Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Reading and FOMO

Written by: on January 8, 2024

One of my strengths and weaknesses is that I don’t particularly like leaving things unfinished. I would not consider myself a perfectionist, but leaving projects unfinished creates significant irritation. Consequently, although I have always engaged with reading, I have usually read books from beginning to end, just in case I am missing something. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a reality I face in reading. I have always been an elementary reader. While the Masters program greatly challenged that and indeed forced me into a more inspectional type of reading, there is no doubt that my natural inclination is to read from cover to cover. It’s time to grow up and face the facts. There is no time to do that with the books in the semester’s reading schedule. Indeed, the type of books don’t demand that from the reader. The academic books of last semester and this semester are less a storytelling journey, drawing the reader into a compelling narrative and more of a “pick and mix” idea. In other words, the four reading levels espoused by Adler are incredibly freeing. “It’s ok not to read the whole book!” “It’s ok to begin with the inspectional read and then choose where to go from there!” Not only is this a liberating idea, but it makes the book schedule for the semester seem less daunting.
The four questions to ask of every book create a template for reading the books this semester and will guide our desire to “read further” or not.

1. What is the book about? 2. What is being said in detail and how? 3. Is the book true in whole or in part? and 4. What of it? These questions to ask at every reading level may lead to a “next level of reading,” i.e. from Inspectional to Analytical or Analytical to Synoptical where necessary. But the questions also allow the reader to put the book down and move on.
Adler’s book is compelling until Part 3, allowing the reader to read in further depth in Part 4, assuming that Part 3 is reference-type material, which is useful when reading the types of books mentioned in that section. I look forward to Dr Clarke’s challenge of writing about a book without reading a book and seeing if we can “catch him out.”

My note-taking has always been “verbatim”. Write down everything I can, as fast as possible, hoping that the critical things will stick, and I have enough to review post-lecture/reading. How to Take Smart Notes by Ahrens challenges that and provides simple yet profound note-taking tools. At the Oxford advance I was introduced to Obsidian and have been using that since, learning how to connect thoughts and ideas. I plan to use that tool to collate all the ideas I read through the doctoral program and beyond.

Paul and Elder’s book on critical thinking has simple profundity throughout. Whether it be the simplicity of defining critical thinking on page 2 and the diagrams throughout or the profound step-by-step guide to problem-solving on page 17, the book will invariably become the book to guide critical insight into all other books. My already dog-eared, written, all-over Critical Thinking guide will stay with me throughout the doctoral journey.

About the Author


Glyn Barrett

I am the founding, Lead Pastor of !Audacious Church in Manchester, England. I was born in Manchester, but moved to Australia at the age of two. My wife and I were married in Australia and began married and ministry life in England 28 years ago. After serving as youth pastors for 12 years, we moved to Manchester to pioneer !Audacious Church. As a church we now have 7 locations. 3 in Manchester, Chester, Cardiff (Wales), Sheffield, and Geneva (Switzerland). In 2019 I became the National Leader of Assemblies of God in Great Britain. We have over 600 churches in our movement and have planted 50 new churches since May 2022 with a goal of planting 400 new churches between May 2022 and May 2028. I am the European Lead for MM33, which is the church planting ministry for Assemblies of God Global and also chair Empowered21 Western Europe. I'm happily married to Sophia, with two children, one dog and two motorbikes. I love Golf, coffee and spending time with friends. Looking forward to meeting you all, and creating new friendships.

16 responses to “Reading and FOMO”

  1. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Thanks Glyn. I agree that not having to read the whole book is incredibly freeing. I’m looking forward also to learning more about smart note taking. Are there one or two tools you’re already taking away from Ahrens that you can implement this week? I might be overly ambitious but am trying to finish my work day by collecting my notes and organizing them into categories as Ahrens suggests. Happy reading brother!

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hey Ryan! The first tool I’m looking to take away from the book is the idea that with just three slip box notes per day, you can amass a vast array of interconnected ideas. I agree with what you are calling an overly ambitious idea, but finishing the work day by collecting notes and organising them will undoubtedly pay huge dividends in the long term. The great issue, though, is the commitment to daily discipline in order to achieve this.
      Secondly, on page 103, the author suggests asking several questions in order to elaborate on the ideas you are formulating. 1. What does it mean? 2. How does it connect to? 3. What’s the difference between? 4. What is it similar to? I find that asking great questions enables simplicity of thought and clarity of connection with other ideas. The five why exercise in our NPO Discovery day reminded me of this truth.

      • Adam Cheney says:

        Good job Glyn on being the first in the cohort to move us into the discussion board mode. This idea of adding three notes each day does seem a bit daunting but I am reminded that all notes don’t need to be of equal value and length. I wrote a note yesterday about a great book I read and it was very detailed. I also just dropped a note in my Obsidian just now about a coffee meeting I had with a local pastor and some of the highlights of the meetings. I find that it does help me process thoughts a bit more. I am glad to hear that Obsidian is becoming a bit easier for you to use.

    • Chad Warren says:

      Ryan, seeing the way you and Glyn plan to make daily cataloging notes a priority is an encouragement and challenge for me. I am curious to know from both of you if you are using Obsidian outside of the doctoral program for things like sermon prep, teaching, and meetings?

      • mm Glyn Barrett says:

        Hi Chad. Yes I have thought about taking notes on Obsidian outside of the Doctoral program. It would make sense, especially since the interconnectedness of ideas and resources in all the conferences and sermons we sit in will undoubtedly feed into the Doctoral work.

  2. Graham English says:

    First out of the gate! Way to go, mate. I wonder, what principles from Paul and Elder’s book might be most challenging for you to apply? I also welcome your critical thought as I seek to become a better writer.

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      This is a big one because there’s so much to challenge our thinking in this miniature guide to critical thinking. I think the most challenging principle is his one page on “questions using the elements of thought”. While I love asking questions, the challenge I find is having the discipline to stay on track and not dive deep into an area that leads me to a dead end. Answering questions is both joyful and frustrating. Answers inevitably bring more questions. So frustrating!
      As a side note, I certainly found the page on “three types of character” very thought-provoking. it enabled me to reflect on church movements that I’ve been connected to and why certain crises have occurred within each. For example, in a movement that is principally founded within the “uncritical person” type, cults and manipulation have easily thrived.

  3. Diane Tuttle says:

    Thanks Glyn. You have some good take aways. I too like the Critical Thinking book. I wonder if the outline form of it makes it easier the digest the concepts without needing to write them all. Can you tell me what you like best about Obsidian? I am leaning toward using it but a couple reviews would help. thx.

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hi Diane, yes, you are right, the outline form does make it much easier.
      With Obsidian, here are two strengths and weaknesses of using it.
      1. Obsidian creates a flexible note-taking experience for you. You are able to create and organise notes in different ways, including a stacking approach to layer a personalised knowledge management system.
      2. My favourite is the Backlinking and Graph View of ideas. Obsidian creates connections through backlinking (as long as you create the backlinks) between notes. Over time, you are able to visualise the graph view, which visually represents all of your connections.

      1. It takes a while to learn. I’m still learning how best to use it. It does take time. Even Obsidian has to admit that some users might find it challenging to grasp all the features and customisation options initially. But I definitely think its worth hanging in there.
      2. Obsidian primarily relies on local storage. There are workarounds for cloud syncing, but it’s not as seamlessly integrated as some competing platforms that offer native cloud support.

  4. Debbie Owen says:

    Glyn, I especially like your comment above, to Diane, about how Obsidian relys on local storage. That caused me to try to figure out how to sync Obsidian to my phone so I can record my fleeting thoughts there instead of in Google Docs. But it’s more complicated than I have time to figure out right now.

    I understand the hesitancy to leave books unfinished. My husband teases me about that all the time! But it’s liberating to know that you don’t have to finish a book, cover to cover. 🙂 Enjoy the freedom.

  5. Christy Liner says:

    Great job Glyn! I resonate with readers FOMO. I too have been an elementary reader, generally reading from cover to cover. Do you have any ideas on where this FOMO comes from? Is it only FOMO? I wonder if there’s an element of us behaving in the way we were taught, or having a sense of accomplishment from finishing a book. There’s something satisfying about closing the book after reading the final page. I may miss this satisfaction with inspectional reading.

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Christy I think you have zeroed in on the heart of the matter. I was raised with the mantra “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” Anything beyond an Elementary read, while seeming to fly in the face of that, demands a different account of what it means to be “doing it right”. If by definition I am doing Inspectional, Analytical and Syntopical right, then by virtue of that, I can say “job well done.”

  6. Nancy Blackman says:

    I actually love the fact that I don’t have to read an entire book to get the gist of the author’s message. Like you, there is something liberating. And, I imagine, with books that pique my interest I will set them aside in a read-after-the-program stack that I can return to and savor each word.

    As a perfectionist, how do you hope to navigate your confession of reading FOMO as you take this journey in a way that feels right and good to you and your soul?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hi Nancy. Great question. Again, I dont think I am a perfectionist per se, but the idea that I may miss a wow nugget of truth is the issue here. In simple truth, it’s merely a case of recognising what I am actually, physically able to do in context of everything that I have to do in my work/home/academic life. For example, yesterday I was on a two hour flight and I was able to undertake an Inspectional/Analytical reading of a book. I gave myself two hours to read the book, and touch down of the flight meant I had to be done. Thankfully I finished it with six minutes to spare. So yesterday proved that a time-setting tool works. I’ll try it again with the next book, unlesss of course it demands a full Analytical / Syntopical read.

  7. Akwése Nkemontoh says:

    Omgsh Glyn, when you said how “incredibly freeing” the four reading levels are, I was like yaaaas, you took the words out of my mouth! Based on that I can certainly understand Dr. Clarks challenge to try not reading any of the books and see if he can tell. Knowing that its okay to not read the whole book is liberating indeed and an interesting task to lean into.

    • mm Kari says:

      Glyn, like Akwése, I too could relate to your use of freedom and liberation in your post. It has also helped me view this next semester as “less daunting.”

      I appreciate that you recently started to use Obsidian. What would be a tip or suggestion you would give to someone just starting to using Obsidian?

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