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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Top 15 Books of 2015 – from My Perspective

Each year during the last week of the year, the posts here at 27gen usually focus on the topic of books. My last post of the year features my top books of the year. Here’s the deal:

It’s a very subjective list – okay? The only thing all the titles have in common is that they were published in 2015. That, and each book spoke to me in a meaningful way.

As mentioned in a previous post, I read a lot – but usually focus in four areas. Naturally, my Top 15 choices are going to come from these areas.

There are some really good books out there that I am aware of that did not make it into my reading cycle, so they aren’t included. It doesn’t mean they weren’t great books, just that I didn’t read them.

Here, then, are my Top 15 Books of 2015, in no particular order.

The Experience: The 5 Principles of Disney Service and Relationship Excellence, Bruce Loeffler and Brian Church

Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, Cheryl Bachelder

Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses, “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration – Lessons from The Second City, Kelly Leonard

Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action, Ben Decker

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal

Reframe: Shift the Way Your Work, Innovate, and Think, Mona Patel

X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, Brian Solis

Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio, Don Hahn

The Wright Brothers, David McCullough

Rising Strong, Brené Brown

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, Kevin Ashton

The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life, Bernard Roth

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Michelle Segar

Brand Flip: Why Customers Now Run Companies and How to Profit From It, Marty Neumeier

Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send, J.D. Greear

Today we close out 2015, tomorrow ushers in 2016, and whole new worlds are waiting to be discovered – in books.

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Thomas Edison on Reading

As one of America’s foremost inventors, Thomas Edison was certainly adept at questioning the world around him.  In order to better understand the natural world, Edison was constantly developing new context by asking different questions. And the framework for formulating these challenging questions?

Edison read – broadly.

I didn’t read books – I read the library.

 Thomas Edison

Among Edison’s first steps when undertaking a new collaborative effort was zeroing in on reading material with themes aligned to the subject matter he was evaluating. This often meant plowing through textbooks and papers spanning diverse scientific topics. But he also read fiction and fantastical works that were completely unrelated to the subject of his endeavors.

Edison believed feeding his mind diverse perspectives through the written word was critical to prevent specifically shaping or tainting his perceptions in any one direction as he began his questioning process.

Thomas Edison LibraryAn ardent lover of books and newspapers, by 1887, when Edison was 40, his personal collection at his laboratory exceeded 10,000 volumes. Though seemingly small by today’s standards, it was one of the top five libraries in the world during the late nineteenth century.

Drawn from the reaches of acoustics, botany, electricity, mathematics, photography, chemistry, materials sciences, and physics, Edison shared the resources of his library with his employees, encouraging them to continually stimulate their own thinking and questioning skills.

Reflecting on his love for storytelling and the deft use of language, Edison’s library also embraced extensive works of classical Greek literature plus a vast collection of Shakespeare. He particularly valued science fiction novels by pioneering French writer Jules Verne for the flights of fantasy and freedom from logic they spurred.

We can link Edison’s reading to many of the provocative questions he asked. Diligently recording his queries and insights in the notebooks that were ever-present at his side, Edison returned to these deep, probing questions again and again. His intentional gathering of questions became a pivotal spur for experiments and hypotheses that he later introduced when working jointly with his team.

Just as Edison’s hours of reading in his library sparked questions to be pursued via new hypotheses and experiments, your own reading endeavors can yield serendipitous yet brilliant questions from angles you least expect.

For Your Consideration

  • When was the last time you reached for a new hardcover book or bought an e-book?
  • How frequently do you change the types of materials you read?
  • Do you follow the same reading routine over and over again?
  • Why not experiment and select three new bloggers to track over the next month?
  • Why not take a reading retreat?
  • If you were to shift your reading list so that it looks something Edison might devise, what would be on it?

Material from this post adapted from Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb and Sarah Miller Caldicott and Midnight Lunch, by Sarah Miller Caldicott

 

 

I Read to Cheat Old Age – What About You?

It’s the last week of 2015, and at 27gen that means #ReadingWeek!

All week my posts will be about books, reading, a few things connected to the two, plus my Top 15 Favorite books, an annual list published on the last day of the year.

To start the week off, consider this: I read to cheat old age.

It is my habit to make my lunch hour my own personal “Lunch and Learn” activity. As I work from an office in my home, I typically take a break from work to enjoy lunch seated at my kitchen counter, reading a book.

So it’s appropriate that, while reading Curious, by Ian Leslie, I came across this information:

Being epistemically curious is a crucial condition of feeling fulfilled and alive.

Science supports this intuition. Neurologists use the term “cognitive reserve” to describe the brain’s capacity to resist the ravages of old age. For a study published in 2013, a team led by Robert Wilson at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago enrolled three hundred elderly people and tested their thinking and memory skills each year. The participants were also asked about how often they read, wrote, and engaged in other cognitively demanding activity, not just currently, but in childhood and middle age.

Following each participant’s death, his or her brain was examined for evidence of dementia. It was discovered that, after taking into account the physical effects of dementia on their brains, the subjects who made a lifelong habit of a lot of reading and writing slowed their rate of mental decline by a third compared to those who only did an average amount of those things.

In other words, those individuals cheated old age.

 – Ian Leslie, Curious

My lifelong, and ongoing, investment in reading is really an investment in my future.

courtesy photosteve101

courtesy photosteve101

What will you be reading today?