How to Overcome an Overloaded Life by Establishing Rhythm

We’re all busy in the same sorts of ways. Our lives are consumed with the crushing weight of family, work, and church activities. Our lives are bombarded with requests, demands, and desires. Individual situations may be quantitatively less busy than others, and some more so, but as a society we are living a shared experience of an overwhelmed life.

Where does it all stop? When will things slow down? How can we recapture time lost?

Technology has delivered time-saving devices that actually consume more time. Progress moves our lives faster and faster, yet we seem incapable of enjoying little if any benefit. We desire and often achieve more. We have bought into a full-life timeshare to only find ourselves bankrupt in emptiness.

Are you asking this question?

I don’t have enough time to do the things I need to do, let alone the things I want to do.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Your Life in Rhythm by Bruce B. Miller

Your Life in Rhythm offers a realistic solution to our crazy, overly busy, stressed lives. Miller exposes the myth of living a “balanced” life, and offers “rhythmic living” as a new paradigm for relieving guilt and stress, while accomplishing more of what matters most in life.

Rhythmic living details six practical strategies for living a more fulfilling life. Instead of managing time, Miller suggests that we flow with life, living in tune with the natural rhythms of nature. By applying the rhythm strategies, we can reduce stress, frustration, and guilt while increasing fulfillment and inner peace. The point is not to balance all of our responsibilities at one time, but to focus attention on what matters most at different times.

Although this sounds easy enough, the six strategies he outlines are crucial to helping the reader to achieve this goal. Miller helps us to understand the stages and seasons of life we all experience over a lifetime. This new understanding, when applied, will solve time-management problems and help readers to let go of misplaced priorities and relieve their overbooked lifestyle. The rhythm solution, in short, brings freedom.


Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do you find yourself working longer and longer hours at the office or running a taxi service to deliver your kids to all their activities? Are you juggling multiple responsibilities at home, work, and church? Does it always seem as if you have at least one too many things pulling you in different directions?

If any (or all!) of the above is true, no doubt you’ve been told or read somewhere that you need to get your life in balance.

The problem is the concept of “balance” is part of the problem!

It’s time to shift your paradigm of a well-lived life from balance to rhythm. Life is not static, linear, or uniform. It moves, oscillates, vibrates, and pulsates. A rhythm model honors time and movement; it celebrates variety and diversity; it highlights uniqueness and recognizes common patterns. Rhythm honors excellence and the sacrifice required for achievements while also providing time for renewal.

The very concept of balance that is designed to free us from the frenzy of modern life has actually subjected us to idealistic notions of a perfectly proportioned life. Balance is what one does to chemical equations and columns of numbers, not to life.

I am using the concepts of chronos and kairos to label the two basic kinds of rhythm: cycles and seasons. We live rhythmically by following the sky’s patterns, which form our chronos rhythms (cycles), and by riding the sea waves of our kairos rhythms (seasons).

We all live in the same world, structured by five fundamental chronos cycles: solar, seasonal, lunar, sabbatical, and rotational; in other words, the year, quarter, month, week, and day. We also live in kairos seasons: unique times such as the birth of a child, the college years, rehabilitation after an injury, retirement, or moving to a new city. We ride the waves of life as they come. Chronos cycles describe the temporal context of our environment on planet Earth, whereas kairos seasons describe the patterns in the flow of our human lives.

Kairos seasons are not tied to clock time. They are flows rather than cycles, the movement of a story rather than the meter of a tune. Kairos is an opportune time, the right time to say or do something.

The chronos cycles describe cyclical, recurring rhythms built into the fabric of the created order, environmental rhythms established by astronomical phenomena and embedded in our biology. In contrast, kairos seasons are linear, noncyclical, human rhythms.

Kairos Rhythm Strategies

  1. Release expectations – Be at peace with the stage God has you in right now. Release your expectations of other times, and stop envying others who are older or younger.
  2. Seize opportunities – We do not get to relive most stages of our lives. We get one shot. When we live our lives in rhythm, we make the most of every season and stage of life.
  3. Anticipate what’s next – If you really don’t like the stage of life you’re in right now, use the power of anticipation to give yourself hope.

Chronos Rhythm Strategies

  1. Pace yourself – We will find more peaceful, enjoyable, and fulfilled lives if we can identify appropriate frequencies for our regular activities.
  2. Build rituals – By building rituals in an annual cycle, you are achieving your mission in harmony with the way our world actually works.
  3. Oscillate work and rest – Think in advance how you will stay healthy through the year by oscillating between intensity and renewal.

Bruce B. Miller, Your Life in Rhythm


Author Bruce Miller has a series of exercises sprinkled throughout his book. Here is a sampling of each, following the list of strategies listed above.

Set aside time each day this week and practice the exercise. Where called for, create a chart tablet and leave it up all week long.

Release expectations – Create a chart tablet headed with the following phrase: “I will release the following expectations…” Take 10 minutes and complete the phrase with as many actions as you can.

Seize opportunities – Create a chart tablet headed with the following phrase: “I will seize these unique opportunities in this kairos season…” Take 10 minutes and complete the phrase with as many actions as you can.

Anticipate what’s next – Create a chart tablet headed with the following phrase: “I can anticipate the following personal seasons and life stages coming…” Take 10 minutes and complete the phrase with as many actions as you can.

Pace yourself – Try the following steps to help you get started on pacing yourself:

  1. Change the frequency of one activity in your life to a more appropriate pace.
  2. Take one aspect of your life and consider paces that follow the flow of natural chronos cycles.
  3. Talk about your pace with those you live with.

Build rituals – Identify a life-enhancing ritual that you can build for at least one chronos cycle.

Oscillate work and rest – Identify an oscillation between work and rest that you can introduce in at least one chronos cycle. Put it into practice, and note positive changes in your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 87-2, released February 2018.


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<<


How to Overcome an Overloaded Life by Creating Margin

We’re all busy in the same sorts of ways. Our lives are consumed with the crushing weight of family, work, and church activities. Our lives are bombarded with requests, demands, and desires. Individual situations may be quantitatively less busy than others, and some more so, but as a society we are living a shared experience of an overwhelmed life.

Where does it all stop? When will things slow down? How can we recapture time lost?

Technology has delivered time-saving devices that actually consume more time. Progress moves our lives faster and faster, yet we seem incapable of enjoying little if any benefit. We desire and often achieve more. We have bought into a full-life timeshare to only find ourselves bankrupt in emptiness.

Are you asking this question?

I don’t have enough time to do the things I need to do, let alone the things I want to do.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Margin, by Richard A. Swenson

Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Today we use margin just to get by. This book is for anyone who yearns for relief from the pressure of overload. Reevaluate your priorities, determine the value of rest and simplicity in your life, and see where your identity really comes from. The benefits can be good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God’s purpose.


Life in much of the world today is essentially devoid of time and space. The time and space that once existed in the lives of family and friends who regularly lingered after dinner, visited with the neighbors, sat on the front porch, went for long walks, planted flowers or a garden, and always had a full night’s sleep.

People are exhausted from trying to live life in a 24/7 world. People are stressed trying to keep the good things going and the bad things at bay. People are overloaded with things that (maybe) were once good but now are burdens.

We need more time. We need more space. We need more reserves. We need more buffer.

We need margin.

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing and suffocating. 

To be healthy, we require margin in at least four areas: emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances. Conditions of modern living, however, have drained these margins rather than sustaining them.

Restoring Margin in Emotional Energy

  1. Cultivate social supports – The existence of intact, functioning, healthy, nurturing systems of social support are as good a resource for replenishing depleted energy reserves as can be found.
  2. Reconcile relationships – True reconciliation is one of the most powerful of all human interactions.
  3. Serve one another – One of the best ways to heal your own pain is to focus instead on meeting the needs of others.
  4. Rest – Be with people and serve them. But be sure to get away occasionally. Escape. Relax. Sleep in. Rest restores.

Restoring Margin in Physical Energy

  1. Take personal responsibility – Until we accept personal responsibility for our own health, the road to the future will remain paved with aches.
  2. Change your habits – Changing habit disorders often requires changing lifestyles.
  3. Decrease intake of fat, sugars, and total calories – There are healthier foods that also taste good, we can change our bad habits, and we can’t afford not to.
  4. Exercise for the body, mind, and spirit – One hundred percent of people who exercise to the point of cardiorespiratory fitness will experience an increased sense of well-being.

Restoring Time Margin

  1. Expect the unexpected – To plan for the unexpected is not an invitation to sloppiness or mediocrity but instead a concession to reality.
  2. Learn to say “No” – Saying No is not just a good idea, it has now become a mathematical necessity.
  3. Get less done but do the right things – Busyness is not a synonym for kingdom work – it is only busyness.
  4. Prune the activity branches – Even though it is much harder to stop something than start it, periodically, get out the clippers and prune away.

Restoring Financial Margin

  1. Live within your harvest – Not only should you make do with what you have but accept what you have.
  2. Discipline desires and redefine needs – Clarify the distinction between needs and desires and be honest about it before God.
  3. Fast – The world does not stop nor the family fall apart when we unplug from the treadmill of consumerism for a period.
  4. Counter culture – Willingly and knowingly wrestle control from a culture wanting to tell us what we must buy and own.

Richard A. Swenson, Margin


Review the above four areas of margin needed in your life, and choose the one that you personally most need at this time.

Block off a two-hour minimum time where you will not be disturbed. Turn off your mobile phone and ask not to be disturbed.

On a chart tablet, list the margin area you chose at the top, and then divide the chart tablet into four quadrants. In each quadrant, list one of the four actions that accompany the margin area above.

Taking at least 20 minutes for each, list actions or thoughts that come to mind in each of the four areas. List everything that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t seem practical at first.

When you have completed all four quadrants, review the tablet and connect any similar actions with a line. Now, force rank at least three actions in each of the quadrants.

List the top three from each quadrant on a new chart tablet entitled, “My Prescriptions for Restoring Margin.” For each, write out a brief description and date as to when you will begin taking this action.

Repeat the above steps once per week until you have covered all four areas of margin in your life. Calendar time one month from the start your work in each of the four areas to revisit your progress, making changes as needed.

Bonus: Walk your leadership team through this exercise. The greatest gift you may give your staff is the ability to create margin.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 87-1, released February 2018.


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<<


What’s Your Organization’s Creation Story?

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and Younique, writes about the importance of leadership stories here. He believes that storytelling and understanding the nuances of story will help leaders in the daily ebb and flow of communication. The first, appropriately, is your organization’s creation story.

As a leader, you should know more about the creation story of your organization than anyone on the planet. What are the circumstances—passions, problems, and people—surrounding how the organization got started to begin with? 

Mastering the richness of the creation story will help in two major ways. First, it will hold insight into the unique culture of the organization and therefore future decision-making and vision. Second, your mastery of the story itself will bring tremendous credibility with people when initiating change.

With a passion of Disney history, I’m always grateful to visit Disney properties and immerse myself in the stories and culture of Walt Disney and the “kingdom” he began. During a recent multi-day visit to California, I had the opportunity to visit Disneyland several days, experiencing both the familiar and new perspectives.

Take this image, for example:


In talking with current Cast Members, Tour Guides, and former Imagineers, various stories were given as to the origin of Disneyland:

  1. It was Walt Disney’s fascination with trains, beginning as a boy, that led him to first create a scale model railroad in his backyard. Not satisfied, he begin to develop an ever-growing park that would include a railroad. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the first object you saw approaching the park was a train station, and a 5/8 scale railroad encircled the park.
  2. Saturday’s were “Daddy’s Day,” and Walt often took his daughters to play in nearby parks. While sitting on a bench in Griffith Park, Walt imagined what a park would look like that would allow both parents and children to be immersed in a story-rich, safe, clean park.
  3. Fascinated by miniatures, Walt began a hobby of crafting extremely detailed miniature items, building entire rooms filled with objects that were not only beautiful to look at, but fully functional. He envisioned a place to display these miniatures so that people from all over the country could enjoy them.
  4. By the late 1940’s-early 1950’s, Walt had grown tired of making animated pictures, and even his recent venture into live-action motion pictures left him dissatisfied. He imagined a place were people could actually be a part of a story, immersed in all the rich details that a “theme park” could provide.

What is the true origin of Disneyland?

I believe that all of the above contributed to the creation of Disneyland. And the common denominator of all of them?


> What about your organization?

ACTION STEP: Write a one-page, 2-minute creation story talk. If you have any gaps in your knowledge, interview people in your organization until you know more than anyone else.

How to Make Your Brand Contagious

Some church leaders consider “brand” to be a four-letter word more appropriate in the marketplace than for churches. The concept of branding has undergone changes in the last decade that demand church leaders not only accept them, but also lead forward through them.

Branding in today’s cultural context is less “this is what we can do for you” and more “this is who we are.” Here is the challenge: your brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what your “customers” say it is. (If you want to read more about this, download SUMS Remix 81).

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

What makes things popular? If you said advertising, think again. People don’t listen to advertisements; they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent the last decade answering these questions. He’s studied why New York Times articles make the paper’s own Most E-mailed list, why products get word of mouth, and how social influence shapes everything from the cars we buy, to the clothes we wear, to the names we give our children.

In Contagious, Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Discover how six basic principles drive all sorts of things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos. Learn how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through the lowly cheesesteak, why anti-drug commercials might have actually increased drug use, and why more than 200 million consumers shared a video about one of the most seemingly boring products there is: a blender.

Contagious provides a set of specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and content that people will share. Whether you’re a manager at a big company, a small business owner trying to boost awareness, a politician running for office, or a health official trying to get the word out, Contagious will show you how to make your product or idea catch on.


People love to be a part of stories, and to tell stories – the latest “news” on the neighborhood, a great new restaurant opening nearby, the awesome vacation they just returned from.

People also like to tell the darker side of stories – gossip, a terrible meal experience, or the lousy and expensive vacation they had.

Then there are the online stories: social proof, provided by peer-to-peer recommendations of products and services, is a powerful way to persuade your potential customers.

Take a look at these results about online reviews by BrightLocal, a social media agency:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important

Word of mouth – literally, in conversations face to face, or figuratively, in online conversations, is a primary factor behind many of the decisions we are making everyday.

How can your church tap into this important vehicle of conversation going on all around you? 

After analyzing hundreds of contagious messages, products, and ideas, we noticed that the same six “ingredients,” or principles, were often at work. Six key STEPPS, as I call them, that cause things to be talked about, shared, and imitated.

Principle 1: Social Currency

How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea? What we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency. So to get people talking we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions. We need to find our inner remarkability and make people feel like insiders.

Principle 2: Triggers

How do we remind people to talk about our ideas and products? Triggers are stimuli that prompt people to think about related things. People often talk about whatever comes to mind, so we need to design ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers to prevalent cues in that environment. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.

Principle 3: Emotion

When we care, we share. So how can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Emotional things often get shared. So rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings.

Principle 4: Public

Can people see when others are using our product or engaging in our desired behavior? Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular. So we need to make our ideas and products more public.

Principle 5: Practical Value

How can we craft content that seems useful? Given how people are inundated with information, we need to make our message stand out. We need to highlight the incredible value of what we offer, and package our knowledge and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.

Principle 6: Stories

What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in? People just don’t share information, they tell stories. We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can’t tell the story without it.

Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On


The six principles of contagiousness listed above contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and should be wrapped in Stories. Enhancing these components in messages, products, or ideas will make them more likely to spread and become popular.

While it is convenient to imagine the six steps as the acronym STEPPS, don’t think of them as a “recipe” that has to be followed precisely. Not all six ingredients are required to make an idea contagious. View them more like toppings for a salad: choose what works for you, fits your situation, and you will still have a good result.

Write the following on the top of six chart tablets, one principle per page, allowing plenty of space for notes.

Principle 1: Social Currency

How can we talk about our church in such a way that unchurched people desire to be connected?

Principle 2: Triggers

What community triggers have we created to raise our visibility? How can we share the gospel in ways that trigger engagement?

Principle 3: Emotion

What messages are we sending that connect people emotionally?

Principle 4: Public

How can people see when others are excited about what God is doing? How are we leveraging sharable media?

Principle 5: Practical Value

What gospel content have we created that is useful to people outside of the church?

Principle 6: Stories

What larger cultural context exists in our community? How are we communicating the gospel as the solution?

Set aside a two-hour brainstorming time with your leadership team, and work through each of the questions listed.

After working through all six questions, go back and highlight the top three ideas or actions the group agrees are most important.

Create a cross-functional work group, bringing in other leaders and church members as appropriate, to take the resulting 18 ideas and actions and create an action plan with timetables and responsibilities.

As each idea or action is completed, evaluate its effectiveness and adjust as needed.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 83-1, issued January 2018.


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<<



Share Your Vision by Leading Down the Inspiration Pathway

Never static, vision is always evolving. Like a sequence of smaller mountains that give view to larger mountains on reaching the summit, today’s new accomplishments give view to tomorrow’s possibilities.

Vision is a living language: a treasure chest of phrases, ideas, metaphors, and stories. The beauty of a treasure chest like this is that your whole team can put words and dreams into it, and the entire leadership can pick ideas and stories out of it.

What does your vision treasure chest contain? Does it need some more loot inside in order for you to articulate your vision in powerful and captivating ways?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Inspiration Code by Kristi Hedges

Great leaders inspire action with their words. They spark enthusiasm and commitment. With a single conversation, they can change the direction of someone’s life.

Everyone wants to be the kind of leader who energizes and mobilizes others yet too few are. Why is it so challenging to crack the code?

Executive coach Kristi Hedges spent years studying exactly what inspiring leaders do differently. Informed by quantitative research and thousands of responses from leaders at all levels, she reveals that inspiring communication isn’t about grand gestures. Instead, those who motivate us most do a few things routinely, consistently, and intentionally.

Eye opening and accessible, The Inspiration Code dispels common myths about how leaders communicate and guides them in cultivating qualities that authentically excite.

Inspired companies need inspirational leaders. Learn to unlock motivation, lift people’s’ sights, and lead them into the future.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Lead Down the Inspiration Pathway

A vision should never be designed to be read. What would have happened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech if he made it a PowerPoint presentation, or decided to just send out flyers?

People do not follow words – they follow you!

The vision cannot be separated from the vision caster, and the vision caster cannot separate his message from his life as a model.

Communicating your vision with clarity and inspiration can be accomplished, but you’ve got to move – you need to lead others down the inspiration pathway.

Inspiration Pathway conversations happen when we communicate in a way that is present, personal, passionate, and purposeful. These four factors greatly enhance our inspirational effect.

I call this model a “path” because it’s a passage with movement, both for the one inspiring and the one being inspired.

When we are inspiring, we are:

Present: We’re focused on the person in front of us, not distracted by the swirl of day, visibly stressed, or beholden to our agenda. We keep an open mind and let conversations flow. People who inspire us are both physically and mentally available to us. They focus on us. They give us the gift of time, and just as important, the gift of their attention.

Personal: We’re authentic and real, and listen generously. We notice what’s true about others and help them find their potential. Authenticity seems to fly in the face of the impassiveness we’ve been trained to adopt at work. But people look to you to see how much you care, and this shapes how much they will care.

Passionate: We infuse energy, and manage this as one of our greatest tools. We blend logic and emotion, and show conviction through our presence. People who are passionate enthusiasts for what they do create passion in others.

Purposeful: We are intentional. We are willing to serve as role models and engage in courageous discussions about purpose. A purpose that ignites us is personal. It’s less about a vision outside of us, and more about the vision we possess inside. Helping someone find that internal spark of purpose, or reignite it, is a transformational act.

Kristi Hedges, The Inspiration Code


In order to lead others down the inspiration pathway, you will need to prepare yourself first. Calendar your next visionary presentation; it could even be your message this Sunday! Set aside two-three hours in an off-site location, get comfortable, and work through the author’s four elements of inspiration by thinking through and implementing the following:


  • When we give another person our full attention versus our divided attention, the conversation changes. To be fully present to the conversation, eliminate distractions, use a reflective pause, get curious, and show receptive body language.
  • When we’re in a state of overwhelm, we’re not inspiring anyone. People’s natural instinct is to distance themselves from someone who seems frenetic. Challenge your current assumptions before jumping to try new strategies.
  • We can’t open someone else’s mind if ours is closed. When you cultivate an open mind, we create a learning space that allows others to expand their own thinking.


  • Though counterintuitive, showing authenticity is something we can work on. We’re adaptively authentic, where we learn new behaviors and integrate them into our own way of being.
  • Inspiring corporate visions are conversations about potential on a large scale. They tell the organization that it can achieve more because it’s capable of being more.
  • Deep, focused listening is a key inspirational skill, but it’s harder than it looks. Most people focus on hearing rather than on understanding. It takes effort, but you can become a better listener by understanding the listening environment.


  • Energy is a primary way that we convey passion. Energy is a tool we can harness and cultivate to great effect. To do so, first know what gives you energy about your message, sync that up with your audience, and display your passion verbally and nonverbally.
  • There is no passion without emotion, and any attempt to convey such comes across unconvincing or deceptive. Being strategic and authentic with our emotions in our communication helps us to inspire others.
  • To show conviction, focus on aligning your nonverbal behaviors with your words, and both with your intent. This helps your body and mind to work together to show up with clarity.


  • Having a purpose is linked to inspiration and intrinsic motivation. People are inspired by something, and when you engage others in purpose, you create the impetus.
  • To continually refresh your sense of purpose, inspire yourself by surrounding yourself with a personal board of advisors as role models, and by taking risks toward your purpose.
  • Courageous leadership requires clear choices, saying no to some opportunities to be able to say yes to others.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 85-2, released January 2018.


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<<


How to Communicate Your Vision: Create Stories that Reflect Experience

There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.

– Burt Nanus

The right vision for the future of an organization moves people to action, and because of their action, the organization evolves and makes process. Like a bicycle, an organization must continually move forward, or fall over. The role of vision in driving the organization forward is indispensable.

The vision’s power lies in its ability to grab the attention of those both inside and outside the organization and to focus that attention on a common dream – a sense of direction that both makes sense and provides direction.

To that end, your church’s vision cannot exist merely as words on a page or website, or in an impressive visual display in your church foyer.

Articulating your vision through consistent and powerful ideas is one of the toughest tasks of leadership.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, by Annette Simmons

Stories have tremendous power. They can persuade, promote empathy, and provoke action. Better than any other communication tool, stories explain who you are, what you want…and why it matters. In presentations, department meetings, over lunch any place you make a case for new customers, more business, or your next big idea you’ll have greater impact if you have a compelling story to relate.

Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins will teach you to narrate personal experiences as well as borrowed stories in a way that demonstrates authenticity, builds emotional connections, inspires perseverance, and stimulates the imagination. Fully updated and more practical than ever, the second edition reveals how to use storytelling to:

  • Capture attention
  • Motivate listeners
  • Gain trust
  • Strengthen your argument
  • Sway decisions
  • Demonstrate authenticity and encourage transparency
  • Spark innovation
  • Manage uncertainty

Complete with examples, a proven storytelling process and techniques, innovative applications, and a new appendix on teaching storytelling, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins hands you the tools you need to get your message across and connect successfully with any audience.


Organizations run on numbers, facts, forecasts, and processes. If that sounds dull and unengaging, it’s because those factors are not what really drive our passion and desire to excel, to lead, or to sink our hearts and souls into the work we do. Ultimately, the kind of transformative results that can come only from enriched, passionate people depend on a distinctly human element – storytelling.

The power of even a simple story to affirm someone’s connection to your organization’s people, values, and vision can mean the difference between simple competence and fully realized ownership. Your stories help people feel more engaged and alive.

Story can be defined as a reimagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.

You are already telling stories about who you are, why you are here, and what you envision, value, teach, and think about. The problem is, you haven’t realized how much your stories matter. To help us pay attention, let’s look at the six kinds of stories we tell that lead to influence, imagination, and innovation.

Who-I-Am Stories

What qualities earn you the right to influence a particular person? Tell of a time, place, or event that provides evidence you have these qualities.

Why-I-Am-Here Stories

When someone assumes you are there to sell an idea that will cost him or her money, time, or resources, it immediately discredits your “facts” as biased.

Teaching Stories

Certain lessons are best learned from experience, and some lessons are learned over and over again. It’s better to tell a story that creates a shared experience.

Vision Stories

A worthy, exciting future story reframes present difficulties as “worth it.”

Value-in-Action Stories

Values are subjective. Hypothetical situations sound hypocritical.

I-Know-What-You-Are Thinking Stories

People like to stay safe. It is a trust-building surprise for you to share their secret suspicions in a story that first validates then dispels these objections without sounding defenseless.

When you turn your attention to the six kinds of stories, you will be more intentional in creating the kind of perceptions that achieve goals rather than reinforce problems.

Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins


People are starving for meaningful stories, while we are surrounded by impersonal messages dressed in bells and whistles that are story-ish but are not effective. People want to feel a human presence in your messages, to taste a trace of humanity that proves there is a “you” as sender. Learning how to tell personal stories teaches you how to deliver the sense of humanity in the messages you send.

Schedule some time where you can be alone to complete the following exercise.

Imagine you are stranded alone on a desert island. You have six slips of paper, a pencil, and six bottles. If you could communicate one thing by using each of the six story types listed above that would inspire your church for the future, what would it be and how would you say it?

Write each of the six “messages” on a separate sheet of paper, then roll them up to create scrolls. Insert each message in a separate bottle.

At your next team meeting, read each message aloud, and discuss it as a group.

Ask each team member to repeat the process on his or her own over the next month.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 84-1, issued January 2018.


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<<

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!