Scratch Your Itch

Something happened at the debate tournament in New Mexico yesterday. I witnessed a judge at the table next to me in the judges lounge take out my book and reference it and return it back to her bag.

The judges' lounge is where judges attempt to bring simplicity to the confusion.

The judges’ lounge is where judges attempt to bring simplicity to the confusion. (Photo by Heidi Mittelberg)

Here’s how it happened. The judges lounge was filled with a couple dozen adults all working on their ballots. I was finished with mine, so I was enjoying a cob salad. I observed this woman do what any judge could do: reference a notable manual to make sure they were on the right track.

Thing is, this is exactly what my Jeub’s Guide to Speech & Debate is intended to do! I wrote it to convert the complicated details of speech and debate into easy-to-understand chunks. I break down the complex and make it simple.

This woman had absolutely no idea how much joy she brought to my life at that moment. I have literally worked for years trying to get Jeub’s Guide to Speech & Debate to the point of being a simple and thorough resource for someone like a lay judge in a judges lounge. 

I’m reminded of my friend John Saddington, an entrepreneur who spoke at the Platform Conference last month. He gave five perspectives every successful entrepreneur should have, the final being “scratch your itch.” Come to think of it, I suppose this is what I have been doing for years with speech and debate. It’s too complex—it’s an itch—so my attempt to scratch it is my attempt to make it easy-to-understand.

There are three steps to Saddington’s idea of “scratch your itch,” and I believe my book accomplishes the task. I have other resources in the making that are attempting to do the same. Perhaps you do, too, so let me explain each of these steps.

Step 1: Fix your own problems

I remember the day when I didn’t know a thing about speech and debate. See, unlike the coaches I hire for my camps, I wasn’t a big hot-shot champion in my day. I was “too cool for school” and wouldn’t join the debate team (which is one of my biggest regrets in my life, and I’ll write about that some day I’m sure).

So when I became a teacher and fell in love with the sport of competitive speech and debate, I had a problem. The problem was NOT failing to understand the great benefits of speaking and debating as an academic sport—I got that, just like you probably get that, too. My problem was the understanding how it all worked. I needed to school myself in the complexities of speaking events, judging, tournaments, coaching, etc. It was a huge learning curve!

I proceeded to scratch my itch. I learned speech and debate. I got into the groove. And I saw others attempting to scratch their itch, too, which led me to the next step.

Step 2: Build the solution

For six years (1995-2001) I was a student of speech and debate. I scratched like nobody could scratch. I had to study volumes and volumes of works to understand what others thought was so easy. No one wrote a guide that made it easy (what I would’ve paid for one!). They were written by experts (remember those coaches I hire for my camps…they’re sometimes the worst enemy to newbies).

In 2001, I launched Training Minds and my first edition to Jeub’s Guide to Speech & Debate. It was my attempt to build the solution that I wished I had to help guide me through the details of speech and debate. Every two or three years since then I have revised my edition to adapt to the times, but the revisions all do the same things: make the complex simple, bring order to the confused speech and debate enthusiast.

Just like that judge in the judging lounge. When in doubt, refer back to the Jeub’s Guide. Perfect. Others can scratch that same itch.

Step 3: Sell them

This is where someone like John Saddington carries weight. He’s an entrepreneur who has built million-dollar start-ups and has turned over several profitable acquisitions. He’s quite an impressive guy. You know something profound?

Saddington’s secret isn’t all that complicated. When you’ve got the solution, sell it. [Tweet this]

This may sound too simple. In my case, I built a non-profit, a publishing company, and all sorts of byproducts to launch my book. But the fact of the matter is that all these details moved along a common path: sell my unique scratch. I priced it and threw it out there. This was the catalyst to building a business that supports my family today.

These three steps—fix your own problems, build the solution, sell them—apply to the big shot entrepreneur like John Saddington just like it applies to a little curriculum publisher like me. It applies to anyone with an itch to solve a problem and help others figure it out, too. So my question to you is:

What itch are you good at scratching? 

That may just be the thing you should be selling.