My Favorite Things from 2016

I know a lot of people say that 2016 was a horrible year, but I actually found a lot of things to love this year. Here’s a quick list of my favorite things from 2016.





Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace

In just fifteen minutes Simon Sinek nails the issue of millennials in the workplace. This is required viewing for anyone in a leadership position.

via Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace – YouTube

Why I Left Evernote for Apple Notes

Evernote and I have a long running relationship. I’ve stored pdfs, images, articles, bookmarks and anything else it accepted. However, over time it’s become my Macbook’s junk drawer. If I don’t where to put something, I just throw it into Evernote.

The issue for me has become that Evernote doesn’t seem to do any one thing really well, instead it does a whole lot things okay. Its reminders feature is a bit cumbersome, you can handwrite notes in iOS if you use their Penultimate app, and you can export out your notes in their unique enex format. These are just a few examples of things that Evernote does, but not well enough to be the best in class in terms of note-taking.

At the same time Evernote announced and then rescinded a plan to let engineers read your notes in order to help them build a better product. Now I don’t have anything in Evernote that I would deem extremely private, but the thought of Evernote looking over my shoulder isn’t very comforting.

So it’s time for me to “konmari” my note taking system and figure out what works best for me and brings me joy when I use it. So for me it’s Apple Notes. Now granted it doesn’t have tagging, OCR, a web clipper or the ability to talk to IFTTT. However, I find those limitations actually freeing.

The limitations force me to focus on using the app for its intended purpose.. to take notes. If I want a place to store pdfs I can do that in Google Drive. If I need to store articles somewhere I can use Instapaper. Both of them are far superior to Apple Notes or Evernote in those tasks.

Now there are some work-arounds I’m trying utilize. For one, you can’t email notes to Apple Notes. So for now I’m using Airmail and its actions feature to send emails to Apple Notes.

I’m over two weeks into my move and I’m immediately seeing some benefits. First, Apple Notes loads extremely fast. Second, its stripped down interface makes it easier to get straight to work.

Of course, there’s also that added benefit of not having to pay $70 a year.


Secular Hollywood Quietly Courts the Faithful

From The New York Times:

On the surface, Hollywood is a land of loose morals, where materialism rules, sex and drugs are celebrated on screen (and off), and power players can have a distant relationship with the truth. But movie studios and their partners have quietly — very quietly, sometimes to the degree of a black ops endeavor — been building deep connections to Christian filmgoers who dwell elsewhere on the spectrum of politics and social values. In doing so, they have tapped churches, military groups, right-leaning bloggers and, particularly, a fraternity of marketing specialists who cut their teeth on overtly religious movies but now put their influence behind mainstream works like “Frozen,” “The Conjuring,” “Sully” and “Hidden Figures.”

The marketers are writing bullet points for sermons, providing footage for television screens mounted in sanctuaries and proposing Sunday school lesson plans. In some cases, studios are even flying actors, costume designers and producers to megachurch discussion groups.

I remember about four years ago when the company I was working for started to test the waters of marketing faith-based films. We created Bible studies, sermon outlines, and sermon movie clips all designed to market a movie.

Looking back, it never felt right. Specifically the part about writing sermon outlines with the sole focus of selling a movie.

To be clear, the issue is that sermon is something that should be carefully crafted with the guidance of scripture and the Spirit. To allow a company to give you a sermon outline with the purpose to promote a movie is a dangerous idea.

I’m not opposed to faith-based films, however I have yet to see one that I think it worth my time. I’m opposed to anything that tries to co-opt the sacredness of a worship gathering.

via Secular Hollywood Quietly Courts the Faithful – The New York Times

Where Twitter Lost Me

I have an open love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love the community of the Church Communications Group, but I hate the interface because it lacks clear focus. Twitter on the other hand has always been more my taste. It was pure. You can post text, links, or images. The interface was straightforward and I didn’t have to worry about maintaining security settings. 

However, somewhere along the way Twitter lost me. It lost its ability to be a utility for me and contribute to my daily life. I don’t know the exact moment it happened, but I think was when they introduced “Twitter Moments”. Twitter Moments is their digest of curated news. It even has its own icon on their home screen. 

Here’s the kicker… I don’t find majority of the Twitter Moments news. In most cases, it’s pure drivel. Don’t believe me? Here’s some Twitter Moments from this morning. 

“Kevin Love gets meta with his courtside Christmas sweater”

“Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ daughter finally has a name”

“26 everyday things Muslims did that got them kicked off planes”

Now, I never held Twitter accountable for what other users publish on their platform. However, when Twitter take on the role of curating and publishing news, then they’re putting themselves in a whole new category in terms of responsibilities. 

Instead of focusing on curating faux news, Twitter should be spending time creating more tools for their users. For one, give users the ability to edit tweets (and keep a revision history for everyone to see). Work on speeding up the verification process and figure out a way to decrease the number of anonymous accounts. 

But Twitter has chosen a different course, and I think users (growth is virtually flat) and even top management have voted with their feet. It’s a shame because I’m thinking about doing the same.  

An Experiment in Starting the Day

I grew up in house where “sleeping in” was considered a waste of time. You were up by 7:30 a.m or you could consider your day was off to a bad start. To this day that feeling still exists. If I sleep past a certain point, the day is slipping away. 

As I get older I realize my time and attention are fleeting, so how I spend the first hour of my day can dictate the rest of my day. If I spend my first moments on the right things, then the rest of my day seems to be more aligned. If things go awry (sick kid, early flight, etc..) then everything seems to be up for grabs. 

So after experimenting for years on a how to start my day, this is my standard morning routine…

This routine is first designed to calm my mind (breathing exercises), then fill it with scripture, then get my blood going (exercise). I try to keep the content I listen to while exercising in the range of podcasts or my sports radio (however if it gets to advertising heavy, I’ll stop listening). 

If this routine goes according to plan then I’m mentally, physically, and spiritually ready to great my son. Of course, this morning he greated me, and then said we had to play the Imperial March (from Star Wars) while he marched around the house. 

I’ll admit I still tinker with the times, however this routine continues to show it’s value as life continues to give my wife and I more adventures (another kid and another book launch).

Cal Newport on Digital Minimalism

Georgetown Professor Cal Newport from his latest blog post on Digital Minimalism:

Missing out is not negative. Many digital maximalists, who spend their days immersed in a dreary slog of apps and clicks, justify their behavior by listing all of the potential benefits they would miss if they began culling services from their life. I don’t buy this argument. There’s an infinite selection of activities in the world that might bring some value. If you insist on labeling every activity avoided as value lost, then no matter how frantically you fill your time, it’s unavoidable that the final tally of your daily experience will be infinitely negative. It’s more sensical to instead measure the value gained by the activities you do embrace and then attempt to maximize this positive value.

He then goes on to talk about new platforms that claim to solve problems.

Be wary of tools that solve a problem that didn’t exist before the tool. GPS helped solve a problem that existed for a long time before it came along (how do I get where I want to go?), so did Google (how do I find this piece of information I need?). Snapchat, by contrast, did not. Be wary of tools in this latter category as they tend to exist mainly to create addictive new behaviors that support ad sales.

I agree with where Cal is headed with this article. I’m starting to notice a tension between the virtual world and the real one. While the virtual world has its merits, I find that it’s starting to require too much of my attention to justify its worth as a long term investment.

via On Digital Minimalism – Study Hacks – Cal Newport