OK, here’s the deal. I know you won’t waste your time with Tough Times Outfitters. How can I be so sure? Read on.
I was a successful executive for 15 years with a Fortune 50 technology corporation and, as CEO, ran a non-profit for 12 years. I’m married to a fantastic woman (financial analyst) and we have two very talented straight-A teen sons. So why am I now investing my time to help families and communities prepare to thrive during tough times? Funny you should ask. It’s been an incredible ride.
My wife and I were living what is widely believed to be the American Dream. Both of us are private pilots and we had built a house we designed on a residential airpark. We could taxi our 1929 Fleet Model 2 biplane out of our hanger, onto a 4,000 foot grass strip and launch off into the wild blue yonder. But in my work, I was becoming less and less happy. I had managed through more than 11 rounds of consolidations and layoffs. Eventually, I developed a spreadsheet of everyone on my team, in stacked rank order, and had a contingency plan ready for each person if or when they were let go. Also, I realized that while I enjoyed the contribution I was able to make to the lives of the people with whom I worked, at the end of the day if our team did our job really, really well, people would buy my company’s products instead of our competitors who were offering similar capability. I realized that what I really wanted to do was to move from a life of success to a life of significance.
So, I took a leap of faith and volunteered for a severance package. The last day at my company was a Friday and on Monday afternoon I received a call from a small non-profit based in Oklahoma that was focused on helping people live healthier lifestyles through permanent behavior change. They were looking for someone to assist them with business development. Now, typically, I’m the one in the family who likes to leap into things. In this instance things turned out a little bit different. My wife and I talked it over. I said, “This is exactly what I would love to do. I’d love to live in the country and help a small non-profit make a difference in the world. But it would require more than a 70% cut in pay and I don’t see how we could afford that. Plus, we would need to sell our home and homes located on airports don’t usually sell very quickly.” My wife, a tremendous woman of faith, replied, “Hey, if this is what God wants us to do, He will work out the finances.”
And that’s exactly what happened. We stepped out in faith and bought a house on 28 acres of land smack dab in the middle of beautiful Nowhere, Oklahoma. We were blessed with a huge garden. And, exactly two weeks before the balloon payment was due on our new country ranch, our airport home sold and we were able to completely pay off the new mortgage. We grew vegetables, picked up pecans, home-schooled our boys, squished scorpions and had a wonderful experience. Having gotten a taste of the benefits of country living, when we relocated to Sedona, Arizona, we found a home on irrigated land where we could grow fruit trees, grapes, and vegetables, and raise chicken, ducks and dogs.
A couple of years before Y2K, my father-in-law visited us. He had survived the Great Depression and remembered walking down the sides of roads picking dandelion greens for meals. He was a brilliant engineer, an astute and successful investor, and was very analytical. As such, he had carefully evaluated the tax policy and commitments the federal government had made over the years. He strongly believed that at some point there would be another and more severe depression. It would be much worse this time because few people now live in the country where they can supplement their meals with home-grown produce. He had a serious talk with us and recommended that we develop a “family retreat” out in the country where we could grow food and be inter-reliant with neighbors in order to weather a substantive depression. Frankly, I thought he was a little paranoid and we didn’t follow up on his advice.
My brother-in-law, also an engineer, became worried about Y2K and predicted all kinds of mayhem. So, at the last minute, we bought some bottled water and about 15 cans of soup. That was about it. Oh, we also bought a small Honda generator. Ha!
Now fast forward to 2008. I had just started my MBA. The non-profit, of which I was now CEO, had an endowment of about $31M and we had quarterly meetings with our financial advisors. I vividly remember the meeting we had with them July of 2008. Our advisors showed us a chart that plotted total US credit market debt as a percentage of GDP from 1908 until 2008. It was sobering. It was beyond sobering. It was bed-wetting scary. The US was repeating almost the EXACT same sequence as had happened just before the Great Depression, but to a much higher level of magnitude. The advisors told us to get out of equities and into bonds because an initial crash would happen followed by a much deeper crash several years later. They forecasted that millions of people would lose their jobs and their homes. Sound familiar?
This motivated me to seriously study finance and macro-economics in my MBA program. I learned a ton about the world’s economic situation, the fiscal promises politicians had made (both parties) to multiple interest groups in return for votes, and the massive accretion of debt incurred by Americans to keep up our materialistic lifestyles during the 1980’s and 1990’s. And that’s just the pickle that the US is in, never mind the even deeper systemic problems in countries around the world.
So, I embarked on a quest. A quest to learn as much as I could about what families and communities can do to prepare for potential tough times AND lead a simpler, healthier family lifestyle. I looked into shelter, food, water, fuel, heat, cooking, food storage, wealth preservation, bartering, gardening/farming, security, etc. I studied what had happened to the societies in other countries that had got into this situation and how people had thrived through the tough times. I then did an in-depth analysis of what areas in the contiguous 48 states are best suited geographically, politically, and from a population density perspective to endure during tough times.
Based on my research, I developed a detailed plan that included implementing as much of a simple country lifestyle as we could lead where we live while concurrently setting up a family retreat like my father-in-law had advised us to do years before. This would be in a remote area that could be used as a vacation home, a place for family members to go and thrive if they lost a job, and a place for the entire family could go and thrive in case of tough times.
It wasn’t easy. It took several years of research, travel, interviews and analysis. Many times I wished there was someone who could mentor me on my quest. Someone who had been there, done that already. I made lots of mistakes that cost a lot of money. But eventually we achieved the family goal and we were excited to be able to take my father-in-law there so he could see the fulfillment of his dream prior to his passing.
We now enjoy fresh organic vegetables, apples, peaches, pears, raspberries, cherries, grapes, and apricots as well as free-range chicken and duck eggs. By the way, home-raised eggs have a flavor far beyond what you buy at the store. We spend as much time as we can at the family retreat and have developed an inter-reliant community structure with our neighbors. When we aren’t there, our on-site caretaker manages the greenhouses, orchards, pastures, solar systems, ponds, animals, roads and buildings. We get to watch from a distance through web-enabled security cameras placed throughout the retreat. Our plan, once the boys are in college, is to spend 6 months annually at each location or we may relocate permanently to the family retreat. Meanwhile, we continue to develop a similar inter-reliant community where we currently live. Folks, one thing I’ve learned is that there is incredible power in community.
So that’s why I founded Tough Times Outfitters™. I want to share what we as a family have learned with other families and other communities. Yes, it’s a scary world, what with potential pandemics, terrorism, and increasingly crazy weather. Yes, the economy could go south quickly. Yes, lives are packed with materialism. Of course foods are getting more processed and less healthy. But, there are other options, other choices that families can make. You can choose simple. Choose rural. Choose quiet. Choose peace. Choose health.
I invite you to come along with us and enjoy the ride.
Stay tuned for webinars, education, training, coaching and mentoring. I want to pay it forward and help you, your family and your community be prepared to thrive during tough times.