My Top 5 Books of 2016

 

books2016

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to a close. The Lord has been faithful to provide once again this year, including an array of interesting books to read. Here’s a round up of my favorite books from this year:

  1. Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle
    A poignant book for Christian men and women of all ages, but especially for young men. Writing with his trademark timelessness, Ryle’s advice–or rather exhortation–is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. Ryle warns young men of common pitfalls and trends (like pride, an “invincibility” mindset, and a lack of seriousness) and challenges them to pursue holiness now by joining a church, praying, reading God’s Word, and being mindful of life’s brevity. He encourages young men to look beyond themselves and to be whole-hearted disciples now rather than to “put it off” until later in life so that they can be wild and immature now. This is a quick read that will leave a lasting impact.

    “Your soul is the one thing worth living for. It is the part of you which ought always be considered first. No place, no employment is good for you, which injures your soul. No friend, no companion deserves your confidence, who makes light of your soul’s concerns.”

  2. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unforeseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
    In this book Ed Catmull, one of the co-founders of Pixar, does a great job of weaving management principles into the Pixar story without overemphasizing either one. Catmull takes the reader inside Pixar and it’s well-known Braintrust to show how the culture they’ve built allows them to perform at such a high level (and how he and John Lasseter translated that to Disney Animation after their acquisition of Pixar). Many of the principles in the book can be applied to non-creative companies as well. If you’re a fan of the Pixar movies and learning more about corporate culture, then this is the book for you.

    “Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.”

  3. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken
    Nik Ripken begins the books by sharing how his experiences in East Africa raised several questions in his mind about the goodness of God, the effectiveness of the gospel, and the prevalence of evil. These questions, as well as some personal tragedies, led the author on a new mission: to learn how persecuted Christians in different contexts have not only survived, but thrived. The stories shared in “The Insanity of God” are incredibly convicting: Christians who not only expect persecution to happen but have joy in the midst of it; Christians who pass on the faith from generation to generation, even without a Bible; Christians who share their faith despite the risk to their own health and well-being. It is a challenge to those in America who experience relative freedom and view persecution very differently.

    “Serving God is not a matter of location, but a matter of obedience.”

  4. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
    Reclaiming Conversation gives the reader an insight into the effects an “always connected” culture is having on our ability to relate to ourselves, others, and the world around us. If you have spent any time in an office, coffee shop, restaurant, or other public place recently, you have likely noticed the symptoms yourself: coworkers staring at their phones during important meetings, couples texting others instead of spending time together, teens Snapchatting each other from across the room, or people walking into poles while looking down at their phone. Turkle delves into a variety of challenges that stem from our difficulty putting phones down to converse and experience the moment with others. She also looks at how technology is affecting our family, friendships, romance, education, and work. I’ve touched on this in some past blog posts. Is this a call to abandon technology? No, but hopefully this book will challenge you (like it did me) to take control of your technology instead of letting it take control of you.

    “Relationships deepen not because we necessarily say anything in particular but because we are invested enough to show up for another conversation. In family conversations, children learn that what can matter most is not the information shared but the relationships sustained.”

  5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    In what is considered by some to be the greatest book of all time, Dostoyevsky explores the depths of faith, evil, morality, and religion using the narrative story of three brothers and their repulsive father. Each of the three brothers personifies a particular worldview: Alyosha=morality/faith, Ivan=humanism/doubt, and Dmitri=sensuality. By using these characters, Dostoyevsky shows us what these three worldviews look like as they are lived out in the real world. Like many of us, they struggle with contradictions between their beliefs and actions and face constant challenges to their core beliefs. Through the brothers, the reader is able to wrestle with the same issues. The story is engaging, even if it bounces around quite a bit, but offers plenty of unexpected twists and meaningful insight. It’s definitely a long read, but well worth it (especially if you can listen to it as an audiobook).

    “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

Honorable Mentions:

For an overview of all the books I’ve read this year, click here.

I’d encourage you to take the time to read at least one of these books in 2017. Reading is an invaluable discipline that will help to make you a more well-rounded person in addition to deepening your knowledge.

If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2017? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS:  My Top 5 Books of 2015 || My Top 5 Books of 2014 || My Top 5 Books of 2013

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Six Questions to Ask When Choosing a Job

Job search

Let’s be honest…choosing a job can be a nerve-racking experience. Whether you are a high school student getting a summer job, a college student looking for an internship, a recent college graduate searching for your first position, or an experienced professional taking the next step in your career, a lot hangs in the balance when pursuing a new job opportunity. As someone who recently when through this process myself, I can relate to the difficulty of narrowing down your options and ultimately choosing which direction to go. Rather than letting your emotions take control and paralyze you in indecision, it is best to go take a rational approach to help filter offers and make a decision. In their book “The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Job,” Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger offer six questions that can help you find, filter, and select a job. They break the questions down into two categories: the “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Here are their questions:  Read more of this post

My Top 5 Books of 2014

books2014

2014 is almost over which means it’s time for a list of the best books I’ve read this year. Here are my top 5:

  1. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
    What a powerful book! Owen provides a thorough exposition of Romans 8:13 challenging the believer to examine himself and how he is working to not just fight, but kill, his sin. Owen shows us why we should be killing sin, gives methods for killing sin, and tells us why this can only be done by looking to the cross of Christ and relying on the Holy Spirit. This book was deeply convicting and intensely practical. A must-read for any follower of Jesus!

    “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” ― John Owen

  2. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Timothy and Kathy Keller
    This is a great read whether you are single, dating, or married. Tim and his wife Kathy debunk common marriage myths, explain the mission of marriage, and show how marriage is a picture of the gospel. Then they offer practical advice to help prepare for marriage if you are unmarried or to work through tough patches, love and understand your spouse more fully, embrace your identity as man or woman, and confront your own self-centeredness and wounds if you are married. I especially appreciated the “Essence of Marriage” chapter in which Keller defines what true love is and how a covenantal marriage doesn’t stifle love, but allows it to find its fullness in promise and action towards a spouse.

    “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” ― Timothy Keller

  3. How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know by Byron Sharp
    This book is basically a MythBusters for marketers. Sharp and his team debunk theories that most marketers are taught in college by showing that they don’t exist in the real world. For example, he says that the main thing brands should focus on is availability (both mental and physical) and not differentiation or niche marketing. He also discourages the use of price promotions which lead to short-term sales boosts, but no measurable long-term growth. In a field commonly thought of as an art, Sharp shows that there are scientific laws and trends that can be applied to building a brand. Sharp outlines seven rules that have been shown to actually help brands grow. Whether you are studying marketing in college or have been building brand for decades, this is a book that you need to read to make the best use of your resources and create an enduring brand.

    “Marketing professionals today are better educated than in the past, and they have access to much more data on buying behavior. But the study of marketing is so young that we would be arrogant to believe that we know it all, or even that we have got the basics right yet.” – Byron Sharp

  4. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
    Christians must ask themselves: “How does my faith impact the way I do my job?” In this great little book, Traeger and Gilbert address the two main problems that everyone faces when it comes to work (idolatry and idleness) and then show how the gospel transforms our purpose and motivation for every aspect of our vocation. They close the book with practical application as it relates to choosing a job, managing people, sharing the gospel, and defining success. [See my full review here]

    “What makes you a success is being able to stand before King Jesus one day and say, ‘Lord, where you deployed me I served well. I gave it my all. I worked at it with all my heart because I was working for you, not for human master.’ When that becomes your goal, it is enormously freeing because you no longer have to define success on the world’s terms; you define it on Jesus’ terms.” -Traeger and Gilbert

  5. Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
    This abridged version of Metaxas’ larger Bonhoeffer biography is perfect for people who rarely read biographies. At 256 pages (compared to 624 for the unabridged edition), Bonhoeffer Abridged contains enough details to provide a context in which to place Bonhoeffer’s theology and actions, while maintaining a quick pace that highlights the most important events of his life. Bonhoeffer Abridged brings the reader face-to-face with the famous German theologian and inspires the reader to be a bold disciple of Jesus Christ in the face of incredible pressure to compromise. [See my full review here]

    “It was not apathy or passiveness. For [Bonhoeffer], prayer was a display of the strongest possible activity.” ― Eric Metaxas

Honorable Mentions:

I’d definitely encourage you to read at least one of these books next year. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading now and what I’ve read in the past, check out my Goodreads profile. Happy reading!

Have you read any of these books or do have a book that would recommend reading in 2015? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS: My Top 5 Books of 2013

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

The Gospel at Work [Book Review]

The average person will spend over 90,000 hours of their life working. 90,000 hours! To put that in perspective, it would basically be like clocking in today and working non-stop for just over 10 years before clocking back out.

Not only does our vocation consume a significant amount of our time, it is also part of our identity. One of the first questions I always get asked when I meet someone new is: “What do you do for a living?” For better or worse, we are associated with the work that we do.

Many people tend to compartmentalize their lives. There’s a Work compartment, Family compartment, Friends compartment, Hobby compartment, and so on. We do our best to keep the different areas from overlapping.

However, for Christians, there is one compartment that should pour over into all the others–or rather be the foundation for everything else: our faith in Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” According to this, everything we do throughout a given day should be based on the gospel and done to bring glory to God and not ourselves.

With that in mind, Christians must ask themselves: “How does my faith impact the way I do my job?” To help answer this question, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert wrote The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to our Jobs. In this great little book, Traeger and Gilbert address the two main problems that everyone faces when it comes to work and then show how the gospel transforms our purpose and motivation for every aspect of our vocation. They close the book with practical application as it relates to choosing a job, managing people, sharing the gospel, and defining success.  Read more of this post

Lessons from Three Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems has now been in business for three years!

It’s been an interesting year for AFS: we completely redesigned the TenderID prototype, took part in another round of testing with the USDA, continued fine-tuning our technology, and were featured on CNNMoney’s website with fellow John Brown University alumni businesses James+James and Craftistas.

Any entrepreneurial journey must be one marked by constant learning. Sometimes this learning comes through success, other times it comes through hardship and failure. As Winston Churchill put it,I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” In other words, every situation presents an opportunity to grow. During my first year running AFS, I learned the importance of thinking strategically, constantly moving forward, and staying humble. The second year as an entrepreneur taught me to not let my identity be defined by my work, the benefits of delaying gratification, and how collaboration is an integral part of innovation. Those six themes were prevalent again this year as we continued to move forward with our R&D. Here are three additional lessons I learned this year:     Read more of this post

Don’t Miss the Target [Guest Post]

 

On Target

[Guest post courtesy of Nvulane Nhlapo. Scroll to the bottom to learn more about Nvulane.]

While there is an older, more established generation of entrepreneurs who have devoted their lives to their craft, there is a growing new wave of young entrepreneurs who are taking their expertise into new territories. Along the way, some of these young businesspeople can get blinded by the strict formalities the business environment has put in place and, as a result, may never pursue their dreams or work on that ground-breaking project they once saw potential in. At the end of the day, they miss the target.

Here are a few tips that have personally helped me to never miss the target:

  • Keep it Simple
    The complexity around us can be overwhelming. As a result, many people are now looking for simplicity, not only in the products and services they use, but also in the way ideas are communicated. Simplicity is all about making sure that the whole message connects with an audience. One of the ways to excel as an entrepreneur is to keep things simple and promote simplicity in their young companies. Breaking a compound project into smaller pieces not only makes it easier to understand and communicate, it could get potential investors to buy into your vision.
  • Pursue Opportunities
    Always be alert. There are a lot of opportunities around. As long as people have needs, there will always be opportunities. Look for ways to improve peoples’ lives. Help to solve the problems in your community. Sometimes the opportunities come at a time when you may not feel ready, but you should still give it a shot and pursue them. These kinds of occasions help us grow even though we may be uncomfortable at first.
  • Start Small
    All entrepreneurs yearn for a massive launch of their projects. While this may seem like a decent idea, it is often better to start small and scale one step at a time. Often by trying to build up to a huge launch, you lessen your chances of getting started and at the same time delay the time until you product or service can hit the market and start making money. Working on a venture without the conviction that it works or that people will like it adds risk to the whole plan. Start small, scale in increments as time goes by and you meet milestones.
  • Help Yourself
    Potentially, the most painful part of the entrepreneurial journey is losing and forgetting yourself during the process.  The bottom-line is this: yes, you should help others; but help yourself too. Make allowances for the personal areas of your life.

If there was ever a time to follow your passion and work on something that matters to you, that moment is now. Do not wait for any other time. Incorporate these tips, do your research, and it will help you hit the target. Go for it!

Which of these tips are important to you? What are some of the principles that have prevented you from missing the target? 

___________________________

Guest post courtesy of Nvulane Nhlapo. Nvulane is a BSc (Hons) Information Technology student from Lesotho and he works at Basotho Crafts. He is growing as a young entrepreneur, blogger, speaker and a casual drummer. Follow Nvulane on Twitter: @NvulaneNhlapo

Want to write your own guest post on Lawson’s blog? Click here to make it happen!

[image credit: vizzual.com on Flickr]

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