Leadership Lessons from Visionaries, Part Two: Steve Jobs

January 1, 2020.

It was the beginning of a new year, and most would say, a new decade.

Many people, and certainly most leaders, look at the beginning of a new year to look ahead to what might be – to dream.

Since it was a new year, many of those dreams might even be worded as “resolutions” – or goals – for 2020.

Of course, looking back to January 2020 from the vantage point of early 2021, no one on earth could have predicted what the year was going to turn out like.

In spite of that, no, even BECAUSE of the way the year went, the team at Auxano would like you to focus instead on clarity.

Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.

To help you understand clarity from a different perspective, this issue of SUMS Remix departs from our usual format of a common problem statement, with solutions from three books and accompanying action steps.

Instead, we invite you to take a brief look into the lives of two of the most brilliant, creative, and clarity-practicing geniuses: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Though born in different generations, and living vastly different lives, Disney and Jobs have influenced millions of people through the respective outputs of the companies they founded, the Walt Disney Company and Apple.

The first installment was a look at Walt Disney. The second installment of the four-part series is a brief excerpt from a select biography of Steve Jobs, giving you background on his excellent of use of “vision” and “communication.” The third and fourth installments will give you a brief excerpt from other books that illustrate these two concepts, each with action steps to help you do the same.

As you look at some specific events of their lives through the lens of “vision” and “communication,” it is my hope that you will be inspired to live and lead 2021 with clarity.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years – as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues – Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.  

Although Jobs cooperated with the publication of Steve Jobs, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.


VISION COMMUNICATION ILLUSTRATION

While Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is remembered in many ways for the successful innovations he led Apple to accomplish, undoubtedly his most memorable public moments were the product introductions he unveiled over the years.

An Apple product unveiling by Steve Jobs was not a dry, technical recitation. Instead, Jobs electrified his audiences with his incomparable style and showmanship. He didn’t just convey information in his presentations; he told stories, painted pictures in the listener’s minds, and above all, shared a vision of what could be.

A presentation by Steve Jobs was a transformative experience that his audience found unique, inspiring, and unforgettable.

Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. Today we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.              

Steve Jobs

The Apple II Launch Event – April 1977

It is important to “impute” your greatness by making a memorable impression on people, especially when launching a new product. That was reflected in the care that Jobs took with Apple’s display area. Other exhibitors had card tables and poster board signs. Apple had a counter draped in black velvet and a large pane of backlit Plexiglas with Apple’s new logo. They put on display the only three Apple IIs that had been finished, but empty boxes were piled up to give the impression that there were many more on hand.

The Macintosh Launch Event – January 1984

The lights dimmed as Jobs reappeared onstage and launched into a dramatic version of the battle cry he had delivered earlier during the Macintosh’s development.

“It is 1958. IBM passes up a chance to buy a young fledgling company that has invented a new technology called xerography. Two years later, Xerox was born, and IBM has been kicking themselves ever since.”

“It is now 1984. It appears that IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, after initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and –controlled future and are turning back to Apple as the only force who can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all, and is aiming its guns at its last obstacle to industry control, Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?”

As he built to the climax, the audience went from murmuring to applauding to a frenzy of cheering and chanting. But before they could answer the Orwell question, the auditorium went black and the “1984” commercial appeared on the screen. When it was over, the entire audience was on its feet cheering.

With a flair for the dramatic, Jobs walked across the dark stage to a small table with a cloth bag on it. “Now I’d like to show you Macintosh in person,” he said. He took out the computer, keyboard, and mouse, hooked them together deftly, then pulled one of the new 3½-inch floppies from his shirt pocket.

The theme from Chariots of Fire began to play, the word “MACINTOSH” scrolled horizontally onscreen, then underneath it the words “Insanely great” appeared in script, as if being slowly written by hand. Not used to such beautiful graphic displays, the audience quieted for a moment. Wild cheering and shrieks erupted from the audience, followed by a five-minute standing ovation.

The iPod – October 2001

When it came time to reveal the product, after he had described its technical capabilities, Jobs did not do his usual trick of walking over to a table and pulling off a velvet cloth. Instead he said, “I happen to have one right here in my pocket.” He reached into his jeans and pulled out the gleaming white device. “This amazing little device holds a thousand songs, and it goes right into my pocket.” He slipped it back in and ambled offstage to applause.

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs

A NEXT STEP

Set aside some time to view these launch events, and take notes on how you might adapt Jobs’ techniques to upcoming events in your organization.

Watch videos of Steve Jobs and select product launches by clicking on the links below:

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 135-3, released January 2019.


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

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

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Saying Goodbye to the Greatest Generation

In the all-too brief period from December 11, 2020, to January 2, 2021, my mother-in-law Mary Grey Randolph went from living at home with a full-time caregiver to the hospital for surgery back to home for recovery, and then back to the hospital briefly, before moving to hospice care for two days, before passing on 1/2/21.

We shared a birthdate, and she often joked and wondered if I would ever catch up with her – and oh, by the way, she was planning on living to be 100.

Though she didn’t quite make it to her 100th birthday, she was living in her 100th year, so she gets full credit for that!

Mimmie, as she was affectionally known to our family, was the last of her generation in our extended family. Her husband passed away in 2015.

They were the Greatest Generation.

Much more than the titles of the great books by Tom Brokaw, Doc and Mary Grey nevertheless were the Greatest Generation, the likes of one which we have not seen since, and are likely not to see again – at least for awhile.

Mary Grey’s long life was marked by devotion to her God and church; love and nourishing her family; and compassion for others.

Mary Grey and W.L. “Doc” Randolph were married in 1943, lived apart for most of the war years, and began their family life in Goodlettsville, TN following the end of WW II.

Her vocational career included office management and bookkeeping responsibilities in several companies for over five decades. After retirement, her full-time occupation was keeping Doc in line, and as beloved “Mimmie” to her grandchildren.

Mary Grey was a long-time member at her church, and was involved in many activities and responsibilities over the years.

She and Doc, along with four other couples, personified friendship, care, and affection through the Sunday Night Bunch, which gathered weekly for over six decades.

She was devoted to her large family, and always took joy in hosting family gatherings from a single grandchild to dozens of family members for all occasions.

To me, that’s a pretty good definition of “greatest.”

The G.I. Generation, born 1901-1924, developed a special and good-kid reputation as the beneficiaries of new playgrounds, scouting clubs, vitamins, and child-labor restrictions. They came of age with the sharpest rise in schooling ever recorded. As young adults, their uniformed corps patiently endured the depression and heroically conquered foreign enemies. In a mid-life subsidized by the G.I. Bill, the build gleaming suburbs, invented miracle vaccines, plugged missile gaps, and launched moon rockets. Their unprecedented grip on the presidency began with a New Frontier, a Great Society, and Model Cities, but wore down through Vietnam, Watergate, deficits, and problems with “the vision thing.” As senior citizens, they safeguarded their own “entitlements” but had little influence over culture and values. Representatives of this generation include John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Judy Garland, John Wayne, and Walter Cronkite.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, Generations

The event that not only named my in-laws’ generation, but shaped their character as young adults, was World War II. As recounted by Tom Brokaw, “There may never be again be a time when all the layers of our complex society are so completely absorbed in a monumental challenge as they were during WW II.”

Everyone had a role; everyone understood that the successful outcome of the war was critical to the continuing evolution of political and personal freedom.

The nation was infused with a sense of purpose and patriotism. Political leaders, the popular culture, advertising, newspapers, and radio cheered on the war effort once the fighting began. For many young men and women, that call to duty and the constant reminders of its importance in their lives and to the whole country marked their lives during the war and long after.

As I have written about a great deal on this site, I believe that our generations revolve in cycles. Interestingly, the premier researchers in this field, William Strauss and Neil Howe, believed that the generation that will most closely mimic the Greatest Generation in life events and achievements, is the Millennial generation.

The Millennials, those born 1982-2004, are the new “Greatest Generation” – not in name but in deed?

We face a much different type of “battle” today; one not against a named nation or group of nations, but against ourselves.

This cartoon, taken from decades of display on Mimmie’s fridge door, reflects both her life and attitude.

When two different groups view our objectives with a short-sighted and selfish nature, no one will be happy and we will both become quickly frustrated. We will tug and strain, and ultimately fail.

But if we come together and reason, give of ourselves and give up our selfish motives, we will succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

May it be so with the Millennials (Mimmie’s grandchildren), as it was with her Greatest Generation.

Mary Grey Randolph, 1921-2021

How to Transform Your Communication Using Data Stories

Most church leaders, especially the senior pastor or teaching pastor, rightfully view their skills as a communicator to be one of the most important aspects of their position. From the weekly sermon to regular leadership meetings to training and development presentations to special, one off events, the spoken word is of paramount importance to church leaders.

With all the information in data form available to you, how do you communicate it?

To be the most effective communicators we can be, leaders must learn to use the data we need to communicate as a powerful narrative – a narrative that others will recall and retell.

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Data Story, by Nancy Duarte

Scientists have proven that stories make the brain light up in ways no other form of communication does. Using story frameworks as a communication device for data will help make your recommendations stick and be acted on.

Organizations use data to identify problems or opportunities. The actions others may need to take today from your insights in data could reverse or improve the trajectory of your future data. So, communicating data well drives very important outcomes.

Even though most roles depend on data, communicating well is the top skill gap in roles using data. The essential skill for today’s leaders (and aspiring leaders) is shaping data into narratives that make a clear recommendation and inspire others to act. 

Almost every role today uses data for decision-making. As you grow in your career, you can become a strategic advisor and ultimately a leader using data to shape a future where humanity and organizations flourish.

Duarte and her team have culled through thousands of data slides of her clients in technology, finance, healthcare, and consumer products, to decode how the highest performing brands communicate with data.

Data Story teaches you the most effective ways to turn your data into narratives that blend the power of language, numbers, and graphics. This book is not about visualizing data; there are plenty of books covering that. Instead, you’ll learn how to transform numbers into narratives to drive action.

  • It will help you communicate data in a way that creates outcomes both inside and outside your own organization.
  • It will help you earn a reputation as a trusted advisor, which will advance your career.
  • It will help your organization make faster decisions and inspire others to act on them!

Nancy Duarte is one of the preeminent storytellers in American business and the acclaimed author of Slide:ologyResonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations comes this book that will help you transform numbers into narratives.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Author Nancy Duarte poses this interesting question in her book, Data Story: “What if you sliced data and found a huge problem or opportunity?”

She goes on, saying, “Data did its job, but now it needs a storyteller. How insights are communicated could reverse or improve the trajectory of data. The actions you ask others to take today change your future data.”

The best communicators make data concise and clearly structured while telling a convincing and memorable story.

Data doesn’t speak for itself; it needs a storyteller.

With prolific digital devices and technological advancements, every person, place, thing, or idea can be measured and tracked in some way. But without identifying the story emerging from the data, it’s of little to no value. 

Why is storytelling so important? Because the human brain is wired to process stories. By transforming your data into vivid scenes and structuring your delivery in the shape of a story, you will make your audience care about what your data says.

Story is the primary method used to engage hearts and spur action. Storytelling makes the brain light up in a way no other form of communication does. Story has the ability to help the listener embrace how they may need to change, because the message transfers into their heart and mind.

Stories engage our senses

When we find ourselves hooked to a particular storyline, that resonance begins in our brains. This is the first trigger to enabling a physical and emotional response.

Stories bring us closer together

If you’ve ever felt a wave of emotion while listening to a story, that’s because our brains are naturally activated and eager to physically process the emotion associated with oral description.

Stories move us to feel

Giving your audience a vicarious thrill puts them at the center of your story, making them feel like they are the hero themselves.

Stories move us to act

Stories that capture our attention cause us toe emotionally connect with others and feel motivated to embark on a course of action.

Nancy Duarte, Data Story

A NEXT STEP 

Author Nancy Duarte suggests the following ideas to help transform numbers into narratives. Try these out the next time you have to communicate data to your audience.

Attach the data to something relatable. To help your audience understand the magnitude of the data, compare it to things that are familiar to them.

Develop a sense of scale. While data must always be precise, trying to help others understand it doesn’t have to be. Approximations help convey the scale of the number quickly.

Connect data to relatable size. Common measures of length, area, and volume can be compared to relatable objects in our lives.

Connect data to relatable time. Time and speed, because of their familiar use in our lives, are a good source of comparison.

Compare data to relatable things. Along with size, time, and speed to understand a number, compare various nouns to one another to comprehend quantity and scale.

Express how you feel about the data. Let your emotions about outcomes show.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 133-2, December 2019.


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

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

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Leadership Lessons from the Vision of Walt Disney, Part One

January 1, 2020.

It was the beginning of a new year, and most would say, a new decade.

Many people, and certainly most leaders, look at the beginning of a new year to look ahead to what might be – to dream.

Since it was a new year, many of those dreams might even be worded as “resolutions” – or goals – for 2020.

Of course, looking back to January 2020 from the vantage point of early 2021, no one on earth could have predicted what the year was going to turn out like.

In spite of that, no, even BECAUSE of the way the year went, the team at Auxano would like you to focus instead on clarity.

Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.

To help you understand clarity from a different perspective, this issue of SUMS Remix departs from our usual format of a common problem statement, with solutions from three books and accompanying action steps.

Instead, we invite you to take a brief look into the lives of two of the most brilliant, creative, and clarity-practicing geniuses: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Though born in different generations, and living vastly different lives, Disney and Jobs have influenced millions of people through the respective outputs of the companies they founded, the Walt Disney Company and Apple.

In this first installment of the four-part series is a brief excerpt from select biography of Walt Disney, followed in the second installment by that of Jobs, giving you background on their excellent of use of “vision” and “communication” respectfully. Then, the third and fourth installments will give you a brief excerpt from other books that illustrate these two concepts, with action steps to help you do the same.

As you look at some specific events of their lives through the lens of “vision” and “communication,” it is our intent that you will be inspired to begin 2021 with clarity.

A QUICK SUMMARYLead Like Walt by Pat Williams

Whether you are building a small business from the ground up or managing a multinational company, you can learn the 7 key traits for leadership success from one of the greatest business innovators and creative thinkers of the 20th century: Walt Disney. Whether you know him as the first to produce cartoons in Technicolor, the mastermind behind the theme park Disneyland, or the founder of the largest entertainment conglomerate, Walt’s story of creativity, perseverance in spite of obstacles, and achieving goals resonates and inspires as much today as it ever has.

Author Pat Williams began studying the life and leadership example of Walt Disney as he struggled to build an NBA franchise, the Orlando Magic. Since he was trying to accomplish a goal similar to so many of Walt’s—starting with nothing and building a dream from the ground up—he realized that Walt could teach him what he needed to know. And indeed he did.

Through Walt Disney’s leadership example, Pat found 7 key leadership traits that all great leaders must possess: Vision, Communication, People Skills, Character, Competence, Boldness, and A Serving Heart. Through never-before-heard Walt stories and pragmatic principles for exceeding business goals, you’ll learn how to build those skills and implement them to be effective in any leadership arena. As you discover the life of this great leader, you’ll realize that no goal is too great and no dream too daring for anyone who leads like Walt.

VISION APPLICATION

To many people today, Walt Disney is not seen as a man, but instead as a nameless, faceless entertainment giant which owns the intellectual properties of the Disney Studios, Pixar Studios, Marvel, LucasFilms, and Fox. While that is all true, the man named Walter Elias Disney rose from humble beginnings to found the studio that bears his name in 1923.

After several years of barely scraping by, and one disastrous setback, Disney put together a string of successes. By the early 1930s, Disney had reached what many industry leaders considered the pinnacle of success for an animated short features studio.

However, Walt Disney wasn’t at the top; he was just getting started.

I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true. – Walt Disney

In the spring of 1934, thirty-two-year-old Walt Disney decided to bet his studio on an idea everyone around him said was crazy. He was going to produce a full-length animated film.

Walt Disney’s wife Lily and older brother Roy tried to talk Walt out of his dream – but when they saw that he was totally committed to it, they gave up. Once Walt made a decision, no one could change his mind.

Within days, Walt gathered forty of his top animators. Opening his wallet, he handed each man some cash, then said, “I want you fellas to go have dinner and relax a little. Then come back to the studio. I have a story to tell you.”

The animators walked out of the studio, buzzing among themselves. After dinner, they gathered in a recording stage where Walt had set up folding chairs in a semicircle. The room was dark, like a movie theater, except at the very front. There stood Walt, under a single light bulb, bouncing on his heels, a secretive smile on his face. Once everyone was present, Walt began to tell the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Walt didn’t merely tell the story. He performed it, acting out every part. He became every character. His eyebrows arched, and his features twisted into those of the evil Queen. He tilted his face toward the bare light bulb, and its soft glow transformed his fact into that of Snow White. Each character had a distinct voice and personality.

Reach the end of the tale, Walt paused – then said, “That is going to be our first feature-length animated film.” If Walt had said those words at the beginning of his presentation, his artists would have thought he was crazy. Everybody knew there was no audience for an all-animated feature.

But after watching Walt act out the story before their eyes, they believed it was not only possible, but practically an accomplished fact! Walt had the whole picture in his head – all they had to do was animate it.

Pat Williams, Lead Like Walt

A NEXT STEP

Not all visionaries are leaders, but all leaders are visionaries. You can’t lead people without a vision of where you are taking them.

What is your dream, your vision?

According to author Pat Williams, great leaders are people of vision. Without a vision, how will you know what success looks like? How will you know how to get there? Your vision is your definition of success.

Look at the quote by Walt Disney above: “I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.”

Author Pat Williams breaks the quote down as follows:

  • “I dream.” Walt began with a vision, a dream of the future.
  • “I test my dreams against my beliefs.” Walt made sure his vision was consistent with his beliefs, his core values, and his integrity.
  • “I dare to take risks.” He acted boldly, betting on himself to win.
  • “I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” He focused all his energies, and those of his organization, on turning his dreams into reality.

At Auxano, we have developed some tools to help you assess your vision and make time to reflect, discern and articulateDownload the Vision Frame overview as a litmus test for your vision. If you cannot answer all five questions of the irreducible minimums of clarity, then schedule one day per month to work on your vision.

Learn more about the Vision Frame.


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

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

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

It’s Time to Read the Year Out

2020 was the year of reading for me.

2020 wasn’t the year I learned to love reading; that occurred long ago.

2020 wasn’t the year I read widely because I had to; that occurred first in college, and then, to an extent, in seminary and post-graduate studies.

2020 wasn’t the year I read because there wasn’t anything else to do, because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, lockdowns, and quarantines – though there was plenty of “extra” time because of those things.

2020 wasn’t the year I read because my job requires it, though that IS part of my job, and one I look forward to every day.

So why is 2020 the year of reading for me?

It’s best expressed in these thoughts from Anne Bogel in her great little book, I’d Rather Be Reading (on sale for Kindle for $1.99 through the end of the year!).

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. Show me a cover of any book I’ve read, and it will take me right back to where I was when I read it.

Anne Bogel

Books are portals to all kinds of memories.

And so, 2020 is a year full of book-inspired memories.

In 2020, those books came to me like this:

  • Books acquired this year: 287
  • Books borrowed from the library: 173
  • Digital books acquired this year: 12

As I have always been clear to point out, I have not read every page of the 472 books that have been in front of me this year. 

With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me (see below), and knowing there is more to my life than reading, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book. There’s dozens of the total in which I only read the “highlights,” following methods I’ve learned over the years. In about 15 minutes, I can tell whether I will be reading the book, deep-diving into the book, skimming the book, or maybe just returning it (mainly library books).

If a book captures your attention after using whatever method of “quick review” you choose, you should read it.

The converse is true: if a book doesn’t capture your attention after a few attempts, stop reading it. Pick out another one on the topic – there are always more waiting for you!

With those caveats in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2020 was 217 books.

For the curious, like picking your favorite child (I have four), or favorite daughters/son-in-law (I have four), or grandchildren (I have ten), I don’t typically make a “Best of” list for the year. I find some value in almost every book I read, and for me, that’s good enough.

I talked about that in a podcast with Bryan Rose. You can listen here.

A Little More About My “Book-Inspired” Memories from 2020

In my vocational role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book excerpt in which I develop solutions to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2020 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 81 used in producing 27 issues this year. All together, we have published 161 issues, covering 482 books, since 2015. We have just released 6 collections, covering all 161 issues, available for purchase as a downloadable PDF. Find out more here.

Other parts of my role require reading current trends books, used for team research, Navigator support, social media content creation, and other content writing.

I have had a passion for Guest Experience for decades. It’s taken a more-refined shape over the last fifteen-plus years of client work, particularly through constant research in the area of customer experience books for application for churches. Through that, an ongoing project is building The Essential Guest Experience Library, currently over 300 volumes.

A project that has been in development for over three years just became public this year: First Place Hospitality. This is a movement to help church leaders “bring hospitality home” through members building bridges to their neighbors. In addition to research needed for weekly posts, white papers, tools, and social media content, I am also building The Essential Home Hospitality Library, currently at just under 200 volumes.

I am a Disney Fanatic, plain and simple (though my wife says there is nothing plain nor simple about it). From boyhood exposure to the magical world of Walt Disney in the early 1960s, to my first of dozens of theme park visits in 1975, and especially in conversations with current and former Cast Members, I am alway seeking to learn more about Walt Disney the man, and the empire which he started. Of course, that extends to building a Disney library, currently over 420 volumes and growing! A lot of that library contains excellent material that can be applied in Guest Experience, leadership development, and organizational improvement.

Finally, there’s just the pure pleasure of reading – an almost nightly hour or two in the late evening reading a wide range of books, both brand new and classics, fiction and nonfiction. A bulk of the library books listed above fit into this category. This type of reading also helps expand the subject libraries also mentioned above, and helps start new ones!

In these closing days of 2020, and the beginning of a new year just ahead, why don’t you give yourself a gift?

The gift of reading.


Be sure to check out my other websites for more information on how to “Read the Year Out!”

First Place Hospitality

Guest Experience Design

Our 5 Generation Star Wars Family

Just typing the title gives me pause…

But it’s true – my immediate family: my wife and me, our four children and their spouses, and all their children fall into five generational cohorts in use today.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Boomer – born 1943-1964 – 2
  • Gen X – born 1965-1981 – 2
  • Millennial – born 1982-1996 – 6
  • Gen Z – born 1997-2010 – 2
  • Alpha – born 2011-2025 – 8

That’s 20 humans, ranging from 4 months old to 65 years old.

And since we are a Star Wars family, with the announcement of the official new Star Wars Universe timeline, we have a new way to track our generational cohorts.

Here is the official new Star Wars timeline, updated to include The High Republic era:

  • The High Republic – The new official starting point of the Star Wars canon, set 200 years before the Prequel Trilogy. It will be explored in the new “High Republic” line of Star Wars books and comics coming in 2021. A tie-in series on Disney+ (The Acolyte) has also been announced.
  • Fall of The Jedi – Covering the Jedi Order’s fall and Sith return, in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, The Clone Wars, and Revenge of the Sith.
  • Reign of The Empire – Exploring the initial rise of The Empire and the chaos of its shadow covering galaxy. Covering events depicted in the upcoming Bad Batch animated series, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
  • Age of Rebellion – The slow but sure rise of The Rebellion in the decades after the Empire’s rise. Covering events in Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
  • The New Republic – The chaos after Palpatine’s seeming demise, as the Empire struggled to survive, and a New Republic started to take form. The Mandalorian is set in this time period.
  • Rise of the First Order – The Imperial remnants re-organize into The First Order, and attempt to reclaim the galaxy, as part of Palpatine’s resurrection. Covers events in Star Wars: Resistance, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.

In the summer of 1977, just finishing my freshman year in college, I went to the opening night of A New Hope as soon as it came to Nashville, TN. And I returned – three more times in the next week, and a few more during the summer.

Our children, especially the older two boys born in 1981 and 1984, grew up with Star Wars movies (via videotape), LEGO sets, and other toys.

All of this finds us following the Age of Rebellion.

As they reached high school and then college age and then young adulthood, the boys, their mother and me, (and eventually their spouses), entered the Fall of the Jedi timeline.

My second son, by this time entering into his early twenties, took an even deeper dive in the Star Wars: beginning the building of a large Star Wars library from the vast amounts of books and comic books available; adding to the Star Wars LEGO sets in a big way; creating costume elements for display and wearing, and in a few short years, welcoming his daughter to the world of Star Wars.

Born in 2010, she (along with her older cousin) were the perfect age for the development of the Rise of the First Order. With a huge amount of material available in her father’s library and carefully curated access to the Internet, she became the most knowledgeable of the younger generation in our family.

Last year’s debut of Disney+, with The Mandalorian leading the way, was eagerly anticipated by multiple generations in our family. Some of us watched it during lunch breaks the day it came out; most of us had completed each week’s release by the evening it came out, often jumping on a intra-family text thread. We’re squarely in The New Republic now.

With the avalanche of announcements by Lucasfilm this week, we’re ready to branch out in both directions: The Reign of the Empire will be right in time for more of our grandchildren as they come of (the right) age to understand, and The High Republic will anchor the founding history (at least for now) for our entire family.

With no Christmas holiday movie release this year (a much-anticipated family event over the past five years), we will no doubt be talking (virtually) about the eagerly-awaited development of all the new shows, books, comics, and yes, LEGO sets, that are coming in the next year.

And then there’s always an anticipated trip to a galaxy far, far away.

But in the meantime, the finale of the second season of The Mandalorian is now out, and it’s time for an early morning viewing!

Can You Reimagine What It Means to Retire?

Many leaders view retirement – whether a few years or a few decades away – as a finish line.

But increasingly these leaders, especially for those who are closer to retirement, are finding that being too young to retire but too old to find a job has become a critical issue.

Retirement doesn’t have to be the last great thing a leader does. It can be the gateway to a leader’s greatest season of influence.

We may live ten years longer than our parents and may even work twenty years longer, yet power is moving to those ten years younger.

Are leaders in this age group facing a decades long “irrelevancy gap”?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder by Chip Conley

Experience is making a comeback. Learn how to repurpose your wisdom.

At age 52, after selling the company he founded and ran as CEO for 24 years, rebel boutique hotelier Chip Conley was looking at an open horizon in midlife. Then he received a call from the young founders of Airbnb, asking him to help grow their disruptive start-up into a global hospitality giant. He had the industry experience, but Conley was lacking in the digital fluency of his 20-something colleagues. He didn’t write code, or have an Uber or Lyft app on his phone, was twice the age of the average Airbnb employee, and would be reporting to a CEO young enough to be his son. Conley quickly discovered that while he’d been hired as a teacher and mentor, he was also in many ways a student and intern. What emerged is the secret to thriving as a mid-life worker: learning to marry wisdom and experience with curiosity, a beginner’s mind, and a willingness to evolve, all hallmarks of the “Modern Elder.”

In a world that venerates the new, bright, and shiny, many of us are left feeling invisible, undervalued, and threatened by the “digital natives” nipping at our heels. But Conley argues that experience is on the brink of a comeback. Because at a time when power is shifting younger, companies are finally waking up to the value of the humility, emotional intelligence, and wisdom that come with age. And while digital skills might have only the shelf life of the latest fad or gadget, the human skills that mid-career workers possess–like good judgment, specialized knowledge, and the ability to collaborate and coach – never expire.

Part manifesto and part playbook, Wisdom@Work ignites an urgent conversation about ageism in the workplace, calling on us to treat age as we would other type of diversity. In the process, Conley liberates the term “elder” from the stigma of “elderly,” and inspires us to embrace wisdom as a path to growing whole, not old. Whether you’ve been forced to make a mid-career change, are choosing to work past retirement age, or are struggling to keep up with the millennials rising up the ranks, Wisdom@Work will help you write your next chapter.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

You don’t have to be on the other side of fifty to find the concept of becoming a “Modern Elder” relevant. The age at which we’re feeling self-consciously “old” is now creeping into some people’s thirties.

Digital platforms are disrupting virtually all industries, and the result is that more and more companies are relentlessly pursuing young hires, seemingly placing high DQ (digital intelligence) above all other skills.

The problem is that many of these young digital leaders are being thrust into positions of power with little experience or guidance.

At the same time, there exists a generation of older workers with invaluable skills – high EQ (emotional intelligence), good judgment born out of decades of experience, specialized knowledge, and a vast network of contacts.

Many of us feel like we’re growing whole rather than growing old. What if there was a new, modern archetype of elderhood, one that was worn as a badge of honor, not cloaked in shame?

With more generations in the workplace than ever before, elders have so much to offer those younger than them.

What if Modern Elders were the secret ingredient for the visionary organizations of tomorrow? What lessons must a Modern Elder learn?

Evolve

If we’re too wedded to the past and to the costume of a traditional elder – making wise pronouncements from the pulpit – we aren’t likely to grow much of a congregation.

As we enter midlife, we embark upon a creative evolution that amplifies our specialness while editing out the extraneous. After a lifetime of accumulation, we can concentrate on what we do best, what gives us meaning, and what we want to leave behind.

Sometimes, reframing your identity is not an internal shift in your values, but an external rearranging of your life to once again give priority to that which is most life-affirming for you.

Learn

There is great value in adopting a beginner’s mind and how to use this fresh perspective to increase your ability to learn.

Our world is awash in knowledge, but often wanting in wisdom. To stay relevant, it’s not just about learning something new, it’s also about learning new ways to access the information at our fingertips.

Teaching and learning are symbiotic. You can’t be a teaching legend without living on the learning edge.

Collaborate

By leveraging your ability to collaborate, you can make something bigger.

With five generations in today’s workplace, we can either operate as separate isolationist countries with generation-specific dialects and talents coexisting on one continent, or we can find ways to bridge these generational borders and delight in learning from people both older and younger than us.

Counsel

A byproduct of being seen as the elder at work is becoming the confidant of younger employees who want to bathe in your fountain of wisdom and are likely to be more candid with you as they don’t see you as a competitive threat.

While collaboration is a team sport, counseling is one-on-one, becoming a confident to your younger colleagues.

Smart companies know that while their competitors may outsource “counsel” to outside coaches who may offer some general wisdom, being a wise advisor can be so much more effective when an advisor is a wise elder who is in the trenches day to day with the advisee

Chip Conley, Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder

A NEXT STEP

Author Chip Conley devotes extensive help to leaders who want to go through the four lessons listed above. In order to get a taste of these resources, set aside some time to consider each of the following:

Evolve

Ask a minimum of a half-dozen coworkers, friends, or family to answer the following question: “When you think of me in good times or bad, what are the core qualities that I exhibit? What are the positive ones? And what are the more challenging ones?”

Before you read anyone else’s answers, answer these yourself, being as candid as you can, knowing you don’t need to share this with anyone else.

Can you identify your identity? What are the durable traits or qualities you want your reputation built on? What qualities are you ready to part ways with?

The capacity for change with a ballast of continuity defines the Modern Elder.

Learn

While it contradicts the stereotype that older people become more narrow-minded and set in their ways, there’s glorious evidence that post-fifty, many elders return to a childlike sense of wonder.

  • How can you become more curious?
  • What’s a subject – unrelated to your work – in which you could become one of the world’s leading experts?
  • How will your create necessary time in your schedule for wondering about the world?

Essential for a Modern Elder is the desire to experience something new and unexpected rather than regress into what is comfortable and familiar.

Collaborate

Your capacity to collaborate will improve if you create team norms that help everyone feel that the group is there to support you and the mission, as opposed to undermining you. Here are a few group norms that have proven to be effective:

  • Try to encourage everyone to participate in group discussions, especially those representing diverse demographics and viewpoints.
  • Lead by example by not interrupting teammates during conversations and giving credit to people for their earlier idea as you built upon it.
  • Call out intergroup conflicts so you can resolve matters in person.

As a Modern Elder, we have the capacity to be a “first-class noticer,” paying close attention to what is happening around us, and helping make sure everyone on the team is contributing.

Counsel

You may learn that your true value comes in those times when you get the counselor role right. Here are some best practices in counseling:

  • Listen both to the story and for the story and beware of pre-judging.
  • Assuming it feels appropriate, self-reveal something about your history that will help others understand they’re not alone.
  • Prove your loyal – first and foremost by explicitly committing to confidentiality.

Spiritually radiant, physically vital, and socially responsible Modern Elders feel generative when they create the space for those younger than them to accelerate their learning by means of providing wise counsel.


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

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

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

These Are Not the Worst of Times; America Has Been Here Before

Over the first six decades of the twentieth century American had become demonstrably – indeed measurably – a more “we” society.

Over the past five decades America has become demonstrably – indeed measurably – a more “I” society.

By using advanced methods of data analysis to combine four key metrics of economics, politics, society, and culture into a unified statistical survey, authors Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett have been able to discern a single core phenomenon – a single inverted U-curve that provides a scientifically validate summary of the past 125 years of American’s story.

The Upswing traces the roots of today’s problems to the last time the same problems threatened to engulf our democracy. It contains an evidenced-based story about how we have arrived at our current predicament. The authors examined how economic inequality, political polarization, social fragmentation, cultural narcissism, racism, and gender discrimination each evolved over the course of the last 125 years.

Putnam and Romney Garrett argue that the state of America today must be understood by fist acknowledge that within living memory, each of the adverse trends they now see were going in the opposite direction. To a surprising degree century-long trends in economics, politics, society, and culture are remarkably similar, such that is tis possible to summarize all of them in a singe phenomenon:

The story of the American experiment in the twentieth century is one of a long upswing toward increasing solidarity, followed by a steep downturn into increasing individualism. From “I” to “we,” and back again.

Perhaps, according to the authors, the single most important lesson we can hope to gain from this analysis is that in the past America has experienced a storm of unbridled individualism in our culture, our communities, our politics, and our economics, and it produced then, as it has today, a national situation that few Americans founded appealing.

But, America successfully weathered that storm once, and the authors believe we can do it again.

If there were ever a historical moment whose lessons we as a nation need to learn, it is the moment when the first American Gilded Age (1870-1900) turned into the Progressive Era (1900-1915), a moment which set in motion a sea change that helped us reclaim our nation’s promise, and whose effects rippled into almost every corner of American life for over half a century.

Putnam and Romney Garrett hope that an awareness of the this moment may find the tools and inspirations needed today to create another American upswing – this time with an unwavering commitment to complete inclusion that will take us toward yet a higher summit, and a fuller and more sustainable realization of the promise of “we.”


Inspired and adapted from The Upswing: How American Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett

How To Communicate Clearly Through Vivid Thinking

Most church leaders, especially the senior pastor or teaching pastor, rightfully view their skills as a communicator to be one of the most important aspects of their position. From the weekly sermon to regular leadership meetings to training and development presentations to special, one off events, the spoken word is of paramount importance to church leaders.

But what if you realized that, by communicating only through words, you are effectively ignoring one of the richest methods of communication that draws on the most powerful part of your brain – your visual sense?

To be the most effective communicators we can be, leaders must learn to use the simplicity and immediacy of images to help clarify our ideas for both ourselves and others.

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Blah Blah Blah: What to do When Words Don’t Work by Dan Roam

Ever been to so many meetings that you couldn’t get your work done? Ever fallen asleep during a bullet point presentation? Ever watched the news and ended up knowing less? Welcome to the land of Blah-Blah-Blah.

The Problem: We talk so much that we don’t think very well. Powerful as words are, we fool ourselves when we think our words alone can detect, describe, and defuse the multifaceted problems of today. They can’t – and that’s bad, because words have become our default thinking tool.

The Solution: This book offers a way out of blah-blah-blah. It’s called “Vivid Thinking.”

In Dan Roam’s first acclaimed book, The Back of the Napkin, he taught readers how to solve problems and sell ideas by drawing simple pictures. Now he proves that Vivid Thinking is even more powerful. This technique combines our verbal and visual minds so that we can think and learn more quickly, teach and inspire our colleagues, and enjoy and share ideas in a whole new way.

The Destination: No more blah-blah-blah. Through Vivid Thinking, we can make the most complicated subjects suddenly crystal clear. Whether trying to understand a Harvard Business School class, or what went down in the Conan versus Leno battle for late-night TV, or what Einstein thought about relativity, Vivid Thinking provides a way to clarify anything.

Through dozens of guided examples, Roam proves that anyone can apply this systematic approach, from left-brain types who hate to draw to right-brainers who hate to write. This isn’t just a book about improving communications, presentations, and ideation; it’s about removing the blah-blah-blah from your life for good.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Dan Roam, our default method of communication is words. Even when verbalizing a thought, we attempt to string words together in meaningful ways, because it’s the best way to share an idea. We also believe that the ability to speak well is the primary cornerstone of intelligence.

In reality, defaulting to using only words quickly leads us down the path of blah-blah- blah.

Roam defines blah-blah-blah as:

  • Complexity – which kills our ability to think.
  • Misunderstanding – which kills our ability to lead.
  • Boredom – which kills our ability to care.

Blah-blah-blah is the overuse, misuse, and abuse of language – anything we say that interferes with our ability to convey ideas.

The reason we are talking more and saying less, hearing more and listening less, learning more and knowing less is simple: We’ve moved off the center of balance between focusing on details and seeing the big picture.

The reason for all the blah-blah-blah is that we’ve simply forgotten how to use both of our minds. As we’ve become increasingly enamored of and reliant upon words, our verbal minds have become heavier and heavier, while our visual minds have gotten lighter and lighter. Now that we are facing some of the most difficult challenges of all time, we suddenly realize that we’ve lost half our minds.

Getting our balance back on center is simple: All we have to do is take a half-step back from our unshakable belief in the power of words and at the same time give our visual mind a kick in the pants. That’s what Vivid Thinking does.

Vivid Thinking stands for visual verbal interdependent thinking, which means actively forcing our visual and verbal minds to work together when we are thinking, leading, teaching, and selling.

It’s so simple to get our verbal and visual minds working together again that Vivid Thinking really has only three rules.

Vivid Thinking Rule No. 1: When we say a word, we should draw a picture (and vice versa).

Vivid Thinking Rule No. 2: If we don’t know which picture to draw, we look to vivid grammar to show us the way.

Vivid Thinking Rule No. 3: To make any idea more vivid, we turn to the Seven Vivid Essentials.

Dan Roam, Blah Blah Blah: What to do When Words Don’t Work

A NEXT STEP

To help you learn to practice Vivid Thinking, use the techniques below developed by author Dan Roam.

Rule 1

This is at the same time one of the easiest to understand and most difficult to practice. The next time you have an idea, instead of just talking about it, draw it out.

If you say, “ball,” draw a ball.

Learn to actively engage your visual mind each time your use your verbal mind.

Rule 2

“Grammar” may be a dreaded word to many people, bringing back early childhood memories. Yet the fact you are reading this sentence means it worked!

Grammar helps us use words to form sentences, then paragraphs, then pages, which can become a one-page article or a 500-page book. In the same way, Vivid Grammar is the set of rules used to compose a visual idea from a small set of pictorial elements. Learning to use this tool means that when you say a word, you will know which picture to draw to accompany the word.

  • When you hear a noun, draw a portrait.
  • When you hear an adjective of quantity, draw a chart.
  • When you hear a preposition, draw a map.
  • When you hear tense, draw a timeline.
  • When you hear a complex verb, draw a flowchart.
  • When you hear a complex sentence, draw a multi-variable plot.

Rule 3

Words are abstractions – the ultimate mental shorthand. When you know what they mean, words instantly call to mind ideas, images, feelings, and memories. However, we know that the words we use are distinct from the things they represent, and if we are unclear about what they mean, our audience certainly will be.

Roam suggests that you walk your idea through the Vivid Forest:

  • F – Your idea has Form.
  • O – Your idea can be expressed with Only the Essentials.
  • R – Your idea is Recognizable.
  • E – Your idea Evolves.
  • S – Your idea Spans Differences.
  • T – Your idea is Targeted.

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

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

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<