Break Time’s Over

Let’s start with the most important thing: Today is launch day for my book, Dealing with the Elephant in the Room: Moving from Tough Conversations to Healthy Communication.

Today would be a great day to pick it up.

Or not.

The reason to get it today is that a strong launch gives a book more quick exposure, which builds momentum. If it’s a helpful book, it’s a chance to get it into more hands so it can help more people.

So, it would be great if you could:

  • Pick up a copy or three on Amazon or your favorite online retail outlet.
  • Share this post with your “tribe” through your social media accounts, and encourage others to do the same.

There is one reason, though, why you might want to pass it up:

You might already have it.

Here’s the scoop:

A couple of years ago, Revell published my book You Can’t Text a Tough Conversation: RealCommunicationNeeded.
It was a book about learning to communicate effectively when conversations get challenging and uncomfortable. But people read the title and thought it was a book about the evils of social media, and how it messes with our relationships.  Even the media interviews I did focused on technology, not communication.

People agreed strongly with that idea, but they didn’t need a book to tell them.

So they said nice things about it, but didn’t buy it.

I approached my publisher and asked if we could make a change in the packaging so it would be more accurate. They had already been thinking that direction, so they agreed.

The result? The book that’s launching today – Dealing with the Elephant in the Room: Moving from Tough Conversations to Healthy CommunicationIt’s a revised version of that original book. So if you bought that one, you might not need to get this new one (though it’s a little different).

But you can still spread the word . . . which I would deeply appreciate.

I just read through the book again. It’s been awhile, so I wanted to see what I said.

Here’s the interesting thing I discovered: It’s a really good book. In fact, I think it might be the most helpful book I’ve written.  When the focus was on technology, it was an OK book.  But now that the focus is on communication, it was a surprisingly helpful read.

If you’re challenged by tough, uncomfortable conversations, I think you’ll find some real help here. It’s full of practical tips and advice of what’s needed to build your conversational toolbox, and how to use those tools effectively.

Know someone who’s struggling in a relationship? This could make the difference for them.  It’s simple, it’s practical, and it’s proven.  It’s not stuffy (as evidenced by the cover).

So, this isn’t just about making a book successful (though that’s part of it). It’s about getting a tool in the hands of people who are stuck in their relationships.

——————–

That leads to the second part. I’ve been “on recess” for the most part over the past year.  There has been a lot going on – from job changes to multiple surgeries and a few other things that make life interesting.  So I’ve really missed connecting with you in this way.

But it’s time to come back.

There’s a new website coming in a few weeks (I actually hired an expert). It’ll be our “coffee shop” where we can connect about life.  I’ll be your barista, and you can drop in anytime.  I’m looking forward to that.

I’m also jumping back into this blog again. So, you can expect to hear something about once a week.  (If you’d like to receive these posts automatically, sign up at the top of this page.)  You’re going to help pick the topics.  It’s a dialogue, not a monologue.

And I’m working on the next book proposal. You’ll be part of the writing process on this one.

I also stuck my toes in the Instagram pool today. If you’re on there as well, we can go exploring together.

This “season” has helped me see how much I enjoy writing and connecting. So I’m looking forward to having you along on the journey. It’s a privilege, and I’m grateful that you’re along for the ride.

Now – go spread the word about elephants . . . and we’ll talk again next week!

For Women Only . . .

"I Wish He Had Come with Instructions"

Over the years, we’ve bought a lot of do-it-yourself furniture. It’s become a familiar process:

  • Open the box
  • Look for the instructions
  • Lay out all the pieces
  • Try to follow the instructions
  • Get frustrated
  • Eat cookies

The instructions read as though they were written by someone who had never seen the actual pieces. Their “step-by-step” process becomes more like “stop-by-stop.”  We think, If I stay focused, I’ll figure it out.

But it doesn’t happen.

Women – does it ever feel like the same thing is true of men? You find one you like, and the picture on the box looks promising.  But when you look inside, there are no instructions.

“That’s OK,” you think. “He comes preassembled.” You won’t need to figure out how to put the pieces together.

But it’s not just the instruction manual that’s missing. There’s also no operation manual to describe how he works:

  • You can’t find the power button.
  • He turns on all by himself at random times and turns off suddenly when you least expect it.
  • He usually seems to work OK, but there seems to be no way to control him.

Most of the time he does what you expect him to do. But there are those unexpected times when he doesn’t cooperate.  You think he’ll help with the housework, but instead he plops down on a couch and plows through a bag of Cheetos while watching people run around a field on a big screen.

That’s when you notice the warning labels on the box that you overlooked:

  • “Fragile” (he needs an ego boost to keep functioning)
  • “This end up” (if he gets upset, he doesn’t work right)
  • “Batteries not included” (he runs out of energy at the worst times)

So, what do you do when there’s no operation manual? You end up writing your own.

Most women have experienced something similar with the men in their lives. So they talk to each other, trying to figure out what their men are thinking. But without knowing exactly what’s going on in a man’s mind, it becomes an exercise in futility.  They write their own operation manual from their own female frame of reference.  It’s what they know.

That can be dangerous, because those male differences can be seen as problems to solve. I’ve seen a number of books that focus on two approaches:

  1. Fixing those differences
  2. Coping with those differences

Both of those can be unhealthy.  They ignore the fact that differences are essential for a relationship to grow and thrive.  That’s the third option:

Embrace the differences.

When I was getting ready to write my latest book, “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions: A Woman’s Guide to a Man’s Brain,” I went to the bookstore to see what had already been written.  I found two categories:

  • Books written by women about how men think
  • Books written by men giving advice to women

I decided to fill the obvious gap – a book about a man’s brain, written by someone who’s lived in there for a long time.

My wife, Diane started me in the right direction. “There are too many books written by men telling women what to do,” she said.  “Men don’t know how women think, either – so they shouldn’t be giving them advice like that.”

Bechtle_Instructions.inddSo, in this new book, I’ve chosen to simply be a tour guide. I’ll take you on a journey of a man’s brain so you know what’s going on.  I won’t tell you what to do.  I’ll just show you the scenic lookouts and the switchbacks on the trail and the toxic waste spots to avoid.  I’ll just walk with you on the journey.

It’s an understanding manual, not an instruction manual.

It was a fun book to write – and I think it might be my favorite. It’s gotten some great reviews already, and I’ve had some pretty energetic media response during interviews.

Now, it’s your chance to find out for yourself . . . and I’d love your help getting the word out, so others can benefit.

The book launched this week. The first couple of weeks is important for the success of a book, because it shows how much interest there is in the book.  The more “buzz” that takes place initially, the better the chance of it taking off.

Since you’re the people that have allowed me to have good conversations with you every week or so, I’d like to ask your help. Here are some things you can do as part of my “team:”

  • Buy a copy for yourself (you can purchase or download it here), and maybe an additional one for a friend.
  • Rank it with “stars” on Amazon. (Yeah, I look at those, too when I’m buying things.) Add a short review if you’re so inclined. That also applies to Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.
  • Let people on Facebook, Twitter, etc. know that you’re reading it. Add a cat video to capture their attention.
  • Share this blog post with others and invite them to join our discussions.
  • If you have a blog, post something about it there. If you use guest posts or author interviews, I’d be happy to drop by. If you do book reviews, I’ll get you a copy to give away. We’re in this writing thing together, and I’d love to help you out.
  • Donate a copy to your church or public library. Or put it in your dentist’s office so people have an alternative from reading a copy of Reader’s Digest from 2006.

Let me know your thoughts as you read. I’d love to hear your input, especially how it helps you understand the men in your life.

And if your man reads it, that’s OK. It could make for some interesting discussions!

Thanks – just know how much I appreciate the chance to connect through this blog every couple of weeks. Soon, you’ll see a new website and a new approach – so stay tuned!

Why They Don’t Have Books at the Getty

I tried to like the Getty. I really did.

The Getty Museum is a world-famous art museum perched high above the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. It contains priceless paintings and sculptures, and people come from all over the world to visit.

You can’t live in Los Angeles very long before someone says, “Have you been to the Getty?”

I have good friends who can’t get enough of that type of art. Debra is a major patron of the art community in Phoenix.  Jenni tells of using high-quality photo books of those masterpieces with her kids, then sharing their excitement when they visit a museum to see them in person.  Another friend (unnamed) sneaks away from work just to visit art museums.

“You just have to see it,” people would say.

It’s not that I don’t like art museums. I just don’t have an emotional response to what I see. I’ve even stood in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  I saw people in tears because they were so moved.

I was impressed at being there, but I wasn’t moved.

And I felt guilty because of it.

I’ve always wanted to appreciate fine art. But I’ve never felt the emotion that so many people describe.

So when my sister and her husband were visiting, they wanted to visit the Getty. I had heard that the building cost a billion dollars to build, so I wanted to see what made it so valuable.

We drove up there on a Saturday. Once inside, she led the charge.  We followed her from gallery to gallery, trying to keep up and listening to her commentary on everything she saw.  The further we went, the more excited she became.

Bless her heart – it was so much fun to watch her excitement.

But I didn’t share it.

We had a great day being together, and I learned a ton from her. But I still felt guilty because I seemed to be missing the “masterpiece” gene.  I resigned myself to living a life devoid of culture.

———————

A few weeks later, a large box was delivered to my door. I was expecting it, because it comes every year.

Inside were a couple dozen new books.

For the past 25 years or so, I’ve been one of the judges for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Christian Book Awards. It’s the most prestigious award given to the top books in that category, and I’ve been privileged to participate.  Every year they send me a shipment, and I have the chance to vote on the best of the best.

So I lined them up on a shelf. Each morning, I’d settle in as the sun was rising with a cup of coffee – and read a couple of chapters.

What a great way to start the day!

Book - FoundOn my first day of reading, I picked up a book called Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer
from an author I didn’t recognize named Micha Boyett.  I turned to the back cover for context:

“. . . she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith . . .”

I wasn’t hopeful, and it sounded stuffy. I took another sip of coffee and started reading.

That’s when it happened: her writing caught my heart.

Just reading her first few paragraphs sucked me into her world. Somehow, I wasn’t reading any more.  I was there.

I know that different people are impacted by different books at different times. Maybe that was my time.  But I felt the sheer joy of reading words that had been so well-crafted.

Was it the best book ever written? Of course not.  But on that day (and the days that followed), Micha took my on a journey of her life as a wife and mom in San Francisco. She made me feel the fog and taste the bagels and hear the swings creaking on the public playground.  She just put the words together in a way that captured my emotions throughout the book.

From my perspective, I was reading . . . a masterpiece.

I was having the emotional experience that eluded me at the Getty. It came as ink on paper rather than oil on canvas, but it was still the expression of an artist.

Great painters and great writers both use their tools of expression, and they both touch the heart.

They both create masterpieces.

Here’s what I discovered: Books are my Getty.

I have art-loving friends who can’t get excited about books. I have author friends who can’t get excited about paintings.

It’s OK.

We’re both impacted by a masterpiece.

I can’t wait to take my sister to a bookstore for the day . . .

 

What’s your Getty?  Share in the comments (below) . . .

Off the Road Again

I miss writing.

There was a time when I used to say, “I don’t like writing – I just like having written.” The process was tedious, but I enjoyed seeing my words in print.

That’s changed. It’s probably because I’ve taken a break, and I miss moving words around to express something.  I’ve missed writing these posts, and especially the interaction with you – my readers.  It’s like not seeing good friends for a while.

The break wasn’t by design. It started with a wake-up call last September that involved an ambulance ride while on a business trip.  I didn’t see the effect that years of travel was having on my body.

But it was there, and it was real.

So the past nine months have been a “do-over” (as Jon Acuff would say). I’ve taught people for years how to live a balanced life, but realized that I needed to pay attention to my own precarious position on the high-wire as well.

That meant looking at everything I was doing – my job, my schedule, my exercise, my choices – everything. It meant starting from scratch and rebuilding.

Finally, I’m starting to practice what I teach. It’s certainly not perfect, but I’ve made some major changes.  I’m eating differently.  I’m exercising consistently.  I’m sleeping more.  I’m keeping the little stuff little, and focusing on the few things that matter most.

And I’m coming off the road.

After 28 years of travel and 3000+ days standing in front of corporate audiences, I’ve changed jobs. I’m working from a home office, coaching those people who are still training within their companies.  I’m taking my years of experience and helping them make an impact within their organizations.

My travel each day is about 50 feet.

Which means I have quiet early mornings to watch the sun rise while I sip java in a ceramic mug – instead of chugging out of a paper cup on an LA freeway. And evenings to read and talk and relax instead of mapping out logistics for the next day’s commute.

And it means I’ll have time to write.

That’s become one of my favorite early morning activities – crafting words while the world around me is still in their jammies.

This new job itself is more intense than anything I’ve done – but it has a beginning and an end each day. I have to fight to keep to keep that balance.  But setting boundaries is becoming a small price to pay for quality of life.

largeWhat will that writing look like? I’m not sure.  But it does mean I’m going to start connecting with you again.

I’ll probably do some magazine articles, and I’ll start thinking about another book. (My newest will be in bookstores on August 6.  I finished that one shortly before my ambulance ride.)  I’ll also be building more of an online platform, since I’m not standing in front of live audiences as much.

If you’d like to come along for the ride, I’d love to have you on the journey.

So, get your coffee. I’ll get mine.

Let’s slow down and just talk.

It might just save you an ambulance ride.

 

 

“And the Winner is . . . “

Wow.

I didn’t expect that many people to respond.

But I discovered that a lot of people are passionate about the books they read, and they want to share that passion with others.

Three weeks ago, I asked for your help. I read a ton of nonfiction books each year, but realized that I wasn’t applying a lot of it.  They were interesting, but it wasn’t changing my life.  So I decided to pick one book and read it twelve times – and I asked for your suggestions.

I got a few comments on the blog itself, a few through Twitter or Facebook, but most came through email or personal conversations. That tells me that I have a lot of introverts in my tribe who have great ideas, but prefer not to put them out there for the whole world to see.  That’s OK – I’m one of those.  I rarely leave comments, preferring to have a direct conversation.

I observed something interesting during this process:

I have two groups of readers: those who are more “”business-oriented, and those who are more “faith-oriented.” I started the blog originally as a way of staying in touch with people who have attended my seminars (which are usually in business settings) or read my books.  That’s the majority.  So we’re mostly talking about living an intentional life, no matter what the setting.

There are others who know me personally, and understand that my faith is my worldview that forms the foundation of my life. They can read between the lines and see the spiritual overtones.

Because of my primary audience, my purpose is to converse – not to convert. A blog is an opportunity to have real conversations with real people.

I believe that truth is truth, no matter where it comes from. That’s why I read widely, including both faith-based books and others on a variety of topics.

I suggest you do the same. Rich dialogue only comes when we converse with people who have different perspectives.  We don’t have to agree with everyone.  But as one person said, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

So, I received a ton of recommendations from both perspectives. I wish I had room to list them all, but here are a few that stood out (I’ve added Amazon links if you want to see the descriptions):

The Bible was the most suggested book. I read through that one last year.  Great choice.  I know the author.  Highly recommended.

The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy) was also mentioned often. I had already been considering that one, because I’ve read it in the past and was impacted by its message – the choices we make have a compounding effect over time, and direct the entire course of our life.  A very practical choice from Hardy, the former publisher of Success Magazine.

Rising Strong was mentioned several times. Brene Brown wrote the bestselling Daring Greatly, and her TED talk is in the top 10 based on millions of views.  Watch her talk to see if it might be a fit.

I found it interesting that most of the secular books recommended had more to do with character than performance – an inside-out approach to living. Those included Credibility by Kouzes, Mindset by Carol Dweck, and The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey.

The top suggestions for faith-based books included Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibiganza (based on the Rwandan Holocaust), The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (I love C.S. Lewis) and the biblical book of Proverbs (a great choice, because it has 31 chapters – one for each day of the month).

An interesting crossover choice was Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year Old Company that Changed the World (business principles learned from the Jesuits).

So, which one did I pick?

I mentioned my friend Craig in the earlier blog, and how he reads about 60 books a year. I asked him if he could share his top recommendations.

His response gave me a new perspective on recommending books. He said that when someone recommends a book, it’s because the book spoke to them in their current situation so strongly that it had an emotional impact on them.  It touched them, and they want other people to have that same experience.

But everyone is at a different place. A book that impacts me deeply might be great, but it won’t have the same effect on you if you’re at a different place.  Maybe in six months, it will apply.  But we’re all looking for help with our current situation.

The book recommendations of others narrows the field for us. Then we need to pick what’s appropriate from there.

So I’ve actually made a list of all of your recommendations, and will probably be reading through all of them over time. I’m grateful to have your input, and that you took the time to make those suggestions.  That’ll be the basis for my reading list.

51i0QG0W8KL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_The one book I’ve landed on for myself for this year, based on where I am in my life, is Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success by the late Stephen R. Covey.

Here’s why I picked it:

Dr. Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which is one of the courses I teach in various organizations). After his death, his family and colleagues found some of his original writings and notes that he used in preparation for writing the 7 Habits back in the mid-80’s, but they were never published.  So they collected his thoughts and put them together in this book.

Dr. Covey believed that there were only two ways to live: a life of primary greatness or a life of secondary greatness. The rewards of primary greatness – integrity, responsibility and meaningful contribution – far outweigh the superficial rewards of secondary greatness – money, popularity, and the self-absorbed, pleasure-ridden life that some people consider “success.”

Seems like that would be some interesting food for thought – and discussion. It’s that “inside-out” approach to living a life of integrity.

I’ll spend time on it this year, and write occasionally about what I’m learning. Will it be an awesome read? I don’t know, but I’m going to give it a shot.  You can join me if you’d like – or just stay tuned for insights over the rest of the year.  (I picked up the hardback edition so I could focus differently than other books.)

So, thanks for your help. If you pick a book to focus on this year, I’d love to know what it is – and what you learn during the process.  I so appreciate the conversations we’re able to have, and what I learn from you.

Let’s get started!

Do you have a book you’re going to focus on this year?  Share your choice in the comments below . . .


Help Me Read Less This Year

I wish I could get paid to read.

That would be like getting paid to eat ice cream.

I heard recently that the average person reads less than two books a year. I have trouble wrapping my head around that statistic, because I love to read so much.  Two-book-per-year people make New Year’s resolutions like, “I need to read more this year.”  And that’s a wonderful resolution.

I’m not one of those people. Neither is Craig.

Craig shares my love of books. In the next few days, I’ll be receiving an email spreadsheet from him with his annual reading list summary for last year.  It will be broken down by:

  • Monthly pages read
  • Annual total pages read
  • Titles
  • Personal rankings
  • Total number of books read
  • Fiction vs. nonfiction
  • DNF (Did not finish)
  • Top 10 books of the year

. . . and about ten other categories. Last year he read around 60 books.  I read about 40. (If you’re a two-book-per-year reader, you probably have a therapist in mind for us.)

I can’t wait to see his results. I always look forward to his list, and his top picks from last year often end up on my shelf for this year.  His list inspires me to read more.

Book pileThis year, I want to read less.

And I need your help.

Here’s the thing. I read mostly nonfiction, and love the insights I get.  But I find myself reading a lot, but not applying much.  I stuff my mind with all these great ideas that I want to try, and then feel guilty because I’m not doing all these great things I need to do.

This year, I’ll still read quite a few books – both fiction and nonfiction. I enjoy the process, and don’t want to give that up.

But I want to decide on one significant book to focus on.

Just one.

And read it 12 times. Once per month.

So I need your suggestions.

If you were to suggest one book that would be worth spending an entire year on, what would it be?

I’m open to any kind of topic. It could be about productivity, relationships, faith, communication, business – it’s up to you.  I want to keep it in the nonfiction category for the purpose of the experiment.  I’ll track the insights, and implement the things I’m learning.

That’s my experiment for this year. I want to immerse myself in one book until it sticks.

I’ll collect your ideas for the next couple of weeks. Then, I’ll make the final decision.  I’ll let you know what it is, in case you’d like to join me.  I’ll write about what I’m learning occasionally, and we can chat together about it.

Kind of a mini-book club without the croissants or chairs in a circle.

You might not choose the same book to focus on that I do. That’s OK, because we’re all at different places in our lives.  We each need to choose the book that’s most relevant at the moment.  It will be interesting to see what others suggest.

You can share your ideas in the comments section – or by email – or text or skywriting or personal conversation or Facebook or Twitter (and I’m just getting on Instagram in the next few days). Whatever channel we usually use to connect.  (Craig – we need to do this over breakfast.)

I’ve always appreciated the conversation we’ve been able to have. So in advance, thanks. Can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

What one book would you recommend to spend an entire year focusing on? Add your comments below . . .