Untangling Christianity Hits a Milestone

50 episodes of the Untangling Christianity

A year ago I would have never predicted we’d have reached episode #50 already. It was about this time last year that I was getting really clear on the idea that I needed to do a podcast. Now the Untangling Christianity Podcast is a full fledged reality and shows no signs of stopping.

Today we published our fiftieth episode in less than a year.  In this episode we take a partial look back and talk about what we’d like to see in the future. Our one year-anniversary is on September 23, 2014.  If you aren’t familiar with the podcast I recommend the introduction from Episode One to get idea of what the show is about.

I’ve kept this site fairly sparse when it comes to talking about spiritual things–partially out of embarrassment (I think I’m mostly over that) and partially because it used to be much more of a focal point for my work in the Fedora Project (open source software community).

I can’t see spirituality becoming the central focus of johnpoelstra.com in the same way it is at Untangling Christianity, however I am thinking of posting more spiritual thoughts and reflections here.  They’ll be in their own category should you wish to focus on or avoid them.

The picture 50 is by chrisinplymouth via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.

Good Meetings Make You Feel Good

beachLast time I defined several ways to have bad meetings. This post was going to explore one of those “bad ways to have meeting” in detail. Then I realized it would be better to start by defining what a “good meeting” is so you know what I’m aiming at and what my definition of “good” is.

Defining Good Meetings

The simplest way I define a good meeting is: a gathering of two or more people where everyone, including the facilitator, has positive feelings and progress was made towards a goal. Another gauge is if people felt the meeting was a good use of their time. I didn’t think about this until I started attending a string of meetings (where I wasn’t the facilitator) that left me feeling off, sometimes frustrated other times annoyed, disconnected or sad.  Also telling was dread I felt as the next meeting approached or joy I felt when I had a conflict and wouldn’t be able to attend. When I think of a good meeting it’s not these feelings.

What Are You Feeling?

What is all this “feelings stuff” about anyway and do they really relate to meetings? I think this they do. They apply to all areas of our lives. The non-violent communication framework developed by Marshall Rosenburg describes feelings as emotions reflecting whether or not our needs are being met. Here is a list of primary feelings we experience when our needs are met.

  • Affectionate
  • Confident
  • Engaged
  • Inspired
  • Excited
  • Exhilarated
  • Grateful
  • Hopeful
  • Joyful
  • Peaceful
  • Refreshed

Feelings when our needs are not met:

  • Afraid
  • Annoyed
  • Angry
  • Aversion
  • Disconnected
  • Disquiet
  • Embarrassed
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sad
  • Tense
  • Vulnerable
  • Yearning

The reference for this list is here. Think about the last meeting you attended and identify the feelings you felt afterwards. Did you feel engaged, hopeful, or inspired or did you leave feeling annoyed, disconnected or dread?

Are You Being Energized or Drained?

Another way of determining what makes a meeting good is to think about all the meetings you attend and identify which meetings “give you energy” and which ones take it away. I got this idea from a friend attempting to identify helpful and unhelpful work interactions. He started a routine after each meeting where he asked himself whether the meeting he had just finished:

  • Gave energy
  • Took energy away
  • Left him feeling neutral impact

His observation was that a number of the meetings he attends take away energy. The compound affect he observed was this constant energy drain was turning him into a person he didn’t want to be, at work and at home.

Over To You

How would you define a good meeting and what criteria do you use to decide? I look forward to your comments below.

Up Next

Next time I’ll take a deeper look at identifying feelings and using them as a driver for change.

13 Ways to Have a Bad Meeting


I’m thinking about writing a book about technical project meetings at software companies and ways I’ve found to make them better. To see if I have enough to work with I’m going to kick off a series of blog posts exploring different aspects of meetings based on my experiences.

If you see something I’ve missed or you think I should address, I’d value your comment.

If you’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of attending any of the meetings I facilitate–tell me the techniques I used that you thought were effective and those that weren’t.

Feel free to use a fake name if revealing your name would put you in a compromising position.

On with thirteen ways to have a bad meeting

  1. Invite anyone that wants to come or is remotely connected to the topic or might need to know about the topic.

  2. Invite the wrong people.

  3. Never tell someone they can’t attend your meeting or need to stop coming.

  4. Don’t share or prepare an agenda in advance.

  5. Don’t document anything that happens at the meeting. Just assume that everyone has a good memory and will remember the outcome of the discussion and what needs to happen next.

  6. Hold a status meeting that could have been done by email . Go around in a circle to learn about what what each person is working on while everyone else does something else or furiously prepares for their turn.

  7. Ignore the clock. Don’t set an end time or time-box particular topics. Just talk and talk until you all feel like you are done.

  8. Surprise the attendees by dropping a bomb on the meeting with a large or controversial topic nobody has had time to think about or prepare for. Bonus points for dropping it ten minutes before the top of the hour when everone has to run to another meeting.

  9. As the faciliator, surrender the meeting to the strongest personalities in the room and let them drive the flow of discussion.

  10. Never ask what the next steps are towards solving a complicated problem or who owns resolving it.

  11. Meet because “we’ve always met.” It’s more important to maintain tradition.

  12. Tell someone “it’s okay” when they’ve repeatedly missed their deliverables or often arrive late, disrupting the meeting.

  13. As the faciliator, never ask the attendees for their honest feedback (publicly or privately) about how your meetings could be better or more valuable.

Now it’s your turn. What else should be on this list?

YAYOG Builds Muscle and Confidence

One of the things I love about You Are Your Own Gym (YAYOG) is that it doesn’t throw you in the deep end.  Yes, some of the initial work outs are hard and it maybe difficult to complete all of the repetitions, but keep trying and showing up, even if you can’t hit all the repetitions or feel like you don’t have the right form.

After approximately the first three weeks I saw how all the different exercises were starting to kick in to make other exercises easier and stronger than they had before.  A great example is push-ups.  There are programs out there for “getting to 100 pushups.”  I’m not knocking those programs–they probably work, but if you’re like me and you’re not that naturally active or you’re getting older you might not have all the muscles needed to support doing those pushups.  Yes, you can brute force your way to getting to 100 pushups, but what I like about YAYOG is that everything feels like it is building on each other.

The program doesn’t just build muscle in one place, it builds muscle everywhere in ways that add more support to simple exercises like pushups.  I think this is a smarter way to go because it also lessens the chance of injury.  I also recommend the five minute video warm-up routine.

I was doing a set of stappers where there were six elevated push-ups as part of the sequence.  At the end of the eight weeks I felt a ton stronger than when I started.  It was amazing how easy those six pushups were–so I did twenty instead–and they all felt strong.  That’s doing 4 or 5 workouts a week and never spending more than 36 min on any particular workout–wherever you are, no gym required!

One Foot In Front of the Other

One foot in front of another pictureSome days it’s the best and the only thing you can do. That’s okay. Just make sure you show up tomorrow too.