How Environmental Immersion Leads to Creative Inspiration

One can be inspired by research as well as immersed in it for inspiration.  Rhonda Counts, Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering Florida

How you do research is dependent upon where you are in the process. Disney’s Imagineers value the story’s intent and the importance of being surrounded with or immersed in the story’s environment.

Here’s an example from one of my projects:

 

As you can see, there’s a definite pirate’s theme going on in part of my office. It’s both from previous work and work in process. I’ve used the theme of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” storyline – both the attraction and the movies – to develop training resources and presentations in the area of Guest Experiences.

Specifically, I created a tool – the Guest Experience Compass. And how better to demonstrate it, than using Jack Sparrow’s compass? I also created the Guest Experience Code – and based it on the storyline of the Pirates Code. Of course, both of these tools had to be introduced and used by a pirate – the Navigator – in a fully immersive learning environment. The result?

As a result of my pirate “adventure,” I created a blog series which you can read about here.

And it doesn’t stop with pirates.

There’s the Disney wall in my office…

It’s no secret that I am a Disney fanatic of the first degree! I had an early start in the 60s, both from watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and benefiting from my father, who as a Gulf gasoline dealer received many promotional tie-ins from Disney movies.

Anchored by a Disney library of over 200 books (and growing!), I am literally immersed in all things Disney. As I research and work on various projects – especially Guest Experiences – I find great inspiration through the many resources at hand. My immersion is not limited to the visual and tactile – at any given time, the soundtrack of a Disney movie, or the background music from one of Disney’s theme parks can be heard.

Here’s how Disney Imagineers recommend immersion into an environment:

Select a project that you want to immerse yourself in. Make a list of all the elements of the project and find samples (the larger the better) that represent these elements. Find a place in your surroundings to display the samples so you can immerse yourself in them.

For example, if you wanted to fix up a vintage car, surround yourself with large detailed pictures of its original interior and exterior, very large color samples for its seat cushions, dashboard, etc., and exterior paint job, pictures of various locations you wold drive to, and of course, spray the space with new car scent.

Research leads to inspiration.


part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

written by The Disney Imagineers

Imagineering logo

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Leaders Know How to Make Simplicity Clearer

Many leaders spend their lives driving decisions, directing resources, and deploying people without the vantage point of substantial clarity.

If clarity is so beneficial, why do we find it in short supply with most leaders? Every leader must contend with clarity gaps and complexity factors. To make matters worse, the two biggest contributors to clarity and complexity in any organization are failure and success. But all is not lost; you can lead with consistent clarity.

Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact. The leader helps others see and understand reality better.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Why Simple Wins, by Lisa Bodell

Imagine what you could do with the time you spend writing emails every day. Complexity is killing companies’ ability to innovate and adapt, and simplicity is fast becoming the competitive advantage of our time. Why Simple Wins helps leaders and their teams move beyond the feelings of frustration and futility that come with so much unproductive work in today’s corporate world to create a corporate culture where valuable, essential, meaningful work is the norm. By learning how to eliminate redundancies, communicate with clarity, and make simplification a habit, individuals and companies can begin to recognize which activities are time-sucks and which create lasting value. Lisa Bodell’s simplification method has several unique principles: Simplification is a skill that’s available to us all, yet very few leaders use it. Simplification is the right thing to do–for our customers, for our company, and for each other. Operating with simplification as our core business model will make it easier to be respectful of each other’s time. Simplification drives culture, and culture in turn drives employee engagement, customer relations, and overall productivity.

This book is inspired by Bodell’s passion for eliminating barriers to innovation and productivity. In it, she explains why change and innovation are so hard to achieve–and it’s not what you might expect. The reality is this: we spend our days drowning in mundane tasks like meetings, emails, and reports. These are often self-created complexities that prevent us from getting to the meaningful work that truly matters. Using simple stories and techniques, Why Simple Wins shows that by using simplicity as an operating principle, we can eliminate the busy work that puts a chokehold on us every day, and instead spend time on the work that we value.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Finding clarity requires navigating a tunnel of chaos, the point where deeper confusion and complexity are experienced first, before clarity can emerge. The tunnel of chaos make take hours, days, or months and it may involve much time in prayer, conversation, questioning, reflection, confession, and challenge, all with a spirit of relentless transparency.

The resolve to navigate this tunnel of chaos cannot be overestimated. The danger lies in the fact that there are two kings of simplicity. The first is meaningless simplicity, where the leader marches in place to a simplicity that is trite and valueless. Meaningless simplicity causes many leaders to give in and copy what someone else is doing.

On the other hand, getting to the other side of complexity finds you in a place of life redefined and rereleased. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Many leaders can get stuck in between, bogged down in complexity. These leaders don’t feel stuck, because they are living with a lot of good ministry – but it is good ministry that is the enemy of the best that the church ultimately can become. 

It’s time to make simplicity clearer; and complexity too.

Something that’s properly simplified is:

As minimal as possible: Simple things reduce the number of steps, pages, features, functions, sign-offs, requirements, and other hurdles required to get something accomplished. There’s nothing extra, but at the same time, there’s enough to get the job done.

As understandable as possible: Simple things are defined by clear, straightforward language. They are comprehensible to someone who doesn’t already have expertise in the subject at hand. Simple things could easily be replicated by a novice – even if they often require some common sense.

As repeatable as possible: Simple things can be scaled or replicated. They aren’t one-offs. They aren’t customized. It should be easy for someone to do them over and over again.

As accessible as possible: Simple things are made available and transparent to as many audiences as possible. Outsiders can make use of them with as few gatekeepers as possible.

Complexity, then, is the lack of these four elements. It’s a process, product, communication, or procedure that isn’t minimal, understandable, repeatable, and accessible as possible.

Lisa Bodell, Why Simple Wins

A NEXT STEP

Albert Einstein believed that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” And therein lies the problem that many organizations face when they remove too much information in the effort to make things simpler: the remaining information becomes useless.

The trick is striking an appropriate balance between details (complexity) on one hand, and the need to simplify on the other.

To help develop that balance, follow the outline below developed by Why Simple Wins author Lisa Bodell to help make simplification happen.

  1. Awareness – the journey to simplification begins with recognizing the toll taken by complexity. To help develop this awareness, choose a ministry event or activity that you feel has become complicated. On a chart tablet, list the name of the activity with your team, and then write down items that you team can identify that cause this complication.
  2. Identification – once aware of the complexity, write down items that your team can identify that cause this complication.
  3. Prioritization – use a “time versus value” equation to evaluate the opportunities you identified in the previous step. List which complications impede your progress the most, which problems will be hardest to eliminate, and those in which you can get the most traction toward simplifying.
  4. Execution – once the opportunities are identified, execute them by moving forward in real time.
  5. Habit Formation – simplification is never finished – it has to become a part of the way you operate

Gather your team and take 10 minutes to decide on one ministry or area that needs simplification. Next, using the above filters, spend 80 minutes discussing and then commit to three simplification steps in the next 14 days. Repeat throughout each ministry or program, as needed.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 74-1, issued September 2017.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.

 

> Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

 

Lessons From a Professional Kitchen: Excellence is the Result of a Series of Intentional Elements of Service

The dining experience at a four-star restaurant provides excellent lessons for hospitality in the church.

With one son who is the general manager of a restaurant that is part of a national restaurant chain and another who is the food services manager for a conference center, I have a serious interest in all things food. My waistline also shows that, but that’s another story.

During a visit to my older son’s house I was perusing his bookshelf and took a look at “On the Line“, about the famous New York restaurant Le Bernardin and Executive Chef Eric Ripert. It’s a well-written and beautifully photographed look at the inner workings of the world-famous restaurant.

It’s also full of great lessons for churches that want to have world-class Guest Experiences.

Your church will not be serving exquisite meals that diners pay big bucks for – but your church can learn that the meal is only a part of the total dining experience.

The Dining Experience

One of the things that diners remark upon after eating at Le Bernardin is that the service is almost invisible. By the end of the meal, you’ve been helped by as many as seven people, but you can’t quite identify them. Although friendly and available, they work out of your field of attention so that you can focus on the food, and companions, in front of you.

While it might seem effortless, it’s a rigorous ballet that requires training and focus. The men and women juggle a plethora of details in their heads while projecting an air of gracious calm.

We have to perform to give you an illusion of effortless perfection. For you to have the right food in front of you at the right time, excellent and at the right temperature, and obviously having clean china – all those little details you’d never think of are vital

– Eric Ripert

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – On the Line, by Eric Ripert

Take one top New York restaurant, add danger, drama, and dialogue, toss in their best recipes, and you have a cooking classic.

How does a 4-star restaurant stay on top for more than two decades? In On the Line, chef Eric Ripert takes readers behind the scenes at Le Bernardin, one of just three New York City restaurants to earn three Michelin stars. Any fan of gourmet dining who ever stole a peek behind a restaurant kitchen’s swinging doors will love this unique insider’s account, with its interviews, inventory checklists, and fly-on-the-wall dialogue that bring the business of haute cuisine to life.

From the sudden death of Le Bernardin’s founding chef, Gilbert Le Coze, to Ripert’s stressful but triumphant takeover of the kitchen at age 29, the story has plenty of drama. But as Chef Ripert and writer Christine Muhlke reveal, every day is an adventure in a perfectionistic restaurant kitchen. Foodies will love reading about the inner workings of a top restaurant, from how a kitchen is organized to the real cost of the food and the fierce discipline and organization it takes to achieve culinary perfection on the plate almost 150,000 times a year.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The most visible part of a dining experience is the food placed on the table in front of the diner. However, that meal represents many people doing many different tasks, some hours ahead of the mealtime.

Excellence happens best when it’s not seen at all. Your meal should be relaxed and gracious, but it’s hard to imagine the military precision with which the dining room is run.

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident but instead is the result of a series of intentional elements of service.

The center of attention in a four-star restaurant may be the food, but it’s the service before, during, and after that creates the experience.

At Le Bernardin in New York City, the service is as much the creation of Executive Chef Eric Ripert as is his exquisite dishes. Along with the restaurant’s founder Maguy Le Coze, Ripert has created the elements of service that keep Le Bernardin at the top of its class.

Hiring– while they prefer staff with a two- or three- star background, they have been known to go with their gut instinct and hire the people they like, those that have the demeanor and willingness to please.

Training– the standard of perseverance and constant training is set at the top and carried throughout the organization. General manager David Mancini and Maître d’ Ben Chekroun want each hire to know what goes into every other job on the floor. The constant cross training that goes on enables the entire staff from the captains to the busboys to operate in a seamless, fluid manner.

Knowledge– The level of service expected by customers at Le Bernardin is matched and exceeded by the knowledge the staff constantly pursues. From the technical side (knowing the menu by heart, how each serving is prepared, the correct place settings, etc.) to the human aspect (learning to watch guests for clues, anticipating their needs), the staff is always learning.

Attitude– over the years the atmosphere has become less formal, but Le Bernardin’s staff will provide what you are looking for: to celebrate, to eat, to do business, to entertain the family. Their goal is for you to enjoy the experience and leave happy with a smile.

The Sixth Sense– Chekroun says that the ability to read a guest is the key to providing four-star service. “You can tell if someone is used to a four-star restaurant or it’s their first time. It’s our job to put them at ease no matter the situation. Intuition is very important on the floor – before a guest can ask “Where’s my waiter?” you must be there.”

Teamwork– At Le Bernardin, service is like the proverbial chain – a weak link will compromise the whole thing. Anyone on the chain, from the time you make a reservation till the moment you leave, can ruin the experience. It’s all about functioning as a team; even though the service is broken into sections, that’s merely strategic. The entire team is expected to understand the ebb and flow of the service and step in before needed.

Presentation– The hallmark of the food at Le Bernardin is the exquisite simplicity of the food, which calls for adding the final touch at the table. The sauces for the meal are served at the table, which provides several advantages: warmer service, better flavors, and eye-catching presentations.

Eric Ripert, On The Line

A NEXT STEP

Let’s step away from the elegance of Le Bernardin and visit your church. Is it too big a jump to imagine that your hospitality needs to have the same elements of service as a four-star restaurant?

List the seven elements of service noted above, each on a chart tablet page.

After reading the description for each one, brainstorm with your team how that element of service applies to your hospitality ministry.

For each of the seven elements, write one or more actions that your hospitality teams are currently doing that are working well. Ask the question “Is this good enough, or can we do better?” List the responses on the appropriate page.

Now go back to the seven elements, this time looking for areas that are either a total miss or sorely lacking. Ask the question “How can we make this better?” List the responses on the appropriate page.

Finally, review all of the actions you have listed. Circle the top three your team wants to pursue in each category, and assign responsibility and timelines for each.

In ninety days, reconvene your team, bring out the chart tablets, and update progress and results for each of the actions circled.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 73-2, issued August 2017.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.

 

>> Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

How to Learn from 78 Books in a Year!

Today is a very special day – the 100th issue of SUMS Remix is being shipped to subscribers!

 

Allow me a moment to set the stage…

Contrary to popular predictions, the increased use of e-books and audio books has not diminished the reading of print books. According to Pew Research, about 67% of Americans have read a print book in the last year. Additional research shows that Americans as a group read an average of 12 books per year.

We want leaders like you to be above average in every way, and we want to give you the incentive to do that.

As a leader, you like to read. But with the pace of life, it’s hard to cover all of the bases when great new content is always coming at the speed of light. Now you can get the best book excerpt tool ever created. And it’s just for church leaders!

It’s called SUMS Remix.

Here is how we do it: We take a practical problem that church leaders face like, “Key leaders only think about their ministry area and not the entire organization.” We answer it by introducing you to a big idea from three books through a short excerpt from each, and then dial in on a specific solution to accompany each excerpt.

Therefore, you digest books through the lens of practical daily challenges. The sum total in one year is 78 book excerpts with 78 solutions, delivered every other week to your inbox.

Want to see what SUMS Remix looks like? Download this free sample used in the paragraph above.

The cost? Just $48 per year!

Subscribe today!

I’ve got to give a shout out to the SUMS Remix Team: Bryan Rose is our first-line reviewer, providing tweaks to the original draft. Andrea Kandler is our amazing grammar and style editor, making sure the words make sense. And Creative Director James Bethany turns the words and images into the sharp-looking final product readers have come to expect over the last four years.

What an awesome team!

Each issue of these 100 SUMS Remix has delivered:

  • Content that solves the challenges you face every day
  • More information in less time to find the best solutions
  • More credibility as well-read leader

Imagine receiving all of this, designed in a PDF that can be read in about 10 minutes, delivered straight to your inbox – every other week! Subscribe today to receive this amazing ministry tool.

SUMS Remix will revolutionize your leadership reading habits, provide immediate Go Ahead actions you can implement today, and give you readily accessible help in solving challenges you face every week.

Oh, and it will probably spur you to buy several of the books we excerpt – at least enough to keep you reading more than the “average” American!

Here’s to issue #101 – and beyond!


 

Today we may be celebrating the 100th issue of SUMS Remix, but I’ve been working ahead on the next eight issues through the end of the year – future issues that are being researched, written, and designed right now for you! Subscribe now to be a part of SUMS Remix!

 

Welcoming the Class of 2022 to a Campus Near You

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Recently, the Mindset List of the Class of 2022 was released.

 

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds characterized by the following:

  • They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them.
  • People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
  • The Prius has always been on the road in the U.S.

According to McBride,

Students come to college with particular assumptions based on the horizons of their lived experience. All teachers need to monitor their references, while students need to appreciate that without a sound education they will never get beyond the cave of their own limited personal experiences.

Here’s a few more characteristics to whet your appetite:

  • Films have always been distributed on the Internet.
  • Donny and Marie who?
  • Oprah has always been a magazine.
  • A visit to a bank has been a rare event.

You can read the whole list here.

The original authors have moved on to new projects in their retirement but will continue their battle against “hardening of the references” at their website, themindsetlist.com.

Even if you’re not a college professor, you need to read the whole list here.

With contributions from parents and academics around the world, the List has tracked cultural change, stimulated intergenerational conversation, and just made older people feel even older.

– Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg

Indeed.

Learn to Develop the Art of Mis-en-Place

Despite how it may feel, competition for the spiritual attention and Sunday attendance of today’s family is not with the growing church down the road. Church leadership must redirect energy from being “bigger and better” than other churches, and instead see those places that provide “WOW! Experiences” as the real points of comparison among first time guests.

While that may seem like an impossible to achieve negative, this present reality can also be turned into a positive. Churches must start LEARNING from those top-notch places and their leaders.

Eating out at one-of-a-kind experiences has never been more popular or accessible. Celebrity chefs and buzz-creating restaurants are literally popping up in cities across the country, large and small. In the world of hospitality, the culinary segment has unique applications to the Guest Experience ministries of a church. The dining experience at a four-star restaurant provides excellent lessons for welcoming ministries in your church.

With recommendations from one son who is a general manager for a national restaurant chain and another who is the chef at a conference center, today’s post, along with two more to follow, explores the food industry. In it we will focus on a behind-the-scenes look at the importance of hospitality from some of the best restaurants in the country.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Work Clean, by Dan Charnas

The first organizational book inspired by the culinary world, taking mise-en-place outside the kitchen.

Every day, chefs across the globe churn out enormous amounts of high-quality work with efficiency using a system called mise-en-place―a French culinary term that means “putting in place” and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement. In “Work Clean,” Dan Charnas reveals how to apply mise-en-place outside the kitchen, in any kind of work.

Culled from dozens of interviews with culinary professionals and executives, including world-renowned chefs like Thomas Keller and Alfred Portale, this essential guide offers a simple system to focus your actions and accomplish your work. Charnas spells out the 10 major principles of mise-en-place for chefs and non chefs alike: (1) planning is prime; (2) arranging spaces and perfecting movements; (3) cleaning as you go; (4) making first moves; (5) finishing actions; (6) slowing down to speed up; (7) call and callback; (8) open ears and eyes; (9) inspect and correct; (10) total utilization.

This journey into the world of chefs and cooks shows you how each principle works in the kitchen, office, home, and virtually any other setting.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Develop the art of mise-en-place

Every day, chefs across the globe put out enormous amounts of high quality work with efficiency using a system called mise-en-place – a French culinary term that means “putting in place” and signifies an entire lifestyle of readiness and engagement.

For the culinary student, it is usually the beginning point of their career. But it is a beginning point that is repeated every day of their career – it’s the first thing they will do at the start of each day’s work.

Mise-en-place means far more than simply assembling all the ingredients, pots and pans, plates, and serving pieces needed for a particular period. Mise-en-place is also a state of mind. Someone who has truly grasped the concept is able to keep many tasks in mind simultaneously, weighing and assigning each its proper value and priority. This assures that the chef has anticipated and prepared for every situation that could logically occur during a service period.

Mise-en-place as a simple guide to focusing your actions and accomplishing your work is a necessary first step on the way to an exceptional guest experience.

Mise-en-place comprises three central values: preparation, process, and presence. When practiced by great chefs, these three mundane words become profound. The byproduct of these values may be wealth or productivity, but the true goal is excellence.

Preparation

Chefs commit to a life where preparation is central, not an add-on or an afterthought. To become a chef is to accept the fact that you will always have to think ahead, and to be a chef means that thinking and preparation are as integral to the job as cooking. For the chef, cooking comes second. Cooking can’t happen without prep coming first.

Embracing preparation also means jettisoning the notion that prep work is somehow menial, beneath us. Your preparation – and its intellectual cousin, planning – thus becomes a kind of spiritual practice: humble, tireless, and nonnegotiable.

Process

Preparation and planning along are not enough to create excellence. Chefs must also execute that prepared plan in an excellent way. They insure excellent execution by tenacious pursuit of the best process to do just about everything.

A commitment to process doesn’t mean following tedious procedures and guidelines for their own sake. It’s not about turning humans into hyper-efficient robots. Process is, quite the contrary, about becoming a high-functioning human being and being happier for it.

Excellence arises from refining good process – how can I do this better or easier, or with less waste? It’s a job, like preparation, that never ends.

Presence

Chefs commit to being present in ways from the mundane to the sublime.

After months and years of repeated prep and process, the cook acquires a deeper kind of presence – becoming one with the work, and the work becoming kind of meditation. “Kitchen awareness” demands that one not only be “with” the work, but also “with” your comrades and their work at the same time.

This kind of awareness isn’t scatteredness. It is, quite the contrary, something closer to what the Eastern traditions call mindfulness.

Presence in all its forms – getting there, staying there, being focused, being open, and cultivating boundaries – helps us adjust our preparation and process as the circumstances shift around us.

Dan Charnas, Work Clean – What Great Chefs Can Teach Us About Organization

A NEXT STEP

The three values listed above – preparation, process, and presence- aren’t ideals to admire and applaud. They must be practiced – and can be, by anyone, anywhere.

To apply the values listed above to your hospitality ministry, begin by creating three chart tablets, writing the values above, one word per page.

Read the descriptions listed for each value.

In a discussion with your team, walk through your guest experience from beginning to end, and list each action on the appropriate page. If it fits on more than one page, put it on the page it makes most sense, or is strongest.

Review the lists with your team.

  • What’s missing? Write it in, and assign it to a leader, along with a timeline, for development.
  • What needs to be made stronger? Write it in, and assign it to a leader, along with a timeline, for strengthening.
  • What’s unnecessary? Remove it from the list, and your regular activities.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 73-1, released August 2017


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.

 

>> Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

How To Experience a Bookstore With All Your Senses

Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. – Plato

For me, reading is not an occupational afterthought, but a vocational necessity.

As Vision Room Curator for Auxano, books are a daily reference point in my work life. The primary use is for our book summaries. I am currently in our sixth year of releasing a book summary every two weeks. The first two years focused on a single book each issue, called SUMS.

For the last four years, SUMS Remix has been focused on a single problem statement, with three solutions from three different books, along with a practical Go Ahead action for each, designed for church leaders to put into immediate action.

With a four-week production cycle from initial research to shipping the finished issue, I am typically engaged in six to twelve books for SUMS Remix at any given time.

But there’s more…

As Digital Engagement Leader for Auxano, I am responsible for providing content for multiple accounts across three social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. On an average day I will post about 25 different items, many connected to current books I am reading, focused on vision clarity and leadership.

In my role as Guest Experience Navigator, I am constantly searching for resources to help churches provide exceptional Guest Experiences. One of my primary resources is the world of customer experience in the corporate world, easily adaptable to use for Guest Experience resources. From those sources, I maintain the Essential Guest Experience Library.

Finally, believe it or not, I read for pleasure. Most nights I will read several hours on topics ranging from Disney to all kinds of history to how things work to science fiction to biographies to thrillers – and more.

As I have written before, my passion for reading was instilled in me by my father, who modeled it for me from an early age. He was self-employed as an owner-operator of a Gulf gas station. Working 12 hours a day for six days a week, he often spent a couple of hours each evening looking through a book about WW II history or travels across the U.S.

So where do all these books come from?

Amazon and I are on a first name basis, and have been since 1998, with my first book order being The Power of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. Things have accelerated a bit since then, with my patient and ever-smiling mail carrier now delivering 2-3 packages per week.

I maintain a huge wish list on Amazon, and family and friends looking for gift ideas soon roll their eyes at the choices they have!

Because I read and write so much about books, I’m fortunate to receive many complimentary books from authors before their publication.

As an Amazon Associate, I benefit from purchases from my two websites. All the funds received are turned right around and used to purchase more books.

Then there’s the weekly trip to my local library, picking up a couple or more books that are new releases.

While all these are great sources, what I really love to do is browse used bookstores.

Within a short drive from my house, I have two Goodwill stores and a Habitat Restore, all having a good selection to browse through. In the greater Charlotte area there are several more that I try to visit every couple of months or so.

That takes care of local bookstores, but what about others around the country?

Give me an hour to kill and I will most likely head to a bookstore. When I’m in another city for work or pleasure, the first thing I search for is used bookstores (the second is the local’s favorite doughnut shop).

So it was not at all unusual for me to schedule a couple of hours to visit bookstores while in Detroit recently.

On the recommendation of a friend who lives there, Greg Gibbs, I left early for the airport, and headed through downtown Detroit with an address and a sense of anticipation.

Greg had just told me the minimum – a legendary used bookstore that had been around since the mid-60s with “a lot of books” (I should have known he was up to something by the grin on his face).

What I found was a bibliophile’s dream.

John K. King Used and Rare Books occupies an old factory building. Since 1965, it has been built upon in-person service. The books are not on a database or listed online; if you are looking for something in particular, you need only inquire.

Unpretentious and plain on the outside, it houses a treasure inside:

  • Four floors in an old factory in downtown Detroit
  • Over 1,000,000 books
  • Every imaginable subject
  • No computerized inventory
  • No air conditioning
  • Hand drawn maps, matching hand-lettered signs on every floor, every aisle, and every section
  • Super-knowledgeable staff who could answer my questions without a blink

Nirvana.

John King’s Bookstore is best experienced with all senses: upon entering you first encounter the smell of old books. Some people are bothered by it, but I find it absolutely mesmerizing.

The creak of old wood floors conveys its own feelings: whether five years or fifty years old, the books speak to a source of knowledge all-too-often unappreciated today.

Walking up the stairs to the first level and turning the corner, your eyes take in rows upon rows of books, crammed into shelves, from floor to just within reach of an outstretched arm.

Taking the offered hand-drawn map of all four floors, you can start anywhere your dreams take you. There is at least one staff member on each floor, and a telephone that goes to the front desk as well.

For me, it was the art section, followed by the film and theater shelves. A few finds: a December 1940 Atlantic Monthly magazine with a feature article on Walt Disney that I had seen referenced in several WD biographies; a beautifully illustrated 1940 promotional magazine for the release of Fantasia; several other hard-to-find Disney books.

I was only able to spend a couple of hours there, but I did speed walk all four floors and every aisle, pausing at length at more than a few.

All too soon I had to leave for the airport. As I paid for my purchases and headed out the door, I was grateful to thank John King for his perseverance, passion, and pure joy in the written word.

Somewhere nearby, you probably have a used bookstore. It won’t be anything like John King’s, but in some ways, it will be just like it.

What are you going to read today?