In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes an analogy that has stuck with me for years: the bus. I used to own one, pictured below. I built it for my growing family, and enjoyed a number of adventures.
In Good to Great, Collins compares the bus to the business, the big idea that is rolling down the highway. The business I run is a bus rolling down the highway, and each person on the bus serves a specific function to the ride. For years I’ve been driving the speech and debate bus. It’s an awesome bus to be on, and you may or may not have found a place on it.
I’m building a new bus, and no matter where you fit into the academic world, you’ll find a welcome seat in this brand new bus.
Come with me on this journey. This is a long post, but bear with me as I explain. It’ll be worth your time and consideration.
First, a personal question: Where do I fit on the bus?
When it comes to my business and ministry, I’m the bus driver. Of course I am. Perhaps you know my history already, but real quick:
- Taught public school English in the 1990s.
- Discovered home education plus speech and debate.
- Started creating sourcebooks for debaters.
- Moved to Colorado to pursue writing and publishing.
- Developed Training Minds Ministry in 2001 to run camps and create curriculum.
- Started Monument Publishing in 2004 to serve as the publishing house for the materials.
- Had a bunch of kids while doing so.
My coaches know this about me, but you may not: I enjoy creating the processes, the events, the models that will bring their talent to the people. I don’t do a lot of the teaching at camp, nor do I write more than 10% of my own curriculum. I gravitate to the work that makes everything work together, but the details are better handled by those who love the detailed work.
An example: Blue Book. This is my bestselling sourcebook, written for team-policy debaters in three leagues, the NCFCA, Stoa, and NFL. Vance Trefethen and I have been writing this together since 2001. It is a tremendously helpful tool for policy debaters. Without it, they would literally spend dozens—perhaps hundreds—of hours scouring news articles for basic information on the year’s topic. Every year Vance and I put together about a dozen foundational cases and briefs—all pertaining to the topic—and bind them up for debaters. They love it, and at $40 a pop, the yearly publication serves as fuel to the camps and other curriculum we produce.
Here’s the secret: I don’t write any of the briefs. Seriously, as far as the writing goes, Vance does all the work. I haven’t written one case or brief in the history of Blue Book. I’m almost ashamed to admit it. Blue Book comes with introductory chapters that explain what the activity is about and how to do it, but that is repurposed every year. Two chapters that give a rough overview of the topic, I tend to hire that out to my daughter, Cynthia, or Vance’s old debate partner. Ultimately, I push away the work as much as I possibly can.
Does that make me a lazy bum? It may seem like it, but hear me out for a moment.
I have created the arena of operation that allows my coaches (people like Vance) to play. Vance absolutely loves writing debate briefs. He lives in France, so he often Skypes me in the wee hours of the morning about some squirrelly case he discovered in his late-night research. I love seeing him love his work. He sends me stacks and stacks of briefs every season and I get to work with his content. I’m hardly a bum. I…
- Edit it. Vance is a great writer, so he makes it easy on me. However, I have to format everything to precise type fonts and styles in order to bring the content to print.
- Print it. There are several formats the content needs to be in. There are digital downloads and physical printings that need to be managed.
- Sell it. I have an entire e-commerce system that needs maintaining and development on a regular basis. I take approximately 2,000 orders per year in my niche market of homeschool speakers and debaters.
- Promote it. Though I’m a leading seller to my people, I still need to promote my resources. I have an email strategy and social media network that helps get the word out that Blue Book (and more resources) are ready for purchase.
- Report it. I have to keep track of all my sales and profits and royalties and expenses. The tax man comes faithfully every year, and keeping track of finances is a required task of my work.
- Preach it. In a way, I am promoting a unique sport. I’m constantly trying to convince homeschool parents to take up speech and debate, and team-policy debate is one facet of it all.
- Take care of it. This is a big bus that rolls down the highway. Customers want to be taken care of, conferences call for my attention, competitors and clubs call for my teaching.
Whew, this is a lot of work, and this is just for Blue Book. I have Red (Lincoln-Douglas debate), Gold (extemp and parli debate), Silver (apologetics), Bronze (interp and platform speeches) books, too. Textbooks and curriculum follow suit. And then there are camps, the nonprofit side of the work I do, that is a whole other bus I enjoy driving every year.
Okay, this may be TMI (too much information). I have a purpose here, and it involves you. I want you to participate in something that is very near-and-dear to my heart.
Second, a Subjective Question: Where Do You Fit on the Bus?
Some people (like Vance) have fit nicely on my coaching bus for quite some time. I have about a dozen tried-and-true coaches who write and coach for me regularly, plus about 50 former champions who help put together curriculum and other resources. It’s a great bus to be on, and we enjoy the ride together as we “train minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13) through academic speech and debate. You may fit nicely on this bus, but it’s a niche market, and chances are your future is outside this specific Training Minds Bus.
I’ve got a bigger vision for you. I want you to be part of some action—it could be anything, really—the specific calling God has for you. I believe Training Minds Ministry is a big deal, much bigger than just speech and debate, though that’s what it has been about for the past dozen years. We’ve got training minds down pat, but we’re more about for action. The action you take in life is what “train minds for action” is all about.
This is why I’m doing the FOR ACTION CONFERENCE in January. I’m bringing together speakers who have a strong history of doing the work, people who have successfully engaged in their own passions and beaten back the resistance of apathy and malaise. It’s kind of an epidemic of our time, really: people aren’t feeling too motivated to do good work. The FOR ACTION CONFERENCE is the ministerial attempt at a cure.
This is a whole new bus. I’ll still have my Training Minds Bus for academic speakers and debaters, but the For Action Bus has a whole new set of people on it. Check out the speakers I have lined up. I have seasoned businessmen and ministry leaders who will be sharing their expertise (I call these my Patriarchs). I also have model young people in their 20s, movers and shakers who have accomplished great things at young ages (I call these my Prophets). They’re sticking around for three days at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs to help lead attendees to Great Commission work (what I call the Pentecost), ultimately to roll down the highway God has in store for them.
I want you to come.
Seriously. You will want to be there. If you have a passion stirring in your belly to do the work, you should join me in Colorado Springs January 2-4, 2014, for three days of modeling how it’s done.
Check out my registration page (http://trainingminds.org/action). You can read up on the speakers, the venue, the purpose, etc. There are a limited number of tickets available. Make the trip to Colorado —it’s peak skiing season, by the way—and we’ll spend three great days sharpening your focus on the good work God has in store for you.
This is a great bus to be on, my friend. You don’t want to miss the ride. See you at the FOR ACTION CONFERENCE in January!
January 2-4, 2014
Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs