Planting a new business- Part 1


After a long chat with Lestie and John on their recent visit to San Diego I realized I am planting an organic garden…I mean business.

And when part of your business is to teach people to use  your tools it became clear I needed to document my process so you all can see the tools live…as they are being used.

When you want to start an organic garden you have to first start with an assessment of where you are and where you might hope to be.

Assessment and defining success is the first part of our tool:



So, we start the assessment part and defining what success would look like.

What success IS/IS Not for our current project.

The beginning of any project, plan, decision, relationship starts here. With defining success.

If you don’t have any idea what success (to you or your group) might look like then how the heck will we know if we have even gotten close let alone reached it?

Here are some questions to ask for defining what  Success IS & IS NOT:

  • If you where successful what would it look like?
  • How will you know if you are successful?
  • What would change as a result of your success?
  • What would be different?
  • What does success not look like?

Defining success seems like it would be easy. Many times this is part of where I can start to get stuck.  I can define success and what I would want it to look like but all he middle parts start to get fuzzy.

The next step is determining where you are NOW.  What is your current skill set, knowledge, resources etc. relative to being able to work towards success.

Where I am and where I want to be… a gap analysis.

I tell you what, that stupid gap between where I think I am and where I defined success to be seems HUGE. Overwhelming. Scary.

So, I go back to the first part. Where I am currently.  And I start working on it.  I research, I draw out plans. I brainstorm with people. I focus on details. I map it out on paper. I talk to experts.

And guess what happens?  I am VERY clear about where I am and where I am not!  And this serves to pinpoint to me just how far I am from my definition of success. And I am lost. Down the rabbit hole.

So, here I am.  I have researched about the best methods to plant an organic garden…the type of climate, type of crops to use, best type of soil.  I have researched the best tools to use and purchased a few.  I researched how to use them.  I talked to other “successful” organic gardening experts.  I read books about organic gardening.  I buy the seeds.

I have completed the PLAN (Plan, Do, Check, Act) part to the best of my current abilities and experience.

Now, I am ready to DO! 

But then I realize no one has told me how to plant an organic garden when you live in the city. Shit.

This happens to us all the time.  We might have a vague idea of what we want…What success would look like and then life happens.  We thought we had prepared and we hit a snafoo.

I went back to PLAN.  I wasn’t ready yet, clearly.

But then I was reminded.  I am planting an organic garden for the first time.  I’m not going to have all the answers.  I couldn’t possibly know what to expect because I have never gone through the experience. And we learn from going through the experience. THE DOING!

So, here’s what I did.  I went back to the beginning.  I went back and looked at my definition for success. And guess what?

Here is what my definition was:

Success is having an organic garden that grows and I can actually eat what comes out of the ground.

Ahh, HA!  Here it is.  There is a lot of room here. Wayyyyy to much.

I don’t have to plant 20 different vegetables and a variety of fruits to be successful. I don’t have to be overhwelmed by all the infinite possibilities and all the things I don’t know about organic gardening.  I can start small.

The real experience and learning comes when you plant the first seed and everything that happens after.

I modify my definition of success for my project:

Success IS having my first organic garden. Success IS being able to eat what I grow.

Success IS NOT having 20 different vegetables and fuits in my first organic garden.

Success IS NOT knowing how to do everything pefectly.

Success IS jus to start. To DO

Stay tuned for what happens in Part 2…”DO”






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“I asked Max (2x) what he liked about the Must, Should, and Could.  He said he likes knowing what to do and he likes seeing what to do.”

Neil, my son, is an intelligent child, witty, social, and curious.  At times he seems unorganized, frustrated by homework, and can be quite focused on his needs. 

Neil is a healthy eleven year old boy; no need for special accommodations in school.  I feel if classroom size were small, school work would be more manageable. 

Speaking with teacher and pediatricians assured me that Neil is a normal child, and with maturity life would be easier.   I read many different parenting books which helped some, but kept feeling like I was stuck and was repeating the same mistakes. 

I was not finding books or guidance geared toward someone like me and my son.   Where are the books for the regular education children who struggle a bit?  Where is the guidance for helping my child to remember what to do after diner each night, consistently saying please and thank you, remembering where the homework is?

How I think isn’t the way my child does and it’s all good.

I am beginning to think that I am one kind of a learner and Neil is another; we are both “normal” and intelligent.  When I helped Neil with homework, often it ended in tears or a fight.  I presented ideas to Neil in the way I understood them, but my presentation did not help Neil.  Neil needed ideas presented to him a little differently, in the way he could process them. I was beginning to learn about learning; it isn’t a one size fits all science.

What are the criteria for success?

To begin the journey, I was asked to consider the problem and visualize what success would look like.

What result would satisfy me?  What are the boundaries?

I then divided the tasks to achieve my result into three categories Must, Should, and Could.

Here is an example, Neil loads the dishwasher after dinner.  The task of loading the dishwasher begins with my criteria for success: dishes and bowls scraped, dishes placed horizontally so water can spray through, dishes face the same way without touching another dish, cups are upside down, silverware vertical in the utensil basket, leave the wine glasses and pots on the counter. Close the dishwasher.  If those eight criteria are met, Neil is successful and I am content.  Those eight criteria became the Must.

Should is behaviors that improve the task or make it better than simply acceptable.  Should: rinse dishes, alternate plastic cups with glasses, utensils point up.

Could is behaviors that are the ideal or complete the task 100%.  Could: wash pots, rinse sink, and wipe the counter.  We worked on this list together and I posted it near the sink.  For the next month, loading the dishwasher was a breeze.  On nights with extra homework, Neil only completed the Musts.  It worked.

We decided to create a Must, Should, and Could for coming home from school and taped it by the door.  I wasn’t nagging as much.  I still say, “Did you do the Must, Should, and Could for coming home?”  But it was easier than listing each task.  We saw improvement. On busy afternoons, completing the Must was fine, other afternoons the Must, Should, and Could  needed to be done.  One morning when trying to get to the bus, I asked Neil to focus on getting ready to leave and he said, “OK Mom, I’ll do the musts.”  We didn’t have a Must, Should, and Could for leaving the house.  He was prioritizing!  Thinking about the criteria for success was making tasks manageable.  My other child, who is three years younger, started using the Must, Should, and Could when she came home from school.

Enter the snag.  I was working one night and Neil’s dad was in charge of kitchen duty and bedtime.  Neil was at the dishwasher, completed the Musts and walked away.  Neil’s dad told him to go back and finish.  Neil yelled, “Why bother with the Must, Should, and Could when I have to do it all!”  Neil lost some of the control he gained with the Must, Should, and Could.  I needed to ask Lestie and Molly.

Lestie and Molly are the women who are guiding me though understanding that people learn differently.  They assured me that once I understood how I learn and how Neil learns, life would be much more manageable.  Neil and I would learn to manipulate the situation to best fit how we learn.  Lestie and Molly advised discussing with Neil when completing all three (Must, Should, and Could) is important and when it is acceptable to stop after the Must.  They reminded me to give Neil an early warning when Must, Should, and Could needs to be completed.  They also told me to modify the Must, Should, and Could if it needed to be adjusted.

I should use the technique to break my new parenting style into Must, Should, and Could. 


Describe what success looks like or visualize what the end result would be for each parenting area I’d like to see improvement, like less fighting over chores or Neil completing homework without tears

If I give a task to someone, what are the boundaries?  Once I define the boundaries (criteria), anything in the boundaries is acceptable.

Break the task into successful criteria – Communicating the musts so Neil and I agree with end result


Write Must, Should, and Could down

Communicate with Neil when Must, Should, and Could need to be complete and when Musts only are acceptable


Remember to use humor

Respect Neil as an individual

Revisit the Must, Should, and Could and adjust if needed

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Molly’s Story

June 21, 2012

Finding the “real” truth of who you are Simultaneously Opposing Truths We are both strong and weak We can hate and love We work hard and don’t feel recognized Be a great boss to one person and not so great to someone else. We live here. And it is also part of how we learn. […]

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