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

3 Reasons Allstate’s #MayhemSale Stole the Show…Literally

 

 

If you tuned into the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, chances are you also quickly opened your laptop to plunder Matt and Shannon’s house as a part of Allstate’s brilliant #MayhemSale campaign.

Just in case you missed it, here’s an overview: in order to raise awareness for the new Project Aware Share, Allstate staged a faux burglary by their Mayhem character of a real couple’s house (who found out the couple wasn’t home from all their posts on social media). Once inside, Mayhem put a sale price on each item and liquidated them one-by-one on the #MayhemSale website for a fraction of what they were worth.

Allstate’s #MayhemSale was one of the most brilliant marketing efforts in years. Here are three reasons it stole the show…literally:  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

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

My Top 5 Books of 2013

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2013 is coming to an end which means it’s the time of year when every blogger does a year-end wrap-up post of some sort.

Since I like reading, here are the top 5 books I read in 2013:

  1. Holiness: It’s Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J.C. Ryle
    By far one of the most impactful books on my Christian faith that I have ever read. Pursuit of personal holiness is one fo the most neglected areas for many Christians today. Ryle skillfully exposits 20 short passages related to holiness and powerfully applies them for his readers. He delves into topics like sanctification, fighting sin, counting the cost to follow Christ, and bringing glory to God in all areas of life. Though it was written in 19th-century England, 21st-century American readers will have no trouble relating to many of the themes he addresses since there are many parallels between Christianity in the two periods. I highly recommend this book to any Christian.

    “Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.” -J.C. Ryle

  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
    As an introvert in an extroverted world, this book definitely resonated with me. Cain provides some intriguing research on the difference between introverts and extroverts (and the complex relationship the two have with each other). She also highlights the strengths of introverts while recommending the kind of work environments that introverts can place themselves in to excel. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, this is a wonderful book that will help you understand, relate to, and lead the introverts in your life.

    “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” -Susan Cain

  3. Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt
    Nominal Christianity is one of the most difficult challenges for the church today. In Follow Me, Platt makes the case that every Christian should be involved in making disciples in one way or another whether that is evangelism, missions (local or global), or edification of believers (individuals or groups). He outlines what it means to be a Christian and offers a lot of practical application for people to become disciple-makers. Platt also challenges those who claim the name of Christ, but doesn’t have a desire to grow in knowledge of Christ and share it with others, to reexamine if they are truly saved. A great read for Christians of any maturity level.

    “Making disciples of Jesus is the overflow of our delight in being disciples of Jesus.” -David Platt

  4. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
    Ever wonder why some products, ideas, or styles take off and others fall flat? Then read this book. Gladwell explains the three elements that commonly work together to make something “tip” and saturate a group (or groups) of people. With a handful of poignant examples and admonitions, he shows how utilizing these three elements can cause your idea to spread faster than any multi-million dollar advertising campaign. A recommended book for anyone interested in ideas, marketing, or business in general.

    “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” -Malcolm Gladwell

  5. The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love by Greg Forster
    Calvinism often gets a bad rap for being overly-intellectual, harsh, emotionless, and cold. Forster’s Joy of Calvinism explores the entirety of Scripture to show that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Reformed doctrines of God’s grace are a source of immense comfort, motivation, and joy. Forster clearly explains how Calvinism stems from the character of God as loving Father and merciful Judge, framing his discussion around four aspects of God’s love (as opposed to arguing from the five points of Calvinism aka TULIP). Overall, a short and deep explanation of Reformed theology ideal for Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.

    “Few would disagree with the statement that a true Christian is a person who clings for salvation, not to the church; not to the sacraments; not to the Bible; not even to the proclamation of the gospel or the believer’s belief in it; but to the cross and the empty tomb. Calvinism is just the systematic application of this truth in all doctrine, piety, and life.” -Greg Forster

Honorable Mentions:

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. Also be looking for more book reviews (like this and this) in the coming year now that I’m part of BookSneeze and NetGalley. Happy reading!

Read any of these books or have any that would recommend reading in 2014? Tell me about them in the Comments below.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

6 Tips for Empowering Employees

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Once or twice a month, I go to Waffle House with Chad Mann, the youth pastor at Harvard Avenue Baptist, after the Wednesday night service. I always get a chocolate chip waffle. Chad orders a bacon, chicken, and cheese wrap with ranch dressing. Last week, they didn’t have any ranch dressing. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but here’s how the conversation with our waitress went:

CHAD: Can I get a bacon, chicken, and cheese wrap with a packet of ranch dressing please?

WAITRESS: We don’t have any ranch dressing.

CHAD: Bummer. You didn’t have it last time I was here either.

WAITRESS: Yea, we haven’t had any for a few weeks. Our manager is on vacation, so we haven’t ordered any.

ME: Couldn’t one of you all just run over to Walmart and get some so customers can have ranch on their wraps and salads? (This particular Waffle House is in the parking lot of the Siloam Walmart)

WAITRESS: I guess so, but the manager isn’t here, so we don’t know if that’s ok. He always makes us ask for permission to do stuff like that. Plus, it’s getting cold outside.

CHAD: That’s fine. I’ll use salsa instead.

Fear-Driven Management

Why do I share this example? It highlights the problems that result when employees don’t feel empowered by their managers. Read more of this post

Stop Making Stupid Famous

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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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