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Here are the highlights from October 2014.  Thanks to everyone who read along and commented.  Your readership and participation in the daily discussions are what make The Stretched Community.  Thank you!

It was a record-breaking month!

Overall, traffic was way up from September (125.24%).  Traffic was up 123.77% compared to a year ago.  The top 10 posts included posts from 2014.  Most of the posts were from late September and early October.  There was one post from February.  If you missed any of these posts, I hope you’ll go and check them out now by clicking below.  The posts with the most engagement were two which made the top 10 list below – The Platform Problem – More Of You And Less Of Me.

Top 10 Posts:

    1. Experience The Supernatural  September 29, 2014 (1260)
    2. 3 Steps To Take Before You Can Serve Effectively  September 30, 2014 (281)
    3. Redefine Rich  September 29, 2014 (263)
    4. Ice Breaker – Homecoming  October 3, 2014 (253)
    5. 5 Things To Remember When We Say Or Do Something Stupid  February 12, 2014 (245)
    6. September 2014 – Top Posts and Commenters PLUS BOOK GIVEAWAY  October 1, 2014 (244)
    7. No Excuses!  October 2, 2014 (241)
    8. A Tribute To Grandma  October 8, 2014 (217)
    9. From The Mountain To The Valley – Life After Short-Term Missions  October 7, 2014 (196)
    10. Knowing God So We Can Make Him Known  October 9, 2014 (195)

Top 10 Commenters:

As promised at the beginning of the month, I have randomly chosen someone from the top commenters list to receive a copy of  On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field by ME!  The winner of this book is…(drum roll)…Steve Y.  Congrats to Steve!

For the month of November, I’ll be giving away another copy of On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field by ME! This month, the winner will be chosen randomly from the top 10 commenters.

Thanks to each and everyone for reading and for commenting.  I’m looking forward to November with The Stretched Community!  The month of November will include more STRETCHING posts.  More than likely, I will continue to focus on having a mission mindset in many of the upcoming posts.  I’ll also take some time to reflect on thankfulness.

If you’re interested in guest posting here, leave a comment to connect with me.

How was your month?  If you’re a blogger share a link to your top post in the comments?  What was your favorite Stretched post this month?  How were you STRETCHED in October?

In case you’re interested, here are a few other interesting stats about October (based on Google Analytics):

  • Users – Increased 3.95%
  • Sessions – Increased 167.30%
  • Pageviews – Increased 165.99%
  • Pages Per Session – Decreased 0.46%
  • Average Session Duration – Increased 3.39%
  • Bounce Rate –Decreased 14.54%
  • New Sessions – Decreased 36.08%

On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  Click the link below to get your copy today.

As a reminder, I am offering a FREE pdf copy of the interior of the book to subscribers of The Stretched Newsletter.  Head over to the main page of the blog and sign up on the right hand menu bar to get your copy today for FREE!

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I have a crazy idea, and I need your help.

I am in search of track & field coaches and cross-country coaches who would be (or might be) interested in reading my book.  On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field takes observations from the track and field and uses them to encourage readers to live a life on track.

OnTrack3dCover04132014I believe this book could be valuable for anyone, but I especially think the message will resonate with those close to the track and field.  I would love to send a copy of my book to coaches.  I’m targeting coaches at Christian high schools and colleges, but I would happily send it to any interested coaches – for FREE!

If you a coach any you are interested in reading my book, leave a message in the comments, so we can connect.  If you are not a coach, but you know a coach who would benefit from my book, send me a comment, so we can make it happen.  I’d love to send my book to 50 coaches before the end of the year.  I’m hoping you can help make this happen.

Who was your favorite coach?  When was the last time you received something for FREE?

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I was talking to a friend the other day, and he asked me how my book was doing.

I get this question a lot.

I filled him in on the general statistics, and we proceeded to talk about the challenge of releasing a book project in today’s social media driven world.  As I work on my next book project, I wrestle with the idea of pursuing a more traditional book publishing route for this project.  I went the self-publishing route with my first book project.  A more traditional book publisher could bring a wider audience and distribution which is attractive, but there are also pluses to the self-publishing method.

Either way, a larger platform is critical to success in today’s world – in terms of quantity of book sales.  And this is where I struggle.

I heard it said by one of my author friends that 90% of books sell less than 200 copies.

This is the reality in today’s world.  I’ve learned that it takes a lot of hard work and self-promotion just to approach this number.

Publishers are looking for a large e-mail list, lots of Twitter and Facebook connections, and a lot of blog traffic.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

How does a person remain humble with a correct focus while promoting themselves and their platform?

This is the problem with platform.

We are instructed to be humble.  We are taught to put aside our own interests for the sake of others.

Is it possible to build a platform while staying humble and pointing people to Christ?

I think so, but I think it’s a challenge.

This is the challenge I now face.  As I pursue my next book project, I’ll be taking steps to grow my e-mail list and blog traffic.  Meanwhile, I plan to use this platform to point people in the right direction.  I’d appreciate it if the Stretched Community would keep me accountable to staying on the right track.

Thanks!

What are your thoughts on building a platform?  What have you learned in the process of building your own platform?

This song by Colton Dixon speaks to me as I pursue this next project:

(For the record, I’ve sold or given away 116 copies of On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field.  This includes paperback and Kindle eBook versions.  This does not include the electronic copies given away to subscribers of my blog.  As you can see selling more than 200 copies is no small task.)

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

How’s that for a statement?

Seriously, I just finished reading QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller, and I thought it was great.  I had heard about the book from several people before, but I didn’t pick it up until recently.

I read a lot of books about leadership.  I’ve read books which tell me how to lead my team through this situation or that situation.  I’ve read books which tell me how to handle difficult team members and team members with different types of personalities.  These books are good, but this QBQ! took it to another level for me.

QBQ! is all about leading myself.  The book is not terribly long, and it’s broken down into bite-sized chapters which make it easy to get through.  I’m a slow reader, and I read through QBQ! in a few sittings.  It kept my attention and left me with lots plenty to ponder.  I underlined and highlighted many parts of this book, and I’ll be referring to it again and again to help me become a better leader and a better person.

QBQ! challenges readers to stop complaining, procrastinating, and blaming.  It stretches readers to practice personal accountability by asking the right questions.

Here are some of the questions I took away from QBQ!:

  • What can I do to make a difference?
  • How can I support my team?
  • What can I do to help out?
  • How can I provide more value?
  • How can I adapt to the changing world?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • How can I learn from this experience?
  • How can I let go of what I can’t control?
  • How can I appreciate people’s gifts and strengths just as they are?
  • How can I practice the principles I espouse?
  • How can I set a better example?
  • How can I set good boundaries?
  • How can I be a more effective coach?
  • What can I do to better understand each person I manage?
  • How can I build a stronger team?
  • How can I be a better leader?
  • What can I do to show I care?
  • How can I communicate more effectively?
  • What can I do to be more productive?
  • What can I do to develop myself?
  • How can I become more engaged?

I learned so much through QBQ!, and I would recommend this as a resource for anyone who wants to take their leadership and their relationships to the next level.

Have you read QBQ!?  If so, what was one of your biggest lessons learned?

If you could ask any question of yourself, what would it be?

(Please note:  I received a copy of QBQ! for free as part of a giveaway.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I truly believe this book can be a helpful reminder to any reader in helping them to take steps to become better leaders – at work, in the community, at church, and at home.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase QBQ! by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

I have the privilege of being part of the book launch team for a new project by Leah Adams.

HeBrews A Better Blend officially launched yesterday, and I’m honored to share it with The Stretched Community today.

HeBrews A Better Blend is more of a workbook than an actual book.  The book is set up to study the book of Hebrews in eight weeks.  Each week, readers are provided five days worth of study material designed to help you better understand Hebrews and to help you grow deeper in your faith.

Leah Adams writes in a way that encourages you to go deeper.  She uses stories from her personal journey along with her knowledge and understanding of Scripture to push readers along.  Leah uses the coffee metaphor throughout the book in hopes of bringing readers to a better blend in their faith walk.

Each page provides readers with space to write down notes and answer questions.  The book reminds me of a Beth Moore workbook.  You’ll work hard as you go through the pages, and you’ll arrive at the end of the book with a new perspective on Christ and His role in your life. HeBrews A Better Blend is perfect for individuals or for small groups who want to learn more.

If you’d like to know more about HeBrews A Better Blend, click here.

Or pick up your copy today by clicking the link below.

Do you drink coffee?  What’s your favorite kind of coffee?  What ingredient do you need to add to your life to create a better blend?

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  What are the last five books you read?

My Answer:  Reading is one of the best ways to stretch yourself.  I have learned a lot from other authors about life and leadership.  Here are the five books I have been reading most recently:

  1. Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make by Jonathan Pearson (You can read review by clicking here.)
  2. Buy This Land by Chi-Dooh Li (I’m actually reading this in preparation for my trip to Guatemala this summer.)
  3. Actually, Clams Are Miserable: Deconstructing 101 Ridiculous Clichés by Bryan Allain
  4. Ten Commandments for Creatives: A Creativity Road Map by Andrew Zahn
  5. Becoming a LifeChanger: Move Away from Ordinary by Tammy Helfrich

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep STRETCHING!

On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  Click the link below to get your copy today.

As a reminder, I am offering a FREE pdf copy of the interior of the book to subscribers of The Stretched Newsletter.  Head over to the main page of the blog and sign up on the right hand menu bar to get your copy today for FREE!

At some point, the leaders in your company, church, or organization will step down.  They will retire.  They will leave the organization.  And they will leave a vacancy in leadership.

Who will step up and fill the leadership void?

Maybe it’s you!

I’m excited to announce the release of a new book by Jonathan Pearson.  Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make provides insight and advice for those who will fill the leadership gaps left by those who have gone before us.

I read Next Up with a keen interest.  The book was an encouragement for me as I consider my own future opportunities to move further up the leadership ranks in my own endeavors.  And it was also an encouragement as I consider how to encourage the future leaders of my organization.

In Next Up, Pearson provides 8 key shifts that every person must make to advance in their leadership mindsets.  For example, he talks about the importance of shifting from unreliable to consistent and from passive to passionate.

If you are a leader or you want to be a leader, you need to pick up a copy of Next Up.  It’s a powerful, quick read.  You can pick it up, by clicking here.

What are you doing to prepare for the next step in your life and in your leadership?

(Please note:  I received a copy of Next Up for free as part of a giveaway during the launch of this book.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I truly believe this book can be a helpful reminder to any reader in helping them to take steps to become better leaders – at work, in the community, at church, and at home.

Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase Next Up by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

I am an author!

As of April 22nd of this year, I can officially make this proclamation.  This is the day my first book released to the public.  Since the book released, many people have asked me how it feels to be an author.

It feels great, and it feels a little weird.

People have also asked what it took to release my first book.  I have a lot to learn, but I think I can also provide a fresh perspective to people who are thinking about writing their first book.  With this in mind, I came up with a list of ten things to know about writing your first book:

Ten Things Every Aspiring Book Author Should Know

  1. Writing a book takes time.  Writing a book doesn’t happen by snapping your fingers.  It will take you some time.  My On Track book took three months which does not include the time I spent last year writing a few of the blog posts that initiated the idea of writing a book related to the world of track and field.  This is important for me to remember as I consider my next book projects.  I’m hoping to have another book to release before the end of the year, but it may take longer.
  2. Writing a book requires the attitude of a student.  There is so much to learn in the world of book writing and publishing.  I have talked to many other authors.  I have read many blog posts and articles about writing books.  There are many, many great resources available for aspiring authors.  I still have so much to learn, and I’m excited to learn more.  If you want to write a book, ask a lot of questions and prepare to learn.
  3. Writing a book requires humility.  I asked for feedback from several people as I prepared to release my book.  I gave the manuscript to editors, book authors, and potential reviewers in exchange for their honest feedback.  A lot of the feedback required me to set aside my pride, so I could produce a better product.  If you are writing a book, ask people to provide honest critiques of your work.  It will make you a much better author.
  4. Writing a book is work.  It is not easy to write and publish a book.  Besides taking time to write the book, you have to work with cover designers, editors, format people, book store owners, agents, publishers, and many others.  You will probably need to write guest blog posts and do interviews.  You will have to promote your product in an effort to get your book out there.  This is a lot of work.  No one explained to me how much work it took to write and publish a book.
  5. Writing a book is fun.  Honestly, I have enjoyed the process so far.  It has been fun to figure things out along the way (maybe this is the engineer in me).  It has been fun to tell other people about my book or about the progress in completing my book project.  It is fun to watch your initial book sales and to open your first box of books as they arrive at your house.  And it is fun to autograph books for those interested.
  6. Writing a book is habit-forming.  I wrote the first book as a practice for the second book.  My guess is that my second book will be practice for the third book and so on.  Some authors are once and done, but my guess is that many first time authors become second time authors.  They can’t help themselves to do it all over again.
  7. Writing a book provides an amazing opportunity to share with others.  I’ve written about it in previous posts.  I am amazed at the number of opportunities I have had to share with others about my book and about the message behind my book.  You have something worth saying, and a book will provide many unique opportunities to say it to a captive audience.
  8. Writing a book will stretch you.  Do you want to grow?  Do you want to stretch yourself?  Start writing a book.  I have been stretched in so many directions as a result of diving into my first book project.  I thrive on stretching.  I want to live a life marked by growth.  My book project has pushed me to new places in my life.  I am having opportunities to go places I have never gone before as a result of the decision to write a book.  If you want to stretch, start writing.
  9. Writing a book does not guarantee a financial windfall.  So far, I’ve sold 98 copies of my book.  I’ve made about $110.00 so far.  In my dreams I will be a best-selling author one day.  In my dreams….  Did you know that over 90% of authors sell less than 200 copies of their book.  This doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping to making a ton of money by writing books.  I would love to do some amazing things with money made from book proceeds.  I have dreams of building 100 houses in Guatemala using proceeds from my writing.  It’s possible, but it will require a lot more work and a lot more writing.  If you are planning to write a book, you should have realistic expectations for the financial outcome of your book.  You should also remember your initial reasons for writing.  I write to reflect on my stretching marks and to stretch other people.  Why do you want to write a book?
  10. Writing a book is possible.  I never imagined I would be able to call myself an author.  I’m an engineer and a manager.  I’m a husband and a father.  I’m a runner.  But I never imagined I was an author.  That changed in April when I released my first book.  If I can do it, you can do it too!

Have you ever thought about writing a book?  What is stopping you from pursuing becoming an author?  If you have already written a book, what would you add to this list?

On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  Click the link below to get your copy today.

As a reminder, I am offering a FREE pdf copy of the interior of the book to subscribers of The Stretched Newsletter.  Head over to the main page of the blog and sign up on the right hand menu bar to get your copy today for FREE!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Matt McWilliams over at his site.  I’d greatly appreciate it if you headed over to his site to listen to the interview.  Also leave a comment to join the conversation and for a chance to win a copy of On Track.

Click here to head over.

When was the last time you had an interview?

I had an amazing day on Tuesday at work. This is a day I don’t want to forget.

I was asked to speak in front of all the managers in our zone today at a special meeting. The meeting included 90 managers and supervisors from our New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania offices. My topic was developing my team.

I shared about the importance of spending time with your team members (especially through one-on-one meetings). I shared about the importance of showing appreciation to your team members (especially through hand-written thank you notes). And I shared about the importance of developing yourself.

The response was overwhelming. Our zone manager stood up at the end of the meeting to recap the meeting. During his recap, he thanked me and encouraged all the managers and supervisors in the room to join the Thank You Thursday Revolution!

Also, after I spoke, I headed to the back of the room where I was seated. Our HR Manager who was running the meeting put a picture of my book on the screen and asked me to share about my book. I was totally surprised. I stood up at the back of the room and explained about my passion for missions, for running, for writing, and for my faith. I explained that the book was an intersection of several of these interests.

After the meeting, managers repeatedly came up to me congratulating me on my book and thanking me for my talk on team development.

The opportunities to share about my book in front of all the managers and to share personally about it after the meeting were a clear reminder that it is so important to be prepared for the opportunity to share the reason for the hope I profess. God is good!

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… I Peter 3:15

When I started in the workforce 20 years ago, I felt certain that God would use me. Tuesday was a reminder that God is working through me. He’s giving me opportunities I never imagined.

What we are doing matters! Don’t doubt it. God provides opportunities beyond our wildest dreams.

When have you seen an opportunity beyond your wildest dreams?  How did you respond to that opportunity?