Last Minute Gift For Every Adult You Know

My wife struck the jackpot on my birthday last month. She got me two books that, having read them, have gone on my all-time favorites list. These two books belong under every tree this Christmas.

Read my review of The Reading Promise here. 

The second one, Creativity, Inc., caught my eye in a Barnes and Noble earlier this year. It was sitting on the New Releases display that you see behind the tacky Nook stand. I did a double-take on it because I thought I saw – 71azko7m6+L._SL1500_

Yep, I saw Buzz Lightyear’s silhouette, taking Mickey Mouse’s place as a composer. Being a hopeless Pixar fanatic, I rushed right to it and made a note to put it on my birthday wish list.

Businesspeople, managers, supervisors, artists, writers, creative-types, each and every one, take note:


It is written by Ed Catmull, the president and cofounder of Pixar Animation Studios.

If I were to start picking out highlights from this book to share with you, I might as well just start copying the whole thing word for word in this post, and I don’t think WordPress would give me that much space to write.

Pixar Animation Studios is more than a company that consecutively makes the world’s most beloved movies, it is a corporation, a business. And it is a business run well.

As you read through the founding of Pixar, you’ll begin to realize that just as Steve Jobs completely reinvented personal technology, and John Lasseter revived the animation world, Catmull has reimagined – and put into practice – the way business is run.

This isn’t our grandfather’s suit-and-tie world anymore. This is a world where leaders and organizers need to be open to good ideas coming from anywhere.

If you’re like me and you’re more of the creative persuasion, whether you write or draw, this book is equally for you as well. I will be returning to this book often for inspiration about the grueling and relentless process of storytelling and how to persevere. If you draw, you’ll learn new ways to gain inspiration for your craft.

And if you’re just a Pixar buff, you’ll find loads and loads of fun facts and information about Pixar you can’t find anywhere else. And as a special treat, Catmull invites his readers into a meeting where he records a particular exchange in a meeting about Pixar’s upcoming movie, Inside Out, and also gives us a peek in the future about where Pixar is headed.

Don’t think about it. Just get this book, wrap it up, and I absolutely promise you that the receiver will thank you long after he or she has read it. And then ask to borrow it and read it yourself.

And pick up my ebook, I Am the Lion while you’re at it.

Why Booksellers and Publishers Shouldn’t Target Audiences

As an author, when you submit your book proposal or final manuscript to a publisher one of the first questions you are asked is: “What is your target audience?”
This seems to me to be backwards, and I hope one day the flaw in this scheme is realized by publishers and agents before it’s too late.
Allow me to explain.
When The Hunger Games was a new and hot read, I’d walk into Barnes and Noble and see elderly people sitting up in the cafe reading these teen-geared books.
I can only name a number of adults on one hand who have not read the Harry Potter books.
My wife and I are in our 30’s and collectively, our favorite book genres are kids and teen books. Very rarely, if ever, do we browse through the general fiction section of a book store.
Movies, unlike books, don’t target just particular audiences, and exclude the rest of the world. They target, for the most part, everyone.
When The Lord of the Rings movies came out, they didn’t just advertise the series to sci-fi/fantasy fanatics at comic conventions. Turns out, it wasn’t only sic-fi nerds that reveled in the franchise, but everybody from kids to grown-ups, men and women.
Almost everyone watches Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks movies, even if kids aren’t present.
I think books, to gain a wider readership, need to be categorized as movies are, by rating (G, PG, PG-13, and R). Let’s face it, there are some PG-13 rated books in the kids section and R rated books in the teen section and G rated books in the general fiction section.
Why can’t R.L. Stine be on the same shelf as Stephen King? And then, if you read the back of the book, there’s a rating on it like at the movie store (remember those?): Suitable for readers uder 13.
I don’t like books being so exclusive. One of my favorite books of all time is Little Women, yet publishers wouldn’t ever dream of marketing that book to me.
What do you think on this subject? I mean, I get separating history books from computer books, but fiction? Just put the appropriate parental warnings on the back and we’ll call it even.
I’m tired of Barnes and Noble deciding what books would be best for me, because quite frankly, they’re usually wrong.

How to Tip


Most of us have worked a job serving tables, delivering food, or some sort of unglorified job where paying our bills relies almost completely on the generosity of others.

But then there are many who have been lucky enough to avoid such vocations. Thus, there are people who have no idea that their servers and delivery drivers only make about $2.15 an hour, depending on the state and restaurant.

So the tip you leave them is not additional money on top of a significant salary. It literally goes to paying their bills, maintaining their car, taking care of their children, getting their loved ones Christmas presents, etc.

So I’ve compiled a few steps that I follow when leaving a tip for someone at a restaurant. Yes, I really do keep all of these factors in mind every time I go out, and I think if you do the same, you’ll make your servers much happier.


1. NEVER discriminate – We all have a group of people we secretly look down on. And sometimes we make assumptions as to how they’ll spend their tip money. Folks, I don’t care if your server speaks little English, and wears rainbow feathers in his hair, worships golden calfs, and has a “Carter for President” sticker on his car, you still treat him/her like a human being who has served you your meal.

2. Be the most memorable customer – You can be the most memorable customer by bringing a smile or a scowl on your server’s face when they cash out at the end of the night. Strive to be the customer that was worth your server’s time. Remember: You very well could have taken the place of someone who might have tipped much, much more. Out-tip that guy. 

3. ALWAYS take tipping into account BEFORE you go out – If you’re considering going out to eat or ordering food to be delivered, always count your money to make sure you have enough for a tip. Never think, Our bill will be about $20. I’ve got about 21 bucks, so I’m good to go. No. You have enough to run to the grocery store and grab some stuff to make your own meal. Don’t ever fail to consider leaving a tip for your server.

SO… What Do I Tip? 

Let’s face it. I’m a writer, so the other side of my brain is practically dead. I can’t add 10% or 20% for beans. So for my math-dead friends, I’ve created a very simple guideline to follow.

Let’s take a bill of $45.

Look at the first digit: 4.

Double it: That makes 8

Look at the next digit: 5.

When the second digit is 5 or greater, you add $2, because it’s a 2-digit number. When it’s 4 or lower, just add $1.

So a tip for a $45 bill would be $10.

BUT $10 is just a guideline. Now you take into consideration how the service was. Did the server make sure your glasses were full? Did they take care of you? If they messed up, were they apologetic? Did they do their job well?

Feel free to add a few dollars in relation to their service. But if the restaurant was practically empty and you hardly ever saw your server, or they were hanging out in the server’s station on their cell phone, then feel free to deduct a couple of dollars. Since you’re deducting from a $10 tip rather than a $4 tip, you’re still being more than fair by leaving more than they deserve. NEVER leave $0. That’s just being a complete jerk.

Let’s try another one.

A bill of $23. Double the first digit: 4. The second digit is below 5, so add a dollar. Adjust the $5 or keep it the same according to the service you received.

A bill of $149. Double the first two digits: 28. Since there are three digits total, and the last number is 5 or greater, add three dollars (since there’s three digits total). There’s a $31 tip for your server to adjust accordingly.

Remember: If you can’t afford a tip, you can’t afford the bill. Sarabeth and I go out to eat very sparingly because we’d like to be able to leave a generous tip.

Oh, and to my Christian brothers and sisters, let’s not forget that we are to be the most generous people in the world. So we should always be out-tipping the last guy, no matter how small our bill is.

Please Buy My Movies


This picture on your left, these are the movies we’re keeping.

[A link to the ones we’re selling is at the bottom of this page. There are plenty to go around.]

Let me rewind.

I’ve always taken pride in my movie collections. This dates all the way back to VHS tapes when the Disney movies were more special because they’re the only ones that came in those cool rubber-smelling white cases, setting them apart from the cardboard sleeves every other movie came in.

Remember those? Yeah, they were so cool!

And alphabetizing! I love alphabetizing! When Boo knocks down Mike Wazowski’s CD’s in Monster’s Inc., I  always feel his pain because “Those were alphabetized!”

Well, as the title of my blog suggests, we’re trying to adopt a kid. We’ve got our first case study scheduled for early next month (Yeah! Progress!) and our front bedroom – soon to be our kid’s room – is a complete disaster. Check out Sarabeth’s blog post for more gruesome details on that.

One thing that’s taken up most space in our loft is movies. I was a much bigger movie buff as a bachelor than I am now – so a whopping collection of unneeded movies was part of the baggage I carried into our marriage. There are just too many that I wouldn’t care for our kids to ever come across (like The Punisher or Austin Powers in Goldmemberremember, folks: baggage), or that we just will never be bored enough to watch again (Look Who’s Talking and What About Bob?).

Well, to help create more space, we decided to get rid of the cases and just put the discs in CD holders.


Sarabeth’s only been suggesting this for months.

You might as well get rid of the movies, then, right? I mean, half the fun is displaying them for everyone to see, if not for a change of interior color, then they can serve as a great conversation starter for guests.

But ultimately, Sarabeth’s approach made the most sense. I mean, adoption requires some sacrifice, right?

So yesterday, I supressed my pain and just went at it without thinking. I alphabetized over 400 DVD discs and tossed their beautiful, colorful cases in the dumpster.

And I got to thinking.

The Christian life is like that a little, isn’t it? I mean, we’re all DVD discs in a way. Certainly we’re all well-rounded, right? Not to mention maybe a few scratches on us and a big God-shaped hole in the middle. (Okay, no more jokes.)

But really, we’re full of so much information. We have good moments and bad that we’ll all account for in the end. Our built-in menus are like our mood-changers, and some of us are even fluent in other languages! Some need subtitles to be understood, and others have so many special features and complexities that some therapists don’t even know where to start!

And sometimes we like the way we’ve been packaged. We’re glittery and shiny and colorful on the outside for the world to look at and be drawn to. But there’s no way for us to connect with others but to just stand up next to them, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Not much community going on there.

Until you toss the glittery exterior and make yourself – your true self – vulnerable enough to be packed in a CD case with others. Or packed into a house, or a church, or a community.

Who knows? Maybe a little of the integrity and honor of Saving Private Ryan will rub off on the sometimes sappy Titanic. (I’m not selling those, so don’t bother checking.)

Either way, because I went through the task of stripping down my DVD cases, there’s now more room for toys and a crib in our child’s room.

What will there be more room of when you decide to strip down your own fancy exterior? Who knows? Give it a try, and see what happens.

Help us make room for our child and get rid of some of this stuff by buying our unwanted movies here. (My seller user name is atoy1.) And keep checking back. I’ll be updating it for the next couple of days!

(For some reason, Amazon isn’t letting me sell a few products. I’ve got Full House seasons 1-7 – don’t ask, don’t tell – which I can sell for $15.00 each or $100 for the whole set, and Everybody Loves Raymond seasons 1-5 for $25 each or $110 for the set. Email me at to talk business.)

Our Full Potential

Adam_Sandler_6818Sarabeth and I watched Adam Sandler’s Mr. Deeds last night. I (reluctantly) admit it’s one of the funnier movies in our small comedy collection. Watching it, I kept thinking, What happened, Adam?

As goofy as his movies are, we actually enjoy a small handful of his older ones.

Several years ago, he took a detour from his usual comedy routine and stared in a few dramatic movies, one of them being  Reign Over Me, one of my personal favorite movies. Besides telling a vivid post-9/11 story of pain and honesty in a broken world, it really showcased Sandler’s true talent and potential for what seemed to be the budding of his acting career.

The movie was timely because I, along with many fans, were growing tired of his slapstick hijinks and repeatedly silly antics. His next movie dealt with a serious issue alright, but not in a serious way. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was so offensive and filthy that I literally took a shower after watching just half of it. (It is very, very difficult to offend me.)

He then goes on to make several more silly movies, continuing to refuse to show any depth, and then, just to taunt those of us who would like to support him (if only he’d grow up), he stars in a movie called – of all things – Grown Ups (which scored a whopping 9% approval rating on Rottentomatoes – but don’t worry, that won’t deter Sandler or his producers from hawking out a sequel.)

Needless to say, with the exception of Chuck and Larry, it’s been seven years since I’ve supported or seen anything new by him.

But in that small stint of time between 2004 and 2006, Adam Sandler showed true potential. I’m reminded of my high school days. I scored an A in my Creative Writing class, which prompted my mom to say, “You see? I know you’re capable of getting A’s! This proves it!”

Adam Sandler proved to the world that he was capable of more than just joke repetition, senseless beatings, and fart jokes.

It wasn’t long ago when I said to Sarabeth, “We need some more Leo in our lives.” Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor whose career choices I highly respect and admire. He could have very easily remained as the pretty boy Hollywood made him out to be in his younger days, but instead, he chose to mature with the years. His movie choices are age-related, and aren’t just ones that will keep the girls storming after him like lemmings over a cliff (though, I’m sure they still do that). From Catch Me if You Can to Aviator, he has truly reached and kept his full potential over the years.

What about you?

Are you just sticking with what’s comfortable? Or are you stretching yourself, pushing yourself, to be better in your field, your hobbies, your dreams, your career?

Don’t settle for what you were good at yesterday. Discover what you could be good at tomorrow, and keep pressing forward.

5 Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions

calvin-and-hobbesI mentioned in yesterday’s post that if you feel like you ought to make a resolution this year, then that probably means you need to make a resolution.

But the word resolution is overused and not as heavy as a word I am going to propose in its stead for this post. This year, I plan on making a few New Year’s commitments. But how do you decide if it’s worth it?

You know what I mean… you resolve to lose three pounds a month and it’s December before you even realize you gave up on that back in March. But this year, let’s make deeper commitments than just meager weight loss and less video game time. Let’s examine a structure for how we can set commitments for 2013 and actually keep them.

1. Start Now

If there’s something you know you ought to change, we’ve less than a week before New Years; start today. Get a head start and prove to yourself that you can indeed make this change in your life. Don’t wait till New Years Eve. If you plan on drinking less, start now and persevere through December 31st. That way, when you’re tempted on January 3rd, you can look back and say, “If I can make it then, I can make it now.”

2. Replace, don’t omit

As creatures of worship and busy schedules, it’s not really possible to omit something from your life. We’re all completed puzzles, but if you take a piece out, we’re going to search frantically for something to fill in that missing piece. If you decide you want to play less video games, have something positive to fill in that block of time you usually play games. And make it fun! If you can afford it, go out for coffee during that time. If you’re trying to cut back on your cursing, learn to replace curses with blessings or positive words.

3. Commit to add 

When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we often think of depleting something from our lives, like sugar or bad habits or attitudes, or time spent online or in front of the TV. If you’re like me, you read too much, oft times at the expense of my loved one. So, instead of merely reading less, I am going to try to involve her in my reading more, and propose we read more together. If you watch too much TV, try watching things your kids would rather watch and join them in their interests. Add your loved ones to activities that have become solely about you.

4. Commit to fail

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If I fail once, I throw in the sack. But if I make room for imperfection, then I have a better chance at success in the long run. When I started this blog back in March I never made a commitment to post every single day. I just sort of generalized it by saying I’ll post 2-6 times a week. That’s a pretty big margin for failure if I’m committed to to posting every day. But 2-6 times a week – that’s doable, and it’s worked!  Leave room for imperfection.

5. Commit to achieve 

In exactly one year from this very moment, what do you want to look back on and say you’ve achieved? Want to have that book finally written or published? Want to have that degree in your hand? Want to have a stronger relationship with your spouse? Keep this future moment in mind. Every day. All year. And remember how fast a year goes by. It’s but a breath, so you really have very little time to achieve these goals.

Get a head start and begin today, before the 31st. Replace something bad with something good. Add things to enrich your life. Know your potential and leave room for imperfection. And always have the end in mind and imagine how wonderful it will be to reach it with a job well done.

Please help us achieve our goal to foster-to-adopt in 2013 by purchasing my book here.

[Image Credit]


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