While I’m working I noticed the background.
On an apple expedition throughout the Southeast last week I had the pleasuring of meeting with a former oil executive who founded a natural resources company and took it public in the 1980s. Since leaving his public company, Great Western Resources, he began helping other people take a similar road as him through seminars and individual coaching. Dan Pena, goes by the moniker the “50 billion dollar man” because of his coaching and mentoring of individuals whom he claims has created at least $50,000,000,000 worth of value under his tutelage.
Dan first came across my radar about three years ago on a podcast that I heard. Like many others before me, I went online and downloaded much of his “free information” and began consuming information written back in the 1990s that ran counter-intuitive to much of what you might hear. In fact I would say that I attribute much of the changes in my thinking in the last few years to Dan, primarily through two quotes
Set your goals to something that cannot be achieved in your life time
Nothing you will ever do matters in the cosmos of time.
The first quote is from a mentor of his which is a call to reach for the stars, and the other is a call to relinquish fear by having a bit of perspective.
Recently, I discovered that he was traveling through the United States, (he lives in a Castle in Scotland) so I decided to arrange a meeting with him in South Carolina to ask him some questions myself about things outside the scope of his books and seminar videos, and far away from what many other people online might ask him about. What I wanted to know was even more about how a person who has climbed his way “to the top” views the world today. I also wanted to know some of the behind the scenes aspects of his personality and how he does business.
I am assisting in the development of an apple industry in the Southeast and tackling something this big, that cuts against the grain this much, I believe requires a bit of assistance from some of the biggest leaders of our day. Getting this industry built, cannot wait any longer, and the Southeast does not have any more leisure time to begin adopting a food system that is based in long term perennials.
Without further adieu, after a 2000 mile roundtrip drive and sleeping in the back of my truck at rest stops, here are some of the most salient, and important things I found out that Dan believes which are often either counter-intuitive, or extremely reinforcing of some “obvious” truths.
I am a person who is squarely focused on food security. And not like a little bit, or as a “marketing ploy.” So of course, I needed to ask Dan, out of self sanity, are we headed to a collapse.
Unequivocally the answer was yes. Far and beyond 2008. I did not expect much out of Dan’s answer to this question, but I eventually had to cut him off and move forward because he was passionately getting into it. Just due to government debt alone, Dan believes that a collapse is inevitable and actually something to take head.
In fact, I would argue its at the core of a major aspect of his, and others, strategy of moving forward in an uncertain world. How? By knowing the next item.
“Now is the time to leverage up. I keep trying to tell people they will be paying the debt back in cheaper dollars.”
Inflation, is baked into the system’s lifeblood. It is as simple as that. Asset prices have inflated significantly since the previous lows in 2009. As a result, eventually, those assets will, in time, need to return higher returns in order to pay back the debts that public companies have taken on. (Its significant how much they have). This will result in either public companies going belly up because they can no longer afford their assets, or income will have to increase, in multiples, in order to pay back the debt.
Dan is 100% adamant that inflation is coming, and that if there was ever a time in history to use debt to get business leverage, now is the time.
“Hold them accountable. Fire them. Get rid of them.”
If you watch enough of Dan’s videos you’ll eventually hear him say that he cannot manage more than 2 or 3 people effectively. I asked Dan specifically, “how do you manage 2 to 3 people”. He stated that I needed to hold them accountable.
Since this was a rare moment to gain wisdom, a follow up question for clarity, I knew would yield more. So I asked, “what does it mean to hold people accountable.”
Well that was simple enough. These statements had a profound impact on me in understanding some very fundamental aspects of enterprise and how to include others in. The reality is that in most, if not all businesses, there is one person who is at the helm. That person is doing something, and everyone else is there to support that person, or take on delegated work. That one person is responsible for everything happening and its their one and only job to take 100% full ownership of accomplishing.
When they fail, there is no excuses. “Somebody didn’t do X” will not work here.
The issue then is, how can you include other people in this, and have them perform in a manner as though their work ACTUALLY matters, especially considering the results, good or bad, will ultimately show the top person’s effectiveness? In Dan’s eyes its simple.
They either perform, or their “held accountable”, and that means they’re fired.
It makes sense, how else could you translate the results? I usually like to use military examples because they’re more straight forward, here is one.
In the Marine Corps, there are only 2 “marines.” The Grunts and the Fighter Pilots. Everyone else is in a support role to make sure that these individuals are equipped and capable of doing their jobs effectively. If a logistics person fails to be able to deliver chow to a grunt in the field, the grunt still has to perform his job, and probably take care of his own food needs (think pillaging). The “reasons” (excuses) the logistics person has for failing to complete their mission, are irrelevant, because the person doing the actual military operations was not supplied and THAT person suffered because of the logistics person effort.
All I can say is, be careful with “reasons” and “excuses.”
This came to me a bit as a surprise to me, but it makes sense. Dan Pena does not believe in networking at all. Dan is “strictly business” when he is building relationships. He finds who does what, incorporates them as part of his team, and then holds them accountable to their side of the deal.
What Dan does not do, is ask other individuals for contacts of theirs and then follow those up. Watching his many previous seminars, it is clear that Dan Pena does very open business and very straight forward business. As a result, he did not attempt to get ahead by “smoozing” which is probably the most commonly held belief in business. “It’s not what you know, its who you know.”
Dan thinks that’s bullshit. That may be a government moto, but when trying to get something accomplished in the real world, no amount of favortism or surface relationships is going to matter when things go south.
Trust is the key to relationships, and trust is built over time. Trust ultimately builds when you go through “shit” with another person and you see how they perform. No amount of words can change that.
“Money is not everything. It is, however, counted and measured. So its important, its just not everything.”
Many erroneously believe that people who are wealthy want money. If you read Rich Dad Poor Dad, you’ll quickly realize why this statement isn’t just in error, its close to backwards. Basic accounting understanding shows that Robert Kawasaki is correct. However, as Dan Pena points out, money allows you to get access to things that you want.
I did not ask Dan to elaborate on what he initially set out to do when he started his company in his mid 30s, but I do know that he had the goal of wanting a castle in scotland (he achieved) and to become extremely wealthy (also achieved).
In a number of Dan Pena interviews, and now hearing him say it in person some of his followers without having a bigger purpose became fabulously wealthy and yet bored, have low self-respect, become aimless, and overall lonely.
Money isn’t everything.
After some moments of silence and thought his reply was “Luck”
That was the answer to the question “what do you attribute your success in marriage to.” Dan has been married for an extremely long time. I am not 100% sure when he married his wife, but it was at least in the early 90s, if not the 80s. Listening to interviews showed that he and his wife are fairly close and have had a great time together after all these years, so naturally I wanted to ask this elderly gentleman what the keys to his personal success are.
Dan stated that many “marry for the wrong reasons, have kids for the wrong reasons, and stay together for the wrong reasons.” Dan is convinced that there are just too many factors that go into play about having a good marriage, and for him, he seemed to think luck was the primary agent.
“The financial system is built only to extract fees. The less you know about finance the better you will be. All of the instruments that they sell are completely unnecessary.”
This is coming from a man who used to work at Bear Sterns. Dan stated multiples times throughout the interview that the financial industry is just there to figure out how to create fees.
“Do not even try it. Its futile. You cannot change culture.”
Dan Pena looked squarely in my eyes when he said this. I am not sure why, but he just finished telling me a story about meeting an islander in the pacific who wanted advice on how to change the culture of his island.
With his advice on holding people accountable, Dan can be counted in with the number of individuals who believe that you cannot change another person, let alone an entire culture. For some of us who, at times, especially in the past, thought that we could, it is fairly clear that we can only change ourselves and need to get busy working on ourselves to be demonstrations (actions, not words) to others, rather than trying to communicate to another person they need to change.
You know what they say, you can’t lead a horse to water.
“I told my seminar attendees, close your facebook, and they turned this color right here.”
He pointed to the white paper I was taking notes on. What an interesting world we live in today that people would be surprised that if you want to get something done, more than likely the best advice is to get rid of your facebook account.
Dan is very clear about the concept of being a soaring eagle. Those who are the most “alpha” are not looking to please others, they’re looking to do what they’re set out to do. As a result, one has to give up attempting to please and satisfy all sorts of people, organizations, and commonly held beliefs.
It isn’t clear why Dan said this to me as it came out of nowhere, but it was certainly noted that he feels with deep conviction that you must sacrifice to move forward.
No surprise there. With those words I am sure he would also suggest sacrificing your own comfort to do so.
The meeting with Dan was a very good one. He was a gentleman and genuinely interested in helping others. He often comes off as an angry ball buster, but that might only come out to those who need it. For somebody like myself Dan was interested in hearing me out, answering questions faithfully, and sharing the wisdom nuggets he has picked up along the way.
Thanks Dan and cheers.
Have any comments or questions? Shoot them below.
Overtime, goal setting has become a more important aspect of my life. It has not always taken the overt form of setting a goal, putting it on paper and thinking about it constantly, (although that is a useful regular exercise).
When I joined the Marine Corps in 2004 I had excellent endurance but absolutely no upper body strength. The bare minimum pullups was 3 and the maximum was 20. The first week of bootcamp is a weird waiting around game until the weekend where you conduct your first physical fitness test which allows you to actually enter bootcamp. I am sure you can imagine bootcamp is stressful, but now imagine wondering whether or not you’d even be accepted over something like failing a basic physical fitness test… Low and behold come the day of the test, with a boost of adrenaline I was able to do four.
Thus began a long personal saga with pullups where I was unable to perform pullups well enough which limited my promotions and dramatically reduced my physical fitness test score. Pullups are a dramatic portion of the points, and no amount of becoming a better runner would overcome the fact that I was losing 25-30% of points due to pullups. This began to change when I started preparing for officer candidate school. A year of work paid off and I went from 5 pullups to about 14.
Fast forward to 2015, years after leaving the Marine Corps, things changed. I decided I was going to 20 pullups for the first time in my life. I decided that I was no longer going to be beaten by a physical task that I had seen so many others able to accomplish. I set the goal that I would do 20 pullups by the end of the year.
With almost minimal, but consistent effort, within 5 months I went from 10 pullups to 20 and with that achieved a nearly decade long desire to overcome something that brought me much grief over the years.
I have never been better able to perform and get what I want than in the past. I used to be able to “skate” by, because that was exactly what I wanted to do. Minimal effort, and just getting by. That has since changed and there is much I can point to for the better of that.
I have found, at least for me personally, that steady regular work on goals is far better than mad furies of work. This is coming from a person who at times will deeply concentrate and work for 15 hours straight without coming up for air. Yes I can get alot done in a very short amount of time, but great and good things, take time. Factor in that it takes time and be comfortable with the journey.
Many of my current goals are doing going to take some years and are a bit more complicated than going from 10 to 20 pullups. I am developing new cultivars of plants, new species of plants, and new innovative techniques for being able to eat with ease from nature year round. While I am working on these dilligently, they are going to take time and continued effort.
I began building a permaculture based paradise in 2013, and there is much to show now to show for these actions. Without realizing it the curve of progress has increased significantly. Last year we cleared about 2 acres and put an edible savannah on it. This year, same time, we’ve cleared about 6.
Years ago the idea that I would reach 20 pullups was completely unthinkable. Today, it serves as a beacon for what’s possible with setting a goal and being committed.
On the way to kickstarting an industry of apples in the Southeast I have had to consider what an indigenous apple, actually looks like. They say you have to have some idea about where you’re going before you step off so I’ve certainly considered this a bit. I know one thing about it.
No, not the difficulty of the project of building tasty apples from seed, but the actual apple itself has to be tough. It may come to surprise some, but your fruit trees have to stand outside in nice weather, and bad. Just remember this:
You go inside when it rains, its cold, or it there is a hurricane. Fruits must live outside.
This is supremely why I will not use dwarf rootstocks, ever. Nor will I advocate for their use. Isn’t this behavior dangerously close to stealing from future generations? Regardless, plants have to deal with reality, while we deal with abstract ideas, like spreadsheets.
For an actually sustainable and indigenous food system to work life forms must be more adapted to actual earth conditions, than ones modeled on excel. The alternative is a continued race to the bottom, globally.
There has never been a better time for a return of apples growing in the South. There is quite a lot of land throughout the southeast that could immediately be put into apple production today. If people planted apples with similar enthusiasm as they do with crape myrtles the changes in quality of life could be measured as extreme. Yes there are other fruits I am interested in working with on a large scale, but one at a time. (cough: chestnuts, mulberries, honey locusts, others…).
While others may be interested in figs, apples as a species are just impressive. They have an established record across the genome of having ripe fruit from June through December. Heck, it seems they don’t even seem to mind heat. The real cherry on top is that I believe due to the genetic variability that is often cited as a reason NOT to plant from seed, is actually a strength that gives seedlings the power to out surpasses any use of clonal varieties. Although, we’ll let future tell us which produces with less inputs.
Let’s not forget what the apple can do. The apple can be used as alcohol, vinegar, all the way up to great tasting fruit. Fresh local apples, at any time of the year, is THE 21st century grocery food. I have talked to enough people by now to stake my claim on two facts.
Does anybody still believe that humans of tomorrow or going to eat fruit that is half ripened, shipped thousands of miles away, covered in chemicals and has been sitting for a year? Seems reasonable enough to believe that the internet has popped the lid off of that genie.
The worst part about this “extreme” statement is even if you get industrial products fresh they’re still, fruit half ripened, covered in chemicals, and come from thousands of miles away.
I’ll pass for now, and keep working on the apple.
Back to it.
Disclaimer: Scientific papers can, at times, be exceptionally hard work decoding their practical value. That is why I take notes on papers for future reviewing and understanding without having to return to the original texts. These notes are provided purely as a service to others and of my community while I do studying myself. The following notes may appear to be raw (because they are), and there is no expressed warranty regarding them. Following the notes are personal thoughts at the time of the reading, provided first as a service to myself, then also as a service to others. These too may appear to be raw and unpolished (because they are).
What was Captain Davis thinking when he carried apple seeds across the south to Mississippi? During a long journey along the Piedmont from Greensboro, North Carolina to Kosciusko, Mississippi he certainly must have considered what was in his hands. It must have been an adequate enough fruit to peak his interest. Our ancestors must have had a longer view on the world if they were willing to hold onto seeds over a great journey, and then plant them one day with no guarantee of great returns.
“These seeds, will produce delicious fruit, to be savored for generations.” he might have said. Or maybe, he was just thinking “man this fruit is amazing, I’m keeping these seeds”. The stories of history rarely contain such a context. Since his discharge from the confederate army on April 26th, 1865 generations have come and gone, and yet his legacy still remains starting from the simple act of saving seeds, carrying them and putting trust in them to grow.
Did he know after his passing, ancestors would carry on his name by passing sprouts coming from roots? Or maybe that people would know his name starting from underground trading rings? It is not likely, but yet this is where the story exists today.
Nearly 200 years in the future in 2016 dozens of new descendants of the work of Captain Davis will begin their leg of the journey. Seeds from the Captain Davis apple, born in Mississippi are being sown for future generations. Will these seeds produce a delicious fresh eating apple? How about an apple for juicing and pressing into cider? The seemingly randomness of apple seeds says we may get just about anything we can imagine.
Come summer 2017 these trees will emerge and begin to grow into the fruit trees of the future. These seedlings will turn into juvenile trees across the southeast starting their journey, coming from a great legacy. So, the story of Captain Davis will live on.
In order to grow food using natural processes, it requires us to shake dogmatically held views and letting things progress as they will. Through the power of observation we derive our strategies and our philosophies.
If you have ever stood out in the sun in the middle of summer in the southeast for any length of time you begin to gain an appreciation of just how strong the natural energy forces are. We are not even talking about the occasional chaotic storm (hurricanes or tornadoes), just a regular clear and sunny day. Through observing, studying, and more observing of how energies flow we begin to get a deeper appreciation of what is actually at work.
The conditions that plants must endure are completely lost by the majority of humans. Modern humans live in bubbles of shelter that remove uncomfortable conditions, conditioning us to ignore what makes that possible. This ignorance is important because until we take these things into account, we won’t take real world conditions seriously enough to realize that natural energy forces can be excessive. Nature operates in this environment 24/7 and has adapted to these conditions since the beginning of time. Seeing where and how plants germinate makes this clear.
The complex inner-workings of nature should make us consider that everything coevolved together. Apple trees co-evolved with forest edges and forest growth as you can see the germination of apples occur along shelter edges. Observation makes this clear.
When we actually adopt the view that growing using nature is possible given that nature is all around us, we can actually begin to see and understand where living things should be placed.
When you go out for a drive, make sure to pay attention to the most unkempt of roadsides. Every inch where the natural environment is left to its own devices will give clues about how nature continues to thrive and grow. It is difficult to refrain from giving reasons about “why” until much observation has been done. This is what permaculture educator Geoff Lawton must mean when he talks about looking as through you are through the eyes of a child.
What you are seeing at this moment is the progression of many past events culminating into what is before you.
Nature takes shapes and forms that will give you ideas of how things actually work, not just written about in books. Patterns begin to emerge that you never considered before, and even if you have come across concepts such as “forest layers” the actual reality of them will start to put everything into context.
When some people in “industry” describe that “weeds” compete with trees, it is clear they are no longer looking at things from the eyes of nature, but their own frail artificial systems. Nature is far, far more robust than that.
One area that I am constantly comparing is the length of time (period) of disturbances of areas and watching what comes up. What is actually dominating (growing well) in those situations? Depending on the time between mowings/clearings an area can really take different shapes. It seems that the “invasive” plants that people focus on so much, are commonly found in the most frequently disturbed sites, while areas where disturbance happens over longer stretches, the more “native” plants seem to grow.
Even though I have been trained in the sciences and think with an engineering mind, I do not let these things cloud my intuitions. We clearly have, and have had in the past, the ability to see and observe what is going on nature and use it to our advantages, long before complex abstract concepts came around. The advantage of using intuitions, especially in a try and fail scenario, is we won’t be trapped into a distinct box that our concepts will put us in.
As part of self improvement, I realize that I bottle some things up more than I should. Maybe what it is, is I feel that I need to peruse around a topic and building my understanding long enough of the actual context to REALLY say something. Well here it goes: Microgreens are NOT sustainable or regenerative. They are just wasteful.
This isn’t even a hard statement to make, just a basic analysis.
If I were to ask you “what do you think of first when you think of microgreens?” Would it be a healthy sustainable food source? How about a green food? It is hard to tell because the businesses actually engaged in producing and pushing this product always uses the word sustainable. Seniors Join Local Sustainable Movement by Operating Hydroponic Rooftop Garden for Senior Living Community This link has every amount of fluff one can imagine, note the company also sells microgreens among the many other energy to output poor products.
In reality we should be thinking more about it like an oil refinery, since everything about its production uses petroleum and other long term resources that are mined in order to produce the most temporary and frail garnishes in existence. I’m not railing against necessarily the production, just the bait and switch of calling it sustainable, green, or regenerative.
There is no debate on this. I personally will not support any movement of organized people who support the statement that microgreens are either sustainable or helping the environment. The microgreens business is sold to eager buyers (those who are thinking of making and running a business to customers, usually in microgreens called crushing it or hustling), that this business is sustainable and “green”. That’s hustling alright.
I have even seen people touting it as a regenerative act. Now that crosses the line. Nothing about microgreens, especially from anybody I have ever heard producing it, is regenerative. It neither improves earth’s mineral cycling, or captures the sun, in fact that has been removed from the equation. The production of microgreens requires significant seed resource input, artificial lighting for the entire process, disposable growing mediums, and plastic trays.
Quite simply, it is an actual case of 1984 double-speak to call this regenerative. Please stop.
While I cannot speak for all reasoning for those who are selling this idea, but they must be either unaware of the amount used or the rarity of the resources needed to produce this product or maybe it is that they are ignoring it just to make a buck? I think for most of it is a bit of both.
When you read and hear people advertise that you can reap in thousands upon thousands of dollars producing and selling microgreens, its obvious why one would want to look into it. (Isn’t that always also the classic ploy by unsustainable ventures? Just pointing it out.) Not doubting the money making ability, just the use of the word sustainable, green or regenerative.
If you buy or support the microgreens industry (the hustle), the future may be looking back at you. Its not that growing microgreens is inherently bad, its just the way it actually is grown, is. The next tree I plant, I’ll be thinking about you.
We can’t have finger pointing without a solution. A similar product with less wastes would be sprouts for example. Still heavy seed usage but can be grown in the same or with less waste materials easily and still give good mineral impact.
Even better, the real solution, is to get engaged with your food system by learning about and using the natural processes and systems for food production for yourself and others. We should ALL be growing our own green veggies. I have been posting videos regularly of what we do here at our home on this exact subject.
Here is my dead simple solution. Make many rows in the ground with your finger starting in September and October. Locate these rows 6 inches apart, 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep (doesn’t matter so don’t worry). Sprinkle plenty of kale, arugala, mustards, turnips, or radish seed into the rows. Cover it up. Water about once a week until winter rains begin, then stop doing it all together.
Let’s face it, our fruit trees are weak. The ones we choose, how we cultivate them, and our entire relationship with them encourages poor results. Why do you think spraying is a “must” now? We willed that into existence.
Our short term focus drives us rather than our long term one which is odd considering the long term benefits are actually the reason for trees themselves. Instead of planting trees that will fruit for 100+ years, we are planting ones that might last 10 or 15 years on dwarf rootstocks (laughingly called disease resistant) followed by creating a “disease” that prevents the replanting of those trees (called replant “disease”). This trading of long term stability for short term gain, is quite clearly a recipe for complete disaster.
As a potential patch to this problem of non-evolution, perhaps we should start taking the place of weeds with our fruit trees. Nature gets better and stronger by being put to the test, so naturally we should do the same with our trees.
Since “weeds” germinate when there is bare soil present, why don’t we go ahead and throw some tree seeds in there while we are at it. Not because we are interested in the fruit (that comes later), but because something was going to grow there anyways, might as well be one that we think we like. Cut those fruit tree weeds in winter if their looks are unpleasant and in a few years time, perhaps you will have a best tasting local fruit variety.
You can only win nature games with nature tactics.