The Reading Test: You may not think what you think you think.

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on September 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I recently finished an online Neuroscience Course and have read about 9 books on the brain, neuroscience, why we believe what we believe, weird sociological behaviors, and consciousness. It was a bit weird because I sensed my brain understanding more about how it worked… and I kept wondering who the “I” was that was noticing what it’s brain was learning. Strange huh?
If you are like most people the Reading Test above was pretty easy as long as you just kind of skimmed over it and read like you normally do…which is to absorb the word without thinking about the letters. Many of you read the whole paragraph just as fast as you would have if the words been spelled correctly. The more I learn about the brain the more fascinating I find the human in general. We read that paragraph easily because we basically saw the first and last letters and
and filled in the the rest with whatever our brain decided should be there. Some of you just read the last sentence without noticing that the word “and” was used twice in a row and the word “the” was doubled up as well.
Many of you have done this experiment before but try it again just for kicks.
Just read it one time and count one time. No Cheating.
How many f’s are in the following sentence?


In case you need to know, there are 6 of them. A vast majority of people don’t get the answer right.

We see what our brain has programmed us to see. We remember only parts of what we think we remember. Our memories are being formed in different places in our brains where there are little neurons firing making up things that fill in the blanks, thereby creating false memories. We believe what we have been taught to believe, and it’s really hard to change those beliefs, especially if we have had them for a long time. This is true even when we are face to face with a reality that shows for certain that our belief is incorrect. When Galileo looked through his telescope and discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe and that our planet actually revolved around the sun, no one would believe him. Great scientists with great minds would come and look through his telescope and come to the conclusion that the instrument evidently worked fine when looking horizontally at objects in the distance but somehow malfunctioned when looking up into the sky.
Their sacred beliefs about how the universe was set up could not be challenged in their minds no matter how clear the evidence was. It took 300 years for people to finally accept what Galileo so clearly could prove. They even put him under arrest, knowing he was brilliant, and made him say that he was wrong.

Upton Sinclair once wrote “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it”
Sometimes our brain decides on its own(seemingly) that it won’t believe, or can’t comprehend something because somewhere down in our subconscious we feel like we have too much to lose if we “change our minds”. Galileo’s friends had too much to lose to comprehend what was so easy to see.

So why would I write about that? We do have the ability to re-think. We have the knowledge that we actually do fill in blanks in our minds and memories with things that just aren’t true. I think we should think more about how we think and what we think. I think we should be more open to other people’s thoughts and recognize that maybe we don’t “know” what we think we know.
I have two friends who were at an event together a while back. They got into a discussion about a book that is quite controversial. One of them had a strong belief about that book and how “off base” and dangerous it was. The fascinating thing was that he had not even read the book himself. His pastor had told him what it said, and why he shouldn’t read it, and why it was wrong.

Life is too darn fascinating for us to allow someone else to do our thinking for us. Heck, our brains are filling in gaps for us all the time with untruths about things we think we read or saw or experienced with our own senses.
Let’s just keep on reading and listening, and looking and learning…and therefore evolving and changing. We need to give ourselves the opportunity to fill in the gaps with the truth. And the truth is often not easy to decipher. As Fox Mulder would say, “the truth is out there”. And I believe it can set you free.

Who’s the Best Speaker?

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on August 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was anxious to receive back the surveys we had sent out to see what people really were thinking about communicators for some events I was producing. We had around 13000 students at our Bigstuf Camps this summer, and they were represented by about 400 leaders. Generally we get tons of letters from students, chaperones, pastors and youth leaders letting us know how they felt about our camps. This year was no different. The problem I was having was that I knew that if we got letters, those letters would generally be the glowing, you-were-incredible, can’t-wait-til-next-year, kind of letters. What I hope for is a lot of those kinds of letters and then some kind, but critical letters helping us to know what we could do better. I also know that almost everything about any given event is quite subjective, so we have to carefully consider why each person will say what they say and what kind of background they have and whether we feel like any criticism is justified based on who we are, and what we believe the majority of thoughts would be from our constituents. I will say, it’s nice to hear from people that they wouldn’t change a thing, and that it’s by far the best camp in the country. If everyone thought that, then our job would be easy as we contemplate what should evolve or change. And…fortunately, lots of people say that.
But….what I wanted out of this particular survey was to really find out how important our selection of speakers is in the decision-making process as youth pastors decide which camp they will come to. I also really wanted to see what kinds of speakers these leaders wanted in front of their students. I purposefully added speakers that we have never had at our camp, but who travel a lot and speak at other events. Many of these speakers would be labeled conservative, and some of them maybe liberal. Some are people who have been around the youth culture a long time and some are pastors of large churches. I kinda figured that if they ranked a particular speaker high, then I could guess which ones they would rank low, and if they made comments about “strong biblical teaching” on some, then I might guess what they would say about some of the others. I’m going to list for you the speakers who were on the survey. And if you would like to rate them or talk about them on this blog, then that might be interesting …and maybe it could give me new insight if enough of you commented. However, let me get back to deciding whether to laugh or cry.
I was wrong about being able to guess what people would say about one speaker after I read what they said about another. There was only one consistent thought throughout the whole survey. 98% of everyone who answered, loves Andy Stanley.
Beyond that, it was just weird. The ranking was 1=I never want this person in front of my students. 10 =I wish all my students could hear the person all the time.
The results and comments were fascinating. There was almost no rhyme or reason. For every speaker who got a number of 10’s, they got just as many 1-4. People would say, I don’t like this speaker personally because I disagree with him theologically, but my kids like him so I will rate him high and be back at camp. People would say one guy gave the best message they ever heard and then they would day he gave the worst message they ever heard. They would critique a whole message by one line someone delivered in their message. They would say, “I don’t much like speakers to be “in-your-face” kind of speakers, but maybe kids need that…I’ll give him a 10.”
At the beginning of the survey, I had suggested that I struggled finding female speakers for our camps and that I would really love to have women speaking to our kids so if people would recommend females communicators for us, that would be great. I got a letter that said I sounded sexist when I asked that so they would never come to our camps because of that line in our letter. I also got a note that said it wasn’t a good idea to add females to our line up.?????? I saw people say things like, I have never heard this guy before but I have “heard a lot about him” so if you invited him to camp, we would definitely come.
What is amazing to me is “almost everyone thinks they are right”.
And there usually isn’t really a “right” or a “wrong” when you are talking about such a subjective concept. We had a special musical guest one night. Some people thought they provided the most incredible, life-changing hour of the week. Others thought that if we have them back, they probably won’t come back.
What is strange to me, was not that there were polar opposites on the rating scale…it was that people rated them all along the scale. A guy who got a lot of 10’s got just as many 9’s,8’s,7’s,6’s,5’s,4’s,3’s,and 2’s.
About one particular speaker, I got comments like this. “He didn’t use his bible enough”. “My kids got bored”, “he had nothing to say”, “he didn’t challenge our kids”…and for the same guy at the same camp I got these, “the most effective speaker we have ever heard”, “my kids loved him”, “my kids are quoting his talk all the time”, “he challenged our group more than anyone”.

Our goal is to put great people, with great gifts, who will challenge and encourage and inspire students and adults to grow in their relationship with Christ. We know there are all kinds of kids out there and that it takes different kinds of communication to reach those different kinds of kids. We will always put people on our stage whom we believe can impact the lives of those who hear them. I consider that platform one of the most important places on earth. I take it very seriously.
The survey made it much more interesting and challenging as we think about how to do camp. I was really appreciative of those youth pastors who said something like this: “I’ve been around Bigstuf long enough to know that you all are going to give my students exactly what we need. So, I don’t worry much about the speakers and who they are going to be, I just know my kids are gonna come back home with changed hearts and lives, simply because I trust the Bigstuf team.”
So, if you are thinking about coming to camp and you aren’t sure about the speakers you see, you should know that the whole camp experience is a lot bigger than the speakers. Now and then a great speaker will do just a fair job of speaking…which happens to all of us…but, the experience during the whole week is one where God works because of, and in spite of any one individual who stands on the stage.
I guess we should all remember that for anything that we rate a 10, there is someone out there who is just as sharp and wise as we are…and they will give it a “1”.

So, you try to be the camp producer and know that…and see how easy it is ;-)

Meanwhile let me wrap this up before I give you the list. I blogged a few weeks ago about Andy Stanley and leadership. After this survey I thought about that blog because I wondered something. I know some of you think I am prejudiced because Andy is a good friend. But this has nothing to do with that. If he got almost nothing but 9’s and 10’s and incredible comments, maybe there is something we can learn from that besides who we would like to have at camp. In my other blog I talked about what it takes to be a good communicator and how we should think when we are preparing to speak. If you are a communicator or you stand on a stage in front of people, go back and read that blog. It could be the reason that Andy was the most consistent in his ratings.
Here are the guys I put on our survey. If you want to comment about any of these, or others that you know of, feel free to do so. (We are always looking for new and gifted leaders for our team)I’d be interested to know if the diversity of opinion goes beyond the youth pastors that we surveyed. But remember, this isn’t a speaker bashing forum. The internet gets weird sometimes.

Andy Stanley
Ben Crawshaw
Brad Jones
Clay Scroggins
Craig Groeschel
Darren Whitehead
David Platt
Don Miller
Doug Fields
Duffy Robbins
Francis Chan
Jamey Dickens
Jared Herd
Jon Acuff
Louie Giglio
Mark Batterson
Matt Chandler
Perry Noble
Rodney Anderson
Shaun King
Steven Furtick
Stuart Hall

The Invisible Gorilla

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on August 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm

The Door Study

How is it possible to get angry at yourself? Who exactly… is mad at whom? What are all those billions and billions of neurons doing inside that head of yours and what makes them what they are, which makes you what you are? Just a few interesting questions we should possibly ask ourselves now and then.

I don’t blog as often as I want because frankly, I know myself well enough to know that I might end up rambling about everything from quantum entanglement to why we believe what we believer to giving my opinion about people who write about other people who write about writers who write stuff like “love wins”. Then I would start to worry that someone would not understand what I really think which would lead to having to try to explain what I was trying to say and then realizing I no longer believe what I wrote the week before. So…I just proved in the last few sentences that what I said was true…or is true…or…now I wonder if its true or not because I am not sure what the “it” is.

Ok back to the reason for the blog. I recently read a book called The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer.
The basic premise of the book states that we “believe” what we decide to believe and then we decide what premises we will use to back up our beliefs.
Shermer is an atheist and of course, talks about God and religion, and has some interesting stuff to say about that. But he also talks about politics and economics, love, war etc. It’s a fascinating book if you are in to that kind of thing. I have a list of about 30 books by neuroscientists and apologists if you are interested. But, I love writers who cause you to think about thinking. I really hope I get to my main point before this blog gets too long.

I generally like to blog about how great people are, but today, I just want to vent about how frustrating it is when people just don’t THINK. Over the past few months I have had to spend more time than I wanted to explain some things to some people, that to me, just seemed like common sense. But the more I have read, the more I see that all of us actually don’t see the world the way it really is. We see it the way we want it to be, or the way we believe it to be, or the way someone has taught us that it is. I am fascinated by “the Invisible Gorilla”. It’s a book about how we just don’t see life the way it is. Or sometimes how we just don’t see things at all. The writers, Chabris and Simons, did some real life experiments where they had people in a room passing a ball around. I was gonna tell you what happened but, you can watch at the end of this blog and see for yourself if you can’t count how many times the ball is passed around. You will understand this more after you watch it. Every day we think we see life the way it is, and what we really see are illusions. I had a conflict with someone recently and the guy I was dealing with probably has little doubt that he sees things the way they are. Everyone around him knows without doubt that what he thought he experienced just did not happen, but the gorilla in the room was invisible to him. When Galileo saw through his telescopes, that indeed the earth revolved around the sun and that the earth wasn’t the center of the Universe, he brought numerous brilliant scientists to peer through the lenses and see for themselves. Interestingly, they all believed that these telescopes worked wonderfully when looking horizontally, but, when pointed to the sky, they seemed to not work. They thought that surely something happened to the lenses when they were aimed at the stars. The truth (to the degree it could be known at the time) was right in front of them. But, it was almost 300 years before the world could really “believe” that their illusions about our world were simply that. Illusions.
I think I am right about a lot of things. Everyone does (not about me being right…about themselves) But it is really important to realize that our eyes and ears and senses deceive us. Our memories aren’t accurate. They are interpretations of interpretations of sensory input that is based on limited information and often lead us to believe things that aren’t even close to true. So what do we do with thisinformation? Maybe just use it as a tool to decide to be more humble, to not be so judgmental since we all could be wrong, to study more, to seek to understand, to ask questions, to not be gullible, to be healthily skeptical, to listen to people who honestly want to help us to see ourselves, to continue to search for truth.
Ok…it’s a long blog. But…if it got you to “thinking” go to amazon and look at all the books about memory, the brain, neuroscience, and thought.
Check out the Invisible Gorilla web page and hey, Just for fun I will post a couple of their videos about how blind we really are.
count the passes

Daytona, Andy Stanley, Leadership

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on July 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I just started writing for exercise today and ended up with this, so I thought I would make it a blog.

We just finished our Daytona Camp. Lots of thoughts. Some people are just gifted. Andy Stanley, gifted beyond anyone I know to verbally communicate to any audience. Some people wonder if they get too old to speak to students. Students are people, and a gifted communicator speaks to people. We could possibly find a 30 year old, studly, culturally hip, guy who wears a fedora and sports artsy pants ( which I may start using as a new slang put-down…artsy pants) and heck, even someone who speaks well and has comedic talents. But, Andy, who is over 50, but who’s counting…thinks about his topic…absorbs it…is passionate about how important it is…and how important it is that people hear it and understand it.….He knows the philosophy of what to say when, and how to start a message, and how to engage, and then he lets his passion and his knowledge of the theme allow him to just… be the message…and people don’t forget it. I love how he doesn’t ever stop learning. (About life and about his gifts).

I keep thinking what it would be like if every communicator or musician decided to watch themselves, and be coached and ask people to be honest with them about how they do what they do…how much better we would all be. I have hosted for years but I know I can get better. I watch people who have been speakers for years and we all often forget that we aren’t done learning how to do what we do and make it better. It’s like we decide that we now do this thing, so we will just keep doing it now that we get paid to do it. I think about all the things that I see worship leaders do that make them good or great. Knowing what songs to sing and why they are in the order they are in. Knowing when to stop and talk and when not to. Knowing how to move and when to move. Knowing what a smile can mean. Knowing how to see people off the stage and on the stage. What is appropriate to say and what isn’t. Knowing when to just play or when to back away from the mic and let the audience sing. When to stop the instruments and hear the audience. Knowing your audience well enough to know what they are doing and thinking and how they are responding. Knowing about little habits they have with their facial expressions, or their arms… or phrases they use too much. All that is part of making the gift better and better. I love having people on our team that think about that stuff.

Leading in any way is both an art and a science. As a leader we are scientists because we are trying to understand the nature of the people we lead. What makes them tick. What makes them think? What makes them who they are . Why they respond to so many things in so many ways.
We are builders. As we lead we are leading so we can build something. A church, a mission, a movement. It has to be built and in order to build it we need materials and tools and architects and other builders and laborers and they all need to know what we are building and why… and what it might look like when we finish.

And we, as leaders are artists. We are painting or sculpting, and the art we create should be being created out of our passion. Sometimes the best art is made by breaking all the rules, and sometimes we have to follow all of the rules… and usually it is a combination of both. If its gonna be a masterpiece, then it’s taking everything we have learned and seen and heard and absorbed and it’s putting all of that together in our souls and then figuring out how to let it back out in a unique fashion that only we can express…in our way. But our way is connected to everyone and everything that we have touched.

When I started writing this article is was just going to be an exercise in writing just to put a few thoughts down. It ended up being a lot of thoughts and I had no idea it would end but being about our theme for camp this summer. Konnekt.

As leaders, all of who we are is based upon all the things and people we have connected with. We are unique, yes, but we are also the product of all the world around us. And we lead best when the art and science and builder inside of us has absorbed and connected to all the things that make us who we are.
So…lead! Build. Create. Study. Change. Learn. ….Connect.

Tom Shadyac’s “I Am”

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on January 25, 2011 at 2:40 am

This blog should also be right below the video on my main page.

I took my boys and went with a couple of producer friends of mine from LA this week and we went to the pepperidne law school to view a screening of Tom Shadyac’s new film ” I Am”.  I love it. I read a lot of “christian reiviews on it where they said he was typical new age and didn’t say enough about God etc. But, Tom is doing a great thing.  He is using his platform to create conversation. That is what he wants. A few of us got to chat with him in an open Qand A , and it was great to hear his answers. First of all for those of you who may not know him. Tom, produced Liar, Liar, Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty, Ace Ventura pet Detective and a few others. His box office on just these was well over a billion dollars. He had the houses and the jet and pretty much everything any one could want. But, it wasn’t making him happy. He also had an awful bike accident,  and that left him with a disease that caused severe depression to the point of wishing for death and for a while there didn’t seem to be any way out. As he recovered, he realized that he was wasting his life and his wealth so he sold most of what he had and moved to a trailer park in Malibu and rides his bike to work every day.

Now back to the story. I was intrigued because I have a camp coming up with 15000 students coming where the theme is “Connect”.  Pretty much all that I wanted to say personally , he covered in his film. He talked about science but about how science didn’t have the anwers. He talked about how we are connected in so many way and how indeed science could prove much of that. And if you have read my other stuff you know I am thrilled by Quantuam entanglement and the spooky stuff in space that Einstein talked about. I am intrigued by how our bodies and atoms and quarks work and i stand in awe at how it is all put togther and how anyone could believer that it all came from nothing instead of something…like God.

So Shadyac has us take a close look at why we are here and what we can do about the problems that we see. No, he doesn’t go into a deep heavy talk about God, but he does allow us to start a conversation about God and christianity. As some of us spoke to him it was evident that Jesus and christian principles are what guides him most right now, but yes, he feels like many of us do,  which is that often times christians put themselves in a bubble and think that the only worthwhile philosophy of life is inside that bubble that we made.  Giving them no room to think of Christianity or their God outside of the bubble they created themselves.

I went there hoping to figure out how to see some good stuff he did,  and then to emulate it at our camps. It was a bit frustrating because he did it so well, it would be hard to emulate any of it without just showing it. Our conversation afterward led me to believe that we might get a chance to talk later and if so I can’t wait to get to know this very engaging and bold man,  who has taken time to create something that causes people to start a dialogue about why we are here. We all have answers that we think might be partially right, just as he does. But, we have created very few things like this film to help people start that dialogue. I am excited about what he is doing and saying  so that a great dialogue can start in our circles. In other words, I applaud him for creating something that forces us to think, simply because we have a strong tendency to forget to think. I am hoping I get an inviattion to go sit down with him for a day in Malibu and just talk.

Hollywood has the ability with people like him to move people, and then send them into action to make the world different. We should be giving away our money. We should be helping the poor and helpless. We shouldn’t live isolated in our ivory towers. There is a world out there. Made by a God who has a purpose for us. Tom believes that. He may not put it into exactly the same words others would but he lives by the principles because he sees the light. If  “I AM” comes to your area, go see it. Tell me what you think. We don’t all have to think the exact same thing to be headed in the right direction.

For more on it go to

Here is his trailer….

Tom if you read this…let’s get together soon.


Is it all real? “an excerpt”

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on December 9, 2010 at 1:06 am

Sometimes you run across an excerpt that is intriguing.  Feel free to leave your thoughts on this one.

we dont connect unless we are forced to.

we have to feel the need.

drowning, you reach for the air hose

falling, you reach for the rope

lonely, you reach for people

down, you connect to music..

hopeless, you just wish for hope..

and you hope there is a God.

can we connect with who or what God is????

do we believe or not?

dad gets cancer.

mom dies…

bobby is in a  wheelchair

unplanned pregnancy…despair…

friends die and get sick

people make fun of me and i feel like crap

hell doesnt seem right or fair

god loves us…but a billion people dont have water?

tsunamis kill thousands…and where again was god?

jesus loved us but he’s dead now and…maybe… some people saw him alive after he was crucified or maybe they didn’t.

history books are really too sketchy to know for sure. nobody even wrote about it for at least 40 years after he died.

the old testament is bizarre…leviticus…ha! that’s just weird.

the new testament books share similar stories but different timelines, and have different details in different books that don’t match up

biblical scholars dont agree with scientists even on the age of the earth

what the hell? what’s real? what isn’t?

why do we say “what the hell?” if we aren’t even sure it exists?

But…when I stop to really think about all this….if god  doesn’t exist….then how does anything else exist?

if there was once nothing …can something come from nothing?

why is god any harder to believe in than “something coming from nothing”?

If it all started with nothing…from our perspective “something” had to be there…because we just said “IT” all started from nothing.

“nothing” isn’t fathomable.

so why would it be hard to believe in “god” existing if you can believe in “nothing” …and then everything coming from “that”

so think about this:

the symmetry of the universe.

the balance of nature

the rhythm of the seasons

the regularity of the electrons around atoms



what it feels like to BREATHE that air

and drink that water…

the fact that you can have feelings about breathing.

the ability to think…

the ability to say that something or someone is beautiful…

and then

that a smell can trigger a memory of a time with someone you love.

that a sound through a phone is simply vibration of particles in the air, and that sound is a voice on the other side of the world, and the first vibration of that sound, and the recognition of your daughters voice can cause your heart to stir… and whatever might be described as a soul, swells up inside you and you smile and your heart beats faster ….because of a vibration of atoms?

that a touch on the lips by another being could stir every fibre in your being

that the incredible pain of childbirth can be forgotten completely when a mothers eyes get the first glimpse of her baby boy

that we could actually feel so deeply the pain of the death and loss of someone we care so much about

that we can actually care and love…and there is no way to adequately explain what caring and loving really are

that we absorb light through cones and rods to the point that the hues and colors and vibrations of those light waves allow us to label  unexplainable art as sunrise and stars and ocean waves and mountain ranges…

and so many illustrations of  beautiful art can move us to tears

that the vibration of strings and wind through instruments cause music to happen and that very music causes us to sing, and dance and love and celebrate and weep…

how can any of this be explained by only matter and heat and movement….a cosmic happenstance of sorts?

we create love and art and music and poetry and beauty… or should i say we re create it… and with all of the reason we can muster, the only way that any of that is possible is if it were created for those purposes …for our pleasure …for our ability to feel so we can know that beyond our grasp of knowledge there is something more mysterious… way beyond knowledge…

something that makes us who we are and how we are

we cannot see it   we cannot explain it  but IT IS there.   we KNOW it….in the middle of all the doubts we just know

because we have touched something that contains no matter…

with a part of our soul that has no substance.

we dance to a tune that no man has written

we see art that cannot be painted or drawn

we love an individual who is not defined by anything in our 4 dimensions

we know what we cannot know because we are what we cannot define.

so how could we even say what love is if it may come from a creator who exists outside of all we can comprehend?

love and everything about it seems to be why most of us have any desire to even exist…

and so IT MUST exist…and if so where would it come from except from a thinking creator who…

cannot be defined, understood, described, or really even imagined…

so whoever jesus was ..his words seem to echo all of what we have just said…

trust in what you do not understand ….live in that trust…take the little pieces that you can comprehend and connect with those pieces.

then look around…

the people who live as though all of this were true seem to experience life in a more satisfying way than those who do not.

and for some reason everyone’s goal (other than to be loved) is to be satisfied.

and the mere thought that that  is what everyone desires signifies that there must be a desire-maker and therefore maybe…

a desire-fulfiller.

One last thought…

all of the universe has movement…without movement there is no time and no space…

Since the beginning, our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, our cluster, all galaxies, are not only spinning…they are all moving.

Towards what?

Away from what?

In space if there were nothing visible around you, you could be moving at a million miles an hour and not even know you were moving. So everything moves, but movement only exists if it is relative to something else.  If we know our solar systems and galaxies and clusters all move because we see them in relationship to other galaxies, we deduce that the whole universe is moving. So again, the question is posed…what are we moving towards or away from….???

Well… it must be something outside of our universe…because our word universe incorporates everything we can possibly imagine…which brings us back to the fact that something we cannot imagine or begin to comprehend exists… beyond even what our understanding of the word “exists” means.

Maybe it is the same incomprehensible “what if” that created the unfathomable, non-definable experiences of love and wonder and passion.

Stories can change a culture.

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on December 6, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Stories are often what changes lives.

A friend of mine, Kurt,  was in Kenya recently watching one of those global television stations as it presented a fascinating story.  The setting was in Cambodia where a man from the World Wildlife Foundation was trying to help save a big ol ugly catfish that swims in their very nasty river there.  We’re not talking just a big catfish.  It’s more like the giant kind. Somewhere between 100-300 pounds. The man was trying to help convince the locals that this catfish was essential for the river to actually survive.  He decided to pay the fishermen every time they would catch one of these monster fish…and then he would proceed to toss them back into the river.  So the fishermen get paid and the fish lives so he can continue to get caught again or learn how to not get caught or go make other little catfish, or whatever it is that monster catfish do.  The man knew this tradition needed to be continued so he did a great thing.  He wrote a children’s story book about the big catfish and how important they are to the river.  He needed to protect the catfish and the river and one of the best ways to do that was to put a story into the heads of the children who grew up around the river so that they would learn at an early age…the best way they do learn…through stories.  That way when they grow up, no one has to pay them to catch the fish and throw in back. (can you actually “throw a 200 lb catfish?)  It would just be part of their natural understanding. The story would change a culture.

So…why am I writing about stories and about catfish.  We all know how powerful the right stories are for children.  Our team at the 410 Bridge were discussing this whole story thing not long ago.  One of the hopes was that stories about virtues and character and responsibility be available to parents in Kenya so it would be easier to teach their children.  So, the question was, who can write great stories with great teaching that kids would be totally engaged with.  Then we realized, there are already a ton of books written that teach principles to kids that kids want to hear over and over again.  So, we took some of those incredible traditional books and read them to Kenyan children to see if they responded to them the way our kids do.

Seems that most great stories are universal.  We read them books like “The Little Engine that Could”, “The three little pigs”, and the Little Red Hen.”  They loved them all.

Ok so now you are asking “what next?”  Great question.  I wrote some stuff to put in the back of a number of each of these books that were biblical principles that parents could use to talk with their kids about after they read them the book. And we set up the opportunity for you to buy books as Christmas presents to send over to Kenya to help parents read to their kids and talk about faith.  Wow…this is really exciting …to me and a bunch of people. So I told you this story hoping you would be engaged enough by the story to want to help kids and parent get stories for Christmas and discover what Christmas really is all about.  So…you’ve read enough here… I ‘d love for you to see and hear more about how you can get involved by heading over to  and checking it out and help us help the people in the world who can’t afford books, to have them and have a lot more because of them.  Thanks for reading..


Posted by: Lanny Donoho on October 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Why the Pink Suit


It’s cool to post videos that everyone likes or put odd things or stories or fail blogs on your site. But now and then, ya just wanna chat about life and what it looks like from here.  I just finished helping to produce, brainstorm, perform, MC, the event that thrills me every year…Catalyst.

One of the reasons I love it is because it often lives up to it’s name. I don’t want to do an event just so that we can do cool stuff with great music and wild cannon shots and big-time speakers. You can sit at your computer now and see all of that all day long.  But the word is “Catalyst”.  And the hope is that it is indeed a catalyst.  Something or someone who causes “change”.

The world is an intriguing  place. We have a tendency to think everybody sees the world the way we see it. That’s just so not even close. Think about what you have seen and heard at catalyst.  A billion people don’t have clean water. Millions die because of that.  Kids are sold every day not just in other countries but right here in our home towns. The are made into sex slaves.  Thousands!  Right here. 140 million kids here don’t have parents and won’t grow up to know what a loving family looks like.  Hundreds of people who sat around you at that conference are struggling with pornography that could easily destroy their lives and marriages. Thousands of kids and young adults are walking away from the church every day simply because it doesn’t seem relevant to them. OOPs because it actually isn’t relevant to them.

Then you have kids like Riley who are eating rice and beans so they can raise money to help the world live.  People like Randall Wallace who wants to make a difference in the weird world of movie making and Hollywood.  Sponsors of kids who know that their sponsorship will change the whole world for a kid in another country and hopefully their influence will help other to sponsor more kids. Organizations like Compassion, and 410 Bridge and Charity Water that are helping people get involved personally in making the world look totally different.  Thinkers like Andy Stanley and Daniel Pink who really want you to “think” differently so you can actually be a catalyst for change.  Wow, I keep thinking of tons of people and organizations who we can “connect” with that should be the way that this weird world needs to bring it more light.

So I could ramble on for a long time but here is the point of  my ramblings.  Everything in me hopes that Catalyst isn’t just another event that doesn’t create change. 13000 people in one place getting to experience some time away from their normal worlds so that when they go back, they make those worlds not normal anymore.

I wear pink suits and paint my face blue and ride mules and camels, and shoot people out of cannons and have them dive off 35 ft planks into kiddie pools and now and then I wonder about that.

Then I realize that God created us to laugh and enjoy and be mesmerized and surprised and sit in awe and wonder so he can capture our attention. And when he has our attention, I have no doubt he’d like to say “Now!

Take a look!


You are only on the planet for a while.  And you are there for a reason.  Look at all your options.

What is your reason?

What will you be the catalyst for?

Where do your gifts lie? Are you a leader?

Then go home and lead.

Then…I wanna hear that the world changed because 13000 leaders watched and listened and learned and and led …and because of that, millions of people…possibly billions, have a different kind of world to live in than they did before.

My other job is to produce Bigstuf. It’s basically Catalyst for students. I watch thousands of kids go home from camp every year and do what we are hoping you do.

They jump in. They charge into hell with a water pistol and they don’t take no for an answer.  Those students need your help in this battle too.  That’s the other reason I do Catalyst. I want you leaders to take seriously the students around you and I pray that you lead them as they learn to lead.  I know it looks like my job is bizarre, but I do it because I want your attention long enough to make sure you get what we are all here to do.

And isn’t it incredible that we have a God who created “wow” and “whoa” and “yeah!” And “laughter”, and” music,”  and “friendship” so we could wear all of that as we march into the hard stuff?

That’s all I got for now.  No pictures. No videos. Just thoughts about how we need to be catalysts to change the world. Thanks for joining me.

If you wanna be part of this movement. You can join me at Catalyst, or Orange, or Bigstuf Camps, or The 410 Bridge.  W

Seth Godin’s List

Posted by: Lanny Donoho on October 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Seth Godin spoke at Catalyst today. Some great concepts to contemplate.

Meanwhile on his blog he has posted an interesting list which I am gonna repost here. As Leaders we need to demonstrate strength. This is a great list to consider as you consider your position as a leader. Do you do this stuff?


Defer to others

Avoid shortcuts

Tell the truth

Offer kindness

Seek alliances

Volunteer to take the short straw

Choose the long-term, sacrificing the short

Demonstrate respect to all, not just the obviously strong

Share credit and be public in your gratitude

Risking the appearance of weakness takes strength. And the market knows it.

Why Moms Matter. Tribute to Martha Jeane Giglio

Posted by: admin on September 24, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Why Mom’s Matter.
A tribute to Martha Jeane Giglio

World Changers

I didn’t know Louie when he was young. But I have heard some great stories. He wasn’t wild like…in a biker gang carrying sawed off shotguns. But, he didn’t hesitate to be fairly annoying to a lot of people. Like I said, I didn’t know him so I can’t say a lot about his past. I just know he may have put a snake or two in a mailbox or two, and he may have re adjusted some traffic blockades to rearrange traffic in a not-totally-legal way.
Here is what I do know. He has talked a lot about his mom and dad.
They loved him.
They were great people. The last few months have been difficult as Louie’s mom has struggled with her health.
But I just gotta imagine a few things for a few minutes. I wonder if Martha Jeane ever imagined the impact her son would make on literally millions of people all over the world. I have a feeling she had thoughts about what her young son might do later on in his life but I also have a feeling she couldn’t have dreamed the world-wide influence he would have.
Here are my thoughts. It probably didn’t matter to her exactly what he might do later on in life when he was five. But it did matter that she showed him how much he was loved. I think about my own mom and what life was like when I was a kid. Nobody could have imagined I would be doing what I do. Heck, you didn’t even laugh in church much back then. But, I do know without a shadow of a doubt that my mom loved me. And, I’m pretty sure that Louie always knew he was loved and cherished. That’s what makes men and women become the people they are.
I wish I had known Martha Jeane better. But I know Louie well enough to know that he loved his mom and dad dearly and that they loved him. And I know that that kind of love transforms us. When Martha Jean stepped into heaven a few days ago, my guess is that there was a lot of jubilation and excitement. I have no idea really what heaven is like but, if I made it up in my mind for a bit, I could picture a multitude of angels and people rejoicing about how cool it was that such a devoted and loving person who cared for so many people, and lived such a great life, got to leave the difficulties of here and show up there with no more pain and lots of eternal rejoicing.
But then I have a feeling that maybe a few million people may have been whispering…hey…did you know that because of that lady, millions of people know Jesus? Yeah, she’s the one who made sure Louie stayed on track to do what God called him to do. Nothing against Louie…he is just being obedient…but that Lady that just stepped into heaven is the real reason a million more people will show up here soon.
Thanks Martha Jeane and thanks Louie for walking in the light.

BTW…this was the phrase on Martha Jeane’s Facebook profile
Quotations I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

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