Self-Reflection: Face Yourself

Do it! As soon as you can.

Here’s the rundown. When we are working on our passions and life legacy, it’s hard to see through our own eyes the areas we really need to work on. It’s easy to see the successes. It’s easy to report our wins and ignore the losses.

The shortcomings and challenges we face hit our blind sides or they blur out around our peripheral vision. It’s hard to face the mountain we have to climb. It’s difficult to face up to the reality of a huge portion of ourself, the failures. Many times, we don’t see what’s happening and it continues to happen because of unconscious ignorance.

The cure to unconscious ignorance? Mindful observation, self-reflection, documentation. I’ve been working as a part time educator and a part time gardener. I reflect everyday on what’s going well and what needs work in the garden. As a teacher, it’s difficult to see myself, what I’m saying and doing in the classroom. I get feedback from other teachers, but it’s difficult to get the reality of what’s going on. To change the paradigm of ignorance, my co-worker and I are going to video our lessons, reflect on what we’re doing well, and find potential solutions to our shortcomings, continually challenging us to become better educators.

It won’t be easy at first, it’ll most likely be humiliating, but that’s what makes it fun. In time, we’ll make great strides through many laughable moments and failures, warriors in the field of education and cultivating yourself.

End Planning First


or begin in the middle (en media res). It really depends on the story you’re creating for yourself, but they both work well to get you to your desired destination. Here’s a few reasons and steps to plan your life starting at the end.

The Unknown Conclusion of Beginnings
Starting from the beginning in any endeavor is a difficult task. There is no sense of direction taking your journey anywhere. This could be a desired to discover a new potential, find another path, or to recognize new tools. However, without a clear idea in mind getting to a desired state is often lost looking at your next step instead of seeing the paths in front of you. Rather than start without a destination in mind, figure out where you want to go. Then take a step.

imagesStarting at the End
Planning a food forest, a garden, or a meal starts with the end product in mind. We create the image of the ideal before we begin to create. For processes we are familiar with, we go through the motions without much conscious thought. To achieve great feats, such as terraforming a landscape, a logical plan helps to outline goals before the desired outcome. A thoughtful way to approach the task of planning is to go through the processes of dissection, selection, sequencing, and stakes once the end goal is in sight.

Use the acronym to help you acquire those four steps, Dissection, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes. I learned it reading The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferris. I highly recommend it. His life is surrounded in meta-learning, creating conscious methods to put information into action while becoming the best at it (top 5% in any discipline, cooking, running, etc). Onward!

Dissection is taking apart the product you wish to create. It’s finding out what are the lego pieces to the puzzle you are about to build. To build a garden, the main components can be taken apart into Time, Soil and Plants.

Selection is picking the pieces that are the most important. Most of the time, we focus on detailed information that doesn’t bring us to any outcome. It starts with discussion and ends with murmurs of words once spoken instead of actions gaining momentum. In the art of gardening, Timing is crucial to determine what process you should be working on first as well as when and what plants to be planting during that time of year. Planting watermelons in Winter got Farmer Chow bad results while learning an important lesson of the seasons. Soil is the shelter and home of plants. It provides everything the plant needs to survive and thrive. Finally, the plants are a product of good timing and great living soil.

From here, we can Sequence our timing to build soil during off seasons and plant appropriately during the growing seasons. Setting up this path will ensure decent results and as long as we continue on the journey of learning and gardening, we can expect better production and quality as the soil continues to be built and our timing is synched with nature.

Stakes. This is the kicker. It gets you to get started whether you succeed, fail, or go nowhere. Placing a bet with a family member, getting feedback from friends, donating to a charity you hate or dislike, it needs to get you motivated to try. When something is at stake, it motivates us to work and succeed at keeping it.

From here, the journey is yours to create. Get lost while you’re at it and find your way back to the legacy you want to leave behind.

“ Would you tell me please which way I go from here?”
“ That depends on where you want to get to”, said the Cat.
“ I don’t much care where…”, said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”, said the Cat.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Life Rubric: Determining Success from a Simple Feedback Loop

I used to often find myself believing that everything I do is for the greatest good. In high school, that train of thought was most likely exemplified to its maximum with the simple idea of, “I know Everything.” There were no feedback loops. It was the greatest point I could be at, no need for correction or reflection.

Unfortunately, a lot of that pompous ideology lingers in the mind and finds itself repeating itself. In gardening, this idea can percolate to the supreme of all garden methods, sustainability. Yet again, the self-affirmation of success persists  instead of a true confirmation from nature.

The question then expands to how do we confirm that the garden is successful in nature’s eyes?

At the Montessori Academy, we’ve been utilizing rubrics to determine and communicate success to our students. This way, the students are aware of what an A+ requires, witness a fair grading system, and is reciprocated for parents and teachers. It also creates a feedback loop where the student can continually monitor their own progress. An example would be a shift from a C to a B with a clear explanation to the delineation of grades.

For myself, a basic rubric can help to determine the success of a garden and in a broader scale my life. It creates a self-check to ensure that I’m accomplishing basic tasks to move onto more creative ones. To sum it up I’ve outlined a few categories that are relevant to a regenerative garden and life: the amount of labor over time, the type of labor, time spent working, time spent relaxing, the taste of the garden and life, and succession.

Chow’s Life Rubric
To create a clear picture of how the rubric works imagine the ideal circumstance for the topics listed. The less ideal can be created as well; I don’t find it necessary though when your aim is to accomplish your goals and desires.

The amount of labor in time should be decreasing. The types of labor should be (more) creative, fun, and less monotonous. The time spent working should be decreasing and time spent relaxing and observing should be increasing. The taste and yield of the garden should be getting better every single year. Finally, the succession of the garden should move to a greater steady state than what it was before, which will be explained in more detail below.

Using the Rubric
I’m sure more categories can be added or even some may be removed. In many ways, the rubric easily permeates to other fields and establishes a better word for the type of work I’m creating for myself. The feedback loop is not just a confirmation from nature with less work, good food, and fun. It’s a confirmation to myself that I’m creating a regenerative holistic lifestyle and not just a life of sustenance or maintenance.

The Reality
The Amount of Work Over Time
In gardening, the amount of labor is first dedicated to building the soil. Although it is a continuous task, once the soil is established the amount of labor for watering, weeding, and pest management is eliminated. Is that possible? No watering, weeding, or pest control in nature? Absolutely, the landscapes that were here before only required nature’s sprinkler system, the rain. At the moment, I only water twice a week or whenever I transplant something. I see it becoming zero irrigation soon. 

Creative and Fun Work
I find myself dedicating more time to propagation, expansion, and research on other topics. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with Brassica trees, growing various types of chicken and rabbit fodder, reading about biodynamic farming, and creating videos for e-learning. Life is good.

Relaxing Time
In the downtime, I’ve taught myself to master new ukulele skills, juggle clubs, play with an isolation wand (flow wand) and take a programming course online. I get plenty of vacation time and could go wherever I want to when I want. I need to do travel more often.

The Taste
The tea gardens are producing nicely and expanding. I’m drinking mint-tea everyday, and it’s slowly expanding into lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, and lemonbalm, to name a few. My cooking skills require a bit of improvement. Regardless, everything tastes amazing; lots of watermelons, cantaloupes, and okra. The kale and collards are producing nicely, and everything else is coming soon.

I’ll soon have galanghal to make root beer; it’s in the ginger family.
I’m still foraging like a squirrel. Pecans are in season, and they’re delicious.

All in all, life is good and getting better everyday.
The last category is succession, giving away everything in a better steady state than what it was previously at. In fewer words, succession is the act of passing the baton. I added the other words to ensure that it would be in a better condition than what it was before. To paint a better picture, a steady state can be used to describe the various states of water; solid, liquid, and gas. With the addition or removal of energy, water can shift to a different steady state.

The affirmation of succession is when the current steady state of any substance is changed to another steady state. For example, we turn liquid water into ice and maintain its new steady state as ice. A failure for the same example would be turning water into ice and it reverts back to water.

The same principle can be applied to ecosystems, economics, and on a much broader scale, life. The succession of my life work (at this moment) and passion is to continually share and build it with others.

To reflect on succession, it’s been amazing how much has progressed in the past few years. Life has manifested my dreams into reality with many affirmations of succession, seen and unforeseen.

I can now happily say, “I know nothing.”