Everyone who has spent any time reading knows the value of a table of contents. It’s a list of the topics covered. It’s a chart of the argument. It’s the way to organize what you read, to decide whether to read.
But a table of contents won’t tell you whether these ideas are related to the conversation you had with the author 6 weeks ago.
What most of us need most of the time is a table of context.
This is the web of stories that you tell to explain why you tell that joke. It’s the pictures you draw on the napkin to explain how your cousin Eddie is related to the Governor of New Jersey. It’s what helps people know when you are talking to them and when you are talking to yourself. It’s what keeps your team working as a team. It’s the stories that are told to the new guy to help him fit in. It’s what tells people how to understand. It’s an interpretive framework written in 1000 conversations.
Chris and Becky started a podcast, and Jon started contributing, and Jon met Rob who knew Marc who somehow met Becky (maybe through Rob or Chris or Jon) and bragged about his book on fundraising which is wonderful. Because Jon knew the book was good, he asked Marc for comments on a fundraising letter he got drafted to write for a choir. Marc helped and a paper letter is in the mail tonight to 600 people, most of whom have never heard of Marc or Becky or Chris (or podcasts for that matter). But the story of the letter includes that table of context.
Now you know what it is, right?
How often do you help the people around you turn to the page where they can find it?