6 Podcasts for diverse perspectives on current events

How do you get your news?

Most of us don’t really think about it. We turn on the television and get fed whatever the networks think¬†we ought to hear. Podcasts offer a different experience entirely. It’s like stepping back in time, to the era when people used to sit by the radio and listen to¬†news, comedy, and music together each night. However, podcasts give you the added ability to¬†choose¬†the source of your information — and that can be a¬†very valuable thing.

I talk a lot about changing your perspective on this blog, so here are a few of the podcasts I listen to regularly to help me hear about news and current events from several different vantage points.

The Briefing – Albert Mohler

If you want the conservative evangelical perspective on today’s current events, then¬†The Briefing¬†is the place to go. Mohler offers a 20-minute¬†daily¬†podcast covering three or four current issues or events in the news. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, he must be admired for the sheer determination and discipline he has displayed in writing out (he reads his podcasts from a script) a 2,000-word summary of relevant news events, every day, for the past several years.

The Ezra Klein Show – Ezra Klein

If you want a perspective that is clearly,¬†undeniably¬†from the other end of the political spectrum, please listen to Ezra Klein. Again, though you may not agree with everything he says, there is plenty of reason to respect Klein — Klein, for his ability to put together interview after interview with prominent political personalities. Especially good was his¬†interview with Brian Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Here’s the Thing – Alec Baldwin

If you’re like me, and you watched the NBC sitcom¬†30 Rock¬†at all, then it’s hard to listen to Alec Baldwin’s voice for any length of time without breaking into laughter. That’s a compliment, not an insult — he may be one of the funniest actors I’ve ever watched. But this podcast is good — especially for it’s interviews with some great singers and musicians from the 20th century. If you want to check it out, listen to this¬†incredible interview with the great American singer/songwriter¬†Gordon Lightfoot.

Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell

What can I say? This may truly¬†be one of the greatest podcasts ever produced. If you’ve¬†read¬†Outliers,¬†David and Goliath,¬†The Tipping Point, or any of¬†Gladwell’s other books, you¬†know that¬†Gladwell can put together facts like no one else on earth to make you truly understand trends and events from a¬†new perspective. Please listen to the unbelievable story of Brown v. Board of Education from a surprising angle in the episode “Mrs. Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment“.

The Robcast – Rob Bell

It is important to listen to people, even if you don’t agree with everything they say. As I near the end, I’m going to recommend Bell’s podcast for his positive message and his committment to¬†keep communicating.¬†Bell offers a very good treatment of The Sermon on the Mount and tackles something he calls “The Lie of Redemptive Violence” — and it is worth listening to.

Gospel in Life – Tim Keller

And as we end the list, it wouldn’t be complete without Tim Keller. For foundational truth, there is nowhere better to turn but here. It is primarily sermons, as Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan, but the length of each episode is generally shorter than Klein, Gladwell, or Bell — about 40 minutes. I have episodes that I will listen to over and over again. If you’ve never listened to Keller, here’s a good place to start: “Absolutism: Don’t we all have to find truth for ourselves?”

 

 

The Manipulation Behind the Millennial Myth

I wrote at length about what I call the Millennial Myth yesterday and how feeding the myth is destructive to our relationships and culture. Today, I was able to find the above video, which captured the essence of my point very clearly.

Here’s the main thing I want to take out of the video: for decades, Americans have been operating based on this chart:

Every 25 years or so represents a new generation, and there are 4 generations,¬†in general,¬†that are alive and entering adulthood right now. This is the conventional wisdom that we have all grown up with, and it’s perfectly normal to hear Gen-Xers complain about Millennials in their workplace, or Baby Boomers talk about how everything was different for their generation, and so on.

The truth is that generations are a myth.

While we all have been told that the above chart is relevant and helpful, we all actually should have been operating with this chart in mind:

The truth is that there are just people — not generations.

There are people around us, and some are young, and some are older than us, and as we live, work, and play we interact with them. That’s it. That’s the truth.

Why is this more true than the Generational Myth?

  • The Generational Myth tells us that Millennials are flighty and frivolous with their¬†money, but actual research reveals the opposite.
  • The Generational Myth told us that Baby Boomers were narcissists (The “me” generation), and now so-called Baby Boomers tell us that the real narcissists are Millennials.
  • The Generational Myth, when you really get into it, doesn’t actually help us describe anyone any better than if we just relied on actual research. That’s because the Generational Myth isn’t real research — it’s just a marketing tool, and it doesn’t help real people learn about other people in any meaningful way.

If you read about generations and feel resentful or superior, there’s a reason for that.

The generational classifications are made to divide people into groups. In order for people to accept the classifications, two elements must be apparent: the majority of each group must:

  • identify in some way with the description of their group, and
  • be content with how they are different from the other groups.

The Generational Myth promotes feelings of how we are better than other groups. This is called superiority. 

The Generational Myth also promotes resentment, because it highlights things we don’t like about people who are older or younger than us.

The Generational Myth also leaves people feeling unaccounted for, if they feel they don’t identify with the description of their group. These people can feel a little superior or a little resentful of their group.

What can you do with people who are resentful or superior?

TELL THEM THINGS!

Once a common enemy is well defined, it is possible to spread messages across groups of people. Now, we might not think of Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers as enemies, but in each generation, there is an obvious message to rally around: we are us! We are not them! And people like us believe this!

SELL THEM THINGS!

This is obvious. Kurt Cobain wrote music that was resentful and individualistic, and people who were resentful and individualistic bought it. Now, Cobain was an honest artist, but marketers didn’t take long to catch on to his popularity and were able to sell a lot of things to a lot of people based on the fact that they all wanted to buck authority.

So if you seem to be alienating another generation, the best thing to do is to quit seeing them as a generation!

Just try to think of them as people, and ask yourself, “What are we doing (or not doing) that may make it hard for some people to identify with us?”

People — not Millennials, not Baby Boomers, not Gen-Xers — are the key.

 

 

 

 

 

A new perspective on your smart phone: lose it.

When I bought my last phone, I did very little research. I had heard that Apple had just launched a new model called the iPhone SE, and I knew it was for me. See, the iPhone 5 had been my first real smart phone, and I loved it. So when it finally began to slow down, I knew that I didn’t want a different experience — I just really wanted to have a new version of my old phone. And since the SE was the same shape and size as my old 5, I knew that’s what I wanted.

Tragedy on the tram

For the past year and a half, that phone has been perfect for me. I have used it constantly, for blog posts, Instagram, Facebook… until this past week. That’s because as I got on the tram in Sarajevo last Monday, someone reached in my pocket, pulled my phone out, and ran.

That’s right, pickpocketed on a tram.

In 14 years of using the trams and buses in Sarajevo, it had never happened to me, until now. By the time I realized what had happened, we were already a few minutes down the tram line. It was too late. Bye bye, phone.

A bad experience

The past week has been quiet. Getting a new cell phone was no problem; a colleague almost immediately gave me a sleek new LG candy bar phone. It has all the latest features — from about 15 years ago. You can listen to FM radio on it (if you have the special headphones that work with this phone…) and play “Snake” all day long.

So instead of being a constant magnet for attention, the phone has mostly stayed in my pocket.

When you have a bad experience, sometimes you have to force yourself to look at it from a different perspective.

I was upset initially, but I have tried not to be in the days following the incident. And my experience hasn’t actually been that bad. There are a few things I haven’t been able to do, which are annoying:

  • I haven’t been able to answer random trivial questions with a quick Google search.¬†
  • I haven’t been able to use Google Translate on the go.
  • I don’t get emails or messages until I am able to open my laptop.¬†

But what have I gained out of this new arrangement? Let’s see…

  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I have to look at people.¬†I have to make eye contact. I can’t just sit and look down at my phone when I want to disengage.
  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I have to spend more time playing with my children.¬†This isn’t a fairy tale: we aren’t suddenly spending days at Disney Land or taking father-son fishing trips. But when the kids say, “I want to wrestle!” I can’t look down at my phone and just say, “I’m busy.”
  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I have gained “message-free” time.¬†Before, I was pretty well-connected. My wife would constantly send me messages, I had a pretty involved group message that I would spend time on regularly, and I had friends from back home who wanted to chat. Now, that all must wait for the times when I am sitting at my laptop.
  • Because I don’t have a smart phone, I gained some peace of mind.¬†I no longer carry anything of value, now that I don’t have a smart phone. So, on a tram or bus, when a pickpocketer is looking for his next take, I’m not a target.

Has my quality of life suffered? Not really.

My life may have slowed down a little because I no longer have my phone, but I don’t think I’ve really suffered as a result. I have to look people in the eyes, I have to get down on the ground and wrestle with my kids, and I have fewer distractions. Sometimes, you need a shock to your routine — it might just be for the best.

Get more from The Bosnia Project

Leave an email address so we can continue the conversation. You’ll get updates and free stuff as it comes, about once a week. I don’t share this information with anyone; this is solely so I can better connect with you as a reader here at the blog.

3 ingredients for turning defeat into victory

I’ve been a Falcons fan for as long as I can remember. When the Superbowls came each year, I’d always just pick the team with the best jerseys or the player that I liked the most; I never could find the will to really truly pull for a team from another city. And then this year came. This was the year. All the other teams (well, almost all) had had their time; this was going to be our time.

Then it happened. Defeat. It still hurts to talk about, and I’m just a fan. For the players, it must hurt on another level. It’s hard to go on — to get back into the game and try again. You just want time to stand still for a while, so you can just go hide and not have to face that situation again.

Put yourself in that situation.

We’ve all probably had a similar experience. Mine was at an old job. My boss called me into his office one day.

“Yeah… it’s not really working out for you here like we thought it would,” he said.

I can still remember going home and kind of curling up on the couch next to my wife and saying, “I don’t want to go back there.” I was defeated.

How did it turn out?

Two years later, I went into the same boss’s office to tell him I was leaving. He had given me three raises and a good deal more responsibility over the past two years. Things had changed. He sat back in his chair, took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes. He called his wife into the room (this was a small company).

“Are you¬†sure?” He said.

“We were thinking you’d be a candidate for long-term management.”¬†

“Sorry,” I said. “The decision has been made.”

How do you take a bad situation and turn it around?

Looking at that situation from my current perspective, I can see it as a growing experience. I can see the things I should have done in the beginning, and how I started to change things, and I can understand how I moved forward.¬†But when you are in the middle of those situations, it’s usually really, really hard to see how they can ever be changed.¬†

So here are a few things that I can see now, now that I have been able to put some distance between myself and that experience.

This too shall pass.

I can remember sitting on that couch, feeling worthless. I didn’t want to go back to that office, see those people again, because I didn’t see how I would ever get out from under the failures of that day. But the truth was that that situation would eventually be but a distant memory — a minuscule¬†drop of the vast sea of experiences of life.

As it was, I went back into work the next day, and I kept on trying, even though I didn’t really understand why. This understanding would’ve given me more motivation.

You can come back from anything.

I believe in redemption; I believe in reconciliation. I believe in it in all circumstances, in relationships, in work, in play. The first thing that is necessary in¬†coming back and seeking redemption is to admit one’s failures. If you can admit to yourself, and to other relevant people, that you failed and you want to make things right, you can come back from any situation, and emerge stronger than before.

Only a few things truly matter.

There are only a few things that are of ultimate importance and you have to decide what those things are. The placement of one’s desk, a nice expense account, the office pecking order, a company car, social status in the workplace — these are things that people spend lots of money on, and lose a lot of sleep over, but ultimately, at the end of one’s life, won’t matter a whole lot. When you have that perspective on your circumstances, it brings a lot of clarity to the question of what to do next.

So what do you do next?

Remember that all circumstances will eventually come to an end.  If you lose sleep, lose sleep over the things that truly matter, and let everything else sort itself out. And make a decision that you can come back from anything. That is how you can turn defeat into success.

Get more from The Bosnia Project

Leave an email address so we can continue the conversation. You’ll get updates and free stuff as it comes, about once a week. I don’t share this information with anyone; this is solely so I can better connect with you as a reader here at the blog.

Get yourself on TV. I did.

You really must read this message I got through our Facebook page recently.

Dear sir,

I am a fourth year student at the college of human sciences, with my concentration in communications sciences. I am currently working in my internship with City Television station, and we are shooting one episode in which my assignment is the theme of the day. My desire is to do a piece about how foreigners live in Mostar, and I thought that perhaps someone from your organization would be a relevant spokesperson. If you are available tomorrow or Friday to speak with us, I would be much obliged.

Sincerely…

Unfortunately, I was out of town when the message came, so I sent my regrets and said that if I could help when I returned, I would. She contacted me again, through Facebook, and said that we could just do the piece when I returned. Then she called me. Then she sent more messages on Facebook. I should do this thing, I thought, out of respect for her persistence, if for no other reason.

Soon another message came:

Sir,

My colleagues said that we can arrange the shoot for tomorrow. I have seen several times that you ride your bike to your office. I believe that would be an interesting caveat to the piece. Would it be a problem to film you doing that, for example coming to your office or somewhere in town?

Sincerely…

Are these people watching me?

* * *

I agreed, and we met in our town’s square and did the piece. It went on without a hitch. It was a very interesting chance to connect with¬†someone and voice an opinion or two. I had to speak their language, but I think I got my point across.

Sometimes, opportunities fall into your lap.

Honestly, I did nothing to make this whole thing happen. I didn’t go searching for the publicity, and yet an intern from City Television — a station I have never watched — came calling. There is something to be said here for the fact that, especially if you are watching for it, life occasionally presents you with opportunities that you would never search for.

Being in the right place at the right time is a big part of life.

But getting the opportunities is only half of the story — you have to be in a¬†position to use them. And¬†in our line of work,¬†that¬†is the story that matters: how you use the opportunities you have been given.

Reputation. Values. Character. Those are the keys that unlock this puzzle.

Even when you have the keys, the puzzle is still a puzzle. You’ve got to be in the right place to hear your calling. But one thing is for sure — you can’t get to that place if you have a bad reputation among the people you are trying to reach. And you won’t get that good reputation unless you have strong values. And you won’t arrive at decent values without team members who possess strong¬†character.

What are we doing to get to that place? How can we press onward toward the reputation, values, and character that God wants for us?

Answering these questions will bring us closer to the place where we can be ready to have an impact and make lasting change.

The importance of a good reputation, revisited

From time to time, I’ve written here about the importance of having and building a good reputation in the community where one works. Whether one is in a small town or in the capital city, having a good reputation will¬†bring opportunities that would be otherwise impossible. In our work, two things happened this week that, hopefully, are signs that the work we’ve done to build a reputation is paying off.

Becoming known as capable

The first thing that happened was completely unexpected, and is not something we normally go out looking for. A student from the local law school’s student organization contacted us, asking if we would be interested in teaching an English class for law students, organized completely by them. They have a need for someone who can come and help them learn some legal terms, but they don’t have the means to pay a professor or certified instructor, and so they turned to us, on the basis of the classes we have already been offering.

What an opportunity — one that we would never have gotten, had we not first done the work of putting on English classes for students in the first place. In our effort to provide a service to students, and because we sought to do a decent job, we have become known as a¬†group capable of providing that service.

Becoming known as compassionate

The second thing that happened takes us in a different direction, and is no less special. After we announced our efforts to collect clothes ahead of Christmas, I was contacted by a student from a nearby town, asking about it. She said she had read about it in the newspaper. 

Now, this still has me a little bit confused, but apparently, someone who¬†was involved in one of our events works for the local newspaper. I was able to find the paragraph they wrote — it was pulled directly from our group’s Facebook page, nearly word for word.

What do we want to be known for?

I think there is so much to learn here. Here are just a couple of things

  • Compassion and competence¬†are two things that are contagious — when people see them, they just want more! I would not say we have been big promoters of ourselves, but somehow news has managed to get out, without our knowledge. Fortunately, we have been serving people well in our community, and people¬†have begun to ask us to do more.
  • You are always building something with your time.¬†At times it has been impossible to see the pieces coming together, but over the past year and a half we have managed to be noticed for doing some positive things. The reputation, up to now, was built whether we noticed or not — and now has provided some¬†things we can be happy about.

What now? We thank God, and we trust him to provide us with the time and skills to do these things he has entrusted to us.

How a minister used Facebook to get 100 people to show up for an event. TWICE.

Usually, when it comes to getting people to show up to an event, one thinks of things like fliers, posters, word-of-mouth, and telephone calls.

However, in our last year¬†here in Mostar, we’ve had 2 events attended by 100+ people, an English course with about 50 people, and we’ve hung 0 posters, handed out 0 fliers, and spent less than $40 in advertizing. How did we do it?¬†We used social media. This is the story of what we did.

We are not social media experts.

I am a minister. I still was able to use Facebook to get 50 students to come to an English class, and over 200 students to come to two seminars in the space of 12 months —¬†with no pre-existing following. In other words, on October 1, 2015 (roughly 1 year ago), we had a Facebook page with about 30 likes and no friends in our city.

This was a lot of work, and took a lot of time.

When I say that we promoted our events on Facebook, lots of people respond, “Oh, I don’t have time for that.” To that I would simply ask, “why do you believe you have time to shake hands with hundreds of people you don’t know, hang up posters that will probably be covered up tomorrow by¬†an ad for a concert, and hand out thousands of flyers that will end up all over the sidewalk?” Save the trees! Use social media!

How to think about Facebook

There are a couple of concepts that govern our thinking about Facebook events.

Think in terms of tribes.

When people waste time on Facebook (if they’re not just watching stupid cat videos), chances are they are reading or watching something posted by a page they follow. They do this because, in social media speak, because they have joined that page’s “tribe“.¬†We wanted to get people to join our tribe.

Surveying the landscape on Facebook, we could see that there were several tribes already existing in our city. There was the Student Union’s page, with their 2,000 followers, and various other student organizations, each with hundreds of followers.¬†We knew that our job, if we wanted to succeed, was to somehow connect ourselves to¬†these tribes. So we went straight to the top.

Our goal was to meet the tribe leaders.

handshake

If you meet tribe leaders and show them that your organization can be beneficial to their tribe, they will share your events and content with their followers. The currency of social media is the social share, and the way to earn shares is through building real relationships.

  • We found the¬†tribes by simply searching for things on Facebook related to our audience — in our case, university students.
  • We used the phone numbers posted on these Facebook pages to contact the¬†owners of these Facebook pages. We scheduled a meeting to tell them who we are and what we do for their students. We didn’t mention our events at first.

Get tribe leaders to promote your event for you.

Later on, when we were planning our events, we sent a nice Facebook message to these people, with a link to our Facebook event, asking them to share the event with their followers. They all obliged.

They RSVPed to our event, and then posted our event to the wall of their Facebook page. So instead of their tribe getting invited by us, they were invited by the leader of the tribe.

We created a Facebook event.

If you’re having a real event, you¬†must¬†create a Facebook event. Don’t try some other method — Facebook has “Events“. Use it.

We offered a reward that people need.

Usually, people need some kind of reward in order to generate excitement. In our case, we were organizing academic seminars, and we offered a certificate of participation, and mentioned it in the Facebook event description. Everyone wants something for their resume.

We used an additional sign-up form, off Facebook.

create_events_tickets_link

It’s hard to keep track of the guest list through Facebook, but you can specify a link to “buy tickets” on a Facebook event. So, since our event was free, we created an additional sign-up form and pointed the tickets link to our form. We used Google Forms. This way, we had a spreadsheet of all the people who were intent on coming.

We posted and shared content every day.

We knew that we were competing with everything else that people follow on Facebook, so we had to produce content that our new followers wanted to see, and we had to do it often. We figured out how to schedule posts, so that we could work more efficiently.

  • We shared articles from news websites that applied directly to our event’s¬†theme.
  • We shared biographical information about our event’s speakers.
  • We shared¬†quizes and polls related to our event’s theme.

We answered messages immediately.

facebook-messages

Facebook tells people how quickly you usually answer messages, so we did our best to answer every single message, and answer it quickly. Posting content and answering messages quickly builds trust, and also helps to build a sense of anticipation among your tribe.

We used our website to promote the Facebook event.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-11-10-15

Our local organization has a blog, and we posted an article on it, promoting our Facebook event. We sent the article around to a few other student groups, and managed to get a few people to share the article, so that more people could see what we were doing.

We hosted a great event!

With 200 students registered for our last seminar in October, we didn’t know exactly how many would show up. About 115 ended up coming, and we had a great day. The speakers did a great job, and the students were pleased.

The moral of the story is that anyone can do this, if they understand their audience. We are no longer in the age when having a successful event means passing out paper fliers, hanging posters, and walking up to people on the street. That age has passed away; a new age has come. Use social media and have a successful event!

 

 

 

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout: Social Media and Discretion

pigs

In the past day I was the target of 2 verbal jabs from people on Social Media. The first was a¬†statement about “people” who write about “being what you are” not having a clue, and the second was a claim that I “must not be a Christian”.

Now, you can like my writing or not — you are entitled to your own opinions, and I have no problems with someone disagreeing with something I’ve said. I didn’t expect for everyone to agree with me when I started this blog. But something about these statements went beyond mere disagreement. These were personal attacks.

Which came first?

I was surprised. The incidents were unrelated, isolated. But they reminded me of a conversation I had just the other day with my wife, during the long drive back from Budapest. Seeing all kinds of sharp statements on social media, we were contemplating a sort of chick-and-egg question:

Has social media actually made people more spiteful and hateful, or did it simply unmask an evil contempt for others that already existed in all of us?

I agree with the latter statement, and that is in general how I view most things. The actual action is not really the problem; it just exposed the problem that already existed.

However, there are good people who fall on the other side, and they are entitled to their opinions. Some people believe that social media is bad, and while I disagree, I don’t blame them for coming to that conclusion.

Warts and all

It seems to me that saying social media is bad is the equivalent of saying that society would be better off without it. But I can’t help but think that people would still have the same thoughts in their heads, regardless of whether they had an¬†outlet for them.¬†Social media simply allows us to¬†see ourselves for what we are.

That accurate picture includes flaws and warts — not just the parts that we want people to see. That which can’t be seen (or heard) goes without reproof. And real progress will never be realized if we never see the problems that exist.

And if we can see our problems and don’t have the will to fix them, then we never were all that advanced in the first place.¬†

Our “world” society has many problems. If you want to make an impact in this world, take your pick — there is so much darkness that needs to be illuminated. If that means that you are to go to some far corner of the earth and free slaves, then so be it. But if it means that means¬†being a voice for change at your own dinner table, then do that as well.