Join the Community

Episode 008: Origins and Lessons from Strawbale Gardening with Joel Karsten

Oct 29, 2019
Seeds of Tao podcast strawbale gardening permaculture sustainability


Achieving Your Permaculture Goals 

Today on the Seeds of Tao Podcast we’re interviewing Joel Karsten, the head of the worldwide straw bale gardening movement. Joel is a great example of someone who took the permaculture principles (even though he didn’t know them at the time) and developed a business that would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He is a master at this, and we really think this is a viable strategy for permies to add to their arsenal. Here are some resources to dive deeper into straw bale gardening and you can also message him on our Slack community



Oftentimes we look at people like Joel, turning their passion into a business and creating a huge impact, and we think - why can’t I do that? So in this blog post instead of rehashing all the amazing details and methodology of straw bale gardening, we will focus more on the self-development side of achieving your goals like what Joel has done.

Who Are You?

We have talked to permies all over the world, and many of them are frustrated because they feel like they are up against a wall and not creating the impact they wish to have in the world. The struggle is real, whether you are a permie or not. At the base level of goal setting, is the goal setter. We can set goals all day long - I will run a 5K, I will read the 100 best books of all time, I will make 10 people smile… whatever… But if that doesn’t resonate with your WHY and what lights you up - well, then you have taken the excitement and opportunity for true fulfillment out of that goal, which is extremely powerful for continual progress.

What is the impact that you want to have in this life? It’s not linked to your role as a farmer, a mother, a teacher… it’s deeper than that. It’s where your individual inner power comes from. Soon we will be coming out with a free mini-course to help you discover that, but for now, an interesting way to find that purpose and strength is to work backward from your weaknesses. If you always question your ability or worth, empowerment may be your big impact. Or if you constantly lift others up, but always feel like your cup is empty you could be a healer. Once you find a word or sentence that REALLY resonates with you, and it’ll take some deep thinking, you will be way more efficient with your goal setting and progress in your life.

Setting Goals

Now that you have a good idea of where your inner power is coming from, and what lights you up, you’re ready to start setting some amazing goals. As you come up with your goals, check-in with yourself to see if they excite your WHY and move it forward, it will make your goals that much more powerful. Many of my mentees have had a hard time setting goals because they are scared of not reaching them and seeing themselves as a failure. But if you never stretch that foot out forward, you will never progress. You will be stuck in the same place. So you decide which direction you want to go and how fast. 

There’s a method to set strategic goals. It is important that you write the goal down. Forcing our brain to put a nebulous idea into language and write it down moves that idea down the assembly line of creation, so it becomes real in our minds. When you write a goal, you want to be as clear as possible and have a specific end to that goal. Goals that are never-ending are habit training. You want a clear completion time, possibly with a deadline to make that goal achievable. Bring all the emotion you can into what your life will be like when you achieve that goal so that you can get your limbic brain involved in the process. The more of your brain you can activate in your goals, the quicker you will achieve them.

If you have a hard time setting goals, consider the various parts of your life. You could create categories such as - physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, etc. Another option would be to organize by role - father, brother, business-owner, permie, etc. Ideally, when you are setting goals they aren’t all in one area of your life, or you will feel easily overwhelmed and unbalanced.

Identifying Obstacles

Once you create a goal, things are going to get crazy. All of a sudden you will start questioning your ability to achieve that goal or people will start telling you that you CAN’T… It will feel like obstacles are coming out of nowhere. These are growing pains. You must get THROUGH these growing pains in order to move forward.

As soon as you start encountering obstacles, do your best to identify what that obstacle REALLY is, and write it down. Of all the people we’ve mentored at Seeds of Tao, no one has ever had more than four main obstacles. If you write these couple obstacles down, now you have a problem to solve that is digestible. 

Overcoming Obstacles

So you have your obstacles laid out. Next, we need to overcome those obstacles. How do we do that? Well, to be honest, there are hundreds of techniques that we could teach you and mentor you on about overcoming obstacles, but for right now in this section of this blog post, we will get you started.  You can journal the heck out of your obstacles. Journaling can be a great way to more intentionally brainstorm ways around your obstacles. As you set goals, be journaling about how your progress is going - what’s working or not working, what obstacles you’re facing and possible ways to get around those obstacles. You will be surprised at what your brain will come up with. This is a great place to start, and show your brain that you are in control of your forward motion.

But I’m Still Not There…

Sometimes we get all excited about our goals, and prepare for and organize as much as we can, and yet we still fall short. There are five deficiencies that hold you back from reaching your goals, and you may be lacking one, two, or all five. As you overcome these deficiencies, your speed towards accomplishing your goals will greatly increase.

Know It

First off, you need to know what’s necessary to accomplish your goal. If your goal is to start a straw bale garden, and you dive into it without the appropriate research - you’re setting yourself up for failure. Research and knowledge are so important to achieving your goals.

See It

If I asked you, “What is it going to look like when you finish your goal?” and you didn’t have an answer, you haven’t been activating your brain enough towards your goal. The more you create your goal in your mind, the more your brain wants to achieve ie, so the quicker it will find a way to make that happen. Jim Carrey, a famous U.S. actor, started his career in acting broke and without work. But he decided to use visualization as a tool to get his mind aligned with his goal. He wrote himself a $10 million check and dated it for a few years ahead. Then he got to work, always with that check-in his mind. Sure enough, those few years passed and he landed a movie contract that paid him $10 million. If you aren’t using visualization - you’re doing your mind a disservice! 

Say It

Writing our goals down, putting them in a planner, or on a vision board is all good and fine. But many times that’s where they will stay. The majority of people don’t talk about their goals. If you get uneasy when you want to tell someone about your goal, you aren’t fully committed. I get it though, telling someone is scary! If we don’t reach our goal we will have to admit defeat! However, that person can also be inspired to work on their goals… and maybe even be your cheerleader. And who doesn’t need a new cheerleader? If you aren’t telling people about your goals, go turn that around, it can be super empowering to share your aspirations.

Feel It

Our Prefrontal Cortex is in charge of logical thinking and decision making. We use our prefrontal cortex when creating the time frame or details of our goals. However, more power and determination comes from our limbic system - where our emotions live. Listen to the difference here- “I want to lose 10 pounds” vs. “I want to lose 10 pounds so that I get to feel in control of my health and be better able to help those around me” What’s the difference? EMOTION! You have to get the “feels” into your goals so more of your brain can get working for you rather than against you. Really imagine what it will FEEL like to achieve that goal, and hold onto that feeling. It’s goal slaying magic folks.

Act It

Alright, last one. At the end of the day, you can’t just put your goal up on your wall and will it to happen. That’s not the way it works. Once you have a goal, it’s time to break it down into action steps and incorporate those action steps into your project management system. Figure out what step you’re working on towards your goal and KEEP MOVING! Keep chipping away at it until it’s accomplished all the way - not 90% of the way. We’re shooting for 100% here because you are worth 100% of what your goals will bring into your life.

Is it starting to make sense now? Can you see areas of your goal setting to improve upon? So these big movers and shakers in the permaculture industry, people like Joel with his straw bale gardening, went out and accomplished their goals because they were relentless, and they kept moving forward. You can do the same things with your goals.

If you have a goal you are struggling with, or questions, feel free to reach out to us on our Slack channel, it’s a safe space to talk all things permaculture.


Go get those goals and keep growing!


Previous Episode: Urban Permaculture and Community Impact with Adam Brock