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Monday, December 1, 2014

Strategic Notes from FEE—Spreading ideas is a team sport

December 2014

FEE’s annual report for 2014 is hot off the press and I’m elated. This year, FEE has set new records in every program area: 3 million online sessions, 800 seminar attendees, 18 live-streamed events with 12,000 views, 90 speaking engagements with 15,000 total in-person audience, and 115,000 physical media distributed.

And we have exciting plans for 2015: expanding our online engagement, more capacity at high school seminars, new distribution channels for physical media, increased focus on values and ethical principles, and systematic research into audience preferences.

At Thanksgiving last week, I gave thanks for this year’s productivity from FEE and pondered over my pumpkin pie what might have brought it all about.

In this frame of mind, I was watching some clips from the press conference that Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks gave on Thanksgiving night after his team dispatched the San Francisco 49ers in such impressive fashion. He spoke about his team in ways that reminded me of the FEE staff, and it dawned on me that the key explanation for FEE’s success in 2014 is our staff, because, like football, spreading ideas on liberty is a team sport.

Wilson spoke about being on the Seahawks as a special experience, which is how I feel about being part of FEE. He liked the fact that his teammates have character, energy, focus, and mental toughness. That’s a fair description of the high personal standards on the FEE staff. There’s no hope at all for success without this.

Beyond these qualities as individuals, what inspired Wilson was their sense of togetherness, the good vibe in the locker room, their diversity of talent, and the championship mindset that they brought to their work every day.

I can’t think of a better way to describe my FEE experience. The staff is united in its dedication to the ideas and to FEE’s distinct role in making them broadly available to future leaders. We enjoy hanging out together. FEE runs lean but covers a lot of ground because of the breadth of skills among the staff.

And I thought the phrase “championship mindset” was particularly apt as a descriptor of FEE. As a group, we expect nothing less of ourselves than to be the premier community on the planet for getting excited and informed about ideas on liberty, and that expectation is felt in the FEE office on a daily basis.

There’s an important factor beyond our high-performing staff that is needed to explain our superior results for 2014. FEE enjoys the support of a large network of people who are similarly fired up about liberty and aligned with us to make things happen—advisors who guide our thinking, like-minded organizations who coordinate outreach with us, influencers of youth who distribute our work-product, and the investors whose generosity makes it all possible.

Russell Wilson expressed his gratitude on Thanksgiving night for being a member of the Seahawks. This holiday season, I give thanks for the privilege of being associated with FEE, our extraordinary staff and our extensive community of enthusiastic supporters.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with any comments or questions.

  • Wayne Olson is the Chairman of FEE's Board of Trustees and a former executive director of the Foundation for Economic Education.