Monday, June 26, 2017

17 Italy Flight Reading

For almost every team I lead, when they check in before departure, they get a reading packet. Yup, almost as bad as summer reading. I won't apologize for it though - when else can you curate a set of ideas for your team to think about while they are held captive in a metal tube flying over open water? Trust me, at least a few of them will get bored of movies and read what you have printed with them in mind.

We depart later this week. Here is most of the reading packet:

Are you willing to be sent where few can see you?

Accelerating Revolutions

How Sociology Messed Up My Faith

The Newest Mission Field

A Question I Ask New Entrepreneurs

Photo: The Med

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Life despite death today in Douma.
Stunning images of a Syrian town breaking Ramadan fast amidst rubble.

::: Why Don't You Donate for Syrian Refugees? Blame Bad Marketing

::: There are More Refugees Today Than Ever Before

::: Seeing the future first may be more about having a wide-angle lens than a crystal ball. @profhamel

Photo: Ember Italy 2016 team. The 2017 team departs soon.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thoughts on Student Missions and Global Safety

4 Thoughts with 4 things you should consider doing.

1. From one of our trusted church partners:
A: [Church] works closely with our local hosts, and we do everything in our power to ensure safety in health, food and travel. In almost all instances, we are assured of safety when following the direction of the local hosts. Ultimately, our security is in the hands of the Lord.

2. What Global Terrorism Means for Sending Churches

3. Track the US State Department and UK Foreign Travel Advice updates.

4. 7 Keys to Traveling Without Fear Despite Terrorist Attacks

Tactical Things The Ember Cast does:
1. The development of a safety and security plan is part of every overseas project. This plan outlines what happens if global events occur prior to departure at specific locations where our teams will be. This plan also details what happens if global events occur when a team is on the ground. This document is vetted by our Board of Directors prior to distribution to our team and parents.

2. Each team is registered with the US State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

3. We subscribe to Concilium's IAG intelligence service - highly recommended.

4. Details for travel dates and locations are not published on social media.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Italy Team #6

Talking to strangers
Telling your story
People of Peace

Tentative Schedule - Plan A never works out anywa

Creation to Christ Story
Your Favorite Bible Story:
Ethan - David and Goliath
Alan - Paul on the road to Emmaus
Niall - Jesus water to wine
Kate - Esther
Kathleen - Joseph
Tony - Jesus and demon possessed man

Less than 2 weeks until wheels up. Over this past weekend, this team became 100% funded. Poland and Italy are landing right around $30K all together. Thank you for your support - in encouragement, prayer and finances - for this team.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Carmageddon is coming
Fascinating read. I've said for a few years that autonomous cars will change everything because America is a car culture. This article has lots along those lines.

::: How to Manage a Team of All Stars

::: The World's Fastest Growing Cities, by the hour

::: Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. – Pablo Picasso

Thursday, June 15, 2017

From The Ember Cast International Office

Final logistics planning. Team departs in a few weeks*. The world is connected like never before.

* Dates and locations of travel are not posted on social media.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The City

Kleiber’s law proved that as life gets bigger, it slows down. But West’s model demonstrated one crucial way in which human-built cities broke from the patterns of biological life: as cities get bigger, they generate ideas at a faster clip. This is what we call “superlinear scaling”: if creativity scaled with size in a straight, linear fashion, you would of course find more patents and inventions in a larger city, but the number of patents and inventions per capita would be stable. West’s power laws suggested something far more provocative: that despite all the noise and crowding and distraction, the average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand.
- Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From

Photo: the top of One World Trade Center, June 2017.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Friday Burn - Meeker Edition

Last week, Mary Meeker, the Queen of the Internet, released her annual always highly anticipated presentation of Internet trends, which basically is THE state of the Internet report. This comes out every year and if you live in the United States and have any influence or lead any kind of team, you should be reading this - it is one of the most interesting thermometers on culture that there is. And the deck reiterates what I like to say to lots of people when I speak - we are living in some of the most amazing and unique times in human history. Here are some takeaways from the perspective of emerging global student leaders.

3.1 hours of mobile usage every for adults, 2.2 for desktop/laptop [slide 9] - What this does mean for spiritual formation and attention.
Internet ad spending just about greater than tv ad spending [slide 14].
20% of mobile queries made from voice vs typing [slide 46]
Google machine learning achieved 95% accuracy, same rate as humans, for voice recognition [slide 48] - What is the impact on reaching oral cultures or on Scripture translation efforts.
Package parcel growth increasing - deliveries [slide 65] - how it affects cities.
Retail - unit closings at 20 year record while Amazon opens retail stores [slide 72] - affinity groups, culture become more and more tribalized
Average age of gamers = 35 - optimize learning and engagement [slide 85]
Gaming tools - optimize learning and engagement [slide 87 + 88 ] How does this affect leadership development? Are our experiences going to be too boring? Can we incorporate these kinds of concepts in the way we form leaders?
Gamification influencing multiple domains - human computer interaction [slide 117]
Esports vs traditional sports [slide 138]
Gaming experience - technology leadership and innovation [slide 147]
Media evolution [slide 176] - more tribal cultures
Household debt [slide 344] - highest since 2008 - this will affect future vocational freedom - debt is one of the largest barriers to vocational missions.
Immigration [slide 347] - USA to become non white majority country

Photo: Elevator, Floor 148, Dubai.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Book Notes - Smarter Better Faster

Smarter Better Faster: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg

This will be the best book I read in 2017. Notes are a little obscure, highly recommended.
Chapter 1 - Motivation
Concept - Internal locus of control
This is a useful lesson for anyone hoping to motivate themselves or others, because it suggests an easy method for triggering the will to act: Find a choice, almost any choice, that allows you to exert control.
Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control. It's the feeling of self-determination that gets us going.
"We praise people for doing things that are hard. That's how they learn to believe they can do them" - drill instructor
The choices that are the most powerful in generating motivation, in other words, are decisions that do two things: They convince us we're in control and they endow our actions with larger meaning.

Chapter 2 - Teams
MBA study group
Google Teams
Saturday Night Live - Lorne Michaels
"I believe that the show has lasted 40 years because Lorne is a genius when it comes to recognizing talent, rolling with the changing times, and encouraging everyone (while developing their individual voices) to work with each other so the total is greater than the sum of its parts.” - Alan Zweibel, producer writer
Concept - Team psychological safety - shared belief that the group is a safe place for taking risks. It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.
Good teams: First, all members spoke in roughly the same proportion. Secondly, good teams tested as having high average social sensitivity - groups were skilled at intuiting how members felt based on their tone of voice, how people held themselves and the expressions on their faces.

Chapter 3 - Focus - Best chapter in the book
Air France 447
Qantas Flight 32
Concepts - mental models, reactive thinking,
Cognitive tunneling - cause people to become overly focused on whatever is directly in front of their eyes or become preoccupied with immediate tasks.
If you want to make yourself more sensitive to the small details in your work, cultivate a habit of imagining, as specifically as possible, what you expect to see and do when you get to your desk. Then you'll be prone to notice the tiny ways in which real life deviates from the narrative in your head.
To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention; we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge…. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what's next. If you are a parent, anticipate what your children will say at the dinner table. Then you'll notice what goes unmentioned or if there's a stray comment that you should see as a warning sign.

Chapter 4 - Goal Setting
Yom Kippur War
SMART goals vs stretch goals
Japan inventing a faster train - bullet train thinking
Concepts - need for cognitive closure

Chapter 5 - Managing Others
FBI case - the guy who was kidnapped
FBI software Sentinel
Agile programming
Toyota Quality - factory line
Concepts - push decisions to lowest level of where they can be made

Chapter 6 - Decision Making
Poker players
Concepts - comfortable with being uncomfortable about decisions
Making good decisions relies on forecasting the future, but forecasting is an imprecise, often terrifying, science because it forces us to confront how much we don't know. The paradox of learning how to make better decisions is that it requires developing a comfort with doubt.
How do we learn to make better decisions? In part, by training ourselves to think probabilistically. To do that, we must force ourselves to envision various futures - to hold contradictory scenarios in our minds simultaneously - and then expose ourselves to a wide spectrum of successes and failures to develop an intuition about which forecasts are more or less likely to come true.
Fortune-telling isn't real. No one can predict tomorrow with absolute confidence. But the mistake some people make is trying to avoid making any predictions because their thirst for certainty is so strong and their fear of doubt too overwhelming.

Chapter 7 - Innovation
Disney story trust
West Side Story - combined unique things for a new play
Diversity of ecology
Concepts - things that have worked in the past, combined in unique ways, from people that are innovation brokers
Tree fell to break the cycle for diversity in ecology
We can create conditions that help creativity to flourish. We know, for example, that innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways. We know the odds of success go up when brokers - people with fresh, different perspectives, who have seen ideas in a variety of settings - draw on the diversity within their heads. We know that, sometimes, a little disturbance can help jolt us out of the ruts that even the most creative thinkers fall into, as long as those shake-ups are the right size.

Chapter 8 - Absorbing Data
One way to overcome information blindness is to force ourselves to grapple with the data in front us, to manipulate information by transforming it into a sequence of questions to be answered or choices to be made. This is sometimes referred to as 'creating disfluency' because it relies on doing a little bit of work… "If you make people use a new word in a sentence, they'll remember it longer. If you make them write down a sentence with the word, they'll start using it in conversation." … When Alter conducts experiements, he sometimes gives people instructions in a hard-to-read font because, as they struggle to make out the words, the read the text more carefully... When information is made disfluent, we learn more.
When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data. It's not enough for your bathroom scale to send daily updates to an app on your phone. If you want to lose weight, force yourself to plot those measurements on graph paper and you'll be more likely to choose a salad over a hamburger at lunch. If you read a book filled with new ideas, force yourself to put it down and explain the concepts to someone sitting next to you and you'll be more likely to apply them in your life.

Monday, June 05, 2017

We See Warsaw

Last week, we did a little send off with Tess and Lindsey - dinner, DC monuments, final details, budget review. They landed over the weekend in Poland where they will be serving with a church plant for the next 2 months. Tess has served with Ember every summer since 2014 and this is Lindsey's first Ember outing although she has a background with lots of cross cultural experience.

I'm thrilled that these two are part of our tribe - they are kind, they care about what kind of change they can make in the world, they are willing to risk trying new things because the Gospel is worth it and they laugh at my jokes. They also represent a pretty big milestone for Ember this summer. Although we have sent a number of students for the summer within the US, these two are our first overseas. And when Italy flies, we will have two 'teams' in the field at the same time.

Thanks to those of you that have helped support these two with your prayers, encouragement and financial support. And a few hours before they flew, some of their lodging costs dropped which enabled them to be 100% funded. That's always fun. Be sure to follow their blog.

Photo: Tess, Lindsey, moi. June 2017.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Is God Reviving Europe Through Refugees?

::: Costco's First Iceland Store Draws Massive Crowds

::: Countries Facing the Greatest Shortages of Skills

::: "A scared world needs a fearless church." - A W Tozer

Photo: Ember DC with CMP, April 2017.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Play The Man - Mark Batterson

If you look up sockdolager in the dictionary, it means"'knockout blow." And that's exactly what the rapid felt like - a 48 degree punch in the face. As we approached the rapid, my adrenaline was pumping like pregame warm-ups. We white-knuckled the handles of the raft and held on for dear life. Breaking through the rapid reminded me of running through the human-sized Hula-Hoop signs our cheerleaders used to make for our basketball team in high school. As we broke through the rapid, Josiah yelled at the top of his mid-puberty voice, "We are men! We are men!"
That will forever rank as one of the greatest moments of my life.
I've long been inspired by Mark Batterson and National Community Church, probably for the better part of ten years now at least. His philosophy of ministry, the values and mantras of NCC, his perspective on innovation, risk and creativity have all impacted what SPACE and The Ember Cast has done about discipleship, leadership and global missions. Being a suburb of DC, we feel the impact a place like NCC has - it seems both far away and close enough and they set the bar high for gathering and scattering people willing to sacrifice for a world in need. Close enough too to feel the impact of some good friends who are or who have been on staff. But for all of that, I'm most inspired by Pastor Mark to be a good dad. Read about his Discipleship Covenant with each of his kids.
Play the Man might seem like one of those manly men books. I hate those. No one needs one more sports analogy [and not only in books but in Sunday sermons as well.] Although Play the Man is certainly most applicable for men, it's a great read about seven virtues of manhood, described as only Pastor Mark can with facts from a variety of subjects, stories about his family and challenges to the way we live our lives.
Also, right around that time, I read a book by Andy Stanley titled Choosing to Cheat. One statement I read in the book totally changed my perspective: "To say yes to one thing is to say no to the other." I decided to say no to a lot more opportunities so I could say yes to my top priorities - my wife and children.
At the end of the day, I want to be famous in my home.
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Burn

::: Clarkston, GA welcomes 1500 refugees a year

::: Bill Gates' Advice for New Graduates

::: Living Together, Alone
The money quote: "The downfall of humanity is the invention of the refrigerator."

::: This is an amazing time to be alive. I hope you make the most of it. - Bill Gates

Photo: Debriefing team building.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Katie and Becca

When I was 26, I was just about done with my phase of watching MTV and eating cereal for breakfast. Meet two other 26 year olds that hung with us for a few days this week - Katie, 3rd from the right and Becca, 2nd from the right. Katie is on her 20-something country, about half of those done with significant global missions perspectives. Becca just started a nonprofit to help with children, poverty and education in Liberia.

We met Katie last summer in Italy when she and a friend joined our Ember team for a week after returning from Greece checking out the refugee situation there. She told us her and Becca were connecting through DC on their way to Liberia so we naturally invited them to stay in the international Ember office. DC monument tour at night, visiting with some Ember peeps, meeting our kitchen remodel contractors. This trip to Liberia is around vision - lots of observation and dreaming to spur strategy and action.

Ember is fortunate to hang with these kinds of people - the young, energetic, passionate for the world, willing to start something from nothing. You might not be 26 but it's never too late to be the person you were meant to be.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Italy Mtg #4

One of the best and easiest tools to help build your team - the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This is the chart for Italy 2017.

I have done this with almost every team I have led and, even more importantly, teams have referred to it when thinking about another team member. That is what you want - a tool to help you fast forward relationships so that people become brave, vulnerable, courageous and trustworthy.

Lucky for us, I think we have one ENFJ that isn't on the list.