One of my best friends, Phoebe, came to visit me. We haven’t seen each other in a couple of years now I guess, and seeing an old friend is such a balm to life. It brings such comfort but also shakes you out your skin with a whole handkerchief of unsolicited but well-deserved truths.
She’d recently been on an ayahuasca retreat. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a psychedelic experience that comes from ancient practices. It’s a natural substance that induces an inward experience – hallucinations somewhat, but kind of more along the lines of sorting out your own inner demons and truths. There’s a lot to say for it. I’m not here to argue the ethics of whether people should be doing it or not, but what I do know is that I saw someone who had managed to settle some of their own personal grievances and was now seeing a clearer path forward.
Part of that path was understanding that deep knowledge within oneself of the connectedness of all things in the universe was not enough. That knowing that fractals perpetuate on every level just simply wouldn’t cut it. Now, especially at our transitional ages, the question was what we could, nay, would do with that knowledge.
A friend of a friend recently, amidst a drunken conversation of the meaning of it all and Egyptian history and the patterns of birds, said to me: ‘Yes, you’re right, it is fascinating, but is it useful’.
This has stuck with me. This and my friend Phoebe reminding me less than delicately that my dedication to wanting a sustainability school was only a pipedream if I did nothing to get myself on that track to it happening.
I’ve been considering accountability and how I hold myself accountable to my own goals. Brene Brown, a vulnerability researcher famous to many of us, talks about ‘Daring Greatly’. Putting oneself out there is difficult because it leaves you vulnerable to failure. It leaves you vulnerable to falling flat on your face and everyone telling you they were right that it wouldn’t work. But after all, the man in the arena is far more likely to win than the one jeering from the sidelines.
Brene Brown refers to this famous statement by Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
But I guess nobody talks about the strongest critic being yourself. Myself. It’s me jeering from the sidelines, snidey and slick-witted, sneering about how I don’t have enough money to achieve it, how nobody cares, how nobody will help me, how it isn’t even needed or worthwhile. After all, someone else could do a far better job than me.
The First Step
Brene Brown talks about how shame has two heads. ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘Who do you think you are’. It’s harrowing when they converge. That’s how this idea has always sat in my head – I’m not good enough to do it, and who do I think I am to even try?
So my point, I guess, is to find traction, I must first put myself out there. Not to the external critics but to myself. I must hold myself accountable for this dream and say I’m going to take steps to achieve it.
But that’s one small step. To get to what I’m aiming for, I must first decide the actual vision I’m trying to achieve. To do this, if it weren’t me, I would tell someone to use this visioning tool I created – I’m sure someone else has come up with it before me, but for the sake of my own sanity, I created it within my own paradigm.
I imagine where I am five years from now, where I’m sitting, what I’m drinking, what I see.
Five Years From Now…
I’m sitting on a deck outside my own home. I’m drinking a glass of homemade fruit wine. I look behind me and my home is a beautiful cob house with a big open back. In front of me is a terraced vegetable garden that drops off, and the view is of rolling hills. It’s late afternoon, the sun is still hot but sagging in the sky. I can hear my husband laughing with my little girl. They’re gardening below, collecting salad for dinner. I can smell the homegrown chicken roasting in the cob oven to the right of me. A good friend and owner of our on-site market garden comes up to me, dirt between his fingernails. He slumps down next to me, tired, and cracks a beer made by our on-site brewer. People start to gather around the table for dinner. It’s been a hard day’s work and we’re all working to get the site back to normal after a week long of yoga courses and PDCs. We’re retreating back as a family and everyone starts to tell horror stories and funny tales of the week before. My husband comes back with my daughter and kisses me on the forehead as they go inside to prepare salad. We’re this family of individual goals all intertwined in something that works to build each other and provide education.
Setting the Vision
What I want is so complex. Or perhaps I lack the linguistic ability to define it right now, but in my deep dark gut I know it can work, breed, breathe.
So this post is about me setting the vision, so that we all know what I’m working toward. I know the logistics are glitchy. I know the nay-sayers can tear holes in my holes but perhaps just with this simple outline, I can define a framework for us all to work upon; so here it goes.
The first arm is a school. The main aim is not to teach sustainability skills but to teach us all how to create regenerative economically-sound businesses. Right now permaculture stands on a cliff where the physical and social have been ironed out by the economics are still a little frantic.
The school will offer courses, like many other sustainability and permaculture schools. 1-4 week courses covering yoga teaching teacher, medicinal herbs, natural building, sustainable leadership, social permaculture, non-violent communication, and so on and so on.
But. Most importantly, we will be a regenerative business incubator. Young entrepreneurs will come for 6 months to a year and we will offer them a program that teaches business skills – from communication to marketing to management and leadership – alongside a hands-on internship working with an economically sound business that operates on site.
Because here’s the real thing. Every sustainable permaculture school I’ve seen so far only survives because of education. That proposes that you cannot make the model work without charging to teach others to do a model that doesn’t work. That’s a freaking ponzi scheme. Or as Eric Reis refers to it in his book The Lean Startup, it’s ‘success theatre’ – inflating growth based on the appearance of growth, though it may not be plausible or economically viable.
While I agree that education is absolutely vital, I reject the idea that the model cannot work without financial supplements from education – the model should stand alone.
I propose that my site will have a plethora of functioning businesses serving as a working model who will each have the primary goal of being an economically sound institution, providing whatever business they care to, from a market garden to a massage parlour to a honey making business – but it MUST be economically sustainable and it will mentor a future entrepreneur through the school.
So this takes me to the second arm. The businesses on site will work together to become a working model of regenerative economics, using each other as a resource to help provide each other with the things they need. The market garden will work to trade with the restaurant who in return may feed the gardener. The beekeeper will provide was for the lipstick maker who will in return help to tend to the environment in which the bees will live. The intricacies will be decided between the businesses using a diverse currency system of FIAT, crypto, local currency, and timeshares.
This part is complex. Of course, parts of each business will need to be sourced from outside. But the school itself will assist by providing business lessons to help these businesses learn to sell online, to the local community and afar. The businesses will work with the school to provide paid mentorship to the interns, to provide workshops to the school’s guests, and to provide lessons to other incoming vacation guests from the third arm – the resort.
The resort will house the course guests, while also providing a business model that will entice weekend getaways, corporate retreats, and so on. By collaborating with the on-site businesses, the resort will provide activities for guests. By collaborating with the school the resort will provide accommodation for the course participants. By collaborating with local businesses, the resorts can offer tours and days out. By bringing in weekend guests, the resort will help to provide income to the on-site businesses through sales of goods, such as local honey, dinner from the restaurant, or through services like yoga lessons or massages.
This isn’t a business plan. Not every step is ironed out. I’m not even getting going into the concepts of local currencies and the intertwined nature of digital industry-specific cryptocurrencies – that’s for a whole other post.
Right now, I’m holding myself accountable. This is the bare bones of my lean business plan. The kinks aren’t smoothed over yet. The structure isn’t there.
But what is there is a person saying that this is my vision. And right now, blood, sweat, tears, and every business book and podcast under the sun – I’m trying to work out how to make it a coordinated concept that can be actionable.
I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. To give me your two cents worth. To guide me on what to read, think about, adjust. But most of all, I’m letting you know that I’m game. That I’m daring greatly.
That I’m in the arena.
If you’d like to support me on my journey, please donate at my Patreon. It would be greatly appreciated.