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Review – Primal

Primal is the third book that I’ve read by Mark Batterson, and just like In a Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase, his latest book does not disappoint.  This book has a different voice than his previous two works, although there are still plenty of challenges.  Primal is about “rediscovering the lost soul of Christianity.”  It’s about stripping away all the things that have gotten in the way over the years and going back to the things of first importance.  Batterson not only challenges the reader with new concepts, but he also challenges the reader to take action.

Batterson says that as Christians we’re often “not that great at the Great Commandment.” He “re-imagines the four primal elements detailed by Jesus in the Great Commandment:”

The heart of Christianity is primal compassion
The soul of Christianity is primal wonder
The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity
The strength of Christianity is primal energy – p. 7

Here are just a few quotes/ideas that caught my attention:

  • If you are in Christ and Christ is in you cannot be okay with suffering or injustice or starvation.  Why?  Because His heart is in you.  And His heart beats for the suffering, the victim, the poor, and the needy.  p. 20
  • Meditating on it [Scripture] turns one-dimensional knowledge into two-dimensional understanding.  Living it out turns two-dimensional understanding into three-dimensional obedience.  p. 72
  • The church ought to be the most curious place on the planet.  We ought to be a safe place where people can ask dangerous questions, but all too often we’re guilty of answering questions that no on else even asking.  We ought to be challenging the status quo, but all too often we’re guilty of defending it.  p. 97
  • Energy may be the least appreciated dimension of love because it’s the least sentimental.  But it’s the most practical.  And how we invest our energy revels our true priorities.  p. 134

I think this is a great book and one I’ll come back to in coming months.  If you haven’t already finalized your reading list for next year, it’s worth adding Primal.  You can go here to find out more about purchasing a copy

This book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah

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Define the Deliverables

Matt Perman over at What’s Best Next (a blog that I’ve been following for a couple of months) has a great post on making sure you Define the Deliverables on a project.  Don’t just come up with the ideas, make sure you take time to figure out exactly what’s expected.  Matt says:

Defining the deliverables directs your attention to outcomes rather than activities.  Activities are not necessarily productive.  Many of the activities we do are not necessary…if you think first of deliverables, your mind is directed right away to outcomes instead. This will immediately filter out a whole bunch of activities and cause you to identify and focus in on only the activities that are actually essential to the project.

Check out the rest of the post here.  While you’re over there, you might want to look at some of his other great posts on priorities and productivity.

The Truth About You

The Truth About You is the latest strengths based leadership book from Marcus Buckingham.  It was an easier read, but it had a lot of great practical application.  The book comes with a DVD, which has a short movie about strengths, and a “Re-memo” pad for capturing both strengths and weaknesses.  This interactive experience involves more nuts-and-bolts practical application, which distinguishes it from many leadership books on the shelves today.  Lots of books dump a mount of information on you, but don’t encourage you to do anything with it.

Below I’ve listed his main ideas:

  • Performance is always the point:  Don’t expect your organization to know you like you do
    • In most cases the only interest they have in your strengths is whether or not they enhance your performance for the organization.
  • Your strengths aren’t what you’re good at, and your weaknesses aren’t what you’re bad at.
    • Buckingham wants to correct the common misconception that if you’re good at something is must be a strength.
    • His definition of a strength is any activity that makes you fell strong – i.e when you’re done you feel fulfilled, focused, in the zone, and time seems to pass quickly.
  • When it comes to your job, the “What” always trumps the “Why” and the “Who”: So always ask, “What will I be paid to do?”
    • Once you know the “What,” then compare it to your actual strengths before making the decision.
  • You’ll never find a perfect job:  So every week, for the rest of your life, develop a strong week plan.
    • Strong week plan – pick out two things you are going to do to put your strengths into play each week and attempt to implement them.
  • You’ll never turn your weaknesses into strengths:  So fess up to your weaknesses, and neutralize them.
    • Once you’re clear what they are, you’ll have to deal with them.

If you’ve read Buckingham’s books before you’ll probably find the material to be a summary of his strengths teaching and similar to GO! Put Your Strengths To Work.  This book is an ideal introduction to strengths based leadership for those who have never read any of his books before, and also ideal for high school and college students.  I wish someone had exposed me to these concepts much earlier in life.  You can preview the book here, or purchase your own copy here.

Killing Cockroaches

I just finished reading a copy of Tony Morgan‘s new book Killing Cockroaches.  It’s not about killing actual cockroaches, although there are instructions on how to do that in the book.  He says that “killing cockroaches is a euphemism for responding to the urgent stuff in our lives that keeps us from doing the important stuff in our lives.”

As I was reading the book, the format reminded me of something Guy Kawasaki said about his latest book Reality Check in a recent edition of the Catalyst Podcast.  He said his own recent book was more like a desk reference and that at any given time much of the content would not be relevant to your current situation; however, the stuff that isn’t relevant today might be relevant six months for now.  I’m sure I’ll flag my copy, mark it up with lots of notes and keep it handy for future reference.  Below I’ve listed some (by no means all) of the interesting things I came across:

  • Tony’s own formula for killing cockroaches (the metaphorical ones)
  • 48 Simple Strategies for Better Blogging
  • Deal Breakers for Leaders (including:  “Leaders won’t be fulfilled by performing tasks, & Leader’s won’t commit to ambiguity”)
  • Interesting stories about a mustang convertible, giant inflatable blue monkeys, & gunky build up.
  • 10 Easy Ways to Know You’re Not a Leader (including:  You’re waiting on a bigger staff and more money to accomplish your vision, & No one is following you)
  • Great tips on crafting your message to be heard
  • Insights from other leaders about how they avoid killing cockroaches (including: Craig Groeschel, Mark Batterson, Penelope Trunk, & Seth Godin)

There are a lot more helpful insights, interesting stories, and top 10 lists in the book.  I highly recommend picking up a copy.  If you want to know more about the book, you can check out some additional information here, or buy it here.  For more from Tony, check out his blog.

Margin

Brad Lomenick had a great post a few weeks ago on margin that I keep coming back to lately.  

Margin in our lives overall creates options. Options to pursue dreams, think, pray, relax, meditate, process, grow and ultimately live life more fully.

On the flip-side, lack of margin makes us tense, creates stress and pushes for quick decisions. Lack of margin leads to stale and forced relationships, and drives us towards the most available options, but many times not the best.

That’s where I”m at right now.  Not the options part, but the tense, stress, stale relationships, etc. part.  Read the entire post here.

Fred on Systems

Below is the final post in a short series of quotes from The Fred Factor that applied to areas of interest for me.  Here are some links in case you want to know more about the book and/or the author.  Today’s post examines the topic of Systems:

  • Simplify
  • Make it easier for people to get what they need from you.  Eliminate red tape and mind-numbing bureaucracy
    • Don’t create steps in your systems that don’t accomplish your end goal.
    • If there’s still a lot of bureaucracy, then maybe you need to re-examine the end goal.
  • …Think about the systems you are a part of.  You know how things work.  Where are the shortcuts?
  • What does an insider – that would be you – know that would benefit an outsider?
    • Try to remember your first interactions with your organization or other organizations and reflect on the sticking points that you encountered.
    • You can practice this both internally and externally.  Try to not only think about the external customer experience, but also the internal customer experience (i.e. employees, key leaders, or volunteers).  How easy was it to get connected?  Is the new hire orientation helpful or just a bunch of information like every other place you’ve worked?)
  • If you want to be of greater service to others, use your knowledge and expertise to help them understand what appears to be a complex and overwhelming situation.
    • This is especially true for those who are new, interacting with your organization for the first time, and may not know the “rules” yet.
  • Continually Create Value For Others
    • Are your systems designed to create value for those who interact with them?
    • Are people better off or worse off after they’ve interacted with your organization?
  • Increase your implementation quotient – It isn’t enough just to have good ideas if you don’t do something with them.
    • You have to actually do the hard work of implementing all the systems you think up in your meetings.

My good friend Casey Ross has some great posts about systems on his blog.  Here are two about systems and environments.  Be sure to look around at some of his other great posts while you’re there.

Fred on Vision/Leadership

This is the second in a series of posts including thoughts/quotes/ideas from The Fred Factor, which are related to areas that I care a lot about.  You can read the first post here.  The quotes in today’s post are related to vision and leadership.
  • Command-and-control short-circuits the spirit of the Fred Factor, which is about opportunity, not obligation.
    • Recruit to opportunities not needs – use opportunity language.  
    • Don’t say, “We really need volunteers, please volunteer!”  Cast vision and let them know that you have an opportunity for them to be a part of what’s going on in your organization.
  • Here’s what you can do:  Invite people to join you.  Use your enthusiasm and commitment to gain their participation and involvement.
    • Call others to participate with you.  
    • Make the ask, and make it personal
  • The most powerful tool you have for spreading the Fred Factor throughout your organization is your own behavior – the example of your life and the effect it has on others.
    • You’ve got to live out the vision and display the behavior that you’re calling others to adopt.  
  • You teach what you know, but you reproduce who you are. – John Maxwell
    • You can’t fake this – you have to be bought in – otherwise it becomes a “do as I say and not as I do” endeavor – even then, according to the above principle – you’ll reproduce those in your organization that are like you.
  • “No man can become rich without himself enriching others.” – Andrew Carnegie – p. 81
    • You have to help others and invest in their development.  
    • If you accomplish the vision at the expense of relationships and people, then you’re not really doing a good job.
  • We get the behavior we reward.
    • What’s rewarded is repeated – what gets measured gets managed
  • Uninspired people rarely do inspired work.
    • You must cast vision repeatedly to remind people why they’re doing what they’re doing.  
    • It’s vitally important to connect what they’re doing to the heart of the vision – they have to understand the crucial role that they play.  You’ve got to show them how what they do is an integral part of accomplishing the vision.
  • Nobody can prevent you from being extraordinary.  (this is one of Mark Sanborn’s favorite quotes from the book).
    • Proof that the most important person to lead and cast vision for is yourself.