Monday, December 27, 2010

Compelling video & statistics

If you have any interest in world statistics regarding average life span & average income watch this 4 minute video by the BBC regarding both. It covers the hows & whys of the past 200 years.

Additionally, the video is highly compelling because of the video graphics & technology used. If for no other reason than just the use of technology check out this video.

These 4 minutes are both enjoyable & easy to understand.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Compelling interviews with influential people

Over the past 2 days i have had the fortunate opportunity to do a lot of reading -- some of it random and some of it purposeful. Because i am visiting family out of town i happened upon a magazine i would not have otherwise picked up. It was a Newsweek special edition titled "The Interview Issue" dated December 27, 2010/January 3, 2011.

I highly recommend picking up a copy or perusing it online. You can hear from the standard popular interviewees like Bill Gates & Richard Branson, or learn something from other interesting figures you don't regularly hear from like Jane Lynch (Glee), Will.I.Am, or the the Coen Brothers. And just as compelling are interviews with people making a difference in the world from around the world or even a few that you may not expect to hear from like the guy in the Old Spice ads or the "other" guy from Facebook.

Regardless you will be entertained & enlightened. Its worth your time & you won't regret it.

Top 10 Posts from the Harvard Business Review

Recently the Harvard Business Review published their top 10 posts from this year. If you are interested in expanding your knowledge in a wide variety of topics take a peak at this list. It is very informative and enlightening.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Finding answers on the Internet...besides Google

If you are anything like me when you need to "search" for something on the Internet you just default to Google. In fact, it has become the only tool that i use.

I am happy to report that today i came across this article at and it provided 10 new options to use and a variety of reasons why to choose them. I am actually looking forward to trying some of these new options.

I have nothing against Google, i just think there are more effecient ways to retrieve info via the internet...especially when a question or need is very specific. A few of these options actually gather feedback from specific groups of people that would have first-hand experience & input with the answer you are seeking.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brainstorming about brainstorming...

This article points out some good tips on having the most effective meetings in order to generate ideas. Good insights and practical info.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How color affects our purchases...

I just came across this very compelling piece by KISSmetrics regarding color and its affect on consumer buying habits. This article also discusses how website design & language can impact a person's decision to buy or walk away.

It is very profound whether you are the consumer or the seller/marketer. Its always advantageous to know what influences you and what others think influences you...especially when it comes to spending & buying.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Brain Food...

Here is a profound article from the99% on the power of listening titled "Why Leaders Should Take a Break from Talking." It is truly a great reminder for anyone hoping to be an effecient & effective leader or manager or human. I hope i can live up to this challenge.

Brain Food...

Here is an insightful article by the Drucker exchange challenging people to decide if they are truly "burnt out" or just "bored." Good stuff.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cardinal Run Park...

Today, the family and i decided to continue to capitalize on the amazing Fall weather we've been having here in Lexington. So we picked a park we had not been to in a long time -- and we were well rewarded.

Cardinal Run Park is located off of Parker's Mill Rd making it a bit out of the way from the normal Lexington traffic which is both good and bad. Good because the crowds are small - making it very peaceful and leaving the trails wide open for all 4 of us. Bad in that it does not get the respect and visitors that it deserves.

If you are looking for a new outdoor location to explore I highly recommend checking out the trails here. They are tree-lined and well paved. And for this time of year the fall foilage makes it extremely picture-esque.

(Unfortunately i left my phone in the car and got no photos -- the best that i could do is this rendering of the park layout)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A New Discovery...the other Gatlinburg

This past weekend my family decided to take our Fall Break trip to the Gatlinburg Area. This is certainly not uncommon to us and i have enjoyed this area of Tennessee in the Fall of the year for most of my 35 years.

However, i am sad to admit that for the first time in a long time i truly took advantage of the "outdoors" side of this area. Usually i/we fall prey to the usual tourist traps of shops, restaurants, entertainment centers etc. There have been trips in the past where we would make the trip to Clingman's Dome or a pleasant drive through Cades Cove, but never one where we did a little homework and pushed ourselves to explore off the easy/popular outdoor trips.
This time we did so and we were so truly grateful for the experiences we had. My wife Emily found a great/simple website that offers both short hikes & day hikes. It even includes a map of the area with all of the trails listed (this was very helpful).
The specific area we chose to explore was the Roaring Fork Motor Trail (go to stoplight #8 in Gatlinburg and turn left). From there we first chose the Rainbow Falls trail & it was incredibly rewarding. Most of the hike leads uphill along the creek flowing through the rocks and the ferns. This trail was very picturesque and i can only imagine it has been captured and used as screen savers or nature calendars.
For lunch we did a picnic along the creek after the first hike and then headed on to the our next hike to Grotto Falls. This trail was not near as picturesque but still very rewarding as the hike leads to a waterfall where one can actually walk behind the falls. Very cool.
All this to say...the next time you visit the Gatlinburg Area (and you know there will be a next time) i challenge you to avoid the easy tourist traps and go off road. This area has such an excellent variety of outdoor recreation and trails that it should be known for but unfortunately all the other "stuff" often gets in the way.

So when you visit...take the road less traveled and create a better story. Get outdoors in Gatlinburg, TN.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lift a Rock Find a...

Of all the books i have the privilege and pleasure of reading to my children one of my favorites is "Lift a Rock...". One of the reasons is that it is a "lift the flap book" which both of my kids absolutely adore. Its always exciting to them to lift the flap and see what's underneath -- regardless if they have already read that particular book many times before. There is something about the discovery that is appealing to them even if the surprise is gone.

There is something about discovery that is appealing to me too. And like my kids it can be both a first time experience or just a re-discovery of something fantastic from the past. And in regards to that discovery i love to share that new found information/treasure with others. I am what Malcolm Gladwell calls a "maven" in his excellent book "Tipping Point." (this is a must read in my humble opinion)

So, with that said, i am now shoving off in a new and more consistent direction with my blog. I will be posting from time to time about a "new" discovery i have made and will use this space to share it with anyone that cares to read about it.

With that said: "Lift a rock and find...Ben Rector." Four times a year i receive a package in the mail from a company that sends me a sampling of new books & cd's to try out. Often the CD's are mix of little to no interest for me. In fact i often pass them on to others without even trying them out. This one time in particular i passed off Ben Rector's CD "Into the Morning" to my wife unopened.
The next time i was in her car i heard this very compelling music coming from the CD player. When i inquired about who it was the answer came: "Ben Rector...its one of those CD's you gave me." I immediately wanted the CD back for myself. If you are looking for some new fresh music you need to give this guy a try. Seriously, he is money. Check him out for yourself. You will be glad you did. I would attempt to describe his "sound" somehow but it would not do it justice and would only lead you to compare him to someone else in your mind. Ben Rector stands alone.

After you give it a listen...let me know what you think.
*Check out "Into the Morning" & try "Loving You Is Easy"/ "The Beat"/ "When a Heart Breaks"*
**I did not get paid for this advertisement but i would happily take any money sent my way.**

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Awareness Test...

First, watch this video. Just follow the directions from the narrarator.

So, did you see the "moonwalking bear" the first time. I was clueless -- i did not see it and could not believe i had missed it. And that is the point of the video. We see what we are looking for...or another way to say it is that we see what we want to see.

Which brings me to the question: What are you looking for? Who are you looking for?
Do you only have eyes for the things you want to see or are you aware of all that is around you?

What about the things that desperately need to be seen but are missed not just by you but by many others. And instead of "things" insert "people." Are there people out "there" that need someone to notice them because they are hurting?

Now when i go back and watch the "Moonwalking Bear" video i can't NOT see the bear. It is impossible. So, if you start looking for these people & things -- you will start to see them. There is no way that you won't see them.

Make yourself aware. Make yourself mindful.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quotes 'R Us...

You fill in the blank

If you are ever in need of a good quote this website that my wife, Emily, found and tipped me off to will help -- World of Inspiration. It is very simple and very easy to use. You just go there and then select a subject you are interested in on the right side. The site then pulls up many quotes along that topic.

I'm big on quotes so this site is something i like to use frequently. Plus, when you are looking for just the right thing to say -- why not enlist the help of someone that has probably already said it. Enjoy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Awesome things...

Recently my wife Emily stumbled upon this website titled "1000 Awesome Things" based on the book called "The Book of Awesome." I am happy to recommend & endorse this site/book because of their efforts to impact culture in a positive way. The content can be kind of cliche and similar to a lot of "list" type things out there -- but you know what it brings me joy. And because of that i enjoy hitting the website from time to time just to be reminded of "awesome" stuff.

Its always a good thing to be reminded of things that bring us joy. I mean who doesn't want a pick-me-up when you need it. Check it out -- you'll be glad you did and better off for it too.
I give this website & book my...

Monday, May 31, 2010

LOST finale: Eastern vs Western mindset

Disclaimer: This post will not be about the details of the show but more about why i think people mostly disliked it in the end. You do not need to know a single character or plot line to read on.

Even if you can't stand the show LOST you could not avoid hearing about how it ended. I am one that enjoyed the show (however i did have some moments of almost letting go) and in fact enjoyed the finale as well. From what i heard around the water-cooler and read in other places i am in the very small minority.

Reasons that i heard routinely for viewer's dislike of the ending was that too many loose ends were never tied up. Too many plot lines and "issues" were never solved. The writers took the easy way out to the end. And the list could go on...but mainly the dislike coming from loyal fanatics of the show for 6 years was that it left too many questions unanswered or that the few answers given were cop-outs (taking the easy way to resolve the end).

This line of thinking and cause of frustration is a Western mindset. Give me the facts dang it! Answer all the questions! Make the plot lines make sense! Wrap this thing up in a nice tight package so i can rest easy!

The show was difficult to follow. It was so called "intelligent" TV. It made you think and ask questions. And that was a major reason that i liked it. This show impacted our culture in ways that few television shows have ever done. It caused viewers to actually pay attention in commercials, scour the internet for clues, and dig through pages & pages of blogs, chat rooms, & devoted websites to research other fans theories and ideas about what was actually happening on the show.

All of this commotion, promotion & marketing of the show played right into the hands of the Western mindset. Raise questions -- then find answers. We were taught from the very beginning of our time in school to use the scientific method to find answers to our questions. And this show pushed viewers to do just the same (again, like no other show before it).

This "bait" was dangled in front of the viewer's noses for almost 6 full years. And it worked. The "bait" created a buzz so big that no less than 2 other shows in a similar genre were launched while LOST was still being aired. The "bait" was so effective that for a few seasons a rerun of the previous episode was aired an hour before the new episode in a "pop-up video" kind of way.

The problem is that in the end (the finale -- which lasted 2.5 hours with an additional 2 hour recap on before it -- again think of any other show that had this type of air-time devoted to it) the bait was yanked away. Many questions were left unanswered. Many plot lines were not even revisited. The scientific method proved useless on solving the show.

How dare the writers do this?! After all those hours spent wringing hands, searching for clues, computing data, and theorizing for answers. This is all we get? Western mindset an Eastern solution.

We don't have to have all the answers/solutions. In fact, what if we answer questions by raising more questions. What if the end is more about the bigger story...the bigger narrative being played out? What if the show was really all about the characters and their development? What if the purpose and meaning of the show was to demonstrate the cause & effect relationship of each person's decisions and how it impacted their life?

I LOVED the ending of the LOST. There is no way that the writers could answer all the questions and close all the gaps that were brought up in the last 6 years. And i believe the writers never had any intention of doing so from the beginning. The purpose of LOST was about character development & the story of the people.

We can learn a lot from this ending. Let go of the scientific method from time to time. Embrace character development. Embrace the bigger story at play. Embrace your story and where you are in it. Engage in how the decision you make will impact your life and the life of those around you.

In the end LOST was not lost. In fact the characters were found. If by no one else, they at least discovered themselves. And to me that is the most important part of the show.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More "why" than "what"...

Recently i have been posting entries regarding "Meaningful Distinction." See the first entry where i explain what it is and why it is relevant with examples from our culture. You can see the second if you just want another very popular example from our culture.

Well yesterday a good friend & co-worker, Derrick Purvis, posted a video on his blog from the TED talk series. As i watched that talk i realized that it was directly dealing with & discussing "meaningful distinction." In fact i would say this guy was giving the "biology" behind how to create it.

Moreover, i just started a section on the sidebar of my blog called "Slice of Culture" where i will frequently be posting something in that section that gives good insight into today's culture. It just so happens my first post was about the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks: Ideas Worth Spreading. So it appears Derrick posted a video that was perfect for 2 things i have recently been spending a lot of time on.

Be sure and check out this video. It is very compelling & well worth your time whether you care about "meaningful distinction" or my interest in the TED talk series. It is a video that has relevance to your life no matter what you do (in my humble opinion).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meaningful Distinction -- Part 2 "Chick-Fil-A

(Seriously - who doesn't love Chick-Fil-A?!)
Recently, i made a post regarding "Meaningful Distinction" -- what it is and its relevance to us. After writing that piece i really began to see things that just jumped out at me as great examples of "Meaningful Distinction" in our culture.

Chick-fil-a is one of those. When it comes to so-called "fast food" chains Chick-fil-a has definitely created separation from the other main chains. In fact, i dont even think of CFA as a typical fast food restaurant. Yes they are fast and convenient but they are certainly a step above the others. CFA has created a meaningful distinction between themselves and their competition.

If you have eaten at CFA i want you to pause for a moment and think about how your experience there is different from other "typical" fast food joints. Think about how the restaurant looks inside - how it operates - how the employees act - how you are treated - how the food tastes & looks - etc.

Some things you might have thought of:
How it looks -- the restaurant is always clean...from the restrooms to the top of the garbage cans to the floors to the tables to the condiment stations. It is always bright and sterile looking (white is an overwhelming choice of color). There are fresh flowers on the tables in some stores.

How it operates -- effecient is the keyword here. The lines always move fast and the order is always correct. Smooth operation.

How the employees act -- courteous. You will notice they refer to "customers" as "guests." The name change indicates that you are not viewed as a client or a source of money but as a guest. The emphasis is on hospitality not on getting you to empty your wallet. You will also notice that if you say "thank you" the response back is "my pleasure." Again, the emphasis is on being glad & proud to serve the guests. If time allows a host will be around to offer a refill and check on your meal. What other fast food chain offers that?

How the food tastes/looks -- they dont just show great looking food in commercials. They actually have it like that in the store as well. They put great effort in providing the same looking food on your tray as what you see on TV or in an add.

Bonus -- who gives away more food than Chick-fil-a. I can't recall how many times my friends and i have made trips to a local CFA store for free breakfast items.

My point is this: Chick-fil-a has made great efforts to not just be another fast food chain. They want to be your only convenience restaurant. And they have done that by creating meaningful distinction. They didn't invent the chicken -- just the chicken sandwich (and the best customer service in the business). The last part of the slogan was obviously added by me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Encouragement works -- both ways...

(The Finish Line)
  • Recently i finished an Olympic Distance Triathlon in Knoxville, TN. It was a great experience all around. The race is part of a series of races put on by Rev3 and they did a fantastic job. I was very impressed by their emphasis on detail and on making it a family event (which was very important considering race day was Mother's Day). There just so happened to be 55 professional triathletes in this race as well as guest celebrity racer Tara Costa from Season 8 of "The Biggest Loser."
  • There are many things i love about races -- whether they are strictly foot races or triathlons -- from the training, to the event itself, to the free s.w.a.g., to the adrenaline rush as you get closer to the finish line, to the sense of accomplishment when its all over. However, there was one thing about this race that really made an impact on me and that was the encouragement.
  • By encouragement i mean the cheering on of the racers by the spectators & volunteers. Our race number bibs actually had our names on them in addition to our numbers. So not only did those on the sides of the streets cheer for us in general but they were able to yell our names as well. I was surprised by the difference it made. It made me feel singled out in a good way as in: "hey, that person is cheering for me." Which was a big deal considering there were 700 racers in this event.
  • But not only did those on the sidelines get in on the verbal encouragement, racers were encouraging each other too. If you saw someone struggling or not feeling good it was not uncommon to hear another racer give words of encouragement. And one of the more touching moments was when one of the 2 groups that were pulling/pushing a disabled person through the mile swim, 26 mile bike ride, and 6 mile run passed we as racers would cheer and applaud for them. These were special moments indeed.
  • All that said, the one thing that really left an impact on me was the actual effect my encouragement of others had on me. Whether i verbally supported another racer or just thanked a person handing me water as i ran by -- i usually got a boost of energy as i encouraged them.
  • At times there would be large crowds of people in one area cheering -- even just a simple nonverbal display of appreciation from me to them via a head nod, slapping high five, or a simple thumbs up gave me a lift. It was then when i realized that encouragement works both ways.
  • Who is encouraging to you? Who are you encouraging?
  • Are you being generous & kind with your words?
  • It really does matter because it really does have an impact!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meaningful Distinction...

(This picture hangs in my office -- its from IKEA)
I like this picture for a couple of reasons but the one that really drew my eye is the way the yellow taxi cabs stand out among the black & white in the rest of the picture. It sets them a part and makes them easily distinguishable in a very crowded and busy photo. It is the polar opposite of the "Where's Waldo" photo books (which i still like) and on a totally separate playing field from the "Magic Eye" photo books that made you have vertigo just to see the hidden picture (which i still like as well bc of the challenge & intrigue).

Recently i started reading a book called "Chief Culture Officer" by Grant McCracken (for a link see the section "Pages I'm Currently Turning") and i highly recommend it. In one section he talks about how Nike started distinguishing themselves from their competition through advertisements on TV. One in particular was the Nike "Tag" commercial where complete strangers in a big city played tag making a routine life more "playful and less predictable." This type of ad showed transcendence from being merely about "sports performance" or "shoes" and took us to an entirely new place in our minds and emotions. This was different, this was not just an ordinary advertising campaign.

Nike created "meaningful distinction" -- a term coined by Theodore Levitt of Harvard Business School. Of course Nike is not the only company to do this successfully, i am sure you can stop and think of a few more "giants" that have done this well.

I say all of that to get to my question: "Are you creating meaningful distinction with your life?" Distinction from what or for what you might ask? Good return question.

And i would follow up with another question: "What do you want to be meaningfully distinguished from?" Is it from another company/organization you compete against? Is it from co-workers and their performance levels/abilities? Is it from other guys/girls out there on the dating scene?

Or is it just with the overall value of your life and your efforts with it? Does your life stand out -- in a good way? Not for the sake of ego and self-promotion but for the sake of making a positive impact.

Are you creating meaningful distinction? Its a question worth asking...but more importantly its a question worth answering.
(This picture hangs in the office of Mike Vandermark -- yet another great example of meaningful distinction)

Friday, April 30, 2010

City Lights...

(View of Syndey & the Harbour Bridge @ Night)

My wife recently added a new ring tone that is for calls & texts so needless to say i hear this song ALOT. Its "Life Light Up" by Christy Nockels. The line that i hear over and over is the first line of the chorus: "Let my life light up like the city lights...".

I heard this ring tone probably 20 times before i really paid attention to the lyrics (and how often does that happen in other places too). Then it dawned on me that this song just so happened to line up with what i had been studying on Thursday's at lunch with my good friends Derrick & Chris. We were walking through Proverbs together and one of the verses that really resonated with me and became a repeating chorus in my head was from Prov. 13:9 -- "The lives of good people are brightly lit streets; the lives of the wicked are dark alleys."

For me illustrations and visual learning is a great way for something to sink into my head and soul. And this verse jumped off the page because i could clearly see a beautiful city lit up at night (see picture above) and i could also easily imagine a dark alley that would fit the description of wicked.

The take-away for me was the question: "So which one describes your life? Which one is a good picture for how i am living? What am i actually illuminating with my life, words, thoughts, actions?"

I challenge you to imagine a brightly lit city -- and then imagine a dark alley. Which one more accurately represents your life? Which one would you want people to associate with thoughts of you? Which one are you most like right now?

If its not the answer you really want and hope for -- do something about it. Now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You have stayed here long enough...get moving.

(A pic from my hike up to 7K ft elevation in the Mission Mtns of Montana)
Recently i have been studying Deuteronomy with 2 great friends who also happen to be 2 great teammates, Derrick Purvis & Chris Hahn. In the first chapter we read a passage where God speaks to Moses and says: "You've stayed long enough at this mountain. On your way now. Get moving." After telling him where to go God goes on to say: "I've given you this land. Now go in and take it."
That passage really jumped out to me and caused me to ask myself a couple of very important and challenging questions.
1) Will i be able to discern when i need to move on to another mountain? And for me i don't mean the "mountain" necessarily has to be a physical move of location -- it could just be a new challenge in my life or something new i need to be working on.
2) Will i have the courage and confidence to move to the next mountain? So often it is much easier to just stay in places of comfort. Admittedly, i am right now in a place of comfort. Now believe me i have challenges in my job and in my life -- but overall i feel pretty comfortable. But were a change asked or required of me how would i approach it?
This story of Moses and all of Israel moving from place to place in the desert for 40 some years and NOT entering into the "promised land" that God had given them makes it very easy to critique them and even laugh at how silly they were. I mean seriously, if you read about their exploits and the foolish things they did and said it can be comical. They would be literally and metaphorically on the mountaintop one day and down in the valley (again physically & metaphorically) the next.
But if i stop for only a moment and examine my own life i find that i am just like them. However, i am using these 2 questions that came quickly to me to alter that habitual behavior. God often gives us an invitation -- but its also usually followed closely behind with a challenge. We love the invitation but we often don't embrace the challenge.
So as i challenge myself to be open to not just the invitation but also the challenge -- i lay the same dare out to you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A happy heart is good medicine...

(My boy Jackson - he makes my heart happy)

I am currently in Rockford, IL visiting some great friends, TD & Jen Oakes and their kids, with my wife Emily and our friend Taryn.

From the moment we got in the car to head this way on a 7-8 hour drive we have been laughing. And then last night after we arrived the laughing only intensified. And it was capped off by us watching comedian Brian Regan at the Improv. Seriously, if you have not checked out his stuff it is an absolute MUST! I had seen a bit or two of his but last night we watched for an hour.

When we finally ran out of "bits" to watch we had sore stomachs and cheeks from laughing so much. It is safe to say we all had laughed until we cried. Part of the joy was just being together with friends -- but there is no doubt that Regan is one of the funniest comedians alive today.

But as we were sitting there (more like rolling around doubled over) it occurred to me that the old Proverb "a happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing..." is completely true! If there was a way to bottle up laughter and sell it this invention would make more money (and actually do more good) than all the other anti-depressants combined. And i don't doubt for a second that this laughter would cure many things beyond just depression.

(I recommend that you read this article on the actual effects of laughter on the brain and the body. It will give you some great insights into the importance of it and why the Proverb about a happy heart being good medicine is scientifically true.)

The effects of laughter and joy on a person(s) can NOT be overstated or overvalued. It can really heal and transform. Where can you find opportunities to add more laughter and joy to your life? Think about the things that put a smile on your face and work as natural stimulants -- how can you find more time to work these things into your daily routine?

I challenge you to figure this out and actually do it. Your life depends on it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A good leader or a good follower - which is more important?

Recently Ella, my almost 4 year old daughter, and i visited our neighborhood duck pond. Its a place that we like to frequent for some fantastic father & daughter time. We did our usual of walking to different areas of the pond to feed the ducks & geese, our favorite being the large gazebo that juts out into the water.

After we had overfed the birds with old hot-dog buns Ella decided that we should take a walk on a paved trail leading away from the pond (and our car). It was a beautiful day so i was all for it. This trail eventually ended at the entrance of a neighborhood. Ella again decided that we should explore the neighborhood.

At this point i began to weigh our options (classic ISTJ behavior). How long had we been gone? How far were we going to get from the car? Would i have to eventually carry her all the way back? Etc. So i began to formulate in my head the best thing(s) to say to lure her back toward the direction we came (using great logic of course - again ISTJ). And then (cue dramatic music) i decided to just let her lead. Where ever she wants to go that's where we'll go! I am just going to follow. No questions asked. Just follow the cute curly headed girl on an adventure.

This is when our time together really began to get rich and memorable. I am not kidding. It was so incredibly fun to simply let her lead and go where she wanted to go because of her whims and 4 year old logic. Our adventure was fantastic. (i would love to take the time to describe to you how we moved about the sidewalks and streets and yards but it would take too many keystrokes to explain it all - just trust me)

As we were getting back to the car (yes we made it back) it struck me that in our society we are ALL about leaders & leadership. Google it, check out Joseph-Beth bookstore, search for a conference on it, the topic is everywhere. Its worshipped and revered. Heck i even have a Master's Degree in it (i have the diploma to prove it). But we don't spend any time or ambition on followers & followership (the blog editor is indicating i just invented this word). But we should.

In fact, a couple of years back Brandon Schaefer, a co-worker of mine at Southland and oddly enough now has the title of Follow Team Minister, and i began exploring the idea of hosting a "Followers" Conference. What would that look like? What we would challenge people with? Who would speak at it? Would anyone come to it?

The truth of the matter is most of us are followers most of the time. But are we any good at it?! Do we read about it, do we go to conferences on it, do we study it, do we focus on it, do we work on being better at it, do we have ambition to become it? Something certainly worth pondering.

A good leader or a good follower - which is more important? You tell me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Have U Thanked a Volunteer Lately? No really...

I am constantly amazed when i think about the number of volunteers that put in time, effort and energy around Southland. It particularly struck me this past weekend as i walked around and noticed how many volunteers were serving all over the church so that "guests" would have an excellent and memorable experience here for Easter.

There were volunteers doing the following things (and these are just the ones that i saw): helping with our Production Team, serving in the Children's Ministry areas, counting the offering, preparing and serving communion, greeting guests, parking cars, praying with people to make decisions, singing on stage, playing in the band, serving food & drinks in the Cafe, teaching classes, answering questions about the church, helping guests find a seat, offering their expertise as a medical volunteer. And again these are just the things that i saw which does not include our mentoring program, the backpack food program, the medical clinics, homeless outreach, etc. Wow, how amazing!

These volunteers are people that have a heart to give back and they do so not for recognition but because they feel a purpose in it. It comes natural for many of them. And the ones that venture out cautiously almost always come back saying it was well worth it.

Volunteerism is certainly an integral part of our culture here at Southland and i am so thankful and proud of that fact. Without these wonderful volunteers we would not be the same. It would be impossible to pull of the weekend services or the outreach that we are able to do because of them.

So take some time and give a heart-felt and genuine "Thank You" to a volunteer. And be specific -- tell them why you appreciate them. Let them know that you notice and appreciate what they do. It will be well worth it to you and them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The difference between a Cynic & a Skeptic...

Recently i had a blog post regarding Cynicism and the damage it can do to your leadership abilities and frankly just you in general. Since then i have had several people engage me in conversation regarding cynicism and the most common topic has been the difference between cynicism and skepticism (which i too have wrestled with).

Ironically, just yesterday Derrick Purvis, our Communications Director, sent me a link to an article discussing this very topic. I want to share it here with you. I hope that you find it helpful. I know that i did.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Leaders aren't cynical...

cyn-i-cism: an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others

I just ran across this short but profound blog entry by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller. In it he talks about how cynicism can hold you back in your leadership. But i would add that cynicism doesn't just hold back your leadership capabilities -- it has the potential to hold back your entire life.

If you are a cynical person (and i have struggled with this myself) i challenge you to kick the habit. Your life will be better because of it. Your story will be better because of it.

(See how a Donald Miller book literally changed my life...and my story)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

U of Notre Dame has culture...

Recently my friend/co-worker Derrick and i took a trip to South Bend, IN for a conference. While there we explored the ND campus on our bikes. Beforehand i was familiar with the rich tradition and reputation of ND including their academics, storied football program, and famous alumni. However, i was not familiar with the campus with the exception of a few famous landmarks:

the Gold Dome "Touch Down Jesus" which overlooks the Football Stadium
and a few others.

However, once i began to take a look around i was amazed by the campus. It was immaculate (pardon the Catholic pun). They have done an excellent job at establishing an intentional culture. From the buildings, to the landscapes, to the signage, to the athletic facilities, to the monuments, to the tradition. This place oozes with culture. I had only been on campus a few minutes and thought to myself: "If i had gone to school here i would be filled with pride."

The idea i appreciated most was how it must have been done with such intentionality. The trees, sidewalks, benches, lakes, buildings, lamposts, fountains, etc. all seem to have a purpose. It appears to me as the outsider that nothing was left to random chance. So even if it was accidental it is impressive enough to appear purposeful.

One of my favorite spots on the campus (that i was able to discover) was the Lady of Lourdes Grotto. What made it even more compelling and captivating was that we arrived there just before dawn and literally saw it lit by candlelight. It was a stop and "take it in" moment.

So, if you ever get the chance -- stop by the University of Notre Dame and take in the sites, sounds, and culture of the campus. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Good people aren't hard to find...

...if you know where to look. Recently i found some good people and they are at Granger Community Church in South Bend, IN. I checked out their website months ago and was consistently drawn back to see what they were up to. Then i started checking out their staff blogs and was compelled to pay closer attention.

At that point i found Mark Waltz, Pastor of Connections, who has a very similar position to mine here at Southland. Not long after that i discovered that they were having a one-day seminar that covered Culture & Communications so both Derrick Purvis, our Communications Director, and i decided we should go check them out in person.

My assumptions were correct -- there are some great people at GCC. Their staff & volunteers were very kind, competent and compelling. Most of my time was spent with Mark and he is exceptional at what he does. I was inspired and challenged with what he shared.

But of everything i have learned about GCC over the past few months the thing i admire most is the consistent encouragement and support they show each other. Whether it is through a blog, on Twitter & Facebook, or in person they exude a geniune care and respect for one another that is truly admirable. I appreciate that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell -- a must read...

Only twice have I read more than 2 books by the same author. I completed 3 of Donald Miller's books which i recommend highly and more recently i completed a third book by Malcolm Gladwell and then immediately started a 4th book by him.

I do consider myself an avid reader but do have a tendency to bounce around. However, these 2 authors have captivated my attention and intrigue more than any other. They write in different genres so i dont really compare the two. Gladwell deals with scientific sociology and does so by examining case study on top of case study. His writing is extremely compelling and always leads towards a conclusion that changes the way i think or act.

Of the 3 i have read: Tipping Point, Blink, & Outliers the second on this list impacted me the most. Blink truly has changed the way i make decisions. In fact it has helped me in my decision making by convincing me to stick with my gut/blink reaction more than in the past -- which is saying something for a very analytical & methodical person like myself.

I look forward to completing his latest: What the Dog Saw. I'll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime grab your own copy of a Gladwell book. You will be "Glad" that you did.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The book that changed my life...

Recently i read Donald Miller's latest book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." This book literally changed my life. It is probably the perspective that i take towards life now that has changed more than anything -- but this new perspective actually changes my behaviors and actions.

The premise of the book (in my novice opinion) is that "Every life is a story. Whether it is a story worth telling and talking about, though, is up to you. People set out with grand dreams of changing the world, falling in love, doing something amazing. But the drift toward the merely acceptable happens almost without notice. That does not have to be your story."

That thought alone has stuck in my head (and Emily's too). What story are we writing for ourselves, for our marriage, for our kids, etc. Are we writing a great story? Is it a beautiful story -- or has it grown dull and uneventful? What i have come to realize is that our story is a CHOICE. Life (your story) is not something that just happens to you. It is something that you choose to make -- beautiful or ugly, lame or exciting, hilarious or sad, meaninginful or meaningless, full of risk/reward or safe, transformational or complacent. The amazing challenge is that you and i have a part to play.

And this is where my life began to change. Multiple times a day i would ask myself this question: "Am i writing a better story? A compelling story? A beautiful story? Or am i just letting life happen to me?" These questions began to become a regular dialogue between Emily and I. What story are we writing?

This book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" is full of much more inspiration and thought provoking content than just what i am able to discuss here -- trust me. It is the most profound book i have read in the past decade. Miller covers love, dating/marriage, commercialism, theology, etc. But for me, most importantly he uncovers the idea of "story" -- and an interesting one at that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Life Lessons from Bear Grylls...

Its not a mystery that i love the show "Man vs Wild" and am particularly fond of the host Bear Grylls. There is something about that show that is just inspirational for me (minus the gross stuff he eats -- which i would do if i had to survive).

One thing that i take away from the show is his motto of: "Commit to it - then go for it." Now i dont think Bear would say this is his motto necessarily but he says it often enough it has stuck with me. Whether he is plunging into unknown waters from 35' above, or swimming underwater in a dark and unnavigated cave, or eating the guts of a rotten camel, Bear commits himself to it and then goes for it. Not just halfway but all the way.

And that translates regardless of your role/position whether it be Parent, Spouse, Boss, Employee, or Christ-follower: "Commit to it - then go for it." Not halfway but all the way.

A second lesson i try to emulate in my life is his sheer passion and enthusiam for all the things he does commit to on these survival expeditions. He doesn't leap, or climb, or swim, or eat with dread and angst. He loves every minute of it. Imagine trekking across a remote and God-forsaken desert with only a urine-soaked bandana to keep you cool and doing it with joy. That's Bear and i appreciate that about him.

And that translates to real life too. Regardless of what you commit to in your role/position -- do it with a passion and an enthusiasm that is contagious. Go after it with a reckless joy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The "culture" of Southland...

I could take the time to talk about the culture of Southland - the amazing place where i work - or i could just point you to our Senior Executive Pastor's blog where he just did a great job unpacking it based on a recent visitor that he spent time with.

So head on over and read up. It's good stuff...and he's good stuff too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Are you...

"...making a living -- or making a life?" by Maya Angelou

This is a phenomenal quote. I really dont need to say much about it bc i think it pretty much stands on its own. However, i can't resist bc there is such a profound difference between the two. It is a great reminder to me to focus on the latter not the former. And not to just change my focus/perspective -- but to live it out.

Life is too short and too valuable to be about "making a living." Let's all strive to make a life - and an interesting one at that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

At Saul Good the Customer Service is All Good

On Monday night i had another great experience with exceptional customer service. Emily & I had dinner plans with the Stouts at Saul Good (a favorite of ours and theirs). Seriously, if you have not tried this place you really should. Excellent in every way.

When the food arrived, unfortunately Emily did not have her meal. So we waited and when the server returned we inquired about it. To her dismay she had accidently crossed it off when someone else had made an order change. So there we sat for a while waiting for Emily's food to be rushed to us.

While we waited both the Chef & the owner (Rob Perez - an amazing person & owner) stopped by to apologize and check on us. Emily's food finally arrived and we all enjoyed what we had ordered very much! Ex: Hawaiian Chix Sandwich, Tuna Salad Sandwich, Parisian Pizza, Argentinian Steak Pizza. All excellent choices -- especially bc Monday night is 50% off pizza during happy hour.

At the end of our meal we were given 2 (TWO) complimentary desserts and Emily's meal was not included on the bill. Now that is amazing customer service. Not just bc we got some "free" food, but the fact that Saul Good went above & beyond to let us know we were valued by them. Needless to say we left feeling great -- both as valued customers & friends, and also bc we had very happy stomachs!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pro Flowers -- they really are professional

Customer service is very important to me which makes sense considering the role i have here at Southland. For Valentines Day i decided for the first time ever, to order flowers online and have them delivered to Emily. I am usually a face to face transaction type of person especially when picking out something like flowers. I like to actually stop and smell the roses (literally).

In this case i decided to stretch myself and trust the "professionals" of the flower world -- Pro Flowers (there name says it all). Well, when the order arrived (20 Spring Colored Tulips) it looked awful. The petals looked like they had freezer burn and the green leaves were bent and ripped. A very sad, unhealthy, poor looking bouquet of flowers. What hurt the worst was that my wife was disappointed. I kept quite to see her reaction and it was the same as mine.

Soon after i emailed PF's customer service department and gave them the details of our disappointment and even offered to send pictures. They responded very quickly with a full and sincere apology and offered to replace FREE of charge -- no questions asked, no pics required.

Great customer service. Very professional. They even offered a free vase as well. I am happy to report that this second bouquet was all that we had expected from the first. Pro Flowers got it right and because of that they will keep my business and earned my respect and recommendation.

Quality customer service is always worth the effort.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

listening is learned...

Why is listening so dang hard to do? I am not necessarily referring to the "listening" one does when a friend is talking (although that is implied here too) -- i am referring to the listening that one should do daily when they slow their life down enough to hear God talking. It seems so difficult to do yet it is always so rewarding when accomplished.

And by "listening" i dont mean reading the bible or praying via asking for "things." I truly mean sitting in silence and focusing on nothing else but "hearing" well. Today i had that opportunity and took it. It was very meaningful and rewarding.

When i think of slowing down and quieting oneself -- i am also reminded of a story told by Rob Bell about a friend that had totally "jacked up" his back yet was UNABLE to feel the full intensity of the pain until he took some time of solitude days later. At that point the pain was so intense he could no longer be in solitude because he had to rush to the doctor.

Amazing how we rush through life and miss things bc we CHOOSE to not slow down and listen. And there are many things we miss waaaay more important than just back pain.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

words to live by...

I spent some time with a very wise man Monday morning. He dispensed this profound statement to me: "Handle the things that you can control. Let go of those things that you can not control."

It is very tempting to try and add to those words. But really there is no need -- so i will let them speak for their glorious selves.

Friday, February 19, 2010

why do we care...

...about this Tiger Woods "thing." His press conference today was covered by all the major news networks, dozens of cable networks, as well as countless internet sources. And it will be all that anyone in the media will be talking about and dissecting for weeks to come.

Which caused me to ask "why do we care" so much about this? There are certainly bigger and more profound things going on in the world. Things with more lasting impact. Things with a more personal impact. But still so much of the general population is talking about it (including me -- but hey i'm a sports fan in general and have followed golf for a majority of my life). In fact, i have fielded questions from at least 7 (just changed this number to 7 because another person interrupted my typing to ask what happened) different coworkers asking me what was said and what my reaction was to the famous Tiger Woods Apology Press Conference.

Do we care because he is uber-famous? Do we care because he is a dominant athlete? Do we care because he is the greatest golfer of all-time? Do we care because he committed moral failure that became very public? Do we care because it gives us something to talk about that makes us feel better about our own indescretions? Or do we care because the media saturates us with it and causes us to think we should care?

I don't care why you care...but i think it is worth asking yourself the question: "why do i care?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"know thyself"...

This ancient Greek aphorism has long been a motto i try to live by. If i don't know myself well i believe its impossible to most effectively live my life to the full.

With that in mind i recently completed a Myers-Briggs Personality Profile evaluation and first training course. VERY INSIGHTFUL. At first blush, i was skeptical...or at least hesistant. I did not want to be labeled or put in a box. But that doubt quickly turned to a high level of interest and introspection.

And not only "know thyself" -- know thy others around thee. Our Experience Team went through this process together along with all the other teams here on staff. Very informative, provocative, and compelling. I look forward to our next training sessions.

BTW: My 4 personality preferences are ISTJ. Can you tell i'm a "T"?!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The who is greater than the what...

I had dinner and idea sharing with some amazing people last night that are considering joining our Weekend Experience Team. And as i was sharing some vision and ideas with them i caught myself being "wowed" by the group. The potential and value of the people in the room is off the charts.

So i began asking myself "why am i so impressed with these people?" And it came to me -- its not because of what they have done...its because of who they are. That may seem elementary or even obvious. But how often do we look to people for "what" they can do or offer us instead of "who" they are and where that will lead us.

Jim Collins has already expounded on this philosophy in his book "Good to Great" -- in describing the "first who...then what" principal. But until it actually hits you over the head and confronts you to your face it just doesn't have the same weight and profound influence.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

memorable moments...

So i have this vision that our Weekend Experience Team (staff & volunteers) will be able to create memorable moments for anyone that attends SCC on a weekend. And i believe through these moments we will eventually create a movement that will revolutionize the way the weekend is "experienced" by those showing up here regardless if its their first visit or their tenth year.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A culture of gratitude

This past weekend at Southland i saw a somewhat familiar face bring in a bag of 4 dozen, fresh & hot from the oven, Krispy Kreme donuts. This guy dropped them off at the children's check-in desk for the all the Children's Ministry workers. I inquired more and found out that he does this often.

And from personal experience i know this guy has also brought breakfast to the "green room" on a Sunday morning just as a way to say "thanks" for those that are a part of the weekend service.

More than 24 hours later i am still wowed by his actions and very much appreciate the culture he is creating around here. One person at a time, behind the scenes, making memorable moments leading to a movement.

Thanks Ben!