3 for Thursday: June 8, 2017

Back in the day, I grew up the son of a Baptist pastor and went to a Baptist liberal arts university for my undergraduate degree.  In those days, I listened to lots of sermons on the radio.  Add to that: I even had paid memberships for cassette subscriptions of sermons.

My free mind time and driving time in college and law school were spent listening to people who talked about Jesus for a living.  I did also go through a phase of listening to fiction audio books while in law school, but the phase was generally short-lived (because I kept running into abridged books when I wanted the full, unabridged versions).

Fast forward a quarter century, and I still listen to lots of talkers in my free mind time and driving time, but I have shifted in my listening. With the advent of podcasts and better audio book selections, there are so many amazing talking people to listen to, and I’m no longer relegated to NPR or sermons as my options.  This week, I’ll share a few things I listen to:

1) Podcast: Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast — I have been a fan of Andy Stanley throughout the entire course of the quarter century mentioned above.  Back in the day, I had a cassette tape subscription to Louie Giglio‘s weekly sermons when he led a college ministry at Baylor University.  He would occasionally have Andy Stanley step in as a guest speaker, and Andy’s sermons consistently challenged me with their life applicability and relevance.  Andy had a new way to teaching this whole Jesus life that made so much practical sense to the college kid I was at that time.

Andy Stanley is the son of Dr. Charles Stanley, who was a Baptist bastion of sermonology based in Atlanta. Sometimes Andy would also show up teaching on Dr. Stanley’s In Touch radio broadcast.  I couldn’t get enough of Andy’s teaching back in that day, but it was hard to come by for a Missouri kid before the coming of age of prolific Internet audio.

Over the years, Andy Stanley has evolved into so much more.  Andy has written many books, most of them in the areas of leadership, vision, and focus of priorities to accomplish great things.  He’s the lead pastor of the massive Northpoint Church based in the Atlanta area.  He’s known as a popular speaker and writer in the arena of leadership. He has been able to successfully cross over into being someone to follow in the arena of leadership, not just church leadership.

His Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast capitalizes on his leadership focus.  What’s great about the podcast is his interviewing of business and thought leaders and his insights into leadership and organizational management alongside them. His mission of “Helping leaders go further faster” comes through in his podcasts.  Any manager, executive or other leader or anyone wanting to be a manager, executive or leader can get something great out of Andy’s monthly podcast. What I find sad is that episodes of the podcast are only released once a month. I would listen to so much more from Andy if episodes were released more frequently.

2) Podcast: The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe — Mike Rowe is known as the “Dirty Jobs” guy.  But he is so much more than that.  In general, Mike Rowe is just fun to watch.  He is a veteran of opera performance and went from opera to QVC television product sales.  He’s an Eagle Scout extraordinaire, and he is full of great stories.  Add to this his passion for helping train and employ skilled workers through his mikeroweWORKS Foundation, and it becomes hard to not enjoy the contribution that Mike brings.

As you listen to The Way I Heard It, you realize that Mike Rowe may become America’s next Paul Harvey.  His podcast episodes are typically right around the 10-minute mark in length, and they are released weekly.  Each podcast episode starts with 2-3 minutes of banter from Mike about life, followed by a spoken promotion of some product.  Then he rolls into a 5-6 minute well-written, tightly-woven story that details a moment in history rich with personal facts and people we have all forgotten.

Mike weaves together ordinary people and moments that ultimately came together to make some moment in history that now matters.  As you listen, you can’t help but spend the entire story trying to figure out how these puzzle pieces of people and events collide into something meaningful.  You often never see the end coming, even as you try to figure it out on your own.  Mike is a great storyteller and writer, and his podcast is simply fun while informative.  Honestly, it just makes you like Mike Rowe even more.

3) Book: Deep Work by Cal Newport — I have been paying attention to Cal Newport for some time via his blog, but he hadn’t yet convinced me to be a fan.  Cal is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University after earning his Ph.D. at MIT.  He has impressive credentials, but I wasn’t convinced that his thought processes really made sense.

A friend listened to the Deep Work audiobook on Audible as part of a free Audible trial, and he shared it with me as something I really needed to hear.  I’ll be honest:  I’m not a fan of the narrator of this audio book, either.  Newport has a very logical and technical style, and the narrator sometimes makes it a little too mechanical.  (It might also matter than I’ve listened to the book at 1.5x speed.)  But the more I get into this book, the more the concept of “deep work” makes sense to me.

Cal makes a strong case that we live in a shallow world, and those who are going to make a difference will be those who can move past the shallow and the immediate and can instead focus for long periods of time on thoughts and ideas of significance.  According to Newport, those who focus and work on a deep level and strategically avoid distractions will be the ones who will produce the best work and come up with the best ideas.  I honestly wasn’t sure about his thesis, but he has convinced me.  The first section of the book makes his case, and the second section of his book discusses strategies and practical points of application.  This book is worth reading or listening to via Audible.  Give it some time and let Newport convince you as he has me.