Simon Fowler's Blog

Archive for January, 2012

Zack McLeod meets Tim Tebow on Saturday at the playoffs!

Posted by Simon on January 13, 2012

I wept while reading again the diary, photos and videos about Zack McLeod, whom I’m privileged to know at church.

Three or so years ago Zack suffered a traumatic brain injury on a high-school football field. He’s still recovering but his speech hasn’t returned and he suffered damage to his cognitive and physical abilities; but he still has an unquenchable joy and love of Jesus Christ and other people.

You’ll have to take my word for it that Zack and his mom and dad are the most incredible, courageous, joyful, faith-filled people I’ve ever met. I don’t know the other siblings but I’m guessing they’re made of the same stuff. They’ve suffered in ways I can’t imagine, yet their faith in Christ and their love for others (the two most important markers of Christians: faith expressing itself in love) is humbling and challenging to experience.

Zack has always been a die-hard Denver Broncos fan. He later adopted the Patriots. So I’m guessing tomorrow may be a conflicting day for him! But he’ll be more excited to have been chosen by Tim Tebow’s W15H Foundation to meet Tebow before and after the playoffs on Saturday. We’re praying that it’ll be a great gift for Zack and joy for Zack and his family and friends.

Theological side note:

When Tebow thanks God for his abilities, he’s just doing what all of us – believers or non-believers – should do; be grateful for the gifts, dispositions and opportunities we’ve been given. You don’t believe he’s actually thinking God will intervene in the fourth quarter, or that God will trip the opposition to let him through, do you? I suspect Tebow would find that highly annoying! Going through all that agony and pressure only to have someone else do the final push and get the credit?!

Everyone knows – except 42% of Americans!that a game outcome a) is not God’s primary concern, and b) is impossible to validate/deny as God’s doing. Thanking God, “giving him the glory” is not saying “it’s not me, God did it”. That’s not the kind of ‘credit’ one gives God. If it is, what’s the point of me? Tebow, or Brady, really are throwing that pass, and throwing it that well! It’s them, praise them! But not as though they’re God. Praise God for being God. He is the ultimate source, giver, lover, of all, and so he rightly receives the thanks and praise.

But God almost exclusively works through people, through his creation. God’s glory is shown, not in the gaps, not in the things-we-can’t-otherwise-explain, but through his creation doing what it does best and rightly; flowers flowering, seas roaring or lapping, creatures emerging, and humans doing what they can with what they have, with love*, faith and gratitude. The God of Jesus Christ also shows his glory, in an asymmetrical way, through suffering and death, and ultimately resurrection. That’s the uniqueness of Christianity, the way life is, and the way life seems to play out for most of us, including Zack McLeod.

If God has any impact on Tebow’s game it’ll be because his trust in God gives him courage. He knows that life is more than a performance or one game. That’s Tebow’s story, so it seems, from what I’ve read about him. And it’s Zack’s story. Let’s enjoy the game and give thanks and praise for what and to whom it is due.

Hmmm, that was a bit long for a side note.

Updates (some videos):
ABC News

CNN Interview

CBS Denver

*Yes, I know, American football doesn’t exactly look like an expression of love, but that’s for another time!


Posted in Faith | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

One week with zero inbox. How I did it.

Posted by Simon on January 9, 2012

No, srsly! A whole four days of work with the same working people I work with all the time at work working! And my inbox, when I left every night, was at zero! This meant I was not hammered by the worry that comes from not quite knowing which of the 300 emails actually needs an action.

How? A bit of Getting Things Done mindset, “One touch”, and some tools into which to put tasks, information and files.

“One touch”: I read it once, then I do one of the following immediately, then I delete it or file:

  • If it’s part of a chain I delete every prior email in that chain immediately (I don’t know why I ever kept them).
  • If it looks like it requires a reply that day, or I think I can reply that day, I hit ‘reply’, then delete/file, even if I don’t have the answer or information immediately. The open email is then a visible task and I don’t have to go looking for that email I knew I had to reply to.
  • If it requires an action, or can be replied to on a later date, I create a task in Toodledo (giving it a due date, priority, status, project), or I create a calendar entry, then I delete/file.
  • If it contains information I copy the information into evernote and/or (if it’s a web link) into diigo, then delete or file.
  • If it has attachments, I download to desktop and/or dropbox, then delete or detach then file (because of absurdly low limits on corporate Exchange mailbox size).

I have a Dell laptop, an iPad 2 and a Galaxy Nexus (android) and the tools mentioned above allow me to  take those actions on any device: on my laptop when I’m at my desk, on the iPad when I’m in the office but away from my desk (the laptop isn’t very quick or reliable to make ‘mobile’ when it’s in a docking station),  or on my phone when I’m commuting.

A few other notes/tips:

I use Toodledo over Outlook tasks because of all the mobile accessibility, because it’s more geared towards the Getting Things Done methodology, and because its flexibility is easier to work with than Outlook (creating custom fields was okay if you only needed it on your computer).

I use the same naming conventions for my Evernote notebooks as I do for Toodledo folders, which makes it easier to know where things are, although text search on both Evernote and Tooledo are super fast so i rarely need to go searching via folder names.

The tools all have excellent web-based interfaces or apps on Windows, iPad and Android. Most are their own apps but for Toodledo “DGT GTD” (by @gdtale) looks the best ever since GotToDo went off the market.

I tag and label like crazy in Evernote and Toodledo. Though it takes a few extra clicks and a bit more typing (than simply leaving the  email there!) it’s totally worth it for sake of the confidence of knowing what I need to do or where to find stuff.

I hope this is helpful and I welcome questions or suggestions for improving the system. Here’s hoping I can make it two weeks!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention what I did to reduce the number of emails coming in. In one instance I managed to convince Person A to use Google Docs instead of a round-robin email to gather input they wanted from 5 other people. Excepting the emails I sent & received to make this happen I reckon this saved at least 15 emails, at least two from each plus who knows how any chasers.

More importantly it removed a ton of mental load:

  • wondering if or when Persons B-F would respond
  • wondering if they were looking at the latest version
  • having to mess with ugly fw:fw:re: email formatting
  • trying to remember who they were supposed to send it to next
  • wondering if the next Person was getting all antsy waiting for you
  • where the ‘final’ version with everyone’s input and wondering when or who to ask for it

Person A sent an email to Persons B-F (i.e. total 6 people)

Posted in Productivity | 4 Comments »

Want to change the world? Start right where you are.

Posted by Simon on January 6, 2012

In 1990, at the age of 23, I set out on a trip around the world. I was planning on a leisurely ‘sight-seeing’ journey. But God rudely interrupted my life, and as my heart started to change my hike along the Inca trail in Peru was replaced by an uncomfortable two months in a children’s home in El Salvador. The civil war was still raging. Some time later I found myself working with Burmese students and guerrillas in Bangkok, Thailand and at Manerplaw on the Thai/Burma border.

My cosy upbringing and my rose-tinted view of the world (and of myself) was shattered by that year. For the next two or three years, back in the UK at college (I was what is hilariously known as a ‘mature’ student), I wrestled with what to do about it. I didn’t have the benefit of ignorance, and the reality, extent and complexity of the vast problems in the world were too big for me, emotionally and practically. I’d lived with abandoned, abused children. I’d seen people moments after they’d been shot dead. I’d talked to people who’d witnessed or experienced horrendous injustices.  I’d corrected the English of Burmese students writing stories of how “the villager’s legs was were  blown off”. I’d met the Prime Minister-in-exile of Burma, seeing him try to establish a government  in the malaria-ridden jungle on the Thai/Burma border while most of his NLD party members were in prison near Rangoon, Burma. What was I, this one little person, supposed to do with that knowledge?

By the grace of God (for my sanity, and for doable next steps) I came to the conclusion that the minimum I must do is act justly, and seek justice, where I am, in my immediate sphere of influence. If I’m not treating people around me with justice, then what kind of hypocrisy is it to campaign for justice elsewhere? And by people I mean family, friends, business owners, musicians, artists; everyone.

This is isn’t a matter of order – it’s not to say one must fix ones own back yard first – but a matter of integrity.

The closer we get to people, the harder it is to act unjustly, or the more the injustice is exposed for what it is. But if we want to change the world, we have to start where we are. I hope, I pray, that at the very least that’s what I’m doing.

For a story of how a mega-church did that in a declining neighborhood of Indianapolis, read “Before ‘Transforming’ Your Neighborhood, Talk to your neighbors“.

Posted in Directness, RelationalProximity | 3 Comments »

2012: Make more stuff. Watch less. Read less. Do.

Posted by Simon on January 3, 2012

The full text of  Scott Hanselman’s productivity tip is:

Spend 10% of your time consuming and 90% of your time producing. Make more stuff. Watch less. Read less*. Do.

That’s how I want to to live & work in 2012.

This won’t be easy for me. I have ingrained habits of information consumption. And there’s barely a topic in all of reality that doesn’t interest me, so focus is a … oooh! what’s that?!.

But “there’s a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Eccl. 3:1-8). And I’m made in the image of my Creator – and so are you. So I believe, for me, now is the time to build, the time to speak, the time to create, the time to do.

Posted in Productivity | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

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