Paying attention. And keeping it.

Watching Eye by James Poulter, using Paper by FiftyThree I've taken a few knocks recently. Nothing major. Always little things, stuff not quite working out, stupid blunders of my own making induced by either laziness or plain not listening. I suppose it happens to everyone, but when it does it's often difficult to see it that way, let alone feel it.

If you know me or have read the blog for any time you know I have a fascination with how technologies are changing the way we think, how they affect our attention spans and how we relate to one another. And I can only reconcile why I find I have a growing interest in this field, by acknowledging these forces are having a growing power over my own abilities to do these very things, and I think is somewhat responsible, in part at least, for some of the blundering!

The constant connectedness of the modern workplace, family and social community at times can be a place in which I thrive, the speed things can be turned around is compelling, the ability to pull together assorted groups of people to get things done that drive innovation, collaboration and ultimately progress is so alluring. But at the same time this is often tempered by a sense that the speed in which we are moving, and the consistency of that speed is somehow degrading some of our more basic human faculties. Those that allow us to hear Gods voice and discern his plan for instance.

I think it can be difficult when you are very aware that you are a product of the generation, because it's so hard to discern if this is the same inner conflict that people of any generation past have also experiences, or is this an issue very much unique to millennialists who are currently living this out?

In talking with YouthWorker friends and youth pastors, it appears that at least for now the next generation seem to be very at ease with the idea of being constantly connected. This of course is bringing with it a level of concern amongst those working with this age group about their future ability to communicate face to face effectively, and their ability to reflect and learn from their personal histories, when they are living so consistently in the present of the latest Facebook comment stream or BBM conversation.

Those of us who can remember what life was like before broadband and ubiquitous mobile phone usage find themselves in a odd, but vitally important position. We live in part very knowledgable about how these technologies work and their intended uses, whilst still holding an understanding about what life was like before they existed or at least we're mainstream.

Could it be that we will be the last generation to ask questions about whether this new world we find ourselves in is healthy, right and true? It's a philosophical question worth addressing: is pushing the boundaries of technology, just because we can, always a sign of progress?

If there is even the faintest possibility that we could be the last to ask such questions, how much greater does that make our responsibility to investigate this area and pass that knowledge on, before it's too late?

This post originally appeared on BigBible.org.uk as part of the #digidisciple series. For more info or to become a #DigiDisciple, contact @DrBexL

Thinking about God on trains

20120414-114802.jpg I spend A LOT of time on trains. I know I am obviously not the only one. I accept that. But I do spend a LOT of time on trains. On average around 16 hours a week (including tube and train travel). That's a lot.

That's 832 hours a year.

If I were to commute to London as I do now from the suburbs, for the rest of my working life that would be a whopping 36,608 hours!

Even if you are stripping out delays, travel at weekends, trips abroad and up the country and the hours spent going literally no where freezing my ambitions, work ethic, moral and bottom to pieces awaiting a mythical South West Train to emerge on the horizon - spending the equivalent of just over 4 years of your life commuting could to some seem somewhat depressing.

So. A lot of time waiting for, on or around trains.

I am also not the first to lament the interesting, somewhat spiritual nature of Mr Louis Stevenson's creative transportation tool. Philip Larkin was fond of train travel, it was on the long Hals up to Hull where he managed the university Library, that he joule often write his poetry, and some of his best - in particular his observations of different nuptial parties making revelry and dancing at each passing station in the somewhat somber stanzas on The Whitsun Weddings.

I, like Larkin, and the railroaders of the southern states in the 1920s have always found something romantic about good, long winding journeys through the countryside, it's often when my thoughts turn to God, to his creation, to the sense in which we are all on a far greater journey, one that has no rails, but many stations, few passengers yet packed with metaphors.

Of course all too often the joy of such journeys are now, for me at least, harder to come by. All those hours on the tracks are much more likely to be experienced accosted under the armpit of a fellow rat racer or slung deep underground surrounded by tourists more concerned about the nearest McDonalds than what the creator of the universe might be up to that afternoon. But at least, every once in a while, daylight prevails, the fog at the edge of the mind clears and we hear the still small voice of the true conductor whisper to us in even these, hectic moments of the day.

It doesn't happen half as often in the UK nowadays, for one parishioner to turn to another and utter the sentence, which for many Christians may land like a sucker punch to the gut "how is your journey with the Lord going?". At least I know I can always say, well we really enjoyed the 7:38 to Waterloo this morning.

Looking for better blogging

When I originally started this blog under the title of Sunday Latte Lamentations, it was always meant as a little outlet. Somewhere for me to stow away my thoughts on the meaning of 42 and the secret to the universe. A place for contemplation, removal from the bustle of the day to day, and to frankly practice getting better at writing.

To most ends in the early days it served that purpose. And in some aspects continues to do so now. However a number of changes have happened recently which is giving me second thoughts about how best to continue to document these thoughts and feelings.

I am not about to write off (pun intended) the written word. I love words, I love writing, I love seeing language on a page take form, be that a physical or digital one for that matter. So it's not about saying that writing and reading are not for me. However time, editing, posting and frankly taking time to form a coherent argument can be somewhat cumbersome when you are writing online. Time is of the essence, and impact is important too.

What was once a pursuit of self exploration has transformed into an outlet of sharing thoughts and ideas for the benefit of others. There are many unwritten posts sat in my Evernote account, Day One journal and Wordpress Dash that never made it out into the open because I got too concerned with them being "good enough".

Of course good enough is a fairly odd concept when one writes supposedly for the pleasure of it, for an audience he is not really able to pin down or frame in many ways and for whom an editor is a figment of a somewhat over stretched imagination. So it does beg the question, why not post any old drivel anyway?

Well of course if you are reading this then you are a member of that audience, someone who has spared even a few minutes to absorb this little ditty, and so I suppose that question is one for you to answer not me. Why not? Will you think less of me for posting stuff that is not quite as good? Would you come back even though not every morsel set before you here is of Pulitzer winning standard? Sure you might. Equally you might not, and who is to say you should.

It's these thoughts (and certainly they are thoughts without conclusions as is probably by is point becoming painfully clear) that maybe other formats and outlets are a better for oral least should be considered.

I have a slight trouble buried deep in my soul with the idea of filming myself drivel on - about really any given subject. Audio may work better for, the radio background and the tranquility of the spoken word sits far better with me, but do people really to audio files they find strewn across the garbage heap of the web?

In the age where I among others have constantly banged on about content being king, maybe the better question is what type of content? And by content do we really mean knowledge and wisdom or the more McCluhanist thinking of mediums being the true message?

This post isn't brilliant is it... But maybe it's good enough. And maybe you will be good enough to share your thoughts below. Remember - I won't judge you.

Learning to do what comes naturally... first & the death of email

I don't really think I'm one much for a morning routine. Sure I get up roughly the same time most mornings (depressingly around 6:35 - but we set the clock 15 minutes fast (6:50) so it is less of a shock to the system... ask @HollyPoulter), the day doesn't get started until the first cup of coffee and sometimes the second, and most mornings are kickstarted by something to get the creative juices flowing.

For me it's podcasts. I studied radio production, ran a podcast production outfit and worked on a few shows for stations, and still find the spoken word the best way of sparking new thoughts. Whether its something deep and complex, or heartfelt and warming or just plain fun - the shows that course through my earbuds in the morning are what set my mind alight with new concoctions, ideas and projects for the day ahead. (See below for some podcast recommendations).

The problem with this form of early morning mental stimulation is the activities that I snared by through the average working day from the moment my coat comes off in the office. Namely - email.

Now I know several of you share my sentiment about email being the number one productivity killer of modern times, I truly believe it does more damage that Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest combined! But maybe this is only because of the bad habits we have developed with it. For most people, the first thing they do when they sit at their desks (or for those of us cursed with the CrackBerry - when we wake up) is checking email. This may seem logical - but the problem is email is full of inputs - actions that once acknowledged begin to create a backlog of unresolved loops* that our brain begins to want to process. Thus dashing any of the creative musings that were getting going in our heads when we first awake.

One of the sideaffects of working in companies, firms and businesses is that we are inherantly required to disregard the natural physical, emotional and mental cues that our mind, body and spirits give us to do what comes naturally. Now of course this is somewhat necessary convention - as otherwise it is likely that we would never get anything accomplished, but I dare you to follow me in this small change to the way we start our days.

Use the start of the day to be creative. Not productive.

Creative. Not productive.

By learning to do what comes to use naturally first - by starting the day not with a to-do list but with the act of putting fingers to keyboards, pen to paper or lips to words we may just find we spend a lot less time trying to be creative, and a lot more time actually creating the things we so long to see come to fruition.

So start today with what comes naturally - embrace it, feel it, let it mold you - and maybe, just maybe - leave the email till 10:30.

Podcast Inspiration

*See David Allen's fantastic "Getting Things Done" for more on loops

Submerged - #LikeMinds 2011 Series

Today some of the most creative and forward thinking people in the UK will descend on sunny Exeter in preparation for tomorrow's annual gathering of the #LikeMinds conference.

Ahead of my talk on Friday morning I thought I would give you a little preview and invite some feedback on a poem I have written for the occasion, which (depending on your feedback) I am thinking of using as my opener.

In a year that has truly seen social media, the recommendation economy and technology make the headlines this is a little reflection on how I still feel we need to strive to truly be US in the digital space. As my friend Bex always says - what we do online is not some 'virtual' world - we are people on a offline. It's all about perspective isn't it.

Hope you like it - comments welcomed (be gently brutal - Ta).

Submerged

Is news now only what's trending not what rules bankers are bending or what MPs are spending or heartbreaks simple words are mending or crying in the night from voices with no way of fending for themselves

is my truth just what I create or seek to orchestrate like a mad conductor on the run away train of the latest perplexing meme. Or delinquent dream of a different way of thinking - is the extent of my imagination brink-ing? or is it only beginning , seeking to break the 140 character horizon. If so then why do we find ourselves sinking?

drowning in noise whilst searching for a signal drenched in wi-fi & 3G waves hoping to find a single route to what I crave. hoping to link deeper but avoiding any depth. Maybe I need to watch my steps.

Is my over connectedness disconnecting these words from my heart have i been so busy busying that I really failed to start searching for all the answers in all the right places

are my-space's really just books of faces twittering in the silence where no one truly finds. Maybe all I really want is to discover some uniquely - Like Minds.

A lesson in passion and precision @DeptofCoffee

As someone who generally doesn't get bogged down in the nitty gritty (a typical Meyers Briggs "creative" type) I am not often drawn to the science or the methodology of my day to day existence. I don't spend hours pouring over data to find the gem, and I don't care to much attention to detail (if you've read this blog for any length of time you already know my spelling and grammar wouldn't pass the first round of 3rd year spelling bee). However this rule, like all rules has it's one exception, and for me that is food. I care a lot about food. I tend to think I generally am a lot more interested in eating than the general man on the street, and particularly so when it comes to a good cup of coffee.

Passion and precision

I spent most of last night with Chris and Tim at The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Leather Lane, Farringdon, as a guest at "Coffee School" - an initiative run by the store to teach caffeine addicts like myself just a little about the painstaking levels of accuracy and science that go into making a good well bodied espresso. Now not to bog you down in flow rates, brew ratios or how to create the perfect crema - for that I recommend taking the class - what I took away the most from the evening was how we take the most care with the things we care most about.

I can tend to get very VERY bogged down in how a Keynote document looks, how the grill lines on my Turkey steaks are cooked or how finely my milk is "stretched" when making a Flat White, but I don't much care about balancing a budget sheet or making sure that every line of a timesheet is filled out (for the record and if any clients are reading - of course I do these things, I'm just saying I don't feel I want to write home about them!).

Think about what you spend the most time and effort on, is it the things you love or things you would rather someone else did for you? If you are anything like me I am sure it is the former - which means often we can be most negligent about the detail of the things that really don't float our boat. However, for some people, making sure all the graphs are going in the same direction or spending hours to find that golden statistic is what they crave. It's those people we are most likely to rub up the wrong way in the workplace, the church or even the home!

Passions and pulls

I think the biggest reason why we grind one another's gears from time to time is a lack of understanding that one type of person is not lazy because they don't like Gantt charts, or another type of person is not anal because they love a good spreadsheet - it's just a difference of passions and pulls.

If you are experiencing friction with colleagues or loved ones, just take a second to think about is there a difference in passions here, and if there is, seek to find a way of getting passionate about what they are passionate about. In our marriage preparation course (a great course but I testify that nothing can prepare you for it!) I was told "if she's into shopping and Desperate Housewives - GET INTO shopping and desperate housewives!" - similarly my wife was told to "get into the rugby!". Why? Because as hard as you may try to understand what someone is into, or why they are asking you to do something you are never going to get on board unless you are passionate about it!

So they key to taking more care with the things we are not so keen on is caring more about them, to get precise in those things, you need to get passionate.

400 Years: The King James Bible - Still going strong! (Infographic)

It may not be your Bible of choice, but the King James Version has been around the block a few times, and despite the lack of red letter sections, bibliographies or an intensive concordance, it has stood the test of time - 400 years to be precise. To mark the occasion YouVersion, makers of the world's number one Bible app, is challenging people across the globe to simultaneously read the Bible in 400 seconds to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Participants have just 6 minutes, 40 seconds (or 400 minutes) to play their part in history and read one of the most influential and widely read books in human history. Anyone who signs up for the challenge will be instructed to read a small section of the Bible at 5pm on May 2nd, 400 years since the Church of England published the King James Version of the Bible.

To register for the event, participants will need to visit http://youversion.com/kjv400 sign up, and they'll see the scripture they've been allocated to read on the site. They have also put together this very cool infographic - which I share for your statistic addiction pleasure!

Disclaimer: YouVersion is a client of Lexis PR - for whom I work - however as a Christian and avid personal fan of the App I share this with you!