Watered-down blobs of typeset

March 17, 2007

I thought you might like this slide as much as I do. It reminds me to keep working to achieve the purposeful intent of blog posts – to make them useful for readers – rather than allowing posts to become watered-down blobs of typeset.

The slide comes from Kathy Sierra as part of the Microbrand panel at SXSW. Her full slide presentation is here (4.7 MB). [Via Jake McKee.]

Kathy primarily expressed a message of blogging with gratefulness. Which reminds me…

Thank you for reading the Stronger Teams Blog!

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Books, and book reviews, worth reading

March 10, 2007

The book review carnival is well underway at Joyful Jubilant Learning, including some great reviews of books and authors that were previously unfamiliar to me.

Here are clips from two of the reviews that particularly caught my attention.

Lisa Haneberg, author of Two Weeks to a Breakthrough and Management Craft blogs, reviewed The Zen of Groups: The Handbook for People Meeting with a Purpose.

The book has two parts – The first 90 or so pages offer a good primer on how groups operate (purpose, roles, phases of team development, and meeting models). They offer a pretty good primer on group facilitation, too.

One of the distinctions the authors return to again and again is the importance of how we relate to baggage – ours and other people’s. I love this simple quote from page 7, “Baggage is not right or wrong, it just is.” I can relate to that! The authors talk about baggage a lot because its mismanagement is the cause of a lot of group dysfunction. I like this distinction (I call it Mucky Muck, but it’s still baggage) and think they use it in helpful ways.

Karen Wallace, author of The Clearing Space and Sanctuary, reviewed Do Less, Achieve More – Discovering the hidden power of giving in.

Do Less, Achieve More uses the parable of the rainmaker, made famous by Jung, in which a man ends a five-year drought through inner harmony with the divine. Chu weaves this parable through the book – and being in the middle of terrible drought here in Australia this had extra meaning for me.

I don’t know that it is feasible for me sit in a tent, alone, quiet and still for four days communing with the divine until my inner harmony causes the rain to fall… (although, then again… 🙂 but the richness of the analogy allows the lessons in this book to seep into our soul.

I am adding both of these books to my reading list, and expect the list to grow as the month-long Love Affair with Books continues. Check it Out!

[Oh, I almost forgot a shameless self promotion: I’ll be reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put Your Strengths to Work on March 31.]

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Throughout March – A Love Affair with Books

February 28, 2007

I’ve been looking forward to the month of March for a while now, because of the tremendous line-up of book reviewers scheduled to post at Joyful Jubilant Learning. If you haven’t visited JJL in while, now is the time to check it out or subscribe to the RSS feed.

JJL is a content network centered around a the practice of collaborative, life-long learning. There is always lively discussion, so be sure to weigh-in with comments about your favorite book or book review.

It’s an honor for me be among such a distinguished group of writers and I’ll be reviewing Marcus Buckingham’s soon-to-be-released Go Put Your Strengths to Work.

Here is full line-up of schedule book reviews:

[here] 3/1 Made to Stick, written by Chip and Dan Heath – Reviewed by Tim Milburn

[here] 3/2: Setting the Table, written by Danny Meyer – Reviewed by Rosa Say

[here] 3/3: GRUB, written by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry – Reviewed by Mary Hunt

[here] 3/4: Love is the Killer App, written by Tim Sanders – Reviewed by Benjamin Bach

[here] 3/5: Authentic Leadership, written by Bill George – Reviewed by Dean Boyer

[here] 3/6: Two Weeks to a Breakthrough: How to Zoom Toward Your Goal in 14 Days or Less, written by Lisa Haneberg – Reviewed by Dwayne Melancon

[here] 3/7: Do Less, Achieve More, written by Chin-Ning Chu – Reviewed by Karen Wallace

[here] 3/8: Your Brain on Music, written by Daniel Levitin – Reviewed by Steve Sherlock

[here] 3/9: The Zen of Groups, A Handbook for People Meeting With a Purpose, written by Dale Hunter, Anne Bailey and Bill Taylor – Reviewed by Lisa Haneberg

[here] 3/10: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, written by Michael Pollan – Reviewed by Bren Connelly

[here] 3/12: Wherever You Go There You Are, written by Jon Kabat-Zinn – Reviewed by Chris Owen

[here] 3/13: Move Closer Stay Longer, written by Dr. Stephanie Burns – Reviewed by Beth Robinson

[here] 3/14: Leaders’ Playbook, How to Apply Emotional Intelligence: Keys to Great Leadership, written by Reldan Nadler – Reviewed by Wayne Hurlbert

[here] 3/15: The Sundering, Banewreaker and Godslayer, a two-volume work written by Jacqueline Carey – Reviewed by EM Sky

[here] 3/16: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama – Reviewed by Nneka

[here] 3/17: Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba – Reviewed by Phil Gerbyshak

[here] 3/19: How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less, written by Nicholas Boothman – Reviewed by John Richardson

[here] 3/20: Seeing David in the Stone, written by James B. Swartz and Joseph E. Swartz – Reviewed by Terry Starbucker

[here] 3/21: The Difference Maker, written by John C. Maxwell – Reviewed by Tim Draayer

[here] 3/22: Oh the Places You’ll Go!, written by Dr. Seuss – Reviewed by Dave Rothacker

[here] 3/27: StrengthsFinder 2.0, written by Tom Rath – Reviewed by David Zinger

[here] 3/28: One, written by Lance Secretan – Reviewed by Greg Balanko-Dickson

[here] 3/29: Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill and newly edited by Ross Cornwell – Reviewed by Carolyn Manning

[here] 3/30: Go Put Your Strengths to Work, written by Marcus Buckingham – Reviewed by Blaine Collins

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Dan Ward on making a difference

February 24, 2007

I’ve known Dan Ward for awhile, exchanged emails, subscribed to his blog, pondered the Simplicity Cycle, and come to appreciate the Bloomer Sisters.

I have not, however, read his first book, The Radical Elements of Radical Success. That condition may soon change.

The following excerpt from the book, which Dan shared recently, shows that he takes the refreshing approach of judging success not from the perspective of the individual, but by how much of a difference someone makes.

The problem with most “success books” is their focus on success. Ultimately, that translates to a focus on the self. Too many books are all about what you can achieve, what you can do and what you can be. They are all about you, and that is off by exactly 180 degrees. No wonder most of them are so little help.

How can you make a difference in the world if your eyes are glued inward? How can you do meaningful things if you are your own most meaningful thing? We need to put down the mirror and look out at the world around us.

When you are trying to be a success, the emphasis is on you. When you try to make a difference, the emphasis is on the difference made, and that makes all the difference.

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Gaining value from blogging and being thankful for learning

November 13, 2006

Two “online polling” items for your consideration today…

Item 1.

blog-collage.JPG

A few months back, CK (Christina Kerley) asked some of her marketing community readers a question: What is the single greatest point of value you receive from blogging? The responses are in and CK offers this post, a compilation (in PDF), and the very creative Voice-in collage shown at the right.

I identify with many of the comments about gaining value from blogging. Here are two examples:

I think the single real reason I blog is a cocktail of community and conversations: the Connection Cocktail. It’s about connecting with other writers, connecting your thoughts with theirs, understanding issues from many points of view and all of that connection encouraging growth as a writer, as a person, as a thinker, as a professional. Ann Handley

The biggest think for me is that it gives me a whiteboard to organize my thoughts. I find that I rarely have time to think in a day, and by committing what’s in my head to a post, I get past the cobwebs and into the deeper parts of my brain where it turns out I’m more organized than I thought. Ryan Anderson

My own answer would be that I gain value from blogging because it allows me to think and learn more about teamwork in professional organizations by connecting with smart, fun and stimulating people and engaging in one of my favorite activities – writing.

What is the greatest value you gain from writing a blog or from reading blogs?

Item 2.

quill.gifJoyful Jubilant Learning, is also polling the online community by asking, “How would you finish this phrase?”

“I am thankful that I am a Joyful Jubilant Learner! Why? Since October I have learned …”

I know I learned a lot from the online community every month – perhaps you do too. I encourage you to share your learning by sending your answers in 50 words or less to the JJL Community Mailbox by 12noon Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, November 22nd.

The responses will be compiled and published on Thanksgiving Day (a U.S. holiday), November 23rd. And don’t forget to stop by Joyful Jubilant Learning regularly!

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Halloween Reading: The Black Cat by Poe

October 28, 2006

blackcateyes.jpgMy 8th grade English teacher took great pains to prepare us for reading Edgar Allan Poe’s short story that Autumn. Still, I was shocked that Poe would use his talent to create such horror. I had not read Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the time, and that was before Jason and Freddie hit the screen.

As an adult, I am no less disgusted by the actions of Poe’s villain, but I take much pleasure in the presentation.

Have a haunting All Hallow’s Eve!

Excerpts from The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe.

When I first beheld this apparition –for I could scarcely regard it as less –my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd –by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of which, had then with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.

And later…

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! –by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman –a howl –a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.

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Creating a welcoming environment for collaborative learning

October 1, 2006

The first day of October has always been a special day to me, in part because my parents were married on that date and we celebrated the event annually. Additionally, we Dallasites always look forward to the promise of cooler weather that October brings (although a check of the forecast this morning found 90+ degree days for the upcoming week).

This year, October 1 marks the beginning of a new initiative in online collaborative learning, known as the Joyful Jubilant Learning Network. (Note: the link will not be available until Monday morning.) I am honored be one of the initial contributing authors, joining several prolific and insightful writers who have come together in the Ho’ohana Community.

The inspiration for JJLN comes from the month-long learning forum sponsored by Rose Say. To get a feel for the forum take a look at this post in which Rosa gathered quotes and links from the posts and discussion.

Why am I involved in the JJLN? Naturally, learning is important to me. After all, my first post on this blog was titled Still Learning. Additionally, something special happened for me when I began to read and discuss the posts on Rosa’s forum. For example, Terry Starbucker’s post about about Brother George (which I mentioned earlier) inspired me to write not one, but two comments. Here is a re-print of one:

Terry, Your post has certainly hit the tipping point in making us travel down memory lane and inspired me to share just one more teacher story.

When I was in the 9th grade, my science teacher (who’s name I cannot summon) shook the very foundations of my existence. He informed me, quite politely, that most people did not believe that the universe was created in 6 days. Having spent every day of my 14 years in the Bible belt, I was shocked that anyone would say such a thing.

I’ll never forget his coaching tone. He knew that I was a bright fellow who had simply been sheltered regarding modern science. He slowly, deliberately explained concepts that were huge to me at the time: that people have different beliefs; that being open to new ideas and evidence were valuable traits; that science and personal values were not at odds but rather addressing different aspects of life.

The world changed for me that day; it grew exponentially. That day allowed me to question, to probe. It allowed me to become comfortable with uncertainty. It gave me permission to change my mind; to not always know absolute truth.

The science teacher’s name was Mr. Davis, I now recall, and I had not thought of him for several years before reading Starbucker’s post. If it is not apparent from the comment, it was incredibly important for me to remember and write about how Mr. Davis had such an tremendous influence on my life and outlook.

The welcoming environment for learning and sharing not only led me to comment about Mr. Davis, but also led many others to contribute their thoughts, feelings, and insights . The combined learning resulted in a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Creating a welcoming environment for collaborative learning is the primary purpose of the Joyful Jubilant Learning Network, and the reason I am excited to participate!

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