Hocus Pocus Bewitches a New Generation

A Lesson in Culture Transfer from One Generation to the Next

When it first hit theaters in 1993, Hocus Pocus performed poorly at the box office and with critics. However, thanks to annual replays on cable and strong video/DVD sales, a core fan group kept it alive over the years.

When the Disney Halloween classic was released to theaters earlier this month, it quickly rose through the ranks to become 2020’s biggest box office. Granted, the numbers are tiny compared to pre-COVID box office totals, but people are still going to theaters and strange things are happening.

Which is totally appropriate for Hocus Pocus, a bonafide 90s classic that children of that decade – now parents – are introducing to their children.

And by the way, that last sentence describes my two older kids – born in 1981 and 1984.

They first saw Hocus Pocus in theaters when released, later on VHS, and for a few years now, rewatch it every year on DVD or streaming.

Now, they are introducing it to a new generation – my grandchildren.

The movie’s unexpected success at the box office is impressive since it is widely available for fans to rent or buy and stream on various platforms; it’s free on Disney+; and it has aired on Disney’s “Freeform” as well.

There’s even a book about it – Hocus Pocus in Focus, by Aaron Wallace. My daughter and her husband – born in the late 80’s – devoured it when it came out, talked about it with their friends, and now viewing the film on Disney+ is evidently a big deal among their friends.

Of course, with Disney involved, you know what comes next – a sequel.

Bette Midler, who played Winnie Sanderson in the original, recently confirmed that she, along with co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson) and Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson) will all be returning as the Sanderson sisters for the second Hocus Pocus movie.

The sequel will be coming to Disney+ at an undesignated date in the future.

As I was researching different sources for this post, it occurred to me that I have stumbled upon a whole new thread of generational research – the transfer of culture from one generation to the next.

Immediately, I thought of the Disney Company. Certainly, my Disney fanaticism was fully developed in the last couple of decades – but I was introduced to it by my parents. First, through movies: my first movie seen in a theater (1964), and my favorite Disney movie even today, is Mary Poppins. Then, my father, as a Gulf gas station owner, was part of a Gulf-Disney marketing campaign throughout the mid to late 60s. We received regular promotional items, like magazines and record albums (which I still have!), which his customers eagerly snatched up.

When my wife and I became parents (four times, from 1981 – 1992), the introduction of Disney movies through first theaters then VHS tapes was a regular part of family entertainment. It continued with the shift from a cable channel to DVDs then streaming services.

As our children became parents, they did (and are doing) the same: Disney entertainment is a regular part of their lives, especially with the advent of the Disney+ streaming service.

In 2016, my wife and I brought this to a new level: a week-long family vacation for all 15 members of our family to Walt Disney World.

From viewing movies to visiting theme parks to sharing our Disney-related gifts across birthdays and other times, the Adams family culture had been deeply imbedded with a Disney imprint.

In my childhood, that meant one thing: Disney. To my children and grandchildren, though, it’s much more:

  • Walt Disney (movies, cable channel, TV shows, theme parks, cruise line)
  • ABC
  • ESPN
  • The Muppets
  • Pixar
  • Marvel
  • Lucasfilm
  • 21st Century Fox
  • Disney+ (I list this separately because of the HUGE impact it will have in the future).
  • and many more!

Here’s a graphical representation of the above:

You want to talk about the transfer of culture from one generation to the next and the next?

Class is now open!

The Changing of Intergenerational Dynamics

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.

Judge Taylor in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

People are blind to the unexpected, the unusual, the periphery.

That’s all 2020 has been.

We’re at an unprecedented juncture in history: several generations of relatively similar size are sharing the stage and competing for influence. Generations matter because they behave in specific ways related both to when they came of age and to their situation at the current moment. “The creation of a world view is the work of a generation rather than of an individual,” wrote novelist John Dos Passos. “But we each of us, for better or for worse, add our brick to the edifice.”

I’m beginning a deep dive into current and future intergenerational dynamics, and the six books below are my starting point.

The Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe

William Strauss and Neil Howe will change the way you see the world—and your place in it. With blazing originality, The Fourth Turning illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, it offers an utterly persuasive prophecy about how America’s past will predict its future.

Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history. The authors look back five hundred years and uncover a distinct pattern: Modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting about the length of a long human life, each composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that last about twenty years and that always arrive in the same order. In The Fourth Turning, the authors illustrate these cycles using a brilliant analysis of the post-World War II period.

First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis—the Fourth Turning—when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.

The Fourth Turning offers bold predictions about how all of us can prepare, individually and collectively, for America’s next rendezvous with destiny.

Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam

Twenty years, ago, Robert D. Putnam made a seemingly simple observation: once we bowled in leagues, usually after work; but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolized a significant social change that became the basis of the acclaimed bestseller, Bowling Alone, which The Washington Post called “a very important book” and Putnam, “the de Tocqueville of our generation.”

Bowling Alone surveyed in detail Americans’ changing behavior over the decades, showing how we had become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and social structures, whether it’s with the PTA, church, clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues. In the revised edition of his classic work, Putnam shows how our shrinking access to the “social capital” that is the reward of communal activity and community sharing still poses a serious threat to our civic and personal health, and how these consequences have a new resonance for our divided country today. He includes critical new material on the pervasive influence of social media and the internet, which has introduced previously unthinkable opportunities for social connection—as well as unprecedented levels of alienation and isolation.

At the time of its publication, Putnam’s then-groundbreaking work showed how social bonds are the most powerful predictor of life satisfaction, and how the loss of social capital is felt in critical ways, acting as a strong predictor of crime rates and other measures of neighborhood quality of life, and affecting our health in other ways. While the ways in which we connect, or become disconnected, have changed over the decades, his central argument remains as powerful and urgent as ever: mending our frayed social capital is key to preserving the very fabric of our society.

The Gilded Age, Alan Axelrod

The Gilded Age—the name coined by Mark Twain to refer to the period of rapid economic growth in America between the 1870s and 1900—offers some intriguing parallels to our own time. Prolific historian Alan Axelrod tackles this subject in a fresh way, exploring “this intense era in all its dimensions. . . . This book will reveal it . . . as, truly, the overture of the ‘American Century.’” He also looks at how it presaged our current era, which many are calling the “Second Gilded Age.” Photographs, political cartoons, engravings, news clippings, and other ephemera help bring this fascinating period into focus.

Zconomy, Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa

Gen Z changes everything. Today’s businesses are not built to sell and market the way Gen Z shops and buys, or to recruit and employ Gen Z the way they find and keep jobs. Leaders need answers now as gen Z is the fastest growing generation of employees and the most important group of consumer trendsetters. 

The companies that quickly and comprehensively adapt to Gen Z thinking will be the winners for the next twenty years. Those that don’t will be the losers or become extinct.  Zconomy is the comprehensive survival guide on how leaders must understand and embrace Generation Z. 

Researched and written by Dr. Denise Villa and Jason Dorsey from The Center for Generational Kinetics, the insights in Zconomy are based on their extensive research, they’ve led more than 60 generational studies, and their work with more than 500 companies around the world.

In Zconomy, Dr. Villa and Dorsey answer: Who is Gen Z? What do employers, marketers, and sales leaders need to know? And, most importantly, what should leaders do now?

This is the critical moment for leaders to understand and adapt to Gen Z or become irrelevant. Gen Z is already reshaping the world of business and this change is only going to accelerate. Zconomy is the definitive manual that will prepare any executive, manager, entrepreneur, HR or marketing professional to successfully unlock the powerful potential of this emerging generation at this pivotal time.  

The Upswing, Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Deep and accelerating inequality; unprecedented political polarization; vitriolic public discourse; a fraying social fabric; public and private narcissism—Americans today seem to agree on only one thing: This is the worst of times.

But we’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the twentieth century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on his inimitable combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Robert Putnam analyzes a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. He draws inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Engaging, revelatory, and timely, this is Putnam’s most ambitious work yet, a fitting capstone to a brilliant career.

2030, Mauro F. Guillén

Once upon a time, the world was neatly divided into prosperous and backward economies. Babies were plentiful, workers outnumbered retirees, and people aspiring towards the middle class yearned to own homes and cars. Companies didn’t need to see any further than Europe and the United States to do well. Printed money was legal tender for all debts, public and private. We grew up learning how to “play the game,” and we expected the rules to remain the same as we took our first job, started a family, saw our children grow up, and went into retirement with our finances secure.

That world―and those rules―are over.

By 2030, a new reality will take hold, and before you know it:

– There will be more grandparents than grandchildren

– The middle-class in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will outnumber the US and Europe combined

– The global economy will be driven by the non-Western consumer for the first time in modern history

– There will be more global wealth owned by women than men

– There will be more robots than workers

– There will be more computers than human brains

– There will be more currencies than countries

All these trends, currently underway, will converge in the year 2030 and change everything you know about culture, the economy, and the world.

According to Mauro F. Guillen, the only way to truly understand the global transformations underway―and their impacts―is to think laterally. That is, using “peripheral vision,” or approaching problems creatively and from unorthodox points of view. Rather than focusing on a single trend―climate-change or the rise of illiberal regimes, for example―Guillen encourages us to consider the dynamic inter-play between a range of forces that will converge on a single tipping point―2030―that will be, for better or worse, the point of no return.

2030 is both a remarkable guide to the coming changes and an exercise in the power of “lateral thinking,” thereby revolutionizing the way you think about cataclysmic change and its consequences.


Look for more in the coming weeks.

To Better Understand Gen Z, Take a Look Back

As a reminder for everyone, the “context” around you affects everything else.

In the case of this post:

  • My wife and I are Baby Boomers (born in late 50s)
  • My four children and their spouses are GenXers and Millenials (born between 1981 and 1992)
  • My six grandchildren are Gen Zers (born between 2008 and 2020)

Generational cohorts (like the above) are a source of never-ending curiosity for me. From being in the largest group (Boomers) to having kids at the end of one cohort (Gen X) to the beginning of the next (Millenials) to having grandchildren born in the middle of the next cohort (Gen Z), just observing and interacting with my immediate family has been fascinating.

Increasingly though, I am being drawn to GenZ; specifically, this generations’s defining moment.

And to no surprise, virtually everyone is pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the defining moment of GenZ.

As The Center for Generational Kinetics defines it, a defining moment:

Takes place at the right time in a generation’s coming of age experience. The event or external influence needs to occur at a formative time in a generation’s coming of age experience, which is usually an age range from childhood through early adulthood. The key is the generation needs to be old enough to deeply experience the event while at the same be in a young enough life stage where it can significantly impact their views, beliefs, and attitude toward their world and their future.

Creates a powerful, unforgettable emotional impact, usually tied to fear and uncertainty caused by the event and its aftermath. These moments tend to make a generation feel vulnerable and look at the world differently than they did before, such as the way 9/11 impacted Millennials or how the JFK assassination affected Baby Boomers. 

More from CGK:

For Gen Z, COVID-19 has upended almost every aspect of their life. For younger members of Gen Z, they no longer go to school with classmates, see their friends in-person, or work part-time jobs. Instead, they are confined to their home, with a parent or other family members, and trying to continue their education at a time when many schools do not have an effective distance learning program. These same Gen Zers are seeing their parents struggle financially, including job losses, inability to pay rent, and tension between adults within their household as everyone deals with this new reality and the close quarters of being quarantined.

Gen Zers from the class of 2020 in high school saw standardized testing canceled, no graduation ceremony, uncertainty about college options, financial pressure, and no ability to play competitive sports or drive academic achievements or progress that could change their future. These Gen Zers are telling us they worry if college will even take place in the fall. Will they move out of their family’s home this year? If college is all online, how will they have a traditional college experience? While the COVID-19 experience can vary widely based on our interviews with Gen Zers from different socioeconomic, geographic, and other factors, the result continues to be a real question mark about what will happen after their senior year of high school.

At the same time, Gen Zers who are in the workforce are disproportionately in the service industry, hourly workers, in entry-level jobs, or are young professionals as they are typically on the very front end of their careers. These same Gen Zers are often the first to get laid off or furloughed as many industries contract. Gen Z can also suffer from the “last hired, first fired” mantra of years past. Put all this together, and Gen Zers already in the workforce are feeling a massive reset at exactly the time they should be starting to build their independence and self-reliance. 

Gen Zers who are in college are often experiencing a hybrid of the newly upended work and education reality. Some colleges and trade schools have moved quickly to cancel all on-campus classes and move to online learning while others are struggling under the weight and scale of the change— as well as the practical limitations of specific learning activities, such as scientific lab access. Add to this mix the unknown about whether or not colleges will refund room and board, whether international students who had to go home will be able to return, and the overnight change of having tremendous freedom taken away as they move back in with their family. There is a lot for Gen Z college students to worry about besides just finishing their classes.

On top of Gen Z’s work and school impacts from COVID-19, add all of these significant stressors: the heavy external influence of daily death counts and mortality rates, fear of losing their parents, grandparents, or friends, and the endless social media echoing how bad the world is around them. It’s easy to see why COVID-19 is a Generation Defining Moment for Gen Z—and the impact gets deeper the longer the event is extended and the more uncertainty, fear, and difficulty it creates. 

from “The State of Gen Z 2019-2020,” The Center for Generational Kinetics

Wow – is that heavy, or what?

And yet, I have reason to hope. Reason based on the fact that while we may live in a very tumultuous time, and uncertainty is a constant, all this is not new.

It’s highly likely that some of the best understanding of the future can be gained by studying the past.

And that past reveals – going back hundreds of years, and a couple dozen generational cohorts – is that generations have a cyclical pattern.

What Gen Z is experiencing today – not the specifics, but broad understandings – can be unlocked by looking at a prior generation.

The farther you look back, the farther forward you are likely to see.

Winston Churchill

My grandchildren may well be shaped by circumstances and events like their great-grandparents, born in 1925-1942.

More to come!

Looking Through the Generational Lens

One of the consistent lenses I use to view life through is that of generations.

It comes as a natural part of my curiosity of life, as I am interacting with 5 generational cohorts in my family: my parents and in-laws are from the GI Generation; I am a Baby Boomer; my oldest son and one daughter-in-law are Gen Xers; my other three children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law are Millennials; and my 6 grandchildren are Gen Zers. Even though we are spread out across three states (and occasionally, around the world) and do not get to interact as much as we would like, the personal level of generational differences is obvious.

Take the same dynamics as above – 5 generations – and move them into the institutional world, say a church setting, and it won’t be long till you have a generational collision.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, how do you deal with the fact that, for the first time in our history, we can have five separate and distinct generations working alongside each other in our churches? The 5th generation, born since the mid-2000’s, is not far behind in taking up a leadership role.

Generational differences are important, but it is all too easy to stereotype these differences. The only way we’ll ever build bridges between generations is to stop stereotyping and get to know who these generations really are and why they are that way.

An interesting book on the subject: Sticking Points – How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, by Haydn Shaw. Here’s a teaser:

For the first time in history, we have four different generations in the workplace (and five in families). These generations might as well be from different countries, so different are their cultural styles and preferences. Of the four approaches organizations can take to blending the generations, only one of them works today. Focusing on the “what” escalates tensions, while focusing on the “why” pulls teams together. Knowing the twelve sticking points can allow teams to label tension points and work through them—even anticipate and preempt them. Implementing the five steps to cross-generational leadership can lead to empowering, not losing, key people.

How many different generations do you regularly interact with?

How’s that going?

The Class of 2024 Arrives (Online) at Campus This Fall

An annual tradition, starting at Beloit College in 1998 and now residing at Marist College, is the mindset list of the incoming freshman class – the graduating class of 2024.

They were born in the aftermath of 9/11 and have entered college during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this year’s incoming group of first-year college students, going to college might even require staying home for remote classes; some may simply be taking a gap year.

While the class of 2024 might be questioning what the future holds, one thing is certain: this group of students is living through an unprecedented start to their college careers and their first 18 years have been bookended by key world events.

For a taste, here’s a couple to think about:

  • The necessity of personal protection equipment (PPE) will drive fashion trends for the next couple of seasons as young designers in the class of 2024 adapt face masks and other PPE into functional objects of personal expression.
  • The class of 2024 (and, often, their teachers) expect and embrace a richer diversity of voices in the books they read, and their enthusiasm for young adult (YA) literature has led to the emergence of vibrant new voices such as Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give), Marie Lu (Legend), and Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone). In addition, these students are shaping American literary culture like never before, by contributing commentary and adaptations in online forums such as GoodReads, Reddit, Twitter, and fanfic sites.

Here’s the full press release.

 

About the Mindset List

The Mindset List was created at Beloit College in 1998 to reflect the world view of entering first year students. Developed by Ron Nief, Director Emeritus of Public Affairs at Beloit College, and Beloit Professor Tom McBride, who later collaborated with Beloit Professor of Sociology Charles Westerberg, the list has garnered national and international media attention. In 2019, the list moved to Marist and became the Marist Mindset List. Read more here.

My 5 Generation Family is a Microcosm of Society

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences – from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of today’s American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise – it’s necessary part of life.

  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father and mother were born into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending; she was in college and then taught school; they were part of what some call “The Greatest Generation”. Think “American values” and you’ve got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. My father passed away in 2012, and my mother in 2018. They may not be physically present with me, but who I am was shaped by their influence, and they impact me every day. My mother-in-law, aged 99, still lives at her home of 65+years (with a caretaker). Additionally, this cohort, as their generation moves into their twilight years, still controls a significant part of the economy and will continue to be influential in the years ahead outside of their numbers.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) My wife and I are late Baby Boomers. Born in the latter 50s, we are a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization’s social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son and one of my daughters-in-law are Xers, even though they sometimes exhibit characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they’ve changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children, two daughters-in-law, and a son-in-law all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and … you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to know what and whom they need to know.
  • Generation Z (born after 2001) Just now entering teenage years and early adulthood, sociologists have little hard data yet. But it is the generation of my six grandchildren, and it is important to me! So far, technology is the hallmark of this group, which is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones and social media as a daily part of life. They’re growing up amid the promise of technological innovation – but also in the environment of economic uncertainty, a sharp decrease in well-defined and reliable career paths, increasing political divides, and the effect of decades of repressed racial tensions. Consequently, when compared to their predecessors, this group is both more cautious and more anxious.

There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we’ll just have to see. Led by the thoughts of William Strauss and Neil Howe published in the late 1990s, this idea of “cycles” is getting more attention now that their predictions of today’s Millennial cohort are proving to be on target more often than not. That will definitely be my radar in the future!

An interesting fact, and the origin of the title of this website: there are 27 years between each of the first born in the above generations of my family, thus 27gen.

The next five years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society.

The last time we were all together in one place – Walt Disney World, September 2016.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

August 9 is birthdate of my father, who was born in 1927.

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 my father instilled in me.

Sunday 8/9 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 excerpts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent conversation with a teammate, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about a specific topic that helped him work with a client. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

I love (and practice) the 4 different levels of reading as espoused by Mortimer Adler in his great book, How to Read a Book, but I really like to latch onto a topic and practice Syntopical Reading. Also known as comparative reading, it is where many books are read, and placed in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve.

For the last several months, that topic has been “Hospitality in the Home,” and my current tower shelf of syntopical reading in the topic is at 127 books – and I’ve still got some more coming in!

In addition to the pure enjoyment of reading on the subject, these books formed the basis of a month-long emphasis at Auxano entitled “Building Bridges to Your Neighbors.” The content produced by this reading includes two emails, two feature articles, a webinar, an eBook, and countless social media posts.

Here’s a partial view of those books; the tower is out of room and another dozen or so are on a nearby file cabinet:

In addition to this special project, another ongoing syntopical project of sorts is SUMS Remix.

Issue #151, shipping next week, is the most recent one, published every two weeks over the last six years. Those 151 issues represent 452 books. The format of SUMS Remix is simple: one problem statement faced by church leaders, 3 brief excepts from books that provide a solution to the problem, and 3 ready-to-use applications for leaders to try out immediately. You can find out more and purchase an annual subscription to SUMS Remix here.

With an issue published every two weeks, a two-week production cycle, and a two-week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on at least 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, Instagram, and Facebook posts), preparation for Guest Experience development and consultations, other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading in include restaurants, food, and related areas; the psychology behind our bias; the development of U.S. culture from the 1600s through today; and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

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, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

What’s Shaping the Minds of This Year’s Freshman Class, the Class of 2021

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Today, the Mindset List of the Class of 2021 was released.

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds who:

  • Are the last class to be born in the 1900s, making them the last of the Millennials.
  • Are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, or a research library.
  • Have always had emojis to cheer them up.

For those who cannot comprehend that it has been 18 years since this year’s entering college students were born, they should recognize that the next four years will go even faster, confirming the authors’ belief that “generation gaps have always needed glue.”

Here are a few nuggets from this year’s Mindset Class for the Class of 2021. You must read the entire list here!

  • They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.
  • Amazon has always invited consumers to follow the arrow from A to Z.
  • They have always been searching for Pokemon.
  • By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.
  • Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  • Ketchup has always come in green.
  • The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.
  • Family Guy is the successor to the Father Knows Best they never knew.

You can find the rest of the list here.

Read it now.

Generosity for Everyone

a guest post from Todd McMichen, Auxano’s Chief Campaign Officer

It has been an exciting summer around my house. I have had the privilege of watching my college daughter volunteer at the local children’s hospital as a patient pal. My wife has taken time out of her busy realty business to serve a family that has been through a pretty big crisis. My son, who is about to graduate college, is dreaming of how he can impact the future lives of others and benefit his local church. I’ve texted our family giving to our local church, helped another family meet a need, and touched a few buttons on an APP donating to a local charity. It is just pretty normal stuff, nothing exceptional, just moments of generosity from everyone.

No matter how old we are or how much we earn, everyone can live generously. Let’s look at a few examples in the Bible for inspiration. I am first drawn to the boy with the fishes and loaves. While I am not sure how old he is, he appears to be old enough to travel to town and take care of a chore for his family. He probably knows the value of money and certainly of food. Then Jesus and His disciples come along asking if they can use his resources to help others. I don’t think the boy was wrestled to the ground and had his groceries taken. I think he gave them willingly, but had no clue what was about to happen. I wonder if it turned out to be the best day of his life. He probably got home late, couldn’t wait to tell mom, and bragged to all his friends. I bet it left him pretty eager to go to town again looking forward to his next giving adventure.

Then I want to jump to the other end of the spectrum. It’s the poor widow who gave all she had. I would imagine in the modern church if a poor widow showed up at her pastor’s office wanting to give all she had, her gift may very well be declined. Her pastor wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings, but she needs her resources more than the church does. Actually, the church has a Benevolence Fund she could benefit from. I love that neither Jesus nor the poor widow were concerned about what the future holds regarding her financial needs. Jesus was more than willing to accept her gift and she was more than willing to give it.

Of course, there was the rich young ruler who had more than enough. Jesus asked him to do as the poor widow did and give everything, but he refused. Pretty interesting that a young boy gives all he had one day and a poor widow gives all she has on another day. Evidently generosity is for everyone and it has nothing to do with the amount of resources you possess or how old you are.

Now I am thinking of Zaccheus and Barnabas, two very successful men in the prime of their earning careers. While I am not sure how long Barnabas has been a believer, I do know that he is way ahead of Zaccheus. Zaccheus isn’t even a believer when his story begins, but by the end of it he is living extravagant generosity. Barnabas actually surrenders an entire piece of property he owns, and gives it to the church to distribute the resources no strings attached.

Here are some things we can learn from a few ordinary people from the Bible who on random days decided to be giving:

  1. Giving is for everyone regardless of your age.
  2. Giving is for everyone regardless of your net worth.
  3. Giving is for everyone regardless of how strong your faith is.
  4. Giving is for everyone regardless of what has been previously planned in your life.
  5. Giving is indeed for everyone.

Now, I do know giving can be hard at times. It is not always top of mind. I think everyone would agree that giving is good both personally and for the world at large. Just imagine what life would be like if everyone lived just a little bit more generously everyday?

The Bible also contains real stories of our struggles with being a giving person. You actually do not have to travel very far in the Bible to be captured by the story of Cain and Abel. Both gave. One got it right and the other had some learning to do. We have already mentioned the rich young ruler who just couldn’t do it. Then when I shared about Barnabas, you may have been inclined to think of Annanias and Sapphira. So while giving is for everyone we all struggle with how to be both willing and joyful givers at times. So maybe we should add a few more principles.

  1. Giving is for everyone even though we all fail at it at times.
  2. Everyone can learn to be better at living generously.
  3. The more generous we all are the better our world is.

As you may have already guessed, I am pretty passionate about generosity. If you are interested in learning more then you may want to check out our latest resource. I had the privilege of partnering with the highly skilled curriculum team at LifeWay and we put together Generous Life resources. We took 10 Bible heroes and unpacked five different types of givers helping all ages develop their own growth plan. It contains five sermon outlines, with accompanying small group leader guides for all ages. Yes, all ages are included. There is even a weekly family devotion to do in the home.

GenerousLifelogo

The Generous Life is not the stuff of super heroes or mega saints. It is a great way to live for normal people. Generosity is indeed for everyone, so let’s all join the journey of getting a little better at it each day.

 

Ready or Not, the Class of 2018 is Here!

It’s August, and most kids are back in school.

At our house, our youngest (of four) is a senior at Johnson and Wales University, where he will finish classwork a semester early. When he graduates next spring, it will be the culmination of a lot of years of school – our oldest started kindergarten in 1986. With four kids, born four years apart, that’s 29 straight years of some form of education: elementary, middle, and high school; undergraduate and graduate school.

Wow – have things changed a lot in those 29 years!

Which brings me to one of my favorite days – and topics – of the year: the release of Beloit College’s Mindset List for this year’s incoming college freshman class, the graduating class of 2018.

courtesy of warningsignshirts.com

courtesy of warningsignshirts.com

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation.

Mindset List websites at Beloit College, themindsetlist.com, and their Facebook page receive more than a million hits annually.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds who:

arrive on campuses in the coming weeks, coming with a view of the world quite distinct from their mentors.  Most born in 1996, they have always had The Daily Show to set them straight, always been able to secure immediate approval and endorsement for their ideas through “likes” on their Facebook pages, and have rarely heard the term “bi-partisan agreement.

Please read the whole list here, but these are my Top Ten:

  1. During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
  2. Since they binge-watch their favorite TV shows, they might like to binge-watch the video portions of their courses too.
  3. “Press pound” on the phone is now translated as “hit hashtag.”
  4. Celebrity “selfies” are far cooler than autographs.
  5. FOX News and MSNBC have always been duking it out for the hearts and minds of American viewers.
  6. There has always been “TV” designed to be watched exclusively on the web.
  7. While the number of Americans living with HIV has always been going up, American deaths from AIDS have always been going down.
  8. Two-term presidents are routine, but none of them ever won in a landslide.
  9. “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.
  10. Since Toys R Us created a toy registry for kids, visits to Santa are just a formality.

Behind the light humor of the Mindset List there are always some serious issues about the future of the class and their role in the future of the nation,” notes the List’s editors Ron Nief and Tom McBride. “The digital technology that affords them privacy from their parents robs them of their privacy amid the “big data” of the NSA and Google. How will the absence of instant online approval impact their performance in the classroom and work-place?

If you’re more visually-minded, here is a brief interview with the authors.

Enjoy!