Experimenting with “Power Points”

I love to read. On average I read two books a month. 

Over the last twenty years I have divided my reading into five categories:

  • Spiritual
  • Leadership
  • Church
  • Professional/Personal Development
  • Biographical/Autobiographical

Over the last twenty years I have accumulated hundreds of books.

Then things changed… I became an Army Chaplain. 

A few ways this changes things:

  • My space for books is smaller.
  • We will move regularly which means I will have to move hundreds of pounds of books regularly. #uggghhh
  • Many of the books which have served me so well in years past will no longer serve me well (e.g. I will not be teaching verse by verse through books of the Bible in 50 minute sermons. Rather, I will be giving 10 minute “field services” in which I share a quick thought with soldiers.

I realize that I have to “cull” my library. This makes me sad… and excited. 

Sad because:

  • These books have been my friends. They have encouraged me; confronted me; inspired me; taught me; humored me; and developed me.
  • Within many of these books are my notes… the story of my evolution. Should anyone care to do so, they would find the course of my life within the pages of these books.
  • These books, in a sense, have given me meaning. I am known as a reader… and these books are the proof. (Shallow… I know… but still it’s my story).

Excited because:

  • I am evolving! I’m letting go of something that has been part of my life for several decades and becoming something new… arguably better (time will tell).
  • I am being forced to think deeply (and painfully) about what I will read, how I will retain what I read, and what I will do with the book once I have read it.

I am a reader. I will always be a reader. I will just be a different kind of reader. 

As I reflect on how and who (i.e. authors) I will interact with in the coming years I am leaning toward this plan:

  • I will read more of fewer authors. Rather than reading everyone… I will read more of, for example, C.S. Lewis. I will be a specialist rather than a generalist. This will require me to pick carefully those people from whom I learn.
  • I will read niche genres. For instance, these last few years I have been interested in the “faith/science” discussion, so I will spend more time in this field and less time in “spirituality/theology” in general.
  • I will take and post notes. Taking a queue from Derek Sivers, I am going to post my notes on this blog and call them “Power Points.” Years ago I did this on my blog. Writing them out helped me remember my “power points” from each book, and it provided a tool to search for specific topics in the future.

And now the big question… what will I do with the book once I have read it?

  • If I take good enough notes I believe I can give it away. #uggghhh
  • Some books I will keep. Many I will give away.

One final thought…

As I considered all the reading I have done over the last couple of decades it occurs to me that I have read thousands of life changing ideas… but I remember a ridiculously small percentage of those… and have implemented even fewer!

So, I ask myself, what if I read less and implemented more?

What if I took 3-5 ideas away from each book and put them into action? Look at this math —

24 (books a year) x 3 (ideas per book) = 72 good practices every year!

OK… truthfully, I’ll not implement that many new ideas, but even 10% of that would be a huge win!!! Imagine improving your life by 10% each year! That would be a huge win!!!

So, that’s my journey… and the introduction to something I’m going to try… “Power Points.” I can’t wait to share with you.

A few questions for you:

  • How do you retain what you read?
  • What do you do with your books when you’re done reading them?
  • How much of what you read do you actually implement?

P.S. I am going to spend some time going through books I have already read and posting “Power Points” from these books… so for a while the authors and the genres will be more varied than they will be in the future.

“The 12 Apostle of Ill Health”

One of my year end activities is to read through previous year(s) journals. It is exciting to see what I have learned and how I have matured… and disheartening to see those things against which I STILL struggle. Reading my own writing is a most credible witness to my personal discipline, and lack of self-control.

HLS-Logo1

If you don’t journal… I urge you to try it! If you do journal… I urge you to read what you have written over the last year(s).

Anyhow, in May of 2017, I was reading Gordon McDonald’s classic work, “Ordering Your Private World.” In this book, he quotes E. Stanley Jones who wrote about the “12 Apostles of Ill Health.” That quote was written in my journal along with a note about a Bible verse I had read earlier that morning. Both are instructive for the person wanting health!

Here is my journal entry:

E. Stanley Jones speaks of the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”: anger, resentments, fear, worry, desire to dominate, self-preoccupation, guilts, sexual impurity, jealousy, a lack of creative activity, inferiorities, a lack of love.”

Jones says, “In prayer, I’ve learned to surrender these things to Jesus Christ as they appear.”

This brings me back to 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God will not allow temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, He will show me a way out so I can endure.” (I personalized the verse in my journal, changing the words from “you” to “I/me”).

Take a minute and slowly read the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”:

  • anger
  • resentments
  • fear
  • worry
  • desire to dominate
  • self-preoccupation
  • guilts
  • sexual impurity
  • jealousy
  • a lack of creative activity
  • inferiorities
  • a lack of love.

See anything there that “rings your bell”? Anything there that is stealing spiritual energy? Depleting physical strength? Detracting from overall well-being? What are you doing about that “apostle”?

Jones found that prayer was a strategic tool in the battle for health. 

St. Paul said that God will provide deliverance from the things that tempt us and threaten to destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As I head into the new year, I see things on this list that need my attention. One of my strategies for reducing and even eliminating the influence of these “apostles” is going to be prayer.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jones’ list? How do you tackle these “12 Apostles of Ill Health”?

Eating Frogs and Turds

This morning I walked with a couple of my girls (we were too tired to run). While we were walking we had a great conversation about doing difficult things.

I was able to string together some great, and funny, pieces of advice I’ve heard from others. It went like this…

If you eat a frog, first thing in the morning, everything else will be easy by comparison.

This is Brian Tracy’s way of encouraging people to stop procrastinating on the hard things! Do them first… and everything else will be easy in comparison! He wrote a book by that title.

The second piece of advice made us all laugh. Well… at least me. It made me laugh (the girls just rolled their eyes).

I can’t recall exactly who said it, but, unfortunately, it’s not original. Here goes…

If you have to eat a turd, don’t nibble!

In other words, if you have to do something that’s difficult… don’t take forever! Get it done quickly!

That’s such good advice!

Do the hard things first… and do them quick. That’s a formula for a good day (assuming you brush your teeth afterwards)!

How to be original

Reading C.S. Lewis’ talk on “Membership” (from his collection of speeches – The Weight of Glory). He said something that took me several gulps of coffee to finally understand, but when I grasped it I had to share it.

Many people in general, but young leaders in particular, spend a lot of time searching for their “purple cow” .. that idea, project, program, one-liner, etc. that makes them different… original… unique. I’ve done it. You’ve done it too.

Listen to what Lewis says, “No man who values originality will ever be original. But try to tell the truth as you see it, try to do any bit of work as well as it can be done for the work’s sake, and what men call originality will come unsought.”

Trying to be original won’t make you original! Originality isn’t found by itself, it is hidden in the details of ideas, projects, programs that already exist!

What say you?

(Check out this post inspired by Sam Walton and Brian Tome – Imitate to Become You)

How to get something done

These days I am learning a lot from dead men, particularly Ben Franklin and John Wesley.

Both of these men were world changers. They created organizations and put forth ideas that continue to influence our lives today:

  • John Wesley – founder of the Methodist Church; emphasis on the doctrine of sanctification
  • Ben Franklin – created the first library, fire station, etc.; one of

RANT: One of the beauties of reading dead men is that their ideas have been tested and proved. The danger of doing all of your learning from blogs and new books is that many of the ideas proposed have not been tested and proved over time. In other words, they don’t have a track record. I believe that the more things change, the more leaders need to be experts in things that don’t change, and that’s why reading the wisdom of the ancients is helpful. RANT OVER.

Ben Franklin shares this nugget in his autobiography:

I have always thought that one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among mankind if he first forms a good plan and, cutting off all amusements or other employments that would divert his attention, makes the execution of that same plan his sole study and business.

Franklin essentially says, an average Joe who has an idea, a good plan, and a rigorous work ethic can create a wave of change.

You don’t have to be a superstar, have letters behind your name, make a lot of money, or know all the right people to make a difference. You have to have a dream, a good plan, and be committed to hard work and you can accomplish great things!

SOOOOOOO…

what’s your idea?

what’s your plan?

what are you willing to give up to accomplish your idea?

how hard are you willing to work?

Thanks Ben!

Be an expert at something…

I’m 34 now.

For the last decade of my life I’ve been a bit of a generalist = I pursued a broad range of knowledge.

For the last year I’ve been realizing that if you want to do something, you can’t do everything.

Diversity of knowledge is good for conversation. Depth of knowledge is required for transformation.

Reading this morning from “The Life of Wesley” by Robert Southey, I was encouraged to see that John Wesley had the same experience!

In his younger years he developed the following “study schedule” which reflected his tendency towards “generalist”:

  • Monday and Tuesday = study of the classics
  • Wednesday – study of ethics and logic
  • Thursday = study of Hebrew and Arabic
  • Friday = study of metaphysics and natural philosophy
  • Saturday = study of oratory and poetry and the writing of speeches and poems
  • Sunday = the study of divinity
  • AND, according to his diary he also “gave great attention to mathematics.”

At some point though, Wesley realized that it was impossible to engage all of these pursuits equally and simultaneously and still make an impact as a leader.

Southey writes,

[Wesley] had come to that conclusion, at which, sooner or later, every studious man must arrive, that life is not long enough for the attainment of general knowledge, and that there are many things of which the learned must content themselves to be ignorant.

Wesley confirmed this thinking in a letter to his mother in which he wrote,

I am perfectly come over to your opinion, that there are many truths it is not worth while to know. Curiosity, indeed, might be a sufficient plea for our laying out some time upon them, if we had half-a-dozen centuries of life to come; but methinks it is great ill husbandry to spend a considerable part of the small pittance now allowed us, in what makes neither a quick nor a sure return.

Acquiring information today is ridiculously easy, and it is just as easy to do nothing of significance with it. With blogs, instant access to news, thoughts, etc. through Twitter, etc. it doesn’t take effort to know… in fact the exact opposite is true… it takes effort NOT to know, and it is in NOT KNOWING that we may discover our greatest impact!

Impact is the result of focus. Wesley focused and changed the world. He became a specialist and began movement!

Remember this: “Reading a newspaper [blog, twitter, etc.] precludes our reading a book, and reading one particular book precludes our reading hundreds of others” (Dr. Steven Sample).

OK, it’s your turn. Have you had a similar experience where your realized you were a generalist? How did you address this? What is YOUR specialty?

Clippings from Spiritual Leadership

Day 7 of J. Oswald Sanders and Spiritual Leadership.

Chapter 9 = More Essential Qualities of Leadership

Sanders lists 9 qualities that leaders must possess and continually refine:

  1. Humor
  2. Anger
  3. Patience
  4. Friendship
  5. Tact and Diplomacy
  6. Inspirational power
  7. Executive ability
  8. The therapy of listening
  9. The art of letter writing (keep in mind that Sanders lived in the days before e-mail, but the principles still apply)

Humor

  • “It is a most serious deficiency if a [leader] lacks a sense of humor.”
  • “Our sense of humor is a gift from God which should be controlled as well as cultivated.”
  • NOTE: “Controlled as well as cultivated” is a valuable insight for today’s leaders. There seems to be a trend towards crass humor from spiritual leaders. It is possible to be funny without being crude, mean, or classless; that kind of humor comes from a leader who has not “cultivated” his/her sense of humor.

Anger

  • “Great leaders – people who turn the tide and change the direction of events – have been angry at injustice and abuse that dishonors God and enslaves the weak.”
  • NOTE: What are you angry about? Will your anger move you to do good?

Patience

  • “The word (patience) never means the spirit which sits with folded hands and simply bears things. It is victorious endurance [and] constancy under trial. It is Christian steadfastness, the brave and courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us, and the transmuting of even the worst into another step on the upward way. It is the courageous and triumphant ability to bear things, which enables a man to pass breaking point and not to break, and always to greet the unseen with a cheer.” William Barclay

Friendship

  • “You can measure leaders by the number and quality of their friends.”
  • “Leaders must draw the best out of people, and friendship does that far better than prolonged argument or mere logic.”

Tact and Diplomacy

  • “Leaders need to be able to reconcile opposing viewpoints without giving offense or compromising principle. A leader should be able to project into the life and heart and mind of another, then setting aside personal preferences, deal with the other in a fashion that fits the other best.” After writing all of this, Sanders offers hope to those who lack tact/diplomatic skills, “These skills can be learned and developed.”

Inspirational power

  • A leader must inspire others to serve and sacrifice. He/she must “work hard, but also possess the ability to get others to work hard. [His/her] zeal and drive and inspiration must be infectious.”
  • NOTE: This kind of power is typically the result of a passionate commitment to a cause greater than oneself.

Executive ability

  • “However spiritual a leader may be, he/she cannot translate vision into action without executive ability. It is true that subtle dangers lie in organization, for if it is overzealous it can be an unsatisfactory substitute for the working of the Holy Spirit. But lack of method and failure to organize have spelled doom for many promising ministries.”
  • “Our duty is to reflect the orderliness of God in all we do for Him.”

The therapy of listening

  • “To get at the root of problems, a leader must master the art of listening. Too many strong personalities are compulsive talkers.”
  • “Leader who want to show sensitivity should listen often and long, and talk short and seldom. Many so-called leaders are too busy to listen. True leaders know that time spent listening is well invested.”

The art of letter writing

  • “Any position of leadership involves a considerable amount of correspondence, and letters are self-revealing.”
  • NOTE: interesting thought here – what does your correspondence say about you? If someone were to write your biography 50 years after your death, what would they say about you based on what they learned from your correspondence with others?