Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Master Plan by Mike Ingram

The Master Plan: Three Keys To Building A Business And Life With PurposeWith appealing stories that consistently share Mike's praise for other people - taking note of what he has gleaned in partnerships, teamwork, & networking - Mike shares great insights for how to work for success in life.

Mike shares meaningful personal stories from his experience - including creative use of .22 calibers to sell rat bait - and negotiating a land deal that helped a city, a neighborhood, and a church!

Stories about Interstate 11 (not yet built), Kirby Vacuum sales in a 10'x10' space, and a sermon from the theologian, John Wesley, add to the insight shared in the book!  All along the way - Mike shares specific points of wisdom from his journey - intended to help the reader make better choices for their life!

The title of the book offers "Three Keys" - and these are included - alongside many other keys for living life!

The simple truths - and tangible stories - drew me into the book and kept me reading through the final pages where I learned about Mike's commitment to his first love! Great!

The Master Plan by Mike Ingram

Reset Your Day - Reframe your Life

We all have “bad days” – and we all, at times, feel “down.”  Realizing that, in itself, can be a step towards health and wholeness.

At the same time, knowing how to “reset” our lives is important too.  Sometimes (but not always), a few direct & intentional minutes of specific diversion – can do much to reframe our mood.

Here’s a simple idea for you.

Write down a list of a few specific things you enjoy – that genuinely make you feel good.  (Not  things like that temporarily make you feel good but make you feel bad later – eating or drinking the wrong things in poor quantities, for example!)  Rather – think about things like this which can be done in a few minutes:

  1.  Stand with my face in the sun for 5 minutes.
  2. Listen to [Insert Song Title Here.]
  3. Climb a flight of stairs while being thankful that I can walk!
  4. Watch a bird in a tree, being mindful of the many freedoms I have in life.
Or things like this which can be done in about an hour:

  1. Walk around the park – or walk for 20 minutes at the gym.
  2. Watch a single episode of [Insert T.V. Program Here.]
  3. Call a list of friends and share memories from [Insert Event Here.]
  4. Listen to a specific speech, sermon, lecture, musical that always inspires.
The KEY is to have specific and tangible practices that have a proven history to help you reframe and reset your life perspective.  Whatever has worked for your life! 

There is a good amount of scientific evidence that demonstrate that practices involving us in kinesthetic activity (moving), being outdoors, laughing or watching others laugh, participating in conversations involving emotions, or hearing compelling stories, physically changes the neural activities in our brains!  Consider motion, emotions, smiling, activity, laughing, & stories as activities in your life.
Keep the list with you – and the next time you’re “down in the dumps” or “feeling funk” – pull out your list – and intentionally DO one of the specifically targeted practices you have written down – EVEN if you don’t "feel" like it!

Of course, you could just wallow through your day in the miry-dreariness.  Or, you could intentionally “turn off” the miry-dreariness for an intentional, pre-programmed time – with the possibility of returning to the day refreshed, rejuvenated and with a re-framed perspective!

Sometimes being “down” is directly tied to our lack of sleep, poor eating, genuine issues of chemical imbalance – or long term troubles (hospitalization, family crisis, and more) – but sometimes – a simple, intentional, practiced “habit” can reset a day getting off kilter – to a refreshing day of remembered joy.
  1. Make your own list.
  2. Carry it with you.
  3. When you’re "off-your-prime-energy" or "losing steam" in the near future – DO one of your specific habits to reset your day, your outlook, and your productivity.
While not a "guarantee" for a refreshed day - an intentional, specific, targeted practice can help often enough to make it worth the effort!  I'm sure of it!    

What primarily shapes your life?

Our lives take shape from internal & external influence. 
  • What people say to us (external) & how we talk & think about ourselves (internal) - frames our self-perception.
  •  What our work requires of us (external) & what we require of ourselves at work (internal), shapes our daily dynamic.
In what ways can you plan your own life, to be more primarily shaped by your own positive self-thought, self-direction, & self-motivation toward your best days?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Attitude & Relationships

Neither your attitude alone, nor your meaningful relationships alone - guarantee a good life - and yet, attitude & relationships significantly add value to life! 

What will you do in these days to determine your own attitude, no matter what life throws at you? 

How can you best configure your relationships with the best persons for your best days yet?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Story of Writing - & Gratefulness

I enjoyed reading The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs, & Pictograms by Andrew Robinson

The book, in narrative and in many full-colour pictures - delivers precisely on it's title.  I learned much about the persons engaged with writing, the ideas about the development of writing from various contexts, continents and other connections.  While I read the entire text, I think persons would find the book interesting - and glean much data from the material in it - even with a skim read.

I skim read a good portion of both:  The Magic (The Secret) by Rhonda Byrne - and  The Magical Path: Creating the Life of Your Dreams and a World That Works for All by Marc AllenHere's the premise of each.  
  • Byrne - Be gracious.  
  • Allen - Be reflective and think about [meditate on] your life.  
Save yourself the effort from reading the contents - in my opinion, especially Byrne's book.  Byrne's book - which amazingly is being widely read and re-translated truly says the same simple thing, over and over and over again - in odd phrases like this, "If you're traveling . . . sprinkle magic dust by saying thank you . . ."  Or, "The most effective way to [insert any assertion here] is to continue to be grateful." 

Distraction & the Need for Moral Guidance

Ours is an age of distraction. The background to our lives is the white noise of inconsequential television programs, pompous pundits, shrill talkback callers, ten second news grabs, and the cult of celebrity. In this environment, the need for contemplation and some introspection becomes compelling; a time to stop and think; to make our way, guided by a moral compass, a bearing that divines our best instincts.

From:  The Third Annual Manning Clark Lecture - "A Time for Reflection:Political Values in the Age of Distraction," delivered by the Hon Paul Keating at the National Library of Australia on Sunday 3 March 2002.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Henry Wouk - City Boy (!) & The Lawgiver

I only recently learned of the extended and important writings of Herman Wouk - based on his newest book (just published, and he's 97!) - The Lawgiver.  He made it into my "radar" since The Lawgiver is about Moses!  Sadly, The Lawgiver "did nothing" for me and I barely read the first 20%.  (And I would agree with the 1 star reviews on Amazon - sadly!)

On the other hand, I loved reading his novel, City Boy

The book is described as a Bronx version of Tom Sawyer - and that is an apt description.  A delightful, charming, fun read where I laughed out loud at many scenes - and found myself "pulling for" the primary character.

I copy here a review found on - since it aptly lays out the simple plot so there is no need for me to restate it!  I enjoyed the story in every way!

City Boy
Herbie Bookbinder is a Jewish New York City kid with a little too much brains, a bit short on athleticism, and an indelible crush on Lucille Glass. His adventures, at school, and at camp, are a fun window on urban life in the twenties, and a slightly biting on the summer camps of that era. But things really heat up when Herbie and pal Cliff need to return secretly to the city . . .

While kids would naturally interest themselves in Herbie, there is an adult story, of Herbie's parents and their business troubles, going on just beyond Herbie's nose. This doesn't really hit Herbie, and the juvenile reader, until near the end of the story, but the adult reader can watch the subplot building until the resolution of all at the end of the story.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Trees, Hieroglyphs, Paul & Jesus, the Middle East & Mormons!

As I typed the title for this blog - I realized how the first five books I've read for Christmas break capture my continued interests - 

  1. Nature & Creation, 
  2. the-Bible-books-and-Academics, 
  3. Christianity and interpreting the Christian proclamation, and
  4. peacemaking and history of the Middle East and studies of persons in and among various religions!
    I've got psychology (personhood) books in my stacks already checked out for the break -  and a batch of leadership books on my agenda - plus a handful of novels - so that about frames my routine interests!   Delightful!

I grew up in the Northwest – and where I live in middle-America now (Oklahoma) – I feel in many ways “out of place” with the forest, streams, trees, hills and “outdoors” where I grew up.  This story – where I learned about individual persons work with the redwoods, - their passion, their dilemas, their work as scholars – and where I learned about trees – captivated me.  I read it from cover to cover in a portion of a single day!  

This quote from page 12 drew me in “Time has a different quality in a forest, a different kind of flow.  Time moves in a circle and events are linked, even if it’s not obvious that thy are linked.  Events in a forest occur with precision in the flow of tree time, like the motions of an endless dance.” 

I learned that humans are the only primates that do not spend time in trees (p. 50).  An interesting reflection on becoming what we’re genetically encoded to be, on page 122.  Interesting reflection on how hunting wolves to extinction in Scotland, led to the death of the forest, since the wolves could not eat the deer who eat the seedlings!  Reflections on how trees can teach us to live – pages 276-278.

I’m not a Tree Hugger – but as an Oregonian – well, maybe I’m a tree hugger!  There is something existentially rooted in me that makes me want to be among trees, in the forest, on the trail.  

Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-Francois Champollion.  As I am getting more opportunity to work among ancient texts with the Green Collection and the Green Scholars Initiatives, I decided I’d enjoy reading about how the Rosetta Stone was used to ‘crack’ the key for reading Egyptian Hieroglyphics.  This book was a great read.  I gleaned much in the way of the character of the time, the history of Egypt, the framework of persons engaged in early study of Egypt – it’s ancient language and it’s important history!  

I appreciated reading where the young Champollion was admitted into the Grenoble Society of Arts and Sciences with these words:  “In naming you one of its members, despite your youth [17], the Society has counted what you have done; she counts still  more on what you are able to do.  She likes to believe that you will justify her hopes and that if one day your works make you a name, you will remember that you received from her the earliest encouragement.’  I like to hope I do this for young people –and think more academics should do this for young people!

It was nice to read that Champollion had his own mis-givings and doubts as an emerging scholar.  (72-75).  It was nice to read that years passed where it appeared he accomplished nothing – busy as he was as a teacher.(89-90, 127)  It was nice to read that Champollion “blundered” and wished he not stated and published certain findings – too early and thereby wrong. (124)  It was nice to know that over 6 years his understanding of things – and published discernment of things, had to change (130).  I loved reading how, when he cracked the code, he passed out and lay unconscious for five days!  (142)!  I learned the “real” name of Ozymandias – page 206 – “User-maat-ra” – part of the throne name of Ramesses the Great.  

I learned that the same glyph for “to plough” - - a striking man! – is used for “education” and “taxes” and laugh that the work of striking  a man to the plow is akin to how ancient people viewed the work of education!  And finally, two new delightful words for my vocabulary – mellifluous and gallimaufry!  Words to use this week!  

Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity   I don’t buy into the content of all that Tabor says – both about his view of the (non)resurrection of Jesus (as traditionally interpreted) – nor do I buy into his stark notion that Paul radically reshaped (and nearly presented an entirely different version) of the Christian message than Jesus – but the book proved interesting and stirred my thinking in many ways.  For that I’m thankful. 

Tabor may be correct that Paul has shaped Christian tradition and Christian civilization, more than Christ himself (21).  While I don’t spend much time in the Gospels, I do not think I had read before that James may have been the ‘beloved’ disciple of John’s Gospel, nor had I noted connections between the book of James, Q, and the Sermon on the Mount.  And, related to the former, I’ll have to do some more reading on Didache, now, since Tabor points out the comparison in it, with the Sermon on the Mount/Q/The Book of James.  

Tabor seems free to label some of what Mark’s Gospel does as “myth-making” – but he hardly offers solid evidence on what and why he selects as myth from history.  (69-71ff)  For Tabor, Christians are, in fact, “also ‘Christs,’ in that they participate fully in all that Jesus had been given.” (117)  For Tabor, Baptism and Eucharist or essentially Pauline inventions (see 130ff) – which he actually calls “innovations” but then describes in ways so dis-similar from how they have been interpreted in Orthodox faith as to be nothing at all like what Jesus ever did – noting (151) that, “I think we can conclude that it is inconceivable that Jesus would have had his followers drink a cup of wine as a representation of his blood, even symbolically, or break bread to represent his flesh, sacrificed for their sins.”

Tabor is clearly not among Creedal Confessing – Orthodox Christians – but his ideas were invigorating to consider.  There does seem to be an idea that I had not noticed – that Paul developed his theology – as it were, in Arabia, like Moses or Elijah alone in the wilderness.  I had not considered this.  And, there does seem to be much (clearly present) in Paul’s idea of apostleship and mission being different from those in Jerusalem, and Tabor has inspired me to re-consider what I might know about Paul – even while I am not prepared to accept all that Tabor has to suggest.  A great read.

Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part One: 1783-1953  Since I follow issues of religious, political and peace-making issues in various countries in the “Middle East” – this book caught my eye.  It, like Maus by Art Spiegleman, is a Graphic Novel which made for easy reading – where the images helped capture ideas as well.  While the book is accurate – and while I learned details from it that I did not otherwise know – I did not like the graphic novel approach here, as much as I have liked it in books like Maus.  Enjoyable.  Learned some new data.  Not compelling.

The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith   I picked this up for my bride, but ended up enjoying reading it.  The author, Joanna Brooks, chronicles her story, growing up Mormon in California.  What struck me in the story was how much of her life experience - were similar to my own life experiences, even as she was raised in a different faith tradition.  The framework of trying to find herself and her moral identity as a teen - - and her exact age and therefore same period of life experiences (a teenager in the 1980s) were similar to my own.  Nothing remarkable – but it gave me perspectives on how a particular person grew up Mormon, and had to (and has to still) come to terms with her mature faith – still Mormon but willing to challenge the traditions of her faith, as well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Best Classroom Advice

I'm passing along the best classroom advice I've ever been given.

One of my undergraduate professors shared the following story from his life.  It was a "side-story" not directly relevant to the topic - but it stuck with me and has worked for me!

He said:

I was in my Master's Program.  Class session after class session I would sit in class and take notes.
Every class session, I noticed another student who was writing the entire class session.

I finally went up to him after class and asked him, 'What are you writing in class?'" 

He answered, 'I take notes on what the professor says.'
But, you're writing all the time!  Are you literally writing down everything he says?
'Yes.  I write down every single thing the professor says - in the exact phrases he uses with the exact words that he uses.  Then, on the exam, I re-write for him, the same words and phrases he uses for the concepts and ideas.  I always earn A's.'

The best advice I can give is a variant of this story.

When I've been a student in Graduate Programs - and in my professional work in most formal meetings - I write down nearly everything that is being said.  [Note - not just the lecture, but the class response & conversation, the way the textbook is being used.  I transcribe, as much as possible, the content of the class session.]  (In casual meetings, I don't write down everything - though I do take notes.)  I can't tell you how many times this has been helpful to me.

I do not have a perfect memory - but with printed record, I can remember or review just about anything and can archive it!  And, with the full-text-transcripts I maintain, in many cases, I can track the energy and dynamic of a conversation - with repeated words, particular exclamations, and detailed statements.  I can review the page numbers we engaged from the textbook - I can create quick hyperlink to the terms or concepts I need to know more about.  I can tell you what was said on any given day - from any of the classes I've taken - over the past decades.

A few years ago, a very bright student wrote essay exams in my lower division general education class.  When I read her essays, I literally felt like I was reading a transcript of course lecture & discussion.  [In fact, it was so suspicious to me I looked up the learner - to see if she wasn't cheating.  Turns out her test scores were off the charts!  She scored perfect "reading" and "english" scores on her three separate tries on the ACT exam!  She was smart.]  When I read her exam essays from my course, which read like transcriptionist records of my the class-sessions, how could I do anything but give her an "A"!?  Her answers demonstrated her clear interaction with he broad scope of issues, data, opinions, review of the textbook content and scholars that had been presented in class lecture.  Unlike many learners, she did not just write about a single statements from a phrase on the chalk-board or single-bullet point of a powerpoint!

I'm not proclaiming the fact that the best answer is to parrot back to someone what they have said!  Further, if a professor only offers their opinions, I'm not qualifying that as a lecture of content!  That is a lofty speech, perhaps, but not an informed & informative presentation about the history of ideas and opinons and perspectives.  Some answers require new, complex ideas and creative new imagination!  And, certainly, graduate school programs and research based programs do not want "the same simple answers" repeated back! 

In many programs of study - and certainly for papers and exams in many subject areas of most classes, if a learner will at least begin to reproduce for the  professor - what she explicitly said - in the exact words and phrases she uses - that learner will enter into the world and words and framework of the concepts to be able to learn!  [Note again - I am assuming the professor has presented concepts, ideas, data, opinions, bias, majority and minority opinion, and evidence.]

The sad thing is that as I watch learners in too many of my classes & they don't take notes at all.

Recently,  at the end of the semester - in our class session, I helped the learners - by writing on the board and by asking questions - how a broad-array of ideas from our textbook, previous lectures and from the Bible - had synonymous and threaded themes.  Together, these ideas created a tapestry of content - weaving a compelling theological framework from across the history of ideas emerging from the Bible - drawing on weeks of content in class work.  In this class session, I watched as numerous students wrote down no single thing the entire class session.  As I was sharing vital information about our topic - their body language demonstrated lethargy and sleep!  [This is especially too bad in our technological age - because a few engaged learners could work together in cloud-based program like google-docs - collaborating in shared way to transcribe lectures - distributing the workload among several persons - while getting everything verbatim!  This would allow them to archive the major content - review it and ace their papers and exams!!]

If you're not doing well in your courses - begin, at least, to write down what your professors say - not just the single bullet statements in a powerpoint! 

This is not about simply giving professors what they want to hear because they said it!  [Though, it includes that.]  By being able to conceptually process and discern the data - by integrating the textbook conversations from class - by keeping track of the class conversation & discussion, you'll begin to see the connections and coherence and logic of the ideas or professors and textbooks - as you develop your own nuanced perspectives!  If you take really good notes on what your professors are saying, you'll build the solid foundation for shaping the new perspectives you might go on to develop in your mature understanding of the history of ideas!

Additionally, if you do not "get something" - conceptually - if you need to ask the professor after class - by showing your engaged notes and asking specific questions, she'll know you were paying attention and you just need clarity.  A professor will be much more likely to graciously help you, if they knew you were paying attention in class!

And - as you're taking notes - feel free to track the fact of your dissent with ideas.  Track your own statements about where you agree or disagree - or how you might raise a question or present a new idea!  But track your ideas alongside the ideas given in the lecture/presentation/class-content!  [I should add here - that my transcription like notes has matured over the years.  Where I started by keeping transcript like notes, I now find that my notes include the specific concepts and words and phrases of the presentation - while they also include numerous "asides" and supplementary "comments" that I make that come from a kind of "private discussion" I'm having with the professor - but all in my notes.  Some of the questions I may actually raise in conversation - some I won't - and others I'll develop further and come back for review in separate class sessions.]

And finally, if you take great notes in class toward conceptual understanding - you'll not only score better on the exams - you'll also demonstrate yourself as being engaged in the class - and teachers notice this!  As a result of this, it's highly probable you'll  be able to develop better relationships and mentored opportunities with good professors - because good professors want to talk about ideas with informed and engaged people! 

In short - the simple practice of writing down - transcribing - the class conversation & lecture - may work to shift your entire life!   But . . . you'll have to get off Facebook to do this.