Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in cities

One of my favorite end of year posts, the year in cities. This year was a great year of travel, both personally and with The Ember Cast. And I'm still on track for getting out of the country once a year since 2005, except for 2009.
1 - Cambridge, MD, USA
2 - National Harbor, MD, USA
3 - Fairfield, CT, USA
4 - Knoxville, TN, USA
5 - Nashville, TN, USA
6 - Lexington, VA, USA
7 - Henderson, NC, USA
8 - San Antonio, TX, USA
9 - Richmond, VA, USA
10 - Aix-en-Provence, France
11 - Sanary sur Mer, France
12 - Marseille, France
13 - Virginia Beach, VA, USA
14 - Lake Anna, VA, USA
15 - Vernon, CT, USA
16 - Danvers, MA, USA

[2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 in cities]

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Books

Pretty great list of books that I read this year. Hope you enjoy some of the notes.

Sacred Roots
The Hard Thing About the Hard Things
Dream Year
The Happiness of Pursuit
Creativity Inc
The Power of Habit
What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Makers of Fire*
You and Me Forever*
My Share of the Task*
Zero to One*
The Artisan Soul*
Mission Drift
Leaders Eat Last

* Either still reading or should go and take some notes.

[2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 in books]

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy 17th Birthday to Katie

Dear Katie --

You have had quite a year, I don't mind saying. It is a year that has brought lots of adventure, lots of serving others and lots of pursuing life to the fullest. All typical of who you are. Club volleyball, a fantastic two weeks serving with The Ember Cast in France, 10 days in Madrid serving away from your parents, getting your drivers license, your internship at FIRN, special friends at Grassroots, oh and going to school. Pack it in girl, because you know that life was meant to be lived and your life was meant to be poured out for others.

I don't mind saying that it hasn't been an easy year for your parents. You know how we have battled both big and little things and at the core, it has been an experience for all of us. We've tried hard to let go. You've tried hard to be free. And through it, we are all learning about living in the tension that with more freedom comes more responsibility.

You were meant for something amazing. This coming year, more than ever, believe that. And trust the One who created you - He wants to erupt your soul to be who you were meant to be. The world needs you at your best.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Burn

::: Invisible Children Shutting Down
Invisible Children, the nonprofit behind the Kony 2012 film—often called the most viral video of all time—is slowly shutting down its operations. First, the U.S. office will close, leaving just a handful of remote workers behind to work on advocacy. Then, within 12 to 18 months, Invisible Children will hand off its work on the ground in East Africa to partner organizations.

::: Vancouver's Attitude Towards the Homeless

::: Texas Plumbers Truck Ends Up in Syria

Photo: Tess, Emily, Katie. Les Baux, France, July 2014.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I will do today....

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Great Idea is a Spreadsheet With Skin On

That statement comes from Ben Arment and I am a firm believer. Every year, around this time, our spreadsheet for summertime gets created. Here are some quick ideas on how we do it:

+ One big workbook - nowadays, it's a google drive spreadsheet. Available anywhere all the time. Tracks revisions. Does almost everything Excel does except for subtotals.
+ A sheet for each major initiative.
+ Track who goes where, when they go and how they get there and back.
+ Estimated expenses and categories.
+ Estimated incomes including sometimes outlining different creative revenue plans.
+ It won't be completely straightforward if you have distributed teams where people work on multiple projects and where incomes, expenses and time served are shared. But that's part of the fun.

And I'm thrilled to tell you that we've at least started one for 2015.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill
Great read about the implosion of one of the most impactful churches in the US.
"...every young pastor needs to have a mentor relationship with a pastor who has been pastoring for at least 25 years in a church that is not a megachurch. They will learn what true pastoring is really like, not celebrity pastoring."
Link via Mitchel Lee

::: 20 Politically Incorrect Thoughts About Church in America
#5 Worship music is too slow and too repetitive. Worship music is too slow and too repetitive. Worship music is too slow and too repetitive.
#8 Churches don’t effectively engage women in senior leadership roles.
#12 Shared leadership doesn’t work. When all the leaders are equal, no one is leading.

::: Facebook's Data Science for Social Good
Data science has been fruitfully applied in many circumstances: from creating product enhancements and decisions, to writing insightful or entertaining blog posts. In this post, we'd like to highlight some recent initiatives which, combined with increases in availability of data, are making data science a powerful force for social good. We're going to take a brief tour of the non-profit data science organizations that we're familiar with and the work they're doing.

::: The Pilots of Instagram

Photo: Ember spawn, ProtoGuides and Jon Tyson. DC, Nov 2014.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Notes - The Power of Habit

My wife and older daughter picked this up for me for my birthday last September and I only got to reading it last month. It's a phenomenal read for anyone involved in leadership or influence. Later on, I realized that two of my favorite leaders also learned a ton from this book. [1, 2]. Go get it please.

Cue -> Routine -> Reward

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit - unless you find new routines - the pattern will unfold automatically.

… it is possible to learn and make unconscious choices without remembering anything about the lesson or decision making.

Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.

Tony Dungy's coaching philosophy: He wanted to get players to stop making so many decisions during a game. He wanted them to react automatically, habitually. If he could instill the right habits, his team would win. Period.

Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.

Paul O'Neill and Alcoa: O'Neill focused on worker safety, which would signify excellence.
Michael Phelps - his coach focused on his habits.

This is the final way that keystone habits encourage widespread change: by creating cultures where new values become ingrained. Keystone habits make tough choices - such as firing a top executive - easier, because when that person violates the culture, it's clear they have to go.

Starbucks training - 137K current employees - 1M alumni. Starbucks is one of the nation's largest educators.

At the core of that education is an intense focus on an all-important habit: willpower. Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.

Willpower isn't just a skill. It's a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there's less power left over for other things.

This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.

There are no organizations without institutional habits. There are only places where they are deliberately designed, and places where they are created without forethought, so they often grow from rivalries or fear.
But sometimes, even destructive habits can be transformed by leaders who know how to seize the right opportunities. Sometimes, in the heat of a crisis, the right habits emerge.

Creating successful organizations isn't just a matter of balancing authority. For an organization to work, leaders must cultivate habits that both create a real and balanced peace and, paradoxically, make it absolutely clear who's in charge.

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between social acquaintances.
It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.
And it endures because a movement's leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.

[Rosa] Park's friends, in contrast, spanned Montgomery's social and economic hierarchies. She had what sociologists call 'strong ties' - first hand relationships - with dozens of groups throughout Montgomery that didn't usually come into contact with one another.

Every Saddleback member is asked to sign a maturity covenant card promising to adhere to three habits: daily quiet time for reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income and membership in a small group. Giving everyone new habits has become a focus of the church.

For an idea to grow beyond a community, it must become self-propelling. And the surest way to achieve that is to give people new habits that help them figure out where to go on their own.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Pressure of Next Year

It is December and you might be getting questions already about what is happening next summer. Parents like to plan, summer camps already have their agendas and the pressure is on. Don't worry if you don't have any firm plans yet, Ember is in the same boat [although we have a few ideas...]

The most mature short term missions efforts solidify their plans around this time every year. The maturity in their systems allows them to do that - their existing deep relationships, the clarity of their vision and values, and their proven systems to identify and recruit team leaders. Sometimes, you don't need all three of those but most of the time you do. Here are two great examples to dig around when it comes to seeing how someone else has done it - Northpoint and NCC.

For The Ember Cast, this time every year is when we ask God to direct and start dreaming and praying. After that, we'll start throwing things up and seeing what gets some momentum.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Burn

::: The Global Geography of Internet Addiction

::: Can You Name These Countries Using Only Satellite Photos?

::: Plumblines for Local Outreach - The Summit Church
Love when they talk about their plumblines. Rich stuff in this 4 part series.

::: "When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection." ― A.W. Tozer via @dansadlier

Photo: KatieS Ember Spawn, KatieV Ember ProtoGuide, Mark Batterson. DC, Nov 2014.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Ember Mantra - 5

The Gospel comes to you on its way to someone else. - Alex McManus

PS - Alex has been a mentor to me and I can't recommend his new book, Makers of Fire, enough. Go get this.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Real Track Record

In the fall of 2010, two high school seniors that we had made commitments for interning with Ember both backed out. School was a lot of work and college applications had to be completed. In the fall of 2011, we had planned a great face to face learning experience from one of my mentors and one of our interns couldn't commit. Her parents didn't want her to miss one of her classes. In April of 2012, we had to cancel plans for an Ember experience in South Africa. The desire was there, just not the people committing. Through the first 3 months of 2012, I had fifteen people tell me no for various projects and ideas I had. There was even a student that made a commitment to us in May of this year and then come September, decided to bail. They in fact lined up another internship before letting me know that they were not doing ours.

But lord I love the stuff that has not failed. It has been worth it.