Join the Stretched Community
All-Time Popular Posts
The past two days, I posted a list of the first 20 books I’ve read in 2018 (click here to see part one of the list and click here to see part two of the list). Here’s the next group of books on the list:
The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work by Jon Gordon – I’ve read one or two other books by Jon Gordon, and I really like his writing. He uses storytelling to teach business, leadership, and life principles. This book shows you how you can change a lot by removing complaining. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni – This is another book I picked up at our local library for 50 cents (or a dollar). I read this book while I was camping in the Poconos over Memorial Day weekend. I really enjoyed this book that has a similar feel to the Jon Gordon book above and the previous Patrick Lencioni book I read earlier in the year. If you want to be an extraordinary leader, you just may want to pick up a copy of this book. [Note: I read the hardcover version of this book.]
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller – Everybody talks about this book, so I decided I should give it a try. Gary Keller (of Keller-Williams) describes the remarkable difference we can make when we resist the urge to dilute our attention. Honestly, I struggle in this area. I’m too spread out in my focus, and this book was a great reminder of the importance of narrowing our focus. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier – I have the opportunity to coach at home, at work, at church, and in my on-line endeavors. This book was an important read for me. I truly want to help people succeed, and this book packs a valuable punch by teaching a structure that will help you get the most out of your coaching conversations. [Note: I read the audible version of this book.]
No Fail Meetings: 5 Steps to Orchestrate Productive Meetings (and Avoid All the Rest) by Michael Hyatt – When I heard this book was coming out, I immediately pre-ordered it. I knew this book at power to change the way I lead and participate in meetings. (My second book on meetings this year.) Michael Hyatt didn’t disappoint in this concise explanation of how to make meetings more productive. [Note: I read the hardcover version and the audio version of this book.]
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter – The Hamilton Craze has been sweeping our country for the past year or two. I saw In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s earlier musical, and I knew I wanted to know more about Hamilton. This book provides a unique look into the story of Hamilton, the man and the musical. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown – I’m a big baseball fan. When I saw this for sale in the used book area of our local library, I knew I had to pick it up for my own reading pleasure. I really enjoyed getting to know more about Jim Abbott, about his career, and about his life and struggles as told throughout the pages of the book. Abbott overcame unbelievable odds and obstacles to make it to Major League Baseball. [Note: I read the hardcover version of this book.]
Why Suffering?: FInding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale – When I was in college, I had the honor of hearing Ravi Zacharias speak at Intervarsity Urbana missions conference. I knew I was listening to someone with a lot of wisdom. I’ve experience some suffering in my life, but I’ve honestly been very blessed as well. This book gave me a refreshing perspective on suffering. [Note: I read the Audible version of this book.]
Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning by Derek Melleby – My friend, Sean McFeely, recommended this book when I told him about Isaac’s “Year of Discipleship”. We read this as our sixth book, and it provided practical reminders for high school students getting ready to transition to life and/or college. [Note: I read the paperback version of this book.]
Due to the overall length of this material, I will be breaking it up into a few posts. Stay tuned for the continuation of my 2018 reading list. I’ve read one or two other books, but I’ll wait until I get to book number 40 before posting the next post in this series. Stay tuned!
At lunch time today, I walked across the street from my office to head to my Toastmasters International regular club meeting. Due to scheduling conflicts, I haven’t been to the club for a couple of months. Prior to my relatively brief absence, I was a regular member of the club for the past three or four years. I even served as the President of the club for one year.
I pride myself on making sure everyone feels welcome. I try to introduce myself to guests and new members as they check out the club for the first few times, and I try to learn a little bit about each person. I also try to remember the names of the people who come to the meetings. Our club has added several new members the past few months which has made this a bigger challenge.
Today as members were gathering for the meeting, I mistakenly referred to one of the newer members by the wrong name. I had the best of intentions, but I completely botched his name. I tried to laugh it off and even joked about it, but I really felt bad about my blunder.
Last month, Isaac (my son) and I read through How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. (We’ve been intentionally reading through a book together each month as he prepares to make the transition from high school to college. That’s another topic for another time.) One of Carnegie’s principles for winning friends and influencing people is to remember people’s names. People like to hear their name. When you remember someone’s name it shows them you care and they matter. When you use someone’s name you establish and strengthen a human connection with the other person.
There’s a person at my church who is amazing at this. Her name is Terri Stone. Our church’s typical Sunday morning attendance is 1700-1800 which means there are probably around 2300-2500 who call our church home. I would bet that Terri knows 75% or more of the names of these attendees. Terri makes it a point to find out a person’s name when she meets them. She uses their name at least a few times during their initial conversation. The next time she sees the person, she goes out of her way to talk to the person she met a week (or longer) ago, and she uses their name every time. Many people I know at our church would tell you that Terri Stone made them feel welcome, and they would comment on how she remembered their names.
If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, take time to get to know them and to know their name. As Dale Carnegie says, you will provide the sweetest sound to their ears.
Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself, but you can bet I’ll get that guys name right the next time I see him at Toastmasters.
If you want to take it a little deeper for fun, what’s your middle name?
When the day is over and your energy is spent
Your feet are heavy like they’re stuck in cement,
It’s time to reflect on the happenings of the day,
To hug your loved ones, say what you need to say.
Sure there were downs and ups throughout,
But that’s what most days are all about.
Did you hit your goals you set at the start?
Did you leave some unfinished business in your cart?
To close the day on a positive upswing,
Write down three things that made your heart sing.
For me those things included a morning walk,
Time with my wife when we could talk.
And finally, the thing that felt right
Was the moment I had simply to write.
Last week, I wrote a post called Holy Anticipation. I shared how much I struggled to sleep before a big event.
Tonight, I’m experiencing excitement on the other end of a big event. For the past few months, I have been hosting/facilitating the Stretched Men Group every other Wednesday night. SMG is a mastermind group for men designed to help men “stretch” themselves as husbands, fathers, leaders, and men.
The conversations we have in the group are inspiring. I have witnessed the growth of men in their marriages, in their careers, in their parenting, and in their faith. I am humbled that they would entrust me to be a guide for them on this journey.
Tonight, we concluded the spring semester of SMG. During the semester, we talked about the traps men face. We talked about pride, possessions, pornography, people-pleasing, alcohol, and busyness. We were challenged to face these traps head on – to get the help we need – and to find ways to avoid these pitfalls in the future.
At the end of each semester, we take the opportunity to celebrate what we have experienced. In a sense it’s a Holy Celebration. And this is what causes me to struggle with sleep this time. It takes some time to unwind from these uplifting and deep conversations.
If you’d like to be part of this kind of discussion, you should consider joining the Stretched Men Group. I’ll be running an abbreviated summer semester starting on June 27th. If you’d like to learn more, go to www.stretchedmengroup.com. You can sign up for more information. I’d love to connect with you to answer your questions and to help you STRETCH.
In the meantime, back to my Holy Celebration!
If we aren’t intentional, we’ll waste valuable opportunities to make a difference, to move forward, and to achieve a dream or goal. We have to live life on purpose.
Too many people simply coast through life. They go with the flow in hopes they will end up somewhere decent.
I just finished reading The ONE Thing – The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. I was struck by Keller’s observations about purpose.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in way too many things. I am guilty of this for sure. When we do this, we cheat ourselves (and others) of our very best. Keller suggests we need to focus on the one thing that will allow us to achieve our goal and will make everything else easier.
We must first determine our overall goal. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next five years to achieve this goal. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next year to achieve the five year goal. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next month to achieve the goal for the year. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next week to achieve the goal for the month. Then we must determine what we must accomplish today to achieve the goal for the week. When we keep going, we must determine what we must do this moment in order for us to achieve our goal for the hour or day.
When we break things down in this manner, we give ourselves a much better chance of making our overall goal happen. Big things happen one small step at a time (not all at once).
We must be purposeful in our plans and our actions if we we want to do something big.
This weekend, I had the blessing of spending a few days away with some good friends. For the most part, we were without cell service which meant we were disconnected from the internet, from the notifications, and from the tendency to respond to every message we received (because we didn’t receive any messages).
This was exactly what I needed.
I sat around. I took a few long walks. I read. I fished. I enjoyed great food and fantastic conversation.
As I shut down for the evening, I know I’ll be climbing back into the “connected” world tomorrow. I believe my time away is just what I needed to take the things I’m working on to the next level, and I’m excited.
As I predicted I didn’t sleep all that well last night (see my post from yesterday). It’s okay though, because I have a weekend to pause. I’m fairly certain I will be refreshed by the end of the weekend.
We all need to take time to pause, to get away from the hustle of life, to reconnect with ourselves and those we love, and to be refreshed.
That’s what I’m doing this weekend.
And I’m so thankful.
I typically struggle to sleep on night’s before a big event just like I struggled to sleep the night before Christmas when I was a little kid. (Yes. I was once little.). Tonight is one of those nights. I have a big event coming up tomorrow, and I’m hoping I can get a few hours of sleep. It could be a challenge, but I’m going to do my best.
Have you ever experienced this kind of anticipation?
The day before the first day of school….
The night before your wedding day….
The night before you start a new job….
The morning of a big test or a big game or a big meeting….
Anticipation is that feeling you get when you are so excited to see what will happen next. That’s the kind of anticipation I have right now.
What I am anticipating is a big deal for me. I look forward to it every year, and I’m always a little sad when it’s over. Then I have to start the waiting clock all over again.
What if we had this same kind of enthusiastic anticipation for some other things?
The hour before a meaningful conversation….
The hour before we get to spend time with the one we love….
The years before we spend eternity in heaven….
This kind of anticipation is holy. There’s something extra special about relationships with others and with God.
Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in the rat race of life, and we lose the sense of job and enthusiasm for things that will really last. Instead, we overly focus ourselves on things that will fade away.
As you head into the day, stop and think about the things that really matter in your life. Now take a moment to get excited about these things. Share your enthusiasm with others.
That’s worth your energetic excitement.
On my way out the door this morning, I loaded the Audible version of Toxic Charity – How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). I spent a lot of time in my car today, so I almost finished it. The book came at the recommendation of a friend, Shawn Smith, who serves in Guatemala. Shawn recommended the book recently after I reached out to him about Guatemala and our focus on Xenacoj.
In Shawn’s reply to my request for information, he suggested I read Toxic Charity.
Wow! This is a book, I’ll have to go back to again to fully digest the message. Many of the thoughts in this book have rolled around in my head especially in my more recent trips to Guatemala. You can actually read some of my thoughts in my book (Rooftop Reflections).
How can we make a difference without creating a problem? How can we help without creating unhealthy dependency?
Toxic Charity challenges the very essence of what we have come to know as mission trips and efforts to express our compassion.
Whether you are trying to make a difference in your community or in the world, you should pick up a copy of Toxic Charity. The book provides solid advice to make sure your help is really helpful.
I don’t look at my book sales very often. I’ve learned that the numbers will be what they will be. For some reason, I decided to look at my book sales the other day, and I was surprised to see that copies of my first book (On Track – Life Lessons from the Track and Field) had “surged.”
“Surge” is in the eye of the beholder for sure, but it was a surge to me considering I released the book over four years ago in 2014, and I haven’t seen many sales recently especially with all the attention pointed to my recent book, Rooftop Reflections.
I’m guessing the “surge” in sales was either related to the spring track and field season or to a couple of generous people who decided to purchase several copies to give away (or both). Whatever, I was pleasantly surprised.
Creating is a labor of love. You create. Sometimes people love it, and sometimes they hate it. Most of the time, they simply don’t care. In other cases, you have an impact that goes beyond your life, your knowledge, or your understanding. I’ve seen this over and over again here on my blog. People from all over the world have connected with me through the comments or through some other connection point. I’ve seen some posts simply flop, and I’ve seen others repeatedly draw traffic.
I’ve recently returned to a more consistent blogging schedule (I don’t know if you noticed). While I hope my writing impacts others, I have learned that my writing impacts me too. The discipline of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the screen (and perhaps into your eyes) has been extremely satisfying and rewarding.
All this to say, keep creating. If you’re a writer, keep writing. If you’re a musician, keep playing music. If you’re a builder, keep building amazing things.
Your creations pay tribute to our Creator. They tell a story about you. And you never know, they just might have an impact on others (even when you are least expecting it).