What is Holistic Sovereignty?
Does the American mainstream make you uneasy? Are you concerned about young people finding their way in the modern world? Are we as connected to our families, communities, and the world around us as we should be? Personally? I am uneasy, I am concerned, and I want to be more connected — and I suspect you feel this way too. What can we do about it?
The aim of this “Holistic Sovereignty” project is to be an investigation of good living; independent living, connected living, and responsible living, ideally all at once. I am deeply dissatisfied with America’s cultural trajectory, and I know that I am not alone. I believe our education, financial habits, family connections, health choices, cultural values, and our relationship to the environment are all being eroded rapidly by structural flaws in mainstream thought, as well as insidious, self-feeding systemic corruption that reinforces the societal conditions that allow said corruption to grow indefinitely. I believe that everyone, right-wing, left-wing, wing-nut or otherwise, has felt at least an inkling in their heart that this degeneration is occurring.
What a depressing mouthful. I promise, I’m not the Unabomber. This article actually has a message of optimism! I believe that as individuals we have the ability to build ourselves, our families, and our communities into bulwarks against these negative influences. We’ll get to my hypotheses for “how” in a moment.
My disillusionment has caused me to pursue alternative lifestyles from a very young age, and for the most part the results have been positive. If you don’t like where the tracks are taking you…. get off the train! Over time, I’ve developed some guiding principles for myself that are aimed at resolving some of the systemic issues that feel so omnipresent in the world around me. I want to share those principles, and what they’ve done for me as my personal experiment in “Holistic Sovereignty.” I want to document the experiences of my past and future, successes and failures, as a learning tool for both myself and others.
I am writing with younger people in mind, but all are welcome. Especially parents and guardians who are seeking alternatives for the young people in their lives, but may be afraid to take risks with their loved one’s future.
One of my hopes is that having the perspective of someone young(ish) who took a very different path can provide inspiration, encouragement, or fresh ideas to someone else who is feeling dissatisfied with the mainstream formula for success. Jumping off the tracks in order to follow the road less traveled is scary and undoubtedly risky. Risk-takers and outsiders like you and I need to stick together. Learning through your own failures is both painful and inevitable. By sharing experiences with others, we can outsource a portion of that pain, and accelerate our learning.
I should probably give you a brief idea of who I am and where I’m coming from, so that I’m not just some disembodied voice (if you want the in-depth version just click here.)
I grew up on a dairy farm in Upstate New York from the age of 5. Dairy is a tough business, and my parents were forced to sell the farm when I was 14. It was a very stressful time for my family, and despite none of the responsibility really falling on me, I became obsessed with financial independence to avoid repeating the experience.
After 6th grade my parents gave me the option to homeschool, and I took it. I was able to start a landscaping business at 15 that grew to a full-time $20 an hour job by 17. Around 18 I was able to take a full-time groundskeeper position involving carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. I didn’t like being dependent one person for my income, so I started a pastured poultry business on my parents 10-acre property on the side.
For two years I lived in a camper that my now-wife Gab and I converted into a tiny home. I also worked with my parents to renovate a gut-and-replace house next-door as a property flip (and we lived in it during that time.) When COVID hit, property values in New York shot sky-high, and we all took the opportunity to cash out. While we figure out the next phase of our lives, we are living in Ford Econoline that we converted into a camper van, scouting the country for our next home and farm. I am now 23.
Like I said, don’t fixate too much on “my story.” The point isn’t the actions we took (or had the opportunity to take,) but rather the guiding principles that we were following. I would divide those principles into two groups: Practical and Philosophical. There is major overlap between the two, but in general this article is an introduction to our philosophical principles. My next article, “How we attained (a degree of) financial freedom by 23 years old” explains our practical principles and how they guided our choices. For now, lets talk about our core philosophical values.
Put simply, my “four pillars” are:
- Authentic Education
- Connection with Nature
- Financial Independence
All of these ideas combine to form what I am henceforth coining, “Holistic Sovereignty: A lifestyle that emphasizes the individual’s primary responsibility for his or her family’s well-being, thereby cultivating those same principles in the greater community.” In other words, my central claim is that if we want a healthy nation, a free nation, an ecologically sound nation, we must cultivate those traits within our own sphere of influence above all else.
This is simultaneously a political and apolitical claim. Apolitical because I’m not telling you to vote a particular way or even to subscribe to a particular ideology, but rather to discard the notion that anyone else is responsible for acting out your values but you. It is a political claim because I believe that politics flow from individuals, and as individuals become more healthy, free, and connected, so does the community and ultimately, the nation. I am not a sovereign citizen, but I do believe that the best citizens are sovereign (Meaning: they possess ultimate ownership and responsibility over their lives.)
I’m keeping it surface-level right now, but I plan a deep-dive into each of these topics and what they mean to me. For now, I’m just casting a net in your general direction: if those sound like good ideas to you, you may feel at home reading this blog. The truth is that I’m far more radical than those main points imply, but I’ll scare you off with that later. For now, welcome!
So what am I trying to get out of this? Aside from a general sales-pitch for my ideas, these are my general goals and concerns:
1) Self-growth. Journaling is a healthy mental exercise. Ideally this project will spur discussion in the comments. I want to hear your ideas about “good living.” Writing our ideas down and getting feedback from others is a wonderful way to grow our perspective.
2) My beliefs are (to many) radically counter-culture. I don’t particularly feel like a rebel, but I feel strongly about my values and want to perpetuate them. I think the best way to do that is put my ideas into practice, and show people what comes of them. Whether I am right or wrong, the results will speak for themselves.
If I continuously act out my beliefs, what will happen to my life? I think that everyone’s life constitutes a similar experiment (whether they know it or not.) An asymmetrical experiment with no control group or controlled variables, but an experiment nonetheless. Hopefully by communicating my values and acting them out in the real world, my successes and failures can serve as learning opportunities for others as well as myself.
3) We are not alone in our dissatisfaction with the mainstream formula for success and happiness, but many of us feel alone. You’ll notice I snuck “we” into that statement. If you are reading this, you have almost certainly felt the same way. The world is changing faster than it ever has before, and finding our place in it is a massive undertaking.
By writing this blog I want to form a community for people who are actively seeking new ideas and solutions to life in the modern world. The main thing we have to align on for this to be a positive interaction is intentionality. The tendency of the masses is to drown out their worries with distraction and rejection of responsibility. I want to be surrounded by people who take complete ownership of their lives and outcomes. That is intentionality.
Admittedly, I also want to engage with people who share my core values (and I know there are a lot of them.) We all need a tribe.
4) I am especially worried about people in my peer group and younger. It is my view that the mainstream narrative for “what constitutes a good life” has been watered-down and adulterated by cultural messengers that are more interested in profit and control than spiritual and physical well-being. This process is slow and insidious, but I believe that it has reached critical-mass in the past few decades. My fear is that the primary victims will be young people who have not been exposed to any alternative formulas for “good living.” Maybe I can provide that exposure for someone.
5) Most self-help gurus are selling a one-trick pony: Start making money online and begin your life of freedom! I don’t like that advice on its own. I think that the canned digital-nomad advice is an unrealistic starting point for the average person, and possibly not conducive to a well-balanced life and psyche. I’m not at all averse to online-marketing (obviously) and building digital skills is probably essential for the economy of tomorrow, but there has to be more to good living than hawking virtual products from your McMansion. (To be clear, if this blog takes off I will absolutely monetize that. I have self-interest, and I’m no communist.)
6) My life is just starting and I think that I have an opportunity to record ambitious projects from the beginning, rather than after the fact. By no fault of their own, most people offering good advice (especially to young people) are already successful! And that’s a good thing, because they’ve proven themselves! But at the same time, I know from personal experience that it is difficult to start from square one comparing yourself to success metrics from square forty.
I think that about covers it.
“Look! A lifestyle blog written by a millennial hopped up on his own farts!” God, I hope not. What could be more arrogant than writing about how people should live, when I’m only 23 and have hardly figured it out myself? Valid questions. Questions that I ask myself every time I publish an opinion. I do not want to present myself as:
A) An authority or expert
B) Having solid or fixed opinions and ideas about life (they re-form constantly)
C) In any way claiming that I have all the answers.
I want this to be as honest as possible. I mentioned earlier that everyone’s life is an asymmetrical experiment. Every individual is born with different advantages — natural talents, connections, and the socio-economic status of their family. This isn’t a lifestyle blog claiming “Do what I do and you’ll get identical results!!!!” That doesn’t make sense. We are all playing a different hand, and we don’t all want the same things. The main question of everything I write here will be the concept of “Will this elevate your life?”
If you are going to engage with my writing, you’re going to find that one axiom is non-negotiable: Every value and choice that we act out, no matter how small in consequence, is aimed “up” or “down.” I have no time for justifications, excuses, or moral relativism. It is unfortunately a mainstream habit to build clever frameworks of belief to explain why we can’t do better — therefore absolving ourselves of the responsibility to try. There are unlimited personal, statistical and philosophical reasons that the modern person can pluck from the air to prove that the game was rigged from the start. They’re probably correct, too! But guess what? It doesn’t matter. The game may be rigged, and life isn’t fair, but it’s the only game in town. You can spend time complaining about the rules and guarantee a loss, or decide to start playing and you may actually gain something.
This blog is going to be fundamentally optimistic. This is a place for people who believe in themselves, and the power of the individual. We are about making choices that work, lifestyles with meaning, and values that build us up. Pessimism is clearly self-fulfilling. Why should we be hesitant to believe the same about optimism?
If you’ve read to this point and you like what you hear… Thanks for sticking it out! The first thing I want you to do is introduce yourself in the comments below. I’m really excited to engage with like-minded people who are aiming upwards! Please, at every juncture, share your thoughts, share your guiding principles, and get in on the discussion! I want this to be a community, not a monologue by one under-qualified 23 year old.
For future articles on Holistic Sovereignty you can follow me here at Medium, or sign up for our mailing list at yarrowandoak.com! Our main site also documents our travels across America, if that’s your thing.
PS: Writing is a skill that you can apply anytime, anywhere in the digital world. Are you interested in developing that skill? You may want to consider my Writing Partner Program. Most creative writing programs force you to sit through several classes in person, waiting for your turn to share a single piece of your work and receive critiques. My Writing Partner Program gives you the opportunity to share your writing directly with me, and receive personalized advice, comments, and constructive criticism. Spots are limited, as I will be spending time exclusively focused on your work. Click the link to find out more!