hmm... thoughts

Turning the spigot back on

It’s been a long time coming.

It’s time to get back into writing on a more regular basis. I miss it. And I think maybe you, dear reader, maybe miss me too?

The Youth Cartel

Speaking & Writing update

Forgive the pause in my normal posts to share some life updates.

Speaking & Training

My 2012 speaking/training schedule is now has it’s own page. As far as I know, everything listed there is available for you to register to attend. There are two primary things which seem to be taking off for me in this area.

  1. A Parents Guide to Social Media – This seminar teaches social media principles, goes over relevant laws, and tries to replace fear with fact, principle, and strategy.
  2. Growing Your Business with MailChimp – This is a 2-hour class, more like an interactive training session on all that MailChimp can do for you. (I also do a ministry version, much the same content just geared for ministry communications.)

Obviously, I do a lot more than just these two things. But that’s what is bringing the most interest right now. I’d love to come and speak for you. Just send me an email and we can talk about it. Being a small business owner/entrepreneur– I’m pretty creative when it comes to the payment side of things so darn near anyone can afford me.


Short-form writing has really become my specialty. (500-2000 words) Over the past several years I’ve written lots of blog posts, guest posts, and magazine articles. But I’ve stayed away from books because the idea of 40,000 – 60,000 words scared the crap out of me.

That said, I have two book projects underway in the >15,000 words category.

  1. I’m co-authoring a small book for parents with Marko on social media. (Hence, the seminar above.)
  2. I’m revisiting some of my favorite, most shared blog content and “digitally remastering” it into a beautiful little book on how you and I can become Good News in our neighborhoods.
I’ll let you know when those have official titles, release dates, etc.


I’ve got 2 very creative, very fun, 6-week curriculums in development for high school and college students. (They’d work for middle school too, probably) I’ve got a bit of a manifesto on curriculum and why I’m doing it a certain way, but that’s for another post!

Both of those are coming out this Spring.

I’m hunting for collaborators

There’s no other way to say it. If you have ideas and you want to work with me on something, let’s chat. If you’ve got a great idea for a mobile app, event, book, curriculum, or something else and think working together might be awesome, drop me a line.

social media Weblogs

Just Write

So, you want to blog? And you’d like to build a following. Great. I’m here to help.

Here’s a quick reality check:

  • Success has nothing to do with a fancy blog design.
  • Success has nothing to do with learning the latest SEO tricks.
  • Success has nothing to do with finding advertisers to fund you.

So save your money. And don’t waste your brain cells.

Success as a blogger is so much simpler than that.

Just start writing. That’s 99% of the battle. Write, write, and write some more.

Success will find you when you are satisfied with who you are and how you write.

Start at the beginning

Chances are, as a reader of my blog, you’ve read something I’ve written and thought… “I could have said that, just better. I am smarter and a better writer than Adam McLane.” And you might be.

So what is the difference between you and I? Experience.

Go ahead and look at a tab on the right sidebar called, Archives. Then drop down all the way to the beginning. Go all the way back to May 2004 and read a few posts. I was horrible. But I was consistent, I was trying, and I was listening. And over time I wrote less about things that were interesting to only me and more about things that might be interesting to both me and you.

2004 was my beginning. Next, skip up to 2006, then 2008, then 2010. You’ll see a progression. I got better. I’d like to think that the progression continues.

If you are starting, just write. It doesn’t even matter what you write. Or if anyone reads it. Just write and write and write. You’ll figure it out.

You don’t have a reputation to protect

The biggest block to most people getting going (and later, to you growing) is a fear of embarrassment. Get over yourself. Stop it. You aren’t famous and you don’t have a reputation to protect. And if you can’t stop worrying about your reputation… write under a pen name and don’t tell anyone you are doing it. All that matters is that you start writing.

I wrote for two years on a blogger account not tied to my name directly. Then for the next two years I wrote on a Typepad blog… I didn’t move to until I’d been at it for a few years. I didn’t have a reputation to protect. But I probably thought I did.

Don’t make an announcement

I think letting people know that you are going to start blogging is the worst thing you can possibly do. Telling people seems to mount pressure. Pressure to perform steals the joy of expressing yourself. And once the joy is gone– you will convince yourself that you don’t have time or that it isn’t a priority.

Just write. Don’t promote. Forget about Twitter or Facebook or anything else. Just write. If it’s good, people will find it.

Measure the right things

I’m 7 years into this. I measure some pretty sophisticated things. If you are just starting out the only thing worth measuring is, “Did I write today?” Get a year into it… then add to that, “What kinds of posts draw comments?” Once you have enough confidence… then worry about things like, “What’s my niche`, who is my audience, and is my blog growing?

But for now… just write.


Best of 2007

Note: I’m on vacation this week. My family has a rule for daddy– It’s not a vacation if daddy brings a computer. Each day this week I’m highlighting my favorite post from the archives. These are oldies but goodies.

Why Ethnography is Important

Missionaries know it. Businesses know it. Documentarians film it. Marketers make money from it. But what is it? It is ethnography.

Ethnography ????? ethnos = people and ??????? graphein = writing) is the genre of writing that presents varying degrees of qualitative and quantitativefieldwork. Ethnography presents the results of a holistic research method founded on the idea that a system’s properties cannot
necessarily be accurately understood independently of each other.

It doesn’t matter if you are a youth pastor in a community. An insurance salesman. A high school math teacher. Or a physician. If you want to succeed in a community,  you need to take the time to understand how the community works. Understanding ethnography helps you understand how the people think, how the politics of both elected and unelected people control things, and understand how cultural phenomenon dictate community behavior. (Holidays, local business practices, etc)

Here’s the thing. Most doctors, pastors, insurance salesmen, and high school math teachers that fail, do so for cultural reasons and not because they are bad doctors, pastors, salesmen, or teachers. They fail because they failed to grasp the culture they are working in. Yet they blame themselves, their training, or even the people they want to sell to, provide services for, or teach for their failure!

Success at Romeo depends not just on us teaching doctrine and working hard.
It depends heavily on us adapting and developing methods to reach our community by first understanding how the community works. Stick with me. Read the rest

Looking through blog posts in 2007, I can see my blog taking a big turn. For years I just blogged about what was going on in my daily life. Occasionally, I tossed in a thought or a principle. But in 2007, posts like this one started to creep up as I found a more comfortable voice.

The biggest advice I have for anyone who wants to get started in blogging is… write, a lot!


My blogging process

Photo by m-c via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Posting something almost daily at is a challenge. So I thought it’d be fun to write about that process. Perhaps this will provide an insight into my daily life or maybe it’ll even help someone figure out a new process for them?

Three main sources of my daily post

  1. I wake up and have something on my mind to write about.
  2. Pre-planned posts.
  3. Rants.

Typically, I write in the morning. I leave for work at 8:00 AM and I often start writing at about 6:30 AM. Most days I am literally pressing the publish button, hopping in the shower, and dashing off to work!

1. For stuff I write in the morning.
These are my journal posts. They tend to ramble more. These are also posts that I mostly write because I have to or the thought will take over my day. It’s hard to explain that, but I think I’ve disciplined myself to wake up thinking about something. There’s definitely a spiritual discipline side to it as well. I’m going on 6 years of daily public blogging… so it’s probably as much a habit as a discipline. But I really dig getting up early to write. And the pressure of having to finish by a certain time helps. (Donald Miller has a great post about using a timer to blog)

2. For stuff I pre-plan.
I’m a doodler. And if you’ve spent time with me you’ve probably seen me listen to something, or finish a conversation, and pull out my iPhone to take notes. (I also carry a notebook for this and use Post-its for the same purpose.) I use Evernote to organize that mess into a list. I have one ever-edited note called “blog posts” which is simply a list of things I want to blog about at some point. Some of those items on the list have partial posts that match… these are things I doodle while in meetings, sitting in church, on the trolley, or in a plane. Some of them are just main ideas, some of them are fully edited posts, and some are pictures of things I’ve doodled in my notebook.

Sidenote: Almost every morning I look at that list and decide do I want to write about something on the list or something on my mind? If I chose to write something on my list instead of what is on my mind, I always make sure to capture a couple sentences of that thing have on my mind for a later post.

3. Rants
Rants are a healthy part of the blogger diet. The part of ranting that I’ve tried to eliminate from my blogging diet is the immediate rant. (That’s blogger junk food!) I used to allow something to fire me up and then I’d write a scathing response. Bam, done. My new self-imposed rule is that I don’t publish a rant right away. Instead, I prefer to allow it to sit in Evernote for a while and add it to my list of things to blog about. Then, when I’ve had some time to reflect, I can decide when to publish the rant as well as how I want to edit it. Some of my most popular posts of all time started as rants, fermented, and got re-edited to something else. But a good rant is fun and I let ’em fly on occasion.

Other types of posts

There are a couple of genres of blog posts I didn’t include here. These are my more spontaneous posts. Book reviews, family updates, and video posts. There’s not much pre-planning or  deep thought that goes into them. Which is why I typically publish them on weekends or when I’m on the road. And the truth about those posts is that they are more meaningful to me than they are to the reader.

hmm... thoughts

Unleash the Power of Observation


Life is full of surprises. Unexpected things happen. People do funny stuff. But you’ll never notice the good stuff until you train your eye to look for it.

Every week I see something that completely blows my mind. Sometimes its hilarity. Sometimes its tragedy. Sometimes its awkward. Sometimes its a persons moment of accomplishment. And when I share these things I always get the same response… how do you notice all that stuff?

Observation is a skill. I don’t have special eyesight and I don’t think I live somewhere that especially strange things happen. OK, living near a university gives me the advantage that strange things probably happen more often than in other places. But I will make this promise, if you develop your observation skills you will see the art of life unfold before your eyes.

Step one: Pop a squat. Define normal.

The first thing you need to do is get to know your environment. If you’re new to this, go to a favorite coffee shop with a legal pad of paper or your laptop. Then, start writing everything you see down. Don’t talk to anyone. Just observe who is there, what they are doing, what they are talking about, what they are wearing, what they order, what they do after they order… write it all down. When it’s slow, map out the floor plan of the the coffee shop. Start noticing where people’s eyes go when they first walk into the shop. Start tracking foot traffic. Start noticing who stays how long. Start noticing how other people chose a seat. Once you’ve done this for a couple hours you will know what is normal about that shop.

Step two: Contrast everything. Ignore the normal to notice the abnormal

Once you get comfortable with the normal behavior of people in the coffee shop, you’ll start to notice the abnormal. (aka The Good Stuff) Notice that a guy sits in a certain place to check out female customers. Notice that people drop their change when the cute person is taking orders. Notice that the same person is meeting multiple people in a day. Notice the woman who cries quietly by herself. Notice the guy in the suit rolling his eyes while on the phone. On and on.

Once you are used to a single environment and you get good about noticing what is abnormal at one place… it should start to come naturally with things in your every day routine.

Most of the interesting things I observe happen when I’m in my routine. Riding my bike to the trolley I know what sprinklers are on, which direction cars typically come from at the intersections, which people are normally waiting for the bus, who are the regulars outside of Starbucks, that Tuesday’s are light traffic days at SDSU, who gets off at my stop, and which cars are parked on the side of the road as I work my way from the trolley to the office. Once I know that stuff– I only notice things that aren’t normal.

The more you do this the better you get. I think I observe things a little better than most people because I do it in my routine all the time. Airports are easy “next steps” as typically most people behave about the same in all airports. But just know this.

You can observe great things about the world simply by training your eyes to look out for it.

The irony of this post? I notice obscure things but often miss the obvious.

Books YMX

Youth Worker Book of Hope

Youth Worker Book of HopeBack in January 2008 I was asked to participate in something out of character. Tim Baker, a well-established youth ministry author, emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in submitting a chapter to a book he was working on. My first few reactions were simple…

– I don’t want to write a book. (Kind of weird for a guy who works for a publisher, eh? Just not my dream.)

– I don’t have anything important to say.

– I don’t have time. (Besides running YMX and a ministry in Romeo, I had just dropped out of grad school because I was too busy.)

When I talked to Kristen about it she read through the concept of the project and gave me the look and said, “You need to do this.” As I looked at the project once again it became clear to me that I had to participate in this project, I did have something important to say, and I needed to make time. If there is one thing I want my ministry to youth workers to say over and over again it is that youth ministry matters, it changes lives, and no matter how bad it is, there is hope!

At this point, 16 months later, I am stoked to see this book come out in August. I don’t often get Perry Noble-stoked about stuff… but I am getting close with this one. There is a mega-pile of fresh authors, each sharing their unique story of finding hope when bad things happen. But let me be completely selfish here… I think you need to buy this book simply to read my chapter. My particular chapter is on, “How do I find hope for tommorow when the crap hits the fan?” And how many people in ministry haven’t had a moment when everything hit the fan?

So, here is the link. You can pre-order it now.