Look Back and Learn: Investing in Wisdom Equity

In researching and working on some leadership development material for an ongoing writing project, I came across the following:

Christianity is a religion of change. Jesus’ call in Mark 1:15 (the kingdom of God is at hand) was a call to change – change of mind and heart, of conduct and character, of self and society. By its very nature Christianity is a religion for a changing world and has always had its greatest opportunity during times of upheaval.

The Christian leader has no option; he must face a changing world. If the leader is to render maximum service, he must both adjust himself to the phenomena of change and address himself passionately to the business of producing and guiding change. Here are some elements that constitute the changed world in which the Christian leader today is called to fulfill his ministry.

Changed world outlook

Changed economic philosophy

Changed social consciousness

Changed family life

Changed community conditions

Changed moral standards

Changed religious viewpoints

Changed conceptions of the church

Changed media for molding public opinion

Changed demands made upon the leader

Pretty good list, right? Dead on. Taken from today’s headlines.

Nope.

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The author was Gaines S. Dobbins, distinguished professor of Religious Education at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville KY.

Written in 1947.

As the introduction to the book “Building Better Churches: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry.”

Dr. Dobbins retired before I was born, but while in seminary in the early eighties I had the privilege of sitting under a couple of professors who were students of Dr. Dobbins and spoke of his great influence on their development and career. There is a chair named for him at SBTS, and of course I recognized his name and influence. When I came across this book in a used bookstore, I bought it on impulse. After flipping through it, I realized it was a treasure of leadership wisdom.

At Auxano, we talk about a concept called “vision equity.” It’s realizing that the history of a church is a rich resource for helping rediscover what kinds of vision language past generations have used. That language is very useful for anticipating and illustrating God’s better intermediate future.

As I read Dr. Dobbin’s book, I think there is also a concept called “wisdom equity.” It’s realizing that there have been some great leaders and deep thinkers over the past decades and centuries whose collective wisdom would be a great place to start as we struggle with the new realities that face us every day.

It’s why I love history – I see it not as an anchor that holds us to the past, but as a foundation to build a bridge to the future.

History is not just books and information stored about the past. It can also be found in living beings – those around us, family and friends, who have lived through events and learned lessons my generation – and the ones following me – need so desperately to learn.

Go ahead – look back and learn.

Remembering My Father, Celebrating Book Lover’s Day

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

It’s also Book Lover’s Day.

Those two seemingly incongruent circumstances actually have a powerful connection for me.

After suffering a major stroke on February 10, 2012, my father passed away on February 25. By the time I was able to get back to Tennessee to see him, he had lost motor functions and speech capacity. Over the few days I was there, the slow but steady decline continued.

I had last seen him during the Christmas holidays. While there, I spent some time alone at home with him. After suffering a series of strokes over the past several years, he could no longer read – but the legacy of his reading lines the bookshelves all over my boyhood home. In the quiet hours when everyone was asleep, I scanned the shelves and remembered hearing him talk about this book or that one. I pulled a few off the shelf, and opening them, was instantly transported back in time to a conversation about the subject, or to memories of the event itself.

I’ve been a reader of books since, well, before I can remember. My father was an avid reader, and he passed that passion along to me at an early age. Even though he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, he often spent several hours reading at night. He insisted my mother take my brother and me to the library in the next town and check out books – every two weeks. I would get the maximum number of books, take them home, and read them – usually in the first day or two. Then it would be an impatient wait till the next library trip.

Reading is a passion I treasure, and one that I am thankful my father instilled in me.

Sunday 8/9 will be Book Lover’s Day – not an official holiday but one I eagerly celebrate. Book reading is a great hobby. It’s an important one, too. Employers look for it on resumes. Reading is educational, informative, and relaxing. It makes us both smarter and happier people.

Book Lovers Day is a great day to celebrate. Just grab an interesting book, find a quiet, cozy place, and crack open the cover. Celebrating Book Lovers Day in August is pleasurable on the deck, under a shady tree, poolside, or in a cozy hammock. If you fall asleep while reading, that’s okay. It’s all part of the relaxing benefits of being a book lover.

I’m also celebrating this Book Lover’s Day as a part of my vocation – Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader at Auxano. My role requires me to read – a lot – and then write book excerpts, Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs about what I’m reading. During a recent conversation with a teammate, I was able to pull a half-dozen book titles off the top of my head when asked for recommendations on books about a specific topic that helped him work with a client. That’s part of the benefit of reading!

I love my job!

Here’s an example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

With an issue published every two weeks, a two-week production cycle, and a two-week preparation phase, at any given time I’m working on at least 4 SUMS Remix issues, which means there are 12 books on my front burner.

And that’s just for SUMS Remix reading…

Then there’s current reading for Auxano social media (Tweets, Instagram, and Facebook posts), preparation for Guest Experience development and consultations, other writing projects, and believe it or not, reading just for the pleasure of reading – a nightly occurrence. Currently a few topics I’m reading in include restaurants, food, and related areas; the psychology behind our bias; the development of U.S. culture from the 1600s through today; and of course, there’s always some Disney history in the mix!

So, on Book Lover’s Day, and in memory of my father, I’m trying to emulate Thomas Edison, who believed that voracious reading was the key to self-improvement. He read books on a remarkable range of subjects to address his endless queries. As Edison noted, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”


If you want to know more about my dad, here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral. After the funeral, while my sons and I were moving some things around his gas station, I discovered one reason I am so passionate about guest experiences. And read this post to find out why readers are leaders.

How are you celebrating Book Lover’s Day?

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 – from the characters 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


 

Need book ideas? How about trying SUMS Remix?

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. Published since 2012, we have looked at over 480 books for solutions to common problems leaders face every day.

Each Wednesday on 27gen I typically take a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publish an excerpt.

>>Purchase an annual subscription to SUMS Remix here for only $48<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

 

The Power of Brand Perception

Your BRAND is the perception of your organization that lives in the minds of your audiences.

Every interaction your audience has with your church or organization forms thoughts, feelings, and perceptions in their minds. In this understanding of a BRAND, everything speaks—business cards, website, words and posture, interaction with volunteers and staff. All of these things contribute to your audience’s perception of you.

With a strong brand, you communicate effectively and consistently across all communication channels.

The branding process is one way to fully leverage the hard work of getting clear about your vision, seeing it come to life in all of your communication.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Branding Faith by Phil Cooke

Have you hit a wall with your church, ministry or non-profit organization? In spite of a genuine calling, an exceptional team and solid investment in the vision, have you noticed that the spark never catches fire? Media and marketing expert Phil Cooke wants every ministry to ask, “Who are we?”

By identifying what makes your organization different from the thousands clamoring for attention, you can get your message heard. Cooke has consulted with many of the most recognized churches and non-profits in the world, and in Branding Faith: Why Some Ministries Impact Culture and Others Don’t, he shares his road-tested strategies for using media and marketing to make your mark on people’s minds and hearts. Whatever the size of your organization, his helpful hints and insider know-how will give you the tools to set your ministry’s strategies ablaze.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – The Power of Brand Perception

The brand is what people think about your church. Your brand is what people think about your church, the expectation, the idea, they have. It’s not what you have. It’s what they have.

Branding, at its heart, is about making an emotional connection. If it’s what people think, we want to make that emotional connection there. People fall in love with brands. They trust them.

Brand is how people feel about us. There’s that emotional connection that’s built there.

Auxano Navigator Bryan Rose shares two two ways to think about your brand: “There are actually two brands, the big “B” brand, and the small “b” brand. Let’s define the two. The big “B” brand represents the impression that your church leaves in someone’s mind as a result of a total experience with the ministry. Brand is every interaction that occurs on behalf of the church. Person to person, environments, culture, the worship experience, social media presence, the posts, and their responses.”

All of those things come together as the big “B” brand. So, your church’s brand, the big “B” brand, lives in someone’s mind, lives in the people’s mind, and it’s a result of all these experiences. 

The key to effective branding is that a successful brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what they say it is.

Telling an effective story about your church, ministry, project, or even yourself begins with understanding the power of perception. In a media-driven culture, perception can be even more important than reality because, with the advent of technology, word travels fast.

Whether it’s a simple email message that is continually forwarded exponentially to everyone in your address book, a viral video that’s distributed through the Web, or the convenience of cell phones, in the digital age, it’s tough to keep a lid on bad news.

The influence of the mass media in our culture is changing everything, and “perception” is the language spoken by modern media. In a world when sound bites heavily influence the political process, the unique characteristics of mass media now affect every aspect of our lives.

It’s not about facts; it’s about perception.

In today’s media-saturated culture, who you are becomes less important that how you’re perceived. When researchers study the process of communication, they realize that the message being sent is not always the message being received. For a variety of reasons, few communicated messages actually arrive with the same intentions, information, and impact.

The art of perception can be also be used to promote positive projects, people, values, or ideas. In spite of its abuse, the power of perception can be utilized for good if we know how to activate it in our lives. The way to do that is to consider your audience before crafting your message.

Phil Cooke, Branding Faith

A NEXT STEP

Because it’s not the message you send, it’s the message that’s received that counts.

As author Phil Cooke states, “It doesn’t matter how brilliant your sermons are; if your attention is misunderstood by the listener, then you’ve failed to communicate.”

He recommends that leaders start at the receiving end first to make sure your message has the best chance of being received properly.

In other words, don’t begin with your message; begin with your audience.

In advance of your next speaking opportunity, consider using questions like the following to help understand your audience:

  • Who is my audience? You have to think like an audience member – what would they want to receive from a speaker?
  • What are their stakes? Do you know why they are present? Chances are the outcome that they are looking for is not connected to your goals.
  • How can you repackage your presentation? Without changing your core message, what can you revise in order to align with your audience’s needs?
  • How can you redefine the expectations of your audience to meet yours?
  • What language and visual style is your audience expecting?
  • Why is your core message interesting for your audience?
  • What is the best medium for your core message to come through? Are you better off talking without visual aids, or are they appropriate?
  • What “gifts” can you give to impact your audience? Your presentation happens, and then? A strong core message may be remembered, but wouldn’t it be better if your audience changed their behavior by integrating some of the knowledge and ideas from your presentation in their daily lives?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 109-1, released January 2019.


 

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<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

The Secret to My Deliberate Practice of Reading

Part Three of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


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

Regular reading of both books and magazines remains a part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for writing and publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders.

SUMS Remix is beginning its eighth year – the first two years contained a single book in each issue; the last five years include three books in each issue. If I’ve done my math correctly, that’s 453 books covered in 186 issues since the fall of 2012.

I do like to read!

I’ve recently referenced the “Four Levels of Reading” from a book by Mortimer J. Adler, and how critical they are to my deliberate practice of reading. To help understand, I’m going to illustrate some of the books I’ve read during 2019 by those four levels.

In the process, to close out this “reading week,” I’m taking you back to the very first SUMS book summary…

… because there’s no better place to start than “How to Read a Book.”


You have a mind. Now let us suppose that you also have a book that you want to read. The book consists of language written by someone for the sake of communicating. Your success in reading it is determined by the extent to which you receive everything the writer intended to communicate. – Mortimer J. Adler

 

sums-1-howtoreadabookMortimer J. Adler was an American author, educator, and philosopher who championed the repopularization of the Great Books and Great Ideas curriculum of study. A prolific scholar, he was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s very fitting then, that one of his best-known works is How to Read a Book.

The art of reading is the process whereby a mind, with nothing to operate on but the symbols of the readable matter, and with no help from the outside, elevates itself by the power of its own operations.

 

The Levels of Reading

There are four levels of reading – so called because they are cumulative in that each level includes all the others, and you can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before. They four levels are:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

1 – Elementary Reading – What does the book say?

In mastering this level, one learns the rudiments of the art of reading, receives basic training in reading, and acquires reading skills. Our first encounter at reading is at this level; sadly, many people never progress beyond this level.

At this level of reading, the question asked of the reader is “What does the sentence say?” While that could be conceived as a complex question, in this setting take it at its simplest sense.

The attainment of the skills of elementary reading occurred some time ago for almost everyone reading this summary. Nevertheless, we continue to experience the problems of this level of reading, no matter how capable we may be as readers.

Many readers continue to have various kinds of difficulties reading at this level. Most of the difficulties are mechanical, and can be traced back to early instruction in reading. Overcoming these difficulties usually allows us to read faster.

There are four basic stages of Elementary Reading:

  1. Reading readiness’ (early physical development)
  2. Simple reading (small vocabulary; simple skills)
  3. Expanded reading (large vocabulary; diverse subjects; enjoyment)
  4. Refined reading (understand concepts; compare different views)

Almost all of the books I get on a weekly basis from my local library are Elementary Reading. Sometimes, they intrigue me enough that I will acquire my own copy for deeper reading, but for the most part, just the pure pleasure of reading is enough.

2 – Inspectional Reading – What is the book about?

The focus of reading at this level is to get the most out of a book with in a given amount of time. When reading at this level, your aim is to examine the surface of the book, to learn everything that the surface alone can teach you – which is often a good deal.

Techniques for Inspectional Reading of a book include:

  1. Systematic skimming or pre-reading
  2. Look at the title page and preface: try to pigeonhole type of book
  3. Study table of contents: look for structure/road map for trip
  4. Check index: estimate range of terms and topics; look up some passages that seem crucial
  5. Check the dust jacket: read the publisher’s blurb
  6. Look for chapters which seem most pivotal: read opening and/or
 closing passages/pages carefully
  7. Thumb through entire book, reading a few paragraphs and/or pages
 here and there, esp. at the end, looking for the main argument(s)

Some books, whether from the library, or perusing the shelves at a bookstore, by prior experience with the author, or from a recommendation from a friend, require deeper reading – if even for only a short while.

 

3 – Analytical Reading – What does the book mean?

The third level of reading, analytical reading, is both a more complex and a more systematic activity than either of the previous two levels of reading. Analytical reading is thorough reading, complete reading, or good reading – the best you can do. The analytical reader must ask many organized questions of what he is reading.

Analytical reading is hardly ever necessary if your goal in reading is simply information or entertainment. Analytical reading is preeminently for the sake of understanding. Moving your mind from a condition of understanding less to a condition of understanding more with the aid of a book is almost impossible unless you have at least some skill in analytical reading.

Techniques for Analytical Reading include:

  1. Underlining key sentences
  2. Vertical lines to mark key sections
  3. Marginal doodads like asterisks and stars
  4. Numbers of other pages in the margin
  5. Circling key words or phrases
  6. Writing in margins, or top and bottom
  7. Structural notes – about the content of the subject
  8. Conceptual notes – about the truth and significance
  9. Dialectical notes – about the shape of the argument in the larger discussion of other people’s ideas

Many of my books are specifically acquired with the purpose of having a conversation with the author – through the process outlined above. These are for specific projects, deeper levels of interest, or candidates for the fourth level of reading. Here is part of my bookshelves in a large area of analytical reading – customer experience, to be “translated” into the area of Guest Experiences.

4 – Syntopical Reading – How does this book compare with other books?

The fourth and highest level of reading is the most complex and systematic type of reading. It makes very heavy demands on the reader, even if the materials themselves are relatively easy and unsophisticated.

Another name for this level of reading may be called comparative reading. The reader is reading many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Mere comparison of texts is not enough: syntopical reading involves more. With the help of the books being read, the syntopical reader is able to construct an analysis of the subject that may not be in any of the books. Syntopical reading is the most active and effortful kind of reading.

Techniques in Syntopical Reading include:

  1. Find the relevant passages
  2. Establish a common terminology
  3. Clarify the questions
  4. Define the issues
  5. Analyze the discussion and look for the truth

The final level of reading, Syntopical Reading, I break down into two categories. The first is best illustrated by SUMS Remix. After developing a problem statement, I research and read books that will provide a solution to that problem. I am searching for the “best” three for each issue – “best” being defined in some combination of recent publication, unique solutions, or something that is worth considering but comes from left field. The timeframe for this type of syntopical reading is very compressed. With a biweekly publication schedule, the research, reading, first drafts, reviews, initial design, final design, and shipping mean that at any given time, twelve books are in the pipeline for inclusion in a SUMS Remix.

The other category of Syntopical Reading I use is for longer-term projects, in which I am continually researching for both current application and future use. An example is shown below: First Place Hospitality. Other examples I could use would be a specific part of Guest Experiences, like the Journey Map; or, maybe ongoing research into the life of Walt Disney, viewed from early accounts from the 1930s-40s, as well as more recent efforts.

That’s it – the Four Levels of Reading illustrated above are the secret to my deliberate practice of reading.

Reading and the Growth of the Mind

Active reading is the asking of questions and looking for answers. Good books stretch our minds, improve our reading
 skills, and teach us about the world and ourselves. Good books make demands on us.

But there is a world beyond good books – that of great books. Good books need have no more than one meaning and one reading
. Great books, on the other hand, have many meanings and need to be read over and over again.

The test of a great book:

  1. If you were marooned on a desert island, which ten books would you select?
  2. Does the book seem to grow with you?
  3. Do you see new things every time
 you re-read it?
  4. Is the book is able to lift you over and over again?

Seek out the few books that have these values for you.

Reading well, which means reading actively, is not only good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. Reading keeps our minds alive and growing. – Mortimer J. Adler

 


 

> Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

> Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 


 

Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix from the past year and publishing an excerpt.

If you like those, you will probably be interested in current and/or past issues.

>> Purchase a current subscription to SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

You Can’t Read All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning

Part One of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020


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 excerpt in which I develop a solution to a common problem faced by church leaders from 3 different books. So, preparing SUMS Remix in 2019 alone means I have gone through over 100 leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 76 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 405 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 2019 I will have added 268 books to my library, and brought home another 110 books from the library. 

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 378 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 dozens of that total in which I only read the “highlights,” following the methods below.

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 2019 was 213 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.

I talked about that in a recent podcast with Bryan Rose. You can listen here.

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 2020, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting one of my favorite bookstores later this week, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery by the end of this 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!

 

Part Two of my “Reading Week” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020

 

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 400 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!

 

 

How To Experience a Bookstore With All Your Senses

Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. – Plato

For me, reading is not an occupational afterthought, but a vocational necessity.

As Vision Room Curator for Auxano, books are a daily reference point in my work life. The primary use is for our book summaries. I am currently in our sixth year of releasing a book summary every two weeks. The first two years focused on a single book each issue, called SUMS.

For the last four years, SUMS Remix has been focused on a single problem statement, with three solutions from three different books, along with a practical Go Ahead action for each, designed for church leaders to put into immediate action.

With a four-week production cycle from initial research to shipping the finished issue, I am typically engaged in six to twelve books for SUMS Remix at any given time.

But there’s more…

As Digital Engagement Leader for Auxano, I am responsible for providing content for multiple accounts across three social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. On an average day I will post about 25 different items, many connected to current books I am reading, focused on vision clarity and leadership.

In my role as Guest Experience Navigator, I am constantly searching for resources to help churches provide exceptional Guest Experiences. One of my primary resources is the world of customer experience in the corporate world, easily adaptable to use for Guest Experience resources. From those sources, I maintain the Essential Guest Experience Library.

Finally, believe it or not, I read for pleasure. Most nights I will read several hours on topics ranging from Disney to all kinds of history to how things work to science fiction to biographies to thrillers – and more.

As I have written before, my passion for reading was instilled in me by my father, who modeled it for me from an early age. He was self-employed as an owner-operator of a Gulf gas station. Working 12 hours a day for six days a week, he often spent a couple of hours each evening looking through a book about WW II history or travels across the U.S.

So where do all these books come from?

Amazon and I are on a first name basis, and have been since 1998, with my first book order being The Power of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. Things have accelerated a bit since then, with my patient and ever-smiling mail carrier now delivering 2-3 packages per week.

I maintain a huge wish list on Amazon, and family and friends looking for gift ideas soon roll their eyes at the choices they have!

Because I read and write so much about books, I’m fortunate to receive many complimentary books from authors before their publication.

As an Amazon Associate, I benefit from purchases from my two websites. All the funds received are turned right around and used to purchase more books.

Then there’s the weekly trip to my local library, picking up a couple or more books that are new releases.

While all these are great sources, what I really love to do is browse used bookstores.

Within a short drive from my house, I have two Goodwill stores and a Habitat Restore, all having a good selection to browse through. In the greater Charlotte area there are several more that I try to visit every couple of months or so.

That takes care of local bookstores, but what about others around the country?

Give me an hour to kill and I will most likely head to a bookstore. When I’m in another city for work or pleasure, the first thing I search for is used bookstores (the second is the local’s favorite doughnut shop).

So it was not at all unusual for me to schedule a couple of hours to visit bookstores while in Detroit recently.

On the recommendation of a friend who lives there, Greg Gibbs, I left early for the airport, and headed through downtown Detroit with an address and a sense of anticipation.

Greg had just told me the minimum – a legendary used bookstore that had been around since the mid-60s with “a lot of books” (I should have known he was up to something by the grin on his face).

What I found was a bibliophile’s dream.

John K. King Used and Rare Books occupies an old factory building. Since 1965, it has been built upon in-person service. The books are not on a database or listed online; if you are looking for something in particular, you need only inquire.

Unpretentious and plain on the outside, it houses a treasure inside:

  • Four floors in an old factory in downtown Detroit
  • Over 1,000,000 books
  • Every imaginable subject
  • No computerized inventory
  • No air conditioning
  • Hand drawn maps, matching hand-lettered signs on every floor, every aisle, and every section
  • Super-knowledgeable staff who could answer my questions without a blink

Nirvana.

John King’s Bookstore is best experienced with all senses: upon entering you first encounter the smell of old books. Some people are bothered by it, but I find it absolutely mesmerizing.

The creak of old wood floors conveys its own feelings: whether five years or fifty years old, the books speak to a source of knowledge all-too-often unappreciated today.

Walking up the stairs to the first level and turning the corner, your eyes take in rows upon rows of books, crammed into shelves, from floor to just within reach of an outstretched arm.

Taking the offered hand-drawn map of all four floors, you can start anywhere your dreams take you. There is at least one staff member on each floor, and a telephone that goes to the front desk as well.

For me, it was the art section, followed by the film and theater shelves. A few finds: a December 1940 Atlantic Monthly magazine with a feature article on Walt Disney that I had seen referenced in several WD biographies; a beautifully illustrated 1940 promotional magazine for the release of Fantasia; several other hard-to-find Disney books.

I was only able to spend a couple of hours there, but I did speed walk all four floors and every aisle, pausing at length at more than a few.

All too soon I had to leave for the airport. As I paid for my purchases and headed out the door, I was grateful to thank John King for his perseverance, passion, and pure joy in the written word.

Somewhere nearby, you probably have a used bookstore. It won’t be anything like John King’s, but in some ways, it will be just like it.

What are you going to read today?

 

How to Invest in Your Future

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 2017 alone means I have gone through dozens of leadership and organization development books to arrive at the 78 used in producing 26 issues this year.

Other parts of my role required 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 161 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 in 2017 I have “read” 186 books. 

First, a disclaimer: I did not read all 186 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.

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 2017 was 117 books.

 

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 2018, and sharing its wisdom with others?

Me? Well, I’m visiting a new bookstore tomorrow, I’ve got three books lined up for delivery by Amazon the first week of January, and I’m headed to the library to pick up another couple on reserve.

How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.

 

Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler

leaderslibrary

Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:

hatchbooknotes

I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?