Whenever I discover something that moves/inspires/challenges me, I save the link in a Chrome folder and share it with my staff the following week.
Here in no certain order are the 12 most important articles and podcasts I spent time with in 2016 that could make your 2017 so much richer and focused.
1,000 True Fans – Kevin Kelly
The renowned futurist and tech guru Kevin Kelly’s take on how to launch anything of significance, whether it is a book, church, product, small group effort, etc.
Write Epic Shi* – Corbett Barr
Brilliant article from Corbett Barr about why good content spreads. Replace the word “blog post” with “sermons” and you could have the most influential article written to preachers in the last 25 years.
Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule – Paul Graham
Hands down the best article on how to explain to your staff the two kinds of roles that exist on your team – those who teach and create content out of thin air, and those who manage people and tasks. When I had our staff identify the percentage of time they spend each week on “making” vs. “managing” and the enemies they face that attack their creation time, the conversation that ensued was pure gold.
Your Kid And My Kid Are Not Playing In The Pros – Dr. Louis Profeta
When Emergency Room physician Dr. Louis Profeta was asked to pen an opinion piece for his local newspaper, what was shared became one of the most prophetic pieces ever written about parents succumbing to the pressure to allow their children to specialize in youth sports at a young age (the number one enemy of consistent church attendance in America).
Wendell Berry Reads His Poems
I can’t decide whether in heaven God will have Maya Angelou’s voice or Wendell Berry’s. Invest 15 minutes and allow yourself to be enthralled by the presence of one of America’s greatest living thinkers. Eugene Peterson says that every time Berry says the word “farm” or “land” he replaces it with the word “church.”
Make Good Art – Neil Gaiman
Neil’s 2012 commencement speech should be required listening for all Senior Pastors who feel compelled to simply regurgitate the same tried and true church model everyone else is practicing. I wish someone had the guts to preach “make good churches” at the 2017 commencement ceremony at a seminary somewhere.
The Habits Guide: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones – James Clear
Simply the most concise and practical advice anywhere on how to create and stick to good habits. If you don’t subscribe to his newsletter you’re missing out. FYI – James Clear is a role model for how to clearly communicate an idea without any extraneous fluff. Those who feel the need to ignore Howard Hendrick’s brilliant advice to “Leave them longing, not loathing” (and preach longer than 28 minutes) would do well to spend time with Clear.
John Grisham on The Whistler, Writing Thrillers, and Righting Wrongs – Brian Koppelman
Brian Koppleman’s podcast “The Moment” occasionally provides rich intellectual content, and this podcast with Grisham (his first long form interview on writing ever) is pure gold. Hearing Grisham’s story was worth every bit of the 52 minutes I spent listening to it. I replayed it no less than 8 times.
“Rising Strong in a Digital World” – Brene Brown on CreativeLive with Chase Jarvis
This is shame researcher Brene Brown’s classic interview with Chase Jarvis on interpersonal relationships. When I summarized her concept of “the story I’m telling myself about you” and then asked each person at our staff meeting to go around and share “a story they were making up in their head” about someone at the table – it became one of the most bonding moments for our staff in recent years.
Make sure you listen to the first twenty minutes, especially the section starting at 21:04. I transcribed that section here:
“When something hard happens and we’re captured by something difficult, our emotions get the first crack at making sense of something. A bad look. A hard phone call. A disagreement at work. We think we’re rational beings. We think that cognition is going to carry us through and make sense of it, but it doesn’t. Emotion is driving. Thought and behavior are not even in the front seat riding shotgun. They’re not even in the back seat. Thought and behavior are in the trunk going “hey!” and emotion is driving. So the first thing we do is we tell ourselves a story that reduces ambiguity about what happened. The men and women who have the greatest capacity for rising strong – in the moment something happens they hack into that neurobiological process when they are making up a story. They stop and say, “Wait a minute. What’s actually going on here? What am I feeling? What do I know for sure?” Because there’s a name for a story that has one or two limited data points, and we fill in the rest with fear. It’s called a conspiracy.”
No “Yes.” Either HEL* YEAH!” or “no.” – Derek Sivers
While I wouldn’t suggest you use this exact phrase in a staff or governing board meeting, the principle of only doing things that you are 1000% passionate about would keep those of us in the trenches from starting countless mediocre sermon series’ and half-effort ministry projects.
The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned – Steven Pressfield
This should be required reading before “thinking up” a new sermon series idea. It became the impetus behind his book Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It which every Senior Pastor and Art’s Pastor should read together in 2017. Pressfield is the author of a slew of books that should be in your Kindle.
Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories – Tim Ferriss
Arguably the most liberating interview I listened to all year. When Foxx said, “What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing. People get nervous for no reason.” I felt a 50-pound weight fall off my shoulders. The salient points of Ferriss’ interview with Foxx and the near 200+ high caliber guests he’s interviewed have been distilled into his new book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. I’m finding the book unwieldy at times, but there’s productivity gold in there for the finding.