Monthly Archives: August 2011

Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge – Chapter 2: Setting the table

Reading the Gospels without the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off.

NOTE: This is part of my ongoing, “real-time” book review of an advanced copy of the book. Read my thoughts on Chapter 1.

Chapter 2 of Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus is a short table-setter, an appetizer, a quick dash of flavor for what’s to come.

I love the analogy of trying to read the Gospels without Jesus’ personality being like watching TV with the sound turned off. As Eldredge points out: “Without Jesus’ tone of voice, what was in his eyes, the lift of an eyebrow, a suppressed smile, a tilt of the head, an unflinching gaze, we misinterpret a great deal of what we find (in the Gospels).”

On to Chapter 3 – “Is Jesus Really Playful?”

Why Literary Agents should start looking for a new line of work (fast)

Should Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner worry her profession's days are numbered?

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner recently posted what seemed like a simple question on her Blog:

“What is the most important thing you expect from a literary agent?”

I’ve had disagreements on Twitter with publishing icons like Michael Hyatt regarding what I’m about to say, but I still think I’m in the right on this:

In today’s world, I need a literary agent to sell ME on why I should use him or her – not the other way around.

Why? Well, it’s 2011. In book publishing, down is the new up. Authors no longer have to plead like disheveled beggars outside the e-mail inboxes of literary agents and publishers for someone to notice their work.

Here’s why:

  • Self-publishing and selling your own book at virtually no cost to yourself is easier than ever thanks to sites like CreateSpace and Lulu.
  • The emergence of e-books and e-readers like the Kindle and iPad has started pushing “traditional” book sales off a cliff.
  • “Nobodies” like John Locke (who sold 1 million e-books in 5 months) have shown us the blueprint for self-publishing success. (FYI, it includes pricing and – most important – building and growing a thriving Social Network of supporters, fans and brand evangelists.)
  • Unless you’re already a huge name like Stephen King, an author must handle all of his or her own marketing and PR efforts. In fact, literary agents and publishers now expect an author to come to the table having already established a selling platform and a thriving online network of Twitter followers, Facebook fans and the like.

Since authors already do all the work selling our books to readers, why split the royalties with a literary agent and/or traditional publisher?

The ONLY advantage I see in using an agent and/or traditional publishing house is large-scale distribution of a project into brick-and-mortar bookstores. But so what? Those places are dying a hasty death (remember Borders?) and won’t be around much longer. In addition, most standard publishing contracts only net the author $1.00 to $2.00 per book sold. Why not just self-publish and sell your project as an e-book for $2.99, keeping nearly all the profit for yourself?

(An aside: Pricing is key! Like John Locke says, if I sell my sports novel for .99 cents on Kindle and Author X’s sports novel retails for $9.99, that means Author X’s book has to be 10 times better than mine for the consumer to justify the expense. Right? Also, who won’t spend .99 cents on something even of mild interest to them in 2011? Make it $9.99, and we’re going to hesitate quite a bit more!)

I’ve worked with literary agents in the past and especially in Christian fiction. Most of my books are a tough sell because of my niche (sports fiction with a Christian theme). But I know that if I work my face off in the Social Media trenches like this guy taught me, I’ll see real results and move product.

That’s why literary agents and traditional publishers have become like landline telephones and fax machines: Once critically important to the process, they’re being pushed quickly and unceremoniously to the side.

I know we’re not all the way there yet. And maybe it won’t happen as fast as I think, but it will happen. That’s just fact.

Why Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge intrigues (and scares) me

If you do not know Jesus as a person, know his remarkable personality - playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny - you have been cheated.

The best way I can describe Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus so far is like switching from a fuzzy, black-and-white image of Jesus to a 1080p, HD, full-color, even 3 Dimensional portrayal of the most important man who ever lived.

I love this line from the Introduction: “For despite the vandalizing of Jesus by both religion and the world, he is still alive and very much himself.”

What strikes me most from the first chapter, “The Playfulness of God and the Poison of Religion,” is how casual, playful and personal Jesus is with those he loves. (John 21:1-12) How fun Jesus is.

This is not the sad-looking guy from stained glass windows.

He’s a smart-aleck, quick to share an inside joke or memory with his close friends, and always beyond generous in his interactions with people.

Eldredge also takes religion to task, which I’m sure will rankle many modern-day Pharisees. (The Pharisees, by the way, are the one group Jesus always seemed to have a beef with. Not pagans, not sinners, not tax collects – but the religious guys.)

Still, the evidence the author offers up about what he calls “the religious spirit” is sobering: “Millions of people … have spent years attending church, and yet they don’t know God.”

This first chapter leaves me breathless, excited and scared.

Yes, I said scared. Because getting to know and spend time with the real Jesus is disruptive. Maybe what’s scaring me is all my false, familiar idols shouting their protestations. Maybe it’s the little, wounded boy inside of me being scared at the incredible offering in front of me.

Because, as John Eldredge lays out in the first chapter, knowing the real Jesus, in an intimate and everyday way, is life-changing.

Nothing will ever be the same.

And as exciting and hopeful as that sounds, it’s also a little bit scary, isn’t it?

Can’t wait for Chapter Two.

It’s here! My review copy of Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge

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Just got my advanced copy of Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge and can’t wait to dive into it. I’m thinking I might share some shorter, real-time thoughts on it as I go along. And then post a full review when I’m done.

I’m so exceed about this book because I think it might be John’s most important work to date. (And that’s saying something!)

I’ve heard the talks this book is based on (The Life of Jesus) and they often left me alternating between tears of joy and laughter and amazement. Using stories from Scripture, John is able to bring Jesus to life as a person. Not as a set of sayings or a one-dimensional historical figure, but as a real person, one with a personality that just shows you why Jesus was the most fascinating, engaging and important man the world has ever known.

Or, as the subtitle to Beautiful Outlaw says, “Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus.”

Needless to say, I cant wait to read it.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Shock and Awe: Why this type of customer service is going to be the norm sooner rather than later

Gary Vaynerchuk nails it yet again by citing another recent example of The Thank You Economy in action. I love how he compares what we are seeing now in this example with Morton’s to the concept of Free Shipping in the late 1990s vs. 2011.

You’re Fired: Why all the talent in the world and outstanding performance reviews won’t save your job

Hint: Unlike me, read this book BEFORE you get fired!

So I had coffee recently with the CEO who fired me a few years ago.

I still remember being floored at being fired. I knew I’d made a big mistake at the time after a dispute with a high-up exec (over the use of Social Media, of all things!) spilled over into a group e-mail where I let my anger get the best of me in front of the entire executive team. (FYI, Michael Hyatt has a great post about how to stop yourself from hitting “Send” after typing that angry e-mail!) Needless to say, it put my boss (the CEO) in a bad spot.

Still, I didn’t think I’d get fired over it. After all, I’d just gotten a huge raise, had racked up one outstanding performance review after another and even won a National PR Award during my most recent campaign for the organization. I thought I was bulletproof.

What amazed me even more was that a few months later, this CEO – an ultra talented, extremely hardworking and successful person, a true visionary in that industry – was canned as well. It came completely out of the blue, and made no sense in light of this executive putting together more than a decade of outstanding performance reviews, successes, awards, accolades, etc.

A few months later, at that same organization, two of its biggest rainmakers – people who were, again, ultra talented and successful, both coming off outstanding performance reviews and in fact having just received huge financial bonuses for exceeding sales goals – were fired on the same day. Totally out of the blue.

How does this kind of thing happen? Granted, you might be tempted to attribute the stories above to the thought that this was simply an aberration that happened at a single organization, but that’s not the case. It happens all the time, across all industries and in all types of of organizations. It may have even happened to you.

Now, had I read the groundbreaking book Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer back then, I believe I would have seen it all coming.

So I cannot say this strongly enough: You need to read this book!

At the very least, hop over to SlideShare and download my notes on it. “Power” is the type of book that will completely reframe how you approach your job, your career and everything else related to your professional life. It could also save your job, which needless to say is worth the price of admission (and then some) itself.

Here’s an example from the book that could have used the scenarios I described above as a case study:

Politics vs. Performance

  • People who had more political skill received higher performance evaluations and were rated as more effective leaders.
  • As long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.
  • One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that good performance – job accomplishments – is sufficient to acquire power and avoid organizational difficulties. Consequently, people leave too much to chance and fail to effectively manage their careers.
  • If you are going to create a path to power, you need to lose the idea that performance by itself is enough.
  • Research shows that job performance matters less for your evaluation than your supervisor’s commitment to and relationship with you.
  • Loyalty: CEOs tend to put loyalists in senior positions – regardless of what past incumbents have accomplished.
Needless to say, I learned an incredibly valuable (albeit painful) lesson about workplace dynamics and power after getting fired. But I believe now that it all could have been avoided had I approached my time at that organization applying the principles Pfeffer outlines in “Power.”

Have you had a similar experience? Have you seen examples of what I’m talking about? Have you read Power? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Real-time Thank You: Why Minnesota Nurses owe David Meerman Scott a huge debt of gratitude

I recently created this video and sent it specifically to one of my favorite authors/bloggers, David Meerman Scott, personally thanking him for how his books/blog posts helped us with our PR and Social Media efforts during the biggest nursing strike in U.S. history. It was following David’s advice that enabled us to do everything from getting the opposition’s top spokesperson fired using Facebook to using Real-Time Marketing and PR to dominate the narrative in the mainstream and Social Media channels we were operating in. David was kind enough to exchange a few e-mails with me about the subject and also leave a nice comment on the video’s YouTube page.

Question: Have you ever done something like this? If so, did the author/blogger respond? 

This is why I love Social Media. It gives us a chance to personally reach out and interact with the people who influence us most – at work or otherwise. Granted, this video is never going to register 1 million views or go viral, but I’ll bet it made David Meerman Scott smile to get a personalized thank you from a loyal and grateful fan of his work. Plus it provides some relevant examples to those in my network of how to apply David’s tips on Social Media and PR. Hope you enjoy!

The Power of Addiction (and healing)

In my existence, nothing has touched me more and brought about more healing and intimacy with God than the work of John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart. Here’s a snippet from his first book, The Sacred Romance, that focuses on the addictions (large and small) we all struggle with. I love the fact that in this particular passage he quotes Gerald May, whose book Addiction and Grace literally floors me every time I read it. If you grew up (as I did) in a very rule-oriented and duty-bound religious system, and/or if you grew up in a situation where love was often conditional and/or came with a heavy price to pay, God will use the work of authors and teachers like John Eldredge and Gerald May to make you weep. The tears will be welcome, however, because they are the tears of freedom, understanding and intimacy. I cannot say how many times this has been the case for myself, anyway.

Here’s the passage from The Sacred Romance that moved me so deeply today: 

This is the power of addiction. Whatever the object of our addiction is, it attaches itself to our intense desire for eternal and intimate communion with God and each other in the midst of Paradise – the desire that Jesus himself placed in us before the beginning of the world. Nothing less than this kind of unfallen communion will ever satisfy our desire or allow it to drink freely without imprisoning it and us. Once we allow our heart to drink water from these less-than-eternal wells with the goal of finding the life we were made for, it overpowers our will, and becomes, as Jonathan Edwards said, “like a viper, hissing and spitting at God” and us if we try to restrain it.

“Nothing is less in power than the heart and far from commanding, we are forced to obey it,” said Jean Rousseau.

Our heart will carry us either to God or to addiction. 

“Addiction is the most powerful psychic enemy of humanity’s desire for God,” says Gerald May in Addiction and Grace, which is no doubt why it is one of our adversary’s favorite ways to imprison us. Once taken captive, trying to free ourselves through willpower is futile. Only God’s Spirit himself can free us or even bring us to our senses.

How to pitch TV reporters and news directors (and actually succeed)

Scott Libin is arguably one of the most talented and experienced TV News Directors in the United States. He currently works as a Consultant and Project Manager at Internet Broadcasting here in St. Paul.

He has more than 25 years of experience in the TV news business and is well-respected across the country, so when he agreed to have lunch the other day I was thrilled at the opportunity.

Our conversation brought up several great reminders, along with some new insights. Some highlights/reminders/takeaways for myself and other PR professionals:

  • In TV, everything is dependent upon what else is happening that day. Scheduling your event on a day when little to nothing else major is going on in your market is critical.
  • Help the reporter/producer visualize what the segment would look like. Do the journalist’s job for him. A great pitch covers everything a TV producer needs – the visual, the news hook, location, timing, logistics, etc.
  • It might seem antiquated to some, but e-mail pitches are still preferable in many instances. They allow an assignment editor to forward all the relevant information easily to the proper person, along with attaching a note or instructions regarding the story idea. E-mail is also a nice way to allow a news manager or assignment editor to take a quick look at your story without being tied up/hassled as a PR person stammers through a pitch verbally, chewing up valuable seconds/minutes that the editor/manager doesn’t have.
It’s rare for a PR professional to get an hour of undivided attention and counsel from a TV news expert like Scott. And best of all, I got all this for the price of a Turkey Club Wrap! ;) Scott Libin is as gracious, talented and experienced as they come, and I’m grateful to count him among my professional contacts these days. Look him up on LinkedIn if you get the chance!

True story: How my cousin Paul Kenny OWNED MLB star Jim Thome at the plate (ok, it was Little League)

Jim Thome hugs someone else who likely struck out against Paul Kenny in Little League.

Just saw this note via Facebook from my infamous cousin Paul Kenny, who, like me and Jim Thome, was born and raised in Peoria, Ill.: “Jim Thomes 600th probably ranks right up there with the first time he got a hit off me in Little League. I struck him out twice before his slow roller up the middle snuck by my useless shortstop for a single. If you asked him, I’m sure that single propelled him to baseball stardom. We took different career paths, but both ended up excelling in life! I’m now a SENIOR sales rep!”

Paul Kenny, aka The Boy Who Struck Out Jim Thome Twice!

Paul is the greatest! The best part about him is that he has about 1,000 more stories just like that one.

Congrats to Jim Thome on hitting 600 career homers, but don’t forget your roots buddy. And Paul – oh, what could have been!!!

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