

  • Be grateful because it expresses your vulnerability and dependence on others. “Everything we do, every accomplishment we have, every milestone we pass has come in part because of the efforts of others. There are no self-made men or women. If we can remember that, we can be grateful.”

5 - Focus on Finishing Well Because Faithfulness Matters

I believe pastor and radio broadcaster Tony Evans said it best, “If you want a better world, composed of better nations, inhabited by better states, filled with better counties, made up of better cities, comprised of better neighborhoods, illuminated by better churches, populated by better families, then you’ll have to start by become a better person.” It always starts with you — with me. If we focus on personal character, we make our world better, and doing it for our entire lives means that we’ve done the best thing we can do to change the world.

This next week, schedule some time to assess where you have put most of your focus up until this point in your life. Has it been on improving the inside or the outside?

  • Compare where you’ve spent your money.

  • Compare where you’ve spent your time.

  • Compare what has held your attention.

If your assessment reveals more of an outward focus than an inward one, determine how to shift your focus by adding time, money, and attention to the things that will make you grow even if they do not show.

Additionally, be intentional about acting on your answers to the following questions:

  • Do I devote time to serving others and can I do more to develop humility, character, and others-mindedness?

  • What am I doing every day to develop the habit of character growth?

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