Nov 242011

Gratitude can’t be disconnected. Thanks has to be given to someone. And, I want to give thanks for someone, for a lot of people in my life, the ones who have made the greatest difference and positive impact in my life. As they do in book acknowledgements and acceptance speeches, I want to thank the many people who have help me through what I consider to be turning points in my life. My Dad and Mom. My wife Rachelle. My son Jeremiah. Buggs Bugnon. Paul & Alice Chou. Ray Chang. Bernice Imei Hsu. Dave Travis. Sabastian Huynh. Chuck Fromm. And I thank God for giving me Himself and for Jesus Christ and for the Holy Spirit, for the very breath of life itself and all the days of my life, however many it is that I will be granted – what a gift! (aside #1: some say religion is a crutch, so be it for them. I say I can use all the help I can get, and I’m not too proud or too ashamed to say I need lots of help.)

And THANK YOU for being a regular reader or even a random visitor to my website and blog here at! Thank you Twitter followers and Facebook friends too!

(aside #2: It’s hard to make these lists of people to thank, because I don’t like leaving people out, as a highly-inclusive kind-a-guy… the list above are those that have made the biggest difference, you make a difference too, just not as big as theirs, in my life, yet…)

Jun 232011

This is a conversation I want to engage. And Vince Marotte has fired the first shot. It won’t be the last. The church has a big glaring communication problem and Vince calls it out with his first eBook, Context and Voice: Communication Design in our New Media Culture.
Vince describes the problem this way in Chapter 2:

Something is broken in the way that the Church communicates. There is a serious disconnect between how the culture communicates and how the Church does. This is in stark contrast to the church of a hundred and fifty years ago which was the catalyst of cutting edge communication technology and strategies. Starting with the Hebrew culture of story telling and the passing down of scriptures, history, genealogy and arts through simple spoken word.

My remarks here will be a book impression. Not a book review. Not a critique. Not a summary. Not an overview. More of a book reaction. I was very eager to read the book and finished it in a day.

I liked the book’s idea, not just because I’m an ideas guy. I like the author. I just had a nagging feeling that something was missing.

Maybe I’ve hung out with Vince too many times during this year; one too many. *grin* The book didn’t have the shock value for me that it will have for average joe church leader. And if you’ve been a follower of @m_vince or subscriber to like me, you would have heard these ideas before too: on a webinar and/or in a presentation slide deck.

Maybe I read it too fast. The book is written in a stream-of-consciousness conversational-style and the reader is warned right in the introduction. This did make the book easy to read. Did I mention I read it in a day, actually, under a day?

Maybe the typos bothered me. Did Vince talk into his MacBook and run a voice-recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, and out came this eBook? :) Again, I love what he said but what was written (typed) made for a bumpy ride. :)

One thing missing from the book was pictures, or diagrams, or charts. That didn’t reflect new media very well. In other words, words alone don’t do the book justice. Or was this a restriction of the eBook format? I needed a picture, a framework to unpack the big ideas. And I’m an ideas guy.

Vince uses key words in a new way and with fresh nuances: designing communication. context. voice. culture. distribution. content creators. What does it all mean? It wasn’t mapped out. (And that’s okay by me.) Vince does like to skateboard, and there are no paths in a skate park, so he takes us on quite a ride. Doesn’t give us answers. He does get our adrenaline going and I know for me I want more. Here’s the 1 diagram that can help you get the lay of the land, the skate park, of the eBook:

Maybe it was the form factor. The eBook read like a series of blog posts, but more than blog posts. On almost every page, I was itching to click something to add a comment, but I couldn’t! I was reading the eBook in ePub format on iBook. The book’s begging for a conversation, but without a way for me to immediately respond on the spot, it felt like a monologue. Ugh. I know this is not the author’s intent. He does want to cultivate conversation, a lot of it at that. And it’s hard to find conversation partners on this topic. He’s asked me, in person, and indeed they are hard to find. The business of church is too consuming, of both our time and money. Maybe that’s an underlying issue, too, for why we don’t have more front door content that can connect in the context of our new media culture today. Maybe the whole economic engine and business model of sustaining the church as we know it is broken.

The hope I have in this eBook is that it is The Conversation Starter. Where the eBook form factor does work is this: you, the reader, can take it in 1 piece with you. Reflect and digest. Then come back and engage and join the conversation. I’ve seen Vince do online “coffee talk” sessions at his Gateway Church Internet Campus, so he’s definitely accessible and conversational. The eBook speed-to-publish reiterates the urgency and need for “front door content” to be created and distributed via new media. Traditional publishing takes 12-18 months, that’s too slow for ideas about new media that’s running on network technology that goes obsolete in 6 months.

In the end, I felt the book left me hanging. I finished chapter 10 and tried to turn the page and it wouldn’t go anywhere. That’s it?! No conclusion? Screeched to a halt. To be continued? No web link to continue the conversation? Abrupt ending. Did I get an incomplete download? Help?! The suspense is killing me! Great job, Vince, you’ve left me wanting more!

Mar 182010

Through my work with Leadership Network, I’ve had incredible times to connect with church leaders all around the United States, and even a few around the world. I love to connect people to people and people to resources. The resource I want to connect you with is this new book by Scott Wilson, Steering Through Chaos: Mapping a Clear Direction for Your Church in the Midst of Transition and Change.

Scott Wilson is pastor of The Oaks Fellowship just south of Dallas. I first met him in Dallas at the Multi-Site Churches Leadership Community that I’m a part of managing, along with the church’s leaders, which included Justin Lathrop. What I love is the inviting vibe of their leaders, doing amazing things (by the grace of God) as a fast-growing church while also being personable, relational, and accessible. That’s what came through to me in my interactions with Scott and Justin, and this came through in Scott’s new book too. (cf. Download a sample chapter of Steering Through Chaos)

Watch this video of Scott Wilson talk about the book (cf. extended version):

What caught my attention with Steering Through Chaos were these things:

(1) Scott quotes so many other people in this book, like a synthesis of all that he’s gleaned from other church leaders! I didn’t fact-check, but the acknowledgements section would be dozens of pages if he were to list all the names of leaders mentioned in the book!

(2) Scott shares his own story of going through a massive church transition, that included relocation, building campaign, leadership transitions, personal challenges, and managing healthy relationships. This narrative approach sure makes the underlying principles much more understandable and practical. Yes, this book covers a lot of ground.

(3) The book speaks to personal health. In an early chapter, the author lists a stress chart to honestly show the reality of what changes do to people, and doesn’t ignore or overlook this in the name of being “spiritual” or bieng a “leader.” Being emotionally healthy is vital for short-term and long-term success, for both personal and organizational health. And, it means getting the help you need, whether a life coach, counselor, or whatever. I’m glad this is weaved in throughout the book.
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Feb 132010

With so many conferences in the world, I’m often asked which one to go to.

After attending a few conferences, some people begin to discover the value of these gatherings extend beyond the keynote talks and seminar lectures. What’s even more life-changing are the people you meet and the conversations you have.

At the Verge conference in Austin last week, I met Ryan Rice, who is now church planting in Phoenix. Ryan explained how life-changing the one-time-only Innovation3 Gathering was. Watch this video of Ryan Rice telling how that conference changed his life:

Next week, I’ll point you to 2 conferences especially configured so there’s intentional structured time for attendees to engage in more conversations and not only listening to talks.

Nov 022009

Swimming in a sea of leadership books, blogs, and programs, I’m frankly quite conflicted about what exactly is leadership. Sure there are a ton of aspects to developing and being a leader: skills, competency, character, knowledge, attitude, chemistry, discipline, passion, vision, relating, motivating, persuading, deciding, planning, ad nauseum.

In the pithy words of John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.

the-incredibles-1-sizedVery good. Everyone has influence. Everyone can impact and influence another person or even a group of people, for good or for bad. But does that mean everyone can be a leader? Can anyone be the leader of a company or organization? Who should be the leader of a group if everyone can be a leader? (cf. “Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super, no one will be.” from The Incredibles)

So what the majority of the books and blogs and programs are not talking about leadership as merely influence. The leadership gurus are implicitly talking about another layer of leadership. Leadership is much more than being faithful, available, and teachable; much more than knowing your weaknesses, pain, or strengths.

The term that’s been suggested to me is: leadership capacity.

So while everyone has influence, each person has a different amount of leadership capacity. That capacity can grow, thus be developed. And some are naturally (and/or supernaturally) gifted with more leadership capacity right out of the womb. A leadership gift is a higher capacity. This means that a person who isn’t a gifted leader will probably not develop more leadership capacity than someone who is gifted.

The better question is: How much leadership capacity does a person have? How do you measure it?

Thank you Sabastian for a conversation that really cleared the air for me.

Oct 252009

Earlier this week, I put an anonymous poll out to my peeps, with this simple question: “For those who know me from offline or online, how much of a people person am I?”

I don’t think of myself as the consummate people person, whatever that means. I confess that my personal visceral reaction when I see a person with a big toothy smile is a tinge of suspicion, that they’re hiding something, have an agenda, or out of touch with reality of life that’s a mix of ups and downs.

So I put out the poll to get myself a reality check, because how I see myself is only a part of what’s real via self-awareness. To not be self-deluded, there’s also being open to what others see. And, there’s also what no one sees or knows — what only God knows.

It was strongly suggested for me to read John Maxwell’s Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships. I got the book out, again, to learn more of what I may have missed. Now, back to the issue at hand.

How do you describe what is a “people person” anyways? I think the label would have a wide range of perceptions and definitions, as does the labels introvert and extrovert. Extroverts recharge themselves by being with others, while introverts recharge by being alone.
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Dec 262008

It’s a holiday season. That means lots of time for movies. On one channel, they had a whole hour of trailers from movies about Christmas. I think I read once that more movies made about this holiday than any other.

This week has afforded me more time with family, and to think about family. I don’t blog about my family, as all of them have privacy concerns, or I think they assumingly do.

Family is family, and many do feel enough of a connection to made an annual pilgrimage home to visit, even though few families describe themselves as close. When the family gathers, there may be fond memories of rituals that are cherished as family traditions.

There are other family traditions too. The habits and patterns each of us revert to. Some love to play together; some cook and eat; some talk feelings and relate that way; some tell stories; some share their joys and fears; some listen to each other; some create drama; some debate for fun, some for fight; some graciously help each other grow and mature; some stay cordial and polite; some go shopping; some vacation together with each person doing their own thing.

I’m probably not alone in saying that I behave differently being around family than I am hanging out with a friend. (sometimes) I wish I could be as free being with family as I could be with friends. (A few people might have the reverse, feeling more free at home with family than with others.)

Somehow I’ve psyched myself out, thinking that if I behave the same with my family in the way I would with a good friend, my family might be offended, or not accept me and get rejected, or not get my sense of humor, or get uncomfortable, or. whatever… and it’s not like I run with a questionable crowd.

Let’s see what happens if I change my words and behaviors. Got a couple of days on this round. Let’s see what happens. I may report back, especially if I can get any of them to blog or twitter ;)

Sep 022003

Networking is one of the buzz words swirling around the business world, career development, job searching, personal development, and even among vocational religious professionals. Experts know how valuable it is, people will concur that it’s valuable, but few people actually know how to do it. As I’m in active networking mode during my West Coast stay this week, getting to hang out with Rudy, Elijah, Dave, Spencer, and others who aren’t onliners, yet] has been a thrill, wish Wifi were ubiquitous, and you could have tuned in to a color commentary or play-by-play on the power dialogues.. so here’s some thoughts and almost practical tips about networking:

1. While conferences, seminars, events, workshops provide an opportunity for networking, networking doesn’t actually happen 99% of the time, b/c that time is used to put a name to a face, and conversations skim the surface with small talk. Networking requires intentional + regular follow-up and conversations, both in-person and virtual (IM, phone, email, msg boards, chat rooms, IP telephony, etc.) The ol’ mediated “Say hello for me” doesn’t quite count.

2. Networking with people requires actual people who are connectors and/or facilitators to run the network, to keep it running, to keep it going. Technology can support the networking activity, but someone has to be traffic facilitator, coordinate some conversations + meetups. Just as a computer network [LAN] requires hubs and routers, so does human networks.

3. Extending and growing a network involves meeting new people and connecting with them. Through conversations, you broaden your horizons, learn new perspectives, meet great people, open up possibilities for synergy + collaboration + mutuality + combustible ideas.

4. Maintaining a personal “network” of a few close personal friends, a la friendster, doesn’t really tap into the power. That’s just bunkering down into a clique, comfort zone, a gang, a clan; not there’s anything wrong with that.

5. On a good day, I can get 5 meetups in 1 metro area, including travel time and brief interims to decompress or transition, if needed: breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon tea at Starbucks, dinner, evening meetup. This is my trade secret, yours for the taking [attribution would be nice, but not required] for being my faithful blog reader.

6. If you know of a job or a company that would value my contribution in meeting up with people for simply the pure love of networking [and NOT making a sales pitch, or using people; just connecting with them, and building relationships], reply back to me with an intro, b/c that’d be a dream job for me!!

This blog entry courtesy of JetBlue, who gets it, offering free Wifi hotzone here in the (otherwise boring) lounge @ Long Beach.. JetBlue, you make me happier every time :)

Feb 162003

Here in metro DC, with over 12″ of the snow on the ground, and maybe 20″ or more before day’s end, it’s a great day to be web surfing and blogging. Of course it’d be even better skiing, but the roads are treacherous, even the interstate.. but we did get out early enough to hop onto the Metro and worship at the train station church, great music, great vision, enthusiastic people who look like they enjoy being there; they’re looking to launch an Arlington branch in September, God speed to them! On the drive back from the metro station, almost didn’t make it into my own street b/c of the snowbanks from the plowing on the main road. But determined to get inside so I could do my blog entry, spun my tires a few extra times, and made it half way up the driveway..

my profound thought of the weekend.. I’m in the middle of no mans land, b/c I do like deep thoughtful and/or personal conversations, perhaps more of a philosophical or psychological bent (which I’d call personal), I don’t do the small talk stuff well with the average joe I meet at social occasions, and then I don’t do well with the high-powered conversations amongst those who talk among academia. The latter group do have the capacity to engage at very thoughtful levels, tho’ usually not personal; and the former don’t readily exhibit the capacity to do neither thoughtful or personal. Occasionally I do find a virtual dialogue on the internet, from those who find my web site or blog, and we have some great exchanges.. and those do thrill my soul. One of those conversations about the meaning of the atonement, now with transcript online. New theological categories may indeed be helpful for how people process God-truths.