Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in cities

1. Chincoteague Island, VA, USA
2. Philadelphia, PA, USA
3. Cambridge, MD, USA
4. Fairfield, CT, USA*
5. Atlantic City, NJ, USA
6. St. Leonard, MD, USA
7. Rehoboth Beach, DE, USA
8. Queen Creek, Phoenix, Gilbert, Grand Canyon, AZ, USA
9. Niagara Falls, ON, CA
10. Salisbury, MD, USA
11. Kent Narrows, MD, USA

* multiple times

Here is the map. Yes, made it out of the US once [even though it was Canada...] And saw the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls in one summer.

Previous years in cities: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.

PS - 2010 in pictures

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in books

1. The Bible [chronological daily bible - got about 8 months through it but still sort of reading...]
2. Switch [notes]
3. Untamed
4. Forces for Good [notes]
5. Linchpin
6. Teen 2.0
7. Uncharitable [notes]
8. Blue Ocean Strategy
9. Nurtureshock
10. Making Ideas Happen [notes]

[Related: 2009, 2008, 2007.]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Notes - Making Ideas Happen

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
Phenomenal read - you should read this. Ton of great stuff in here for personal productivity and team leadership. I gave an Action Journal [based on the Action Method] as a gift to a few people.

Making Ideas Happen = Ideas + Organization + Communal Forces + Leadership Capability

Creativity * Organization = Impact

Project Management:
A relentless bias toward action pushes ideas forward.
Stuff that is actionable must be made personal.
Taking and organizing extensive notes aren't worth the effort.
Use design-centric systems to stay organized.
Organize in the context of projects, not location.

Action Steps
Start each with a verb.
Capture them everywhere.
An unowned action step will never be taken.
Treat managerial action steps differently.
Foster an action-oriented culture.
Attraction breeds loyalty.

Set up your backburner.
Create a backburner ritual.

References obstruct your bias toward action.
Use a chronological pile or file.
Feel the flow of references - question it, label it, file it.

"Creators Immediacy" - an instinct to take care of every problem and operational task, no matter how large or small, as soon as it comes up.

Killing ideas - Disney's three rooms.
1 - rampant idea generation.
2 - idea aggregation resulting in a story board.
3 - the sweat box - critical review without restraint.

Measure Meetings with Action
Don't just meet because it's Monday.
End with a review of actions captured.
Call out nonactionable meetings.
Conduct standing meetings
Don't call meetings out of your own insecurity.
Don't stick to round numbers [don't schedule for a full hour like scheduling software defaults to.]
Always measure with Action Steps.
[Oh so many people should read this section.]

* Godin's 6 month MBA.
"I can say that Godin's MBA program likely serves as a better foundation and stronger impetus for entrepreneurial success than any other top MBA program."

"Done Walls" - literally gather up the records of completed projects and then decorate certain walls with these artifacts.

"Insecurity Work" - stuff that you do that has no intended outcome, does not move the ball forward in any way and is quick enough that you can do it multiple times a day without realizing how much time is being wasted.

"Committal Benefits" - when you publicly commit yourself and take on risk to make an idea happen - represents the increased likelihood of others to take a risk of their own to support your projects.

"Respect-Based Self Marketing" - amassing a group of followers on the web - people choose to follow you and your work because they respect you or something you have done. Once they choose to follow you, they have invited you to push information and updates to them. [so true]

Leadership development is experiential. Through trial and error, good times and bad, we gradually become better leaders - but only if we are self-aware enough to notice when and why we falter.

Engage Initiators
Building a team of enthusiastic and talented people is one of the greatest challenges for leaders. A resume gives little indication of a candidates true mettle. Rather than focusing exclusively on an individuals experience, truly effective managers instead measure a prospective employee’s ability to take initiative.
When you stumble across an Initiator - someone who has passion, generates ideas and tends to take action - recognize your good fortune. Nothing will assist your ideas more than a team of people who possess real initiative.
[Like Rework "Starters"]

IDEO 'T' people - the long horizontal line represents breadth of experience while the tall vertical line represents a depth of experience in one particular area.

Consensus can often lead to a lackluster outcome.
Teams should not strive for complete consensus at the outset of a project. After all, consensus-driven teams run the risk of settling on what offends no one and satisfies no one. Early and complete consensus is comfortable but almost always unremarkable. Leaders of creative teams should identify and highlight the noteworthy, memorable solutions at both ends of the spectrum that, in all likelihood, are not agreeable to all [sacred extremes]

While conflict is never pleasant, as leaders we must acknowledge that conflict provides a precious opportunity to judge the leadership capability of others.

Admired leaders use conflict in two ways. The first is to evaluate the reasoning and patience of their partners and superiors. The second way leaders use conflict is to build confidence and earn their teams' respect.

"Leadership is most effective through the art of storytelling." - Steffen Landauer

Appreciations - having just shared a story/idea/presentation, you go around and ask people to comment on the elements they most appreciated. The exchange of appreciations is meant to help you build upon your strengths with the underlying assumption that a creative craft is made extraordinary through developing your strengths rather than obsessing over your weaknesses. "It is strange that, in our culture, we are trained to look for weaknesses. When I work with people, they are often surprised when I point out the wonderful crucial details - the parts that are alive."
Appreciations are not about being polite. They are about pointing out what is alive.

Hot spots = very similar bright spots in Switch

As you lead others in creative pursuits, you are your greatest liability. Self-leadership is about awareness, tolerance and not letting your own natural tendencies limit your potential.

Benefits of Failure
What external conditions may explain the failure?
What internal factors may have compromised your judgment?
Are there any gems in the unintended outcome?

Contrarianism - the act of purposely thinking against the grain when approaching problems and brainstorming new ideas. Contrarians are willing to manage (if not embrace) the uncertainties and risks inherent in thinking differently. And by questioning the norms, they are bound to either find better approaches or to feel more confidence in the old ways of doing things.
Don't rever someone based on age.
Reconsider your approach to mentoring. Instead of just above, look around and below you as well.
Distinguish past accomplishments from present knowledge.
Aspire to better practices, not the best.

You have a responsibility to make your ideas sustainable. For an idea to thrive over time, it must be treated as an enterprise.
"Entrepreneurs are not the ones with the best ideas. They're just the ones willing to jump off a cliff without the answers." - Andrew Weinreich

Please take yourself and your creative pursuits seriously. Your ideas must be treated with respect because their importance truly does extend beyond your own interests. Every living person benefits from a world that is enriched with ideas made whole - ideas that are made to happen through your passion, commitment, self-awareness, and informed pursuit.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Post Christmas Random

+ We had a great Christmas - lots of fun, lots of family who are still in town, been a great time so far. Celebrated Kt's birthday - she finally got that cell phone - it only took 4 years of nagging.
+ That's Em - at the sight of a chocolate fountain for Kts bday party a few weeks ago.
+ I'm tracking #NOLA2010 - a small team of young adults from Grace in NOLA this week. They left the evening of Christmas day - you probably know most of them.
+ Humbled by 4 end of the year donations to Ember this week. Helps us pay for some pretty integral operations stuff so we can unleash some global leaders.
+ January is already looking significant.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Dear Kt --

Welcome to being a teenager. You now have a good and legitimate excuse for all that trouble you give your mother and I. Really though - it hasn't been too bad. Just don't push your luck...

It's been another thrilling year watching you grow up and mature and become a lovely woman of God. You've done well in getting used to middle school, loved your spotlight leaders and girls and done a great job in school.

Most thrilling is watching you engage a world in need with the passion and conviction of people dedicated to transforming human history. This year it included things like attending a malaria summit for research, serving on the Ember AZ team and a persuasive speech to your peers about changing the perception of the homeless. When I was your age, Space Invaders occupied all of my passion. [show you that later...]

Please continue to make us marvel at your life.


Friday, December 17, 2010

In Search Of

Interning for the Ember Cast was a truly eye-opening experience. We live in a fast-paced world where the manner in which the Gospel is advanced is changing daily. Innovation and adaptability are key components to propelling the Jesus movement forward, and these are precisely some of the tools that I gleaned from being an Ember Cast intern. Unique perspectives, coupled with practical applications made the internship an unforgettable experience.
- ARotolo, Ember 2010 intern
Always always on the lookout for students like these...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Burn

::: The Future of Youth Ministry
Marko is writing a series of posts from a discussion on the future of youth ministry. Episode 2 has some instigators alright. I like it.

::: Six Megathemes from 2010
You've probably seen this make the rounds. Scathing, like #6:
The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.

::: Seth on retreats
Note the first sentence - which is why we called it Mission Advance. [But we stole that idea from Mosaic first.]

::: Brad's advice for those over 55
And you know some people's brains don't think according to their age...

::: World Map Visualized by Facebook

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Snippet - The DecEmber Update

If you want to read the whole thing, let me know. Would be happy to send it to you.
"When a great adventure is offered, you don't refuse it." - Amelia Earhart [quoted by Chris Guillebeau here]

Dear friends --

Yes, almost every week lately I feel like life has offered us quite an adventure. And this year has been full of it with regards to The Ember Cast, our latest endeavor when it comes to student missions leadership. This year included a weekend immersion in both Chinese and homeless culture in Philadelphia; a week long hands on experience in church planting and community impact in Queen Creek, AZ; and coming alongside some college students devoted to serving the marginalized in Salisbury, MD. Even more thrilling is working with some amazing emerging global leaders: John and Andrew in the Ember internship last Spring; Donna, Ryan and Emily this summer; Trevin as our first Ember guide; and Taylor at Salisbury. The real adventure is probably more centered around people like these - high school and college students, Biblically based, and passionate about impacting the future of humanity for the better. Helping people like them is why Ember exists. [More details about 2010 will be included in our annual report - coming soon.]

We've accomplished some interesting things in terms of the organization as well: a bank account; raised 100% of the required funding to support the AZ team; and approval from the IRS to act as a 501C3 - all things that are mostly out of the realm of my formal training as a database engineer. But that's part of the fun of the adventure right? And I've found an amazing group of co-conspirators in the Board of Directors that has been assembled to assist with the leadership of Ember.

Our immediate next step is to raise some additional funding for some more operational issues. These primarily include some accounting/finance software and purchasing insurance - some of the necessary elements of any business I've learned. To that end, it's indirectly helping us identify and resource emerging global leaders.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Strengths - APEST

More than any other organization or movement on this planet, the church should be a safe haven and incubator for audacity.
- Steven Furtick

Similar to the Strengths is the APEST profile. Read up on it if you've never heard of it - it's good. If you like the Myers Briggs and Strengths, you will like this. Picture adding a spiritual leadership development to both of those other assessments. Like the others, even better if you take it as a team.

My APEST results are shepherd + apostolic. Shepherd meaning one who nurtures and protects, creates environments for change, and has a vision for others growth. Apostolic is one who is sent, uncomfortable with the status quo, pioneers new endeavors and needing to sense movement and change. Sound familiar?

In other words, I will want to spend all of the budget you want to hold on to. I could probably talk for a few hours about developing people and projects for them to grow. I will love to meet someone who is innovating something from old to new. Talk about maintaining existing processes and systems and I'll start playing with my cell phone. Change too slowly and I have to get some fresh air.

PS - If you absolutely love that quote above, I want to talk to you.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday Burn

::: The Global Soap Project
The Global Soap Project recovers and recycles soap from American hotels and facilitates a process by which it is sanitized, melted and remolded into new bars, then distributed to refugee camps in Africa.
Link via Brad

::: Cross Cultural Workers dot com
Link. Just like it says - here's a quick summary from Seth Barnes.

::: Twitter usage
Link. 8% of online Americans use Twitter. And other stuff from the Pew Internet report on twitter. Via @DanielDecker
What does this mean when we talk about twitter? And what does it tell us about this 8%?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Strengths - Teams

If you map out the strengths of the people you work or serve closely with, you'll probably discover some interesting things. I've got a big spreadsheet of people that I know closely and their strengths - I've been tracking this for a few years. Not only that, but if I've read your blog or follow you on twitter or read a book you've written, and you've published your top 5 somewhere, you are probably on my spreadsheet too. It's one of the subtle ways I stalk you.

Past clusters of people I've worked with seem to gravitate towards Developer, Adaptability [which I posted about yesterday] and Belief. These all make sense - those teams were in the business of helping mold students as part of cross cultural experiences - you can probably see how people with those talents would gravitate towards that.

Not only does the task of a team potentially attract specific talents, it may be that the specific leader also attracts those talents. It might also be true that a leader is able to build a team that reflects his or her strength set. We know this to be true in other venues as well - for instance, students in a youth ministry reflect their youth pastor, like it or not.

It's a proven metric for leadership - how well does a leader attract followers. The next level is whether this leader attract followers that can build on his strengths as well as creating teams that build on the organization's collective strengths.

This post is from a series of posts about what I've learned most recently from the Strengths Finder assessment. Part 1, 2, 3.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Strengths - We Need Adaptability

The current rate of change in our world is fast. And it's only going to get faster. That's why I love the adaptability talent - people with this talent are not thrown off when there is too much change. Unlike the rest of us who violently resist change, people with this talent thrive when things are dynamic. That's why we need them - they help the rest of us get what needs to get done in the midst of lots of chaos.

Most student mission projects I have been involved in never execute they way they have been planned. A phrase we sometimes toss around is 'plan D', meaning that our original plan is so far off. In situations like these, we lean on those with adaptability to tell us it's going to be okay, to laugh in the midst of lots of change and to force us to keep moving forward in the midst of chaos like when you lock the keys in the van with it running.

The successful leaders of the future are catalytic. They also are either highly adaptable or they have built teams that keep winning while change happens at outrageous rates.

This post is from a series of posts about what I've learned most recently from the Strengths Finder assessment. Part 1, 2, 3.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Strengths - The Likes

I sat in on a StrengthsFinder coaching session that my friend Dale Swinburne ran last week. It was a ton of fun and I'm grateful to Dale for giving away such valuable expertise to a ministry leadership team. In light of that, this week I'll be writing a series of posts that deal with some of the things I think are most valuable when it comes to the StrengthsFinder assessment.

If you don't have any exposure to the StrengthsFinder assessment, the best way to read up on it is to get one of the books and take the assessment. Read up on the descriptions of your top 5, underline the sentences that resonate with you and share the results with someone you are close with. Have someone you work with take it as well and then read up on their talents. Then come back and check out some of these posts.

First, here are my top 5. Developer, Futuristic, Arranger, Positivity and Woo. What matters most in terms of mine are the first 2 - Developer and Futuristic. Developer is almost always on. Futuristic gives my Developer talent a little tweak - I'm happy thinking up projects for people but overjoyed when those projects deal with a specific future that we are changing together.

One of the ideas about strengths theory is that we are looking for someone that isn't quite like us to get something accomplished. In the area of student missions, I'm almost always interested in people with these talents:
+ Ideation - I'm convinced that we need different paradigms of ministry in the future so these people are essential to that end. Tell them what you are trying to do or achieve and start taking notes on their ideas. TerahM came up with 10 ideas for leadership mixers after 5 minutes of talking about the Leadership Collective.
+ Includer - By nature, the Gospel is extending, reaching and inviting and Includers do this all the time. By nature, the rest of us want our groups to be static and therefore comfortable, while Includers are the exact opposite.
+ Strategic - When you plan before you execute, have someone with Strategic think it through.
+ Empathy - When it's on, it's red hot on. I need at least one person around with
empathy because I have zero of it.
+ Activator - These people move us from a meeting talking about something to actually getting out there and doing it.
+ Adaptability - One of my favorites - I'll talk about this one more tomorrow.

This post is from a series of posts about what I've learned most recently from the Strengths Finder assessment. Part 1, 2, 3.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Book Notes - The Next Christians

The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America by Gabe Lyons

1 - A Fading Reality
What does mission look like in America in the twenty-first century?
How should the message of the Gospel for forward?
What does it mean to be a Christian in a world that is disenchanted with our movement?

2 - The New Normal
Pluralistic - pluralism rather than Christianity now marks America's public square.
Postmodern - Stan Grenz - "a questioning, and even rejection, of the Enlightenment project and the foundation assumptions upon which it was built, namely, that knowledge is certain, objective and inherently good. Consequently it marks the end of a single worldview. Postmodernism resist unified, all-encompassing and universally valid explanations."

3 - A Parody of Ourselves
Separatists - Insiders, Culture Warriors, Evangelizers
Cultural - Blenders, Philanthropists
I've observed a new generation of Christians who feel empowered. Restorers exhibit the mindset, humility, and commitment that seem destined to rejuvenate the momentum of the faith. They have a peculiar way of thinking, being, and doing that is radically different from previous generations. Telling others about Jesus is important, but conversation isn't their only motive. Their mission is to infuse the world with beauty, grace, justice and love.
They are purposeful about their careers and generous with their time and possession. They don't separate from the world or blend in; rather, they thoughtfully engage. Fully aware of the seachange under way, they are optimistic that God is on the move - doing something unique in our time. They posses a way of following Jesus that is radically different from the others I've described. and they carry the most hope for the future credibility of the entire Christian movement in the West.

4 - Relearning Restoration
"When the Christian faith is not only felt, but thought, it was practical results which may be inconvenient." - TS Eliot

5 - Provoked not Offended
story of Jamie - TWLOHA
Engagement over Condemnation
Grace over Judgement
Courage over Comfort
IJM - Gary Haugen
Faithfulness over Reputation
Mike Foster

Chp 6 - Creators not Critics
Culture that Celebrates Beauty
Culture that Affirms Goodness
Culture that Tells the Truth
Culture that Serves

Chp 7 - Called not Employed
7 channels of cultural influence: media, education, arts and entertainment, business, government, social sector, church
Sajan George - nyc education
Jon Passavant - Model Home Project [Katrina]
Scott Harrison - charity:water

Chp 8 - Grounded not Distracted
Immersed in Scripture (Instead of Entertainment)
Observing the Sabbath (Instead of Being Productive)
Fasting for Simplicity (Instead of Consuming)
Choosing Embodiment (Instead of Being Divided)
Shane Hipps
Kevin Kelly
Postured by Prayer (Instead of Power)

Chp 9 - In Community, not Alone

Chp 10 - Countercultural, not Relevant
Portland OR - Season of Service

Chp 11 - The Next Big Shift
Luke 4:8-19

Also, check out a video interview on ABC News with the author.

Great read. Loved the part about the restorers compared to other segments of Christianity. I find that most of the circles I'm in these days are these kinds of people and that's a great thing. Loved the other subtitle on the cover, "How a New Generation is Restoring Faith". That is the truth.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thursday Burn

::: Buy this satellite
Owners of a communication satellite went bankrupt so these people are trying to buy it to serve internet to people who don't current have access.

::: Throw them in the deep end
Love this post from Seth Barnes

::: Complexity requires a healthy team
A no-brainer, but this caught my eye: "Are you a healthy enough organization to take on tons of complexity?"
CoachShef on multi-site

::: Adding your nonprofit to Jumo
More about Jumo here. Old school missions orgs - take note. Your world almost doesn't exist anymore.

About - Dec 2010

Tony Sheng is the principal catalyst behind The Ember Cast - a group of talented, passionate and experienced guides that mentor, resource and inspire the next generation in the areas of global missions, world cultures, and leadership development - we throw fire. His experience includes various student ministry volunteer roles, five years of serving as the coordinator for student missions for a church, church elder board experience, and various missions mobilization related projects. He is proudest about mentoring a core group of students that are impacting humanity and continues to mentor a handful of high school students each year.

He is also a technology professional and lives in Columbia, MD, USA with his wife and two daughters. He would be overjoyed to talk with you about The Ember Cast, student missions mobilization and helping you erupt global leaders from the students in your midst.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Latest Kindling

+ World AIDS day today. Have some time to kill during lunch? Read the UN AIDS report for 2010. Some great news but ending the pandemic is not over yet.
+ Still on an emotional high from Ember Salisbury Cast. Wow.
+ Speaking of Salisbury, Kt our 12 year old gave all of her report card and recent babysitting earnings to Halo ministries when we were there. As parents, you can only teach so much about gratitude. If you've done it right, your kids will eventually give past your own comfort level.
+ Lunch yesterday with the ACMC northeast reps - and The Munich Group. We talked a ton missions leadership and mobilization efforts and the backdrop of intergenerational leadership. So much potential. Unleashing and living with chaos are not easy.
+ KellanD [here and here] is running point for a NC church with regard to homeless stuff. Kellan has got tons of experience in this arena - excited to see how it goes. AR [Ember 2010 intern] is jumping into that as well.
+ Speaking of Andrew, he's pursuing some opportunities with Duke Engage for this summer.
+ A local church around the corner has 3 congregations meeting in their building. A Spanish speaking 'economically humble' community, an 'second generation Asian' community, and their own. Having lunch with them next week to see if Ember can help with their student missions.
+ Ember might be hosting an invitation-only gathering of emerging global leaders in early January. Well, Ember hosts it by barging in on MichelleK and her parents. Michelle is spending the Spring 2011 semester in South Africa and her dad is on the Ember board. Chicken or the egg?
+ Landing on the speaker list for Leadership Collective this week. Hopefully, it's a list of people within GRACE that people know but don't know.
+ Ember was given a large gift a few weeks specifically for the purpose of some startup business operations costs. And hey, if you need an end of the year tax deduction and love unleashing students to change the world...