5 gifts for Christmas

thank youYou can ignore this post and I won’t feel bad. This list is for people who have a little extra this year and want to help someone out but don’t know where to start. I’ve helped with each of these one way or another. If you were going to get me something, don’t. Help with one of these projects.

1. Help Glenda Watson Hyatt serve dinner in Vancouver. For the third year, Glenda is raising money to help people in her community have dinner at the Union Gospel Mission. She and Darrell wouldn’t be able to fit many people at their table, but last year we all served $160 people through Glenda’s invitation. (Here’s Glenda’s request.) $3.29 a meal.

2. Help Megin Hatch feed kids at an orphanage in Ethiopia. This year, Meg went to Elolam and fell in love. (I once wrote about her doing something.) She’s raising money to send to the orphanage to buy food. (Here’s the Elolam project). (.10 for an egg. $60 for a month of salary for a staff member).

3. Learn more about homelessness and help Mark Horvath. Open Our Eyes is a collection of essays by homeless people and their friends. The proceeds from the book help Mark, buying through this link helps my friend Ed, and reading the words will change you.  (9.99 per copy).

4. Learn about falling off a roof and finding God. That’s what Rich Dixon writes about in Relentless Grace. Rich fell off a roof, broke a bunch of things, and then, from a wheelchair taught school and rides bike and listens. (8.95 a copy, that’s 40% off.)

5. Help kids studying to serve God. The Alma Swanson Memorial Scholarship fund is at a little church in Cambridge, Minnesota (North Isanti Baptist Church). She attended there for awhile and her funeral was there in 1970.  It’s in memory of my grandmother who worked as a cook at a college for years. And cared about people. The scholarship goes to kids from that church who are wanting to spend their lives for God. (No online giving, just a link to the church for an address.)

Disclosure: I receive nothing from any of these links. Okay, that’s not true. I don’t receive any money or other material compensation. I just know I’m helping people doing things that matter. If that’s a problem, I’ll pay that fine.

I hate communication.

communicationI hate “communication”, especially when used in the sentence, “we need more communication.”


Because the word “communication” doesn’t tell us what you want. When you ask for more communication, here’s what you really might want:

  1. Explanation: You may want a policy or a process explained in simpler terms, with clearer pictures.
  2. Information: You may want details of events put into the available organizational media more times.
  3. Affirmation: You may want people to talk to other people about what is working, to encourage each other.
  4. Persuasion: You may want more selling to happen, of your event or someone else’s.
  5. Illustration: You may want stories.
  6. Clarification: You may want more backstory, talking about why this process is being implemented or how this decision was made.
  7. Celebration: You may want more delight in the organization, less information and more balloons.
  8. Confession: You may want people to accept responsibility for what isn’t working.

These are just 8 of the many things that people mean when they say, “We need more communication.” And these 8 can, at times, conflict. Information isn’t explanation. Confession isn’t clarification. Some things take more words, some fewer. Some take more images, some none. Some take all channels, some shouldn’t be in more than one.

I could say more, of course. But I won’t. Sometimes “we need more communication” means “Just shut up.”

Jon Swanson has three degrees in communication.  It doesn’t help much.


20 questions for reviewing 2010.

Here are 20 questions to help you review the year.

  1. Who do you know better than you did at the beginning of the year?
  2. Who have you listened to carefully?
  3. Who have you cheered for?
  4. What do you understand better than you did in January?
  5. What are you explaining to other people that you weren’t able to explain then?
  6. Where have you been that you didn’t expect to be this year?
  7. Where have you stopped going because you needed to stop going there?
  8. When were you most comforted during this last year?
  9. When did you say, “I’m not sure I can do this” and then discovered that you could?
  10. What is your favorite sentence, blog post, paragraph, or tweet that you wrote since January?
  11. What was the most encouraging thing you did for someone this year, as measured by their smile?
  12. What question have you actually spent time trying to answer this year?
  13. Where, geographically, did you find the most delight this year?
  14. What item did you cross of your list this year that had been on it the longest?
  15. What book did you intentionally quit reading because you knew, halfway through, that you didn’t need to finish to get the author’s content?
  16. What book did you read that was written before 1846?
  17. What picture you took did you look at more than once because liked it?
  18. What was the best conversation you had this year?
  19. What was the most satisfying $5 you spent this year? (and you get to define satisfying).
  20. What piece of mail that you received this year made you smile the most.


8 ways to prep for 2011

I’m tired of people saying, “here’s how I prep for the year” and other people saying, “that’s not necessary, just do this.” Last time I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see you, I saw me. (And wasn’t pleased, per one of my three words for 2010).

So, instead of THE way to succeed in 2011, here are 8 ways that might help you. And you can list the other 1,547,296,133 ways in the comments.

  1. Write three words that you want to use as guiding words for the year.  (How Chris Brogan does three words and my three words for 2010).
  2. Write a list of 100 goals you want to do in 2010 (Marc Pitman can send you this exercise.)
  3. Write one word for the year.
  4. Write a list of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound)  (Here’s a SMART goals worksheet)
  5. The letter N Pick a photo for the year, an image that reminds you of what matters or what direction you are going. A picture of a place you are dreaming or a relationship you want to mend.
  6. Describe how you want to be known in five years. Then identify specific actions to learn that will take you toward that reputation.
  7. Forget years. We can get paralyzed by thinking about annual goals and all that. So think about the next three hours. What’s one roadblock you can remove in the next three hours?
  8. Don’t set goals at all. Leo Babauta talks about finding something you are passionate about and then doing it. (The best goal is no goal).

But here’s the secret of these 8 ways. All of them are choosing to be intentional.

Content Rules: Five Questions with C.C. Chapman

C.C. Chapman had a big influence on me earlier this year.

I was thinking about my blogging process, both here and at 300wordsaday.com. I started thinking about increasing subscriptions and all the little strategies that people do. And then one afternoon, I thought about CC’s new book, Content Rules. (affiliate link). And I settled back down to improving my content.

CC Chapman

However, it made me want to talk to CC about the book he and Ann Handley have written to find out if I actually understood what they meant.

So here’s my 5 question interview with CC.

1. Content rules. That’s the title of your new book (with Ann Handley). I’m assuming that there’s an intentional pun? and, assuming that it isn’t just a “rock on” kind of statement, just how rule-driven is this book?

It is definitely a play on rules and we always joke how we contemplated putting an exclamation mark on the book cover, but figured that would be overkill.

That being said, Chapter 2 does outline the 11 Content Rules as we see them. We make a point to let readers know that they are more of guides or suggestions rather than hard and fast rules, but let’s face it Content Suggestions would not have made much of a book title.

We wanted to give people a list of rules that they should think about when having a content strategy in their marketing and communications mix.

2. You’ve taken the approach of not sending out free copies. In fact, we’re talking based not on the book, but on what you’ve hinted at about the book. I’m wondering if this is a “teasing about content” rule? What is the content that you are using to pique interest?

That decision had more to do with a rule that Ann and I have and that is that if you don’t put a value on yourself, no one will. A lot of work goes into writing a book and neither of us were a fan of the trend to give away tons of copies of the book ahead of time in the hope of building buzz. Instead we took a very strategic approach to use a lot of content to generate interest in the book.

We both have platforms already established that we could talk to about the book. Plus we launched the book site early and started posting original written and video content that not only had to do with the topics in the book, but have to do with the much larger world of content marketing. We’ll see if our decision works or not once the book comes out.

3. I have thought about my own blogs. I’ve wondered about working on subscription drives or other things. But then I think, “If I just spend the time improving the quality of my writing rather than figuring out SEO, people will share.” Is that where you are going with your focus on content?

That is certainly a part of it and it is easier to maintain that thinking when it is an individual saying that, but much harder for a business to take that approach.

But, at the end of the day we are all publishers and at the root of it all if your content is not as good as it can be then you need to fix that first. So you focusing on making your writing better IS important. But, at the same time you’ve got to make sure that it easy for people to share and compelling enough to get their attention. SEO plays a role in that, but if all you do is fill your posts with keywords, that is going to get boring really fast.

One of our Content Rules is “Stoke the Campfire” and if you’ve ever built a fire before, you know that you have to start with small highly combustable tinder and then slowly add bigger longer burning pieces. The same thing goes with content. You need enough small stuff to get attention, but then some deeper thought out pieces to really pull people in and give them something to digest. Plus, think about people sitting around a campfire. They might get excited for the big flash ups, but they stay and sing around the slow burning coals.

4. How important to you is it to make this particular piece of content, a book.

Hugely important to me personally and professionally. As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to have a book published. I always assumed it would be a fiction book when I was growing up, but here we are today with a business book being released.

I had been approached to write several books as the social media space began to really get bigger and I passed on them because while I wanted to be a published author, I refused to write something that would be out of date as soon as it hit paper. I wanted to write something that could stand the test of time and when Ann approached me about Content Rules I knew that it was the one.

While I’ve been doing freelance writing and blogging for years, being able to add Author to my bio now that I have a book means the world to me.

5. Talk about your kids as content. How do the principles in the book relate to how you are developing children?

Wow, now this is not a question I’ve been asked before, but it is funny because I instantly thought about one of the other Content Rules that is Create Wings and Roots which we point out is usually applied to children.
I had to really think about this question, but now that I have I’m actually thinking that a lot of the rules DO fit to kids. I say this because I’m a big believer that the secret to doing well online is based in the fact of being a good person. Growing up in a small town, I’ve got good common sense and a grounded sense of reality and this is what I’m trying to pass onto my kids.

As I look at the rules and see things talking about being original, not shilling and playing to your strengths I’m realizing that these are all values that I’ve taught my kids. Guess maybe I need to review my own book on Digital Dads now. *laugh*

I’m looking forward to reading more when the book comes out. I’m doing this interview without a copy, evidence that I’ve got enough confidence in C.C. that I’m pointing to it without having read it!

For more on the book, go to the book’s website:  Content Rules.

A massive vision.

There’s a group of people starting a church in Chicago. A handful of people. A big city. Another church.

Not much news. Happens all the time.

But then I read what they are wanting to do. When they talk about serving, here’s what they say:

Our hope is one day to hear the city say, “If it wasn’t for The Table, we would have to raise taxes.”

That’s a massive vision for serving, for actually living out sermons.With that kind of vision, I’ll be watching.

And cheering.

Lewis the story guy

C.S. Lewis booksForty-seven years ago today, C.S. Lewis died. I didn’t know him then. I was five at the time, and the death of President Kennedy is the death on that date that is in my memory.

I discovered Lewis in the mid-seventies. I’m not sure how, though it probably was from reading Tolkien and learning of their friendship. The first book I read of Lewis’ was not one of his theology works. It was the first book in his fiction space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet (affiliate link).

It captivated me, as did the other two books.  In story form, he reflects on the idea of this being a bent world, in contrast to other worlds that might exist without sin. When I read the Garden of Eden story as it might happen on another planet, with someone from earth trying to help the fruit not be eaten, I was so engaged that I had to stop reading in the middle and walk away for a bit. (In all my reading, this has seldom happened.) I’m not even sure how to describe “That Hideous Strength”, the final book in the trilogy. The mixture of Merlin and intellectualism and higher education and Truth has shaped me in ways I can’t quite identify.

I’ve read much of Lewis’ other work. I’ve taught some of it. I’ve recommended some of it. It’s significant. It’s thought-provoking. But these three books worked their way into my heart, into my imagination. I never stopped to think about why until today.

It’s the story.

If you want to win assent, make arguments. If you want to change lives, tell stories.

A reminder of your why

drawing of empty picture frameThe other day I was looking for a picture in my online photo album. I looked back at the pictures I’ve taken during the past year. I realized how many things I’ve forgotten.

You have, too. In your rush to be competent, to keep juggling everything, to stay focused, to not rest on your successes or dwell on your failures, you’ve kept moving, too.

But looking back can be helpful. So here’s the exercise I walked our staff through the other day.

You take pictures all the time. Photos, videos, audio recordings. You are constantly capturing images. Sometimes you use a recording device. Mostly, just your mind.

Take a couple minutes. Flip back through them. The activities of school starting. Vacation. Graduations. Weddings. Funerals. School ending. Spring events. The winter.

Now, having flipped through the album, what’s the image that makes you smile the most?

Describe it.

And we went around our circle describing those pictures. Some were about family. Some were about work. One was from a wedding, one from a funeral. We smiled.

Now, here’s the next picture to look for. Which picture makes you most proud?

That one was quicker, and deeper. The grandparents in the room, after the initial grab for their phones to show pictures, set the grandchildren aside and reflected. Some of us talked about the people we work with, the people we work for. Some of us talked about family or friends.

Now, here’s the last one.

I went to the whiteboard and drew a picture frame.

All of us have pictures on our desks that we think represent why we do what we do. But I’d like you to look through your pictures from this year and put a new picture in your frame. What picture from this year best captures why you do what you do?

It was hard for me to even ask the question. I realized that I was asking people to be pretty vulnerable, to think about the why of their behavior. I wouldn’t have done it if there wasn’t trust in the room, if I didn’t know that for this group of people there are whys.

We went around the circle. Some pictures were people. Some pictures were of places where life-changing conversations happen. Some pictures will stay inside that room.

But all of us gave voice to why we do what we do.

That seemed important. At the end of the year, it’s nice to know that you’ve done work that matters. And we are far more likely to work passionately if we have a why, something beyond a what and a how.

So, what would you put in your three frames?

(And thanks to Kneale Mann for reminding me about the power of why.)


My dad was in the hospital. By ones and twos, the doctors and therapists and nurses and nursing assistants walked in.

“How are you doing today?”

He speaks deliberately, my dad does, and he so he would answer with a few words.  (Okay, to be honest, it got to the point where it was tempting to just hold up a card: “I am doing as well as can be expected when everyone keeps asking me how I am doing today.”) Consistently, the doctors would plunge into telling him what they knew, what the last test showed (or didn’t show), and then they would tell him what he needed to do. The others would listen, briefly, and then tell him what he could and couldn’t do.

When the staff left, dad turned to me.

“They need to listen to me.”

I confess. My first response was, “Dad, you need to listen to them.”

They are the trained professionals. They know bodies, lots of bodies. They know medicines and treatments and processes and timings. I wanted to tell my dad that he needed to obey what they say.

Now I’ve been around enough healthcare professionals to know that they are not infallible. I know stories about malpractice, about mistreatment. I understand suffering that friends have gone through.  But my initial response was based on the assumption that all things being equal, the healthcare people have more training than my dad does.

But then I thought more about listening, about what my dad was saying. I realized that he was not trying to assert that he knew medicine better than they did. He was merely saying that if they would stop and listen to him, converse with him, they could learn more about how his body works, a body that he’s been observing for a long time. They would gain more information for diagnosis. They would hear how to gain him as an ally in his own care rather than treating him as an adversary.

And then I realized that I was just as bad as the docs.  It’s not so much a matter of sides, of being on Dad’s side or the docs’ side. In truth, there are no sides in this particular healthcare debate. There is a man who wants to be as well as he can be.  If I were to stop and listen to him, to his heart as well as his voice, I might find ways to help him.

After all, he’s known him longer than I have.

Sometimes ten isn’t perfect.

volume controlShe walked into the room, boisterous, jovial, ready to help.

“How are you today?”

My dad put his finger to his lips.

“Too loud?”

“I can hear fine,” my dad said.

And he can. Eighty years of practice have not dimmed the resonance of his ear drums.

The visitor, who talks to lots of older people, assumed that he needed volume. From his chair, it sounded like she was shouting at him.

She thought he needed short sentences so he could keep up with her.  The truth? She needed short sentences so she could keep up with him.

Once she discovered that she didn’t have to fill the volume of the room with volume, they had a conversation. Each discovered the human behind their roles.