Quiet (book review)

My guess is most readers of my blog have not read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. My encouragement is that you should.

Her book first came on my radar in 2012 when I heard her interviewed briefly about it at a Catalyst conference. I was intrigued but didn’t reach for it until now. Too bad I didn’t read it earlier.

Why? Because she helps you get it-the differences between extroverts and introverts. She helps you embrace your introversion, if you are one. And she helps the extrovert understand you. Yes, that’s possible. She even gives you insights into those people who appear to be one but are really the other. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you?

So who should read this book?

  1. Anyone who suspects they are introverted but aren’t sure
  2. Anyone who knows they’re introverted and struggle with it
  3. Anyone who lives with an introvert
  4. Anyone who works for or leads introverts
  5. Anyone who wonders why they are drawn to have introverted friends

Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. P266

This is one of those books to not only read but add to your library. Power Up!

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Let the Creating Begin

(A final thought from No One Gets There Alone)

In giving helps for mental toughness, Dr. Bell says that consistency is the key.

Remember, we first create habits, then our habits create us.

Whatever we want to get better at, we must consistently do. Don’t mistake action for achievement. If we want to get better at swimming, then swim; if we want to get better at public speaking, speak. If we want to improve our sales, get a coach. Period.

Whenever I’ve led discussions about spiritual disciplines like prayer or taught on following the leading of the Holy Spirit, comments are always made about not feeling confident on how to do either of these. Let me suggest that Dr. Bell’s encouragement to swimmers and public speakers applies here. Create habits. Be consistent. Just Keep Doing It.

What could some habits be that would create you into a confident disciple?

  1. Pair up with another growth-desiring person. You could do this in many ways. Ask God to bring that person into your life. Be real with them and start pursuing growth together. Chances are that person is already in your life and you just need to take the first step.
  2. Develop your strategy. If you want to read the entire Bible, then find a reading plan that works for you. If it takes you one month, one year, or many years, who cares. Figure out your plan and start moving. 
  3. Say hello to God often. What if you turned off the radio in the car going to or from work just to be alone with God? What if you paused midday to talk about your morning and your afternoon? What if you didn’t get out of bed before saying good morning? What if one day of your weekend you didn’t ask for anything in your prayers and just said thank you? What if you prayed as often as you texted your spouse or best friend?
  4. Test your nudges. It’s possible that thought about that person you rarely think about was a Holy Spirit prompt to reach out. It’s possible that thought to bake your neighbor some cookies was a Holy Spirit avenue to relieve loneliness. It’s possible that cry for sympathy by your waiter’s comment was a Holy Spirit opening to offer a prayer with them.

Here’s a personal example from a different life arena. By nature, I’m not a morning person. I hated my teenage years when my mother would come in my room every morning turning on the lights and declaring it was breakfast time. But you might say, since I began running over ten years ago, I’ve been recreated by developing new habits. The discipline needed to properly train for races has slightly altered me. I now have little problem getting out the door to run by 6am several times a week.  I can even meet people at 6am for a group run and actually enjoy it, occasionally. Let’s not push it.

Who do you want to be? Who is God prompting you to be? What are the habits of that kind of person? Work to establish the habits of that person and let the creating begin.

NO ONE Gets There ALONE (book review)

What a nice surprise this book by Dr. Rob Bell was. While checking out a recommended book on Amazon, his book popped up also. Not familiar with him, I was intrigued by the title. Knowing I have a commitment to reading a few coaching books this year, I went ahead and purchased it. Here are some quotes to illustrate why you could consider doing the same:

  • Everyone is an athlete; our office is just different. Some of us are corporate athletes, sales athletes, or entrepreneur athletes. Being an athlete is an attitude and awareness. It means looking through our own lens of life as an athlete.     
  • True competition is me vs. me.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.   
  • When we focus on the differences between us, we are in comparison mode, believing we are better than or less than someone else.   
  • Talk about all stressful situations in non-stressful environments.   
  • When we are not all-in, we are just in the way.   
  • The chicken is invested in breakfast by supplying the eggs, but the pig is fully committed by providing the ham or bacon.   
  • Complaining is the first small sign of giving up.   
  • There are two types of pain, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.

You can read this book because you are a coach. You could read this book because you need a coach. Or you could read this book to explore why you should consider being coached. 

For example, Dr. Bell’s section on faith may help you explore yours in a new way. And his approach to mental toughness is encouraging and tool-giving to all readers, regardless of your reading agenda. My personal best takeaway of the entire book was the section entitled “Focus on the Similarities, not the Differences.”

You’ll have takeaways from this easily digestible book. Give it a look and improve how you are getting there.

At Our Best

I’m a third of the way through Dr. Bell’s book. In a passage about success, he wrote this:

We in fact NEED others at their best because it is the way we make ourselves better. All historic rivalries were based on two greats performing at their best. Ali had Frazier, Nicklaus had Palmer, Magic had Bird, Federer had Nadal, Navratilova had Evert and so on.

Funny. On the Wimbledon coverage this morning, they talked about this very idea because of the ongoing success of Federer and Nadal. But when I read this, my mind wasn’t thinking of rivalries. I was thinking about teams and Dr. Bell’s theme of no one getting anywhere alone.

All team members should strive to be at their best. When they do, the team can’t help but experience improvement and hopefully unity. When they don’t, all sorts of dysfunction is possible. 

Being at your best means working at all areas of your life, by the way. Working at having a great home life won’t necessarily equal having a great work life, and vice versa. And neither of these will be at their best if spiritual life is ignored. To be at our best, we must avoid compartmentalizing and work from a full life perspective.

In our Thursday morning men’s group this week, we discussed Micah 6:8. Consider this verse. Consider how God has already made it plain how to be at our best:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously. (MSG)

Half Marathon Training Plan

Occasionally people inquire about what training plan I follow before a race. If you’re reading this post as a result of a Google search, then you have no doubt found many other plans to consider. The race distance you are preparing for certainly determines the plan you should follow. However, this plan pictured below (taken from Runner’s World) is the plan I like most and the one I modify based on the race distance.


This plan is for full marathon preparation, but I modify it for preparing for my half marathons. As you look over it, there may be reasons that this plan looks overwhelming, too much, or maybe undoable. Maybe this is your first half, like my friend who signed up to run with me in September. Maybe you don’t want to run six days a week. Maybe you’re trying to work in cross training. In order to help you modify it, here are some things I’m currently doing that is working for my prep for two halves this fall.

  • I’m only running four days a week the first seven weeks. Weeks 8-13, I’ll probably throw in some extra runs.
  • Two days a week I cross train. What works for me is a 30-minute stairmaster workout at a progressive pace finishing at the highest level of the workout. Each week I’m pushing the pace to set new workout results.
  • I follow the speed and strength workout guidelines as suggested (on Thursday though, not Tuesday) but push the pace to reflect prep for the half versus the full.
  • My modifications to the MP workout is to cut the distance in half and to run it on Sunday, not Thursday.

These are ideas that you can consider and also modify to fit your level. Feel free to message me with any thoughts or questions. I’d also encourage you to consult a running coach to get a full plan in place to reach your race goals.

Following a plan will benefit you tremendously. Figure yours out. Tweak it as needed. Enjoy the training. Celebrate your results.

Miracle in the Andes (book review)

I’ve been obsessed with this book while listening to it. So much so that when disc 7 wasn’t listenable because of scratches, I checked out the book today in order to read what I missed. (NOTE: Manatee County Library rocks! Not only did they bring the book from another branch to the branch closer to me to pick up, but they also called to let me know it was ready. BOOM!)

Nando Parrado is one of sixteen survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Argentine Andes Mountains. Another book, Alive, was written and made into a movie in the 90s. I’ve never heard of this story, so I was riveted by it. My riveting is a credit to Parrado’s storytelling and personal account of the survivor’s ordeal.

If you enjoy true stories that make you think and marvel, you should read Parrado’s book. You’ll be satisfied. But what you’ll hopefully also receive are some life lessons to model. He gives you plenty. These 72 days gave more than 72 lessons. The survivors continue to live them out. Read it and see what you could live out.

What Are You Telling Yourself?

2 Kings 5 tells the entertaining and interesting story of Naaman. Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army who also happened to be a leper. His wife’s handmaid, a young Israelite, encouraged him to go see Elisha, the prophet in Samaria that she believed could heal him. After gathering what he thought he needed for the trip and arriving at Elisha’s front door, he found out things were not going to play out as he thought.

Elisha sent out a messenger to tell him to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman didn’t think this was acceptable.

Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet. (MSG)

“I thought…I said to myself…I told myself.” 

Naaman had told himself what to expect based on his position and on his limited understanding of God’s prophets and their ways. When his expectations were not realized, his initial reaction was anger. His expectations were not realized because he had only talked with himself. 

You been there? I have. Built expectations on just what I thought, what I had told myself. No one else was in the conversation. No one. And it didn’t end well.

Not knowing the God of Israel, it’s understandable that Naaman would have to experience something like this to believe, to see his thoughts in a new light. Naaman had to learn that a life lived with only one conversation with yourself is limited and potentially hopeless. A better life, the one God desires for you, is found when you invite God and others into the conversation. When Naaman humbled himself, released his expectations and listened to someone else, then God was able to heal him.

What are you telling yourself? What if you always welcomed God into the conversation? I grow weary of telling myself anything. I’d rather God tell me everything, be in charge, and meet his expectations.

Leaving The Shield

He is a shield for those who live with integrity. Proverbs 2:7

Solomon says wisdom leads to living with integrity which in turn results in being shielded by God.

We all long to feel safe and protected. Reflecting on this verse recently, I made the connection between making wise choices and maintaining safety from God when the right choice is made. His safety and protection is not guaranteed and is put in jeopardy when I choose to disobey or disregard wisdom. Whatever the results are from an unwise choice is my fault; I chose to leave the protection behind God’s shield.

This isn’t necessarily a popular thought these days. Living life as you want without any fear of repercussions is what culture preaches. Then when life strikes back after someone makes a poor choice, suddenly God is questioned and possibly even denied. It’s his fault, not ours. I bet if we asked some guys from scripture they would testify differently about what happens when you leave the shield of God’s protection.

Ask David. When he left because of his lust, people died, including his infant son.

Ask Jonah. When he left because of his prejudice, he ended up on the beach, covered in fish guts.

Ask Achan. When he left because of his selfishness, he lost everything, and so did his family.

We’re just like these guys. We’ve left the shield at some point. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. 

Have you thanked God lately for his protection, for being your shield, for welcoming you back after you’ve left? Maybe the next time you talk with him, not only thank him but also commit to following him with integrity, to staying behind his shield of protection.

Through the Thorn

This week I finished a book that a friend gave me entitled Kiss the Wave by Dave Furman. Furman is a pastor in Dubai who suffers from a nerve disease and struggles with disability in both arms. I’ll just go ahead and recommend this book for anyone who is living with or giving support to someone with a lifelong disability.


Chapter 9, “Weakness is Always the Way,” had the most nuggets for me. Furman reminds the reader that God’s ways are not our ways. He talks about the Japanese form of art called Kintsugi, which involves joining together broken pottery pieces with gold or another precious metal, as an example. God uses the brokenness of pain and suffering to create in us images of his power through our weakness. Weakness is the way (a borrowed title from a book of the same name by J.I. Packer).

If we were steel vessels without blemish or weakness, we might be tempted to think we have no need for God. However, God uses weakness to show our need for dependence upon him.

It is a privilege to boast in our weaknesses because they reveal who are Father really is – a great God.

Have you ever considered that your weakness is a part of God’s glorious plan for your life?

We can embrace God in our trials with faith that God is doing a work in us beyond our comprehension. Our scars are not things to run from or to hide from others. Through them we exalt the one who is conforming us more and more into his image.

Furman’s final scriptural example in this chapter is from 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about his weakness of a thorn in the flesh. Paul says he boasted in his weaknesses and was content with them because he was made strong through them. Then Furman wrote this: “We might wonder what Paul could have accomplished if he didn’t have that the thorn. But the reality is, everything Paul accomplished was done by God – not in spite of the thorn but through the thorn.”

Most likely you have a thorn. It could be physical, emotional, mental, even spiritual. Maybe you live with MS, or you battle depression, or you’re trying to overcome the emotional scars of family history. Maybe your thorn is like Thomas’s where you tend to doubt and worry more than trust and believe. What if you studed Paul’s life then followed his example of surrendered contentment? What could God do if you let him work through your thorn? 

The Big Question

Let’s just get straight to it. The big question for whatever you’re dealing with that appears insurmountable, unsolvable, even potentially life-changing is this: What Are You Willing To Do?

  • Are you willing to leave those benefits?
  • Are you willing to downsize?
  • Are you willing to stick your neck out?
  • Are you willing to get messy?
  • Are you willing to start all over?
  • Are you willing to be completely honest?
  • Are you willing to cut that check?
  • Are you willing to give up that vacation?
  • Are you willing to say, “I’m sorry”?
  • Are you willing to admit, “That’s my fault”?
  • Are you willing to drop all the excuses?
  • Are you willing to ask for help?
  • Are you willing to acknowledge your limitations?
  • Are you willing to listen?
  • Are you willing to answer, “Yes,” to God regardless of who else says you should say, “No”?
  • Are you willing to follow?
  • Are you willing to lead?
  • Are you willing to give up control?
  • Are you willing to be still?
  • Are you willing to be alone?
  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes?
  • Are you willing to come out of seclusion?
  • Are you willing to follow the plan?
  • Are you willing to tear down that idol?
  • Are you willing to say, “I need you, God”?
  • Are you willing to admit you’re addicted?
  • Are you willing to be loyal?
  • Are you willing to take on the responsibility for your own healing?
  • Are you willing to stop trying to save the world?
  • Are you willing to stop telling the Holy Spirit, “Hang on a minute. Someone else is calling in”?

What is the big question for you?

What is it that you know you need to be willing to do?