Rising Above the Noise
Every day it feels like we are at peak insanity and distraction. Politics has taken over the conversation at every level, and I’m left with the feeling that we’re losing a sense of what’s actually important in life.
I’m no life coach, but it seems to me we should all seek a good life with fulfilling work, surrounded by a community of people that love and support us.
Local communities brought together through an online community via social platforms are the way of the future, for better or worse. How we choose to consume and digest that information is wholly up to us.
We can spend our days and nights acting like trolls, or we can use the power of connection across the world to find the trailblazers who are carving out the type of life that we can learn something from.
I’ve been on both sides of this. When I got mature enough to realize how powerful the internet was to become more informed, I became consumed. But I wasn’t self-aware enough to not get caught in the trap of negativity and conspiracy theories.
A terrible way to spend your time is to tell someone they are wrong on the internet. Another terrible way to spend time is to focus on things that you have no control over.
That mental energy could be put to better use- a better use like creating a better future for yourself, in any meaningful way.
Create the Change
Here’s what I love most about our country: we are free to create the life that we want. The power is in our hands, under our control. It always has been, and for the foreseeable future, it still will be.
Poor, uneducated, short, fat, whatever you think gives you the disadvantage compared to others is holding you back in the way you perceive that limitation.
I had a massive case of imposters syndrome my whole life. I was getting by well enough, don’t get me wrong, but I may have been the worst employee at my first job out of school from a technical standpoint. The math didn’t compute with me because I didn’t compute with it. I respected the position and responsibility, but I didn’t care to excel because I was not passionate about the work.
That lack of passion is also what leads to the worst story I ever told myself – that I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t capable, or that others will always outdo me if I give it a try.
I failed to make the connection that all through schooling and then in my first years in the real world because I never cared much about those things, I always felt inadequate when I saw others succeeding. This idea led to a complex that others were smarter than I was, and I should learn to live with that.
I was a generally happy person on the outside, still grateful for everything that I had and the opportunities that I was given, but at the same time, I was still miserable on the inside.
The thought of climbing the corporate ladder made me feel the regret I would have if that’s what I spent the next 10 years doing. I felt trapped in that feeling because I didn’t know what else I could do instead.
I left college with almost 100k in loans, so switching careers before a quarter of that was paid off felt reckless.
But I’ve learned a few things these last few years…
Believe me when I say I never thought I’d be the guy evangelizing about how much investing in yourself can do. Call it ‘self-help’ or whatever you want; it doesn’t matter to me what the label is.
I was becoming faced with the truth that I was working toward a future and a life that I did not want. I knew that this feeling wasn’t just going to go away, either.
And even though I didn’t have the confidence or the knowledge to do anything about it right then, I absorbed enough information to realize that I was in control of my future.
This realization then forced me to confront what I was focusing my attention on. Learning not to focus on things that are out of my control was an essential lesson in self-awareness. It freed up my mind to think about what I could make possible for myself.
My focus was my reality. When I went down dark rabbit holes, I became a dark person. When I hung around people who wanted to sit around all day, I did that too.
By surrounding myself with thoughts and people that would challenge me, I would be better off.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a network of superstars, so I had to settle for conversations I couldn’t be a part of. And that was perfectly OK, as my 2 hour daily commutes gave me tons of time to become a fly on the wall listening to podcasts.
The sense of self-ownership and control of my own life was at an all-time high. It gave me the confidence to play the game of, if I could rebuild my life from scratch, what would it look like? From there, I could see how I could reverse engineer it.
Here’s what I thought would be a pretty cool life:
Having a somewhat secluded property not too far outside of a good town, where I could pee outside and sustainably grow food.
If I could turn that into a profitable business, I can live off of, that would be amazing.
I didn’t have sights on changing the world by myself, but if I was going to recreate my life from scratch, I wanted to be part of the solution in our climate crisis instead of continuing to be a burden onto it. Once I decided on that, the material rat race of shopping malls and fancy bistros for happy hour were left behind, and I began to think of what could be possible in this new future.
It was nice to be able to do this while collecting a paycheck. Daydreaming and writing down ideas is a lot more fun when your livelihood doesn’t depend on it. Being able to ‘create’ from a sometimes silly or naive perspective is better than thinking from a mindset that is focused on scarcity, or tries to serve everybody in the effort of trying to maximize the short term profits.
I began writing down my thoughts for the first time. Eventually, I had so many I needed to organize it all into Evernote. Writing things down has a way of holding you accountable for the momentum you’ve built—seeing your past intentions written forces you to decide whether you will back down from continuing.
I only realized this in hindsight, but that alone can lay the building blocks for consistency and perseverance, which comes in handy later when we’re past the point of no return and need it the most.
A Necessary Journey
And that makes me realize, if you would’ve handed me 10 million dollars from the outset to fund whatever project I was going to do, it would be gone by now. It would be all gone, and I would have little to show for it. I know that for sure.
For those of you who are stuck at point A, but want to get to point D, know that the process of getting to B and C is what allows you to get to D and to stay there. Without experience in between, it is a castle built on sand.
Leaving my job with massive student loans and only 50k in savings (which included the money to start the business) forced me into the deep end in a way, but also forced me to act in ways that moved me beyond my insecurities, as I had no choice but to move past them.
Taking multiple days off or being inefficient with my time would be my downfall. I needed that pressure. At the same time, I had spent over a year planning, doing market research, and building for that moment. Having the all the time I needed to research while I still worked allowed me to give it a go when I had a very clear plan of what needed to be done the first year into it. There’d be room for plenty of pivoting, which I had planned for in advance too.
While it’s almost always better to be able to step into a new career, making it your side hustle first, life doesn’t always present that option. I had the opportunity to move to a new state, on a property that would be perfect for this new life, and I took it.
So here I am, 4 years later, with a homestead that includes a few hoop houses, chickens, a farm cat, a turtle, and ducks (that come to visit from the neighbors).
I love growing food, and I also love cooking. When I worked in the corporate office, I’d bring all my meals for the week with me on Monday. I’d spend all day Sunday cooking, which was the day of the week I treasured the most.
I incorporated this into the design of my new life by taking what I was growing and cooking it for others as a business. I converted an old trailer into a commercial kitchen, which was kept on the property, so I can take what I grow and turn it into countless meals that I used to make for myself.
The kitchen was really just a food truck that I built in the ‘planning stage’ or while I was still working. If I wound up not liking the cooking aspect, I knew I could bail and sell the food truck for a profit.
The greenhouse I built was really just a high tunnel, probably the most cost-efficient way of growing food under cover. I grew in the dirt and hydroponically using the cheapest design I could find in case I wanted to switch my growing methods later on.
The restraints in time and resources provided everything I needed. It forced me to build flexibility, adaptability, and efficiency into everything I was doing. I was focused on the design and breaking assumptions of how things should be done.
One of these insights led to Bootstrap Farmer, something I could have never predicted. But now, in hindsight, it all seems part of the plan. I left my job to set out to prove a business model that allowed any single person or couple to take control of their lives through food and agriculture. Bootstrap Farmer has given me the platform to share what I’ve found along the way.
Persistence & Patience
There are no overnight successes in farming. What I can tell you, though, is that there is a path to rebuilding our food system with the framework called Farm Fusion. We take what’s growing and produced locally, either by ourselves or others. We accept the public’s challenge to create products and experiences that no international corporation can compete with.
My meal service, then called Veg2Bowl, is now co-run by a couple just a few miles away that I met on Instagram my 2nd year in what is now called the Craven Local Food Market. They were just beginning to build their homestead and loved cooking and agriculture, just like I did. All of us living in the middle of nowhere, North Carolina, lead me to believe that people like this exist everywhere. Some are just still stuck in the office and haven’t made their move yet.
Through an online community, I found my bubble that has been the launching pad to building the platform to get us more connected to food.
When I could take a $2 head of lettuce and turn it into a $10 salad all grown on my property, I created a product that was so unique, so fresh, and as long as I didn’t leave a slug on the lettuce, a quality that can’t be matched anywhere but locally.
To live in a country where we vote with our dollars daily, we have the opportunity to win a vote that leaves no room for a boogeyman. We either provided value, or we didn’t. Walmart creates value through convenience and price. We create value through the convenience of doing a weekly delivery. We provide value on cost because we can eliminate all the middlemen and supply chain infrastructure the old systems require by having access to a commercial kitchen and a vehicle.
If you’re reading this and can relate, consider sharing this post because only through a shared sense of community that allows for possibility and empowerment will we help others.
At the end of the day, we all have the sense that there’s no way but forward, so our only choice is to act.
Founder, Urban Farm Academy & Bootstrap Farmer