Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

Wednesday August 9 would have been my father’s 90th birthday.

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful instilled in me by my father.

Tomorrow it will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter, and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book summaries, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent consultation with a client, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about Guest Experiences. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

 

I call these my SUMS Remix Book Towers. These towers contain 218 books, representing 73 issues, one published every two weeks. The format of SUMS Remix is simple: one problem statement faced by churched leaders, 3 brief excepts from books that provide a solution to the problem, and ready-to-use applications for leaders to try out immediately.

With a two-week production cycle, and a two week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on 4 SUMS Remix issues, which means there are 12 books on my front burner.

And that’s just for SUMS Remix reading…

Then there’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets and Facebook posts), other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading.

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station and I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest services. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

Celebrating National Doughnut Day…

In honor of National Doughnut Day, a “sweet” repost:

National Doughnut Day was established in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to honor women who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. The holiday is traditionally celebrated on the first Friday of June.

Here’s an infographic from Fast Company magazine about today’s National Doughnut Day:

Upon closer look at the picture above – especially the statistic in the doughnut hole – it’s nice to know that I’m above average.

Seriously.

Homer Price and the Dougnut MachineLike many things in my life, this fondness all came about because of a book: “Homer Price and the Doughnut Machine.”  I have great memories of reading about Homer and Uncle Ulysses and the automatic doughnut machine. I remembered the image of doughnuts stacked to the ceiling with more coming out of the machine every minute. I’ve looked for a machine like that for a long time, but the Krispy Kreme shop is as close as I’ll come! Reading that book gave me a taste for doughnuts that continues to this day.

Thinking about Homer Price, I just happened to be near my favorite used bookstore in Charlotte – Book Buyers. On a whim, I pulled in, went to the children’s section, and there it was, just like I remembered it. With my $1 purchase, I’m going to start the day off, reading the story again – with a doughnut, of course!

There’s no “Hot Light” in my hometown, but that’s not going to stop me from celebrating…

If you’ve still got a sweet tooth, check out this post on the secrets to Krispy Kreme’s success.

How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.

 

Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler

leaderslibrary

Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:

hatchbooknotes

I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?

Is “Reading” 286 Books in a Year a Sign of Addiction?

One of my greatest passions is reading. I developed this passion at an early age, and have continued to strengthen it over the years. In addition to being my passion, reading is also an important part of my role as Vision Room Curator at Auxano. In that role, I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix every two weeks. SUMS Remix is a modified book summary in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2016 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role required reading current trends books, used for social media posting and content writing.

Then there’s my passion area of Guest Experience, in which I am constantly researching customer service books for application for churches.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently 139 volumes and growing!

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.

Add those 5 categories all together, and in 2016 I have “read” 286 books. 

reading2016-1

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 286 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, I have to resort to some method of finding out what an author is trying to say without reading the whole book.

Here’s how I did it – and, of course it starts with a book!

How to Read a Book

Literally – that’s the name of a classic book by Mortimer Adler.  The first lesson of reading is to learn that you don’t need to “read” each book the same way. Here are Adler’s 4 levels of reading:

  • Elementary Reading – What does the book say?
  • Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?
  • Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?
  • Syntopical Reading – What does a comparison of books on the subject reveal?

Some books are only meant to be read at the first level; others are meant to be digested at some of the other levels. Know which is which!

To get the most out of a book in the least amount of time, try this strategy:

  • Read the title.
  • Read the introduction
  • Read the Table of Contents
  • Flip through the material, scanning the chapter titles and subheadings. Note the words that stand out as bold, different colors, underlined, or italicized.
  • Examine the illustrations, captions, charts and diagrams. Read the pull-quotes and sidebars.
  • Scan through the index looking for buzz words that interest you.
  • Read the first chapter.
  • Flip through the book and read the first sentence of each paragraph in each chapter. In a well written and edited book, the most important sentence containing the topic is usually the first sentence of the paragraph — but not always.
  • Read the last chapter. If there is an executive summary, read it.
  • Read any other information on the cover or dust jacket.

If the book captures your attention after doing the above tasks, then by all means dive right in!

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 that caveat in mind, my “cover-to-cover” reading for 2016 was 157 books.

reading2016-4

While the knowledge gained from reading is important, the real benefit is from the habit of reading. When you are continually reading, you condition your mind to keep taking in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for new connections it can make. Every day you pour in more ideas, which your brain must find a way to integrate into your existing knowledge base. Frequent reading fires up your neural activity, even during the periods when you aren’t reading.

Reading is a gift that you can unselfishly give yourself, one that truly keeps on giving. Why don’t you bless yourself and those around you by reading a new book in the first weeks of 2017, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’ve got four books lined up for delivery by Amazon the first week of January, and another two on reserve at the library.

Conduct Visual Meetings to Boost Productivity

Do your meetings tend to suck the wind out of your team, instead of filling its sails?

There’s nothing more annoying than a meeting that goes on and on and on – except maybe a meeting that goes on and on and on AND doesn’t accomplish anything.

Many ministry teams fritter away precious time during meetings on unfocused, inconclusive discussion rather than rapid, well-informed decision making. The consequences are delayed decisions that lead to wasted resources, missed opportunities, and poor long-range planning.

Want more successful meetings? Try the following solution and your team will look forward to meetings instead of avoiding them.

Conduct visual meetings to boost productivity.

remix8-2fb1

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visual Meetings, David Sibbett

Visual Meetings explains how anyone can implement powerful visual tools to facilitate both face-to-face and virtual group work. This dynamic and richly illustrated resource gives meeting leaders, presenters, and consultants a slew of exciting tricks and tools to unlock creativity, collaboration, and breakthrough thinking.

Using techniques like graphic recording, visual planning, story boarding, graphic templates, idea mapping and more, Visual Meetings will help you and your team communicate ideas more effectively and engagingly.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Used properly, a simple drawing is more powerful than any data spreadsheet or software presentation platform. It can help us crystalize ideas, think outside the box, and communicate in a way that other people simply “get.”

Over the last decade, the concept of utilizing visualization techniques has moved beyond a few talented practitioners to become available to – and useful for – any leader.

Anyone can clarify a problem or sell an idea by visually breaking it down using a simple set of visual-thinking tools. Thinking with pictures can help you discover and develop new ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and dramatically improve your ability to share your insights.

In my experience, visualizing meeting purposes and objectives is one of the most helpful things you can do to make a meeting work. And getting people involved early in talking about expectations and hoped-for outcomes is even more effective. Because people are free to imagine whatever they want and often do, this investment is the first step in focusing group intelligence.

The Power of Visual Meetings

Participation – Engagement explodes in meetings when people are listened to and acknowledged by having what they say recorded in an interactive, graphic way.

Big Picture Thinking – Groups get much smarter when they can think in big picture formats that allow for comparisons, pattern finding, and idea mapping.

Group Memory – Creating memorable media greatly increases group memory and follow-through – a key to productivity.

Benefits of Visualization

  • Visual recording in a meeting immediately acknowledges that someone was heard and how they were heard in ways that verbal communication alone does not.
  • Working visually is deeply integrative – it combines both visual (right brain) and verbal (left brain) ways of operating with interaction and physical movement.
  • Graphic displays can contain contradictory information on the same sheet of paper, softening the either/or thinking that our spoken language reinforces.
  • Working with graphic metaphors allows people to talk directly about how they are making sense of things.
  • Working with visual imagery taps people’s imagined realms, making the stuff of hopes and dreams, intentions, and visions more accessible.
  • Arranging information on pages or wall displays addresses not only the individual words and symbols, but also their overall interconnections and organization.
  • Translating from spoken word to visual representation forces everyone to become conscious of the patterns in both.

David Sibbet, Visual Meetings

A NEXT STEP

In order to start your team thinking about a visual meeting, you have to begin before the meeting. Consider taking these actions in advance of your next team meeting:

  • Create a poster with a catchy title and simple graphic image and place it at eye level outside your meeting room door.
  • Using a chart tablet or white board, have meeting participants sign in with their first name and a pressing issue or question related to your meeting.
  • Prior to the meeting, visually list your agenda on a chart tablet or white board.
  • Using a chart tablet, create a scorecard listing decisions made, action items agreed on, and individual responsible. During successive meetings update and add to this scorecard as needed.
  • During the meeting, ask participants to visually illustrate the conversation and decisions of the meeting. Build in time at the end of the meeting for each participant to briefly share his or her “visual notes” with the rest of the team.

After one month of following the above actions, schedule one hour to review, evaluate, and revise your team’s use of visual meeting practices.

Many church leaders view meetings as a necessary evil to accomplish ministry assignments and tasks. The solution presented above demonstrates that not all meetings are necessary, and the right kind of meeting doesn’t have to be evil.


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

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here. Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Do You Communicate a Lot, But Don’t Consider Yourself a Great Storyteller?

Have your eyes ever glazed over as a speaker drones on and one, spouting statistics and facts? Do you even remember anything an hour later? What about the next day?

Now it’s your turn to be in front of your team. How are you going to reach and connect with them?

Do you communicate a lot, but don’t consider yourself a great storyteller?

It’s time to reach back in human history, and turn to the power of the story.

Storytelling has existed as the primary means of communicating among people even long before writing was developed. Success was measured by how much the audience remembered and a high value was placed on techniques that helped people remember things.

In spite of all the technological marvels available to leaders today, the simple but powerful use of a story often translates your ideas into realities in the listener’s minds. Stories are effective when they lodge in the heart of the listener, and are then acted on.

Solution #3 Make the listener, not you, the hero of your story

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Resonate, by Nancy Duarte

sums-remix-3Resonate leverages techniques normally reserved for cinema and literature, revealing how to transform any story into an engaging journey. Using the techniques in Resonate, you’ll be able to:

  • Leverage the hidden story structures inherent in great communication
  • Connect with your audience empathetically
  • Create captivating content
  • Craft ideas that get repeated
  • Inspire enthusiasm and support for your vision

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form.

A Simple Solution

Wouldn’t you like to have your audience leaning forward in their seats, anticipating the next few words you will be saying? A great story has that effect on listeners, and it begins with making the listener the hero of your story.

When trying to connect with someone while telling a story, you have to remember that it’s not all about you.

You are not the hero who will save the audience; the audience is your hero.

You need to defer to your audience because if they don’t engage and believe in your message, you are the one who loses. Without their help, your idea will fail.

Leaders need to take this to heart, place the people in the audience at the center of the action, and make them feel that the presentation is addressing them personally.

So what’s your role, then? You are the mentor. The audience is the one who’ll do all the heavy lifting to help you reach your objectives. You’re simply one voice helping them get unstuck in their journey.

When you change your stance from thinking you’re the hero to acknowledging your role as a mentor, you will find your viewpoint altered. A mentor has a selfless nature and is willing to make a personal sacrifice so that the hero can reach the reward. Audience insights and resonance can only occur when a presenter takes a stance of humility.

Nancy Duarte, Resonate

A NEXT STEP

Changing your stance from that of the hero to one of the storyteller will connect the listeners to your idea and make them the hero. When listeners become the hero and connect to your idea, they will change.

Good church leaders are telling stories all the time. As you prepare for your next leadership speaking opportunity it’s easy to become the center of the story. Remember to make the listener the hero instead of you.

By offering a clear choice of what is (their present situation) with what could be (a better future), the people you lead become the hero. As you preach, are you making members of the congregation the hero? When you lead your church in a capital campaign, they are the heroes. As a team leader, your team should be the hero. In a small group, the group members are the hero.

Of course, every story related to the Gospel makes Jesus the hero.

Ultimately, you need to make your story about Jesus.

How will you know if you are becoming more effective with your stories? It’s simple: you will be accomplishing whatever you had hoped to accomplish by telling the story in the first place.

It’s time for you to step out and lead through your stories!


Part of a new 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, as biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here. Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Wednesday Weekly Reader – How to Read a Book

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “The 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.

Regular reading of both books and magazines remains a part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for writing and publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders.

SUMS Remix is finishing its fourth year – the first two years contained a single book in each issue; the last two years include three books in each issue. If I’ve done my math correctly, that’s 201 books covered in 102 issues since the fall of 2012.

I do like to read!

Today I’m launching a new series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday. And there’s no better place to start than “how to read a book.”


You have a mind. Now let us suppose that you also have a book that you want to read. The book consists of language written by someone for the sake of communicating. Your success in reading it is determined by the extent to which you receive everything the writer intended to communicate. – Mortimer J. Adler

sums-1-howtoreadabookMortimer J. Adler was an American author, educator, and philosopher who championed the repopularization of the Great Books and Great Ideas curriculum of study. A prolific scholar, he was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s very fitting then, that one of his best-known works is How to Read a Book.

The art of reading is the process whereby a mind, with nothing to operate on but the symbols of the readable matter, and with no help from the outside, elevates itself by the power of its own operations.

 

The Levels of Reading

There are four levels of reading – so called because they are cumulative in that each level includes all the others, and you can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before. They four levels are:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

1 – Elementary Reading – What does the book say?

In mastering this level, one learns the rudiments of the art of reading, receives basic training in reading, and acquires reading skills. Our first encounter at reading is at this level; sadly, many people never progress beyond this level.

At this level of reading, the question asked of the reader is “What does the sentence say?” While that could be conceived as a complex question, in this setting take it at its simplest sense.

The attainment of the skills of elementary reading occurred some time ago for almost everyone reading this summary. Nevertheless, we continue to experience the problems of this level of reading, no matter how capable we may be as readers.

Many readers continue to have various kinds of difficulties reading at this level. Most of the difficulties are mechanical, and can be traced back to early instruction in reading. Overcoming these difficulties usually allows us to read faster.

There are four basic stages of Elementary Reading:

  1. Reading readiness’ (early physical development)
  2. Simple reading (small vocabulary; simple skills)
  3. Expanded reading (large vocabulary; diverse subjects; enjoyment)
  4. Refined reading (understand concepts; compare different views)

2 – Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?

The focus of reading at this level is to get the most out of a book with in a given amount of time. When reading at this level, your aim is to examine the surface of the book, to learn everything that the surface alone can teach you – which is often a good deal.

Techniques for Inspectional Reading of a book include:

  1. Systematic skimming or pre-reading
  2. Look at the title page and preface: try to pigeonhole type of book
  3. Study table of contents: look for structure/road map for trip
  4. Check index: estimate range of terms and topics; look up some passages that seem crucial
  5. Check the dust jacket: read the publisher’s blurb
  6. Look for chapters which seem most pivotal: read opening and/or
 closing passages/pages carefully
  7. Thumb through entire book, reading a few paragraphs and/or pages
 here and there, esp. at the end, looking for the main argument(s)

3 – Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?

The third level of reading, analytical reading, is both a more complex and a more systematic activity than either of the previous two levels of reading. Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading – the best you can do. The analytical reader must ask many organized questions of what he is reading.

Analytical reading is hardly ever necessary if your goal in reading is simply information or entertainment. Analytical reading is preeminently for the sake of understanding. Moving your mind from a condition of understanding less to a condition of understanding more with the aid of a book is almost impossible unless you have at least some skill in analytical reading.

Techniques for Analytical Reading include:

  1. Underlining key sentences
  2. Vertical lines to mark key sections
  3. Marginal doodads like asterisks and stars
  4. Numbers of other pages in the margin
  5. Circling key words or phrases
  6. Writing in margins, or top and bottom
  7. Structural notes – about the content of the subject
  8. Conceptual notes – about the truth and significance
  9. Dialectical notes – about the shape of the argument in the larger discussion of other people’s ideas

4 – Syntopical Reading – How does this book compare with other books?

The fourth and highest level of reading is the most complex and systematic type of reading. It makes very heavy demands on the reader, even if the materials themselves are relatively easy and unsophisticated.

Another name for this level of reading may be called comparative reading. The reader is reading many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Mere comparison of texts is not enough: syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books being read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books. Syntopical reading is the most active and effortful kind of reading.

Techniques in Syntopical Reading include:

  1. Find the relevant passages
  2. Establish a common terminology
  3. Clarify the questions
  4. Define the issues
  5. Analyze the discussion and look for the truth

Reading and the Growth of the Mind

Active reading is the asking of questions and looking for answers. Good books stretch our minds, improve our reading
 skills, and teach us about the world and ourselves. Good books make demands on us.

But there is a world beyond good books – that of great books. Good books need have no more than one meaning and one reading
. Great books, on the other hand, have many meanings and need to be read over and over again.

The test of a great book:

  1. If you were marooned on a desert island, which ten books would you select?
  2. Does the book seem to grow with you?
  3. Do you see new things every time
 you re-read it?
  4. Is the book is able to lift you over and over again?

Seek out the few books that have these values for you.

Reading well, which means reading actively, is not only good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. Reading keeps our minds alive and growing.


You can learn more about SUMS Remix here and subscribe to SUMS Remix here.