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Book Review:
Today Matters

By Matthew Arnold Stern

We have dozens dozens of self-improvement books at our house. The ones I've read all say the same things: be positive, set goals, focus on priorities, take care of your body, believe in God, and so on.

What makes John C. Maxwell's Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success better than any of the other self-improvement book I've read? First of all, it functions like a workshop. For each of the 12 practices described in the book, Maxwell provides exercises where you reflect on how you can use these ideas and implement them right away.

The most illuminating of these exercises is when you look back on how you have used and misused these principles in the past, a section he calls "Making Up for Yesterday". He leads you through a series of questions where you review your past actions and feelings. (In the chapter about values, he asks, "Who are your heroes and role models?" and "What do you think about most, especially when you're alone?") He then uses these questions to guide you towards making better decisions today and in the future. 

The second attribute that makes this book stand out is his examples of people who haven't lived up to these principles he describes. Many self-improvement books are gratingly optimistic, filled with "If I can do it, so can you" rah-rah cheerleading that winds up sounding hollow. The negative examples provide a useful counterpoint. But Maxwell doesn't merely point fingers at famous lapses of character like Armand Hammer and J. Paul Getty, he is willing to point out his own failures. He describes how he struggled to expand his church in his thirties and how his neglect of his own health caused him to have a heart attack in his fifties. His courage in pointing out how he didn't follow his 12 principles greatly adds to his credibility and makes for some engaging reading.

The third strength of this book is its focus on what people can do today to improve themselves. Most people don't start or stay with self-improvement programs because the results seem too far off to be achievable. Maxwell encourages us to focus on what we can do right now to improve our lives. For each of his principles, he asks the reader, "[W]hat is the one discipline you must practice today and every day in order to be successful?" (Author's emphasis.)

Today Matters goes beyond other self-improvement books that merely describes lofty principles and interesting anecdotes. It provides practical tools and step-by-step procedures to help you overcome past mistakes and make changes you can apply today. Maxwell guides and encourages you to develop principles that will make your life more rewarding, more positive, and more successful in many ways.

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Today Matters by John C. Maxwell
Today Matters

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