Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Reflections, Part 2

Even at an early age, Jack can outplay GrandBob on Guitar Hero!

It's not enough that all my kids can run rings around me in video games - now my grandson is doing the same things!

Well, maybe not yet, but you can be sure it won't be long.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reflections on Christmas, Part 1

Jack's first Christmas at GrandBob and Nina's has come and gone - much too quickly from our standpoint! The last 24 hours have been quite a whirl as Jon, Hallie and Jack came in from Boone and Jason and Jaime came in from West Virginia. After a quick supper last night, we went to see the Singing Santa (see earlier post). Jack wasn't scared at all - but he was fascinated by all the lights. Who knows, maybe we have another AVL tech in the making!
Now it's late on Christmas Eve, but our Christmas was all day long. Continuing a long tradition, we celebrate our family Christmas whenever we can all get together. It has been as early as 12/21 and as late as Christmas Eve, like this year. Anita and I decided long ago that we would reserve a full day at least for our kids (and eventually their kids) before we made the journey to Tennessee to see our parents and extended family. In spite of the gyrations it sometimes causes, we're glad we made that decision. Maybe this one picture illustrates it best. That's Jack (cool jams, Mom!) playing with one of his toys (from Uncle Aaron - well-tested at the store). The impromptu table is made up of three boxes that Granny sent for Jon, Hallie and Jack. My job? Just hold on to the back of the toy so Jack can play away!
The toy is a variation of one that's been around for decades - 5 animals that pop up when you push a button, turn a knob, or flip a switch. Jack was first attracted to the colors of the animals, but within a few minutes he figured out how to push the animals down. It was my job to make them pop up, but he learned how to make them go down. He was a quick learner (what else is a grandfather supposed to say?). He did it with support and encouragement from me, but it was mostly his curiosity and determination that made it work. The excitement and pure joy of a nine-month old is a special moment to treasure.
It was a very special day all the way from an early beginning through a late night. Now it's time to pack up and get ready for an early Christmas drive to Nashville TN to see grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and assorted friends. It will be good, but today was great.
Thanks, Jack, for making my Christmas day! It was your first Christmas, but it was a special one for me too.

Singing Santa

All our family is home! This is a group shot at Radiant Life Fellowship's Singing Santa in Plum Creek subdivision. Jack and Santa got along just fine!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Kids are Coming Home

Both my wife and I are on vacation this week, and we're getting ready for a momentous event: the kids are coming home. As in, we've had so many changes in our life since last Christmas, and this is the first time our expanded immediate family will be under one roof for the holidays. It will be a short time, but one we're really looking forward to.

We will be together for Tuesday evening and most of Wednesday, then our older son and family head back to their home for the holidays, and the rest of us will leave early Christmas morning in a caravan for Tennessee for a few days.

Posts here may be infrequent and brief, but for those of you who don't know, my family is what this blog is really all about. Here's my first blog post with the details.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday time with your family!

Friday, December 19, 2008

What if Your Church Took the Night Off?

Dave Ferguson, lead pastor of Community Christian Church in Naperville , IL had a great post on his blog earlier this year. Recently CCC is launching a new initiative entitled "Discover Your Dream" - I was fortunate to be a part of the first rollout and it was very challenging to me. I'm working on a presentation entitled "Turn the Ordinary into Extraordinary." In the past 24 hours, these three things have come together in a unique nexus. Read Dave's quick post below:

My high school daughter Amy is a barista at Starbucks. Earlier this year all the Starbucks across North America closed shop for three and half hours in the evening. Why? To hear from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz via video about the companies need to get back to it's original vision. Next, the store manager talked about several strategic changes that the store would make to give the customer better and more personalized service. And the evening ended by re-training everyone at that Starbucks store. When my daughter got home here is what she said to me, "Dad, you would have loved it!...It's really weird, I know that I really work at a fast food chain, but they made me believe that it really matters."

So here is my question:

If we were to close all the churches across North America for three and half hours and we had the chance to vision-cast and re-train every Christ Follower, what would need to be said and what would you do?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'll Have What She's Having...

Have you ever wondered why when your home team scores a goal or a touchdown, you pump your arm in the air? Or why, when you're at the movies and the heroine starts weeping, tears well up in your own eyes? What about the rush of exhilaration you feel when the good guy movie star dispatches the bad guy movie star - and you still feel it an hour later? Or the feeling of grace and beauty when you observe a ballet dancer? Or the soaring emotions of the symphony as the final notes cascade through the concert hall? That, my friend, what happens when your mirror neurons are at work.

Martin Lindstrom's recent book buy-ology is a scientific look into why we buy - both the truth and lies of our consumer captivated culture. Based primarily on a multi-year study using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and SST (a brain scanning technique which measures electrical activity in the brain) researchers discovered some amazing results about what drives consumer behavior. Why the importance of this research? Consider this: in 2007, corporations in the US spent over $12 billion on market research. Add to that actual marketing expenses: packaging and displays, TV commercials, online banner ads, celebrity endorsements, and billboard - which have a price tag of $117 billion in the US alone. Now for the kicker - even with all the research and marketing, eight out of ten product launches fail within the first three months. With these facts in mind, Lindstrom set out to prove that traditional market research was flawed because the major factors in consumer decision were taking place at a subconscious level that observation and surveys could not detect. Enter the fMRI and SST, and over two thousand willing participants in a three year study.

Back to those mirror neurons: when we watch someone do something, whether it's scoring a touchdown or playing a perfect piano concerto on a grand piano, our brains react as if we were actually performing these activities ourselves. In short, it's as though seeing and doing are the same thing.

Mirror neurons are also responsible for why we often unwittingly imitate other people's behavior. This tendency is so innate it can be observed in babies - just stick your tongue out at a baby, and the baby will most likely repeat the action (I plan on trying this with my grandson next week during the holidays!). When other people whisper, we tend to lower our voices. When we're around an older person, we tend to walk more slowly. Mirror neurons explain why we often smile when we see someone who is happy or wince when we see someone who is in physical pain. Researchers have even documented similar responses when subjects read a phrase like "biting a peach" and later view videos of people performing the same simple action.

In short, everything we observe (or read about) someone else doing, we do as well - in our minds. Mirror neurons not only help us imitate other people, they're responsible for human empathy. They send signals to the emotional region of our brains - the area that helps us tune in to one another's feelings and responses - so we can experience what it's like to walk (literally) in another person's shoes.

These concepts of imitation and vicarious participation are a huge factor in why we buy the things we do. Have you ever been disinterested in a certain product, then after a time, changed your mind? What happened? Sometimes, just seeing a product over and over makes it more desirable. As if this wasn't enough, research also indicates that mirror neurons work in tandem with one of the brain's pleasure chemicals, dopamine. Dopamine is one of the most addictive substances known to man - and purchasing decisions are driven in some part by its seductive effects.

What in the world does all of this have to do with your church and it's efforts to reach people who aren't connected to God in a personal relationship? Here are some of my thoughts:
  • Our front line greeting teams matter - a lot! How we extend greetings - verbally, physically, and through our gestures will often set the tone in the recipient's frame of mind to respond in like manner
  • The physical settings and circumstances of our facilities can spark positive - or negative - reactions from guests
  • The excellence of our ministry efforts - expressed through music, the spoken word, and our actions - will cause subconscious positive emotions in our guests
  • Conversely, our less than best efforts may subconsciously impact our guest in a negative way

These are a few of my thoughts - what else can you draw from this brief look at the power of mirror neurons? Leave a comment or send me an email and I will add them to the list.

Bonus question: Can you identify the movie scene from which the title of this post is taken, and why it is so appropriate?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Father-Daughter Time

Cafe mocha, hot chocolate, and pastries with my daughter talking about family, the holidays, and life in general. Possibly the highlight of my day.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It's the height of Christmas shopping season - you don't need me to remind you that we're all consumers, right? Daily we're bombarded with thousands of messages from marketers and advertisers about products and brands. We're coming into the last weekend before Christmas, and the pace will be accelerating even more. Since I began typing this at 6 AM, I've already received 2 more emails - each from stores I shop at, announcing huge new sales coming up. And it's only 6:07!

Martin Lindstrom, a marketing guru and noted advisor to many Fortune 500 companies, has recently completed a study on neuromarketing, an intriguing marriage of marketing and science. He views it as a window into the human mind, unlocking what he calls Buyology - the subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make each and every day of our lives.

The book is filled with fascinating stories, insight, and understanding on how our unconscious minds drive our behavior. I'm diving into it to see how it fits into my supposition that church leaders need to understand the behavior of people as consumers because that's how people "see" the church - as a commodity.

Turns out, the world’s most successful brands, like Nike, Harley-Davidson and Guinness, stimulate the brain's emotional centres in a positive way and in a way that is similar to the stimulation of religion. They provoke a sense of community; they develop and promulgate rituals; they propose a common adversary. Apple succeeds because it poses as an enemy to its rival, Microsoft. His studies show that there’s an intriguing correlation between religion and powerful brands that make emotional bonds with us. fMRI scanning reveals that the same regions are activated in the brains of religious people when exposed to meaningful religious icons as those that light up in the brains of brand fans were exposed to iPods, Harley-Davidsons and Guinness.

What do you think?

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Planting Time

Change and innovation are two of my favorite topics to discuss and apply to church settings. Since change is a constant, there is never a shortage of the subject to talk about!

I participated in a Leadership Network webinar last week on 10 Discoveries About Innovation in the Church. They always do a great job, and this was no exception. I'm continuing to unpack the info from that webinar and will probably post about it later this week. It dovetailed with a book I'm reading; here are the main points.

Elaine Dundon, in her book The Seeds of Innovation, sees innovation as a process that can be cultivated. She finds that there are 3 main areas, with three steps in each one.

  • Gathering information
  • Clarifying the real problem
  • Setting innovation goalposts


  • Seeking stimuli
  • Uncovering insight
  • Identifying ideas


  • Developing the innovation road map
  • Gaining commitment
  • Implementing the innovation road map

She also depicts the process of innovation as a continuum, with efficiency innovation on one side, evolutionary innovation in the middle, and revolutionary innovation on the other side.

Church Solutions magazine's December issue featured innovation articles as well. Be sure to take a look online for more interesting information.

What's your take on innovation? What innovative seeds are you planting now, and what kind of harvest do you expect in the future from your efforts?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Positive Thinking

I receive tons of information daily: phone calls, emails, web searches, reading, etc. As a consultant to churches, it's my job to know as much about the world we live and minister in so I can help church leaders find solutions to their opportunities and problems.

It's very easy to slide into a cloud of despair over what's going on in the world today. We all are facing potential impacts on our lives as our country struggles with economic uncertainty. There are a lot of things we can't change, but there are some things we can change - our own perceptions and attitudes.

Courtesy of smileandmove.com, here are some uplifting thoughts for you today. They were intended to use as part of a sales management training process, but I think they are very relevant to all of us - Enjoy!

How to Smile
  • Wake up - show others you care by giving attention to their needs
  • Be thankful - the opportunity to serve is a gift...not an entitlement
  • Be approachable - We're at each other's service and contact is where it starts
  • Complain less - we've got work to do
  • Smile. Really - it's where pleasantness begins

How to Move

  • Start early and go long - get lost in your service to others
  • Exceed expectations - dismiss mediocrity; expect more from yourself
  • Have a sense of urgency - predict and pre-sweat the details for others
  • Be resourceful and resilient - service is about giving someone what they need...no matter what

Smile - be happy!

Move - do something!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mid-Week Museings

Hey, it's not the middle of the week, but my Wednesday was too busy to post. I left home at 6:45 AM for a full day:

On the road for about an hour to have a breakfast meeting with a new local church pastor, part of my Together Tuesday initiative coming out of Catalyst 2008. A couple of weeks ago as I was returning from a meeting at one of our job sites, I took a different route home and passed by a church. I was impressed to contact the pastor, which I did when I got home. We set up a breakfast meeting for yesterday, and it was a good, God thing. He's relatively new to the area, and the church is doing well. We had a few similar interests and family situations, and it was good to fellowship together. He had a lot of interest in Catalyst so I left my summary with him and encouraged him to check into attending next year.

The monthly conference call with NACDB Advisory Board was next. I pulled over into a parking lot and our group of six spent the next hour reviewing recent developments in our business, making plans for our annual meeting in February, and looking ahead to 2009. Since I'm the secretary of the group, I took notes for later distribution.

Then it was back on the road to my noon meeting, about an hour away from my breakfast meeting. Taking advantage of technology, I had three mini-phone meetings with the office, an architect, and my editor. Safety note: I have a Bluetooth in-ear receiver for hands free talking!

Pulled into Boone for a design review meeting on a project with the church AVL team and Signature Sight and Sound, our AVL systems integrator on the project. 3 hours later, we had a major design modification, revised equipment list, and satisfied customers.

Since I was right around the corner from my son's house, I stopped by and dropped off a Christmas ornament for my new grandson. I knew they weren't there, but it was a great feeling just to pull into the drive of their new house and know that the work they were doing was going to make it a home.

Back on the road for a 2 hour drive to Huntersville, taking advantage of technology again to make a few calls.

At my home office, I did a quick review on a proposal for the next meeting, printed it out, and headed out to drop my son off at his youth group. My daughter arrived home on Christmas break as we were headed out the door.

The meeting at my next prospect went well: we submitted a feasibility study for them and had good dialog with the group. Some of the learnings from Church Unique are coming into play in this setting, and it will be interesting to see how they play out.

Back at home, and time to catch up on the paperwork of the day: Client Meeting Reviews for all my meetings of the day, both in person and on the phone. It's part of my 100% communication pledge: I type up our meeting comments for their review to make sure we all heard the same thing and are clear on next steps. I also typed up the NACDB conference call notes and a year-end summary.

I started and ended the day with a few WhiteBoard exercises: I'm finding the practice very beneficial in several ways. Currently, I have a flow chart of all the projects I'm working on - later today I'm going to translate them into the calendar for the rest of the month. Then I'll clean the board for a new day and a new thought process.

Ended the day with a quick read of a couple of chapters of a book I'm working through for our company's marketing/sales process. Called it a day at 11 PM.

That was a long, but satisfying, day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Got a Pet (Peeve?)

Over the past several months I have been in and out of several church worship services, and have been observing what's going on before, during, and after, as well as worshipping. In keeping with the current thread of conversation the last few posts, I wanted to talk about some pet peeves.

Dictionary.com has a couple of definitions: a particular and often continual annoyance; something about which one frequently complains; a personal vexation.

Wikipedia has the following: a minor annoyance that can instill great frustration in a very small group of people, yet is experienced by everyone. It also must be insignificant, so people insulting you is not a pet peeve. For example, if you find that elevator doors closing before you can get in annoys you, but does not annoy all the people around you, it is a pet peeve, as it meets all three criteria: insignificant, experienced by all, and only you and a few others are annoyed by it.

With those definitions in mind, here are a few pet peeves of mine related to the "operations" of a church. Names/circumstances have been changed to protect the guilty!

  • Audiovisual problems - churches that have minor (and major) AVL problems - not equipment related, but operator error. Most of these come down to a lack of training and practice. There's very few operator problems that can't be solved by regular training, rehearsal opportunities, and dedicated techs. This is my number one pet peeve, and one I'm most familiar with. I've been working with church AVL in some way since high school, so I know a little about this. Aside from equipment problems, there's just really no excuse for mics not on, music not cued up, improper mic placement, unfamiliarity with the program content, and on and on.
  • Wasting time - services should be planned to flow smoothly and unrushed, yet there should not be any dead time between the elements of the service. Special music require movement of a group to the stage? Block it out and go over it with the group. Presentation or discussion require handing something out? Make sure there are plenty of ushers with plenty of handouts stationed all over the worship center. You get the picture.
  • Handing out stuff before and during worship - papers tend to stick together. Don't lick your fingers and then hand me a piece of paper. There are plenty of ways to make this easy, but your spit shouldn't be one of them.
  • Inoperable double doors - designers plan on a double set of doors for a reason. Make sure that both work, and that both are used coming and going. It only takes a second to back up traffic flow when people have to use one door instead of two.
  • Chipped paint, pencil marks, smudged windows - like ESPN says, "C'mon, man!" What would it take for your cleaning crew to regularly touch up spots?
  • Out of date promotional items posted around campus - the event is over, take it down that day.
  • Exterior lights not set for time change - most noticeable in the fall, when it gets dark earlier. Note the date on your calendar, and reset timers or programming so the lights come on at least one hour before dusk.
  • Comfortable temperatures - seasonally adjusted as needed. No, you're not going to be able to please everyone. But you should plan to have a temperate climate in your worship center at least 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the service.

I'll stop while before I get too "preachy"! It's my opinion that these little things matter, and churches should do all they can to make a great first impression on guests (and members). Are these little, nit-picky things? Maybe - and maybe not. If they matter to someone, they should matter to you.

What's on your pet peeve list?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beyond Customer Service

Do you give up, clean up, or follow up?

The following comments were originally adapted from Zig Ziglar on Selling and Jeffrey Gitomer's The Sales Bible for a business development audience. In terms of what churches need to do to think about the "customer" they are trying to reach, I think they are very appropriate for church leaders to consider. Remember, guests to your church are measuring the experience they receive from you not to other churches, but to other customer-oriented businesses.

The days of “customer service” as the standard of excellence are long gone. Today, everybody talks about the importance of “customer satisfaction.” In this competitive market the only way to get ahead (and sometimes the only way to survive) is to go beyond customer service to customer satisfaction.

The best way to prevent a prospect or client from becoming unhappy is to provide excellent service before the problems are allowed to arise. The Norwegian word for sell is selje, which literally means “to serve.” Isn’t that a great sales strategy?

Here are some ways you can “serve” your prospect or client:

  • Satisfactory customer service is no longer acceptable
  • Customer service begins at 100%
  • The customer’s perception is reality
  • A mistake is a chance to improve the company
  • Problems can create beneficial rearrangements
  • Make the customer feel important
  • Learn how to ask questions
  • The most important art – the art of listening

Customer satisfaction in the never-ending pursuit of excellence to keep clients so satisfied that they tell others of the way they were treated by your company.

Is your church raising the bar on "customer satisfaction"? Or is it just the same old, same old?

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Okay, here's the deal - I've been really fortunate to be selected for presentations at national events the past few years. This year alone I have spoken at 8 conferences, giving a total of 13 presentations. The topics ranged from Creation Care Audits to leadership development. The topics were all submitted in advance, and chosen by the conference team. All were designed to give a lot of information to an audience (supposedly) interested in learning. And so I dutifully did the PowerPoint thing, with anywhere from 30-85 slides for talks ranging from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. They were deemed successful by the surveys and the conference team, and everybody seemed happy as they headed off to their next seminar.

What's wrong with this picture?

I have come to the conclusion that I am going about the right thing in the wrong way. I have had suspicions of this for many months, but it was brought home to me at the Catalyst Conference in October when I heard Seth Godin rip through well over 100 slides in less than 45 minutes. The kicker - it seemed like 5 minutes, and I was captivated by his presentation. Godin wasn't giving information out - he was telling a story. He issued a call to action through the story, and by the end everyone in the 12,000 + audience seemed ready to take him up on it. Oh, and by the way - the "information" was given out as his latest book - to all the audience - as he left the stage.

If you want to give out information, put it in writing.

If you want action, speak in stories.

So here it is the end of 2008, and I'm prepping for presentations coming up in January and February of 2009, with the likelihood of more coming throughout the year. And I'm pretty much starting with a blank page - or in this case, a blank white board. Using the ideas I've posted about recently, I'm crafting a new presentation that will be highly visual. The audience I will be speaking to will be expecting "information" - and the conference requires it - but it will come in written form after the presentation.

Here's my first attempt at white boarding on a big scale - as in a 4 x 8 whiteboard in my office. It's not a great picture, but maybe you can get the idea. What you can't get is the feeling of creativity, flow, and grasp by having the major points of what I am trying to communicate in front of me all at once.

This is going to be really fun.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Whiteboard for Skeptics

According to author Dan Roam (The Back of the Napkin), there are three kinds of visual thinkers: people who can't wait to start drawing (the Black Pen people); those who are happy to add to someone else's work (the Yellow Pen people); and those who question it all - right up to the moment they pick up the Red Pen and redraw it all.

Hand me the pen!
Black pen people show no hesitation in putting the first marks on an empty page. They come across as immediate believers in the power of pictures as a problem-solving tool, and have little concern about their drawing skills - regardless of how primitive their illustrations may turn out to be. They jump at the chance to approach the whiteboard and draw images to describe what they're thinking. They enjoy visual metaphors and analogies for their ideas, and show great confidence in drawing simple images, both to summarize their ideas and then help work through those ideas.

I can't draw, but...
Yellow Pen people (or highlighters) are often very good at identifying the most important or interesting aspects of what someone else has drawn. These are the people who are happy to watch someone else working at the whiteboard - and after a few minutes will begin to make insightful comments - but who need to be gently prodded to stand and approach the board in order to add to it. Once at the board and with pen tentatively in hand, they always begin by saying "I can't draw, but..." and then proceed to create conceptual masterworks. These people tend to be more verbal, usually incorporate more words and labels into their sketches, and are more likely to make comparisons to ideas that require supporting verbal descriptions.

I'm not visual
Red Pen people are those least comfortable with the use of pictures in a problem-solving context - at least at first. They tend to be quiet while others are sketching away, and when they can be coaxed to comment, most often initially suggest a minor corrections of something already there. Quite often, the Red Pens have the most detailed grasp of the problem at hand - they just need to be coaxed into sharing it. When many images and ideas have been captured on the whiteboard, the Red Pen people will finally take a deep breath, reluctantly pick up the pen, and move to the board - where they redraw everything, often coming up with the clearest picture of them all.

Roam's conclusion of these different types of people?
Regardless of visual thinking confidence or pen-color preference, everybody already has good visual thinking skills, and everybody can easily improve those skills. Visual thinking is an extraordinarily powerful way to solve problems, and though it may appear to be something new, the fact is that we already know how to do it.

What color is your pen?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Your Visual Thinking Toolkit

The basic premise of Dan Roam's book The Back of the Napkin is that anyone can use a visual medium to powerfully communicate their message. Here are the main concepts - but I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book as soon as possible to fully understand, and implement, these powerful communication tools.

3 Basic Visual Thinking Tools
  • Our eyes
  • Our mind's eye
  • Our hand-eye coordination

4 Steps of the Visual Thinking Process

  • Look
  • See
  • Imagine
  • Show

5 Questions to Help Open Your Mind's Eye

  • Simple or Elaborate
  • Qualitative or quantitative
  • Vision or execution
  • Individual or comparison
  • Change or status quo

6 Ways We See and Show

  • Who/what - portrait
  • How much - chart
  • Where - map
  • When - timeline
  • How - flowchart
  • Why - plot

Tomorrow, I'm going to dive into how I'm using these concepts on a couple of brand new projects: a consulting project for a church in the Bronx, and a new presentation for the Church Solutions Conference in Phoenix next February. For now I've got to run - I'm sketching in my journal at Panera!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The White Board Experiment

You've seen the UPS ads - the guy standing at a huge white board, drawing a simple figure that turns into something connected with UPS and what Brown can do for you. It's mesmerizing, isn't it? Simple ideas, simple drawings, conversational style - what more could there be?

There's more than meets the eye, though. It's all about the narrative, the story the guy is telling. (By the way, that's not an actor - it's really one of the creative team that dreamed up the series). There's something about the power of a simple drawing that communicates.

I've been intrigued by a book by Dan Roam entitled The Back of the Napkin. As anyone who has been around me knows, I'm no artist. But the same group of people also know that if we're having a conversation, it won't be long before I've pulled out a napkin, piece of paper, or a journal page and started sketching. It's like I'm translating my hand gestures onto the page. Which is all about where this is going...

...I've got a whiteboard experiment in the works. Not just any whiteboard, mind you, but a big one - no, make that several big ones. As in 4x8 big. I'm sketching a project on it. Stay tuned...

Holiday High Gear

With Thanksgiving behind us, Black Friday over, and Cyber Monday ended, the commercial holiday season is in full swing. Life seems to be moving faster and faster now that December is here. Or is it?

I had a very long day yesterday; I left Huntersville at 6:30 AM to be at Winston Salem by 8 for a morning full of meetings; I had to be in south Charlotte at 2 PM for an afternoon of meetings; then back through Charlotte to Huntersville and home at 6 PM. In road terms, that's I-77 to I-40 to 168; then back 168 to 52 to I-85 to I-485 to 521; then back 521 to I-485 to I-77 and home - a really big loop. I went through rush hours in two cities, lunchtime traffic in one. When I finally got home last night and thought about it, it seemed, well - less busy.

Are our patterns changing? Are the swirls of Christmas commercialism fading?

Time will tell...