Scorpions, passion and vocations

So clear this morning that the Milky Way has appeared.  Rare for these humid Delta skies. So many clear stars it was hard to pick out Scorpio for a bit, but the lawn chair shape eventually emerged.  Strange how a vicious animal like a scorpion can also be a lawn chair.

scorpius_02Reminded me of all the different talents that some of our beginning farmers have.  It takes time for a coherent vocational constellation to emerge.  Young folk often have a hard time deciding between all their different interests.  The biggest mistake they make is to continue to vacillate and jump between opposing vocations.  Being an itinerant rock musician doesn’t fit too well with any sort of farming.  Traveling the state aggregating local produce doesn’t fit too well with pursuing an engineering degree.  Organizing for progressive policy change doesn’t fit too well with making a living in an isolated, conservative mountain valley. Jumping back and forth between two conflicting interests means you never focus enough on one of them to develop your skills in that area.

Choosing one path and pursuing it with everything you have is much better than jumping back and forth.  Those who jump back and forth and never commit usually end up wasting years of their lives.  Fortunate are those who pick one path and pursue it unwavering for years.  Only this single-minded focus will reveals whether that path is your calling.

The career/careen of one of Meadowcreek’s advisors illustrates this.  He loved sports and was consumed with them until he realized he just wasn’t fast or coordinated enough and switched to journalism.  The athletic director at his high school was amazed at his tenacity as sports editor.  But he lacked the political instincts needed for a journalist to survive in a small town and turned his focus to debate.

A couple of his uncles bred and sold horses.  They would come to visit and always encouraged him to go into law.  “We need a lawyer in the family,” they’d say.  So he took political science and logic and government and other pre-law courses when he got to college.  But then he realized that law would be limited and boring.  He’d just be figuring out how to win cases, nothing more.  He’d learn about how other lawyers and judges minds worked, but not much more.  Then he discovered social psychology and pursued that with a passion–thinking it held the answers to vital questions.  When he’d explored that field and found how shallow the work really was, he changed trains again and got on the genetics express.

He had an unswerving, one-track focus on genetics for several years until he finally discovered his calling in helping small farmers organize cooperative processing and marketing.  It was only then that all the previous train rides converged in one bullet train which he is still riding.

What he didn’t do on any of those rides was think he had the answers.  He was always asking questions, pursuing experts and learning from them.  It was only by testing their advice that he learned about himself and the field.  Then he’d have enough knowledge to move on to another field that he needed, without knowing both would be crucial to my calling.

We have a lot of beginning farmers at Meadowcreek and we let them make mistakes.  Some children have to touch the stove and get burned.  Others will listen to their parents and ask their advice before messing with the stove.  The latter usually accomplish a lot more, unless they are so dependent they lack initiative.

Some folks come to Meadowcreek trying to escape authority.  In doing so, they often don’t feel the need to learn from those with vastly more experience.  So they fail, time and time again.  Eventually they either leave or they learn that innovation is only useful if it complements existing systems.  Resilient systems conserve the best of the past even as they are continually innovating.


For more on conservative innovation and resilient systems, check out the second edition of our book at:



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