30 for 30: 30 Years, 30 Thoughts

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In order to commemorate the three decade milestone, here are 30 lessons I’ve learned during the last 30 years:

  1. Always put God first, others second, and yourself third.
  2. Don’t take people (especially your parents) or things for granted. The older you get, the more you realize just how much you’ve been blessed.
  3. Excellence and perfection are two very different things—excellence is attainable, perfection is not.
  4. Listening is often more valuable than talking.
  5. Manage your money wisely: learn when to spend extra for quality, when to be thrifty, and, most importantly, when to be generous.
  6. Read meaningful books. The stories and knowledge found in them will profit you for a lifetime.
  7. Stick to your convictions, even if they aren’t popular. A clean conscience is more desirable than the crowd’s applause.
  8. Own your mistakes and failures. Learning from them will benefit you in the long run.
  9. Call your Mom. She loves it.
  10. Ground your identity in Christ alone—anything or anyone else is a fickle and superficial substitute.
  11. Learn to say “no”. Your time is valuable, so do your best to use it for things that matter.
  12. Never stop learning. You may have finished school, but that shouldn’t be the end of your education.
  13. There’s no such thing as too much Chick-fil-A.
  14. Make time for rest, recreation, reflection, and solitude.
  15. Have an idea of what you’d like to accomplish, achieve, or experience in the next 5-10 years. This will give direction to the decisions you make today.
  16. Being a member of a healthy local church is a true joy.
  17. Bitterness can consume you if you let it; forgiveness is a much better option.
  18. If possible, go see the world. Exploring new places and experiencing different cultures will make your life richer.
  19. Your Dad is a fountain of wisdom—soak it up.
  20. There are seasons in the Christian life when it’s best to read through the entire Bible in a year and other seasons when it’s best to dive deeper into a section and dwell on the richness found within it.
  21. Asking a good question usually takes much more skill than making a good statement.
  22. Your integrity and reputation are the most important assets you have—make every effort to remain above reproach.
  23. Go outside: a little bit of fresh air and natural beauty goes a long way towards relaxing, clearing your mind, and stimulating new ideas.
  24. Having a brother who is also a stalwart friend is a true blessing.
  25. Inter-generational discipleship is a beautiful thing: hearing the triumphs and trials of others gives you a different perspective on your triumphs and trials.
  26. Look up from your phone and take in your surroundings. I guarantee people-watching is much more entertaining.
  27. Innovation is often messy—don’t let that stop you from taking the initiative to try something new.
  28. Spend time with kids. They don’t care about your profession, possessions, or popularity: what matters to them is that you show up and show that you care.
  29. Learn when to do something yourself and when to hire a professional.
  30. Puns are the most refined form of humor.

What are some lessons you’ve learned so far during your life’s journey?

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

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My Top 5 Books of 2017

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With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time for the annual round up of my favorite books from the past year:

  1. 51wut-kk3rlThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson
    In the 1700s a debate, known as the Marrow Controversy, arose in Scotland. The controversy centered on how salvation comes about and the respective roles of law and grace. Ferguson goes beyond the controversy itself and expands the themes into modern times where we still struggle with legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation. While few are outright legalists or antinomians, like those confronted in the Marrow Controversy we tend to drift into shades of these two extremes. As Ferguson so helpfully points out, the remedy for either extreme is not the other extreme, but the grace found in our union with Christ. This is a must-read for any believer, not only because of the personal edification you will receive, but also for the implications it has on the way we minister to each other in our pursuit of holiness on the way to our heavenly home.

    “Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both.”

  2. 51nvavpgjklHere I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
    With 2017 being the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I set out to learn more about the Reformers before heading to Europe with my brother. Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther gives an in-depth and honest look into the life of the man who started it all.  Here I Stand details the events leading up to the Reformation and the ramifications that the Reformation had (and continues to have) on all areas of life: economic, political, familial, social, and spiritual.

    “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.” -Martin Luther

  3. 51jf2bcjadfl-_sy346_The Gospel Call and True Conversion by Paul Washer
    What does it truly mean to hear the gospel and become a Christian? This is a massively important question and Washer’s book gives a succinct answer to it. In addition, it is a welcome antidote for the challenge of nominal Christianity (people who claim to be converted, but are not). Washer also emphasizes the implications of conversion for the entire church, not just the individual.

    “We must learn to console and assure the weakest saint who is broken over his many sins, but we must also learn to warn the false convert whose life is a barren and fruitless tree and whose settled manner of living is a contradiction to the gospel.”

  4. 41whpvpy2bmlEvangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles
    Evangelism is an often talked about, and dreaded, spiritual discipline. Stiles’ premise in Evangelism is that many evangelism efforts fail because they are viewed as programs or taken on individually instead of cooperatively. This short and beneficial book challenges us to reframe evangelism as a community effort. A culture of evangelism more closely mirrors Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Evangelism isn’t a book with a new step-by-step program or a clever alliterated outline–it’s an encouragement to join hands with other Christians to share the gospel with others.

    “Defining evangelism in a biblical way helps us align our evangelistic practice with the Scriptures. Here’s a definition that has served me well for many years: Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”“There is much room for humility when it comes to evangelism. We need to acknowledge that God is sovereign and can do as he wills to bring people to himself. There is no formula that dictates how God must work in evangelism. And though we may disagree with the evangelistic practices of individuals, ministries, or churches, we must also recognize that when people develop good-hearted commitments to evangelism, God can produce true fruit. I, for one, will take people practicing evangelism as best they can over those who forgo evangelism until they have the perfect practice.”

  5. 51enlmlxbzlEscaping the Price-Driven Sale: How World Class Sellers Create Extraordinary Profit by Tom Snyder and Kevin Kearns
    Are you tired of annoying salespeople? Escaping the Price-Driven Sale encourages a consultative and strategic approach to marketing and sales that constantly adds value for the client or prospect. The salesperson can do this through discovering unrecognized problems, identifying unanticipated solutions, exploring unseen opportunities, and brokering strengths. This is a helpful read for anyone involved in high-value sales that will set you apart from the competition.

Honorable Mentions:

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

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 2018? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

BONUS:  My Top 5 Books of 2016 || My Top 5 Books of 2015 || My Top 5 Books of 2014 || My Top 5 Books of 2013

My Top 5 Books of 2016

 

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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

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

My Top 5 Books of 2014

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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

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

 

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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

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