How Have You Been Celebrating National Library Week?

Happy National Library Week! This week, April 3rd through 9th, has been National Library Week.

Here’s my library:

That’s the North County Regional branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg library.

It’s also my weekly destination for dropping off and picking up books I’ve placed on hold throughout the week.

Visiting the local library is a long-standing tradition with me. As a small boy, I remember with fondness the bi-monthly visits to the branch library in the next county. We were limited to checking out 20 books at a time, and it was a rare week when I didn’t meet that quota.

As soon as the car pulled in the driveway, I would race into our house and begin reading through my treasure trove of books.

In my early years, I would often have them all read in a matter of days. As I got older and the books got longer, it might take the whole two-week period to read them.

Then there’s school libraries, from middle school to high school to college to graduate school. More treasures of a deeper and longer-lasting sort.

When our children came along, I introduced them to the joy of reading and the local library. In each city we’ve lived in, one of the very first visits we made after moving was to stop by the library and pick up a library card. Since our four children were born four years apart, that’s a long time of library visits!

I’m proud to say that as they have grown up, and with children of their own, reading and visiting the library is still important in their lives. And of course, any grandchild visiting Nina and GrandBob is going to have a selection of the latest age-appropriate books from our library waiting!

Whether you visit in person or virtually, the library can help you access the resources and services you need. Libraries have been adapting to our changing world by expanding their resources and services. Through access to technology, multimedia content, and educational programs, libraries offer opportunities for everyone to explore new worlds and become their best selves.

You may or may not be in the habit of reading, and of utilizing your local library for research, pleasure reading, or other uses.

If you are, I know you are grateful for everything you find there.

If you are not, you are missing out on a vast, free resource. Don’t let another day go by until you “check it out.”

How Could Anyone Ever Know That Something Is Good Before It Exists?

From author John McPhee’s encouraging words to his daughter when she was frustrated at a senior high writing assignment:
“Blurt it out, heave out, babble something out – anything – as a first draft.
With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus.
Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the eye and ear. The chances are that about now you’ll be seeing something that you are sort of eager for others to see.
And all that takes time.”


“You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside. You get in the car and drive home. On the way, your mind is still knitting at the words. You think of a better way to say something, a good phrase to correct a certain problem.
Without the drafted version – if it did not exist – you obviously would not be thinking of things that would improve it.
Your mind, in one way or another, is working on it twenty-four hours a day – but only if some sort of draft or earlier version already exists.
Until it exists, writing has not really begun.”

John McPhee, Draft No. 4 On the Writing Process

How to Help Math-Lovers (and Math-Haters) Translate the Numbers That Animate Our World

We live in a world in which our success often depends on our ability to make numbers count.

There are some authors from which I will preorder their book without question. They demonstrate the rare ability to communicate concepts with ease, giving the reader just enough information to satisfy without being overly verbose. They present an intriguing concept, provide in-depth information, and make you wonder, “That’s simply brilliant.” And better yet, they provide solid application – ways to help you translate information into action.

Chip Heath is one of those.

Along with co-author Karla Starr, Heath’s new book Making Numbers Count arrived on my porch yesterday, and I eagerly consumed it overnight.

We lose information when we don’t translate numbers into instinctive human experiences.

Chip Heath & Karla Starr, Making Numbers Count

The subtitle, “The Art of Science of Communicating Numbers” is well-stated. Using four broad categories, the authors proceed to capture readers with stories, examples, and applications of how important numbers are in our everyday lives, and more importantly, how we can use them to communicate clearly to our audience – whether our family or organization-wide.

The categories are:

  • Translate everything, favor user-friendly numbers
  • To help people grasp your numbers, ground them in the familiar, concrete, and human scale
  • Use emotional numbers – surprising and meaningful – to move people to think and act differently
  • Build a scale model

In typical fashion, Heath provides footnotes that satisfy the curious and enough endnotes (31 pages!) to make even the most avid researcher approve.


How much bigger is a billion than a million?

Well, a million seconds is twelve days. A billion seconds is…thirty-two years.

Understanding numbers is essential—but humans aren’t built to understand them. Until very recently, most languages had no words for numbers greater than five—anything from six to infinity was known as “lots.” While the numbers in our world have gotten increasingly complex, our brains are stuck in the past. How can we translate millions and billions and milliseconds and nanometers into things we can comprehend and use?

Author Chip Heath has excelled at teaching others about making ideas stick and here, in Making Numbers Count, he outlines specific principles that reveal how to translate a number into our brain’s language. This book is filled with examples of extreme number makeovers, vivid before-and-after examples that take a dry number and present it in a way that people click in and say “Wow, now I get it!”

You will learn principles such as:

SIMPLE PERSPECTIVE CUES: researchers at Microsoft found that adding one simple comparison sentence doubled how accurately users estimated statistics like population and area of countries.
VIVIDNESS: get perspective on the size of a nucleus by imagining a bee in a cathedral, or a pea in a racetrack, which are easier to envision than “1/100,000th of the size of an atom.”
CONVERT TO A PROCESS: capitalize on our intuitive sense of time (5 gigabytes of music storage turns into “2 months of commutes, without repeating a song”).
EMOTIONAL MEASURING STICKS: frame the number in a way that people already care about (“that medical protocol would save twice as many women as curing breast cancer”).

Whether you’re interested in global problems like climate change, running a tech firm or a farm, or just explaining how many Cokes you’d have to drink if you burned calories like a hummingbird, this book will help math-lovers and math-haters alike translate the numbers that animate our world—allowing us to bring more data, more naturally, into decisions in our schools, our workplaces, and our society.

A clear, practical, first-of-its-kind guide to communicating and understanding numbers and data—from bestselling business author Chip Heath.


We believe in numbers not as background, not as decorations, but as central points, with profound stories to tell. We believe in numbers, deeply. We believe in making them count.

Chip Heath & Karla Starr


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.

The Unseen Value of Precision in Your Life

The phenomenon of precision, like oxygen or the English language, is something we take for granted, is largely unseen, can seldom be fully imagined, and is rarely properly discussed. Yet it is always there, an essential aspect of modernity that makes the modern possible.

Simon Winchester

According to author Simon Winchester, humankind has for most of its civilized existence been in the habit of measuring things:

  • How far from this river to that hill?
  • How tall is this man, that cow?
  • How much milk shall I barter?
  • What weight is that cow?
  • How much length of cloth is required?
  • How long has elapsed since the sun rose this morning?
  • And what is the time right now?

All of it depends to some extent on measurement, and in the very earliest days of social organization a clear indication of advancement and sophistication was the degree to which systems of measurement had been established, codified, agreed to, and employed.

The later development of precision demanded not so much a range of exotically named units of measure, but trusted standards against which these lengths and weights and volumes and time and speeds, in whatever units they happened to be designated, could be measured.


In The PerfectionistsNew York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement – precision – in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools – machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras – and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in society?


As is the typical week, I have several books in process at once – and a couple of them happen to be works by Simon Winchester. I’ll be talking more about them in future, but when this one came in on my library hold list, I had to get to it immediately.

When the book is entitled The Perfectionist, and the chapters are delineated by the measurements of the stories they contain (from .1 inch to 10 to the -28th gram), you know it is not only going to be a fascinating read, but one that explains our world, and our future, in unique ways.

Like me, Winchester is not an engineer – and that’s probably why this curious history of a common word not commonly thought of is a great read.


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.

Why Most Successful Leaders Practice Design Thinking

Because design thinking is actually a systematic approach to problem solving.

Find a leader who is innovative in any organization, and he has likely been practicing design thinking all along. It starts with the people we serve and the ability to create a better future for them. It acknowledges that we probably won’t get that right the first time. It does not require super powers.

It’s time for Design Thinking in your organization.

Design thinking can do for organic growth and innovation what TQM did for quality – take something we always have cared about and put tools and processes into the hands of leaders to make it happen.

Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, Designing for Growth

Design Thinking isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s not about renovating the physical spaces of your organization.

In the old days, designers and design thinking were an afterthought, the people and process at the end of the production. Engineers would hand over something that was functionally effective and have the designers make it look good. Those days are over.

Today, design is about experiences as well as products. It’s about services as much as it is hard goods.

It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of “customers,” team members, and partners in your organization’s mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

The Design Thinking Toolbox explains the most important tools and methods to put Design Thinking into action. Based on the largest international survey on the use of design thinking, the most popular methods are described in four pages each by an expert from the global Design Thinking community.

If you are involved in innovation, leadership, or design, these are tools you need. Simple instructions, expert tips, templates, and images help you implement each tool or method.

  • Quickly and comprehensively familiarize yourself with the best design thinking tools
  • Select the appropriate warm-ups, tools, and methods
  • Explore new avenues of thinking
  • Plan the agenda for different design thinking workshops
  • Get practical application tips

The Design Thinking Toolbox will help innovators master the early stages of the innovation process.

What challenge are you facing today that could use the discipline of Design Thinking?


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.

The Best Sort of a Breakthrough Idea

“But of course!”

That’s the best sort of breakthrough idea.

An idea that after it is seen, can’t be unseen, an idea that changes what comes next.

No need to change the world. A tiny part of the world, even one person, is enough for today.

-Seth Godin



A periodic visit to the 100 Acre Wood. Here’s the backstory.

Are You REALLY Listening, or Just Waiting to Talk?

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 – Good Talk by Daniel Stillman

Leadership is the art of designing transformative conversations.

Real change is needed, now, more than ever. This change can’t happen through force, edict or persuasion. The future will be built through conversation – and Good Talk will show you how.

Good Talk is a step-by-step framework to effect change in your personal and professional conversations. With dozens of tools and interactive components, Good Talk is a handbook to navigate the conversations that matter.

What’s Inside:

  • How to see the structure of conversations. Life is built one messy, slippery conversation at a time. While conversations feel hard to hold onto, ebbing and flowing, back and forth and into eventual silence, they each have a structure. The first step to changing your conversations is seeing what’s going on between the silence.
  • What is your Conversation Operating System? Who gets invited to the conversation? Who speaks first? Where does the conversation take place? What happens if someone messes up? In every conversation, there are elements that guide the exchange. The nine elements of the Conversation OS Canvas can help you to shift the direction of your conversations.
  • What is your conversational range? Conversations are more than dialogue. From the conversations in your head to the complex conversation that is your organization, you need to design conversations that matter across a huge range of sizes. Learn to master conversations from the boardroom and beyond.
  • How to design conversations that matter. The world needs fresh, creative conversations that are alive, and that work for all the people involved. How can you design conversations that matter? Leadership means designing the conditions for these conversations to happen. Learn the patterns and principles to make change possible.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

According to author Daniel Stillman, when two people are in a conversation, we take turns listening and speaking. 

What do we do with our turns?

Do you listen, or do you just wait to talk? 

Or do you take the role of listener seriously and enjoy your turn as the listener?

In conversation, we “see” speaking, whereas listening looks like “doing nothing.”

How often in conversations have you interrupted (intentionally or accidentally) the conversation, derailing the other person’s train of thought?

In your eagerness to move the conversation forward, to take your turn, you’ve stopped their turn too soon.

When two people are in a conversation, we take turns speaking and listening. Understanding your “turn-taking” patterns can dramatically shift your conversations for the better.

Daniel Stillman

Conversations can look like a sloshing sea of opinions and arguments, but there’s a pattern underlaying the seeming chaos. There are only a few distinct “moves” we can make inside a conversation, diagrammed below.

Are you someone tho prefers to take a turn? Or do you tend to wait and see which way the wind blows? The former is an “initiator” (at the base of the diamond); the latter is someone who “holds” space at waits (at the center).

Once someone has opened their mouth and opened the floor, what happens next? Some of us tend to immediately react, either positively or negatively (at the apex of the diagram). In both reactions, that move is fairly habitual. I’m sure you know someone who always has something nice to say about everything, or maybe you hang out with people who always focus on the negative.

The default reaction of listening deeply before expressing an opinion is a “reflective” response, seen on the right side of the diagram. This individual peels back layers of meaning before adding their own.

The fifth option could be to reframe the conversation. Reframing can look like “glass half full” thinking, or shifting problems into opportunities. Reframing can powerfully shift a conversation, or feel like an unwelcome erasure of a real issue on the table.

Each of these five “moves” steers the ship of the conversation.

Daniel Stillman, Good Talk

A NEXT STEP

Use the following “active listening script” from author Daniel Stillman to frame how you can deepen your connection with people.

  1. Paraphrase what you just heard the person say in neutral terms. Start with the phrase, “I’m hearing you say…” You can also use the phrase, “Okay, wait…” to give yourself a second to get centered.
  2. Confirm your summary, asking, “Is that right?” Or “Did I get that?”
  3. If they say yes; ask, “Is there anything I missed?” Go deeper.
  4. Wait. Count to three. If they confirm that there’s more, they’ll say more. If they indicate that you got it wrong, they will correct you if you give them time.
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat. Try step 1 again, or continue with normal turn-taking if you feel comfortable doing so.

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 Reframe Problems and Develop New Solutions

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 – Stephen M. Shapiro, Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems

Unprecedented access to infinite solutions has led us to realize that having all of the answers is not the answer. From innovation teams to creativity experts to crowdsourcing, we’ve turned from one source to another, spending endless cycles pursuing piecemeal solutions to each challenge we face.

What if your organization had an effective systematic approach to deal with any problem?

To find better solutions, you need to first ask better questions. The questions you ask determine which solutions you’ll see and which will remain hidden.

This compact yet powerful book contains the formulas to reframe any problem multiple ways, using 25 lenses to help you gain different perspectives. With visual examples and guidance, it contains everything you need to start mastering any challenge.

Apply just one of the lenses and you will quickly discover better solutions. Apply all of them and you will be able to solve any problem, in business and in life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages. 

Mark Twain

According to author Stephen M. Shapiro, the process for driving better results doesn’t start with great ideas – it starts with better questions.

When faced with disruption and myriad challenges, we crave answers. It’s a natural human instinct.

But having answers is not the answer.

Asking different and better questions is the key to finding better solutions.

By using “reframing lenses,” you will see your problems and opportunities more clearly, and come up with creative answers that will boggle your mind.

Reframing lenses are a powerful tool that transforms complex problems into simple and practical solutions.

By changing the questions you ask, you can uncover answers that were previously hidden from sight. And the tool to help you reframe those questions – and shine light on invisible solutions – are twenty-five lenses.

Stephen M. Shapiro

How do we systematically challenge our assumptions? Using the lens of “reframing” will help you bring your assumptions to the surface. The process of reframing requires that you systematically question the direction you are going.

To help you sift through the lenses, they are grouped into five categories, with five lenses per category:

Reduce Abstraction – Make questions more specific when they are too broad.

  • Leverage
  • Deconstruct
  • Reduce
  • Eliminate
  • Hyponym

Increase Abstraction – Make questions less specific if the challenge is too narrowly defined.

  • Analogy
  • Result
  • Concern Reframe
  • Stretch
  • Hypernym

Change Perspective – Look at the question with a fresh set of eyes.

  • Resequence
  • Reassign
  • Access
  • Emotion
  • Substitute

Switch Elements – Swap multiple factors to get new ideas.

  • Flip
  • Conflicts
  • Performance Paradox
  • Pain vs Gain
  • Bad Idea

Zero-In – Ask the best question to help solve your problem.

  • Real problem
  • Real business
  • Insights
  • Variations
  • Observation

Stephen M. Shapiro, Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems

A NEXT STEP

Use the following ideas from author Stephen Shapiro as a way to begin reframing problems through the use of the lenses listed above. Even without having access to the book and complete definitions and explanations of the lenses, you will be able to see how valuable they can be in overcoming challenges.

Identify an issue, problem, opportunity, or challenge that you want to address. As you are doing this, remember to always bring your assumptions to the surface.

Write down your challenge on a chart tablet in the form of “How can we…”

Once you develop your first iteration of your “How can we” question, you can apply lenses to help you reframe it. Review the list above to see which lenses fit best. Or, better yet, try all of the lenses and force them to fit. You will find that every lens can be applied to any challenge, although some might be more difficult.

Write down as many variations as you can. Try to do it at least six times. A half dozen variations using at least six lenses. More is better as it stretches your thinking.

There are a couple of things to look out for as you go through this process. For starters, avoid jumping to solutions. It is so tempting to fry to find answers before you have created a great list of questions: Stay in the challenge formulation phase.

Also, it is valuable to apply one lens more than one time to a given problem. It is all too easy to find a quick reframe and move on. It takes more discipline to find multiple variations from a single lens.

Recognize that questions beget more questions. Sometimes when you ask a question, you might need to answer another question in order to move forward. Although answering an insight question might not provide a solution, it should provide information that will help you further reframe your primary question.

The point is that it is important to practice reframing. As you go through this process, ask which of the reframed questions seems to create the greatest results. Different questions will create different solutions, which will result in different levels of value.


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.

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.