Celebrating Father’s Day

With the passing of my father earlier this year, each day in 2012 brings a new perspective. This Father’s Day, the first one in which I can’t tell him how much I appreciate him and thank him for all he did for me, is a good example.

Upon reflection, though, I can tell him: by my actions to my children and their children. Though it may not be verbal, my dad knows now, as he knew before, that he left a huge impact on me, my family, my children, our extended family, and our community. So today, I celebrate Father’s Day as a:

Son

This eulogy pretty much says it all. But I will keep saying it, and telling my kids and grandkids about my Dad, and they will hopefully see in me some of the things I learned from my dad.

Father

As the father of four terrific kids (and I still think they are terrific even after hearing childhood stories for the first time from them as young adults), now increased by two beautiful and wonderful young women who are the delight of my older two sons’ lives, I am simply blessed. I enjoyed watching these kids grow up from newborns to children to teenagers to now young adults. It has not always been easy (my mistakes more than theirs), but it has been quite a ride. Now those kids are 19, 23, 27, and 31 – and I am totally humbled by their lives’ trajectory. I simply say my legacy is being fulfilled in front of me through my kids, and I am so proud of them.

GrandBob

I literally grew up in the presence of grandparents; first, my paternal grandmother who lived in a small house right next to ours, then my maternal grandparents who lived there until I was off to college. As we began our family, both my parents and my wife’s parents, though not physically as close, were involved in our kids’ early lives. I had some good role models when my oldest son announced that he was going to be a dad. So now I am GrandBob to Jack (4) and Lucy (21 months) and Jellybean (due to arrive in late November). What a gig! Though my grandkids are separated by distance, I am glad that they know me and recognize me (joy is your granddaughter playing peek-a-boo on Skype). That makes time when I can be with them (Lucy and her mom spent a week with us recently; we spent the day with Jack yesterday) even all the more special.

On this Father’s Day, although I can’t celebrate with my father in person, I celebrate him through what he gave me, what I am passing on to my kids, and what they, in turn are passing along to their kids (and of course what “spoiling” I get in as GrandBob!).

Saying Goodbye

While visiting my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in New Mexico (where my son is stationed at Cannon AFB), my father passed away.

My wife and I flew back to Charlotte today, and tomorrow morning we head to Tennessee with two of our children, while the other two join us for the memorial services later this week.

I’ll have some thoughts to share later this week…

Inspiration is perishable

We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever.

What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: it has an expiration date.

If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now. You can’t put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can’t just say you’ll do it later. Later, you won’t be pumped up about it anymore.

If you’re inspired on a Friday, swear off the weekend and dive into the project. When you’re high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours. Inspiration is a time machine in that way.

 

Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won’t wait for you. inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

The inspirational words above come from the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the founders of 37signals.

If you don’t own it, you should.

The artwork is by illustrator Mike Rohde.

Introducing the Scrum to ChurchWorld

During the course of the past week’s posts I have journeyed from Generation Flux to Adaptability to Nostalgia to Agile Development to a new destination: the Scrum.

It’s actually all part of the same journey: 1) realizing tomorrow is not going to be like yesterday, and 2) What am I as a leader going to do about it?

Back to the Scrum. As a parent of four children, I have been involved in many sports, some for fun, more that were in a league setting. About three years ago, my youngest son-at that time a junior in high school-came home and said he had signed up for the rugby team at school.

 

Okay. New experience, new opportunity for learning.

 

 

In rugby, a scrum is a formalized contest for possession of the ball during a rugby game between the two sets of forwards who each assemble in a tight-knit formation with bodies bent and arms clasped around each other and push forward together against their opponents.

Hold that thought.

Yesterday I suggested that an Agile Manifesto for ChurchWorld needs to be developed. In my research to do just that, what do I encounter but a Scrum – but with a new definition:

In the agile world a scrum is a process framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

11 Best Books of 2011

Continuing an annual tradition, the final posts of the year are devoted to the importance of reading (covered in yesterday’s post) and my best book list for the year.

Making a “Best of” list is always hard – it’s a very subjective process, driven by my personal tastes, professional needs, and plain curiosity. It’s also hard to narrow it down: in 2011, I checked out 107 books from my local library, purchased 91 print books, and downloaded 37 on my Kindle. I also perused dozens of bookstores on my travels, writing down 77 titles for future acquisition. There were also a lot of late releases that I just didn’t have time to take a look at. Be that as it may, here is my list of favorite books published in 2011.

The Zappos Experience, Joseph Michelli

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, Howard Schultz

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, 2nd Edition, Disney Institute

Brilliance by Design: Creating Learning Experiences that Connect, Inspire, and Engage,

Vicki Halsey

The Orange Revolution, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

 

The Experience Economy, 2nd Ed, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore

Blah, Blah, Blah, Dan Roam


Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, Reggie McNeal

For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel, Matt Carter and Darrin Patrick

Practically Radical, William C. Taylor

That’s my list for 2011 – if you are unfamiliar with any of the books listed above, I encourage you to check them out.

The new year is just around the corner, and the book releases are lining up already – I wonder what the Best of 2012 list will look like a year from now?

Drinking from the Fire Hose

Everyone suffers from information overload in our society today. It’s a 24/7 world with smart phones, computers, instant news, colleagues, friends, and even family bombarding us. Information is essential to making intelligent decisions, but more often than not, it simply overwhelms us.

It’s like trying to drink from a fire hose.

Drinking from the FirehoseAuthors Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone, in their recent book Drinking from the Fire Hose, propose a simple solution: Learn how to ask the right question at the right time.

Whatever field you are in, asking smarter questions will expose you to new information, point you to connections between seemingly unrelated facts, and open new avenues of discussion with your colleagues.

Here are the seven questions that the authors think will help you bring a big-picture perspective to problems that often leave others buried in irrelevant details.

  • What is the Essential Business Question?
    • Asking the right question is the key to finding the indispensable answer in the mountain of information.
  • Where is your customer’s North Star?
    • Shift your view from company-centric to customer-centric.
  • Should you believe the Squiggly Line?
    • Question the validity of short-term data.
  • What surprised you?
    • Uncover hidden information and use it to change the dialogue.
  • What does the lighthouse reveal?
    • Identify the risks, barriers, and bridges that surround your business.
  • Who are your swing voters?
    • Drive growth, increase revenue, and boost satisfaction by looking at your existing customers in a new way.
  • What? So What? Now What?
    • Follow this easy-to-remember sequence of questions to effectively communicate results and inspire action.

Frank and Magnone illustrate these seven questions with real-life stories and applications that you will find helpful in surviving the deluge of data that is your life.

Whiteboard For Skeptics

According to author Dan Roam (The Back of the Napkin, Unfolding the Napkin, and Blah, Blah, Blah), there are three kinds of visual thinkers: people who can’t wait to start drawing (the Black Pen people); those who are happy to add to someone else’s work (the Yellow Pen people); and those who question it all – right up to the moment they pick up the Red Pen and redraw it all.

Hand me the pen! Black pen people show no hesitation in putting the first marks on an empty page. They come across as immediate believers in the power of pictures as a problem-solving tool, and have little concern about their drawing skills – regardless of how primitive their illustrations may turn out to be. They jump at the chance to approach the whiteboard and draw images to describe what they’re thinking. They enjoy visual metaphors and analogies for their ideas, and show great confidence in drawing simple images, both to summarize their ideas and then help work through those ideas.

I can’t draw, but… Yellow Pen people (or highlighters) are often very good at identifying the most important or interesting aspects of what someone else has drawn. These are the people who are happy to watch someone else working at the whiteboard – and after a few minutes will begin to make insightful comments – but who need to be gently prodded to stand and approach the board in order to add to it. Once at the board and with pen tentatively in hand, they always begin by saying “I can’t draw, but…” and then proceed to create conceptual masterworks. These people tend to be more verbal, usually incorporate more words and labels into their sketches, and are more likely to make comparisons to ideas that require supporting verbal descriptions.

I’m not visual Red Pen people are those least comfortable with the use of pictures in a problem-solving context – at least at first. They tend to be quiet while others are sketching away, and when they can be coaxed to comment, most often initially suggest a minor corrections of something already there. Quite often, the Red Pens have the most detailed grasp of the problem at hand – they just need to be coaxed into sharing it. When many images and ideas have been captured on the whiteboard, the Red Pen people will finally take a deep breath, reluctantly pick up the pen, and move to the board – where they redraw everything, often coming up with the clearest picture of them all.
Roam’s conclusion of these different types of people?

Regardless of visual thinking confidence or pen-color preference, everybody already has good visual thinking skills, and everybody can easily improve those skills. Visual thinking is an extraordinarily powerful way to solve problems, and though it may appear to be something new, the fact is that we already know how to do it.

What color is your pen?

The Irony of Change

It’s actually pretty ironic.

All week long I have been writing and speaking about “change.” I’m in Dallas for the NACDB annual meeting and the 2011 Worship Facilities Conference & Expo.

Late Thursday afternoon, just as the Expo was closing, my bag with laptop, Kindle, some books, and project files was stolen from our display booth. 5 minutes before it was there; I turned around from talking to someone and it was gone.

It was just a “thing,” not a person. In the grand scheme of things I’ve heard this week and the life stories I’m a part of, it should be no big deal.

But in a whole lot of ways, it was my “life” – certainly my professional life for the last 7 1/2 years, and a majority of my other life – writings, projects, research, church stuff, and a whole lot of things I’m even now trying to remember.

Gone.

I’ve always been a pragmatic, bridge-under-the-water guy. Long a student of history, I’ve thought & told others that what’s happened can’t be changed, that you must live in the present and create your own future.

Sounds good till the only past you have resides in a spotty memory, your present is filled with sleepless anxiety, and the future is dark.

So it’s 4:30 AM, sleep has eluded me, reading just isn’t working, and TV is dreary infomercials and bad news. I’m writing a lot and posting a little via my cell phone to see if I can begin to process what’s going on.

I don’t know – and am having difficulty expressing – what’s going through my head.

But change is here.