10 Books for Your Reading (or Giving) List

One of the many perks of helping people write or edit their books is that I get to know some terrific people who have valuable messages to share. In fact, I sometimes boil my job description down to this: “To learn new things from smart people so I can help others by sharing what I’ve learned.”

Not a bad gig, and it pays the bills to boot!

I’ve been doing this for 20 years, although it’s only been my full-time job for about five. In that time, I’ve helped with 21 books – not including several that are still in the works. And I’ve never worked on a book I wouldn’t recommend.

So that’s what I want to do today: Recommend some books — five I helped with in some way that published in 2016 or that will publish in early 2017 and five that I read in 2016. I don’t think you can go wrong by reading any of these books or by giving them as gifts for Christmas (or some other occasion). Let’s start with the five I helped with in some way:

gowest_fc-imageGo West: 10 Principles that Guided My Cowboy Journey by Jeremy Sparks. I met Jeremy about a year ago and helped him with this wonderful story about how his God-given calling (which he literally received when he was 12) led him to fight bulls in professional rodeo while also serving in the United States Air Force. He has an entertaining story that’s gritty and real and that brings to life some wonderful principles for life. The book is due out in early February, but you can pre-order it now from any online bookseller.

The American Immigrant, Volume One by Dick Gephardt and Mark Russell. This is the first of what will be several volumes of feature stories about immigrants who have helped make America the great country she is. I wrote most of the longer stories, which allowed me to interview some amazing people like Dr. Josephine Park, Nabiel Fareed, Rolando Rodriguez, and former big-leaguer Barbaro Garbey. Right now, it’s available only as a Kindle Single.

Leading Through The Turn: How a Journey Mindset Can Help Leaders Find Success and Significance by Elise Mitchell. If you are a leader at any level, this book provides some great lessons about balancing the pursuit of your goals without sacrificing the joy of the journey. I learned a ton about motorcycles and leadership while helping Elise with this project. It debuts in January, but, again, you can pre-order it from any online store.

Grow Like Jesus: Practicing Luke 2:52 Discipleship by me. I actually wrote this all by myself, and it came out earlier this year. Well, that’s not true. Many people helped inspire the ideas and craft the message, which boils down to this: Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man; we should, too, and this book tells you how.img_3872

Forging Grit: A story of leadership perseverance by me and Mike Thompson. Grit is a critical leadership quality that we all need to make it through life, but Mike and I decided to tackle it in a slightly different way from the norm. Since most of us learn from stories, we decided to create a story that unpack the definition of grit and how we can develop it. This short story is about a leader who learns grit while stranded in a remote village in Nepal following a plane crash.

Here are five other books I read this year that I also recommend (other than reading them, I had nothing to do with these):

7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas. My wife and I started reading this together early in the year and only made it about two-third through before one of us (OK, me) left it on an airplane. As the title suggests, this book profiles seven amazing men and what we can learn from them. I plan to buy a new copy someday and finish it. Anything by Metaxas is worth the read.

Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders by Ronnie Floyd. This book is by a prominent pastor and the principles are Biblical, but it’s a leadership book for all leaders, not just leaders in ministry.

Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winners in the Battle for Eternity by Jack Graham. This is one of two books I picked up at a men’s conference. Graham covers a ton of spiritual ground in a well-written, easy-to-digest way.

Pray Like It Matters by Steve Gaines. This is the other book I picked up at the conference. It seems to me that many of us either don’t pray or we pray with very little passion or intentional focus. Gaines makes it clear why fervent prayer matters so much and provides a ton of practical ways to practice this critical discipline.

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller. Few people write so well and so transparently and with such insight as Miller. Even when he rubs me the wrong way it takes me in a good direction. You’ll not only relate to to his story, but you’ll learn from it (something missing in many memoirs).

If none of those fit your needs right now, here’s the rest of my I-helped-on-these-books list (with my role in the project in parenthesis). Google them …book-1659717_640

  • The Heart-led Leader: How Living and Leading from the Heart will Change Your Organization and Your Life (Crown Business, 2015) by Tommy Spaulding (I was an editorial consultant and ghostwriter on several chapters)
  • Jumping in the Parade: The Leap of Faith That Made My Life Worth Living (BenBella, 2014) by Tim Brown (I was the ghostwriter)
  • Untapped Talent: Unleashing the Power of the Hidden Workforce (Palgrave, 2013) by Dani Monroe (I was the ghostwriter)
  • The Weekly Coaching Conversation (Evolve, 2012) by Brian Souza (I was a consulting editor)
  • Up, Down, or Sideways: How to succeed when times are good, bad, or in between (Tyndale, 2011) by Mark Sanborn (I was the ghostwriter)
  • Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce (Greenleaf Books, 2011) by Eric Chester (I was the ghostwriter)
  • It’s Not Just Who You Know (Broadway Books, August 2010) by Tommy Spaulding (I was the ghostwriter)
  • The One Minute Negotiator: Simple Steps to Reach Better Agreements (Berrett-Koehler Publishers; August 2010) by Don Hutson and George Lucas. (I was an editorial consultant)
  • ViewPoints (BodyBuilders Press, 2009) by Steve Shadrach (I was an editor and publishing consultant)
  • The Second Half: Real Stories. Real Adventures. Real Significance. (Halftime, 2008) by Lloyd Reeb. (I was the ghostwriter)
  • Life@Work Workbook: Marketplace Success for People of Faith (Injoy, 2005) by John Maxwell, Thomas Addington and Stephen Graves (I was a contributing editor)
  • Daily Focus (W Publishing Group, 2001) by Thomas G. Addington, Stephen R. Graves (I was a contributing writer)
  • Building Blocks For Your Life@Work (Word Publishing, 2001) by Thomas G. Addington, Stephen R. Graves (I was the ghostwriter)
  • The Life@Work Book: Sixteen respected leaders talk about blending biblical wisdom and business excellence (Word Publishing, 2000) by the editors of Life@Work (I was the editor)
  • The Fourth Frontier: Exploring The New World Of Work (W Publishing Group, 2000) by Thomas G. Addington, Stephen R. Graves (I was a ghostwriter)
  • The Cornerstones for Life@Work: A Case for Character, Skill Serving & Calling (Life@Work and Broadman & Holman, 1997) by Thomas Addington, Stephen Graves (I was the ghostwriter)


Get 40% off the cover price of Forging Grit or Grow Like Jesus when you order direct from the publisher.
Go here for Grow Like Jesus and use GLJTHANKS as the promotion code when you check out.
Go here for Forging Grit and use FGTHANKS as the promotion code when you check out.


Creative Gratitude: A Quest for Impact

The gift in the mail sparked a brief discussion about how missionaries communicate with their supporters.

“I think a random gift like this makes a bigger impact than a newsletter,” my wife said.

As a guy who makes a living by writing, I’m a fan of newsletters. On the other hand, it was hard to argue against my wife’s point.

First, I make it a practice to avoid, whenever possible, arguing with my wife. Second, the gift under discussion was chocolate from Peru. Needless to say, it was fantastic. Who argues against Peruvian chocolate? Not me.chocolate

We’re friends with and supporters of a couple who work in Peru, and this is the second time they’ve sent us a cool gift. The other was a set of coasters. We keep them on an end table in our living room. When people ask us about them, it gives us a chance to talk about our friends and their ministry.

With both gifts, our friends included a brief (two sentences) handwritten note saying they were thinking of us, a.k.a. a nice, warm-fuzzy moment.

So I conceded: Random gifts equal big impact.

My wife’s observation reminded me that we all have different love languages. It’s important to keep that in mind as we share relevant information and our gratitude with the important people in our lives – no matter what we do for a living. Missionaries often raise the funds that support their work, but we all have people who support us – people we need to keep informed and people we need to thank for the part they play in our success. It might be employees, customers, clients, vendors … or all of the above.

Here’s my No. 1 rule about communication with supporters: Do it.

That might sound simple and obvious, but it’s amazing how many of us don’t practice Rule No. 1. We are too busy. We think we aren’t good at it. We forget. Until we start feeling the impact of reduced financial support or, far worse when it comes to missionaries, reduced prayer support. Then we scrambled to get back in touch with people.

In our high-tech world, it’s easy to write an occasional blog or update our social media and call it good. But there’s something to be said for consistently and proactively staying engaged with the people who support us. Staying engaged not only promotes stronger relationships, but also a spirit of gratitude. Our supporters will be thankful for the work God is doing through us (whatever our line of work). And we will be thankful for the work God is doing through those who support us (whatever their line of work).

Thankful is good.

There are many ways to drive this type of engagement. For missionaries, I’m still an advocate of a short, well-written newsletter that’s sent out on a regular and consistent basis. I like some detailed information and specific prayer requests. Social media is an obvious way to stay in touch. Hand-written notes are great. And, of course, nothing’s better than in-person visits. Then there are random gifts. They don’t have to be expensive, just personal. They can be practical, like coasters, or here today, gone tomorrow like a Peruvian chocolate bar with a sweet note.

Most of that can translate to any type of business. No one works in a vacuum. We all have people we need to keep informed and people we need to thank because they help contribute to our success.

We don’t have to do everything, but we should do something. Some combination of the above will help maximize our communication impact. And it just might satisfy someone’s sweet tooth.


My Thanksgiving deal to you: Get 40% off the cover price of Forging Grit or Grow Like Jesus when you order direct from the publisher.
Go here for Grow Like Jesus and use GLJTHANKS as the promotion code when you check out.
Go here for Forging Grit and use FGTHANKS as the promotion code when you check out.


Searching for Wisdom in Seas of Trouble

Where are you getting your wisdom?

We live in an age of abundant information, but not-so-abundant truth. So it’s more important than ever to dip deep into the well of knowledge in ways that lead to real wisdom.

In Grow Like Jesus, I define wisdom as “knowledge and insight from God that benefits you and others and brings glory to God.” The Apostle James tells us where to find it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

Don’t stop there, however. James immediately adds a warning: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6)


So how do we sift through the waves and the winds of the modern tech-driven seas? When the world conspires to distort, distract, and deceive, here are some things I try to keep in mind that help me stay anchored to godly wisdom:

Expose yourself to different viewpoints.

The other day I watched a video of Mike Rowe (the Dirty Jobs guy) talking to businessman Charles Koch, and Koch offered this simple but difficult advice: “Listen, even to the other side.” He said he was quoting a philosophy that guided Holland to prosperity, but it’s also a take on the Latin phrase, audi alteram partem meaning “listen to the other side.”

This is increasingly rare in our world. It’s easier than ever to surround ourselves with people who look like us, think like us, and believe like us. So all we end up hearing is more of what we’ve always been thinking or saying.

If you agree with everything your friends say and everything you read on the Internet and everything you hear on television, then you need more friends and you need to read and listen to other sources. Don’t dump your old friends or old sources. Just invest in some new and different perspectives. You might learn something, and so might others.

Trust but verify (aka Google it).

This should go without saying, but, of course, it doesn’t, and that’s why I’m saying it: Just because we read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. When we read something or hear something that’s shaping our opinions, we no longer can take it at face value.

For instance, one of the news sources I’ve struggled with recently is Fast Company. I’ve long been a fan of this magazine for its cutting-edge take on business and leadership. In recent years, however, it’s become more and more politicized, agenda-driven, and untrustworthy.

There might come a time when I stop reading it, but I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Eight out of every 10 articles I read on Fast Company is pretty good, and the others have some good in them if I’m willing to sift a little to find it. On the other hand, I don’t trust it as much as I once did, because I know there’s a not-so-hidden motive behind every headline.

For instance, the American Institute for Architects (AIA) released a statement saying it would work with President-elect Donald Trump to “address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure.” Sounds like a good idea. But it caused the architecture community to erupt in debate, according to a Fast Company story. The headline was: “Trump’s Election Fractures The Architecture Community.”

When I dug deeper, it was clear that some architects weren’t happy. But there was no indication that there was a consensus of dissent. No research had been done. All we know is that and one industry newspaper released a statement and that some people expressed their displeasure on social media (big news, there, right?). The more I checked the facts, the more I realized Fast Company was partially accurate.

Blogs, news outlets, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts … they all play loose with the facts. People paint with a broad brush that’s coated in the hues that color their agenda. Some lie. Others distort. A few just mess up because they aren’t careful enough. So consider the source, test their facts, do a little research and then see where that leaves you. The more you know, the more likely you are to get to the truth that you need to actually shape your way of thinking.

Use the right filters.

Who wants to drink dirty water? When you expose yourself to other viewpoints, however, you’ll no doubt get some junk along the way. Filter what you read and learn through other reliable sources, but also through godly friends, prayer, and, most of all, Biblical truth.

Return to James 1:5-6 often. Ask God for wisdom and believe.  Then trust God for the results; He always delivers.


Click to buy Grow Like Jesus 

Is it time to give up?

If you could give up anything on this post-election Wednesday, what would it be?

It seems to me like a great time to take stock and, where necessary, make some changes. Give up some things that are holding you back, holding you down, holding you hostage, or holding you in some other fashion that’s not to your benefit.

Giving stuff up is pretty popular these days. Enough people are living in one-room houses (by choice) that there’s an entire television show about them. I’ve noticed that some are giving up about the same amount of money that it takes for a not-so-tiny house, but who am I to judge, right?

I’ve also noticed that Fast Company, the popular business magazine, has run at least three blog/stories this year by authors who are explaining how they gave up something that many folks act as if they can’t live without. The headlines, condensed and combined, would read like this: “Here’s what happened when I gave up (my smartphone, social media, multitasking) for a week/month.” Spoiler alert: All the authors survived without the thing they gave up.vote-1319435_1280

Maybe you have the post-elections blues. You went to the polls thinking the main two candidates for president of the United States were not only unworthy of the job but dangerous to the future of this great country. You left the polls feeling like you needed to take a shower. And, so, you’re thinking about giving up … hope.

Or maybe it’s not just the election that’s given you the blues. It’s the injustice you see all around you. Or the degradation. What’s the need of hope, anyway? We’ve slid down the slippery slope of no return. Might as well dump that baggage.

Except for this: Hope is the best thing going for us. The psalmist tells us to “be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 119:114) And Isaiah tells us that God will renew the strength of those who put their hope in the Lord. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

So, no, don’t give up hope … unless you’re placing your hope in the wrong things.

Which brings me to some things from which you might consider fasting: Pride, selfishness, faithlessness, doubt, fear, false gods …

The world around us looks pretty messed up at times, and Lord knows it needs fixing. But the only place we can start is within. If you’re thinking of giving something up, choose wisely.


Click to buy Grow Like Jesus 

Follow Me on a Path to Followship

Once upon a not-too-long ago, I began thinking of leadership in a slightly different light. Different for me, at least. I couldn’t escape the fact that Jesus calls us to be His followers. I am, therefore, a follower of Christ. His disciple. So it only makes sense that my leadership reflects my followship. In other words, to be an effective leader, I have to start by being a great follower.

After noodling on this idea for a few years, I began working with my friend Michael Brown to develop some training around the concept of “followship.” Michael and I worked together at a training and development company, and he’s now a part-time pastor of a church and a part-time coach/consultant in the corporate world. In short, he knows his stuff.

followship-logoWe designed “followship” as a self-directed and interactive training program. It’s secular in that we don’t quote Bible verses or share the Gospel, but it’s based (to the best of our abilities) on the truth found only in the Word of God. It’s perhaps best suited as a complement to employee on-boarding programs. We think the younger generation will get the most from it, because it provides some much-needed perspective on the attitude they need as they launch their careers. But, frankly, we all can benefit from learning, as the training puts it, to be “servant leaders serving leaders.”

The product launched this week with a blog we wrote and posted on Michael’s corporate site.  So click to read Three Lessons on Followship. Let us know what you think of the idea. And if you run a team and are interested in learning more about the product, by all means let us know.