Archives For LEARNING

The tools, tips, technology and insights that are helping me get more done and be more effective.

These are the books that I read throughout the year in 2018. If you like to read and want to interact over books, you should join me over on Goodreads.

  1. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Vance
  2. The High Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World – Gray
  3. Dream With Me – John Perkins
  4. Empowering Leadership: How a Leadership Development Culture Builds Better Leaders Faster – Fletcher
  5. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups – Coyle
  6. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen – Miller
  7. The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old School Views on Success in Sports and Life – Matheny
  8. Onward: How Starbucks Fought for It’s Life Without Losing Its Soul – Schultz
  9. The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life – Ankiel
  10. A Dirty Job – Moore
  11. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church – Rachel Held Evans
  12. Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet – Itzler
  13. Paul: A Biography – NT Wright
  14. Ninety Percent Mental: An All-Star Player Turned Mental Skills Coach Reveals the Hidden Game of Baseball – Tewksbury
  15. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place – Crouch
  16. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton
  17. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Brown
  18. Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money – Ramsey , Cruze
  19. The Idiot – Dostoevsky
  20. Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff – Chip Gaines
  21. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Hsieh
  22. Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People – Goff
  23. The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth – Heuertz
  24. Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration – Chand
  25. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World – Stanley
  26. How to Break Growth Barriers: Revise Your Role, Release Your People, and Capture Overlooked Opportunities for Your Church – George, Bird
  27. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society – Peterson
  28. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery – Cron
  29. From This Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage – Groeschel
  30. I Declare War: Four Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself – Lusko

Maybe you’re wondering about my favorite? It’s hard to say. I would say that the most impactful, meaningful book for me personally was Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Eugene Peterson died this year but left an incredible dent on the world through his quiet, faithful life. I loved learning from his experience.

As always, I’d love suggestions for 2019!


I set some pretty lofty goals for myself in 2018. Lofty enough that I knew that for them to happen, I was going to have to be disciplined. Everything was going to have to go right and I wasn’t going to be able to get lazy or distracted. Well, I don’t know that I got lazy, but certainly other things happened that disrupted my plans. For instance, I set a goal and planned to run 750 miles in 2018. For me, that was a TON. It was going to be at least double what I had done before. I thought that I had a good plan in place. But then life changed. Less than a month after the start of the year we added a not-yet two year old to our family through fostering. I also began working outside of the home more, spending more time in the car, and leaving the house earlier to get my daughter to school. All that said, I ended up running over 560 miles. For me, a HUGE achievement. And truthfully, the pace I ended the year on over the last two months is exactly what it will take to actually reach that 750 plateau in 2019.

Similarly I set a goal to read 40 books. My usual pace is two a month – 24 for the year. I knew it would be a push for me but I set the goal and planned to figure it out through a combination of audio books, kindle, and old fashioned paper. Reading for me goes through phases. There are some phases where I read in a sprint. I can finish 4-5 books in a month. Other times, I can let one book drag for 6 weeks or so. All in all, I finished 30 books this year. Well short of my goal. But on the other hand, I can’t remember a time when I read 30 books in a single year.

So a few takeaways for me:

  1. Every goal needs a plan for accomplishing that goal.
  2. Every plan will have to be adapted. Plan to change the plan. There’s always going to be a sickness, an injury, a change of routine. How will we accomplish the goals even though the circumstances change?
  3. Celebrate the reach. While I didn’t reach the goal, I reached farther than I ever had before. That’s worth celebrating.

Well, after a whopping 2 blog posts in 2017, here’s my first of 2018 – an annual tradition for me of posting the books I’ve read in the prior year.

  1. Dare to Serve – Bachelder
  2. Art of Neighboring – Pathak
  3. Jesus Feminist – Bessey
  4. The Sabbath: It’s meaning for Modern Man – Heschel
  5. The Power of Your Words – Morris
  6. Open (Audio) – Agassi
  7. The Worship Pastor – Hicks
  8. What is the Bible? – Bell
  9. Bonhoeffer (Audio) – Metaxas
  10. Love is an Orientation – Marin
  11. Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World – Grant
  12. How’s Your Soul? – Smith
  13. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues (Audio) – Feinstein
  14. Macbeth – Shakespeare
  15. Leading on Empty – Cordeiro
  16. Uncommon Marriage – Dungy
  17. Born Standing Up (Audio) – Martin
  18. Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike (Audio) – Knight
  19. The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu
  20. Living in the Light – Piper
  21. Finding God in the Waves (Audio) – McHargue
  22. Steve Jobs (Audio) – Isaacson
  23. The Storyteller’s Secret (Audio) – Gallo
  24. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Audio) – Tyson
  25. The Soul of Shame: Retelling the stories we believe about ourselves – Thompson
  26. The Everything Store (Audio) – Stone
  27. Meet Generation Z – White
  28. Braving the Wilderness (Audio) – Brown

This was the year of the audiobook for me. I spend a lot of time in the car apparently (and I did a lot of housework painting and installing floors!), so listening to books became a great option for me. I can’t imagine listening to books that I would really want to read carefully or take notes in, but listening to biographies or just good stories seems like a pretty good fit.

I had a goal to read more biographies this year and that ended up being the highlight for me this year. I was fascinated by Andre Agassi’s story, of Bonhoeffer, Steve Jobs, Phil Knight, Steve Martin and Jeff Bezos.

I think one of the more significant books of the year for me was “The Book of Joy.” It was fascinating to read about the secret to a joyful life from two old spiritual giants. Their friendship and joy despite (maybe because of?) their hard lives was profoundly impacting for me.

Did you read any of these? What was your favorite book of 2017? What would you recommend I read next?



February 2, 2015 — 1 Comment

I have a hard time with focus sometimes. I’m sure I’m not the only one. We’ve all got a thousand things asking for our attention. I’ve recently made some strides toward some major goals that I have and I thought I’d share real quickly how I made that happen, in case it’s helpful for you.

Here it is:

I said NO to those thousand things. And then I said YES to these two:

  • I wrote the email and pushed “Send.”
  • I took my daughters to lunch and talked about their dreams, their friends and their future spouses.

See, one of my goals has been to gather a group of ministry friends together. The other goal has been to intentionally date my daughters and have meaningful moments with them. But all around those goals were other things screaming at me: plumbing issues, roof issues, trips, sermons to write, books to read, bills to pay, emails to answer, dishes to wash, bags to pack, a desk to clean, conversations to have, FB messages pinging, Twitter feed filling up, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…. You get the point.

Focus it seems, is about saying NO. And then saying YES.


Books that shaped me in 2014

December 30, 2014 — 1 Comment

creativityinc_coverSo this has become a bit of a favorite post every year for me. It’s my annual “here’s what I read” post. If you aren’t really a reader let me push you a bit to make 2015 the year that changes. Set a reasonable goal for yourself and get started. Maybe one or two of these will be interesting to you:

  1. 24/6 – Sleeth
  2. How to be Rich – Stanley
  3. Growth Hacker Marketing – Holiday
  4. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right hook – Vaynerchuk
  5. It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men – Cathy
  6. Worry Free Finances – Siebeling
  7. The Essential Wooden – Wooden
  8. Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – Lencioni
  9. Emotionally Healthy Church – Scazzerro
  10. Be Real – Bezet
  11. Unleash! – Noble
  12. Overwhelmed – Noble
  13. The Rise of the Nones – White
  14. Difference – Jiwa
  15. I like giving – Formsma
  16. Four Cups – Hodges
  17. Switch – Heath
  18. Creativity, Inc. – Catmull
  19. Moment Maker – Whittaker
  20. The Zimzum of love – Bell
  21. Cover Her – Hairston
  22. The Grace of God – Stanley
  23. The War of Art – Pressfield
  24. Die Empty – Henry
  25. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Lewis
  26. The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player – Maxwell

My favorite read this year would have to be Creativity, Inc by Catmull. It’s basically a behind the scenes look at the world of Pixar and their creative processes. I absolutely loved it. I loved the stories behind the stories – like how the movie UP was originally about a castle floating in the sky where a king lived with his two sons – each one trying to inherit the kingdom.

Another great read from this year was Andy Stanley’s The Grace of God. Honestly, if you’re looking for something to renew your faith or maybe you are exploring faith in general – you gotta read that book.

Looking over the list I see books covering marketing, leadership, finances, spiritual development, emotional health, marriage, and creativity. I’m thankful for the ways these authors shaped me this year and I believe I’m better because of them.

2015 already feels to me like a year where I want to return to some of my favorite books that birthed some of my biggest dreams. There are at least 3-4 books I can’t wait to re-read that moved me for the first time as many as 10 years ago.

How about you? What were your favorite reads from the last year? Anything you’d recommend for me?


How to have a day off

January 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

Rest AreaI know it’s a little bit crazy to write a post called “How to have a day off.” I mean, how much direction does a person need to not work? Well, as it turns out, it is apparently harder than previously thought. My guess is that if you are like most people, you might have a hard time remembering the last time you had a day completely free of work. A day with no phone calls, no emails, no meetings, no “getting ahead”, no taking things home that you couldn’t finish at the office, literally no work. So let’s talk about how to not work. Here are a few steps you’ll need to take to make sure this becomes a reality for you.

1. Schedule it. Literally put it on your calendar. Block it out as a scheduled event. This is so important. If you have a meeting on Thursday, certain things happen. You prepare for that meeting. You do whatever you need to do to get ready for that meeting. If someone else wants a meeting with you during that time, you decline or reschedule because you already have a meeting. See how that works? So if you schedule a day off and put it on your calendar, then you aren’t available to anyone else when they want to book a meeting with you. You don’t need to tell anyone that you’re meeting with your couch. But put it on the calendar.

2. Prepare for it. So we touched on this in #1, but this is really important. If you want to really be off and keep that day off, then you’ll need to work your tail off all week. Yeah, that’s weird but it’s true. You have to work hard to have a day off. No more putting things off to that day so you can catch up. Work hard, go in early, stay a little late – whatever it takes to make sure that none of it spills over into your day off. But remember this – you’ll never finish everything on your list. There will ALWAYS be more that could be done. But having a day off means you say to yourself “I’m done even if I’m not.” 

 And guess what? If your day off is Saturday or Sunday (for example), then the most important day to prepare for that day off might be Monday. Get it done now and that day off will be easier to keep.

3. Unplug. This is maybe the hardest thing of all because our whole world revolves around our ability to be connected 24/7 no matter where we happen to be. But here’s the deal: If you look at your email on your day off, just to check that everything is ok real quick (see how we justify that?), then guess what? You’re not having a day off. Because you and I both know that the quick check of email turns into a quick response, which turns into 7 more emails, a phone call and a new crisis to deal with before the day is over. So this is so important – UNPLUG. Turn the phone off. Yeah I know, that sounds extreme. But turn it off. It’s the only way. The good news is that despite what we believe, the phone is not actually providing life support for us, so you will be able to breathe and eat and laugh and enjoy your day without it. You don’t need an app for that.

4. Repeat. Now go back to #1 and do it again.


Let me know how it goes!

photo by: Seabamirum

Books I Read in 2013

December 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

book-decisive-265x440I like to keep track every year of what I’ve read. To me it’s sort of a personal history of how I’ve been growing and learning. I always look back and sort of lament the fact that I didn’t make much time for novels. But who has time for that when there’s so much I need to learn? Haha. Maybe 2014 will see more novels, but here’s the list from 2013:

  1. Victory over the darkness – Anderson
  2. Purple Cow – Godin (re-read)
  3. The meaning of marriage – Tim Keller
  4. Tribes – Godin (re-read)
  5. After you believe – Wright
  6. Quiet – Cain
  7. What we talk about when we talk about God – Bell
  8. The Catalyst Leader – Lomenick
  9. Make Every Day Count – Maxwell
  10. A New Kind of Christian – McLaren (re-read)
  11. Jesus is _______ – Smith
  12. The story we find ourselves in – McLaren (re-read)
  13. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team – Lencioni (re-read)
  14. God of the Underdogs – Matt Keller
  15. One Question – Coleman
  16. The Tipping Point – Gladwell
  17. Decisive – Dan and Chip Heath
  18. Ready, Set, Grow – Wilson
  19. Read this before our next meeting – Pittampalli
  20. The Bondage Breaker – Anderson
  21. Be a people person – Maxwell
  22. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn – Maxwell
  23. Developing a theology of Planning – Morgan (ebook, short)
  24. Developing a theology of Leadership – Morgan (ebook, short)
  25. The Man Called Cash – Steve Turner
  26. A Horse and His Boy – Lewis
  27. Prince Caspian – Lewis
  28. Next Generation Leader – Stanley (re-read)
  29. Sacred Rhythms – Ruth Haley Barton
  30. David and Goliath – Gladwell

My favorite leadership book this year was “Decisive” – it’s a great read for learning to make better decisions or for someone who counsels others frequently. In spiritual development, I’d go with “Sacred Rhythms.” Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” was also a favorite fun read, inspiring me to look at seeming disadvantages differently. Finally, I’m a sucker for Johnny Cash stuff, so “The Man Called Cash” was really fun.

So that’s my year of reading! As usual, I’d expect some “I can’t believe you didn’t read….” or “this list is lame” (Jared Sumners), or whatever you’ve got. What should make my list for 2014?


Restless – Part 4

November 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

This is part 4 of a larger conversation about what happens when I let my life get out of control and all the ways it impacts me. If you are anything like me, chaos creates a feeling of restlessness and a desire to disappear for a while. So this short series is just a way for me to share some of the things I’ve learned that I need in order to stay sane. So far we’ve talked about routine, about creativity, and about relationships. I’ll tell you right up front, I don’t want to write this next one. But here it is – one of the worst things that happens as a result of the chaos is that my health goes down the tube.

Poor health. When the seasons of chaos come, I lose motivation. Which usually means that I lose any kind of discipline. So my health is often one of the first things to go. I don’t eat well, I’m not sleeping enough, and I certainly don’t exercise. So the chaos is literally killing me. I’m too tired to think about exercise and my life is so busy that convenience food becomes my primary option. So I’m sluggish, I’m not thinking clearly, and I’m definitely not doing my best work. It’s a frustrating cycle that’s hard to break. The chaos of doing leads to laziness in my personal life.

What I’m doing about that:

So, like I said yesterday, it seems like every one of these things comes down to an ability to be disciplined, to say no to some things, and to be intentional with the time I do have. For me there are three parts to this:

  • Eating – I am admittedly a picky eater. I could live on Mexican food and cereal for probably the rest of my life. So I’m learning to change that. My wife blends up (juices?) all kinds of things that I would never eat. It tastes horrible. But the good news is that I don’t have to eat them. I can drink them. It’s not a magic cure-all, but it’s helping.
  • Sleeping – My wife and I were in bed before 10pm the other night for the first time in a long time. But we’re trying to make it happen more. By getting our family on a good schedule, we can be intentional with our evening times to play with them, read with them, put them to bed, spend some time talking together or watching TV, and then getting to bed. And that’s really important because of the next thing.
  • Exercising – So we realized that the only way this was going to happen was if we found time to exercise in an already busy schedule. We realized at some point that pretty much the only time we had free was time that we used to be asleep. So we’ve been getting up lately at 5am. I know, it’s crazy. But it’s working. We are able to get a full workout in BEFORE any kids wake up and before we start into our day.

As painful as it is to start doing these things, I can see that these habits have the potential to be life changing. There are obviously tons of studies about the link between eating, sleeping, exercising and our attitudes and overall life enjoyment. Most of us try to avoid this simple truth – I know I do. But if you find yourself in a funk or the chaos is killing you, it may be time to face the painful reality that the health of our physical bodies is directly tied to our emotional well being.


Restless – Part 3

November 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today is part 3 of a short series. My goal is to share with you what happens when my life starts to get chaotic and I start to feel like running away from it all. So each day I’m trying to say “Here’s what happens to me” and then secondly “Here’s how I try and fix that.” (Part 1, Part 2)

So today I want to talk about one of the results of chaos in my life:

Shallow relationships. When chaos abounds, friendships and marriages and families suffer. You and I default into “DOING” rather than “BEING” and pretty soon we have forgotten that we are relational people and not machines. If all I’m doing is working or going to meetings (which aren’t relational times, let’s be honest), or meeting deadlines – then I start to suffer, and so do those around me. Relationships are like roots to a plant. The deeper they go, the more nourishment and life they provide. But if they stay shallow then pretty soon the plant starts to dry up. I find the same thing is true with me.

A couple thoughts on caring for relationships: 

  • First, my marriage: I don’t want a normal marriage. I want a crazy awesome, life-giving marriage. For my wife and I to have a great marriage, we need time together to be humans. Adult humans. We love our kids, but we loved each other first, and we’ll love each other after the kids are grown and gone. So that requires us to go on regular dates. Anything less than twice a month and I start to feel distant from her. We also know that about once a quarter or so we need to get away for at least a night together, without the kids. And at least once a year we want an extended vacation alone together.
  • Family: As a family we have gotten into the routine of Friday nights as our “Family Fun Nights.” It’s a celebrated routine in our family. We protect that time like crazy. It’s usually pizza, a movie and popcorn. But sometimes we get creative, we go out, or we just play games. But it’s vital to our family to connect. On Saturday we try not to schedule much either. It’s generally reserved for resting, doing not much around the house, or occasionally going on an adventure to a park or hike somewhere.
  • Friendships: If I go for very long without doing something with some friends just to laugh and eat and have fun – I start to become less than human. And I’ll confess, of these three types of relationships – friendship is the hardest one for me to make time for. It’s the one that usually gets cut first.

Usually when I find myself ready to run, all I have to do is look at how much time I’m giving to my relationships to see a primary source of my restlessness. It’s funny how each one of these things seems to come down to that whole routine / schedule thing. But it does. Spending time with my wife, with my kids, or with friends requires me to be intentional with my time. When my schedule is too chaotic, all these things suffer. Sometimes the greatest thing we can do for ourselves is to learn to say “no.” No to opportunities, to overtime, to invitations or anything else that takes away from our relationships.

Tomorrow, a word about health.



Restless – Part 2

November 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I confessed that I sometimes get in these weird seasons where I feel restless. In part 1 of this short series I talked about how routine can help us break free from the chaos that makes us want to quit. Today I want to talk about creativity.

I need to be creative. Just like I crave routine, I crave opportunities to create. If all I’m doing is playing catch up, or running from one meeting to the next, meeting one deadline after another, then I get frustrated and go into a funk. I need space in my life to think. Literally. I like to have time just to dream, to draw, to build something, to write or to play music. My soul needs these times. In Genesis it tells us that God made us in His image. And when it tells us that, the only thing we know about God at that point is that He is a Creator. I believe you and I were made to create. Whether it’s a pie, a symphony, a bookstand, a novel, a photobook, or a company – we were made to start things from scratch. Whenever my life is too busy to create – I want to run away and open a bait shop.

So here’s how this works out in my life:

As a teaching pastor, every 7 days I have to deliver a fresh, entertaining, compelling, inspiring, life-giving message. Unfortunately, those don’t drop out of the sky. Trust me, I’ve prayed for them and it never happens. So in my world, my particular vocation requires me to be creative. So part of my routine (again, see the “ideal week” from yesterday) is that every Monday I carve out time to be creative as it comes to my message. I have found that I have to be crazy regimented in this. I don’t even open email on Monday until after lunch. I don’t go to the office like normal. I go to places that inspire me. I think there’s a belief out there that creativity is something that happens on its own and that routine or structure stifles creativity. I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that creativity thrives in constraints. It thrives with a deadline, with a budget and with a schedule. So creativity gets a slot in my weekly routine.

Now, outside of what I do vocationally, I have found that I need to be creative in other ways too. So for me that means an outlet like writing, or woodworking, or music or working outside. Those are probably more spontaneous in nature in that I leave myself room week to week decide what I want to fill my time with. But whenever I find myself feeling restless, one of my checkpoints is this creative outlet. Am I having time to think and dream? Am I crafting something, or giving birth to a new idea? Is there anything that is inspiring me? If the answer is no, it’s time for some changes.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Relationships and the impact they can have on our restlessness.