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 300 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!

 

 

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Getting Your Ideas Off the Ground: 7 Lessons from the Wright Brothers

On December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Flyer became generally accepted as the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. 

Looking back over these 115 years from a personal viewpoint:

  • In 1903, my grandmother was 5 years old.
  • In 1953, my parents were married.
  • In 2003, the second of my four children began college.
  • Today, in 2018, all 14 of my immediate family have traveled by airplane. My Air Force grandkids, even at 5 and 8, have more frequent flyer miles than I do.

In the lifetime of my extended family, “flying” has come from non-existent to a routine afterthought.

The principles of flying even extend beyond our earth, to travel in space.

How did two men, in 1903, working essentially alone and with little formal scientific training, solve a problem so complex and demanding as heavier-than-air flight, which had defied better-known experimenters for centuries?

Certainly the brothers were talented, but the true answer also lies in their background and early experiences.

With no education beyond public schools, how did the the Wright brothers get past numerous obstacles the world’s other scientists hadn’t even begun to tackle?

In 2003, on the 100th anniversary of the first flight, Mark Eppler published The Wright Way, defining seven essential problem-solving principles the brothers used in accomplishing this enormous feat.

  • A passion for knowledge and information
  • An ability to argue through tough issues in search of truth
  • An ability to identify the hardest part of a problem, and the discipline to begin there
  • A talent for tactile and conceptual tinkering
  • An ability to conceptualize new (often radical) ideas, and the courage to consider them
  • A penchant for method and meticulous attention to detail
  • An ability to create infinitely more together than they could by themselves

On today’s 115th anniversary of the flight at Kitty Hawk, leaders should look at the above list and apply them to problems they are facing.

Applying these principles might just help you get your ideas “off the ground.”

For additional information about the fascinating story of the Wright Brothers, here are four great books I recommend:

 

 

 

How to Communicate with Intentionality by Clarifying Your Message

“Scrambling to keep up and looking for ways to get their message heard, churches are creating more videos, designing more logos, printing more inserts, sending more emails, launching new apps and websites, posting more social media updates, and trying to write lots of captivating content.”

“Here’s what happens. The people they are trying to reach move further away just to survive the onslaught.”

The above paragraphs resonate from the introductory pages of Kem Meyer’s book “Less Chaos. Less Noise.” These words become a powerful reminder that today’s church faces a culture in which the difficulty of connecting with people has become an ever-changing proposition.

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, a ministry e-mail goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The visionary leader cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Church leaders must be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the all aspects of church communication. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services.

Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.

Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Clarify your message

What is clarity really about? A synthesis of definitions brings clarity to the concept of clarity: it means being free from anything that obscures, blocks, pollutes, or darkens.

Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact.

The leader helps others see and understand reality better. Leaders constantly bring the most important things to light: current reality and future possibility, what God says about it, and what we need to do about it.

Unfortunately, there is often a gap between the leader’s words and how followers receive the leader’s words. Like a dropped cell call, this is caused by various sources of disconnection and static between people, even if the leader is communicating clearly.

Like the bars that indicate signal strength on a cell phone, every leader has signal strength levels that distinguish perceiving, thinking, and communicating with others.

The effective leader must spend extra time bridging the gaps by practicing clarity with words.

Words sell things. And if we haven’t clarified our message, our customers won’t listen.

Nobody will listen to you if your message isn’t clear, no matter how expensive your marketing material may be.

Your customers have questions burning inside them, and if we aren’t answering those questions, they’ll move on to another brand. If we haven’t identified what our customer wants, what problem we are helping them solve, and what life will look like after they engage our products and services, we can forget about thriving.

What we think we are saying to our customers and what our customers actually hear are two different things. And customers make buying decisions not based on what we say but on what they hear.

We need a filter to minimize the noise. The essence of branding is to create simple, relevant messages we can repeat over and over so that we “brand” ourselves into the public consciousness.

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand

A NEXT STEP

Stories move us. They engage us. They inspire us. Stories give us examples of how to act – and how not to act. The best ones stay with us forever.

To clarify your message using stories, it will be helpful to follow the formula that author Donald Miller uses in his book Building a StoryBrand. Purchasers of the book will receive free access to an online tool, the StoryBrand BrandScript.

While you will not be able to use the powerful techniques in this brief overview, you can at least get an idea of how those techniques might be used in your setting.

Here is an overview:

Nearly every story you see or hear can be outlined as: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in SUCCESS.

In a team discussion, write the key words from the above statement down the left side of a chart tablet.

  • Character
  • Problem
  • Guide
  • Plan
  • Calls them to action
  • Failure
  • Success

Brainstorm the successful transformation you’re helping the average church member achieve by writing out ideas for each of the categories listed.

Discuss among your team how you can use the StoryBrand principles to clarify your church’s message through the telling of stories.

Every human being is already speaking the language of story, so when you begin using a story framework, you’ll finally be speaking their language.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 81-1, issued December 2017.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

> >Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

If You Think Reading is Boring, You’re Doing It Wrong

They may be hand-drawn animation, or computer-generated imagery, or even real actors in a stage play or musical.

Whatever the media, there’s a powerful story – and life lessons – in Beauty and the Beast.

To Gaston, a book with no pictures might as well have blank pages.

To Belle, a good story doesn’t need pictures to be understood.

 

No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.

– Confucius

 

Coming Soon: 2018 End-of-the-Year Reading Wrap Up

Discover Your Own Giftedness and Its Potential to Change Your Life

Your divine design, as expressed in Ephesians 2:10, is more knowable than you realize. You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He has prepared in advance, that you should walk in them.

With the right tools, courageous dialogue, and an experienced guide, you can accelerate progress in articulating your life vision and aligning your life vocation.

Auxano Founder Will Mancini and pastor Dave Rhodes have developed those tools.

The books referenced in this SUMS Remix are just a taste of what possibilities exist as you explore what you were created for.

Once you read through this “appetizer,” read more about how you can and should know your Life Younique: your God-given identity and your God inspired dreams. Then, you can discern and design the practical next steps to get there.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Person Called You by Bill Hendricks

“I can’t stand my job anymore.”
“I feel like I have no direction.”
“What should I do with my life?”

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Barna Group finds that 75% of Americans are seeking ways to live more meaningful lives. And among practicing Christians, only 40% have a clear sense of their calling.

But there is a way to find and follow your purpose.

For over twenty years, Bill Hendricks has been helping people of all ages and stages find meaning and direction for their work and for their lives. The key is harnessing the power of human giftedness. Every person has their own unique giftedness—including you! And the best way to discover it is not through a test or gift assessment exercise, but from your own life story. Through this book, find out what you were born to do and the profound difference that insight makes for every area—your work, your relationships, even your spirituality.

The Person Called You is a celebration, exploration, and explanation of human giftedness. Bill describes what it is (and isn’t), where it comes from, how you can discover your own giftedness, and, most importantly, its potential to transform your life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Determine your giftedness

When we hear someone speak of another as “gifted,” we often conclude that giftedness is an uncommon thing, reflected in a few superstar athletes or maybe in the brilliant thinking of Nobel Prize winners. While such people are amazing, giftedness is not for a fortunate few. It is part of the human condition.

Giftedness is not just what you can do, but what you are born to do,  enjoy doing, and do well.

Giftedness is the unique way in which you function. It’s a set of inborn core strengths and natural motivation you instinctively and consistently use to do things that you find satisfying and productive.

Giftedness is not about what you can do but what you were born to do, enjoy doing, and do well. People can do all kinds of things. But they only enjoy doing certain things. Everyone has something they gain energy from doing. The giftedness is not in the activity itself, it’s in the person, in their sense of joy or fulfillment or accomplishment.

Giftedness is fundamentally about your behavior. It is found in what you do and how you do it. Not so much why you do it. Giftedness is a phenomenon; it just is. Your behavior – the consistent pattern of what you actually do and how you do it – tells me what your giftedness is.

Giftedness is about behavior, but not just any behavior. You many do any number of things, but certain activities have a way of focusing your energy in a highly engaging way. If you examine those moments carefully, you’ll discover a consistent intertwining of strengths and motivation in your behavior.

If giftedness is about motivation combined with ability, it follows that it is also about satisfaction combined with productivity. When you get to do what you’re motivated to do, you feel satisfaction. And if you do what you’re actually able to do, you tend to be productive. You actually accomplish something.

Your giftedness never fundamentally changes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop as a person. Your giftedness is your most powerful tool for personal and professional growth in two ways: 1) you can develop your gift yourself; and 2) you can use your gift to acquire skills and cultivate competencies that you did not come by naturally.

Bill Hendricks, The Person Called You

A NEXT STEP

Find time in your schedule to spend a few hours disconnected from your job and other responsibilities. Turn off your mobile phone, and any other distraction.

Think back over you life to a time when there were certain moments or activities that captured your interest in some compelling way. Perhaps you found yourself lost in the activity you were so involved in it.

You accomplished something – maybe not anything impressive to others, but something significant to you. When you think back to that activity, you recall it as an energizing and satisfying event. You might even want to do it again.

That activity had two important criteria: 1) you were actually doing something; and 2) you took satisfaction from the activity.

The satisfying activities of your life described above hold valuable clues as to what your giftedness is all about.

To more fully understand what you are doing when you’re in the sweet spot of your giftedness, complete the online version of the author’s “Discovering Your Giftedness: A Step-by-Step guide found here.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 80-2, released November 2017.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

> >Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

 

The Story of Disney’s Magical Connection to the Christmas Season

Disney magic is alway special, but at Christmas time, it seems to soar to even greater heights.

A new book by Jim Korkis, Disney Historian and an internationally acknowledged authority on Walt Disney, delivers over 30 stories about Disney’s connection to Christmas over the years. Each meticulously gives the background details and sources that bring the story to life.

The Vault of Walt: Christmas Edition is divided into four sections:

  • Walt Disney Stories
  • Animation and Television Stories
  • Disney Park Stories
  • Mouse-ce-llaneous Stories

Here is one paragraph of one story that perfectly captures the delightful depth and breadth of the book:

“It was that Christmas gift of a pair of boots that gave the world the Walt Disney we know today. It was that gift that helped a thirteen-year-old focus on what his future would be as a cartoonist and to work to make that dream come true. The right Christmas gift can transform a young person’s future as it did Walt Disney’s life.”

This absolutely fascinating teaser is just one example from an excellent book. If you are looking for the perfect gift for the Disney fan in your life, look no further than The Vault of Walt Christmas Edition by Jim Korkis.

Are You Living in the Leadership Loop?

Leaders, by definition (if not practice) have followers. Leaders find, recruit, and train followers for specific tasks. While this is an important task in any organization, a leader who can only lead followers is limited. To make it to the next level of leadership, a leader must be able to lead other leaders – those alongside them.

Leading peers is a unique challenge, no matter what organization a leader is part of. A highly competent leader who is seen – rightly or wrongly – to have considerable influence with his boss is often at a disadvantage when it comes to peer-to-peer relationships.

To succeed at leading alongside your peers, you must work at giving your colleagues reasons to respect and follow you. You do that by helping them win, and in doing so, you will not only help your organization but you will also help yourself.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The 360° Leader, John Maxwell

Don’t wait for that promotion! Start leading NOW…right where you are!

What’s the number one question leadership expert John C. Maxwell is asked while conducting his leadership conferences? “How can I implement what you teach when I’m not the top leader?” Is it possible to lead well when you’re not the top dog? How about if the person you work for is a bad leader? The answer is a resounding yes!

Welcome to The 360° Leader. People who desire to lead from the middle of organizations face unique challenges. And they are often held back by myths that prevent them from developing their influence. Dr. Maxwell, one of the globe’s most trusted leadership mentors, debunks the myths, shows you how to overcome the challenges, and teaches you the skills you need to become a 360° leader.

If you have found yourself trying to lead from the middle of the organization, as the vast majority of professionals do, then you need Maxwell’s insights. You have a unique opportunity to exercise influence in all directions—up (to the boss), across (among your peers), and down (to those you lead). The good news is that your influence is greater than you know.

Practice the disciplines of 360° leadership and the opportunities will be endless . . . for your organization, for your career, and for your life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The middle of an organization is a great place to practice and build your skills while at the same time extending your influence in all directions. Leaders above you recognize your contributions to the greater organization. Followers below you are grateful for your leadership and influence in developing them.

However, people who find it difficult to lead alongside their peers are often individuals who don’t excel at building relationships. More so than leading up or down, developing and deepening relationships with your peers is critical to your success in leading alongside them.

If you want to gain influence and credibility with people working alongside you, then don’t try to take a shortcut or cheat the process. Instead, learn to understand, practice, and complete the leadership loop with them.

Take a look at the following graphic, which will give you an idea of what the leadership loop looks like:

You can see that it’s a cycle that starts with caring and ends with succeeding.

  1. Caring – Taking an Interest in People

You have to show people that you care about them by taking an interest in them. People always move toward someone who increases them and away from anyone who decreased them.

  1. Learning – Get to Know People

Take time to talk to your peers in the organization. Ask to hear their stories. Try to discover their best skills. Ask for their opinions on work-related issues. And as much as you can, try to put yourself in their shoes.

  1. Appreciating – Respect People

We should strive to see others’ unique experiences and skills as a resource and try to learn from them. If you treat your peers with this kind of respect, appreciating them for who they are, then they will be more likely to respect and listen to you in return.

  1. Contributing – Add Value to People

Few things increase the credibility of leader ore than adding value to the people around them. When you go out of your way to add value to your peers, they understand that you really want them to when with no hidden agenda of your own.

  1. Verbalizing – Affirm People

Few things build people up like affirmation. When you affirm people, you make firm within them the things you see about them. If you want to influence your peers, become their best cheerleader.

  1. Leading – Influence People

The things you’ve done up to know have served to build your relationship with them, give you credibility, and display that your motives are good. With that kind of history, you will have earned the opportunity to influence them.

  1. Succeeding – Win With People

Great leaders don’t use people so that they can win. They lead people so that they all can win together. The wonderful thing about helping others succeed is that it earns you more opportunities to help an even greater number of people.

If you help others succeed, additional people will come into your life whom you will have an opportunity to help succeed, and the cycle will start over again.

John C. Maxwell, The 360° Leader

A NEXT STEP

Draw the leadership loop pictured above, and post it in a visible, but out-of-the-way place in your office or work area as a reminder.

Create a matrix on a spreadsheet listing your peer’s names in a horizontal column, and the seven leadership loop actions in a horizontal row across the top.

Over the next month, review the seven actions above on a daily basis, and intentionally schedule and follow through on these actions each day with your peers. At the end of each day, make a brief note in the respective place what action you have taken with each of your peers.

At the end of the week, review your progress, and consider how you will continue and improve in the next week.

At the end of the month, call your team together and debrief your experiment with them.

  • Ask them at what point they realized you were doing something differently.
  • Ask them what they thought about your actions.
  • Encourage them to express what it felt to them as an individual.
  • Ask them if they, in turn, began to do some of the same things with others.
  • Discuss with the group how the actions you took increased the relationships of the team.
  • Challenge your peers to work through the leadership loop in a similar manner.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 79-2, issued November 2017.


 

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 “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<