When I graduated from University of Oregon with a double major in Environmental Sciences and Mathematics, I was a genuine, idealistic, hard-core philosopher determined to find a life of truth and value. Mathematics lived in my mind not just as a pure science, but also as a philosophy.
I believed that truth was somehow black and white and that people were losing their souls in the so-called grey area where morality gets muddled by complicated cultures of thought and emotions. I was reading the Dhammapada, the first teachings of the Buddha, and the Tao Te Ching and Thomas Merton and Joseph Campbell. I was seated with the belief that I could never be part of the solution if I was part of the problem. And so, as I looked out into the job market, my moral compass was going haywire. I mean, where was there a job that I could do without feeling some sort of shame or regret or compromise of my personal integrity?
I was a talented mathematician. I suppose I still am although I am currently unrehearsed. But mathematics was effortless for me. It was just a language for understanding truth. And there was nothing fuzzy or uncertain about it. It was straightforward and easy, and I loved solving problems. So, as my skills grew, so did my employment value. I was getting very handsome offers from Edward Jones and a slew of insurance companies and I turned my nose. I’m not contributing to the problem. No. No. No.
Soon, my money ran out, and I remember I was living in a really ugly apartment right above an adult bookstore with almost no possessions but a guitar, some books and a few unwashed clothes. Even my bed was a sleeping bag on a mat on the floor. In retrospect, I probably didn’t smell that good either. But my integrity was more valuable to me than anything else. In retrospect, I am actually very thankful that I was such a stubborn hippie, because that time in my life taught me a lesson that I will never forget.
Don’t get me wrong. I was looking for jobs. Every day. All day long. But every job was somehow a compromise to my idealism. I would not sacrifice my belief in the greater good to work for a company that was not dedicated to benefitting humanity and the earth.
Finally, one day I found it. Organic Farm in Lodi, Oregon seeks a live in intern. Was there a more noble pursuit than growing organic food? Soon I was living in a shack out at Creative Growers, raising chickens and organic vegetables and making $150 a week plus room and board. It was to this day the hardest work I ever did. I ended up working as an organic farmer for 3 years until I went back to get my graduate degree. And even though I have friends that went a different route and today are making millions as investment bankers and business developers, I will never regret my decision.
Those years I spent farming was an investment in my soul. Watching the earth unfolding each day in the form of beautiful flowers and breathtaking sunsets, I realized that all of the life on this earth comes from the ground. And one day, looking out on a beautiful field of ripening tomatoes I realized, We are only as healthy as our soil.
That lesson blew my mind. And it definitely was worth 3 years of farming to get it. Today, I am applying that lesson every day to my business and my life. We are only as healthy as our soil. For us, this matrix of nourishment is our beliefs, our thoughts, our passion and our love. And by nurturing the soil of our minds and our souls, we will grow amazing things that are truly the best part of us. Today, I am an organic farmer of ideas and relationships. And I couldn’t be happier.