Saturday, January 30, 2010

Live from NYC (yesterday :)

looking up in NYC

I took a train into NYC. Looking out the window, I could see the Hudson crushed up against her shores, like huge shards of glass. So cold here. So, so cold.

chrysler building

But I didn't mind. I was going to meet Brooke Campbell for the first time.

bathroom humor

Sorry, Brooke, first the restroom in the IAM space. Priorities, see? :)

Brooke 'n Me

I read poetry, she played guitar. And we shared a bag of honey-roasted peanuts I brought from home. (Did you finish the bag? I don't remember. :)

Brooke in January

Brooke takes things with a grain of salt, I think. And she sings about sugar spoons. Beautifully.

Want to see the whole program? Slide over to about the 2 minute/30 second point to avoid the ... two minute/30 second lag time! :)

NYC, IAM Space and Brooke Campbell photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One More Reason to Join HCB (sorta :)

He's funny.

He's irreverent (in the best sense of the word).

He's published two books.

He's ours (in a way :).

Come to HighCallingBlogs and hang out. Where else can you get a real live *Communion Wafer Taste Tester* at your service?

For more Gordon Atkinson, more of the time, visit his blog Real Live Preacher and follow him on Twitter at @RLPreacher

(Contents of package may shift during delivery. :)

This post stolen (um borrowed, no... piggybacked, no... respectfully emulated) from GoodWordEditing's Napkin Story post. Here's the first of the Monkey Chow Diaries that Gordon initially recommended to Marcus.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Spirituality of Business

Woman and Hay

If business can inform spirituality, as we mused last week, then why not the inverse?

I had the pleasure of interviewing businessman (and fellow HCB writer) Bradley J. Moore who recently wrote a helpful article on Six Ways to Take a Micro Sabbatical over at Michael Hyatt's blog.

Here's what Bradley told me about spirituality and business, as well as a few other important things like tweeting in traffic and working for HCB...

1. Tell me about your business life. What does your average day look like? (Sure, you can start by revealing which traffic lights you tweet at during your commute :)

Actually, my commute is not so bad— about a half-hour, which is just the right amount of time to gear up and decompress on the way to and from work. [Note that Bradley did not divulge his favorite traffic tweet locations :) ]

The most important and consistent part of my day is arriving at Starbucks before work at 7 am to get my Venti 3/4 decaf. Other than that, there's no average day. I work with lots of different people on lots of different projects. We're constantly analyzing, developing and delivering on projects to add shareholder value.

Did I sound like a consultant just then? [why, yes, Bradley, you kinda did! :)] I thought so. Anyway, I could be dealing with banks on financing an acquisition, or working with a group of managers on strategic planning, or working my way through understanding a specific issue that we want resolved.

Right now I am deep into a strategic planning rollout and also a couple of real estate development projects, and we have some new acquisitions brewing up in the near future. On top of that, we're constantly looking for improvement opportunities, to do better, faster, cheaper. It never ends.

[Bradley may do all these complicated things, but he is actually quite easy to talk to; I completely enjoyed meeting him recently (again, without knowing it was again) in NYC.]

2. You write a lot about spirituality and business. Do you think there's anything inherently spiritual in business, or do you use the "add-on" model where you Christianize what is inherently secular?

I never thought much about spirituality as part of business. Although I've always been a deeply spiritual person, I never connected that to my job, other than praying that God would "bless the work of my hands." I think that comes from the Psalms, but I would pray that every day for years and years as I was building up my career. I loved God, and I also loved the idea of building a fulfilling career in business.

But I never connected them closely until a few years ago. I was going through a little career angst— getting antsy for my next big promotion, feeling a little disatisfied where I was at— and I was working through the whole thing with a good friend. At one point he said "As we get older, who we are becomes more important than what we do."

That struck me pretty hard. Then he said, "Instead of looking for that next big promotion, you should focus on what brings you joy, because then you'll bring joy to others."

It's a long, meandering story, but the bottom line is that I realized that there was a lot about my current job situation that did actually bring me joy, and I turned the focus to bringing meaning and support to others through my job, rather than focusing on my self-promotion. It was a way of linking God's purpose for me into my work.

3. You're a writer and, more recently, an accidental poet (make no objections to that last assertion: you are poetic, especially on Twitter!). Tell me a little about your writing journey and how it relates (or not) to your business life.

Yes, Twitter is fun! Did that sound poetic? That was an actual Tweet I posted one day.

[trust me, Bradley has tweeted things poetic enough to feature for Random Acts of Poetry :)]

I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a child. And as a management consultant I had many opportunities to write— we were in the "ideas" business, after all. But a few years ago, this friend of mine I mentioned earlier, when we were discussing my career issues, he encouraged me to pursue something creative and fun, something aside from thinking about work and career all the time.

I decided to start writing, just for myself. One thing led to another and I realized that writing was both spiritually therapeutic, and fun. It brought me pure joy, and I wanted to keep pursuing it. I gravitated towards writing about how Christianity related to my career, and the total lack of direction or connection that I received growing up in the Evangelical church in drawing that link between God and career.

I realized that God cares about my career, but I had never heard anyone talking about that. It changes everything. So I decided to focus mostly on that subject, figuring that there had to be plenty of other people who had or needed to have that same experience. Blogging was just the thing to provide an immediate outlet for all of these thoughts.

4. Congratulations, you're officially a Content Editor (for the Work Section) at HighCallingBlogs. Can you talk about that?

I'm so thrilled to be part of a team of smart, thoughtful, professional writers that make up HighCallingBlogs. It's been exciting for me to go beyond writing as a hobby to actually writing as a real job!

The writing, sharing and the community of HCB fulfills a very important part of my life, and I'm looking forward to building something great and lasting with that community, that I hope will make a big difference in many people's lives.

[Like many of us at HCB, Bradley originally started as a volunteer. Just for the fun of it. I think that's a marvelous way to fall into a job. :)]

Woman and the Hay painting, photo by L.L. Barkat.

Random Acts of Poetry Prompt:
Choose a character from a book— children's, grownup's, matters not. Write a poem to, from, or just about the character. Post it by Thursday evening, Jan 28th, for links and possible feature at HighCallingBlogs

HighCallingBlogs Bookclub, new selection...
Would you like to read with us? Stop in and get the scoop on our next book...
Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Business of Spirituality


I can remember days when the simplest thing would set me to praise— sparrows alighting on forsythia, a certain slant of light beyond the roof. Too, I've had those moments when nothing seemed to penetrate; the most spectacular sunset only served to highlight a sinking feeling that had followed me through days or weeks. Worst of all, I've sat and watched the trees swing in the wind, my own spirit plagued by failure or disappointment over the world's tragedies, and I've wondered, "God, are you even there? Or is life just meaningless, something tossed about the way maple, pine and hemlock are just now flipping in the air?"

Most of us would recognize the first state of attentiveness and responsiveness as spiritual, vital. The latter two, we're not so sure.

Last week I started reading The Next Level, by James B. Wood, and I found comfort in the S-curve. Notes Wood, "The point of the S-curve is that growth is cyclical. Each period of growth is inevitably interrupted by a break, causing one curve to end and another to begin. The factors that contributed to a company's ascending the first curve are not the same ones required for it to climb the second curve. The first curve, if continued, will eventually lead to stagnation, deterioration, and ultimately death. Regardless of the amount of effort applied, the path of the original curve eventually peaks and declines. One cannot get from one level to the next by continuing on the same path."

We should not be surprised that when one curve begins to drop, "the growth of the next, and the void in between are focal points for tremendous personal and company stress."

I find this information comforting, because it suggests that conflict and despair can be signs of growth, in the sense that we're about to enter a new level, and thus are experiencing a requisite period of struggle. It also sets into question 1-2-3 formulas for spiritual growth— especially the thought that if you just keep trying, stay faithful to a particular mode of spiritual practice, all will eventually be well.

At least in the arena of business, Wood suggests we get to "the next level" by "generating new actions, adaptations and behaviors. A transformation, or reinvention, is necessary for survival." Perhaps this is true of spiritual life as well.

Lighthouse Window photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poetry and Wine Giveaway

Monday, January 11, 2010

5 Things a Blog Network Can Do for You

sunrise together

"I would love to hear some thoughts on using a blog network . . . I always feel like I'm not quite sure what to do with, say, HighCallingBlogs."

Last week, someone left this comment. And I thought, why sure, I'd be happy to talk about a blog network. I can't speak for ALL blog networks, but I can definitely explain why someone might want to consider joining HighCallingBlogs.

So here are 5 things I think a blog network can do for you:

1. The blogosphere is huge. Joining a network is one way to find a community. At HighCallingBlogs, we share around themes of work, culture, family and faith. It's a thoughtful, friendly, funny, sometimes artistic place that inspires and encourages us in our daily work lives— from the nursery to the boardroom.

2. A blog network differs from following particular bloggers, because it provides a "third place" where everyone can show up and chat. Or not. If you're a small blogger, this has the advantage of helping you find audience. If you're a big blogger, it gives you a way to interact with people without having to be obliged to interact all the time, the way you might feel you need to at your personal blog.

3. A blog network might feature your writing or art. At HighCallingBlogs, we actively seek out excellence in writing and art from our members. When we find it, we might "feature" this work in a post on our site. Or we might just link out to it. We don't accept submissions, but rather we listen to the community— members can recommend a great post to us (not their OWN, btw,) and we'll give a hat-tip link if we feature the recommended post.

4. Unlike an on-line magazine, a blog network is outwardly focused. We facilitate book clubs (and link to your book club posts), we host a variety of writing projects that promise to link to you, we pay attention by visiting your blogs as much as possible, we cultivate a relationship with you through other avenues like Twitter and Facebook; in other words, we don't just expect you to show up and read our stuff. Think of us more like a community that promotes you than a magazine on a shelf (we also encourage our members to promote each other).

5. A blog network is a potential place to change the world. This past Christmas, for instance, one of our bloggers got an idea called the $10 Challenge. A friendly Managing Editor (aw, shucks :) saw his post and asked one of our Content Editors to write about it and challenge the whole community to join. What started as an idea on one blogger's smaller platform became an idea that, from our larger platform, spread even further to change lives (if only a little bit) this Christmas.

In the end, a blog network does more than help you. It can become a place of community and change. Would you like to join us? We'll be waiting with a hot cup of cyber-tea.

(Note: some of you sweetly display our badge but haven't had the chance to formally join, because we only reopened to new members last week. Feel free to stop in, click the "Join" tab and become an official part of our community!)

Children on the Beach photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Reading with Brooke Campbell

LL and Brooke

What are you doing on January 29, 2010? If you like poetry and folk/blues/jazz, maybe you'd like to join us in New York City, from 7-9 pm at the IAM Space, 38 West 39th Street, 3rd Floor. No worries if you can't come in person. It's going to be live-streamed. (I hear Kelly might even bring her baby, in the comfort of her own home!).

And hey, you could tweet about it if you want, using the hashtag #LLBrooke (then I could see what kind of party you had during the party. :) Let me know ahead of time if you have any requests, and I'll see what I can do.

Okay, you know me, but who's Brooke Campbell? Here's a blurb from her promo stuff...

Brooke Campbell is a unique and charismatic singer and songwriter. Her original music is a skillful blend of acoustic/folk, pop, and bluegrass. Brooke's soulful songs are smart and poetic, and masterfully merge raw melodies with perfect wordcrafting and keen intelligence.

She was signed to the Arch Music Group in 2000 and has toured extensively as a solo artist. Always willing to damn convention for the sake of creativity, “Brooke is one of those rare talents who manage to outrun the trends and force the rest of the world to keep up”. For more, go to Brooke Campbell.

If you plan to come to NYC, please RSVP to The space holds about 60 people maximum.

Photo montage: LL Barkat, excerpt of InsideOut poem 'In Your Dream', and Brooke Campbell. By L.L. Barkat.

HighCallingBlogs She Sings the Truth About Life and Love: an Interview with Brooke Campbell

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Monday, January 04, 2010

The Soul Tells a Story

Soul Tells a Story

"How'd you get your start as a writer?" This is a question I've been asked a lot, and which I've done my share of asking.

Thing is, it has an ambiguous answer, because it's generally not a question about the writer-in-question, but about sweet you (or me), the inquirer... as we wonder how we might follow the same path towards publication.

If you asked that question of me, you could discover that, for over a decade, I wrote about air fresheners, baby wipes, Spanish wine, leather-bound collectible books and color film (right, they used to make film when I was a wee little writer :). Anyway, this might give you hope that writers can get their start just about anywhere, even in the wipes department.

I could tell you that I eventually started speaking, first at wedding showers, and later for a bible-teaching ministry, which eventually led to the infamous egg-and-cheese breakfast. This is the one where my spouse said, "You're doing a lot of interesting things, but I think you should be a writer. Writing is your greatest gift."

So we set off to get a professional opinion. And I was counseled to "publish something, talk at retreats, and go to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference." I had a terrible time trying to get published in magazines, so after a year and a half of consistent rejections, in desperation I jumped the gate and began blogging. (The Blogging Editor has since kindly published hundreds and hundreds of my articles. :)

Going to the writer's conference turned out to be a good idea. I met great people, learned I wasn't alone in my struggles, and received interest in the book proposal my spouse coerced encouraged me to take along. One of the people I met at Mount Hermon helped recommend the book proposal to my original publishing connection, and that resulted in a contract.

In the end, I don't know if any of this can answer the opening question. Because how-I-got-my-start-in-writing may not parallel how you'll get your start. Maybe you'll write about the virtues of 5-point seatbelt systems or the relative elasticity of bungee cords for a decade, before you seek (or not) publication.

More likely, in this day of viral successes, you'll join a community like HighCallingBlogs (open to new members on January 5th, btw), SheWrites, or CCblogs; and if you make people laugh, cry, or sigh about 5-point seatbelt systems, you'll probably get called out by the community. People will begin following you, you may get recommended for feature, or you may even be asked to write specifically for whatever site you join.

At which point you might throw convention to the wind, jump the gate and self-publish. It's easier than ever these days. Or perhaps a traditional publisher will take notice and offer you a contract.

Either way, because I love a good story, I'll probably want to know... how'd you get your start as a writer?


Speaking of getting your start as a writer, I recommend this gentle read: The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life.

And Bonnie of Being Transformed has just won a copy in our New Year's Giveaway. Congratulations, Bonnie. :) Also, thanks to everyone who joined our celebration with their beautiful "Beginnings" posts.

The Soul Tells a Story photo, by L.L. Barkat.

How to Write a Book Proposal
Publishing Advice from Industry Experts
Melo's Why Write or Share?
Bradley's, from the archives, How God Saved My Life Through Writing
Glynn's How I Became a Writer

Would you like to add your thoughts about Writing Journeys? Melo did a post and it got me thinking, wouldn't it be nice to hear from more of us? (Jennifer, you could turn your comment into a post! :) Anyway, if you want to post something, I'll link. Just drop your link into the comment box here.

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