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

I Wish That I Had Known This Earlier

Written by: on January 8, 2024

The last few months have been humbling as my rate of learning has increased.

I am mentoring a young leader who introduced me to Obsidian in early 2023. I was intimidated at first but as I played with it, I grew to appreciate the ability to connect thoughts and ideas. I have a long way to go to manipulate the program and maximize its usefulness, but it is changing the way I think, write, and interact with ideas. I found myself wishing that I had this tool when I was younger. That’s the humbling part.

However, I realized just how useful this tool will be for my DLGP when I read and interacted with Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, Sonke Ahren’s How to Take Smart Notes, and The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking by Paul and Elder. All of these books stirred up the same sense of wishing that I felt when I first used Obsidian. Where were these earlier in my life?

All that to say, my rate of learning has increased significantly. I find it invigorating because I love to learn. However, I also find it humbling because I wish I had learned it earlier.

First, I want to become a much more demanding reader. Even though I wrote synoptical reviews for my master’s degree, I didn’t take the kind of effective approach that Adler provides in his book. I realized I could have been much better equipped. However, now that I have read it, I have been practicing both inspectional and analytical reading. It’s already making a noticeable difference in my speed, comprehension, and ability to articulate the ideas found in the books I’ve been reading. Inspectional reading will help me to get a good enough grasp on the books and will help me to know where I should focus. I would like to grow to the point of being able to efficiently grasp the content of the book, articulate the main arguments in my own words, how I might assess each author, and how they relate to one another.

Secondly, I want to be able to build a “slip box” in Obsidian that can capture ideas and help me progress in my thinking as I write throughout this course. I have taken notes in the past, in notebooks and online, but have not built a robust system that helps me progress in my thinking. Most of my notes have been quotes, thoughts, stories and outlines that are disconnected from each other. I also keep a daily online journal in which I jot down a lot of thoughts. I plan to use Obsidian to practice the discipline of using fleeting notes, literary notes, and permanent notes so that I progress in thinking rather than just storing information. My goal will be to capture 3-5 notes per day five days per week.

Finally, Paul and Elder’s book will help me to write in a way that reflects better critical thought. I have written many sermons, but academic writing requires a different skill set and voice. I believe that the “Elements of thought”, and “Questions using the elements of thought” will be helpful as I write academically. I plan to use these as I reflect on my writing and will seek feedback from my peers and project faculty.

Learning new things has been humbling but learning is also invigorating as I can begin to see how it transforms me and will also serve others well. Now, I need to buckle up my seatbelt and hang on, we’re going faster.

About the Author

Graham English

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa 30 minutes from Table Mountain, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. My family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada where I spent my teen years, met Wendy, and got married. We now live on the Canadian prairies in northern Alberta. I think God has a sense of humour. I'm a follower of Jesus, work in leadership and church development, love my family and walk a lot.

18 responses to “I Wish That I Had Known This Earlier”

  1. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Great summary Graham and thanks for sharing! I appreciate your humility and admission that you wished you had learned these things sooner, but I trust that God’s timing is good and you are learning them now, so that’s better then not at all, right?

    I appreciated your summary of what you want out of a book and how to put it into your own words. I wonder if a template in Obsidian asking those questions might help you. The questions you asked are already helping me so thanks for articulating those! Well done!

    • Graham English says:

      Thanks, Ryan, Definitely, I think this learning is timely and God has a purpose in all of this. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to study.

  2. Jeff Styer says:

    Graham, I am guessing that there are many of us that share your same sentiment, I wish I knew about this earlier. I really am amazed that given how long Adler and Van Doren’s book has been around that it is not used in high school or undergraduate programs. I like how you are planning on using Obsidian. I am just starting, so I hope to be able to use it effectively and efficiently.

    • Graham English says:

      I was also amazed at how long the Adler book has been around. I wonder how many other great books I’ve missed out on that would have benefitted me.

  3. Debbie Owen says:

    Graham, I appreciate the excellent review of the materials. And I get your wish to have had these earlier, especially Obsidian which, for me, could be a real game-changer… if I can figure out how to use it more effectively.

    I also appreciate your humility regarding coming late to the game in these regards, but also encourage you to focus on gratefulness that you have these tools now. You never know what God will introduce into your life next! What an adventure! 🙂

    • Graham English says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Debbie. Gratitude for the current use of these tools is a great reminder. I am trying to cultivate gratitude every day by recording thankfulness in my journey. Great reminder!

  4. mm Glyn Barrett says:

    Hi Graham. I laughed out loud at the title of your post. In fact, I almost didn’t need to read the rest of the post (thanks to Adler). You are right, where were these tools years ago, oh the ease we could have had at this stage of the Doctoral program.
    With Obsidian and the graph view, I find that when I click on one of the words, ie Oxford, it brings up a new window in the program – but hasn’t necessarily collated all of my comments into that new window, am I missing something in my backlinking process or am I asking Obsidian to do something it can’t?
    My hope is that when I click on a word in graph view, all of my notes on that subject are linked and summarised together. Thoughts?

  5. Diane Tuttle says:

    Graham, Thanks for mentioning a different way to think of the slip box. I originally wrote that it felt clunky so didn’t want to use it. I think I am bulking at a bunch of note cards filed in a box that can easily get mixed up if dropped, lost or damaged. The idea of using the slip box technique on the Obsidian platform is a good one. thx.

    • Graham English says:

      Diane, it’s taken me quite some time and I’m still trying to figure out how to create a system that works for me. You will find a way that works well for you, I’m sure.

  6. Nancy Blackman says:

    Graham, Thanks for connecting Obsidian, straight out of the gate, to thinking. I just downloaded Obsidian last night so will be messing around with it over the next few days since so many other students keep praising this as a way to help process thoughts and connect dots.

    I am intrigued by a statement you made, “I have taken notes in the past, in notebooks and online, but have not built a robust system that helps me progress in my thinking.”

    I never thought about notetaking as a way to progress my thinking, so now I’m walking away to marinate on that.

    You mentioned a daily goal of note taking. How do you hope to use that as a way to progress your thoughts in context to your research?

    • Graham English says:

      Great question, Nancy. I will take fleeting notes during the day when I think something from reading etc. is related to my research. Then later in the day, I will have to set aside time to develop more thought about that note. I plan to create links based on the categories already emerging for me in my research. That’s all I’ve got thus far.

      • mm Kari says:

        Graham, thank you for your honesty and humility. I, for one, am grateful that God has you on this journey at this specific time so that I can learn from you!

        Thanks for sharing how you will be capturing notes daily. This is helpful for those of us just starting.

  7. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Hi Graham,
    Your desire to be more of a “demanding reader” really made me pause. I am unsure if I know what that means to me, so I hope you can share what it means to you!

    • Graham English says:

      Good question. The idea is that I should be wanting more from my reading than what I can get through an elementary reading of a book. Until recently, I didn’t ask the questions I could have asked or interacted with the author the way I could have. Both inspectional and analytical reading will help me think more critically as I read. Thanks for reading and for asking.

  8. mm Jennifer Eckert says:

    Hi Graham,
    I wish I had also known these “tips and tricks” earlier in my academic career. The remark Chris made is a question I also had. My interpretation (although it may be incorrect) was that you naturally accept what you read as truth without applying some of the critical thinking aspects to it. Is that somewhere in the range of your intent?

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