table of context

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?


11 responses to “table of context

  1. Hmm… that’s good. I wonder how many of us could write another page of this story – not even our ownn stories, just bits of this one…?


  2. This post got me thinking about how I ‘met’ you. Funnily enough, it was when I read this

  3. This also shows how relational the world is and our need to put time into the relationships because they do so much. So much of what we do is because of the relationships we build and the networks we have. neat idea Jon.

  4. You have surely helped me since we met a few years back!

  5. And I think we met through Chris B.

  6. yes we did. (of course)

  7. Philip – absolutely. It is the relationships, it is the fabric of

  8. Wait…do I know you?

    I love this post. I love your stories. I love that this happens everyday and I love that you pause to point it out.

  9. Rob – it was the coffee last night.

    thanks for being part of that web.

  10. all of you have enriched my life, as well. thank you, Jon, for sharing your social media network with me.

  11. Liz Strauss told me a really cool story about the table of contents. If you learned to read from books without one, your brain would organize info completely differently. Ask her about it sometime.