Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Month: October 2016 (page 1 of 3)

My 2016 Top 10 Book List for Leaders


I love books and I love reading. Maybe a little too much!

For me, it’s a hobby. People often ask me how I can read so many books, work, play, and raise a family. I really don’t have a good answer for that one. What I think people are actually saying is that they wish they could read more but don’t have the time. I feel ya.

I was actually that way too once. I was more of a do, do ,do and get the task list done kinda of leader. But I felt empty at the end of the day. I wanted to feel like I was growing. So I just started reading.

A few tricks I use to keep books in front of me are:

  • I have a few books next to my bed.
  • I have a few stacked next to my work computer.
  • I always leave one in my car.
  • I keep a Kindle in my back pocket.

So any place I am at, when I have a breathing moment, instead of hopping onto the world wide time sucker (my tongue-in-cheek name for the web), I read for at least 10 minutes. If the book or article catches my attention I keep reading for a time. If not, then I hop onto the web and catch up on what’s happening in the news or in my friend’s lives.

So to save you some time looking for good books, I have created a list of my top ten out of the hundreds and hundreds of books I have read over the last few years.

2016 TOP 10 LIST

One: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

This book might have saved my life. When you have to focus on being a minister, a husband, a charity leader, a dad, a son, a friend, a relative, a colleague…life gets crazy. Finding and doing what matters most is essential in the world of today. Read this book. Your sanity is worth it.

Two: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

I cannot say enough about how this book has helped me and dozens of others I have coached. Giving you the tools to have the most difficult conversations, and have them well, is indispensable in a leader’s library.

Three: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

I have read and re-read this book for over a decade. Each time I try to implement more of the process. I am a slow learner or I might be more productive today! But I have the book and I keep on keepin on. If you want to bring order out of chaos to your work and home life, this book is a must!

Four: Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg

I am pretty sure the title speaks on it’s own. If you gain the whole world, whether in the business, nonprofit, or church sector, but your soul is thirsty and longing for more, longing for peace, longing for quiet, then this book can help you along that journey. Ortberg is one of my top 10 authors of all time. Read everything he writes!

Five: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

I came across the book by chance. I was looking for a new read and simply liked the cover. Then I read some of the book, watched her TED Talk and made an immediate connection to the words of this book and the authors journey.

I have become a very open and vulnerable person over the last four years of having bone issues and surgeries. It is a tough process for a leader to have to go through trying times and have those who follow watch the process of pain, questions, doubt, fear, and so much more. Yet, Brene Brown has written an entire book about leading from a place of vulnerability. You will not regret this read!

Six: Taking People with You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen by David Novak

I read this book years ago on a plane ride to see my brother in Seattle. It was the only time in my life I was actually willing the plane to taxi slower so I could finish the book. I have used the ideas for many years since.

This year I decided to dust it off and read it all over again. I cannot believe how much I never noticed the first read. (Perhaps it was the toddler kicking my seat for the five hours ride!) Anyway, I have already found new principles to add to my volunteer leadership ideas.

Seven: Communicating for a Change: Seven Key’s to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley 

I think I have had this book for years and never actually read it. I mean I heard so much about it, I felt like I had read it. So I decided to make sure I really knew what Andy Stanley (long time church and leadership writer I have followed) was communicating through this text. Yep, it was just as good as the talks, blogs, and other leaders I have heard quote Stanley out of this book.

Oh, and I realized that most of how I communicate was not effective.  So I gave the principles a shot in a recent sermon. I have never had such a response after a message in 15 years. Totally recommend this for anyone trying to communicate anything!

Eight: God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future by Will Mancini 

I have been friend’s with Will since 2009. His first books, Church Unique changed the way I did church and ministry. I loved it so much, I drove from Lawton, Oklahoma to Houston, Texas to spend a day with him. How would you like a random guy showing up to hang out with you? Well, Will and his family invited me in and I have a memory I continue to hold dear to my heart, setting and dreaming about ministry possibilities around Will’s living room and talks as we walked Kema Boardwalk.

In God Dream’s, Will takes many of the Church Unique ideas (how his company Auxano walks churches through a transformational process) and applies those to how you can frame your vision to make a huge difference in your community. If you enjoy either book, you should look into taking your church through the process with one of Will’s amazing navigators.

Nine: Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell

I have read this book on my own, with a team, and I have handed out a few copies. Not once have I ever heard someone say anything less than this book being amazing. The principles are fun and applicable to nay business or organization. Many of the stories go back to events at Disney, America’s theme park, so it grabs your attention easily.

I even tested out some of the principles when I went to Disney (when I probably should have focused on my daughters and wife). I was dumbfounded at how each and every time I saw the principles in this book brought to life. I was so amazed a year later I did a Disney Institute class on Business Excellence. So worth it!

Ten: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbertt and Brian Kikkert

Last but not least, I started working with charities and nonprofits this year and it’s been a steep learning curve. I have gotten my hands on a few different books, but this one is so worth the read. If you run a church with a compassion ministry, a charity that deals with the poor, or run a business that is generous to the surrounding community, do yourself a favor and read this. You may actually be hurting those your serve and placing your community in further poverty. Alleviating systemic poverty takes cooperative systemic systems. This book will guide you to the right path.

So what are your Top 10 Book Lists? If you have a blog where you posted your list, please feel free to post a link in the comments. If you simply want to add a great leadership read to the list and conversation, post below!

Leaders are readers…so get yours!

A Mile Wide: A Review



Hatmaker, Brandon. A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2016. 205pp. $22.99.

Brandon Hatmaker and his wife, Jen Hatmaker, have been making waves the last few years with their widely accessible and practical books. The topics are easily approachable with desired outcomes of living what you believe. Some books focus heavily on philosophy and higher thoughts while others are so practical that a bit more thinking would have proven advantageous. Brandon Hatmaker in A Mile Wide has provided both thought and practice for a life of rooted deep faith.

Basing his thoughts off the phrase first founded by Edgar Nye when describing the Platte River, “A mile wide and an inch deep,” Hatmaker discusses the downward slippery slope faith has been on for decades now. What was once a concern is now an epidemic worth of revolution. Too many have such a shallow faith and this faith has been feed not only by churches basing ministry and training on consumerist models, but on the people who continue to choose an easy path to faith.

Did not Jesus say the path was narrow?

Narrow doesn’t mean exclusive. All are invited. Narrow means that it will take work.

Back to the Platte River. Hatmaker refers to Nye, “Nye wrote that the river “has a very large circulation, but very little influence. It covers a good deal of ground, but is not deep. In some places it is a mile wide and three-quarters of an inch deep.” Christianity has a large number of adherents but is continually, year after year, losing influence.


Superficial faith only leads to superficial thoughts and actions. Hatmaker charges us to find a deeper faith to create more lasting and long term changes. To illustrate this, he utilizes Jesus’ discussion of the soils. He takes a familiar story and utilizes that familiarity to teach on what it would look like if we had deeper faith, deeper roots, and deeper change in our communities.

One of my biggest take always from the book was his family’s use of #FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It resonated with me because my personality is one of going and doing all the time. If someone, like my wife, kiddos, and close mentors, didn’t remind me to slow down at times; I would continually go…go…go!

Why is that? Because I have this deep set fear of missing out on something. If we are honest we all do. It’s why we check email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, IMs, Pinterest, Internet Forums, and so much more every second we can because we do not want to miss out. We do not want to be the person with the dumbstruck face when someone reveals the news we missed. God forbid! So it drives us to stay connected.

Brandon Hatmaker hits the nail square on the head with this fear! He takes it even further. We stay busy for Jesus because we fear we will miss out on something. How can we set at his feet and know him and be taught by him? We have to be up and busy! This only leads to a mile wide of work and an inch depth of true discipleship.

In Chapter 3, he focuses on identity. What a needed topic for today. I have worked with youth, young adults, and young professionals for over a decade and this topic is up front more than any other. Where Hatmaker adds new thinking is on how to apply Colossians 3:1-4 to our identities, to have a more solid Gospel oriented identity.

Position One: We Died with Christ (Colossians 3:3a)

Position Two: We Are Hidden In Christ (Colossians 3:3b)

Position Three: We Live In Christ (Colossians 3:4a)

Position Four: We Are Raised with Christ and Glorified in Christ (Colossians 3:1, 4b)

“When hope in the gospel becomes our default, we will no longer find our identity in the things of this world; we will find it in Christ alone” (58).

Another highly challenging issue Hatmaker brings up is the idea that many if not most Christians actually do church well. We all know when to go to church. How to read our Bible. What small group to attend. Where to serve. Yet, we are not so good at more biblically rooted mandates. We struggle in our neighborhoods, with our private doubts, with our lake of transformation, and so on. These things rarely find time for us to focus and work on, unless of course it falls on the small group lesson calendar. We spend little time on them because we have no idea where to start. Again, this is where beginning with an identity in Christ guides us to begin to work on our weaknesses through quiet study, meditation, accountability, and planned thoughtfulness. All of these take more time, vulnerability, and depth, but they are of utmost importance.

“A shallow religion survives from event to event and program to program. A deeper faith is rooted in trusting relationships where permission is granted to struggle, fail, and take risks,” Hatmaker explains (113). For him, deeper community cannot be achieved without certain factors, and especially vulnerability, permission, and inclusivity. I agree, these are needed for any relationship to be more than surface or superficial. Being open and honest about who you are and allowing others to do the same is the most difficult and yet most rewarding thing you can do to form authentic community.

One other part that stood out for me was the seven steps he lays out for seeking justice. More and more people are moving away from what used to be labeled the social gospel and are joining social justice movements. These movements, some religious and some not, have grown exponentially over the last decade. Millennials are cause-based at their core and so this social justice movement will be around for a while. His seven steps are helpful in understanding how to seek justice on a personal level.

Step 1: View the Journey as Discipleship

Step 2: Settle Your Gospel Theology

Step 3: Learn to Love Mercy

Step 4: Gain a Biblical Definition of Justice

Step 5: Learn to Identify Need

Step 6: Encounter the Need

Step 7: Engage the Need in Community

All these steps are unpacked in the book, so to learn more…wait for it…buy the book! Honestly, for some, this chapter may be worth the purchase price. Trust me on this. Brandon’s previous book Barefoot Church is a true testament that he knows and lives out what he speaks about here.

Overall I give the book 5 stars!

The fact that ideas dealt with in other books are summarized here, newer and tested ideas are presented, and it’s all done under 200 pages makes this book not only approachable but easily used over and over again. Too many books are repetitive and weighted down with excess information. Not so here. Hatmaker’s switching back and forth from Scripture, theology/philosophy, to actions is also admirable. He could have chosen one or the other, but we should all be thankful he chose both! Further, each chapter has questions that can be utilized as a family or community to take their faith deeper.

I recommend this book to anyone who pastors or minsters to people. You must first deeper your own faith before helping others go deeper. I know that anyone who leads young people (teens and young adults) must read this and utilize it to raise up this caused-driven group of Millennials to make sure they join the right cause and do the work of those causes for that cause with Gospel-minded locus.

“Jesus’ people are made up of everyone. He loves near and far, the normal and the weird. Click To Tweet

Brandon Hatmaker couldn’t have stated it better than that. As we begin to truly love anyone and everyone, we will start to see how our faith has grown from wide and shallow to deep and rooted! The path is narrow. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

The Magnolia Story: A Short Review


Gaines, Chip and Joanna. The Magnolia Story. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. 208pp. $26.99.

If you have ever heard someone yell out, “Shiplap!” then you probably met a fan of Chip Gaines, co-star on the HGTV hit show Fixer Upper. Click To Tweet

Honestly, I had no idea what shiplap was until becoming a fan of the show in 2014, and I probably wouldn’t care much after learning about it. Accept, Joanna Gaines (known as Jo or JoJo by friends and family) can make something as old and otherworldly into something modern, chic, and let’s face it…beautiful!

One of the reasons my wife and I began watching Fixer Upper on HGTV was because of the theme behind the house flipping, “to find the worst houses in the best neighborhoods.” I was drawn to the theme idea and I have even taught, preached, and added the idea to the introduction of my upcoming leadership book. There is something deeply inherent in the human psyche when it comes to making old things new, turning an underdog into a hero, or proving that something long pass use can be uniquely useful when seen differently. Yet, this idea isn’t just about the show, but about the very story and lives of Chip and Joanna Gaines.

In The Magnolia Story, the Gaines share the story of their past. Since the show was an instant success and is currently filming season 3 and 4, many people have been asking, who are Chip and Joanna Gaines? Well this short but entertaining book answers that question.

Beginning with a truly unbelievable Chip Gaines purchase, a theme which runs through their whole marriage and even on the show, the film crew from HGTV was packing up until this happened and changed everything. What did Chip do? Better buy the book! Needless to say, when people ask if Chip is that crazy and funny, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

From this story, the book begins when Chip and Joanna’s early life, first date, and beyond. It covers Chip’s amazing ability to create new businesses, be a community leader, and his love for being generous, even to the least of these. Before you think Chip us such a hero, he was an absent minded dad, leaving their baby behind on a few occasions when he got busy. They were both the least likely to find each other coming from different backgrounds and having opposite personalities. They both agree that often when opposites attract great things can happen.

The book doesn’t simply recount just a happy journey. You follow along with Joanna’s elation with opening her dream store, watching it succeed, and then having to make the difficult decision to close it. Nevertheless, what would happen with the store location and the later opening of the store at the silos in downtown Waco, will inspire you to make difficult decisions with hope that greater days are ahead. It is all about faith!

To say more is to spoil the nature of the book as you truly must read it to capture the essence of the faith, hope, and love. Chip and Joanna Gaines truly represent the American Dream of hard work, family, and God-ordained success. Their journey may be unique, but their inspiration will charge your heart and encourage you to follow the path God has laid out for you and see where it leads. You don’t have to be a TV star, large-scale business owner, or national success, you simply need to be the best you can, with what you have, where you are.

Joanna often comments that Chip is her greatest fixer upper, but through the story you find that Chip was vital in bringing Joanna out of her shy shell to be the in-front-of-the-camera personality she is today. To see Chip and Jo today is to see how they both enhanced each other’s good points and smoother over each other’s faults. I recommend this book to anyone looking for an inspirational and yet down-to-earth read. I especially recommend this to couples as they will see how not just the ups, but the downs, play a large role in shaping each other’s lives.

I read the entire book in one night. I read over 50 books a year and that rarely happens. If you are looking for a story that is uniquely written (going back and forth from Joanna to Chip using different fonts to show transitions) in their own voices, this is your read.

Find a quiet spot, warm up your coffee or tea, and enjoy a wonderful evening of hope and inspiration. Click To Tweet

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