Is This the End of the Beginning? How I Accomplished My Office Renovation

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Winston Churchill

The words above are taken from a 1942 speech by Winston Churchill concerning the Second Battle of El Alamein, one of the Allies earliest victories during World War II.

The occasion of my use of the quote is not nearly so dramatic, yet it begins to sum up where my office renovation project stands today.

You see, it’s not finishedand probably never will be.

I’m drawing upon another historical figure to give that statement some context:

The park will never be finished. It’s something I can keep improving every year. I’ve always wanted to work on something that will keep on growing. I have that now. Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.

Walt Disney

As you will see in both images and quotes from several books that have been guiding my thought process in both planning and undertaking the office renovation, the two quotes above will make more sense.

Last week’s blank canvas, over a period of weeks, became this:

Now, it was time for the real work to begin.

Having removed dozens of crates containing thousands of books, my first and biggest decision was to NOT bring the vast majority of them back to the renovated office.

As referenced in an earlier post, one of the – if not THE – primary measure of this successful renovation project was a vast reduction in the number of books in my office.

Guided by the wisdom of several authors who are experts on the subject of organizing a home library, see for yourself if the following quotes and images made the project a success.

Surrounding yourself with books you love tells the story of your life, your interests, our passions, your values. Your past and your future. Books allow us to escape, and our personal libraries allow us to invent the story of ourselves – and the legacy we that we will leave behind.

Nina Freudenberger, Biblio-Style

When we add books – any printed books – to our homes and lives and make space for them, something almost alchemical happens. We combine the author and their story with who we are and our story. The combination of the author and their story plus us and our story is a new story, and it is completely original.

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library

Books are beautiful objects in their own right – their bindings and covers – and the space they fill on shelves or stacked on coffee tables in colorful piles add balance and texture to any room. And just like any other part of a home, books require maintenance: They need to be dusted, categorized, rearranged, and maintained. Our relationship with them is dynamic and ever changing.

Nina Freudenberger, Biblio-Style

In this fast-paced, digitally saturated, screen-overloaded era we live in, printed books are a refuge of space and time. It’s OK to slow down and read; it’s OK to fill your home and your shelves with printed books and to celebrate the comfort and meaning they provide in our lives. 

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library

When we decide to keep a book and make space for it on our shelves, it becomes more than just a book. It comes a placeholder, a breadcrumb, an invitation that we can return to at any time. Perhaps it is to re-read it; or just to think about it for a moment as we pass by; or to respond to a guest who notices it and says, “I didn’t know you were interested in philosophy.” Walk into a stranger’s home anywhere in the world – want to know something about them or what to talk about over dinner? Simply look at their bookshelves.

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library

The books we keep reveal a story that is never-ending. It can constantly be rewritten, edited, and have chapters added, simply by changing the books on the shelf. Whether the books are in our hand or on our shelves, their covers open or shut, they keep on telling stories. And so should we.

Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane, For the Love of Books: Designing and Curating a Home Library

We are readers. Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives. 

Anne Bogel, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

We are readers. Books are an essential part of our lives and of our life stories. For us, reading isn’t just a hobby or a pastime; it’s a lifestyle.

Anne Bogel, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

And so here it is: my office renovation project, finished – but only as of today.

It will surely change; if not by the time you read this, then shortly thereafter.

If you have been challenged, inspired, puzzled – you can insert the word of your choice here – take a look at the outline Thatcher Wine and Elizabeth Lane provide in For the Love of Books for styling a bookcase:

How to Style a Bookcase Step-by-Step

  • Step One: Before You Begin
  • Step Two: Remove books from shelves
  • Step Three: Place objects and test book’s positions
  • Step Four: Move books (even if you love them) if they don’t look right
  • Step Five: Test out vertical and horizontal placements
  • Step Six: Experiment with different types of objects and accessories
  • Step Seven: Experiment with placing pretty covers with front facing out
  • Step Eight: Find themes to repeat
  • Step Nine: Try more unusual objects
  • Step Ten: Fine tune
  • Step Eleven: Trust your gut
  • Step Twelve: Take a step back
  • Step Thirteen: Group books by color subject and size
  • Step Fourteen: Be patient with the process

Why don’t you think about organizing and styling your bookshelves?

You may be wondering what became of the books that didn’t come back to my office.

Welcome to my office annex, a project in the making: About 2,000 books, cataloged and sorted for somewhat ease of access.

To be continued…

How to Lead with Vujá Dé

We are living in an age of disruption. According to Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor, you can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past. The most effective leaders don’t just rally their teams to outrace the “competition” or outpace prior results. They strive to redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with copy-cat thinking. 

What sets truly innovative organizations apart often comes down to one simple question: What can we see that others cannot?

If you believe that what you see shapes how you change, then the question for change-minded leaders in times of disruption becomes: How do you look at your organization as if you are seeing it for the first time?

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. 

– Henry David Thoreau

When you learn to see with fresh eyes, you’re able to differentiate your organization from the competition (and your “competition” isn’t the church down the street). You’re able to change the way your organization sees all the different types of environments around it, and the way your others see your organization.

This mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. We live in a world that is less black and white and more shades of gray world, not a black and while one. Seeing in this way means shifting your focus from objects or patterns that are in the foreground to those in the background. It means thinking of things that are usually assumed to be negative as positive, and vice versa. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least.

In a season filled with uncertainty, how can you cultivate a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

SOLUTION #1: Seeing with Vujá Dé


The Vujá Dé Moment is the reverse of the French saying – Déjà vu which means “already seen it.” Compelling thought catalyst, Simon T. Bailey defines The Vuja’ De’ Moment by saying “you’ve never seen it” but you intend to flip the status quo and create it. 

The Vuja’ dD’ Moment – Shift from Average to Brilliant, is a call to action that invites readers to shift their thinking, creating a disruption from the norm that ignites innovation, increasing accountability and profitability in life and business. 

The ultimate “GameChanger,” the Vujá Dé Moment equips you to shift from average to brilliant, guiding you to personal and professional success. By harnessing the power of Vuja’ De’ and regaining control of your inner steering wheel, you put yourself in gear and move forward. The book outlines substantive “how to” steps on how to ignite a fresh vision and turn a moment into a movement.


In so much uncertainty, how can you feel a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

According to author Simon T. Bailey, it’s working towards Vujá Dé moments, moments that are about the future. It is about envisioning and believing in the possibilities – believing in the future so strongly that those possibilities become probable.

Vujá Dé is seeing – and living – your future as if it’s happening now.

Vujá Dé is a twist on conventional wisdom.

Vujá Dé implies seeing everything as if for the first time or better still, seeing everything everyone else sees, but understanding it differently.

Simon T. Bailey

There are ways to instill Vujá Dé in your life. Start by looking for the uncommon in the common, for the meaning behind the actions and the words, for the new in the old.

Vujá Dé is all about shifting. It’s when you have confirmation in your gut about making important changes without having to have external validation. It’s the ability to see and believe in your own potential and the potential of the team around you. Vujá dé is realizing there will come a time when you will have to break with the old to embrace the new, to let go of what is comfortable and convenient in order to grow and expand.

It’s about moving in a new direction without a map, GPS, or support from your Facebook friends. It’s doing the exact opposite of what you’ve always done in order to ignite a creative spark of new possibility. Because it’s a promise of greater things ahead. Vujá dé is the moment when everything clicks and you decide to resist the gravitational pull that keeps you from being brilliant.

Vujá Dé is the big idea. It’s the breakthrough. It’s the disruption from your normal routine. If you intend to live brilliantly, then disruption is your future. In fact, look at your calendar: disruption is your next appointment.

Simon T. Bailey, The Vujá Dé Moment! Shift from Average to Brilliant


According to author Simon T. Bailey, the reality is everything around us – and everything we once knew – has shifted.

Bailey developed these questions to help you begin to see with Vujá Dé:

  • What could a personal shift do for you?
  • Are you holding on to what worked yesterday?
  • Are you suppressing your inner voice that is telling you to step out of your comfort zone?
  • What mysterious voice or vision are you ignoring?
  • Can you immerse yourself or your work in your relationships in a more significant way?

He sees Vujá Dé as the catalyst to your future and developed SHIFTER as a tool to get you there. Follow these seven actions, then schedule the personal retreat described below to get moving:

See differently

What does it mean to see differently? It means to change your mindset. When you begin to see things differently, the opportunities before you change. To shift, you must be willing to examine everything you do and ask yourself if you are creating the tomorrow you want. Even as you are reading this, stop and record as much of your day as you can. Shoot for blocks of at least 30 minutes and then capture the rest of your day.

Harness the power of You, Inc.

Draw confidence from your personal gifts and talents by doing a quarterly assessment of your career/business portfolio. Examine your personal productivity, relationship currency, and skills inventory. What do you do well, or have you been gifted with? Make a list of how this impacts how you see your organization. 

Ignite a fresh vision

Challenge yourself to try new ways of doing routine things. Challenge your team to live a fresh vision in their hearts and minds. If your vision is to stand the test of time, it will do so because each individual feels a significant sense of ownership. Collaborate together on a theme for the next three months of your work. Leverage the gifts and talents of each member to express that theme in unique and creative ways around the office. 

Fuel your mind

Take responsibility for your own growth and development and for the unleashing of your potential. Keep your intellectual tank full by committing to become a lifelong learner. Identify three books from three different genres that will challenge your growth – one biography, one marketplace leadership book, and one work of classic fiction.

Take the wheel

To change what’s outside, look inside to see who’s at the wheel. You hold the keys to your destiny. Instead of letting tomorrow come to you, go get it. Own your future – don’t let fear of failure and the changes that are happening at full speed around you keep you in neutral. In what area can you model faith-full obedience to God’s calling? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Engage your gears

Sometimes, when we attempt to shift, we can either grind a gear or slip out of gear. Consider what will give you the energy and the discipline to get in gear and stay in gear. Make a list of what most motivates you to do great work. How can you use these things to encourage and focus your work?

Restart your engine

There are seasons in our lives which require us to restart our own internal batteries or restart our engines. If you are in a situation you can’t change, what you can change is how you choose to view it. Use your retreat time as a time of intense Bible study and prayer. Consider making fasting a part of this season of listening to the Lord.

Before moving on, which of the above seven actions are most needed in your life and ministry right now? Calendar a 3-4 hour personal retreat in the next 14 days to work on only one of the above actions. In that retreat, journal what God reveals through times of prayer and Bible study. Ask the questions from author Simon Bailey above and make a plan to enact what you are now seeing.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My 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.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

How Environmental Immersion Leads to Creative Inspiration

One can be inspired by research as well as immersed in it for inspiration.  Rhonda Counts, Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering Florida

How you do research is dependent upon where you are in the process. Disney’s Imagineers value the story’s intent and the importance of being surrounded with or immersed in the story’s environment.

With a nod to “Talk Like a Pirate Day” celebrated annually on September 19, here’s an example of creative immersion from one of my projects:

As you can see, there’s a definite pirate’s theme going on in part of my office. It’s both from previous work and work in process. I’ve used the theme of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” storyline – both the attraction and the movies – to develop training resources and presentations in the area of Guest Experiences.

Specifically, I created a tool – the Guest Experience Compass. And how better to demonstrate it, than using Jack Sparrow’s compass? I also created the Guest Experience Code – and based it on the storyline of the Pirates Code. Of course, both of these tools had to be introduced and used by a pirate – the Navigator – in a fully immersive learning environment. The result?

As a result of my pirate “adventure,” I created a blog series which you can read about here.

And it doesn’t stop with pirates.

There’s the Disney wall in my office (currently undergoing renovation)…

It’s continually changing as I acquire new books and other “resources” that help my inspiration.

It’s no secret that I am a Disney fanatic of the first degree! I had an early start in the 60s, both from watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and benefiting from my father, who as a Gulf gasoline dealer received many promotional tie-ins from Disney movies.

Anchored by a Disney library of over 450 books (and growing!), I am literally immersed in all things Disney. As I research and work on various projects – especially Guest Experiences – I find great inspiration through the many resources at hand. My immersion is not limited to the visual and tactile – at any given time, the soundtrack of a Disney movie, or the background music from one of Disney’s theme parks is playing in the background.

Here’s how Disney Imagineers recommend immersion into an environment:

Select a project that you want to immerse yourself in. Make a list of all the elements of the project and find samples (the larger the better) that represent these elements. Find a place in your surroundings to display the samples so you can immerse yourself in them.

For example, if you wanted to fix up a vintage car, surround yourself with large detailed pictures of its original interior and exterior, very large color samples for its seat cushions, dashboard, etc., and exterior paint job, pictures of various locations you would drive to, and of course, spray the space with new car scent.

Research leads to inspiration.

part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

written by The Disney Imagineers

The Love-Hate Confessions of a Horizontal Organizer

or, the domino effect of renovation in action.

A few years ago, my wife and I replaced our antique brass bed with a new bed. That led to a minor redecorating of our bedroom, which led to a major effort to simplify life in our house. As parents of four, but being empty nesters, we decided to reduce our furniture footprint, change our room use around, and redecorate our house – to be accomplished over several years.

After a few trips to Goodwill and Restore to donate furniture and other items, we had a working kitchen with plenty of space for 3 chefs at a time (we’re a foodie family), a small home office tucked away to one side, and an island for casual eating for 3. The family room lost the media center, replaced by a wall-mounted screen and sound system. The fireplace wall’s built-in side book shelves were cleaned up, organized, and looked great. Free standing bookshelves were rearranged, relocated, or removed. New furniture was chosen and delivered to create a simple, clean look. A complete redesign of the room-facing fireplace wall brought a new focal point to the entire room. The original dining room – our computer room and my office for 17 years – was returned to a dining room furnished with art from several Charleston trips, along with a custom-built dining room seating ten. One of the front bedrooms – our daughter’s – became known as the Disney Princess room, decorated with Disney art, a “magic mirror,” other Disney features, and a Lego Disney Castle, all just waiting for our grandchildren to visit. The other front bedroom – our youngest son’s – became Anita’s office, but also a guest room, courtesy of a Murphy bed mounted to one wall. The front bathroom was remodeled with a new designer vanity and tile flooring. The entire downstairs ceilings were stripped of that awful 90’s popcorn ceiling, smooth-coated with plaster, and painted. All of the downstairs rooms were painted in shades of grey. My office was relocated upstairs to what was originally a bedroom for two of our sons, and also fulfills a guest bedroom role.

I was completely happy to be out of sight from the main floor, and relocated my work there. Since Auxano had been founded as a digital company in 2004, most of my work took place there.

Therein lies the problem.

My vocational title at Auxano is Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader, which is a really cool title, but functionally I read, research, and write – a lot of all three. Which involves books – lots of them (even in the digital reader age). And project files (I’m trying to go digital, but it’s taking awhile). More books, as in book towers – one for each of the 7+ years of SUMS Remix. And visual learning objects – lots of Disney items including a Sorcerer Mickey hat and Mickey hands; gas station memorabilia; Starbucks cups and barista training materials; pirate gear and props, etc. – all related to projects I’m currently working on and/or keeping updated. Then there’s special family photos, challenge coins and patches of my Air Force son’s career, and did I mention personal books?

My name is Bob, and I’m a horizontal organizer.

I like the things I am working on spread out on a surface in front of me, where they can beckon me to continue working on them. Efficiency experts and time management gurus live in a world of vertical file management and a digital, paperless world, but me – not so much.

As a horizontal organizer, I am at a situational disadvantage. The whole world is set up to help keep vertically organized people on top of things. On the other hand, all my work is on top of things – my desk, the tops of filing cabinets, bookshelves, the nearby futon (I’m getting better, Anita – I really am!), and the floor.

As you have no doubt heard, a messy desk spread thick with paper and stacked high with books is the sign of a genius at work.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

The relocation of my office from the main level of our home to the second floor has had many benefits, not the least of which is increased domestic tranquility – a phrase not exclusively limited to governmental issues by any means. Because of my tendencies towards horizontal organization – actually, more like a full-out embrace – my working office is out of sight, but not out of mind – the office must also remain a guest room (but give me a couple hours notice, please, to ahem – rearrange things).

Anita has gently, but, firmly, been suggesting for several years now something to the tune of “that mess office needs some work.” As with much of life, it was put off some, and then some more.

At this point I need to pause and give special thanks to my youngest son Aaron, who in his senior year in college pointed me to the book The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry. After he bought the book, read it, and wrote a paper on procrastination the day it was due, he gave it to me to read.

Through it, I was introduced to the concept of horizontal organization. I enjoyed learning about, and practicing, Structured Procrastination, To-Do Lists, Procrastination as Perfectionism, and other strategies for the serial procrastinator.

With that under my belt, I became aware of another book with a similar topic: Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me. Author Andrew Santella explores a diverse group of individuals, from Charles Darwin to Leonardo Da Vinci to Frank Lloyd Wright, to ask why so many of our greatest inventors, artists, and scientists have led double lives as committed procrastinators. Here’s a couple of quotes:

In the process of trying to avoid one task, I was in fact completing many other tasks. Even procrastinators can become task-oriented, when the task they are oriented to is procrastinating.

Procrastination is really a kind of time travel, an attempt to manipulate time by transferring activities from the concrete past to an abstract future.

As noted in last week’s Friday post, Anita had had enough. In the genuine spirit of a combination birthday and Father’s Day gift, she said we would be redecorating my office. And, by the way, something had to be done about those books.

You saw the panoramic shot; that was then, this was next:

The entire office was crated, cataloged, and moved to first the garage, and then a storage unit. If you’re counting, that’s 42 crates as pictured above, plus another dozen or so boxes of various sizes.

Finally, a blank canvas:

Next week: The Big Reveal

How to Practice the One-Minute Pause

They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.

This haunting observation of most people in the Western world was made by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han.

We all have our own stories of trying to stay sane in the day and age of mobile phones, connected watches, a twenty-four-hour news cycle blaring from our devices, unceasing demands from family, church members, and our team, and …

Do you feel weary?

Do you feel burdened?

You’re not alone.

The most common answer to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m good – just busy.”

That answer comes from everywhere, bridging gaps of gender, age, ethnicity, and class. Empty-nesters working from home are busy, even with their kids and grandkids spread across the country. New parents are busy, with a new mom headed back to work while the new dad begins the first week of parental leave. Even middle-schoolers are busy trying to juggle three different platforms of distance learning while helping around the home while trying to stay connected with their best friend in the neighborhood two streets over.

You feel over-worked, over-booked, and over-connected – how can you reclaim your health and wellness again?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad by John Eldredge

In Get Your Life Back, New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge provides a practical, simple, and refreshing guide to taking your life back.After reading this book you will… 

  • Learn how to insert the One Minute Pause into your day
  • Begin practicing “benevolent detachment” and truly let it all go
  • Offer kindness toward yourself in the choices you make
  • Drink in the simple beauty available to you every day
  • Take realistic steps to unplug from technology overload

These simple practices and others are ready for the taking. You don’t need to abandon your life to get it back. Begin restoring your life here and now. Your soul will thank you for it.


According to author John Eldredge, there’s a madness to our moment, and we need to name it for the lunacy it is.

We’re being swept into the gravitational field of a digital black hole that is sucking our lives from us.

Email felt so efficient when it replaced the letter; texting seemed like rocket fuel when it came along. But it didn’t make our lives more spacious; we simply had to keep up.

Now we’re living at the speed of the swipe and the “like,” moving so fast through our days that typing a single sentence feels cumbersome.

We’re losing our ability to focus and pay attention longer than a few moments. This isn’t just an intellectual problem; it’s a spiritual crisis.

God wants to come to us and restore our lives. But if our soul is not well, it’s almost impossible to receive Him.

The One Minute Pause is an absolute lifesaver: Simply take sixty seconds to be still and let everything go.

John Eldredge

As I enter the pause, I begin with release. I let it all go – the meetings, what I know is coming next, the fact I’m behind on everything, all of it. I simply let it go. I pray, Jesus – I give everyone and everything to you. I keep repeating it until I feel like I’m actually releasing and detaching. 

I give everything to you, God.

All I’m trying to accomplish right now is a little bit of soul-space. I’m not trying to fix anything or figure anything out. I’m not trying to relax everyone perfectly or permanently. That takes a level of maturity most of us haven’t found.

Them I ask for more of God: Jesus – I need more of you; fill me with more of you, God. Restore our union; fill me with your life.

I’ve seized the One Minute Pause as my sword against the madness. It sounds almost too simple to be a practice that brings me more of God, but it’s very effective. Because what it does is open up soul space, breathing room. And God is right there. Over time, the cumulative effect is even better. It’s reshaping the pace of my day. It’s training my soul to find God as an experience more common than rare.

John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad


According to author John Eldredge, the One Minute Pause can be used in many ways: for prayer or silence, to find your heart again, or to enjoy a moment of  beauty.

He suggests trying this for starters:

Pick one or two moments in your day when you know you are least likely to be interrupted. Maybe it’s the end of the day when you pull into your driveway. Don’t leap from the car; take a moment to pause. Turn off the engine, lean back, close your eyes, and just breathe. Try to let go of the day.

You can also set a phone alarm to remind you to take the One Minute Pause. Make sure the alarm notification is quiet and smooth, not jarring! You are not really sounding an alarm; you are inviting your soul to a gracious pause.

The One Minute Pause is the beginning of a new way of living, one simple practice that opens the door to many others.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My 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.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

The Renovation and Redecorating of a Disney Bibliophile’s Office

In a kind but exasperated voice, my wife informed me that my office was overwhelming.

And not in a good way.

Office, circa early 2021

You’ve probably noticed that books consume a good portion of my life, both vocationally and recreationally.

Add to that my Disney fanaticism, and you get the picture.

While my love of books and passion for reading hasn’t changed, the storage and display of those books is changing.

Putting action to words, my wife announced earlier this year that in a combination birthday and Father’s Day gift, she wanted us to renovate my office. Unstated, but clearly understood, was that something had to be done about all those books.

Thus began my office renovation project.

When you love books, of course you turn to books to learn more about the best ways to design and curate your Disney library on the occasion of an office renovation project.

While we lined up a contractor and began the arduous process of removing EVERYTHING from the office, I also began to do a little research into home libraries, using the above books.

Welcome to my office renovation journey.

Are You a Confident Leader?

In the months leading up to the year 2020, there was no shortage of social media posts, articles, sermons, and more talking about a “2020 Vision.” For many pastors, it was a dream topic to build a sermon series around – and many did.

A sampling of sermon topics in January 2020 would have shown an intentional look forward into a future of a year or two, or maybe even five years or more.

But when March 2020 rolled around, and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to sink in, the lofty visions of 2020 evaporated. Church leaders around the country and the world began to shrink their vision from the lofty goals of just a few months earlier to, “What are we going to do this weekend?”

Fifteen months later, though that immediacy has lessened somewhat, only to be replaced with even more troubling questions like these:

  • How long is this pandemic going to last?
  • Will we be able to return to normal?
  • What if normal never returns?

In just a few weeks, future thoughts became present realties, and many leaders find themselves stuck there today.

Even when treading water in reality, leaders can get mired in a flood of information and answers about what to do next.

The world around us is evolving at dizzying speed. Tomorrow refuses to cooperate with our best-laid plans—the future routinely pulls the rug from underneath us.

Although people yearn for a return to “normal,” or try to predict the “new normal,” there is no such thing as normal. There is only change. Never-ending, constant change. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but constant nonetheless.

Answers to vexing problems are no longer a scarce commodity, and knowledge has never been cheaper. By the time we’ve figured out the facts – by the time Google, Alexa, or Siri can spit out the answer – the world has moved on.

Obviously, answers aren’t irrelevant. You must know some answers before you can begin asking the right questions. But the answers simply serve as a launch pad to discovery. They’re the beginning, not the end.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One by Dan Reiland

You’re a good leader, but leadership is challenging and can rattle your confidence. Setbacks, challenges, and problems can cause you to second-guess yourself, doubt, or pull back. Your confidence may be stretched thin, but there is a way to strengthen it.

In Confident Leader!, Dan Reiland draws from his 39 years of leadership experience to share a practical, workable, and transformational process that results in your ability to become a more self-assured leader and achieve maximum success. Building unshakable confidence will positively impact your personal work performance, your belief in self, your support and approval from others, and your trust and reliance on God.

In this book you will learn how to:

  • Make deep foundational decisions about your core identity
  • Implement practical steps for deliberate character development
  • Incorporate daily, practical disciplines that transform your leadership ability

Together these essentials present a step-by-step plan to greater confidence, increased influence, less uncertainty, and more significant accomplishments. Learn how to become the most confident version of yourself today.


Leadership expert John Maxwell says that, in over fifty years of developing leaders, he has learned that very few leaders are naturally confident, and even less are consistently confident.

Author Dan Reiland believes that every leader struggles with confidence at some level.

On the other side of that struggle is cockiness at the worst, or over-confidence at best. Finding the right balance of confidence on this continuum is tricky, but essential in today’s climate.

The majority of leaders do not maintain a consistent quality of confidence. Their confidence goes up and down too easily, impacted by a wide variety of factors, such as personal performance, size of church, belief in self, support from others, approval from others, mistakes made, and trust and reliance on God.

Dan Reiland

There is a process, a road map, by which you can develop a more consistent and authentic confidence that will serve you as a leader.

Deep Foundational Decisions – There are specific decisions you can make that establish stability and certainty in knowing who you are and how you were designed to lead at your best. These five decisions set the foundation of your confidence.

  • Ownership – Take charge of your leadership confidence
  • Belief – Overcome the great confidence breakers
  • Identity – Value first who you are, then what you can do
  • Attentiveness – Hear and heed God’s voice
  • Soul – Embrace five core qualities of confident leaders

Deliberate Character Development – Your character is at the core of your confidence. Here are the five specific areas of your character that will strengthen your confidence.

  • Consistency – Lead yourself well before leading others
  • Authority – Accept it, develop it, and use it wisely
  • Adaptability – Look for ways to become the best version of you
  • Improvement – Aim for better, not bigger
  • Resilience – Handle pressure well and bounce back

Daily Practice Disciplines – There is a direct connection between competence and confidence. However, you can be competent, yet not confident. And you can be confident, yet not competent. Both are needed together. Here are five essentials that you will need to become and effective leader and increase your confidence.

  • Direction – Know where you are going and lead others
  • Focus – Stick to the game plan
  • Heart – Care genuinely about those you lead
  • Communication – Live and convey and optimistic message
  • Mentoring – Develop other leaders intentionally

Dan Reiland, Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One


Select a single idea from each of the three areas listed above, one that you would like to improve on. In other words, your greatest area of challenge in each of the three areas.

Using a chart tablet, write the idea across the top of the page. 

Viewing this idea as your destination on a journey, imagine you are moving toward it but encounter roadblocks on your journey. These represent the primary obstacles to completing your journey.

Identify at least three roadblocks you are facing on your journey to obtaining the idea at the top of the chart tablet. Use the following questions to help you identify the roadblock:

  1. What do the roadblocks look like?
  2. Who put them there, or keeps them there?
  3. What does the road ahead look like, with the roadblock gone?

Develop a plan to dismantle the obstacles. When you do, you will have cleared the way to complete your journey to achieving the idea.

Repeat this with the other two ideas.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My 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.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

The Hard Work of NOT Focusing On “What’s Next”

From Seth Godin:

What do you want to be doing 100 days from now?

What change do you seek to be making? With which skills? Surrounded by which people?

For that to happen, day 99 will need to different from today.

And so will day 98.

In fact, so will tomorrow.

If we keep focusing on ‘what’s next’ we might never get around to doing the work we need to do to get us to day 100.

A periodic visit to the 100 Acre Wood. Here’s the backstory.

Yes, Leaders are Readers!

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My 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.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

At this stage of my life, I’ve gone way beyond book nerd.

What started as a boyhood practice grew into an adult passion, and is now a deliberate, daily practice.

The turning point came when I entered seminary – a friend who was in his last year of a doctoral program told me I needed to learn how to read.

I thought that I had that one pretty much covered; after all, I had been reading since before first grade.

I was wrong; he was right.

That book recommendation, and for decades now my go-to book on helping someone deepen their love of reading used to be “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer Adler. It’s still a great book – but now I have a new recommendation:

Read to Lead, by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski.

With this book, Jesse and I have attempted to make the case that reading – specifically book reading – is the simplest and one of the most important habits you can develop, especially if your goal is to expand your audience and boost your career.

Jeff brown

It’s the common habit shared by many successful people throughout history. It’s responsible for unlocking limitless creativity and influence. It’s known to reduce stress, improve decision-making skills, and make you a better leader. What is it? Reading. And it’s the single best thing you can do to improve yourself professionally.

Reading more and better books creates opportunities for you to learn new skills, rise above your competition, and build a successful career. In Read to Lead you’ll learn

– Why you need to read like your career depends on it

– The five science-backed reasons reading will help you build your career

– How to absorb a book into your bloodstream

– A technique that can double (or triple!) your reading speed

– Tips on creating a lifetime reading habit

– And more!

If you want to lead a more satisfied life, have more intelligent conversations, and broaden your mind, you need to read to lead!

Reading the Table of Contents (itself one of the simplest but most overlooked starting place in reading a book) reveals the breadth and depth of advice and encouragement found in Read to Lead:

Introduction: Why Read a Book about Reading Books

Part 1 Why You Need to Read Books

  1. Why You Need to Read a Book Like Your Career Depends On It
  2. Eight Research-Backed Reasons Why Readers Do Better in Their Careers
  3. The Slow Death of Readers: Three Big Reasons Why People Are Reading Less
  4. The Eight Biggest Reading Excuses Holding You Back

Part 2 The Books You Need to Read

  1. Six Ways to Know What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Read
  2. Too Busy Not to Read: Nine Ways to Free Up More Time to Read
  3. How to Build Your Reading Plan

Part 3 The Smarter Way to Read Books

  1. How to Absorb a Book Into Your Bloodstream
  2. Double (or Triple) Your Reading Speed in Minutes
  3. How to “Read” a 220-Page Book in One Hour
  4. How to Create an Unchangeable Reading Habit
  5. The Key to (Nearly) Mastering Anything
  6. Fifteen Tips on How to Read Smarter
  7. Why You Should Join (or Start) a Book Club

Conclusion: Growing as a Reader and Leader

Pick any single chapter and you will increase your reading skill by the end of that chapter.

Read the book through, take its admonitions to heart, and you will change the trajectory of your life.

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. I can think of no better start to deepening your love of reading than with “Read to Lead.

A Successful End (to Whatever You’re Doing) Starts by Beginning with Everything in Its Place

Part of a recurring series on 27gen: Chef Stories. Stories from the past, present, and future in my personal experience in various parts of the culinary world. This particular story is from a few years ago, when my son was entering his senior year at Johnson & Wales University in pursuit of a degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management. It’s the second part of a longer post begun last week.

In the last post, we saw “Poetry in Motion” by looking at efficiency. Today, it’s all about a successful end to whatever you’re doingby starting with everything in its place.

In the culinary world, it’s called “mis en place.”

French for “put in place”, this is what allows all the actions described yesterday to take place. It is the hours of work that start before the first meal is fired: washing, cutting, peeling, pre-cooking, weighing, portioning, and positioning of all the ingredients that go into the wonderful final product.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

Taken broadly, it is the slow simmering of the soups for the night; the baking and preparation of individual items that comprise the wonderful complexity of desserts. It even goes to the preparation of the wood fires that will later cook the wonderful meats that anchor the meal.

Mise en place doesn’t get any attention in the final review, but you wouldn’t have anything without it. It’s all those things that aren’t noticed till they’re not there. It’s the sauté chef reaching in the cooler knowing that he has all the right ingredients to prepare the dish just called out. It’s the pastry chef preparing 3 different kinds of ice cream for the desserts on the menu. It’s the fry chef making sure the oil is fresh and hot, ready for use. It’s the salad chef having everything ready to assemble a variety of salads from the same few ingredients, differing in presentation and dressing.

courtesy Rooster's Kitchen

courtesy Rooster’s Kitchen

It’s the dishwasher, knowing if he doesn’t get the dirty pans out and clean ones back, the whole kitchen grinds to a halt.

Mise en place is all about the knowing everything that is required to produce the finished meal, and making sure all the ingredients are ready to use when needed. It’s about thinking through things before they happen, so that when they happen, you’re one step ahead.

It’s all about being prepared.

Our evening at Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen was delightful on so many levels. The front of house staff were gracious in working with me to make sure we could have a front row seat to all the action; the wait staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive; the chefs prepared wonderful food while displaying their skills to an audience.

But it was more than just a meal – it was a demonstration of excellence from top to bottom, one that any organization could learn from.

Whatever your end product is – a worship experience, sermon, leadership class, playtime with kids, etc.

…it all starts with making sure you have everything in its place before beginning.