It’s Hard to Go Wrong When You Follow the Advice of Dr. Seuss

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 2018 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 79 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role requires 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. I’m building The Essential Guest Experience Library.

And, as many readers know, I am a Disney Fanatic – which extends to building a Disney library, currently over 380 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 by the end of 2018 I will have “read” 191 books, pretty much following the advice of Dr. Seuss:

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 191 cover to cover. With such an immense (and pleasurable) task in front of me, and knowing there is more to my job 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 a few dozen of that total in which I only read the “highlights,” following the methods below.

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 2018 was 127 books.

For the curious, like picking your favorite child (I have four), 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.

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 2019, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting one of my favorite bookstores tomorrow, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery via Amazon by the end of next week, and I’m headed to the library today to pick up another couple on reserve.

After all, you can’t read all day…

…if you don’t start in the morning!

 

 

How to Learn from 78 Books in a Year!

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

 

Allow me a moment to set the stage…

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

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

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

It’s called SUMS Remix.

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

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

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

The cost? Just $48 per year!

Subscribe today!

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

What an awesome team!

Each issue of these 100 SUMS Remix has delivered:

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

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

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

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

Here’s to issue #101 – and beyond!


 

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

 

How To Experience a Bookstore With All Your Senses

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

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

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

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

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

But there’s more…

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

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

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

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

So where do all these books come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I found was a bibliophile’s dream.

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

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

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

Nirvana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you going to read today?

 

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.