Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad, or In Between

Title:  Up, Down, or Sideways:  How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad, or In Between

Author:  Mark Sanborn

Publisher:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Rating:  Good

Reason for Reading:  I have heard Mr. Sanborn speak many times, and enjoyed his newsletter and blog post about leadership at http://www.marksanborn.com/.  I was greatly attracted to the premise of what success principles work under such different economic conditions.

Format:  E-Book, read on my Nook Simple Touch

Summary:  In Up, Down, or Sideways, Mark Sanborn describes success principles that work in all economic conditions, addressing what leaders should see, how they should think, and what they should do.  The author wrote the book while recovering from surgery following a cancer diagnosis, laying out what he describes as “good shoulds”, the actions that produce successful results independently from the circumstances in which they are performed.

Under the section titled See, Sanborn encourages leaders to focus on the things one can control, and looking beyond the abundance of information available to everyone to the actions that make the downs easier and ups bigger.  In Think, Mark challenges the reader to examine the metrics they use to measure success, to appreciate the benefits of a positive disposition, and to adopt an approach of persistent learning.  In Do, Sanborn espouses the benefits of maintaining a healthy supply of the things you do that are most valuable and the valuable persons you associate with.  Finally, the author describes the constant need to innovate and engage what you do with creativity, and for successful persons to maintain a spirit of gratitude and embrace discipline.

Review:  A book that describes in comfortable language the simple principles behind personal success is perhaps my favorite kind of book.  I would put Up, Down, or Sideways squarely in that category.  Much of what you’ll read in it will have you nodding your heading in agreement about how these basic tenets of personal power have worked for you or against you in the past, based on the choices you make.  For the balance, the author is providing for you a greater understanding of how these principles work, by citing relevant research and providing descriptive examples of them in action.

For anyone wanting an enjoyable read about the meaningful subject of what they can do to improve their business, relationships, and life, Up, Down, or Sideways should be on your reading list.


Other resources: http://www.marksanborn.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The 360° Leader by John C. Maxwell

Title: The 360° Leader

Author: John C. Maxwell

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading:  Of all of Maxwell’s many books on leadership, this one perhaps speaks most directly to my position, as I am a leader in the middle of my organization.  When the BookSneeze® program offered this book, I requested a copy to review.

Format:  Softcover

Summary:  The 360° Leader is divided into six sections, as Maxwell walks the reader through the concept of leading from anywhere within an organization to the practical steps of maximizing your influence.  First, Maxwell challenges the myth that only the persons at the very top of the organization chart can be true leaders.  The author describes in detail how those within the middle of the organization have a unique and valuable opportunity to lead and influence others that the top leaders do not.

Then, Maxwell identifies the challenges of leading from the middle, describing how the approach of the 360° leader has to be different from the top executive.  The author then dedicates a section to how the 360° leader exercises influence in all three possible directions:
Ø      Leading Up:  How to lead your leaders
Ø      Leading Across:  How to lead your peers and equals, and
Ø      Leading Down:  How to lead your subordinates and reports.
Finally, Maxwell describes how vital to the success of an organization the leadership skills of those in the middle are.  As an example, he cites General Tommy Franks description of the United States Army as dependent on strength of its non-commissioned officers.  Franks says that “sergeants are the backbone of the Army”.

This copy also included a workbook printed as an appendix, that the reader can use to develop the leadership skills Maxwell advocates for 360° leaders.  The book also includes access to additional resources online at http://www.360degreeleader.com/

Review:  I find that this book fills a critical niche in the leadership library that has been much overlooked.  There are numerous books about exercising leadership from the very top of an organization.  However, materials dedicated specifically at those in “middle management” have been much harder to find.  Because those in the position of being both leader and follower have a much different point of view, this book is valuable to someone conforming theoretical leadership concepts into their day-to-day jobs.

As usual, Maxwell lays out in easy-to-follow sections and lists the specifics of his concept of 360° leaders.  Maxwell also completes the picture with vivid and relatable stories to illustrate his points, making it easy for the reader to translate the concepts into concrete action steps.

I heartily recommend this as an important read for anyone who finds themselves in the middle of their organization and wants to maximize their influence over their portion of it and its entirety.


Other resources:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://booksneeze®.com/> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Too much Martha and not enough Mary?

In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary.  From the time he arrived, Martha was distracted with preparations things to do to care for her guest, while Mary simply sits at the Lord's feet.  Martha is upset at having to do all the work on her own and tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Luke records that Jesus's response is that Martha is worried about and focusing on all the wrong things, while Mary is solely focused on what is truly important, her relationship with Christ.  Evidently Martha understood His words because she, Mary, and their brother Lazarus would go on to become close friends of Jesus.

In his new book Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge (@johneldredge) describes Jesus's response to Martha as disruptively honest but mercifully gracious.  Martha apparently wanted a relationship with Jesus, as she invited Him to her house.  But, then she is too distracted to enjoy His company.  Perhaps Martha's love language is acts of service, and she feels she is expressing affection for the Lord by doing so many things.  Or perhaps, like many people, she is uncomfortable without having something to do, preferring the exhaustion of business to the peace of a more narrow focus.

For some, being hyper-occupied to the point of overwhelm with things to do and places to go is a way to gain social status.  We are impressed by those who can multitask or who put in long hours of labor, though it may sacrifice their health or relationships.  For others, busyness is a way to avoid something painful or uncomfortable, because with so wide a focus, no one thing can have much impact on them.  They quickly move on to something else to think about, often leaving a problem to fester or issue to remain unresolved.

Mary, in contrast, seems to easily be able to turn off or turn away from all the other potential distractions from their guest and give Him all her attention.  And Jesus believes this to be the higher honor, because he cares more about Mary and Martha's hearts, their spirits, more than their meal they'll share or how clean the house is.  How easy it is for Mary and Jesus to come into a relationship when they are focused on each other and what is truly important.

I was recently challenged by my most trusted adviser that I have had too much Martha in me recently, and not enough Mary.  Focusing too much on things to do, places to go, other voices to listen too, I've been distracted away from those things most important to me.  I've forgotten that not everyone is impressed with busyness, and sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to make them the sole focus of your attention.

Question:  How do you keep from becoming too much of a Martha?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wise enough to know what I do not

My friend David taught me a valuable lesson about the limits of wisdom and the folly of overconfidence. I met David about 5 years ago, and at first, we didn't get along. We were both members of a social group, and when the group would meet, we'd each have some job to perform.

I took the group very seriously, and whatever job I was assigned I did as well as I could. But David did not. He would talk about things way off topic. He was distracted by other things, and so he was distracting me and others from our purpose. His lack of ability to focus was a constant irritant.

Then, one day I received an e-mail informing me that he'd taken his own life. I learned that many months before, not long before I met him, he'd been diagnosed with a disease like Alzheimer's, and would experience diminishing mental abilities for the rest of his life. Evidently his mother suffered from the same condition, and it pained David greatly to see her mentally fail the last years of her life.

Whether David's choice was right or wrong is not my subject. The limits of my knowledge and poor judgement is. I judged David's poor performance and mental sloppiness to be the result of a lack of desire on his part. I considered him to be an inconsiderate annoyance. Until I learned that David was really doing the best he could.

In 2007 and 2008, Lute Olson, the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona for 25 years, displayed erratic and uncharacteristic behavior. He fired two different assistant coaches who he had selected as his successor, divorced his wife, and had sudden leaves of absence from work. After all this, his doctors and family announced that Lute had suffered a stroke some time ago that had not been diagnosed until recently. They believed his unusual recent behavior was caused by the damage the blood clot had caused to his brain.

I think of my friend David and Coach Olson reminders to me that things are not always what they seem, and that it is easy to think that I have most, or all, of the relevant information when in fact, I do not. I have learned that an important part of wisdom is to consider what I do not know along what I do.

How do you overcome the overconfidence of thinking you have all the facts?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Her name means wisdom

It is common to associate wisdom with age. Persons with more birthdays are often thought to be wise simply because they've had more opportunities to learn from life. But age and wisdom are sometimes not correlated. It takes an act of will and a bit of skill to turn a life experience into wisdom. The old aren't always wise.

Nor are the young always foolish. Some young people are skilled enough and intentional enough to gain wisdom faster than they gain birthdays. One of those persons is my wife.

She's does not have a ton of candles on her birthday cake, but she has turned the few years she's had into an amazing amount of wisdom.

Her spiritual gift is discernment. (I'm going to blog about that sometime.) She's used that gift to develop a special wisdom I've learned to rely on. She can almost instinctively discern what spiritual matters are at work behind what is easily seen and heard.

Her name, Sonya, is derived from the Greek name Sophia, which literally means wisdom. For example, the word philosophy is from phileo (brotherly love) and sophia (wisdom), and means the love of wisdom.

My recommendation to all you out there who, like me, seek out wisdom is this:

1) Don't confuse age with wisdom. There are old fools and young sages.

2) You'll know you've found wisdom by the fruit of the teaching, and the heart of the teacher connecting to yours.

Keep seeking out wisdom! It's out there, and not always in the obvious places.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Can't put down Beautiful Outlaw

I've only managed to read the first few chapters of Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, but I'm already gaining a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Jesus.  John has such a great ability to make the Biblical accounts something that I can relate to, putting things into an understandable perspective from 2,000 years away.

John's Ransomed Heart Ministries also has lots of free resources to go with the book, including videos, audio podcasts, and readers guides.

If you are interesting in seeing a side of Jesus not often highlighted and exhorted, I hope you'll join me in reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge.


Quitter by Jon Acuff

Title: Quitter:  Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job

Author: Jon Acuff

Rating: Right for you if you are , but you want to be a

Reason for Reading:  Jon is the author of the Stuff Christians Like blog, and now his own blog at jonacuff.com about leadership and business.  As a fan of Dave Ramsey, I couldn’t help but notice when Jon joined Dave’s team and took his writing and speaking endeavors from his side gig to his day job.

Format:  Audiobook, unabridged, read by the author, downloaded from iTunes

Summary:  Quitter is the lessons Jon learned in changing his dream job into his day job.  After moving from employer to employer almost habitually, all in a career field he later decided was not what he was meant for, Jon started following his dream of writing and speaking in addition to his day job.  He worked his dream and still kept his day job until the right opportunity came along for his dream job to become his day job.  Told in his rapturous style of humor, Jon describes how he learned to honor his employer, care for his family, and pursue his calling.  And how you can do it, too.

Review:  I was blown away by Quitter.  It has great content about a difficult topic.  It isn’t easy to write about the practical realities of personal development and life change.  Spouting on and on about theory and concepts isn’t too challenging.  Describing in real terms, in manageable steps, and in useful phrases how one changes one habits and improves ones life is difficult.  Jon does just that.
If you are looking ahead into your future and considering a change from being a to being a , after reading this, you’ll feel like you got a graduate degree in personal career change.  If you tell yourself, “I’d go for it IF I could hear how someone else did it first”, then Quitter needs to be on your reading list or your iPod.


Other resources: www.quitterbook.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Books in the queue

Here's what I'm reading and should post reviews from in the future:
  • Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff (www.quitterbook.com)
  • Beautiful Outlaw:  Experience the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagent Personality of Jesus by John Eldredge (www.beautifuloutlaw.net)
  • EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey (www.entreleadership.com)
  • The 360° Leader by John Maxwell  (http://www.360degreeleader.com)
 It will take me a little while to get to all of them, but I will.  The review of Quitter will be up next, then Beautiful Outlaw.

If you have any suggestions for what you'd like me to read, send me a comment!

Overwhelmed by wisdom

Seems these days it is easy to be overwhelmed by life. So many things we do big, or not at all. We don't just watch a movie, we do a movie marathon. We try to "collect them all", and strive to be not just up to date, but up to the minute.

This isn't necessarily bad. There are some things you wouldn't mind being overwhelmed by, such as:
  • if your coworkers had a party to celebrate your latest achievement,
  • if your adult child thanked you for all the times you were strict with them because it built their character, or
  • if your spouse went all out for your anniversary.
Wisdom can be overwhelming also. When you are exposed to someone with great presence, someone with whom you feel you could spend hours and still not hear everything they have to teach you or impart into you life, you are overwhelmed by wisdom. Or in the presence of a great library of books and materials, each being one you could spend hours reading and digesting, with the next one there waiting for you

There is plenty of media out there that would overwhelm your senses and your time, but underwhelm your intellect and creativity.  There is also a cornucopia of media that would do both, where the time and attention you spend is an investment, in your mind, in your heart, and in your life.

This blog is intended to help you find that kind of material, the good stuff that will make a difference in your life.  If you are going to be bombarded by messages anyways, if what you are exposed to will influence you whether you like it or not, you might as well choose what you read and to what you listen.  Be overwhelmed in a good way.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Title: Love & Respect
Author: Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
Rating: Good
Reason for Reading: I received this book through Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program.
Summary: The book is based on Eggerichs’ research on Ephesians 5:33, where the apostle Paul commands husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Rather than merely focusing on the importance of unconditional love, the book adds the counterbalance of the need for unconditional respect, specifically for men. Eggerichs details how all throughout scripture, from his years of marital counseling, his parents’ marriage, and his own marriage, this principle of wives needing unconditional love and husbands needing unconditional respect works.
The author describes three cycles, starting with The Crazy Cycle, where a wife’s disrespectful attitude towards her husband causes him to be have an unloving attitude towards her, or vice versa, and the cycle repeats. But, there is also the Energizing Cycle, where a wife’s respect or husband’s love motivates the other. And ultimately, there is the Rewarded Cycle, where a wife’s respect or husband’s love is offered regardless of their spouse’s behavior, but as a sign of reverence for Christ.
Review: I found this book to be an exceptional treatise on marriage, based on both scripture and the author’s personal experience, of how men and women are different, speaking different languages and responding to different emotions, but are beautifully designed to work together. There is a ton of valuable insight into why you think and feel the way you do, why your spouse thinks and feels differently, and how to better understand these dynamics to improve your marriage. If you don’t understand why you and your spouse are different, and how to deal with it, this is a must read. If you want your marriage to be an example for your children and your community, this is a must read.
Other resources: http://www.love andresopect.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Title: The Grace of God
Author: Andy Stanley
Rating: Good
Reason for Reading: I received this book through the Booksneeze program.

Summary: The author demonstrates how God’s grace is woven all through the Bible, both Old Testament and New. His motivation was a comment by his wife that she preferred the God of the New Testament over the Old. But Stanley shows how grace is a consistent message throughout, reflected in familiar biblical characters and stories not typically used as examples of grace. The centrality of grace within the Bible is firmly established.
Review: I really enjoyed how the author focused on grace and grace alone. Through examples pulled from all over the span of the Bible, he finds how grace is present and indeed essential to God’s relationship with man. I found every example meaningful, whether it used a Biblical character I was familiar with or not. I’d recommend this book for biblical scholars and non-scholars alike who want to reconnect with how God’s grace makes all the difference.
Other resources: None
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

Title: The Final Summit

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: I have read several of Andy’s other writings, including The Traveler’s Gift, which this book is the sequel of.

Summary: David Ponder, the protagonist of The Traveler’s Gift is back, having another experience meeting great people from history. As with the previous book, there are ones you’ve heard of, and ones you probably haven’t. But while the first book is a very personal journey, this one has much more broad implications. The travelers are being assembled to answer a challenging question, “What does mankind need?”. And David has been selected to lead the group in finding this answer. At a difficult moment in his life, he finds himself pressed into a leadership role with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance, and a huge cast of characters looking to him for answers.

Review: As usual, Andrews mixes in history and philosophy into a beautiful narrative about guiding principles of humanity. The characters are vivid and breath life into the concepts discussed, personalizing and humanizing the deliberations about what quality mankind needs the most. The character’s search for truth is quite a ride, one which I think readers will find enjoyable and inspirational.

Other resources: www.andyandrews.com or www.thefinalsummit.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”