Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

What Makes The Great Great

I have just finished re-reading, probably for the fifth or sixth time, one of my favorite “self-help” books of all time. The title of the book is “What Makes The Great Great — Strategies for Extraordinary Achievement” and it was written by Dennis Kimbro, Ph.D.  Dr.Kimbro also wrote another of my favorite books, “Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice.” As the title of the second book might have inferred, Dr.Kimbro is a man of color and writes his books specifically aimed at black America. However, as a middle-aged white guy I think these are two of the absolute best books I’ve ever read on what it truly takes to be successful in business and life.

I have read literally hundreds of “self-help” and “success” books and I believe that Dr. Kimbro has done an amazing job of capturing  the core, fundamental elements reflected across all of these books. Here are a few of the most powerful ideas I took away from my recent study of “What Makes the Great Great.”

The Nine Principles of Extraordinary Achievement:

1. Deeply held spiritual beliefs:not religion per se, but a profound feeling of connectedness to the universe and a reverence for the awesomeness of life.

2. The “I can” credo: the most successful people think like winners! An “I can” attitude forms the foundation of their approach to all things in life.

3. Vision: a successful man or woman has a guiding vision, a dream, a sense of focus. He or she has a clear idea of what they want to have, do, be, and accomplish.

4. Passion: the burning desire to achieve their vision and accomplish their goals. An unstoppable desire to make a difference and reach for greatness.

5. Courage: life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. Courage means the willingness to take risks, to accept challenges. Men and women of courage do not worry about failure; they realize the high cost of success. All champions realize that personal excellence is cluttered with obstacles.

6. Character: the successful are always open and honest in all dealings. Integrity is the basis of trust. Character is the one quality that cannot be acquired, only earned.

7. Competence: sometimes good is not good enough. Competence is the difference between excellence and mediocrity. Those who wish to achieve greatness understand that towering competence in their chosen area of expertise is a prerequisite for success.

8. Self-confidence: this does not mean ego, but rather a strong belief that with hard work, focus, integrity and ever-growing competence… you can and will succeed.

9. Discipline: “The first and best victory,” Plato wrote, “is for man to conquer himself.” Many people understand what it takes to be successful, but few have the discipline to actually do what it takes to pay the price for success. Hope is not strategy… which is why successful people willingly do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.

The Four Questions to Greatness

What you love to do?

What would you do for free?

What comes easily to you… but with difficulty to others?

How do others view your talents and gifts?

In other words, I read these questions as: What are you really good at? That you absolutely love to do? And is highly valuable in the marketplace? Where the answers to those three questions intersect, is where you build a highly successful life and career.

Dr. Kimbro then goes on to outline the “Seven Laws of Success.” Although all seven are vitally important, I would like to focus on one that I have used form my own personal philosophy of success… The Law of Reciprocity. According to Dr. Kimbro, the most successful men and women in our society are those who have helped the greatest number of people to achieve their objectives. They build a vast reservoir of goodwill and, in turn, will be compensated for having aided so many others. It is one of the quotes I have based my life on: “you can have anything that you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Your returns in life are the direct result of your contributions to others.

As I said at the beginning of the article I have read hundreds of books that claim to unveil the “Secret to Success” and they all say they nearly the exact same thing:

Live a life of honesty and integrity. Your reputation is really all you have.

Create a clear and vivid vision of what you passionately want to achieve in your life.

Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning and ever-increasing competence.

Surround yourself with smart, successful, high-integrity people – and ask them for help often.

Focus intently every day on how you can add value and help other people.

Remain disciplined in living your values and taking the specific steps necessary to achieve your life goals.

Try to approach every day with a positive, “can-do” attitude.

I know that none of this sounds particularly revolutionary, and that it takes a great deal of thought, preparation and hard work to actually live the things I’ve just outlined — but the truth is if you worked on that list every single day of your life and tried to do as much of it as possible… you would be doing exactly what is required to achieve the success you desire.

 I hope you found this post of value — and if you did please be sure to pass it on to your friends!

I look forward to your comments and feedback — take good care — John Spence

PS – be sure to grab a copy of Dr. Kimbro’s books — a short blog post does not do them justice!


  1. Hi John! Thanks so much for recommending this book! I started reading it over the weekend and it is AWESOME!!!!

    When building a team or simply wanting to be a better leader (or simply a better, happier person), the Nine Principles of Extraordinary Achievement that Dr. Kimbro outlines, certainly illustrate a clear path to greatness.

    As always, your suggestions demonstrate that you certainly live by The Law of Reciprocity!

  2. Great post I really enjoyed it, thank you. I plan on getting your book “Awesomely Simple”, it sounds like a great book. Thanks again, take care.

  3. John,
    Interesting stuff – as you say – not brain surgery – but then often the most useful stuff is right in front of us!! To paraphrase David Maister for example – we all know the secret to good health – eat less and exercise more – simple – but who has the discipline to do it!
    Personally I believe that the hardest of these principles is – Vision.

    Did you know at school what you wanted to be when you grew up? What about after college? Once you get married and hv kids – same vision???? probably not….did Richard Branson know about airlines? Starbucks and Mr Schultz didn’t even sell cups of coffee when they started out…

    Love to hear your thoughts – it’s a “block” I am trying to shift myself!!

    Enjoying the workbook…

    • I have always been some one who believed in “life planning” — with clear goals and values == but had no idea I would end up doing what I am right now — I simply folllowed what seemed fun anf rewarding – that I could do well – and it has worked out very well.

  4. Hi, John! I am so glad I found your post! I’m currently reading “Think and Grow Rich – A Black Choice” and I have “What Makes the Great, Great.” I appreciate your post and your transparency “as a middle-aged white guy I think these are two of the absolute best books I’ve ever read on what it truly takes to be successful in business and life.” I had a tough start to life and have been on my own since 16. I managed to go from a GED to earning a Master’s and living in a homeless shelter to building a home for my children and I. Still…something deep inside me years to understand “What makes the great, great?” I am determined to finish this life race stronger and read everything I possibly can to help me achieve that. John, you are AWESOME!

  5. Mr. John, it’s nice reading your blog post. I love them so much. I actually saw a friend with Kimbro’s motivational-What makes the Great Great! Keep up the good work.

  6. John, This is a great list! Thank you for the recommendation! …And thank you for participating in The Leadership Development Blog Carnival!

  7. Chukwuma okeke says:

    Hi John,

    This is the best book in the world! Thanks for letting people know about this amazing book. God bless you Dr. Dennis Kimbro. It’s a MUST READ!!!

  8. Nwaozuru Ugochukwu says:

    hi John, your post is awesome. I really enjoyed it. keep it up.