GrowingFREE Community Leadership

4-Patterns to GrowingFREE Community Leadership

I have never considered myself an Activist. An Anarchist, Yes,….on many levels, but an Activist, not so much. Yet, I think I may be on a Community Activism Transformative Adventure,………..Here’s What it is Looking Like

Pattern1-#2 of THISTLE-Holistic Whole Life Focus

6:50AM Good Morning, What a lovely warm spring morning, The Wind Chimes Are Singing  and the Birds are Chirping,………And the Rain comes down, The sounds are Delicious. The Candles on the Mantle in the RV are dancing with the warm breeze. Life is Good. This is the SimpleLife, There is No Rush in My Life these days, It resembles a gentle Stream, Flowing. Are there harsh days, not really, perhaps sometimes, but not so much. I like this life a lot, and look forward to What’s Next. But mostly, I am able to Stay in the Now, and enjoy the Rain, SunRises and SunSets. The Birds Chirping, The WindChimes Singing. Having GrowingFREE Meetings in the middle of the week on Tuesday mornings, because I have no where I need to be, except Where I Am.

This IS My Version of GrowingFREE. My THISTLE#2-Holistic Whole Life Focus I no longer trudge off to a 9:00-5:00 slog,……and I Am Grateful. I have Everything I Need. I Feel Good. Do I have 5-Zeros behind my bank Account, Nope, not even close. But I can say with conviction, that 24-Months into the GrowingFREE Transformation I live very comfortably. It started by defining My Truth on Enough, and the associated Patterns to Enough…….. I am studying and practicing Mindfulness, Right Thinking, and Right Action. A Zen Buddha, No,…….but I find much clarity in most of the teachings.

The Wage Slave

A wage slave is a person who is not only economically bound by mortgages, loans, and other obligations, but also mentally bound by an inability to perceive that there are other options available,

In real life, the prisoners of Plato’s Cave are those who are prisoners or slaves to their wages and their culture. A wage slave is a wage earner who is entirely dependent on their wages. While the wage slave is free to leave the current job, he isn’t free to leave the job market altogether and he can likely not imagine the possibility of doing so.

The Third Way Manifesto

No one should depend on a single paycheck for their entire income. And now, there’s no good reason why you have to. Whether you call it a side hustle, a small business, or just “something you do for extra money,” you can use this model to create more freedom for yourself. To start, follow these five guiding principles. If you get stuck, come back to them. The answer is probably found in some part of the model.

1. Everyone’s an expert at something. One way or another, you have acquired a lot of valuable knowledge throughout your life. Something you already know about can be turned into cash—you just need to figure out how to do it. Don’t invest tens of thousands of dollars in business school. Start by taking an inventory of your skills, including everything that you’re good at and any topics that people frequently ask you about.

2. Go from idea to product or service. When you’re thinking of ideas to make money, always think of them in specific, concrete terms. One of the people in our group is selling dollhouse furniture. If you go to her website, you can see exactly what she’s selling, how much it costs, and how to place an order. Don’t be vague—tell people exactly what you’re offering, why it will help them, and how they can buy it.

3. Spend as little money as possible. Starting frugally is a benefit, not a limitation. The time to “invest in your business” is when you know you have a proven idea. Otherwise, spend more time working on the idea. The vast majority of Third Way projects can be started for less than $500, and sometimes without spending any money at all.

4. Launch before you’re ready. You won’t get the feedback you really need until you have something to show. As a general rule, you can have a workable version of most income-generating projects up and running within thirty days. Following this principle also helps you select the most basic iteration of your idea. You can improve it or ramp up later—first, see if it has real potential.

5. Improve as you go. Based on what you learn, make changes. Don’t be afraid to completely restructure—giving up on one project and starting another is A-OK. And when something’s working, double down and figure out how to make it work more. In short, keep your risk low, act quickly, and adjust as you go along.

Last but not least . . . you can do more than you think! I bewilder as to why everyone is not doing this GrowingFREE Lifestyle, not because I or we are, but because, It feels the closest thing to Freedom I have ever experienced. There are so many forms of Shackles and Chains for Society to Become Entangled in, Growing Free of a Collection of Patterns illuminating the journey out and away to Freedom. My Transformative Adventures leads me to the SunRise Experiences,…….It Is Decadent,…….

Pattern2 #3 of THISTLE-Invest Transformative Assets

A few excerpts from an article Permaculture and Money: Investing in Transforming our Lives, Livelihoods, and Society by Mike Hoag August 1, 2018. It remains spot on today in 2023.

“I’m not interested in what you do in your garden. You can read any one of 1,000 books on the topic. What I want to talk about is where you’re banking your money, and how you’re spending it.” -Bill Mollison, the Founder of Permaculture

It is the materials on Social Permaculture design, money, assets, investing and funding that have been the most profound and transformational!

Hardly a week goes by that we don’t discuss these tools and put them to use. Ironically, it has been these tools for MONEY and FINANCE that have actually had the largest impact on how we garden, farm and grow food! That’s right, it’s the materials on money which have come to completely define our whole approach to gardening and managing our landscape, by helping us cut right to the core of what gardening activities are TRULY valuable to us, and which are just a waste of our time, energy and money.

Start to think about our money as our life energy. For many, it’s extremely helpful to start looking at how we’ve been spending our life energy and more importantly, whether it’s taking us where we want to go. For the purpose of this exercise, it might be helpful just to look over our recent expenditures on our bank and credit card online statements. These days, we have some fantastic tools for keeping track of where we’re putting our life energy. For a more in-depth exploration, We recommend the book Your Money or your Life, by Vicki Robin. 

What if we change the way we think about the “input” side of the equation. We’re way richer than we think we are. Now we’re to the really powerful material, where we put the creative power of generative assets and natural systems to work for us. Create a list of regenerative assets that support you in getting where you want to go. What kinds of regenerative assets will get you what you want? Which are in line with your passions, informational and experiential capital? Which regenerative investments do we start with? Which ones will stack together well? Which investments are more valuable than others? This gives us a framework to begin applying design to these vital support systems.

My Transformative Investments are Regenerative Asset Stacks. They are things that reproduce, absent much effort from me. Most of my Income Stack is partially Passive Income, leaving me plenty of time to Write, Read and Study. I hike everyday and chase sunrises and sunsets. Transformative Investments do not have a typical yield, and rarely scale. Here are a few examples

***UrbaneFarm; UrbaneFarm is a purveyor of 250-Small Batch Hot Sauce Brands, Fish Sauces, Salsas, BBQ Sauce, Bloody Mary Mixes, Rubs, Gourmet Salts, Beef Jerky, Summer Sausage, Eclectic Art, Vintage Cast Iron Cookware, New Lodge Cast Iron Cookware , Revolution Stunt Kites and Cut Flowers in Season. Our Product Offerings are in a rented space at a Boutique Consignment Gift Shop, The Depot, in our small town of Lakeview, OH population 1,200. Once my space was set up, and inventoried, The Depot markets, sells, and processes payments monthly. Within 12-18 months this Transformative Investment, mostly inventory and some time, from a hobby to a small enterprise. and represents about 30% of my Income Stack.

You see, Hot Sauce Aficionados return month after month to buy more Hot Sauce. We have developed a community of ChiliHeads, and do Hot Sauce Tastings and Sales at 30-Events and Farmers Markets in the Spring Summer and Fall Season. it allows me to talk with and engage with our customers, one on one. This is an excellent Investment Stack for me, as my daughter owns and operates both Depot Boutique Consignment Retail Stores. They have about 80-Venders like UrbaneFarm, so adding a Community of HotSauce Lovers and subsequent sales stacks well with this family business, and is partially passive income for me. Yes, we do Social Postings and the Hot Sauce Tastings and Sales at events and our local Farmers Market, but it is a few hours a week.

***UrbaneFarm Community Gardens; UrbaneFarm has built and managed a half dozen or so Community Gardens, pairing Growers with Land Owners. Meaning, We have lush Gardens where as we harvest the yield on land we do not own. Our most recent is at a trailer park in Downtown Lakeview. We negotiated a long term agreement with the owner/operator, with community benefits to the residents and have wonderful boutique vegetable and flower gardens. This Transformative Investment is in the form of material and labor for raised beds, seeds and soils. Our yield is the ability to harvest and sell Cut Flowers at our UrbaneFarm Events and Farmers Markets, as well as selling Dahlia Tubers in the spring. Dahlias are one of our mainstay flowers, and the tubers multiply 2-3 times annually. Tubers sell for $8-$12 each. This is a form of compound interest. We started with 100-Tubers, by year 5, we have nearly 1,500 tubers, and have an abundant stock to sell.

***BackAlley Eatzz Grill Cart; We serve up Vienna Beef Dogs and Polish Sausage on Saturdays at the Kenton Farmers Market, First Fridays Bellefontaine and Fourth Thursdays Lakeview in the summer season. This Transformative Investment Stacks well with Urbane Farm Hot Sauce tastings and Sales and we use the same tent. it also allows additional revenue to hire some help for the 30-Events. Hot Dogs and Brats seem to pair well with Hot Sauce Lovers!

***Real Estate Distributions; In my 40 year career of building, developing and operating apartments, we were able to obtain small percentages of the LLC’s that owned the buildings we were Rehabbing and Repositioning and Operating for clients. Note that these were very small pieces, but collectively add up, and are 100% passive income.

***Picture Me Photo Booth; Picture Me is an all around modern photo booth rental company for weddings, parties, brands, corporate events and more. We are a fresh take on an age old idea and offer photos, prints, Boomerangs, GIFs and video. Guests can instantly send and share their favorites, while an online gallery keeps it all in one place for everyone to enjoy. This Transformative Investment stacks well with my younger daughters business, The Costume Shop, that her and her husband own and operate. Many of their customers are throwing parties or events, and the PictureMe Photo Booth pairs well. We do an amicable revenue split with The Costume Shop and they market the service and handle all sales and customer interaction. Many times, our BackAlley Eatzz Grill Cart also cater these events, further integrating our Investments Stacks

***Books Sales and Courses; If You write a book, create a course, even shoot some video, any sort of content really, That is a Transformative Asset that you can sell over and over. I first discovered this Transformative Investment in 2005 when Blogging started to become mainstream. It was a wonderful outlet for me. While I did not make money directly, my blog posts about apartment marketing garnered the attention of other apartment operators around the country. I started getting invited to speak at National Conferences, which led to very lucrative consulting contracts. All of this originated with my blog at the time

In 2021 my first book, The Second Act Entrepreneur was published, and in late 2022, I was a contributing author in the GrowingFREE Book. I am working on my next book now, GrowingFREE; A Simple Life in Small Town Community, to be published in 2023. We have also created a GrowingFREE Together Course , and we are working on a GrowingFREE Game. Our intent is to create Rich and Useful Content, that we can sell onLine and at Farmers Markets and Events.

Pattern3 #5 of THISTLE-Team Community Organizer

This one surprised me, I never saw myself as a Community Organizer. I am an introvert by nature, but it just sort of happened. As outlined above I had built and managed a handful of Community Gardens in the past, but they were more commercial in nature. Until the South Shore Estates Community Garden, built in a lower income area of our small town. What is interesting about this one was the direct community involvement from the park residents. many helped with the plantings and harvest. Some hung out in the gardens. Blessing Boxes popped up loaded with food and sanitary supplies.

The other thing that unfolded from this Transformative Adventure were Local Businesses reached out and asked to be involved, and they showed up with open checkbooks. The garden build investment was about $12,000, all funded by local businesses. And those businesses have continued their involvement forward. There is a 10’x12′ Shed full of rotating supplies for the Blessing Box Supplies.

During the summer of 2022 we discovered The Plant Kindness . Amanda Rutan, uses her knowledge and love of plants to create a community attraction from her sunflower fields and a gourd tunnel on her parents’ farm in Mechanicsburg, OH. Her project inspires happiness and kindness in those who visit, causing a ripple effect of goodwill and good feelings throughout the community. Anyone can visit, anytime. Amanda harvests the Vegetable and flower yield a couple times a week, and provides baskets of both at a tent and table near the entry of het Mothers small country farm, free for the taking.

We took our Grandkids there a couple times, They were able to play giant checkers while we sat on the benches placed around these beautiful gardens, including a 150′ Gourd Tunnel. I was immensely moved,……….That winter while walking by our little library in downtown Lakeview, Yes we have a library with only a population of 1,200, but people forget about it, including me. It is our duty to Save Community Assets, and in that moment, The Lakeview Library Kindness Project was born. We presented the idea to council, and got everything approved, ready for a Spring 2023 start. I have partnered with a local flower gardener to help me manage the Cut Flower yield and provide weekly bouquets on the bench in front of the Lakeview Library twice a week! I am thrilled to be a part of this, and carry on Amanda’s Kindness

But There’s More! As fate would have it, and due to a flooding in our county seat library, those employees were deployed to the other five branch libraries in our county. When the word of our Lakeview Library Kindness Project reached the director, she immediately contacted my daughter, Brenda, who is the President of the Lakeview Business Group and a Board Member of the Logan County Chamber to inquire. Brenda explained the adventure. We are now planning to launch a Library Kindness Project at the other four Library Branches, and the Main Library Branch in 2024/2025. We will use 2023 to get our sea legs with how the operation of this goes in Lakeview, so that we can recruit local flower gardeners in each location to operate and run their local library Kindness Project.

There’s Even a Little More The Logan County Chamber and Tourism group developed a series of “Trails”, The Coffee Cafe Trail, the Ice Cream Trail and so on for boutique businesses around the county. It’s pretty cool, and effective at getting people out and about to new areas not yet traversed. A Library Kindness Trail is up for consideration once complete! YaHoo, This is a Win Win, We bring a smile to local peoples face with the Cut Flowers, and also raise Awareness to our County Libraries, that are a true asset.

Pattern4 #7 of THISTLE;-Enough; Defined for You

There comes a point in your life where earning more money does not necessarily make you happier.  There is a certain sweet spot where you have just enough. Enough income and savings to feel comfortable and do the things you enjoy.  But what is this amount? How do you know when you are there? How do actually define your level of enough?  In other words, how much money do you really need to be happy?

In the book Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, author Vicki Robin reviews an exercise that she and fellow author Joe Dominguez would commonly perform at their live seminars.  They would ask everyone to write down their income and then rate their level of happiness on a scale of 1 (miserable) to 5 (joyous), with 3 being “can’t complain”.  They would then correlate level of happiness with income.  The results were surprising.

Over 1000 people were polled across the USA and Canada.  The average happiness score was between 2.6 – 2.8, regardless of income.  Not only were people unhappy, they were unhappy regardless of whether they earned a low income or a high income.  When asked how much money it would take to make them feel happy, the answer was always “more than I have now”.  

The solution?  It’s time to define your enough.  How much money do you really need to be happy in life?  How much is your Enough?

Everyone has a unique path to Financial Independence

  • Along the journey, it’s important to define your Enough.  How much money do you need in order to feel fulfilled and happy?
  • The fulfillment curve demonstrates that there is a clear point at which you earn enough money to feel fulfilled in your life and anything extra bring diminishing returns.  The points along the fulfillment curve include
    • Having enough money to survive
    • Spending money to feel comfortable
    • Earning enough money to enjoy some luxuries
    • Having the money to feel a maximum level of fulfillment and happiness
    • Spending too much money and beginning to feel stressed, unfulfilled and consumed with the continual need for more
  • It’s important to understand your personal definition of how much money you need in order to feel fulfilled.  This will help you define your personal pathway to FI with the ideal balance of savings vs. spending.
  • Once you reach Enough, you can enjoy what you have in your life right now and know that you are on the right path.

THISTLE is the Core of GrowingFREE

There is no greater luxury in this life than to spend our rare precious time on this planet doing things we love that contribute to a better community, society, and world. THISTLE is a tool designed specifically to help us live that dream without losing our souls or destroying the planet. It helps us become as resilient and economically tough as thistles!

Thanks to everyone who attended my talk on right livelihood last night for GRLPI. I wanted to drive home the point that this isn’t just philosophy you learn, it’s an action-based tool you can put to use. It’s not a “magic idea” that once you learn it a million dollars will fall into your lap. It helps us DO small things that will create long-term benefits that add up to a resilient and economically empowered life.

If you’re struggling to find your right livelihood doing regenerative work, you can actually sit down with THISTLE and plan adventures that absolutely will add to your resilience.

We can phrase this as questions we can ask ourselves:

  1. What is my plan to transition from where I am right now, to where I want to be? This often means having plans for growing in the current economy as well as the regenerative economy we’re hoping to move into. Do you have steps you can take.
  2. What are my holistic life design, and my holistic forms of wealth? What forms of holistic wealth do I have now? We can go through the multiple forms of capital: What kinds of valuable experiential capital do I have now? What kinds of natural capital? Social capital? How can a put some of these to use THIS MONTH?
  3. What are my transformative investments? IMO, WE MUST HAVE THESE. Everyone I know who’s been successful at this has made smart transformative investments that have appreciated over time to provide financial security. In privileged fields like art, activism, permaculture, and farming, this is mandatory. What is my investment plan? How do I realistically expect it to grow over time?
  4. How am I stacking my incomes, markets, talents, etc? This is an extremely powerful tool! We can look at our current business, and add stacked income streams and markets to it. A lot of times, people can realistically triple their business incomes from the same amount of work by doing this step.
  5. How am I building my community team? Do I have a strong community to support me? Do I have a supportive customer base of people I feel I’m supporting back? What can I do THIS MONTH to grow more community?
  6. Am I planning to be lucky, or unlucky? How can I change my life to be lucky and have more of the right kinds of opportunities? For example, have I built in high ”opportunity costs” with a lot of maintenance work in my life? Or have I built a decent amount of freedom into my life, to pursue opportunities that arise? Have I chosen a bunch of active forms of income that require a lot of my direct labor? Or do I have good sources of relatively passive income? If I’m farming, is the farm system resilient enough for me to leave for a week, or is it difficult even to leave for a day to go to a conference, because somebody’s got to tend the chickens? How can I improve that?
  7. What is enough for me? What do I need to live a truly wealthy lifestyle? Do I want more money? Or could I do with less, so that I have more time and freedom in my life?

THISTLE directs us to action. As we look at these elements, things may jump out as us as needing some improvement, and we can plan actions THIS MONTH to improve that.

If we have more produce than customers, we can do things THIS MONTH to grow a supportive community.

If we’ve only got 1 income stream, we can figure out THIS MONTH how to stack our incomes and markets, and get more $ out of the same amount of labor.

If we’re not making ends meet, we can work THIS MONTH to build non-financial capital connections. Perhaps we can find someone who’ll gladly accept guitar lessons in exchange for childcare, and we can reduce our childcare costs.

Each of these steps slowly builds LASTING economic resilience into our lives, such that we will grow FREE over time in the way a forest grows more healthy and abundant.

Learn more about our GrowingFREE Course click here.

You can help support our work by participating in our GrowingFREE Courses and Purchasing our Books

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About Eric

Eric is an Entrepreneur, A Published Author and Writer. Eric lives a Nomadic Lifestyle and is an OffGrid Practitioner. He is also an Adjunct Instructor Drexel University. Eric is well seasoned in urban housing development. He has built and developed over 14,000 market rate apartments on a national scale. He founded Urbane Apartments in 2000 and oversaw new business, general operations, marketing and branding at the company until retiring in 2021. He was long recognized by the multi-family housing industry as a vanguard of cutting edge social media marketing. Eric’s social media marketing and branding strategy has garnered national media attention with feature articles such as Branding on a Budget in Entrepreneur Magazine. Urbane Media digital marketing innovation was also highlighted in Business Week Magazine and Eric was named as a Voice of Innovation in Social Media by Bloomberg Business and also landed in the, New York Times and the Harvard Business Review.

Reach Out to Eric;


FaceBook; EricUrbane

Twitter; SecondActMyLife

Instagram; MyOffRoadAdventures

Web SiteTheSecondActEntrepreneur

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