GeneralWhy Permaculture?

How to Jump the Line Like Geoff Lawton


It was July 2014, the last day of our PDC at Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna farm. He was in the front of the room jumping over an imaginary line. I’ll never forget the imagery for the rest of my life. This skinny English man, in classic Geoff attire, faced his students and literally hopped sideways over “the line”.


Geoff pointed out that we had one foot on either side of the fence and challenged us to get out of our comfort zone and jump into a permaculture right livelihood. He admitted that the easiest side of the line was a more conventional model where we’re safe and the income is steady, but we’re unhappy and working for something we don’t believe in.

On the other side was something more uncertain, but it excites us, and makes a positive difference in this world.

Not only did he encourage us to get off of the fence and jump the line, he assured us we could succeed. How did he know? Because he once walked the line. He look the jump a long time ago and did whatever it took to survive. Now, as you know, he’s thriving. He’s very smart, but I assure he’s an ordinary man like you and me. Have you ever seen him at a “Permaculture Party”? He lights up like a kid at his own birthday party! Geoff’s worked for what he’s got. And you can too!

Jumping is HARD! I know, I’ve done it myself and am in the midst of one of my biggest jumps ever. In this article, I’ll address what’s really holding you back and I’ll offer 3 steps for you to take to help you achieve your “leap of faith”.

Years ago, while on a mountain bike ride with a mentor in the beautiful NC mountains I unveiled my dreams to start a non-profit ministry. My mentor asked one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked, “What’s stopping you?”

What is stopping you?

You too have dreams. Ask yourself for a moment, what’s stopping you? I bet it can be summed up to one word. Fear. The other side of the line is rather uncertain, and we don’t like that. I think we might even prefer unhappiness over uncertainty. I can help you beat your fear in just 3 steps.

3 steps to beating your fear.

How do you beat your fear? Well… the answer might surprise you. Permaculture has a way of turning a problem into a solution, and it doesn’t have to be any different here. We’ll actually get to know the fear by defining it, then we’ll put it through a rating system comparing it to the possible positive outcomes and lastly we’ll actually use fear as a motivator.

Step #1 – Get to Know Your Fear and Define it!


To conquer this fear, we’re going to get to know it better by defining it. In the end, we’ll actually use the very thing (fear) that’s stopping us to compel us for our leap. All we have to do is get to know it a bit better.

Take a moment and decide what it would look like if your worst nightmares came true. I’m in the midst of my own leap into permaculture right livelihood with the launch of an educational film, “Permaculture Chickens”. It’s live on Kickstarter as you read! Check it out here

As I approached the launch of the project, I explored my worst fears. They have included the likes of: I’ll spend months of work on the project for naught. I’ll spend all of my money and won’t get any in return. I’ll make a fool of myself with my debut to the permaculture community, I won’t be able to line up key teachers, I’m not a good enough teacher. I won’t be able to implement everything on the farm as desired. I won’t have time to do everything required for the project. I won’t get exposure from key people or blogs and I’ll spend hours on this story and Permaculture News won’t post it.

What about you? Take a moment and write out all your worst fears, in vivid detail!

Step #2 – Rate Your Fears and Compare Them to Possible Positive Outcomes.


Now that you’ve defined your worst fears, let’s rate them!

Rate your worst case scenarios from 1-10 bases on how permanently life changing these outcomes may be. 1 being the least of temporary setbacks to 10 being permanent lifelong damage. Then compare it a rating of positive life changing effects if your dream were realized. 1 being a ripple of positive life change and 10 being on top of the “world” with positive life change.

What you’ll probably notice is that if your worst fears actual come to fruition, you could easily recover to a stable condition in a fairly short amount of time (scoring low), while the potential payoffs are scoring high on the life changing effect!

For me, probably the most realistic and damaging fear would be a wast of time, money and energy for the months I’ve already spent on the project. But if the project fails, I feel I could easily explore something else and get back to where I started. So I might rate that particular fear at 3-4. On the other hand, if this project does succeed, I could have potential lifelong benefits! I’d be helping 100’s of people in their sustainable adventure, I could get my money back and more, I could kick butt on kickstarter like “Permaculture Skills”. I might get speaking gigs, I might attract interns, I might be able to ad workshops to our farm, I might even get enough money to work on another project etc….

What about you? Where do your worst fears and possible positive life long effects rate

3rd – Let Fear be the Solution!


By weighing your fears against the possibly life changing outcomes should help, but if you still need further motivation, let’s re-direct your fear. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, right?


Ask your fear some of the following questions:

What will my life look like 5-10 years from now if I stay on my current path?

What will the world look like 5-10 years from now if I stay on my current path?

Am I truly happy?

Are things really going to improve where I’m at or am I just deceiving myself?

Is this what I’m really meant to do with my life?

The Grass IS Greener On The Other Side!

When I was 16, I took my 1st real job at Wal-Mart as a cashier. After just 6 weeks of bad hours, low pay and boredom, I quit. Fortunately, that was my 1st and last “real” job. From there I pursued my own business in St. Bernard breeding, lawn mowing, firewood sales, e-commerce, non-profit organization, CSA, pastured poultry, Salad Bar beef and now an educational film “Permaculture Chickens”.


I’ve already put to shame some of my original fears for this project. I’ve lined up an amazing crew of teachers (Joel Salatin, Pat Foreman, Lisa Steele and Jim Adkins), key folks in the permaculture community (including Geoff Lawton, Ben Faulk, Paul Wheaton, Diego, Jack Spirko) have all given me thumbs up and your actually reading this (which means I didn’t labor in vein writing it and I’m getting some great promo for my project).

It’s great over here on the other side of the fence, and it’s not as scary as you might imagine. The rewards are immense. Geoffs over here. So is Salatin, Spirko, Wheaton, Olivier, Diego and so many more. You’ll be in good company.

If you were getting chased by stampeding cattle and there was a fence nearby, you’d dare to jump the fence, even into the unknown. Anything is better than getting trampled by a massive herd. Take your fear by the horns, get to know it, and transfer the fear to what you do know (the result from a life of safe living). Now jump in. Get to know your fear buddy and compare his worst outcomes to the positive long term effect and you just might just gain the nerves to jump.

The grass is greener over here, and there’s plenty of people to catch you!


All images provided by Justin, with some provided under licence


  1. Thanks for the article Justin and looking forward to the film. I know for myself I have the tendency to overthink myself into inaction. Common wisdom says “don’t burn any bridges” but sometimes its necessary to ensure you don’t cross back over it.

    1. I can relate, Eric. I can get caught up in studying or the planning part, that I soon realize I’m just delaying. I’m finding that I can never be quite 100% prepared, so I just jump and quickly learn from the experience. For example. I paid $50 to boost our video on FB. Only a quarter of the 10K views came from the boost and only 4 people have backed us from FB since that launched. So I paid $50 for one backer (the average is $33 per backer) so it wasn’t worth it. Anyway, I consider it the cost of my continued business education.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with this, Justin. I’ve been straddling the line for several years now and am currently enrolled in Geoff’s online PDC after having taken an on-site one close to me in 2012. This is something I struggle with constantly — having a good-paying job as a licensed professional, a wife and 2 young kids (and all the bills that come with that) on one hand, and knowing that I’m not living true to the permaculture ethics while living that life on the other hand. Your post provides a good frame to help take perspective of it all and hopefully push me even more to get my own thing going this year.

    1. Glad to be of service, Christopher! Fortunately I “jumped” before I had kids. So by the time they arrived I was sort of used to the roller coaster ride. Now, I have 4 and I just use that pressure to provide, to keep me brainstorming, and moving on various projects. They are a great motivator for me to make this thing work. I actually have a business degree and could get a decent job (if I had to). I want to resist that as long as possible, though. If your family’s cool with it, you could have a go at this and if all fails and your worst nightmares are realized you could probably get back into a job similar to the one you have now. Thanks for sharing your story!

      1. But how do you do it when you have 4 (5 and under) before you even begin?? Add to the list of fears: you can’t actually get a cob house built and your family doesn’t have winter shelter, your permaculture guilds look lovely, but didn’t grow enough food for six people for a whole year, or they did, but you stored it poorly and the food went bad, nothing to eat in late winter…these are way scarier than many of the fears listed in the article.

        1. Jessica, such a great question. I have 4 that are under 7 so I can imagine it a little bit. Those are some serious fears. As you consider those worst fears coming to realization, you can still ask how easy is it for me to get back into my “safe” livelihood. If it’s not easy to recover and the risks are too great (and real) then feed your family. Don’t jump. As for me. We’ve put everything into this current project including Credit Card debt (in hopes that it will be temporary). Our back up plan is an equity line on our property. And if we still haven’t found our right livelihood, then I’ll get a real job. I’m in a situation where I think I could get a real job rather quickly if I had to, but each situation is different.

        2. Jessica, I can totally relate. I have 3 young children and a disabled husband with no income, who spends money like there is no tomorrow and has no intention of stopping. His disabled cousin also lives with us. I support all of us, work a full-time job, and do most of the work in running our little homestead myself. As much as I long to jump, I can’t. I dream of being able to make a living off of our little farm so I can do what I really love. For now I must be content with doing what I can in what little time I have, in hopes that some day the groundwork I am laying now will pay off (in retirement, maybe?) I am slowly building a (very small, granted) customer base for selling eggs, and hope to also sell shares of pork and lamb in the near future. I look at this time as my learning time, so that some day when I am free of my 9 to 5 job, I will have already made all the mistakes and learned the ropes and can THEN jump! Don’t be discouraged! There is always something you can do, even if its a mere fraction of your dream :)

  3. Embrace your fear it will teach you! It teaches you to get clear on what you value and how much uncertainty you are willing to live through. There is something fundamentally freeing about committing to that line jump. There is still fear on the other side but the capacity to see it in it’s proper purpose allows the trajectory to gain momentum. If the hard work stopped on this side of the line the adventure would be short. Kudos to all Line Jumpers. Thank you for a nice article on the subject.

  4. Thanks for the inspiration, Justin.

    I consider myself a serial line-jumper. Sometimes it has been a calculated jump (moving to a different country and culture) and at other times it has been a leap over the fence to escape from a herd of inappropriate family and societal expectations (leaving a lucrative and prestigious career because it did not feed my soul). My husband and I are now taking Geoff Lawton’s online PDC (fantastic) and expect to fully embrace the jump over the “Lawton Line” in the next six months. Can’t wait.

    For many years I’ve had the following quote on my desk. I hope you like it.

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

    All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

    Scottish Himalayan

    Hope your kickstarter flies…

    1. I like how you phrased yourself as a “serial line jumper”. I can certainly identify with that. And you called the line you’re about to jump the “Lawton line”. There are so many different lines to jump, and it’s not like we just jump one. We can always find new lines to cross!
      Thanks for the great quote too!

  5. Oooh, thansk a lot. I’ve been jumping a lot, but yet have fear – great article :-) :-) :-) Wish you best of luck with your film :-)

  6. Great article!

    I’m planning on jumping the line in the near future, and this really helped me by putting into words what I have been thinking. Thank you.

  7. Dear Justin,
    great, encouraging article, thank You! I’m standing right in front of the line, preparing for the jump. I don’t have much land, only a 1.700qm, a Garden-site nearby my hometown Heidelberg, Germany. I plan to build a nice, comfy cabin there, equipped with rmh etc. Unfortunately, to live off the grid is illegal in Germany, but as long as i keep having an adress in the city for mail etc. no one can prove anything. My goal is to establish a nice little food-forest garden and try to be as self-sustainable as possible on a very small scale (size of cabin and land). Chickens are great and i definitly want them to improve my system. I’m very interested in Your film, how das kickstarter work, and will it be possible to ship the dvd to Germany or download it?
    I envy You guys in USA cause permaculture seems to be way more advanced there, so many great thinkers and activists, and a rapidly growing scene… There are not so many German sources for permaculture knowledge, except of cause the great, the amazing, the glorious Sepp Holzer.
    I hope for days to come when i can contribute in giving the permaculture movement a leap forward also in Germany, by providing an example of what is possible even on a small piece of land and by connecting to many people who share similar values and dreams.
    Thank You for Your encouraging words, Justin. Keep up the good work.
    All the best,

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