by Todd Walker
Ever judge a book by its cover? As a teacher, this happens more times than I’m comfortable to admit in my vocation. We tend to forget our youth.
I’m reminded of the agony I dished out to select teachers. Apologies, Mr. Holmes, for the skunk scent on the radiator heater in your room in ’73. You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve reaped many of the seeds I’ve sown in my own classroom!
I’m sure some of my teachers wrote me off after many of my school antics. Thankfully, a few looked beyond the seed and saw the tree.
I’ve been fortunate to have mentors in my life. The best ever has been my father. He did more than simply pass our genetic code down at conception. Daddy witnessed all my flaws – up close and personal – but never quit nurturing the potential in his seed.
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
~ Mark Twain
Here’s the thing…
I’m not naive enough to think that everyone has an awesome mentor in their life. The fact that you’ve read this far shows that you’re interested in becoming less dependent on others by growing independent roots.
The Tree is in the Seed
Here’s another fact: Everything you need to become self-reliant is already in your DNA.
The DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in a seed is a recipe that determines the size, shape, fruit, and usefulness of each tree, weed, plant, and all living organisms. This hereditary code is stored in chemical bases that form a twisted ladder called a double helix. The seed’s task is to grow and transfer these characteristics from one generation to the next.
What if you inherited bad self-reliance genes? You may have never attempted a DIY project in your life. Here’s the good news…
DNA doesn’t have to determine your destiny. Genetic code is a recipe, not a blueprint etched in stone. You can change the outcome by tweaking ingredients to suit your taste. Granted, you can’t un-freckle your face – thanks to grandma’s generous gene sharing. But you can influence how your self-reliance gene is expressed.
Self-reliance DNA isn’t about physical appearance. Our actions, the stuff we do, the ground we grow in shapes our self-reliance. In a nut shell, it’s about taking responsibility for your own life through the choices you make.
5 Choices for Unstoppable Self-Reliance
Choice #1: Start
Your journey to self-reliance begins with one step… the first one!
Pick a skill, any skill… and START. You’ll be sloppy at first. That’s part of the process.
Our Trusted Resources Page is a great place to build some background knowledge to ease you into self-reliance skills or help you hone the skills you possess.
By taking that first step, you’ll begin creating a new identity. Each tiny choice to do for yourself weakens the chains of dependency. Here are some skills you can start doing in the comfort of your home or backyard.
- Instead of cooking dinner in the kitchen, practice off-grid cooking in the backyard over an open fire.
- Set up a tarp and hammock for shelter in different configurations.
- Practice knot tying skills on a dinning room chair or table leg.
- Make your own stuff; compost tumbler, leather work, rocket stove, rain barrels.
- Preserve your harvest by simply canning.
- Break away from the consumer mentality.
Being completely self-sufficient may not be your ultimate aim. Your location my be limited by pesky restrictions or space. Even if you live in an urban apartment, you can take small steps towards self-reliance by growing some of your own food on a balcony or community garden.
Here’s the formula: Start – Repeat – Start – Repeat…
Choice #2: Hours
That’s how long it takes to own a skill. Reading about the stuff is nice, but not enough.
I’m an avid reader. Right now I’m midway through John McCann’s book, Practical Self-Reliance: Reducing Your Dependency on Others. The reason I mention John’s book is to illustrate how he and Denise are committed to living an independent life. The self-reliant skills they’ve acquired have taken thousands of hours. Check out his site for some featured how-to articles and tips.
This quote from John will resonate with our Doing the Stuff Networkers:
Being Self-Reliant is not a pastime, but a way of life.
~ John D. McCann
There are no short cuts to self-reliance. Plan on logging many hours with dirty hands. But the satisfaction of knowing you growing into an independent “tree” is so worth it!
Choice #3: Student Teaching
Taking advice from instant-experts is not only dangerous, but can be deadly. In the blogosphere, all you need to do is read 3 books, regurgitate the info, and bam, you’ll amaze your fans… until the Q&A session begins without a teleprompter. This isn’t directed at anyone in particular. But if the shoe fits…
Find teachers who are students of self-reliance. To teach the stuff, they maintain a humble student mindset. I’ve known teachers who have taught for 30 years and only gained one year of teaching experience. They repeated that one boring lesson for 30 years.
We all have expertise in certain areas. A true expert is never satisfied. They’re always learning, exploring, discovering, and questioning. Learn from people who have unquenchable curiosity.
Choice #4: Own the Skill
It’s easy to think rubbing two sticks together will produce fire. You saw the technique on YouTube. But unless you’ve actually created several embers from friction, you don’t own the skill – you know about the skill. Experience is the best teacher!
I was humbled in front of my students as they stood around watching smoke billow from my bow drill. These two pieces of wood had produced several embers for me at home. The schoolyard was a different story. They got a lesson in friction but not fire. Not that day at least.
This fail illustrates how, even with practice, in a low-stress environment, you won’t always succeed. To be honest, I had a bit of performance anxiety. Stress impaired my circulation, judgement, and fine motor skills. I didn’t own the skill at that point – at least not when people (my students) were depending on me.
Playing out survival scenarios in your mind is helpful, but mind games will only get you so far. Owning a physical skills will alter your perception and move you from uncertainty to confidence. Meaning, your skill set matches your mindset.
Practice until you own it!
Choice 5#: Share the Stuff
Once you own a skill, share it. You have value to add!
Fear of failing or being rejected is normal. Share the stuff anyway!
Writing has taught me to overcome my fear of rejection. Will people read my stuff? Will it add value? I never know until I hit “publish”. There are no masterpieces here. If I waited for my magnum opus to be written, this site would be empty.
Perfection is way overrated.
With each new skill I teach or post I write, I add more value to myself than my students or readers. Risk rejection and start sharing your stuff for unstoppable self-reliance.
Time to pass on some self-reliance DNA. Remember, the tree is in the seed!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!
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