Rest is Not an Option for Leaders

They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.

This haunting observation of most people in the Western world was made by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han.

We all have our own stories of trying to stay sane in the day and age of mobile phones, connected watches, a twenty-four-hour news cycle blaring from our devices, unceasing demands from family, church members, and our team, and …

Do you feel weary?

Do you feel burdened?

You’re not alone.

The most common answer to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m good – just busy.”

That answer comes from everywhere, bridging gaps of gender, age, ethnicity, and class. Empty-nesters working from home are busy, even with their kids and grandkids spread across the country. New parents are busy, with a new mom headed back to work while the new dad begins the first week of parental leave. Even middle-schoolers are busy trying to juggle three different platforms of distance learning while helping around the home while trying to stay connected with their best friend in the neighborhood two streets over.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity by Saundra Dalton-Smith

Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested – now there’s a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? 

In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. 

Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.

By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

As a society that is now driven by better and faster technology, rest has become a lost art.

According to research, over eight million people in the United States struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep each and every night. 45 percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once a week. This epidemic has led to poor job performance, depressions, and overall dissatisfaction with quality of life and productivity.

According to author Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, finding genuine rest is more than overcoming insomnia.

Sleep is not rest. As different parts of an intricate system, sleep and rest are designed to work together to ensure every part of you has a way to regenerate and be restored.

Aborting rest empties me of everything holy. It strips me of the ability to treasure life and peels away the value of being. A life without periods of rest will not endure the daily grind.

Saundra Dalton-Smith

Physical Rest

None of us are at our best when depleted. Our bodies cannot fully function when they are in a constant fight for excellence high-performance, maximum effectiveness, and optimal capacity. It’s time to transition from our daily hustle to daily hush. In the hush, tension releases and recovery begins.

Mental Rest

Our mental background noise is often infused with negativity. Thoughts about the future are contaminated with anxiety, thoughts about the past are tainted with regret, and thoughts about the present are spoiled with discontentment. Mental rest involves relinquishing the constant stream of thoughts entering your mind quickly and obtaining a sense of cerebral stillness.

Emotional Rest

You experience emotional rest when you no longer feel the need to perform or meet external expectations. When our emotional withdrawals exceed our emotional capacity, we will experience emotional fatigue. Emotional rest is a deposit back into our emotional account.

Spiritual Rest

We all need sanctuary, a secure place where protection reigns and comfort is received. There we find a sense of security and peace that flows from our connection to God. Sanctuary is where we lay down our fight and rest. In the process, we find our way back home to a relationship with God.

Social Rest

Social rest is when we find comfort in our relationships and social interactions. It is the ability to find solace in another. Social rest reconnects us to uplifting, rewarding relationship exchanges. Just as the body hungers, your soul also hungers for connection. Loneliness is the soul’s pleas to feed your need for social rest.

Sensory Rest

Our overly busy and overly stimulating society has created the perfect environment for sensory overload, each technology advancement chipping away at the sanctity of our five senses. Periodic times of selective sensory deprivation deliberately  remove external distractions and stimuli from your senses in order to reenergize them.

Creative Rest

We need periods of creative rest to rejoice in and complement God’s work. We need his example to show us what creative rest looks like. Creative rest uses all God has created around us to create something inside of us.

Saundra Dalton-Smith, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity

A NEXT STEP

First, take time to review each of the seven types of rest as described by author Saundra Dalton-Smith. On a scale of one to five, with one meaning “I never rest like this” and five meaning “I am able to rest like this most of the time,” score each type.

For types of rest where you scored a “three” or below, use the following suggestions from the author to become better at resting in that area.

Physical Rest

  • Practice body fluidity – When awake, don’t stay in the same position for more than an hour. Small acts of motion will help prevent stiffness from setting in.
  • Give stillness purpose – Choose to be totally still on purpose for five minutes while lying down, breathing in deeply to remember who is breathing into you.
  • Prepare for sleep – Develop a bedtime routine to prepare your body for sleep.

Mental Rest

  • Time block low-yield activities – Schedule all your energy-draining but necessary tasks into one time block, to be completed only then.
  • Meditate – Make a conscious effort to fill your mental space with restorative thoughts.
  • Create a mental sanctuary – Choose a characteristic of God (like the fruit of the Spirit) to rest on each day, giving you a mental place to return to throughout the day.

Emotional Rest

  • Be emotionally aware – Learn how to give and receive in relationships in ways that leave you emotionally healthy.
  • Cease comparisons – Acknowledge any areas where you may be comparing yourself to others, and give yourself permission to cease comparing.
  • Risk vulnerability – Cultivate rewarding relationships with those in whom you can find the strength to be vulnerable.

Spiritual Rest

  • Explore relationship – God is much easier to know when you take religion out of the question. His first request is simply to love Him.
  • Practice communion – In the privacy of your secret place, lift both hands high above your head to simply prove, “I need help.”
  • Reunite body-mind-spirit – If you want the help of the Healer, you must get to where He is and be still long enough to be examined.

Social Rest

  • Prioritize face-to-face time – Experience the closeness of being face-to-face and use those times to find comfort in the relationships you value.
  • Listen and learn – If most of your time with your closest relationship involves you talking, consider shutting up and listening.
  • Nurture your need to connect – Rest is active, restorative, and relational. Find the people you naturally connected to, and you will find an endless source of social rest.

Sensory Rest

  • Unplug – Too much external stimulation clogs up your life and slows down the flow of rest in your body. Try setting a time each day when you completely disconnect from technology.
  • Test your sensory response – Taste, see, feel, smell, and listen with the liberty to add or subtract from the sensory inputs in your life.
  • Identify and target – Identify one sensory stressor regularly encountered in your life, and work to undo the effect of that specific constant stimulation.

Creative Rest

  • Build sabbaticals into your life – Learn to slip in and out of periods of restfulness in the mist of great productivity.
  • Practice flow-break rhythm – Practice developing a flow of optimal performance for ninety minutes to two hours, followed by twenty minutes of a scheduled rest break.
  • Work with your body clock – Adjust your schedule one day this week to incorporate your must-do activities during the times when your body is wired to respond optimally.

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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Do You Know How to Use Empathetic Listening Skills?

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication by Bento C. Leal III

4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere! is an excellent ‘How-To Guide’ for practicing the key skills that will help you identify and overcome communication barriers and achieve relationship success with the important people in your life–your spouse or partner, child or children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, customers–everyone!

These skills will help you to:

  • Listen with greater empathy and understanding to what the other person is saying and feeling
  • Avoid listening blocks to effective communication
  • Engage in empathic dialogue to achieve mutual understanding
  • Manage conflicts and disagreements calmly and successfully
  • Nurture your relationships on a consistent basis
  • Experience the power of expressing gratitude and appreciation

An Action Guide at the end of the book will help you practice a particular skill step each day thus growing in confidence and ability as you do.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Bento Leal, most of us think we are fairly decent listeners. In other words, when another person is speaking, we are listening, and basically understanding what they are saying – end of story.

However, if we are honest, many times in a conversation our minds wander off while the other person is speaking.

Or, when another person is speaking to us, we are thinking about our response to them rather than focusing on what they are saying in the moment.

What about jumping in with your own ideas while the other person is still speaking to you?

The problem with all of the above situations is that we are not really empathizing with the speaker, and trying to understand their meaning from their point of view, particularly on topics that are of importance to them.

The power of Empathic Listening can help make a healthy relationship even better, and it can help a relationship that’s veered off course move back into a positive direction.

Bento C. Leall III

The Empathetic Listening Skill has 5 steps:

  1. Quiet your mind and focus on the other person as they are speaking. As we listen to what the other person is saying, focusing on their underlying feelings about what they’re saying, and try to get “locked in” to their perspective, the peripheral distractions will start to disappear.
  2. Listen fully and openly to what they are saying, in their words and body language, without bias, defensiveness, or thinking about what you’ll say next. Actively listen. As we do so, we’ll likely get the full meaning of what they’re communicating.
  3. Listen “through the words” to the deeper thoughts and feelings that you sense from the speaker. If I only listen to the words you say, and with only my definition of those words, then I might get only a surface understanding of what you’re trying to communicate. 
  4. Don’t interrupt them as they are speaking to you or try to finish their sentences. Just listen! Interrupting other people when they are speaking is a major communication problem, even when people think they are showing empathy by “engaging” the speaker by talking while the speaker is talking or they think this will help speed up the conversation.
  5. Say back to them, in your own words, what they said and their feelings that you sensed from them to make sure you understand them correctly and they feel understood. They may think they explained themselves fully, but by your feedback – saying back in your own words what they said – they will clearly know if it was enough or if they need to explain more.

Bento C. Leal III, 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication

A NEXT STEP 

Set aside time in a future meeting to practice the five steps listed above.

Prior to the meeting, copy and distribute this to all of your team members. Ask them to read it in preparation for a team exercise. Also ask them to come prepared to discuss a personal or work situation that they are stuck on, and need advice.

Divide your teams in groups of two; if you have an odd number on your team, have one group consist of three members.

Set a timer for seven minutes. Ask one individual to share his problem, and ask the other individual to listen. When the time is up, ask the group to switch roles.

When the second timer is up, set aside ten minutes, and ask each group member to take no more than five minutes each.  Go through the five steps above, and have each member discuss how their partner did or did not adequately use empathic listening as described in the step.

At the end of this ten-minute period, call the entire group together, and spend 10-15 minutes discussing how this exercise can be used in their personal and team settings to be a better listener, and therefore, a better leader.

By consensus, determine the one step that the team needs to work on, by determination of how it was used in the group exercise. At each team meeting for the next month, use three minutes as a reminder to strengthen this step, and ask for one “celebration” story each month of how a team member successfully used it.


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Disney’s Missed Opportunity at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Walt Disney World

My recent trip to Walt Disney World for the kickoff of its 50th Anniversary celebration was a special time all the way round. My wife and I were joined by my daughter and son-in-law for 5 days and four nights of non-stop fun, food, and memories.

With a solid passion for Disney history, I was certainly an outlier of the tens of thousands who began lining up at the gates as early as 4 a.m. on October 1. (Note: I didn’t line up that early – my wife and I walked over from the Contemporary Resort at a much more respectable 7:30 a.m.).

Unlike the majority of Guests there, I wasn’t driven to acquire the large assortment of special anniversary merchandise (more to come on this in a future post).

I was there to celebrate an extraordinary achievement of the vision of Walt Disney, culminating in the efforts of thousands of team members for over six years: the creation of Walt Disney World.


The realtime thoughts and images of the 50th Anniversary kickoff were documented on my Instagram account.

I will continue to unpack that day here as well as on Guest Experience Design.

Even with all the good memories, I did have one major disappointment. I even knew it was coming, but was hoping for a last-minute big surprise.

Alas, it didn’t materialize.

Most of the crowd present at Magic Kingdom didn’t even miss it, which is sad.

Because without this one attraction, Disney parks as we know them wouldn’t exist.

And in my opinion, this “miss” for me was indicative of a bigger miss throughout the day.

I want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train.

Walt Disney

The creation story of Disneyland, the first “theme” park in the world and the model for all Disney parks to follow, is somewhat clouded.

Depending on who is telling it, or even when it is told, the origins of Disneyland can start with a park bench, model making, boredom, or a boyhood fascination with trains.

There is a measure of truth to all of them. It is certain is that all of these influences in the life of Walt Disney contributed to the resulting creation.

Personally, I lean toward Walt’s love of trains as the primary inspiration for Disneyland.

His small-scale fascination led to a full-scale kingdom.

Michael Broggie, Walt Disney’s Railroad Story

As a bona fide Disney fan, focusing on the history of the man and the company that bears his name (especially from the late 1920s to the mid-1960s), I can trace “railroad” stories from Walt (and about Walt) that reinforce this.

Those railroad stories could (and do) fill several books – the best of which is Walt Disney’s Railroad Story, by Michael Broggie.

It’s a fascinating book, and when the author knew of Walt Disney as “Uncle Walt,” and had the enviable role as a teenager to assist Walt in the operation of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad (Disney’s personal, rideable miniature railroad in the backyard of his home), you know the stories are going to be memorable, filled with detail, and a fascinating read.

You see, Michael Broggie’s father Roger E. Broggie, was a precision machinist who joined the Disney Studios in 1939. Broggie’s accomplishments at the studio were wide-ranging, but in the early 1950s he was promoted to the head of the Disney Studios’ Machine Shop, where he became a transportation specialist. 

And where did he fine-tune the skills needed to create all the unique transportation vehicles found at Disneyland and later at Walt Disney World?

In building Walt Disney’s backyard railroad.

On the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

The Carolwood Pacific Railroad (CPRR) was a 7 1/4-inch gauge ridable miniature railroad run by Walt Disney in the backyard of his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. 

It featured the Lilly Belle, a 1:8-scale live steam locomotive named after Disney’s wife, Lillian Disney, and built by the Walt Disney Studios’ machine shop. The locomotive made its first test run on December 24, 1949. It pulled a set of freight cars, as well as a caboose that was almost entirely built by Disney himself. 

It was Disney’s lifelong fascination with trains, as well as his interest in miniature models, that led to the creation of the CPRR. The railroad, which became operational in 1950, was a half-mile long and encircled his house. The backyard railroad attracted visitors to Disney’s home; he invited them to ride and occasionally drive his miniature train.

With the creation of a personal railroad, Disney’s next step could only be designing and building the real thing.

Research into the earliest development of Disney’s “park” reveals a constant: the presence of a railroad with a steam engine pulling cars that people could ride in.

So, any visit to a Disney theme park for me must include a ride on the Disney Railroad.

Unfortunately, at Walt Disney World, the railroad has been out of commission since 2018 for the pandemic-delayed construction of the TRON Lightcycle Run, a new attraction coming to the Magic Kingdom in 2022. The train tracks have been rerouted, through the Lightcycle attraction inside a tunnel, according to information released by Disney in concept art.

I knew that any surprise announcement that the train would be running on October 1 was unlikely, but it wasn’t until I rode the People Mover early that morning and saw the view of the dismantled train tracks, plainly visible where they would run through the future Lightcycle attraction, that the disappointment set in.

In the meantime, the train is available as the perfect backdrop for a memorable photo at different places in the park.

For me, “the perfect backdrop” of a static display is a far cry from the swaying motion of the train as it circles the park.

The way Walt Disney dreamed about it from the time he was a young boy…

…until he made it happen.


This (somewhat) detailed explanation of a personal miss for me highlights a bigger missed opportunity for Disney during the opening days of their 18-month long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World –

Disney seems to be forgetting where it came from, and therefore, is struggling to determine where it is going.

How to Lead with Flash Foresight

We are living in an age of disruption. According to Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor, you can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past. The most effective leaders don’t just rally their teams to outrace the “competition” or outpace prior results. They strive to redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with copy-cat thinking. 

What sets truly innovative organizations apart often comes down to one simple question: What can we see that others cannot?

If you believe that what you see shapes how you change, then the question for change-minded leaders in times of disruption becomes: How do you look at your organization as if you are seeing it for the first time?

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. 

Henry David Thoreau

When you learn to see with fresh eyes, you’re able to differentiate your organization from the competition (and your “competition” isn’t the church down the street). You’re able to change the way your organization sees all the different types of environments around it, and the way your others see your organization.

This mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. We live in a world that is less black and white and more shades of gray world, not a black and while one. Seeing in this way means shifting your focus from objects or patterns that are in the foreground to those in the background. It means thinking of things that are usually assumed to be negative as positive, and vice versa. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least.

In a season filled with uncertainty, how can you cultivate a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus

Flash Foresight offers seven radical principles you need to transform your organization today. 

From internationally renowned technology forecaster Daniel Burrus—a leading consultant to Google, Proctor & Gamble, IBM, and many other Fortune 500 firms—with John David Mann, co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller The Go-Giver, comes this systematic, easy-to-implement method for identifying new business opportunities and solving difficult problems in the twenty-first century marketplace.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Daniel Burrus, all of us have had fleeting glimpses of where things might be heading. We have all said, “I knew I should have done that,” or “I knew that would happen.”

That’s hindsight, and it happens because you don’t typically know ahead of time when your hunch is accurate and when it’s not.

What if you could make a distinction and learn to develop glimpses of the future that are reliable foresight, and not just those that are simply hunches?

Flash foresight is a blinding flash of the future obvious. It is an intuitive grasp of the foreseeable future that, once you see it, reveals hidden opportunities and allows you to solve your biggest problems – before they happen.

Daniel Burrus

Flash Foresight is a sensibility, a skill you can develop, refine, and strengthen. 

Flash Foresight is what you get when you combine a shift of perspective, a willingness to get down on your hands and knees and look at things from a fresh point of view, with a grasp of where current trends of change are taking us in the future. It’a about transforming the impossible with a glimpse of the possible.

Flash Foresight Triggers

1. Start with certainty (use hard trends to see what’s coming).

2. Anticipate (base your strategies on what you know about the future).

3. Transform (use technology-driven change to your advantage).

4. Take your biggest problem and skip it (it’s not the real problem anyway).

5. Go opposite (look where not one else is looking to see what no one else is seeing and do what no one else is doing).

6. Redefine and reinvent (identify and leverage your uniqueness in new and powerful ways).

7. Direct your future (or someone else will direct it for you).

Daniel Burrus, Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible

A NEXT STEP 

Using the following ideas below from the author as starters, set up a team meeting with the express purpose of practicing flash foresight.

First, create seven chart tablets, with the word or phrases in bold below as headers.

Next, read the paragraphs below under each section as the launching point for a ten minute discussion of that section. As your team responds to the prompt, write all ideas on the chart tablet. Complete each chart tablet the same way.

Next, at the end of ten minutes, take one minute and identify the top three ideas/actions that would impact your church the most. Circle and number them accordingly.

Finally, review all chart tablets, and on a new chart tablet, write the top three ideas/actions from each of the seven sections. As a group, determine which single one idea/actions from each section that you agree is the most important. Create seven teams of three leaders – one from your team and two other individuals in your church – to research each idea/action more thoroughly, and report back to your leadership team in one month. At that review meeting, force rank the seven ideas/actions, and plan to launch the most important one within two weeks.

Start with certainty

Typically we limit ourselves by looking at all the things we don’t know and all the things we can’t do. Instead, create the habit of starting with a list of things you can know and do. Don’t let yourself get boxed in by the word can’t. Every time you bump into something you aren’t certain about, put that to the side and keep focusing on the things you are certain about. What are our certainties?

Anticipate

Being preactive means anticipating the future before it happens. Being anticipatory, instead of reactive, allows us to change fro the inside out, instead of being forced to change from the outside in. How can we begin to anticipate the future?

Transform

Change means doing the same thing, only with difference. Transformation means doing something completely different. It’s no longer enough to change; no matter what field we’re in, we need to transform. There is no organization that is not going to transform dramatically and fundamentally over the years ahead – whether or not we want it to. What does radiation transformation look like for your organization?

Take your biggest problem and skip it

A difficult problem can easily become a roadblock so large that it seems impossible to get around. The result is often procrastination and paralysis. The key to unraveling our biggest problems is to recognize that they are typically not our real problem. Skipping our biggest problem, instead of trying to solve it, sets our minds free to discover and engage with the real problem. What problem do we need to skip for now?

Go opposite

One powerful way to trigger a flash foresight is to take note of where everyone else is looking, and then look in the opposite direction. Looking where no one else is looking helps you see what no one else is seeing, and then do what no one else is doing. What are some opposite directions we should consider?

Redefine and reinvent

Reinventing our organizations based on the visible changes taking place has always been a powerful strategy, but today it has become a continuous imperative. Reinvention is not the same as adding a twist or a new feature; once something is reinvented, it never goes back to being the way it was before. What do we need to reinvent?

Direct your future

To a certain extent, our vision of the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Change your view of the future and you direct your future. Our vision of the future drives our choices and our behaviors, which produce our outcomes and shape our lives. We become what we dream. Which means that if we want to know what we are becoming, we need to ask, what are we dreaming?


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

It’s Time to Stop Setting Goals

They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.

This haunting observation of most people in the Western world was made by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han.

We all have our own stories of trying to stay sane in the day and age of mobile phones, connected watches, a twenty-four-hour news cycle blaring from our devices, unceasing demands from family, church members, and our team, and …

Do you feel weary?

Do you feel burdened?

You’re not alone.

The most common answer to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m good – just busy.”

That answer comes from everywhere, bridging gaps of gender, age, ethnicity, and class. Empty-nesters working from home are busy, even with their kids and grandkids spread across the country. New parents are busy, with a new mom headed back to work while the new dad begins the first week of parental leave. Even middle-schoolers are busy trying to juggle three different platforms of distance learning while helping around the home while trying to stay connected with their best friend in the neighborhood two streets over.

You feel over-worked, over-booked, and over-connected – how can you reclaim your health and wellness again?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – To Hell With the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World by Jefferson Bethke

Our culture makes constant demands of us: Do more. Accomplish more. Buy more. Post more. Be more.

In following these demands, we have indeed become more: More anxious. More tired. More hurt. More depressed. More frantic.

What we are doing isn’t working!

In a society where hustle is the expectation, busyness is the norm and information is king, we have forgotten the fundamentals that make us human, anchor our lives, and provide meaning.

Jefferson Bethke, New York Times bestselling author and popular YouTuber, has lived the hustle and knows we need to stop doing and start becoming.   

After reading this book, you will discover:

  • How to proactively set boundaries in your life
  • How to get comfortable with obscurity
  • The best way to push back against the demands of contemporary life
  • The importance of embracing silence and solitude
  • How to handle the stressors that life throws at us

Join Bethke as he discovers that the very things the world teaches us to avoid at all costs–silence, obscurity, solitude, and vulnerability–are the very things that can give us the meaning, and the richness we are truly looking for.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Jefferson Bethke, after only a decade or two of living up to the unrealistic cultural expectations of our times, many of us turn around and realize we can’t find the meaning we thought we were striving for.

We’ve been hustling, but hustling toward an empty grave.

It’s as if millions of us are on a treadmill, believing we’re going somewhere when we’re actually going nowhere. All that work, energy, and effort – yet we’re running for nothing.

Only those who are anchored in a richer and deeper and more meaningful experience than the one our culture is currently offering won’t get sucked away.

I’ve began to understand that we are created for formation, not goal-setting.

Jefferson Bethke

In general, goals are usually about a finish line. Something you can reach for and then be done once you accomplish it. It’s about doing something.

Formations, on the other hand, aren’t about doing something but about being someone. One is usually about activity, while the other is about identity. 

Goals are linear and resemble a straight line. Formations look more like a circle, where you are constantly coming back to the same place to seek renewal and refreshment in a particular practice. One is about a result, the other is about a process.

Why does this distinction matter so much? I think because Scripture doesn’t talk much about goals. But it is deeply focused on our identity. On who we are becoming.

Are we becoming more like Jesus by the practices and formations we are doing?

Here’s a quick way to think about it. Traditional goals are like an arrow aiming for a bull’s-eye. Formations, through are less like a bull’s-eye and more like an arrow bent in a circle.

One is linear and final. Once is circular and forever.

One doesn’t really change you. One can transform your life.

Jefferson Bethke, To Hell With the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World

A NEXT STEP 

Author Jefferson Bethke says that we are becoming someone and something. We are being formed. We are an image that is reflecting.

Reflecting what?

Our society has long had a pattern of considering something new as invigorating and exciting, adopting it at full scale and with full embrace without questioning the consequences. Then, thirty or fifty years later, the negative impact begins to show, and regulations begin to pop up.

Consider your current use of social media platforms. Where do you find yourself in the following list?

  1. This is cool and exciting.
  2. The is actually the best thing ever created. How did people even live without it before?
  3. The is still the best thing ever, and I can’t imagine my life without it, but it seems to be hurting me also.
  4. It’s definitely hurting me and I probably need to live without it in some way.

If we are honest, many people would answer somewhere between “2” and “3” – and heading quickly toward “4.”

While this is not a diatribe or condemnation of social media, it is an accurate observation of how dangerous something like social media usage is to becoming more like Jesus.

Here’s a strategy suggested by Deep Work author Cal Newport to reducing some of the complexity in deciding whether a social media tool is useful to you in “being formed.”

The first step of this strategy is to identify the main high-level areas in your personal and professional life. When you’re done you should have a small number of areas for both the professional and personal areas of your life.

Once you’ve identified these areas, list for each the two or three most important activities that help you achieve that area of your life.

The final step in this strategy is to consider the social media tools you currently use. For each such tool, go through the key activities you identified and ask whether the use of the tool has a substantially positive impact, a substantially negative impact, or little impact on your regular and successful participation in the activity.

Now comes the important decision: Keep using this tool only if you concluded that it has substantial positive impacts and that these outweigh the negative impacts.


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

How to Practice the Art of Active Listening

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communication Skills Training by James W. Williams

Have you ever been misunderstood and misinterpreted? Do you sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret the signals you are receiving?

These situations indicate the inability to communicate appropriately, and it can prove to be detrimental in life and your career. You might be surprised at how many opportunities you could be missing out on. Likewise, a lot of relationships have been ruined because people do not know how to send out the right signals or receive them properly.

What if I told you that “communicating” is not only simple and straightforward but also easy to master?

However, with so much false information taught by the “gurus,” it is sometimes hard to cut through the noise. That’s where this book comes in.

This book will give you everything you need to become a better and more effective communicator.

The book Communication Skills Training: How to Talk to Anyone, Connect Effortlessly, Develop Charisma, and Become a People Person provides a comprehensive guide on how you can quickly move through conversations, and express yourself in a manner that is conducive to relationship-building and productivity.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author James Williams, many people do not fully realize the impact successful, two-way conversations have on our daily lives.

While most of us feel comfortable at some level speaking to others, many people do not understand the importance of “listening” in a conversation.

You might be surprised to find out that the ability to process information being directed at you is just as important as clearly conveying your thoughts and ideas. 

But listening is not enough. You also have to do it in an empathetic and attentive manner in order to carry on a conversation.

Surprisingly, one of the most important tools that you need to develop in your communication skills is not your mouth. It is those two things on either side of your head.

James W. Williams

The most basic explanation of active listening is that it is the kind of listening that involves the use of one’s full concentration. The goal of this type of listening is to understand the person delivering the message.

Active listening is a skill which you have to develop over time. To do this, here are some steps to help you make yourself an active and effective listener.

  1. Eye Contact

When you talk to a person and you try your best to avoid meeting their eyes, this is a telltale sign that you are not giving the conversation your full attention. When a person is speaking to you, stay focused on your gaze to lock your attention to the conversation at hand.

2. Relax

There is a difference between making eye contact and staring fixedly at the person. The goal is to maintain focus while tuning out all distractions.

3. An Open Mind

Indulging in mental criticisms in the middle of a conversation will impede your ability to effectively listen to the other person. You must listen without making any hasty conclusions.

4. Visualize

The best way to retain and process information in your brain is to convert that information into a “mental image” of sorts. This could be a sequence of abstract things forming a narrative or even an actual mental picture.

5. Avoid Interjections

When you interrupt a person, you convey messages of self-importance or pressing time. What you have to understand is that people think and feel at very different paces.

6. Wait for the Stop

A stop in a conversation happens when a person does not add anything else after a second or so of not talking. Once the stop has occurred, you can then present your response.

7. Maintain Course

The things that we say right after a person is done talking have, more often than not, nothing to do with the topic, but it is easy to derail an entire conversation this way.

8. Step in Their Shoes

Learn to synchronize your emotions with that of the speaker’s. Make your reactions visible through the words you say and the expressions you show.

9. Give Feedback

It is not enough that you see things from that person’s perspective or understand what they are feeling. You also have to visibly confirm to the speaker that you are listening.

10. Pay Attention to What Isn’t Said

Most of the direct forms of communication you will regularly encounter are non-verbal. It is up to you to know how to pick up on non-verbal clues.

James W. Williams, Communication Skills Training

A NEXT STEP

Set aside an hour of time to use the list above as a “self-check” on your active listening skills.

First, review the list above to make sure you have a good understanding of what the author is trying to convey in defining the characteristic of listening.

Next, write each phrase down the left side of a chart tablet for use during the rest of this exercise.

Next, thinking back over the past week, briefly write words or a phrase that demonstrates when you DID or DID NOT use this characteristic in a conversation. Your goal should be to have at least one example (positive or negative) for each of the ten characteristics.

Next, review the list, and circle up to three characteristics that you DID NOT practice. Choose one, and brainstorm how you will improve in this area in your conversations over the next week. At the end of the week, reflect on how you have done. 

Repeat this last step for the next two weeks if you listed any characteristics that needed improving.

This exercise can also be easily adapted for use in your team meetings.


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

Is This the End of the Beginning? How I Accomplished My Office Renovation

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Winston Churchill

The words above are taken from a 1942 speech by Winston Churchill concerning the Second Battle of El Alamein, one of the Allies earliest victories during World War II.

The occasion of my use of the quote is not nearly so dramatic, yet it begins to sum up where my office renovation project stands today.

You see, it’s not finishedand probably never will be.

I’m drawing upon another historical figure to give that statement some context:

The park will never be finished. It’s something I can keep improving every year. I’ve always wanted to work on something that will keep on growing. I have that now. Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.

Walt Disney

As you will see in both images and quotes from several books that have been guiding my thought process in both planning and undertaking the office renovation, the two quotes above will make more sense.


Last week’s blank canvas, over a period of weeks, became this:

Now, it was time for the real work to begin.

Having removed dozens of crates containing thousands of books, my first and biggest decision was to NOT bring the vast majority of them back to the renovated office.

As referenced in an earlier post, one of the – if not THE – primary measure of this successful renovation project was a vast reduction in the number of books in my office.

Guided by the wisdom of several authors who are experts on the subject of organizing a home library, see for yourself if the following quotes and images made the project a success.


Surrounding yourself with books you love tells the story of your life, your interests, our passions, your values. Your past and your future. Books allow us to escape, and our personal libraries allow us to invent the story of ourselves – and the legacy we that we will leave behind.

Nina Freudenberger, Biblio-Style

When we add books – any printed books – to our homes and lives and make space for them, something almost alchemical happens. We combine the author and their story with who we are and our story. The combination of the author and their story plus us and our story is a new story, and it is completely original.

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library


Books are beautiful objects in their own right – their bindings and covers – and the space they fill on shelves or stacked on coffee tables in colorful piles add balance and texture to any room. And just like any other part of a home, books require maintenance: They need to be dusted, categorized, rearranged, and maintained. Our relationship with them is dynamic and ever changing.

Nina Freudenberger, Biblio-Style


In this fast-paced, digitally saturated, screen-overloaded era we live in, printed books are a refuge of space and time. It’s OK to slow down and read; it’s OK to fill your home and your shelves with printed books and to celebrate the comfort and meaning they provide in our lives. 

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library


When we decide to keep a book and make space for it on our shelves, it becomes more than just a book. It comes a placeholder, a breadcrumb, an invitation that we can return to at any time. Perhaps it is to re-read it; or just to think about it for a moment as we pass by; or to respond to a guest who notices it and says, “I didn’t know you were interested in philosophy.” Walk into a stranger’s home anywhere in the world – want to know something about them or what to talk about over dinner? Simply look at their bookshelves.

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library


The books we keep reveal a story that is never-ending. It can constantly be rewritten, edited, and have chapters added, simply by changing the books on the shelf. Whether the books are in our hand or on our shelves, their covers open or shut, they keep on telling stories. And so should we.

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library


We are readers. Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives. 

Anne Bogel, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life


We are readers. Books are an essential part of our lives and of our life stories. For us, reading isn’t just a hobby or a pastime; it’s a lifestyle.

Anne Bogel, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life


And so here it is: my office renovation project, finished – but only as of today.

It will surely change; if not by the time you read this, then shortly thereafter.

If you have been challenged, inspired, puzzled – you can insert the word of your choice here – take a look at the outline Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane provide in For the Love of Books for styling a bookcase:

How to Style a Bookcase Step-by-Step

  • Step One: Before You Begin
  • Step Two: Remove books from shelves
  • Step Three: Place objects and test book’s positions
  • Step Four: Move books (even if you love them) if they don’t look right
  • Step Five: Test out vertical and horizontal placements
  • Step Six: Experiment with different types of objects and accessories
  • Step Seven: Experiment with placing pretty covers with front facing out
  • Step Eight: Find themes to repeat
  • Step Nine: Try more unusual objects
  • Step Ten: Fine tune
  • Step Eleven: Trust your gut
  • Step Twelve: Take a step back
  • Step Thirteen: Group books by color subject and size
  • Step Fourteen: Be patient with the process

Why don’t you think about organizing and styling your bookshelves?

You may be wondering what became of the books that didn’t come back to my office.

Welcome to my office annex, a project in the making: About 2,000 books, cataloged and sorted for somewhat ease of access.

To be continued…

How to Lead with Vujá Dé

We are living in an age of disruption. According to Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor, you can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past. The most effective leaders don’t just rally their teams to outrace the “competition” or outpace prior results. They strive to redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with copy-cat thinking. 

What sets truly innovative organizations apart often comes down to one simple question: What can we see that others cannot?

If you believe that what you see shapes how you change, then the question for change-minded leaders in times of disruption becomes: How do you look at your organization as if you are seeing it for the first time?

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. 

– Henry David Thoreau

When you learn to see with fresh eyes, you’re able to differentiate your organization from the competition (and your “competition” isn’t the church down the street). You’re able to change the way your organization sees all the different types of environments around it, and the way your others see your organization.

This mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. We live in a world that is less black and white and more shades of gray world, not a black and while one. Seeing in this way means shifting your focus from objects or patterns that are in the foreground to those in the background. It means thinking of things that are usually assumed to be negative as positive, and vice versa. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least.

In a season filled with uncertainty, how can you cultivate a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

SOLUTION #1: Seeing with Vujá Dé

THE QUICK SUMMARY

The Vujá Dé Moment is the reverse of the French saying – Déjà vu which means “already seen it.” Compelling thought catalyst, Simon T. Bailey defines The Vuja’ De’ Moment by saying “you’ve never seen it” but you intend to flip the status quo and create it. 

The Vuja’ dD’ Moment – Shift from Average to Brilliant, is a call to action that invites readers to shift their thinking, creating a disruption from the norm that ignites innovation, increasing accountability and profitability in life and business. 

The ultimate “GameChanger,” the Vujá Dé Moment equips you to shift from average to brilliant, guiding you to personal and professional success. By harnessing the power of Vuja’ De’ and regaining control of your inner steering wheel, you put yourself in gear and move forward. The book outlines substantive “how to” steps on how to ignite a fresh vision and turn a moment into a movement.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In so much uncertainty, how can you feel a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

According to author Simon T. Bailey, it’s working towards Vujá Dé moments, moments that are about the future. It is about envisioning and believing in the possibilities – believing in the future so strongly that those possibilities become probable.

Vujá Dé is seeing – and living – your future as if it’s happening now.

Vujá Dé is a twist on conventional wisdom.

Vujá Dé implies seeing everything as if for the first time or better still, seeing everything everyone else sees, but understanding it differently.

Simon T. Bailey

There are ways to instill Vujá Dé in your life. Start by looking for the uncommon in the common, for the meaning behind the actions and the words, for the new in the old.

Vujá Dé is all about shifting. It’s when you have confirmation in your gut about making important changes without having to have external validation. It’s the ability to see and believe in your own potential and the potential of the team around you. Vujá dé is realizing there will come a time when you will have to break with the old to embrace the new, to let go of what is comfortable and convenient in order to grow and expand.

It’s about moving in a new direction without a map, GPS, or support from your Facebook friends. It’s doing the exact opposite of what you’ve always done in order to ignite a creative spark of new possibility. Because it’s a promise of greater things ahead. Vujá dé is the moment when everything clicks and you decide to resist the gravitational pull that keeps you from being brilliant.

Vujá Dé is the big idea. It’s the breakthrough. It’s the disruption from your normal routine. If you intend to live brilliantly, then disruption is your future. In fact, look at your calendar: disruption is your next appointment.

Simon T. Bailey, The Vujá Dé Moment! Shift from Average to Brilliant

A NEXT STEP

According to author Simon T. Bailey, the reality is everything around us – and everything we once knew – has shifted.

Bailey developed these questions to help you begin to see with Vujá Dé:

  • What could a personal shift do for you?
  • Are you holding on to what worked yesterday?
  • Are you suppressing your inner voice that is telling you to step out of your comfort zone?
  • What mysterious voice or vision are you ignoring?
  • Can you immerse yourself or your work in your relationships in a more significant way?

He sees Vujá Dé as the catalyst to your future and developed SHIFTER as a tool to get you there. Follow these seven actions, then schedule the personal retreat described below to get moving:

See differently

What does it mean to see differently? It means to change your mindset. When you begin to see things differently, the opportunities before you change. To shift, you must be willing to examine everything you do and ask yourself if you are creating the tomorrow you want. Even as you are reading this, stop and record as much of your day as you can. Shoot for blocks of at least 30 minutes and then capture the rest of your day.

Harness the power of You, Inc.

Draw confidence from your personal gifts and talents by doing a quarterly assessment of your career/business portfolio. Examine your personal productivity, relationship currency, and skills inventory. What do you do well, or have you been gifted with? Make a list of how this impacts how you see your organization. 

Ignite a fresh vision

Challenge yourself to try new ways of doing routine things. Challenge your team to live a fresh vision in their hearts and minds. If your vision is to stand the test of time, it will do so because each individual feels a significant sense of ownership. Collaborate together on a theme for the next three months of your work. Leverage the gifts and talents of each member to express that theme in unique and creative ways around the office. 

Fuel your mind

Take responsibility for your own growth and development and for the unleashing of your potential. Keep your intellectual tank full by committing to become a lifelong learner. Identify three books from three different genres that will challenge your growth – one biography, one marketplace leadership book, and one work of classic fiction.

Take the wheel

To change what’s outside, look inside to see who’s at the wheel. You hold the keys to your destiny. Instead of letting tomorrow come to you, go get it. Own your future – don’t let fear of failure and the changes that are happening at full speed around you keep you in neutral. In what area can you model faith-full obedience to God’s calling? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Engage your gears

Sometimes, when we attempt to shift, we can either grind a gear or slip out of gear. Consider what will give you the energy and the discipline to get in gear and stay in gear. Make a list of what most motivates you to do great work. How can you use these things to encourage and focus your work?

Restart your engine

There are seasons in our lives which require us to restart our own internal batteries or restart our engines. If you are in a situation you can’t change, what you can change is how you choose to view it. Use your retreat time as a time of intense Bible study and prayer. Consider making fasting a part of this season of listening to the Lord.

Before moving on, which of the above seven actions are most needed in your life and ministry right now? Calendar a 3-4 hour personal retreat in the next 14 days to work on only one of the above actions. In that retreat, journal what God reveals through times of prayer and Bible study. Ask the questions from author Simon Bailey above and make a plan to enact what you are now seeing.


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

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

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.

With a nod to “Talk Like a Pirate Day” celebrated annually on September 19, here’s an example of creative immersion 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 (currently undergoing renovation)…

It’s continually changing as I acquire new books and other “resources” that help my inspiration.

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 450 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 is playing in the background.

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 would 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

The Love-Hate Confessions of a Horizontal Organizer

or, the domino effect of renovation in action.

A few years ago, my wife and I replaced our antique brass bed with a new bed. That led to a minor redecorating of our bedroom, which led to a major effort to simplify life in our house. As parents of four, but being empty nesters, we decided to reduce our furniture footprint, change our room use around, and redecorate our house – to be accomplished over several years.

After a few trips to Goodwill and Restore to donate furniture and other items, we had a working kitchen with plenty of space for 3 chefs at a time (we’re a foodie family), a small home office tucked away to one side, and an island for casual eating for 3. The family room lost the media center, replaced by a wall-mounted screen and sound system. The fireplace wall’s built-in side book shelves were cleaned up, organized, and looked great. Free standing bookshelves were rearranged, relocated, or removed. New furniture was chosen and delivered to create a simple, clean look. A complete redesign of the room-facing fireplace wall brought a new focal point to the entire room. The original dining room – our computer room and my office for 17 years – was returned to a dining room furnished with art from several Charleston trips, along with a custom-built dining room seating ten. One of the front bedrooms – our daughter’s – became known as the Disney Princess room, decorated with Disney art, a “magic mirror,” other Disney features, and a Lego Disney Castle, all just waiting for our grandchildren to visit. The other front bedroom – our youngest son’s – became Anita’s office, but also a guest room, courtesy of a Murphy bed mounted to one wall. The front bathroom was remodeled with a new designer vanity and tile flooring. The entire downstairs ceilings were stripped of that awful 90’s popcorn ceiling, smooth-coated with plaster, and painted. All of the downstairs rooms were painted in shades of grey. My office was relocated upstairs to what was originally a bedroom for two of our sons, and also fulfills a guest bedroom role.

I was completely happy to be out of sight from the main floor, and relocated my work there. Since Auxano had been founded as a digital company in 2004, most of my work took place there.

Therein lies the problem.

My vocational title at Auxano is Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader, which is a really cool title, but functionally I read, research, and write – a lot of all three. Which involves books – lots of them (even in the digital reader age). And project files (I’m trying to go digital, but it’s taking awhile). More books, as in book towers – one for each of the 7+ years of SUMS Remix. And visual learning objects – lots of Disney items including a Sorcerer Mickey hat and Mickey hands; gas station memorabilia; Starbucks cups and barista training materials; pirate gear and props, etc. – all related to projects I’m currently working on and/or keeping updated. Then there’s special family photos, challenge coins and patches of my Air Force son’s career, and did I mention personal books?

My name is Bob, and I’m a horizontal organizer.

I like the things I am working on spread out on a surface in front of me, where they can beckon me to continue working on them. Efficiency experts and time management gurus live in a world of vertical file management and a digital, paperless world, but me – not so much.

As a horizontal organizer, I am at a situational disadvantage. The whole world is set up to help keep vertically organized people on top of things. On the other hand, all my work is on top of things – my desk, the tops of filing cabinets, bookshelves, the nearby futon (I’m getting better, Anita – I really am!), and the floor.

As you have no doubt heard, a messy desk spread thick with paper and stacked high with books is the sign of a genius at work.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

The relocation of my office from the main level of our home to the second floor has had many benefits, not the least of which is increased domestic tranquility – a phrase not exclusively limited to governmental issues by any means. Because of my tendencies towards horizontal organization – actually, more like a full-out embrace – my working office is out of sight, but not out of mind – the office must also remain a guest room (but give me a couple hours notice, please, to ahem – rearrange things).

Anita has gently, but, firmly, been suggesting for several years now something to the tune of “that mess office needs some work.” As with much of life, it was put off some, and then some more.

At this point I need to pause and give special thanks to my youngest son Aaron, who in his senior year in college pointed me to the book The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry. After he bought the book, read it, and wrote a paper on procrastination the day it was due, he gave it to me to read.

Through it, I was introduced to the concept of horizontal organization. I enjoyed learning about, and practicing, Structured Procrastination, To-Do Lists, Procrastination as Perfectionism, and other strategies for the serial procrastinator.

With that under my belt, I became aware of another book with a similar topic: Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me. Author Andrew Santella explores a diverse group of individuals, from Charles Darwin to Leonardo Da Vinci to Frank Lloyd Wright, to ask why so many of our greatest inventors, artists, and scientists have led double lives as committed procrastinators. Here’s a couple of quotes:

In the process of trying to avoid one task, I was in fact completing many other tasks. Even procrastinators can become task-oriented, when the task they are oriented to is procrastinating.

Procrastination is really a kind of time travel, an attempt to manipulate time by transferring activities from the concrete past to an abstract future.

As noted in last week’s Friday post, Anita had had enough. In the genuine spirit of a combination birthday and Father’s Day gift, she said we would be redecorating my office. And, by the way, something had to be done about those books.

You saw the panoramic shot; that was then, this was next:

The entire office was crated, cataloged, and moved to first the garage, and then a storage unit. If you’re counting, that’s 42 crates as pictured above, plus another dozen or so boxes of various sizes.

Finally, a blank canvas:

Next week: The Big Reveal