Monday, December 31, 2007

Making a Difference

As I post my last entry of the year, I am reminded of an excellent book I recently finished reading titled Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. Rather than use this space to highlight its salient points, I instead am inspired to share some instances from my own life this year in which I was able to influence someone else’s life for the better.

Earlier in the year, my wife and I bought an Italian motor scooter called a Vespa. I was so enthused about the scooter that I posted an entry about it on a Vespa forum and included a picture of it. Much to my surprise, I later heard from someone in the Netherlands that they changed their decision about which model to buy based on my glowing review. Suffice it to say that I never dreamed I would help sell an Italian scooter in Holland!

Another example of influence comes from closer at home. On Christmas Day, my wife and I had her parents over for a special supper. After our meal, she and her mother got out the sewing machine to mend a garment and I gave her father a guided tour of the Apple iMac computer we got earlier in the year. He later informed me that as a result of my passionate referral, he went out the very next day and got his own iMac to enjoy!

I could share many other examples of the power of influence but these two seem particularly powerful to me since they involve relatively pricey purchases in the thousands of dollars. While I admit that influencing buying decisions isn’t as big a deal as helping change someone’s daily behavior, helping someone get a good deal does make a difference to them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Gift of Time

My wife and I recently returned from our autumn retreat to the pastoral mountains of North Carolina, where we had the good fortune of being housebound by the weather a good deal of the time. While visiting family there, I had a couple days of downtime to savor the insightful writing of author Ellen Vaughn in her latest book, Time Peace: Living Here and Now with a Timeless God.

Among her more piercing insights are this gem: “If we believe what we say we do—in a huge, sovereign, good God who created all things, including time, and has ordained both our days on earth and our entrance into eternity—we will not be anxious about time. We are in fact rich in it. We can enjoy God’s present. We can relax, and smile.”

As I write these words I am reminded of even more timeless wisdom found in “The Message” paraphrase of the Book of Acts 17:26-27: “He made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God.” I particularly love the phrase, “plenty of time and space for living.” As we all enter the busy Christmas season, I pray we slacken our pace long enough to celebrate Christ and unwrap the gift of time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Need for Speed

In The Age of Speed, author Vince Poscente presents the contrarian view that speed is not necessarily what ails us as a society. It is our failure to leverage speed that afflicts us, he suggests, and harnessing the power of speed is the secret to not only surviving but thriving in today’s time-crunched culture, keeping us ahead of the curve.

Featuring counterintuitive insights and provocative research, the book challenges readers’ assumptions about the nature of speed and its influence upon our daily lives. “We’ve been warned of speed’s potential to create problems, but we crave its benefits, so in many ways, we have a love-hate relationship with speed,” writes Poscente. “But to get the full benefit of speed, we have to detach our perception of ‘fast’ from the notion of ‘busy.’”

According to Poscente, it is only when one becomes agile by anticipating opportunities, aerodynamic by multitasking effectively and aligned by living authentically that one is able to succeed in the age of speed. He stresses the need for readers to heed the call to harness speed lest it become a burden instead of a blessing. Speed read the book and reap the benefits.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Trend Watching

It’s been a while since I shared about trends so I thought I’d highlight the latest issue of Trendwatching located at As the brief itself states, “Find out about the ‘why’ of trend spotting, the mindset required, the resources needed, the process of embedding trends into your organization and how to actually apply them.” And note that there is a big difference between watching trends and mere fads, which are here today and gone tomorrow. Trend watching, on the other hand, should ultimately lead to profitable innovation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Joie de Vivre

I finally took the plunge the other day and ordered a couple of books from Amazon and I was not only pleased with the service but my selections also. One of the titles I got was Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living by acclaimed restaurateur Robert Arbor. I read it over one weekend and found it as delightful as I had hoped it’d be after reading sample pages using Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature at

The book’s title, which is French for “enjoyment of life,” captures the essence of its message: life is meant to be savored one sip at a time, not gulped down indiscriminately. Arbor is a French expatriate who has owned and operated several successful French-style eateries in New York City and still maintains a residence in the French countryside.

What I loved about the book is its elegantly simple approach to living a life full of meaning and merriment with the ones we cherish. Coupled with artful photography from the author’s wife, the book’s chapter titles are arranged in a type of culinary order, from the French love of breakfast to gardening, farmer’s markets and other simple pleasures.

For the cuisine-minded, recipes are sprinkled throughout the text, but in an unobtrusive manner for those of us more inclined toward the message than the menu. As Arbor writes, “A big part of comprehending 'joie de vivre' is understanding that enjoyment in day-to-day life is the true key to happiness. Finding happiness in small things means that ordinary days are filled with pleasures rather than obligations.”

Friday, August 17, 2007

To Be Continued...

My television viewing, that is. My last post dealt with both of our televisions dying within a two-week span last month and how it caused me to consider not replacing one or both of them. And after much thought and prayer, the verdict was to replace the primary one and dispose of the secondary one.

However, during the course of researching a prospective replacement online, I came across an advertisement for a local family-owned and -operated television repair place. The good news is after the manufacturer suggested that I carry our primary set to the curb, I was able to get it fixed, and to the tune of about a hundred bucks, much less than the cost of replacing it with a new one that had less features.

As for the secondary set, it was indeed carried to the curb this morning, and I am already feeling much better about owning only one television. Also, we have resolved to be even more discerning when it comes to what we allow through our eye and ear gates. Our guiding light is a favorite scripture of mine: “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts [Proverbs 4:23].”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tuning Out Television

After eight years, our primary television gave up the ghost the other day. Fortunately, I was able to finish watching Wimbledon, which I look forward to every year, on our secondary television. However, at thirteen years of age, it also has shown signs of quitting. All of which has gotten me thinking about either not replacing them, or at least only replacing one of them and severely limiting the time spent watching it.

My wife and I know firsthand what it is like to live with little or no television in the house, as she grew up in a household largely devoid of the one-eyed monster, and I grew up in a rural setting where we were lucky to get good reception of the three major networks, let alone cable or satellite. And for the first five years of our marriage, the only television we had was a ten-inch black and white set with antennae, which we actually boxed up during our first year of Bible school.

What I’ve been reminded of lately is how little I’ve missed television. In its place, my wife and I finally broke out our vintage Scrabble set to play for the first time in our married lives, and on our nineteenth wedding anniversary no less. We’ve also read more, listened to more music, hosted friends for a pizza and game night, ridden our scooter around town, and enjoyed a host of other fun, albeit low-tech, activities.

One of the books I’ve read pointed out that the average American spends four hours a day watching television. That adds up to more than one day every week, two months every year, and a decade by age seventy, that we spend glued to the tube. I for one think that is too much, and we are contemplating what to do about it. So, stay tuned for details…

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Voice of Authenticity

I had a life changing experience the other day at a training conference at which I spoke. One of the other speakers, a voice specialist, stated that the most important aspect of a message is “authenticity,” which made me think about my message slated for the next day and how I would present it.

Rather than try to gloss over some trials I had been going through, I decided to be authentic and share my struggles with the audience. The resulting experience was one of the most rewarding of my life, as the message resonated with people in a profound way and led virtually all of them to share with me later how much it had touched them.

And speaking of authenticity, I also read an article by Mark Batterson in Ministry Today that articulated what I had been wrestling with: “Life is too short and leadership is too challenging to try to be two people! At the end of the day, I’d rather be disliked for who I am than liked for who I’m not.”

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Change Function

In The Change Function, author Pip Coburn explains why certain technologies get widely adopted and others do not. In Coburn’s words, “The Change Function says that users change habits—which might include adopting a new technology—if and only if the pain of their current situation is greater than their total perceived pain of making the switch to a proposed solution for their pain.”

In a nutshell, Coburn dispels the “build it and they will come” myth, which has obvious application for businesses of all stripes. According to Coburn, without a user-friendly focus, all the features and functions in the world won’t help convince a consumer who feels confused by mixed messages.

The classic case study is the overwhelming success of the iPod, which has achieved iconic status by simply adopting the Mies van der Rohe philosophy of design: less is more. What folks outside of Apple are only gradually coming to realize is that “feature creep” turns off far more than it turns on. If only Apple would design a universal remote.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Nomadic Lifestyle

I must credit Fast Company for once again serendipitously guiding me to some cool content about the intersection of life and technology, which I study and write about. The reference in question is the Web site at, which was listed as a blog of the month in the latest issue.

As I perused several intriguing postings, I discovered the link to an article titled “Where Neo-Nomads’ Ideas Percolate: New ‘bedouins’ transform a laptop, cell phone and coffeehouse into their office.” What I liked so much about the article was how it depicted the nomadic lifestyle made possible by today’s technology, a trend whose time has come and that I’ve personally adopted as my own.

Adding to my ability to work when and where I like is my recent acquisition of a Vespa scooter. It is incredibly fun and enables me to tote my laptop and cell phone to my favorite cafes in style. Like my Macintosh, it comes clad in a cool color called Excalibur Grey, and, also like my Mac, it is elegantly designed and simple to use, a synthesis of form and function.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Uncommon Sense

I read in the New York Times recently the good news that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission recommended cell phones not be given clearance for use on airline flights, with which I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I must admit that I was somewhat surprised common sense leadership actually trumped lobbying for a change.

Suffice it to say that all too many people cannot be trusted to exercise good judgment with the use of cell phones, especially in the cramped quarters of an airplane. Case in point: one of my neighbors activated the speakerphone capability of her cell phone the other day and had it cranked so loudly that I could actually hear everything the other person was saying, all while I was more than fifty feet away and inside my house!

It remains to be seen whether or not cell phones ever make their way onto airlines, but I travel enough to welcome the electronic downtime that in-flight no-cell zones afford me. Without such helpful guidelines, the already not-so-friendly skies become even less so.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Early Eulogy

One of the most profoundly meaningful things I have done is record a special message to my wife just after we drew up our will and just before I traveled to Africa on a dangerous mission trip, for which I could not get anyone to underwrite a life insurance policy. While I fully trusted God for safety, suffice it to say that being faced with the prospect of death causes you to reflect upon the meaning of your life and the value of the ones you love.

It was not until afterward that I discovered an apt description of what it was that I had created. I later heard of such a note referred to as an “early eulogy” and I thought that fit. An early eulogy is simply communicating to another now, before one of you dies, what you think of them, how much you love them, how much they mean to you and others, and the like. To this day, my wife enjoys listening to the recording when I periodically travel overnight, as it reminds her of my love for her and how very much she means to me.

Just as it is wiser to give flowers to the living rather than the dead, I propose showering the ones we love with words of affirmation while they can yet hear them and be buoyed by the life they bring. For it is not the unspoken word, however thoughtful, that blesses, but the heartfelt sharing of one’s deepest and truest feelings that possesses the power to lift another soul and place them on an uncommon level, where they may rest in our love.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Welcome to Macworld

About a year ago my wife and I crossed the wild unknown to enter a new land called Macworld. We did so by purchasing our first Apple Macintosh computer, a 12-inch PowerBook G4 laptop. We fell in love with its elegant simplicity and user-friendly interface and once bit by the Apple bug, we proceeded to purchase an iPod Shuffle soon after getting our laptop. And one year later, we are also the proud owners of an iPod Nano as well as a 17-inch Core 2 Duo iMac desktop computer.

What’s more, our journey to Macworld took a literal leap earlier this year after we read in Macworld magazine [that we subscribed to soon after getting our first Mac] about the annual Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. Blessed with some extra time and cash and looking for a good excuse to visit Frisco for the first time, we quickly registered for the expo, booked our flight, got our hotel room and prepared for our trip.

Not only is San Francisco one of the most beautiful cities to explore, we experienced a camaraderie at the Macworld Expo that we never imagined. Reminiscent of a school reunion, minus the awkward moments, the expo also featured a cornucopia of Apple-related products and peripherals, of which I purchased my fair share. But it was the friendly atmosphere and helpful people that most impressed my wife and me.

Being relative newcomers to the world of Mac, there is much for us to learn and we know it, but the learning comes so much easier with the gentle guidance of those who have made the journey and are generously willing to share what they know. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I dare liken the entire experience to an epiphany of sorts, for while technology can simplify life, it rarely succeeds at simply being fun to use. Yet Apple makes computing fun, and in my book, that is worth the price of admission to Macworld. For more about the conference, including Steve Jobs’ keynote, visit