Book Review: Made to Stick

At the recommendation of a missionary friend I picked up a copy of Made to Stick at the local library. His comment was something like: “It is not a mission’s book, but it certainly is applicable to missionary work.”

While I tend to agree with many pastors that business books can be dangerous when you try to apply the principles of running a corporation to a church, I also think that there are many good things we can glean from reading books that make businesses successful. This book is not so much a business book as it is about communication; regardless of the work environment.

The authors, brothers Chip and Dan Heath, have isolated 6 principles that help make an idea ‘sticky.’ What I loved about the way they explained the principles is they used urban legends as many of their examples. There are reasons that urban legends get passed around and tend to stick no matter how much information is on the web to the contrary. If you could communicate real ideas, stories and principles in a way that cause them to stick like an urban legend, then you would get your message across. The book is filled with real examples as well.

In Made to Stick you will find the 6 principles and examples illustrating those ideas. Not every sticky idea will contain all 6, but the more you can communicate using the 6 principles, the stickier your communication will be.

What are the principles? Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Story. SUCCESs is used as the trigger to help you remember these principles.

Simple: Find the core of what you want to communicate. This has to do with the idea you want to share more than the way you share it. Sometimes an elaborate story can get the message across in a more sticky way than just sharing the core. Therefore, Simple is about the message, not necessarily the way it is delivered.

Unexpected: At the end of the story did you expect that the person was going to wake up in an ice-filled tub having had his kidney’s stolen? Giving examples of how you want your sales staff to meet the customer’s needs is much more sticky than saying, “Take care of the customer.”

Concrete: Help your audience work through the thought process instead of just teaching them the bottom line. An example is how students learn math better when they think through adding members to make up a baseball team as opposed to just telling the students that 3+6=9.

Credible: Being credible is not just being able to spout off statistics that no one will remember. Credibility can come through showing an example of a person going through a similar problem and how they are dealing with it. Better yet, have that person become your spokesperson. Real people dealing with real issues.

Emotion: Help people see themselves either experiencing the problem or being a solution to the problem. Instead of asking the crowd to give money to support all the missionaries in South America, I should help you understand that if you support my ministry in Argentina I will be able to share the Gospel of Christ with a deaf boy in La Plata who may never have another person love him enough to teach him the Bible. By sending $50 a month you can help my family do just that.

Story: Take any opportunity you have to illustrate with a story as opposed to just giving the facts. In the book they say that the story and the moral are both important. However, if you just tell the story the listener can figure out the moral. But if you only have the moral (the facts) then the listener has no clear understanding of what the moral means nor a good way to remember it.

I have to say that this is probably THE BEST BOOK I have read in a long time. While I borrowed this copy from the local library, I will be on the lookout for a copy of my own. This is a book that I could easily read several more times and go back and reference often in the future. I think it is a great book for missionaries and pastors as well as anyone who needs to communicate a message.

Made to Stick. Chip and Dan Heath. Random House, 2007. 291 pages.

Book Review: Staying the Course

Staying the CourseI read, and reviewed, the book Duel in the Sun a few years ago and learned about the 1982 Boston Marathon, which has gone down in the history books as one of the most exciting marathons of all time. Last weekend I did some volunteer work at a race where Dick Beardsley was speaking. Beardsley is one of the two runners involved in the duel of the ’82 Boston Marathon.

I got a chance to chat with Mr. Beardsley at length. He was signing books and chatting with the crowd. Because I was a volunteer there I was able to catch him when there was no one around. I really enjoyed my 10 minute conversation with him. I bought the book he wrote several years ago titled Staying The Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race.

Staying The Course is an autobiography of his running career and his involvement with and recovery from addictions. The first half of the book takes the reader through that famous Boston Marathon while the second half leads you through his spiral into substance abuse. Unlike Duel in the Sun though, this book has a much more satisfying conclusion. While Dick Beardsley’s story is not yet over, this book concludes with an air of certainty of where his life is headed. At the end of Duel in the Sun I was not sure that Beardsley had gotten in control of his addictions. Staying the Course removes my doubts.

If you ever get a chance to meet Dick Beardsley you will find that he really is as upbeat and positive as his book portrays him to be.

As I was reading the book I was struck by how much I enjoyed reading a man brag about his accomplishments. Of course he has to tell about what has taken place in his life, but you don’t feel like he is bragging. The man makes his living by going to races and talking about himself. He has learned how to talk about himself so that the audience does not feel he is being braggadocios. Therefore his memoir is readable and not boastful.

Signed my shoesThe writing style did not flow very well at times. Some passages had to be read over to understand what was being said. However, when I was reading those same passages out loud to the family, they seemed to make more sense. I think some of the writing was probably just a transcription of speeches he has given. It sounds good to the ears, but sometimes hard to read for the eyes and brain. People talk about being conversational in your writing style; this book may be a bit too conversational.

The book contains some swearing, which was a big reason I did not like Duel in the Sun and considered taking it back to the store. But the amount of foul language in this book was minimal. And, unlike Duel in the Sun, it was limited to direct quotes.

I highly recommend this book. My opinion of the book may be skewed because I have met the author and had a good experience with him, but that is part of the “Dick Beardsley Package.” How could I have a bad opinion of the man who indulged me enough to sign my New Balance running shoes?

Staying The Course by Dick Beardsley. 2002. University of Minnesota Press. 203 pages.

Why is PulseAudio so stupid?

PulseAudio screenshotI have had a hate-hate relationship with PulseAudio on Ubuntu/Kubuntu over the last few months. Today I finally got fed up with a problem I was having and out of frustration just asked Google “why is pulse audio so stupid.” Without it being a serious inquiry I eventually made my way to a debugging page at the Ubuntu wiki that helped me out.

Here is what it had me do. Enter this command in a terminal window:

sudo fuser -v /dev/dsp* /dev/snd/* /dev/seq*

Anything other than “pulseaudio” appearing in the right column is the problem. Use the killall command to kill those other items. I ended up issuing a:

killall kmix

After that my sound started working as expected. I will now have to figure out how to keep kmix from starting at boot each time, but I at least know how to solve the problem quickly when it does come up.

If you are an Ubuntu (or variants) user it appears that PulseAudio is here to stay. I have read why it is supposed to be better, but don’t understand it or really care. I will let smarter people than me argue the finer points of sound servers. I just want the thing to work.

Missionary Talks 72: Andy Shinabery

I posted a new Missionary Talks interview yesterday. After spending an hour with Andy at a local coffee shop, he and I sat down in my mobile recording studio (Honda van) and recorded the interview. Andy and I have kept up with one another casually over the years since we went to college together.

Through email earlier this week we worked out the details for me to call him and record the interview. We were both very surprised when I went to pick up my son from youth meeting on Wednesday and saw Andy standing at the front of the church. Neither one of us had a clue that the other was in town. We enjoyed catching up and sharing some of our conversation with the listeners.

The next episode I put out I hope will be one of the new Missionary Chats formatted show. I will try to alternate these as much as I can, but there may be more Talks than Chats at times, or vice versa.

Clean Casts

Clean Casts
I found a new podcast listing site last week and got Missionary Talks listed there. It is called Clean Casts. All the podcasts listed on the site are either G or PG rated. It is not a huge listing of podcasts yet, but it is nice to know that you can choose something there that will be family friendly.

There are a few podcasts that I listen to listed there, but there are several other good podcasts that should be there. I should compile a list and contact my podcasting friends to get their shows listed there and help grow the community. The site is fairly new and needs help getting some momentum pushing them the right way.