Ownership…the special sauce in magical presentations

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I experienced something today that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I was moved, surprised and almost giddy by the end of the apple event today announcing the new iPhone and Apple Watch. It hit me at the end what it was…(keep reading, I’ll get to it).

We got so used to it with presentations from Steve Jobs. Say what you want about him and his “Reality Distortion Field” (RDF) or his insane treatment of his staff…they guy knew how to deliver a presentation. He could build anticipation, keep you on the edge of your seat, and rally you to his team like few others. I realized today what the special sauce was…..

I remember seeing him pull an iPod nano from the “fifth” pocket on his jeans. I remember him sliding the Macbook Air out of a manilla envelope. I remember the presentation of the iPhone back in 2007…it was masterful. And then there was the category he created with the iPad; we were all awakened to the need we didn’t know we had.

What was so special about these? they were his.

Today we saw what Tim Cook’s apple will be and how it will present. I’ll admit that while being a fanboy of apple I have found myself underwhelmed the past few keynotes since Jobs passed almost three years ago. Today that was not the case, and one major reason?….this was Tim Cook’s day. The iPhone 6 and more specifically the apple watch were his. At the end of the presentation, Cook stood on stage thanking various designers and key players, and he was emotional and almost misty eyed…just like a grandfather is a Christmas when he looks around the room and see his family. Today was a different day for apple….I saw ownership for the first time since Jobs death.

There are two things I learned about ownership today:
1) It can’t be faked. There was a definite difference in the Tim Cook we saw today vs. the Tim Cook of prior presentations. Not that he wasn’t excited, but a the end of the day, he was bringing to fulfillment that which he did not create. You can’t fake ownership.
2) Ownership inspires. I was in a room with other people, and we all left not only ready to figure out how we can get the things presented today, but we left as volunteer salesmen for apple….ready to wave our apple flags and stickers with a pride we haven’t felt in a while.

So, think about that as you plan, work and create this week. “Do I have ownership in what I’m doing?” Because if you don’t, you can’t fake it, and you can’t inspire others without it!

The Dark Side of the Tipping Point

What I’m about to explain is my observation of trends, fashion and popularity. There is also no moral attachment to outcomes of what’s described… I don’t believe there is a better or worse, this is just the way I see things happen.

I’ve started seeing it happen in my Facebook feed. A couple weeks or so ago I began to see random people (of some connection obviously or they wouldn’t be in my FB feed) start posting videos of themselves dumping ice cold water over their heads. Then more and more, day by day I saw people, some now that I knew, start posting those videos and challenging others to raise money for ALS. And then it became pretty much my entire feed, on Facebook, and twitter…..everyone was raising money by putting ice cold water on their heads. And it was on the morning shows….it has now reached the tipping point of mass awareness and consumption.

…..cue the haters.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, but its just a reality. If you have ever read the book “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, you are familiar with the phrase and how he dissects how certain things, whether its a catch-phrase or TV show, can reach that tipping point and cross boundaries into the populous of the majority.

Now for whatever reason, when this happens, there is inevitably an accompanying dark side that comes along with “acceptance by the masses.” It happens all the time in the entertainment and arts world. There’s a new breakout show that “everyone” that is “cool” or “hip” is raving over. As a result, more people watch, and more people watch, then all of the sudden….too many people watch and its no longer this minority of cultural creatives that know about it, but everyone is talking about it….and it gets flipped on. The most recent example of this I can think of is “Duck Dynasty.” Once they were everywhere….and I mean everywhere, it wasn’t the thing “you gotta watch.”

You’ve probably heard someone say “I finally decided to spike my hair, and now everyone’s parting it again,” or “why are they rolling up their pants….I thought we quit doing that?!?” It happens in fashion especially. Things are really cyclical, so once something is a definite “no-no” across the board….get ready to see it again :)

In music it can be a bitter-sweet pill to swallow. I remember when Coldplay first came out. All of the cool kids were going bonkers over “clocks.”  Then after about a year, you couldn’t get away from “clocks”….it was everywhere: intros to TV shows, radio spots, commercials, etc…. And then “clocks” was no longer cool.

For whatever reason, for something to be trendy, it can only be cool until that point where it is accepted by the populous at large, then it is not. I don’t know why this is, but this has been my observance in our culture for the past decade.

So what does this mean in the world of church programs and presentations? It doesn’t mean we should chase cool….thats futile and really not what guiding peoples spiritual formation is about. It conversely doesn’t mean we ignore cultural trends and stick our heads in the sand about where people are at, what they are watching or listening to. It means more than ever, we have to be in our world, but not of it. Knowing the trends that are taking place, knowing the cycles that happen in our communities and using them as an engagement point to draw people’s attention to the timelessness and steadfastness of Jesus…that’s what we do.

Productivity challenge…..three things

I am not an authority on this, and the wealth of knowledge you can find on great ways to increase productivity is larger that the GDP of some nations. All I can tell you is how I get stuff done. 

I started using this method a while ago and while where the information it is stored has migrated over different platforms, the last, and most important step has stayed the same. 

Everyone is familiar with a to-do list. Some keep them electronically with apps, and some keep them in a notebook of some kind, and others find random peices of paper to write their lists on (I’ll spare you my thoughts on the ineffectiveness of this method for now).

There’s one more step that I take. Some call it the “tomorrow list” and others the “big three”. Call it what you want, it’s a simple thing that I do just about everyday. I look at my large list, which can be exhaustive and intimidating as a whole, and pick the 3 things I know I can get done with the time I have today.  My weeks look more the same than my days. By that I mean the monday(s) of each week looks more alike than the Monday and Tuesday of a single week. Therefore, I have varying schedules from day to day which limits the time I have to knock out things on my list. Therefore, the three I pick for some days may be small, but if I have 5-6 hours of meetings, I pick what I know I can get done in the left over time. 

I can get overwhelmed by everything on my list, but three things? I can do that, and then I can take them off the list and tackle 3 more again tomorrow. 

One last additional thought…..take on your toughest challenge first. Whether it’s a phone call you’ve been dreading (sometimes for no reason at all) or a lengthy email reply, take it on first….it will set the tone of accomplishment for the rest of the day. 

If you don’t do something like this, give it a try next week. Three things a day….everyday!

Bigger Than My Body….of Faith

First off, lets have a brief moment and remember when John Mayer made music like the afore mentioned song in the title…..Ok, now we can continue.

Lets face it, it happens…our services and our spiritual formation tend to drift self-centric. If we’re not careful our spiritual growth, and more commonly our church services can be about what appeals to me. Some of the most popular teachers on TV usually present messages about making your life “better.” Ironically, you don’t see that much in the teachings of Jesus. I digress….

I say this because yesterday we sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Not a cool – re-written version (which I actually haven’t found yet due to the songs intrinsic make-up), or with a new chorus added or anything other additions. Just they Hymn…pretty straight forward. And at face-value, you’d look at the order of service and sing the sesame street song in your mind….”one of these things is not like the other one.” But on a deeper level, I think theres something healthy about singing a song that’s 400 + years old. At that moment, we are singing to our Savior the same way believers for hundreds of years have been singing to Him. There’s something very un-self-centric about that, and healthy in my mind. Sometimes it is good to do things that remind us not only is it not just about me….its not just about “my” church. We are joining the song of the church through the decades and centuries to give praise and gratitude to the One who has redeemed us. And its good to remember that this is bigger than what I like, or even what our churches do…its been happening for a couple thousand years, and we get to take part in that, which is pretty remarkable.

Keep pushing, keep changing, but also look for ways you can guide your people to a thought process deeper than just the “right now.”

Garth Brooks, Worship, and “the moment.”

Garth Brooks is coming out of retirement. Thats good news for us country fans from the 90’s. I went to a Garth concert when I was in high school. I’m not sure what the album was he was touring, but it was the one with the song “Two Pina Coladas”….I remember that much. I’ll never forget moments of the concert….incredible. It’s no wonder that we won entertainer of the year, year after year! There were two significant things that happened at the concert.

The first was worship. This is not a new thought. You’ll often hear of teachers, preachers, and worship leaders talk about the worship they see at at events other than church, i.e., football games or concerts (especially U2, which we are fascinated with because of Bono and his ambiguous spirituality that we can’t seem to fit in a box). And this was was one of those moments. It came after the band was just rocking it out on a song, then Garth emerges from the walkway from under the stage, guitar strapped on and sings the following lyrics…”Just the other night, at a home-town football game..” and that was it. For the next 3-4 minutes I heard a congregation worship to the top of their lungs! They sang the entire song while Garth stood their playing….alone…with tears on his cheeks. It was beautiful. As my friend Charles says….”its the right worship, just the wrong god.”
The second was the specific realization that this was what I wanted to do in life. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an “artist” and I’m not exactly “in the industry”, but my work is connecting with people and with God through art and presentation. I was standing in my seat located behind the stage looking down wanting that. Not all of the people watching me, or singing my material, or thinking “how great I am”, but connecting with them. Understanding them through music. Reaching a part of their innermost being with the most beautiful of gifts…..music. It was that night. Sometimes I wish it was at a church or a worship service with more of a spiritual meaning to it…but its not. It was at a Garth Brooks concert, my heart and mind were pricked and I knew what I wanted to go after.
So I’m glad to see he’s coming out of retirement….should be fun!
What are the moments where who and what you are have been changed or influenced?

Stones of Rememberance and Basement Smells

Natural Stone Retaining Block

 I can’t claim this thought at all… I can’t even claim the lesson from this…it was taught to me. Therefore, its just my job to pass it on.

 

In Joshua 4, the children of Israel are crossing the Jordan River (on dry land!), and the Lord tells Joshua to pick 12 men, one from each tribe to gather a stone out of the river to be placed on the other side of the Jordan. In summary, God wants them placed there so that when their sons and daughters ask, “why are these stones here”, they can speak of the work of the Lord on the day He stopped the Jordan so His children could walk across on dry land. This is BIG. God WANTS us to remember the works He does in our lives…and to do that, we need reminders! In the same way that the children of Israel forgot time and time again how God had rescued them from the Egyptians, we for get how God delivers, protects, and provides for us. He wants us to remember, not only as individuals, but as congregations too.

 

 

Many people can remember a time when God moved in their church and did amazing work. And we have a proclivity to want to stay there so that God can do the work again…but that’s not how God works. He didn’t part the Jordan again. He didn’t part the Red Sea again…He moves as we move. We should have stones and altars of remembrance! We should have times where we look back and see what God has done and embrace our heritage. But it can only become our heritage if we move past it. In the chapters that follow (you have to skip over the re-circumcision of Israel), you see that the children of Israel did not stay at the stones of remembrance….they moved on, to conquer Jericho. Likewise we should not forsake our past, but we must move forward while taking moments to look back at what God has done.

 

 

Its like the basement in my parents house. My parents still live in the house I grew up in. Now, whenever my family and my 3 kids go visit them, I walk into the downstairs and am hit with a smell that brings a smile to my face and flashes images of yesteryear in my mind. But….I don’t want to live there again. My wife and I have created our own lives. I love to think of those times in that house, but I’ve moved on. Not to mention, if I lived there again….the smell wouldn’t mean anything.

 

 

So if we never move past our stones of remembrance….they will lose their significance. What Jericho might you not be conquering because you’re too attached to your altar?

 

 

Too good not to share

Most of the time I usually put my own thoughts here on this page. Using the other resources of the interwebs (Facebook/twitter) to share interesting articles and insights from others. But I got this today in my inbox and thought it too good to not share. As someone who likes to think of themselves as a problem solver, this was a new paradigm.

Are you solving a problem or creating a problem?

Uber solves a problem. You always needed a reliable way to get from a to b, and Uber does that, in many ways better than a cab.

Lady Gaga solves a problem. You have neophilia when it comes to music, and she’ll bring you new music to satisfy your curiousity.

Same thing goes for Zara. They solve the ‘what’s new in fashion’ problem for a lot of early adopters.

On the other hand, Uggs created a problem for people who aren’t necessarily fashion forward but want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Once “everyone” was wearing Uggs, these fashion-laggards had a problem—if they wanted to keep up, they had to go buy a new pair of boots.

In most successful business-to-business selling, the big wins come from creating problems. Once the competition is busy using your new innovation, the other companies have to buy it to keep competitive. Once other brands are using your social medium, the laggard brands do too—not because you’ve solved their problem, but because you’ve created one. The people in a traditional bureaucracy buy something new when they have to, not when they want to.

(It’s interesting how we recoil from the idea of creating problems. Of course, progress is about creating opportunities, and opportunities always bring along their close colleague, problems.)

Or consider the case of a non-profit seeking to raise funds or gain government support. Without a doubt, they have to create a problem in the mind of the donor, or there will be no funds or no support to solve that problem.

It is clearly more fun (at first) to solve problems because everyone is happy to see you and the discussion is simple indeed, “You know that problem you used to have? We just solved it.” The innovations that change the world, though, often create (or highlight) problems before they solve them.

Art or Service?

This one’s tough for me. It’s something I don’t think ever gets resolved. As Andy Stanley puts it….”its  a tension that must  be managed.”

Have you ever noticed interviews on tv with actors or music artists? Usually, the person doing the interview brings up something that a critic has said either positively or negatively about their latest piece of work, and the actor usually mentions that they in some respect pay no attention to the critics whether good or bad. They are making  their art for the sake of art, and they believe in what they have filmed or recorded to a level where the popular consensus doesn’t concern them. They have an intrinsic belief that they did the best they could on project and they don’t want someones critique to cast a shadow over their perception of the work they did.
At the other end of the Pendulum, there are business where the critique is the point. If people aren’t happy, then it wasn’t a success. If you are a restaurant owner, and no one likes your food, you will probably not have a successful business. If you open a clothing store and no one buys your clothes, well….you get the point.
There have been a handful of companies throughout the years that I believe managed this tension well. Two particular people come to mind…Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. Ford was quoted as saying “you can have any color model-T you want as long as its black.” He created (either for personal reasons or business model reasons) a product that was what it was, and if people wanted a car, thats what they got. Steve Jobs upon his return to apple in ’97 looked at their product line which was ballooning upward of 40-plus product lines and wiped them all, and drew a 2×2 grid on the board…..Apple was going to make 4 products, thats it. And if people wanted an Apple Computer, they were going to buy one of those 4 products.
Now Here’s where the tension really starts to show itself…I work at a church. And there are as many opinions on “how” you do church as there are menu items on a Cheesecake Factory menu. Are we in the Art business? or the service business? Are we about catering to peoples wants, needs, and desires? Or are we presenting an art, the most beautiful love painting ever drawn….the gospel? These are the things that are hard to define for me. If we have the artist attitude, and do not care about the opinions/perception of people we can have a beautiful presentation that appeals to no one, and therefore no one hears the Good News. However, if all we do is appeal to the preferences of people and cater to their wishes and desires, we are not shepherding people, we’re looking to the people for the vision, not drawing the vision from God.
So is it Art? or is it service? Love to know your thoughts…….

 

The Bathroom at the other end of the Hallway

You’ll have to excuse  the locker-room-level example on this one, but it really does make a point for me. At our offices, we have a conference room where we often have meetings . And some of these meetings can go for lengthy time periods. The closest “facilities” to this conference room are just down the stairs….a few steps away. But I don’t frequent that particular location. I choose to walk a couple hundred feet to the other end of our office hallway to the other facilities. It could be a number of reasons…. I don’t like the pink tile, or I don’t like its proximity to a main entrance to the building, or it doesn’t have hot water in the sink. But what really is the reason is the culmination of all that…..the experience. Now, please remove that fact that I’m still discussing a bathroom here, but experience matters! It IS the reason I walk the extra time and space to go to the other restroom. That restroom has a better experience.

Why do people like certain restaurants over others? Sure the food maybe better, but more than not, they like the appeal of the experience. So when thinking through my decision to use the facilities that are further away and the reason that is, it prompted the question for me that I must answer for what I do as a creative….”Am I creating an experience that drives people to walk the extra distance in order to participate?” Are You? Is whatever you’re creating, whether its a product, presentation, conference, or service so appealing as an experience that people will go out of their way to take part in or purchase?

Creativity and Planning

I know, they sound like they don’t coexist.

There’s a stigma thats attached to “creatives”. Most of the times you’ll hear phrases like “they only function under the gun”, or ” I do my best work under pressure.”

I feel that the the procrastination epidemic in the creative world is both stereotypical as well as cop-out related.

Most “administrative” types look at creatives as not being able to hit a deadline…most “creatives” usually say things like ” you can’t time-clock creativity.”

I have found in all my reading and experience, that the best creativity comes from my planning. I realize that sounds a little oxy-moronic in a way. The idea that planning can create creativity is counter-intuitive. But think about the best things that ARE created. You think the iPad or the iPhone came into being on a late-night whim of procrastination? No it was months and months of working through design, form and function that led to the device I’m posting this on. You think one of Mozart’s symphonies was purly created out of a deadline to a performance?

True artistic creating takes time….and in today’s society of non-stop going…it takes planning. For my administrative friends…you can’t box in creatives. I recently sat at a conference and a very well-respected teacher was speaking, and I know his content was second-to-none. However, in the middle of his speech, my brain started following a creative thought that will be a major player in weeks to come….you cant time-stamp or time-card creativity…you learn to take it as it comes and welcome the result.

To my creative friends…..don’t fall into the trap of procrastination. I promise you, that you do great work under pressure, but I also know that you can do better work when you’re not stressed. If you take your best accomplishment, and add time for planning and execution at a healthy level, I promise the work would be better and your life would be healthier. Don’t let someone box you in and tell you that if you’re going to do truly creative work, it must be late in the night and against a hard deadline. I promise if you plan, and manage your time, your work will be stronger, deeper, better, and your life will be healthier, and that will show in your work.

PLAN to be CREATIVE!!!!