The Beauty of Books

Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas. One of my favorite used bookstores and recently featured on Buzzfeed’s list of “17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life.”

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” –Charles William Eliot

One of my guilty pleasures is visiting used bookstores. Given the time, I can, and often do, spend hours browsing the shelves, flipping through pages, and enjoying the unique smell of the aging paper. It’s incredible to look at the volume of volumes knowing that each binding quite literally contains its own unique story. From the folio edition of a classic novel to the in-depth theology book to the paperback version of a business bestseller, each text represents hours of thought and work to communicate an idea.

Why do I enjoy books so much? Primarily because books are such a beautiful and powerful way to convey a message. They have the ability to inspire, educate, and entertain their readers. In the quote above, Eliot captures the role of a books well when he refers to them as the reader’s friend, counselor, and teacher. Understanding each of these characterizations helps to comprehend what makes books so beautiful and unique:  Read more of this post

Is Social Media Making Us Less Social? [Part 2]

Cellphone

This is Part 2 in a three-part series on social media usage. Click here to read Part 1 on three main solutions to the overall problem. Click here to read Part 3 on the impact of social media on interpersonal relationships.

Back in February 2012, I wrote a post exploring if social media (and technology in general) is making us less social and offered three ways that we can disconnect from social media in order to reconnect with real people. At that time 46% of adults owned a smartphone. As of January 2014, the number of people owning a smartphone had increased to 58% (with 29% of cell owners saying that they “can’t imagine living without” their phone). A recent study found that the average person spends 23 hours per week emailing, texting, and using social media (with Facebook accounting for 7 of the 23 hours). In other words, people are spending 14% of their week online!

Despite all the benefits, has this increased dependence on technology and social media had any negative effects on us? I’ll break my thoughts up into two posts (since one of the downsides as been a decreased attention span 🙂 ). In this post, I’ll outline some of the personal effects of social media/technology addiction and in the next post, I’ll take a look at some changes to interpersonal relationships.

So here are three primary ways that our personal lives have been negatively affected by increased social media and technology usage:   Read more of this post

Four Ways to Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

Follow The Leader!

This post originally appeared on Mason Kesner’s blog

Everyone wants to be a leader. However, leadership doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just walk up to a group of random strangers and declare, “I am your leader. Follow me.”

Before you can lead others well, you must first be able to lead yourself. As the Latin proverb goes: “It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” Even after you become a leader, you owe it to your followers to lead yourself well.

So how do you begin to rule yourself? Here are four habits of successful self-leaders:  Read more of this post

How to Develop a Personal Mission Statement

 

Arrow

Mission statements. Every company has one. Some are really good; some are really bad. Regardless of the quality of a mission statement, they all have the same purpose: to give direction to the daily actions of an organization.

Organizations aren’t the only entities that need mission statements to guide them. You and I need mission statements as well, especially as you think about building your personal brand. Having a personal mission statement is important for three reasons:

  1. It differentiates you from others
    One of the things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that investors invest in people more so than products. For example, they would rather invest in an entrepreneur trying to create positive social change by selling widgets than an entrepreneur trying to get famous and make a lot of money selling the same widget. Having a personal mission statement helps potential investors, employers, friends, etc know your underlying motivations and what sets you apart from others.
  2. It gives direction to your career path
    Knowing what your true mission is will help you select jobs that will allow you to accomplish your goals, even if on paper they seem unrelated. I currently am involved in the agricultural technology, young adult ministry, experiential education, and social media arenas, but I am still able to fulfill my mission in these seemingly random combination of jobs.
  3. It reminds you why you do what you do when things get tough
    Your job isn’t always easy. There are some days you’ll want to quit or disengage. Having a purpose behind your work keeps you focused and moving forward even during the hard times. Your mission is a motivator pushing you toward a greater purpose than earning a paycheck.

Steven Covey refers to developing a mission statement as “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.” Here are five questions to ask yourself in order to develop your personal mission statement:  Read more of this post

3 Reasons Everyone, Including You, Should Blog

BLOG

Once upon a time, if people wanted to tell others about what excited them, they had to write it down on paper, put it in an envelope, and mail it to a friend, family member, business associate, or publisher. The process took days and the original author didn’t have a copy of what he/she wrote in the first place (unless they made another handwritten copy). Then the telegraph, typewriter, and email came along and helped speed up the process; however, the scope and efficiency of the author was still limited.

In the late 1990s, the weblog, or “blog” as we know it today, format was created and began to flourish. Sites such as Blogger and WordPress made the blog much more accessible to the average user, giving almost anyone with internet access the ability to create a blog and share their story with the world. As of February 2011, there are more than 156 million public blogs in existence and are used by large companies, small businesses, nonprofits, clubs, organizations, pastors, artists, marketers, authors, crafters, moms, and ordinary men and women to quickly and efficiently tell others what inspires them.

With that in mind, here are a three reasons why everyone, including you, should consider blogging:

  1. Share your passions
    A blog is a fantastic platform for you to show off your expertise in a particular field or fields. Get excited about new marketing techniques for small businesses? Share your expertise, experience, and experiments with other small business owners (and maybe you’ll be able to turn it into a consulting and speaking gig). Do you enjoy crafts? Create a blog displaying a project you are working on and the different steps and materials involved in the process (you can even monetize it with the Craftistas widget). Travel a lot for work? Tell others about your trips and the fun/terrible places you encounter. Have a variety of interests like I do? Dedicate time to each one and show how they influence and interact with each other.
    Basically, a blog is a great way to give people a deeper look into what drives you while also giving your audience information that inspires, educates, or entertains them.
  2. Process your thoughts
    There is something about writing a blog post that is very therapeutic. It’s relieving to take an idea you’ve been bouncing around in your mind and put it into a tangible, written form. Processing the idea not only stimulates your mind; it also allows you to move beyond theory toward application. The blog format then allows you to transmit the idea and the thought process behind it to your audience for them to evaluate, comment on, and act upon.
  3. Build your brand
    Of course, there is a personal branding aspect to blogging. As you continue to develop your blog, your audience will steadily grow, especially if you are serving as a source of interesting and helpful information that relates to shared interests. This can be especially helpful if you are looking for a new job or want to develop a side hustle. Put your blog address on your resume (if it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for): it gives the potential employer something more to look at in order to assess your skills and abilities beyond a one-page resume and a 30 minute interview. Posting to a blog will also help establish your credibility within your field and potentially lead to opportunities to expand your influence through networking and speaking events.

Want to give blogging a try, but don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up a blog? Plenty of bloggers are looking for people to write guest posts. Reach out to one of your favorites with an idea and see if he/she will feature you. If you enjoy business, ideas, or theology, write a post and send it my way. I’ll take a look at it, offer feedback, and potentially feature it on here.

Operating a blog requires consistency, patience, and passion. You won’t get 100 views/day immediately, but as you continue to add more posts, connect with other bloggers, and create more content, your audience will slowly grow. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” to get you started. Of course, there is much more to blogging than the numbers, as mentioned above.

What are you waiting for? Start telling your story!

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Already blogging? Share why you enjoy blogging (along with a link to your site) in the Comments below.

[image credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr]

The Illusion of Busyness

Honey Bee Swarm

Americans are busy.

Or at least they like to say that they are.

As an entrepreneur and college ministry director, I’m around a lot of “busy” people. While some people are legitimately busy, many people are operating under an illusion of busyness. We think we are a lot busier than we really are. Rather than focus on one assignment at a time in order to systematically knock them out, we try to multitask instead which often obliterates our productivity. Due to poor time management skills (and the constant temptation offered by email, social media, and cell phones), tasks that should take one hour to complete consume two, three, even four hours instead. Add to this the way our culture subconsciously equates a person’s “busyness level” with his/her value and success, and it’s no wonder people talk/brag/complain about how busy they are all the time

How can we shatter this illusion of busyness? Here are three pointers:  Read more of this post

Stop Making Stupid Famous

smsf

People are capable of doing some really stupid things. Most individuals do these things unintentionally, but there are some (particularly celebrities) who take calculated steps to push the envelope of normalcy in order to get publicity and attention. They have one goal (to become famous) and will take whatever path they need to in order to achieve this objective. Unfortunately, this strategy not only works, but can garner more media and social media attention than creating high quality work. Not only does this lead to a bunch of crazy, overpaid, untalented, and immature celebrities, but their stupidity overshadows the abilities of those who are genuinely talented.

Fighting Stupidity with Capitalism

Fortunately in a capitalistic America, ordinary citizens like you and I can rally together to prevent this from happening. Here are a few things you can do to stop making stupid famous:  Read more of this post

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