207: 9 Takeaways from LFTN Spring Workshop 2022
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Last week I attended the Living Free in Tennessee Spring Workshop for the first time. While I was there to give a presentation, I also considered it to be a vacation and a chance to meet some of my favorite online friends in person! It was a magical time of conversation, perspective, and education, and I’m so glad I was able to attend.
I’ve finally processed everything that happened, and here are nine things that I came away from the workshop with.
1. Mornings should definitely start with coffee and conversation.
While there was a schedule of events for the workshop, the entire weekend was also very laid back. It was okay to be involved in what you wanted to, don’t be involved in what you don’t want to be, and when you need to take a break from peopling, or just need some time to yourself to enjoy the scenery, go do that.
One of the best things was getting up in the morning and seeing all the chairs and people just sitting around drinking Holler Roast coffee and talking with each other. You never knew who was going to be up. You just sat down and started a conversation.
It was a great way to start the morning and made me realize how quiet my mornings are at home. When I wake up at my house, I make some coffee all by myself—it made me realize why I hop online and start talking with people. I will often post good morning in Discord and Telegram and Mewe. People check in, say hello, ask questions, and talk about what they’re going to do with their day. We have that time of just connecting before we really jump into the day.
So sitting there having such great morning conversation at the workshop helped me realize how important it is to have that time for coffee and conversation. Whether online or in person, it’s a great way to kick the day off right.
2. Ask hard questions.
Something I have always known, but it also became more apparent at this workshop was that it is important to find friends who ask hard questions. It is also important to be someone who is willing to ask hard questions of their friends.
There were so many great conversations at the Spring Workshop but I need to point out two people in particular who were really good at diving into conversation with me. They were really honest and open and were willing to ask me questions that made me be honest and open and dig into what was really going on in my head.
One of those people is Ken Eash from The Constructive Liberty podcast. I ended up in conversation with him several times during the workshop, and he was just awesome at asking hard questions and directing a conversation to be productive. Ken, thank you so much for your words.
I also want to say thanks to Ashley, one of the gals that I rode down to the workshop with. We had a lot of really great conversations over the weekend—partially because we were the first two people together on the road trip and we also tented together, so we had a lot of time to talk. Rgardless, she was great at digging into what is it that you really want to know here? What are you trying to figure out? Amy and offering suggestions and asking the hard questions that maybe I’m not able—or willing—to ask myself.
It was all just a reminder to be that person for other people. Sometimes it’s easier for you to ask hard questions of others than of yourself. And that’s okay. But be okay with asking those hard questions of other people because that’s how we grow. That’s how we help each other figure out all our stuff.
3. What do you want to do?
This question came up a lot during the workshop: what do you want to do? Or likewise, is that what you really want to do?
Maybe the harder question is: when we talk about building the life that we want to live, do we even know what that life is?
It’s easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel. And I know we often think of the hamster wheel as “an office job in the city” but we can get on the hamster wheel of doing what we’ve always done regardless of where we live or what lifestyle we choose.
Sometimes it’s good to step back and say, but what do you really want to do? What’s really your goal here?
When I returned from the workshop and I’d finally processed everything, I sat down with my husband to tell him all about the weekend. And after I talked about it a little bit, it actually turned into a conversation where he was talking about life, direction for himself, things he wants to do, and different things he’s considering. And I found myself saying, “but what do you want to do? Is that what you really want to do?” So I was able to start asking him those questions and it spurred some really interesting conversations.
4. Things won’t always be comfortable.
A piggyback of sorts from #3 is that even if you figure out what you want to do, it doesn’t mean that things are always going to be comfortable or easy. I think sometimes when we talk about what do you want to do, do what you want to do, live your best life, we imagine some kind of perfect, easy, laid back, “everything’s coming to you the way that you want it”, because you are living your best life and doing what you want to do.
I bring this up because at some point in our what do you want to do conversation, my husband said, “I know you just spent the week with all these people who are the ‘do what you want to do’ kind of people. But Amy, sometimes we have responsibilities and we just have to do what needs to be done.”
Completely valid point, and I also don’t think the two need to be separated.
I think it’s worth clarifying that when we say, “this is what I want to do” and when we know what our goals are and where we are headed, it does not mean you’re going to be comfortable. It does not mean it’s going to be easy. There may even be multiple steps on the journey to what you want to do that are really going to suck. There are sometimes different ways to do things that might make it suck less, but knowing what you want to do does not mean that the journey to getting there is going to be comfortable or easy.
There are things you might not want to do on the way to getting to do what you want to do.
I would also say that getting to the point where you are always comfortable means you have stagnated. I think we grow the most when we’re uncomfortable. So yes, figure out what you want to do and go for it! But realize the journey won’t necessarily be comfortable.
5. Redefine community.
After being at the spring workshop, I think it’s important for me to redefine community.
I talk about building community a lot on my podcast. I talk about the importance of the online community and finding your people. I also talk about the importance of your local community—as in, the people you’re going to go to when the shit hits the fan. But I have discovered since attending the Spring Workshop, there’s another community. And I don’t know if we call it the “in-between” community, but it’s those people that you’ve been talking to online, and then you finally meet them in person and they aren’t necessarily local to you.
The thing about the spring workshop being in Tennessee is that I thought the majority of the people at the workshop were going to be from Tennessee. That was absolutely not true. There were people from all over the United States at that workshop. So we were this big conglomeration of people, sharing meals together, sharing conversation together, and we’re not local to each other, but I will tell you these 70ish people that I spent a few days with, they are now a community to me that’s different than what I had before.
While I was down there, a lot of people asked Amy, are you going to start something like this up in Minnesota for the Midwest? And I do think that will happen. It’s something I’ve talked with a couple of people about before, but I think in planning it before we were thinking very, very local. Because who’s going to drive an hour to get to a workshop, right? You guys, there are people that drove 20 hours to go to the Living Free in Tennessee Spring Workshop, because they wanted to be in that community. They thought it was important and knew those people were their people.
So now when I think about starting something up here in the Midwest, it feels bigger to me. And there are more people who want to be involved in getting that going, which is awesome. But I think being at the workshop helped me redefine community and helped me think about who wants to be involved in what, and how expanding the parameters of what your community is important.
There are people I spent the week with at the Spring Workshop who could now ask me to help with something … and they maybe live five hours away from me. And I would have no problem getting in my car and going to help them. So even though I think it’s important to build your in-person local community, one of the biggest things I came away with from this workshop was your community might be bigger than you realize. And for a lot of us, getting in a car and driving four or five (10? 12?) hours to help somebody out with a project doesn’t seem that weird anymore.
6. Examine your willingness to help.
At the workshop, it was very eye opening to me how people were just offering up help to other. As in:
You want this plant? Hey, I have it in my yard. Why don’t you dig some up and take it home with you?
Hey, you need rabbit cages? Why don’t you stop by my house on your way home and pick up some rabbit cages. I’ve got extra.
Hey, you need this connection to this other person? I know that person and I will connect the two of you.
I would say that I am pretty helpful person, generally speaking, but I’ve also learned I am only helpful in certain ways at certain times. The workshop kicked me in the butt about that.
Case in point, I got back from the workshop and was immediately tossed into sending out The Farmish Papers. I hadn’t sent the May issue out before I left for the Spring Workshop, which meant I was scrambling to get them sent out when I returned. So there I sat at my desk, I need to get this addressed. I need to get this stamped. I need to get this to the post office in the next hour before it closes because I want this to go out today.
In the midst of this, a friend messages me. Long story short, she is out of state on her own trip and she needs help with something that she can’t take care of because she’s out of state. And there are only so many people that she trusts to take care of this issue for her. So she messaged me and said, what are you doing? I’m in a situation.
My immediate thought when I saw the message was I am in the zone of trying to get The Farmish Papers done and to the post office before it closes.
But because I had been at the Spring Workshop, and because I had learned about being willing to help each other, what I responded instead was, if you tell me how to do this thing that you need done, I can help you.
Because really, this thing she needed help with would have taken me two minutes. All I needed to do was get out of the zone of what I was doing. I had the time. I just needed to get out of the zone of what I was doing so I could help my friend with this situation she needed help with.
And I honestly don’t think that I would have thought that if I would not have been to the Spring Workshop a few days before and witnessed so much help being modeled between people who knew each other less than I know my friend.
Our days are bigger than we think they are, and we often have more time to help than we think we do.
7. You are contagious. So is everyone else.
I credit this one to John Willis from Special Operations Equipment. All the spring workshop presentations were awesome, but John’s presentation was just what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.
One of the things he said during his presentation was you are contagious. What are people catching from you?
Which in a roundabout way is also saying, what are you catching from other people? Because we’re catching something from everyone we interact with. We are affected by the people we interact with.
So if you think of it like being contagious, you have to surround yourself with people that are giving off stuff that you want, that will positively affect your life. Right?
You are contagious. What do you want people to get from an interaction from you? What do you want them to get from a conversation with you? What do you want them to get from your podcast, from your video, from that thing you posted? What do you want them to get from you?
You are contagious. What are people catching from you?
8. I can do more.
It was really inspiring to be at the workshop and see what people are doing with the space they have available to them. A lot of people at the workshop have way less space/acreage than I have, and they are just absolutely killing it with what they’re doing!
Upon arriving back home, one of the first things I saw was that I have so much empty space on this homestead. What am I doing with it? How can I be more efficient?
So all y’all out there who don’t feel like you’re doing enough or don’t feel like you’re a real homesteader because you only have a quarter acre/half acre/two acres, believe me—y’all are showing us that have more land how to get shit done.
9. You are you.
Something important that I was reminded about at the Spring Workshop was you are you and we all bring something different to the table.
Now, I often talk about how it’s important to be yourself. It’s important to embrace yourself and be who you are, but in all honesty, sometimes I look at the way that other people are doing things and think I should do it that way, too. I should run my website/podcast/video channels that way. I should brand myself that way. I should not talk about that because that person doesn’t talk about that. Or I should talk about that because that person talks about that.
I talked with a few people during the workshop who had some really kind words to say to me about the things that I am doing here with A Farmish Kind of Life. They said, don’t ever change what you’re doing. I like what you’re doing. You’re different. And that’s what I like about you.
And I was at a point where I needed to hear that because it can be very tempting to fall into the trap of trying to do things the same way that other people are. Especially as a “voice” in a community, it can be tempting to morph yourself to be similar to another successful person, or to follow the crowd a little bit,
It was nice to be reminded—and validated, really—that we are all who we are for a reason. We all bring something different to the table. And that’s what makes the table exciting and educational. If everybody sitting at the table was exactly the same, that would be the most boring dinner ever. Nobody would learn anything and it would be an echo chamber.
Be different. Figure out who you are and then be that. Some people won’t like it, but some people will like you because of that, because you are who you are.
— Amy Dingmann, 5-10-22
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