Multiplication Thinking

How's the rhythm of your thinking?

June 7, 2018

Healthy Rhythms

Years ago, I asked a friend who was sight-seeing in Washington D.C. what his favorite thing was to see at the American History Museum. He replied, “Archie Bunker’s chair from his 1970s television sitcom.”

I remember thinking to myself, “That’s stupid; how could a chair be your favorite thing to see when some of the most important things in our nation’s history are there?”

Reagan Chair - image is a picture taken of a picture at the Reagan Ranch CenterFast forward two decades. I had the privilege of touring Rancho del Cielo, President Ronald Reagan’s ranch in the mountains outside Santa Barbara, California. It was an amazing experience. The ranch home is small, quaint, and unassuming. In the words of President Reagan’s daughter, “The ranch was my father’s refuge, his sanctuary; it fed his soul.”

Of all the possible memories, guess what my favorite part was? President Reagan’s family room chair! At the time, I couldn’t even tell you why. But for some unexplained reason, that chair made an enduring impression in my mind.

Fast forward to a few months ago when my friend and mentor Bob Buford died. Bob was a giant of a man to many of us. He was a deeply reflective person and I had the privilege of working closely with him as a personal advisor with a front-row seat to his learnings. His “My fruit grows on other people’s trees” and “You can do it; how can I help?” are values he passed on, and we’ve embedded into Exponential.

Bob and ToddBob would often call me on weekends from his ranch to talk about a new idea. Those calls tended to focus on future opportunities that were sparked by his reflections at the ranch. Bob would say, “I need you to help me think my confusion out loud!” He was always thinking about and driven to discover the next big thing God was up to in the church.

He was a big thinker. A future-biased thinker. A multiplication thinker. His love language was anything with results with up-and-to-the-right potential. It didn’t matter what the units of output were. It could be the number of new church plants, the number of community service hours, or the number of shoes on kids. As long as it involved transformed lives with multiplication potential for expanding God’s Kingdom, Bob was easily excited.

So, this magical ranch that seemed to refresh and inspire Bob’s thinking was always a place of intrigue for me. And that thinking almost always involved multiplication (or at least multiplication potential).

Bob maintained a disciplined life rhythm. He called it his weekly “poured in” and “poured out” balance. Each week, he would spend 3.5 days at his ranch in the country focused on “words, ideas, rest, and silence.” He called this his time for “being poured into.” Then he’d return to Dallas and spend 3.5 days energized by “pouring out and into” people, work, and projects.

You may not have the margin for 50% work and 50% rest. But you do have the ability to create a unique “poured in” and “poured out” rhythm. It’s in the context of disciplined rhythms that we do our best thinking.

My first visit to Bob’s tranquil ranch was at his funeral reception a few months ago. Bob’s long-time assistant B.J. Engle showed me around pointing out Bob’s favorite things and explaining his ranch rhythms.

As we entered the den where Bob did most of his reading, writing, and reflecting, I was first captivated by the amazing view out the back window looking out over a beautiful landscape of 100s of acres of green pastures.

We both momentarily wondered why Bob, at age 78, hadn’t just settled down and retired at the ranch. Why not 100% rest? But we both knew the answer without stating it. Bob found no Biblical precedence for retirement as a principle or Biblical truth. In fact, stewardship is a life-long principle. He’d say something like, “Retirement is a man-made concept. I want to finish well, and God willing, I will work productively until my last breath.”

It was in the rhythm of Bob’s “poured in” times that he developed his worldview, filtered through the truth of the Bible. Bob often said that his most trusted life advisors for processing his thinking were Jesus, Linda (his wife), and Peter Drucker (in that order).

Bob Buford's Thinking ChairAs we continued our tour, B.J. pointed at a chair and said, “That was Bob’s favorite chair. That was where he did his best thinking and writing.” I immediately started clicking pictures of that old chair. Of all the beautiful things at the ranch (including the view out the back window), I’m once again drawn to an old chair.

But this time it made sense to me. The same thing that captivated me about Ronald Reagan’s chair is the same thing that grabbed my heart with Bob’s chair.

No, there isn’t anything mystical about these chairs, and I don’t have some weird condition that draws me irrationally to chairs.

What I do have is a passion for ideas and opportunities and strategies that can lead to 100X impact. And I do understand that ideas lead to opportunities and opportunities to well-laid plans and well laid plans to action and action to results. But this entire, interdependent chain starts with, and is dependent on, creating the space and the rhythm for reflective thinking.

Take away the reflective thinking, and we stunt the potential for results. Reflective thinking is seed planting for a future harvest. This type of thinking then shapes the size of the fields from which we see the harvest.

As I stood there reflecting and enjoying the view looking out the window from Bob’s chair, I was immediately reminded of something Bob once said.  We were discussing Peter Drucker’s ability to assess and see what he called the “futurity of present events.”

Peter told Bob that he didn’t have a special gift for seeing into the future. While most people spend their time distracted by what is happening inside the room, he explained to Bob that he would look out the window, observe what was happening and then seek to discern what that meant for the future. In other words, Drucker created a discipline and an intentionality for futurity thinking.

I realized that this is exactly what Bob would do from that old chair at the ranch. In 1989, Peter Drucker wrote to Bob and said, “You are very unique. Most action-oriented people don’t devote so much time to thought.” It’s easy to be inspired by impact of men like Peter Drucker and Bob Buford, but we can’t miss the truth that great results start with disciplined rhythms for thinking.

It’s not about the chair. It’s what happens in the chair.

But simply creating the space and having your “chair” for thinking is not enough.

The size of the results we get often reflect the size of the initial dream or thinking we experience. We can’t just think randomly; we must dream big!  We must create a culture and discipline of multiplication thinking. We must learn to see the Kingdom through the lens of abundance and not scarcity. Of opportunity and not problems. We must trust the transforming power of the Gospel and we must see the potential movement making capacity of every single Believer regardless of their worldly situation.

The first essential shift in moving from being a hero to becoming a hero maker is multiplication thinking; it causes us to think beyond ourselves and beyond our churches. Instead of thinking the best way to maximize our ministry is through our leadership, we begin to realize that the best way to maximize God’s ministry is through multiplying and developing other leaders.

Surrendering Our Scorecards…

We can create the rhythm and space to enable multiplication thinking, and we can dream big. But if we don’t have the right Kingdom-focused scorecards and motives, we will not experience the fruit of even the best multiplication thinking.

Bob Buford was adamant about measuring results. When turned 73 years old, he shared with me his accounting of his life in 6 key areas:  His marriage, his work, his personal rhythms / disciplines, his legacy trajectory, his children (Leadership Network and Halftime), and his finances. The exercise is profoundly simply and impactful.

Bob maintained the discipline of regular personal assessments and reflections. Three years later at age 76, Bob shared an update to his scorecard. His conclusions reveal the perspective of a life-long learner and student with a surrendered scorecard and hero-maker motives. The process of surrender is a life-long experience. We never fully arrive, and there is an ongoing repentance that must take place.

Here are Bob’s top 3 conclusions and his top 3 questions from his reflections on life at age 76:

Top 3 Observations / Conclusions: 

  1. “I’m not independent anymore. It is no longer ‘I’, it’s now ‘we.’”
  2. “I could have a nice retirement, but I’m not suited for that.”
  3. “I’m feeling spry, but this is not the season for starting or running things. I need to be in an encourager role. I need to be doing for others what Peter Drucker did for me?

Top 3 Questions:

  1. “What’s the next big thing waiting to happen?”
  2. “How do we get the most Kingdom impact if something happens to me? How do we put my legacy to work for 100X leverage?”
  3. “How do we keep score in this next season?

Do you see the multiplication thinking? How about the hero-maker bias? How about you? Are you a multiplication thinker?  Are you becoming a hero-maker? Do you have a healthy “poured in” and “poured out” rhythm that enhances your ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?

Head, Heart and Hands

Becoming a hero-maker involves our head, our heart, and our hands. We must first allow Jesus to transform our thinking (head) and our motives (heart), and will will then see the work of our hands (actions) produce fruitful impact.


Our thinking is a great place to start. Our actions (what we do with the labor of our hands) will simply be an overflow of what is in our head and our hearts.

Abundant 100X results with our hands starts with abundance or multiplication thinking in our minds. This is the first essential practice of hero-making. Thinking becomes the compass for directing our steps (actions). If you think accumulation, growth, and addition, don’t expect to get exponential multiplying results. If you want multiplying results, start with multiplication thinking.


Armed with multiplication thinking, our motives for action must then be rightfully rooted in making and multiplying disciples, and in seeing transformed lives. Having the right motives is an issue of the heart. Are we convicted by the urgency and truth that Hell is real, Heaven is now, and lost people matter to God? We must be cautious of any multiplication thinking that is rooted in things other than Kingdom-centered motives to reach lost people and make disciple makers.


The final three essential practices of hero-making are issues of the hands or what we do in response to our multiplication thinking and multiplication motives. Permission Giving, Gift Activating, and Kingdom Building are the focus of how we invest in others to help them become hero-makers.

In the coming weeks, I will continue this series focusing on the remaining four essential practices of hero-making that cover the heart and hands dimensions.

Are you interested in knowing you personal multiplication leadership capacity (your hero-maker bias)?  I encourage you to take our FREE assessment.  It is 35 multiple choice questions and your results are available immediately.  Click here to take the assessment.

Todd Wilson, CEO Exponential


This post is the continuation of our ongoing series of articles on hero-making. These articles highlight the five essential practices of hero-makers by featuring reflections from my relationship with Bob Buford, a role-model for Christian hero-makers everywhere. Bob recently passed into the arms of Jesus after leaving a profound impact on the U.S. church. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once said of Bob, “You are creating a new field of human activity almost. And you are setting standards of effectiveness. I’ve never seen anything as effective in such economy of means as Leadership Network (the ministry Bob founded).” We are dedicating the remaining 2018 Hero Maker events to Bob’s memory.
Todd Wilson

Todd Wilson

Todd is a Kingdom entrepreneur. He spends the majority of his time starting and working with organizations committed to Kingdom impact and multiplication. Todd is a founding member of Exponential, which organizes and hosts the annual Exponential conference in Orlando and live events throughout the United States and world. Todd serves as President and CEO of Exponential, providing vision and strategic direction to the organization. Todd lives in Durham, NC, with his wife, Anna. They have two sons and two daughters-in-law: Ben & Therese and Chris & Mariah, and an amazing grandson Evan.
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