Aug 222019


This post is to outline some experiences I had with communication, what I learned, and potential opportunities for system improvement.

Communicating Needs

I experienced burnout soon after beginning to work with Athens’ Own because I failed to communicate that my needs were not being met. I became overwhelmed by my lack of time management, major lifestyle changes from moving to Broadwell Hill, time-constrained work, ambiguity and large number of suggested assignments/ initiatives from Constantine, and the sometimes heated discourse between Con and Kathy. Though it would have been better and potentially easier to share my feelings, I avoided it because I knew it would be uncomfortable for me. I let the stress build until it overwhelmed me, and I needed a break. Athens’ Own saw this need, and offered comprehensive health services to help me. The Safety Officer (Kathy) assisted me in developing time management and communication skills by creating accurate time estimates, block scheduling, and making SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Related, Time-Based) requests. Athens’ Own position on health services also empowered me to obtain other help for medical issues, and develop a better understanding of my health. Assignments and duties were put on hold until Kathy and I felt I was ready.

What I learned:

Before working with AO, I did not really possess useful tools for time management and communication. They are two weak links between me and my holistic goal that I continue to strengthen. I found block scheduling useful in planning and organizing my AO and personal activities. I still struggle communicating when I do not want to or cannot do what someone may be requesting of me, but I have realized the importance of attempting to communicate my needs. I find the SMART tool useful in attempting to clarify what is being asked of me, especially with Constantine.

When monitoring whether I’m on track with my holistic goal, it is important to be honest and compassionate with myself to acknowledge if my needs are being met. I did not do this before my burnout. I now check-in to see how I feel, journal, and use the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) method as monitoring tools for my needs, to see what can be improved, and to celebrate any success. Kathy introduced Nonviolent Compassionate Communication (Needs Inventory; Feelings List), but I did not see its use in communicating my needs with myself and others until recently. It provides terms to describe one’s needs and when they are or are not being met. This and other experiences have reinforced that it is much easier for others to meet my needs if I first acknowledge and communicate them.

Feedback and Listening

What happened:

I did not give enough feedback to Con and Kathy to meet their needs of being heard, which caused tension and miscommunication.

An AO business partner needed assistance in a situation that could have been less severe with better communication and feedback. 

What I learned:

Feedback allows someone to know I’m listening, and limits miscommunication by reflection of what I hear back to them. It’s where the important balance of clarity, succinctness, honesty, compassion, and non-judgment in communication is heightened. Balance does not mean these parts should always be equal, but one part should not be forgotten in light of the other(s). Feedback without this balance can more easily make communication counterproductive. Attempting to be succinct without remembering clarity can lead to excluding necessary information. Honesty without compassion can more easily lead to hurt feelings or anger.

Two feedback tools to help meet Con and Kathy’s need to be heard are active listening – asking questions, clarifying, listening to understand; and passive listening – seeking to understand and reflecting the idea back to the speaker. Both have helped change my perspective of how Kathy and Con view their sometimes heated discourse; whereas it comes off to me as angry and interrupting, to them it is passionate and the process other intellectual circles use to debate. By reflecting back these thoughts to Kathy, her and I have agreed there may be a need to address how it comes off to future interns.

Assisting the previously specified AO business partner through their situation increased my knowledgebase and helped me develop a host of skills: creativity, professional attitude, interpersonal relationship building, self-direction, organization, an increasingly holistic view of natural and human systems, ability to motivate others to act, capability of organizing the efforts of others, and the ability to function in a dynamic team. It also increased my awareness of the cooperative systems within the Athens community, and respect of the cultures of rural Ohio and Appalachia. Lastly, it emphasized the importance of feedback for resilience. A breakdown in communication from lack of honest feedback had occurred and is still being repaired with this business partner. By strengthening our communication, we strengthen their business, AO, and the community. Simplifying and separating requests, and waiting for a response to one before asking another seems to improve the quality of communication with them. Balancing compassion and honesty has been important when addressing issues that arose. I felt offering positive reinforcement by celebrating successes improved communications and attitudes in this situation, and other AO team relations. Sometimes it was simply thanking someone for keeping their word, or accomplishing a difficult task.


I think it would have been useful for me to have an extended orientation time, before introducing regular AO/ BWH duties and assignments. For me, it would have been useful to include:

  • Team members write down needs that could involve/affect others
    • Share with team
    • Faster acquaintance of team needs
    • Opportunity for intern to consider own needs
  • Emphasis on communicating needs even if uncomfortable; non-judgment policy
    • Nonviolent Compassionate Communication
  • Completion of Holistic Management Handbook and drafted holistic goal
    • More effective to me if completed at BWH, while immersed
      • Greater ability to clarify concepts
  • AO Intern Handbook received and discussed
  • Required communication procedures introduced
    • Regular/daily situation reports
    • notification of schedule changes asap
    • If team meetings will occur
      • Agendas
      • 24 hour inclusions, printouts
    • Feedback
      • Active/reflective listening
      • Concepts being practiced
    • Nonviolent Compassionate Communication
  • co-living responsibilities introduced
  • clarification and emphasis of AO search and development of “transformation agents”
  • clarification of methods of discourse between Con and Kathy
    • emphasize not arguing or angry
    • hand signals

For me, it may have decreased stress to select one or two interests to focus on, instead of everything interesting that came up.

I found a useful reminder in a document from Alyse Carter, the former Internship Coordinator: “Don’t assume anyone else knows everything about anything. Ask that others show you the same respect, listening skills, patience, and humility that you show them.”

Jul 152019


Anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and “us vs. them” have interplay. I therefore believe that working towards a solution for one inevitably decreases the severity of the other, and a solution to either would bring me towards my holistic goal. In order to simplify decisions and expedite action, I am choosing to focus on climate change.

Below, I have outlined the decision testing questions for which aspect of ACC to focus on. Included are three of what I consider the main causes of ACC.

Jul 152019


I consider two points on the Current Situation Analysis to be existential threats to humankind: anthropogenic climate change, and “us vs. them mentality” (sometimes referred to as tribalism). If these threats continue as they currently exist, I believe they will lead to our extinction.

Anthropogenic climate change caused by and coupled with unsustainable global practices has led to an increasing threat of global catastrophe. Anthropogenic climate change has many data citing the severe impacts it has and will have on the planet’s life and systems. Some believe that societal collapse is inevitable (Jem Bendell – Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy), many believe collapse is likely (Paul and Anne Ehrlich – Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?). Whether societal collapse would lead to extinction is debatable, but is not improbable.

“Us vs. them mentality” comes from the psychology of in-groups and out-groups. Evidence supports that people included in groups will support theirs over another, even when randomly placed in a group. Whether this mentality is from our nature or nurtured throughout our lives, it is seen across cultures and geography (Leonard Mlodinow – Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.) If we act to support our group over another without credible reason, then current and past tragedies of genocide, war, and poverty become more explainable; when members of one group have reason to believe another group wants to harm them, isn’t as good as them, or there aren’t enough resources for both groups, they can do terrible things. Whether through their own beliefs or manipulation, in-group and out-group psychology can be extremely divisive.

With the power of modern weapons, it could only take a group of people or a single government to cause global catastrophe and societal breakdown.

Jul 082019


The attached document will be used to quantify how much an initiative works towards one or more holistic goals, other types of goals, and the Current Situation Analysis. The right column is used to check off what goals/problems are worked towards, which are totaled at the bottom. It will be used in conjunction with the holistic management testing questions or “decision making framework/matrix” to choose an initiative that aligns with my holistic goal, the Athens’ Own holistic goal, potentially the holistic goals of other AO team members, and addresses the Current Situation Analysis.

The most recently updated version of this document can be found HERE.

Jul 082019


Jacob Faller

The following document is an analysis of the current state of the world. It is a fluid document that changes.
This iteration is a summary of the causes contributing to what I perceive as global crisis; it includes most of the previous iteration by Athens’ Own. Some of these causes have overlapping variables, but I have chosen to list such variables under a single point for the simplicity of this list.

The original concept behind Athens’ Own creating this list was to start a singular document that individuals and groups could use to holistically view the state of the world; weigh the potential benefits of decisions/initiatives towards any of the CSA variables; and align one’s decisions with others who may be/are working towards any of these variables.

Jul 082019

Jacob Faller


My desire for life to flourish is the Quality of Life most evident in my Vision, which I have copied below to emphasize its importance. It is the future towards which I aim.

People treat each other as equals, and respect all life as having inherent value in its existence and sentience, beyond being just a resource. Because of this, all life is considered when making decisions that could help or harm. People are happy and help other life grow and to function better. People are free to be and express themselves. Life is visibly happy and robust, be it smiling, strong people, luscious Redwood forests, or 85 year old blue whales. All kinds of life have their needs met; food, water, shelter, clean air, and habitat; additionally for humans, education and interpersonal relationships. People are reconnected with themselves and others. Those who had seen themselves separate from nature have reconnected and realized their oneness. All of this brings nature together to work as a flourishing system; life is able to withstand, recover, and grow from disturbance or natural disaster.

Jul 082019


Quality of Life

I want to be in good mental, physical, and spiritual health.

I want life to flourish (be happy, healthy, resilient, and grow vigorously.)

I want good interpersonal relationships and close friends.

I want enjoyment and to have fun.

I want to be able to creatively express myself.

Behaviors and Systems

Listen to my body and feelings

Run, workout, stretch, and meditate often

Good time management

Good communication

Good financial management

Empathy and compassion towards other people and life

Make sound decisions based on reason, not judgement

Be open to change

Make money doing meaningful work


People treat each other as equals, and respect all life as having inherent value in its existence and sentience, beyond being just a resource. Because of this, all life is considered when making decisions that could help or harm. People are happy and help other life grow and to function better. People are free to be and express themselves. Life is visibly happy and robust, be it smiling, strong people, luscious Redwood forests, or 85-year-old blue whales. All kinds of life have their needs met; food, water, shelter, clean air, and habitat; additionally, for humans, education and interpersonal relationships. People are reconnected with themselves and others. Those who had seen themselves separate from nature have reconnected and realized their oneness. All of this brings nature together to work as a flourishing system; life is able to withstand, recover, and grow from disturbance or natural disaster. 

Link to At Home with Holistic Management.

Jul 082019


You can’t make meaningful decisions without having a goal to aim for first. And you can’t aim for a goal if you don’t know what resources you have (money, people, organizations, skillsets), or who has influence on whether you reach your goal. Most importantly, no person or group of people can create positive change without a plan, the tools and systems to monitor that plan, and a comprehensive understanding of systems thinking (how every action affects all things.) Holistic management is the framework that provides this understanding. It gives anyone the tools they need to set a goal and achieve it. Without the type of thinking, tools, and systems that holistic management provides, we will not accomplish any sustainable positive change in our country or on this planet.

The “Quality of Life” section of a holistic goal is fairly self-explanatory. “Behaviors and Systems” are what has to happen for the Qualities of Life to become real. “Vision” is a person’s vision of the future; the life their Qualities of Life will produce.

I’ll end with a quote from At Home with Holistic Management, originally found in a church in Essex, England:

“A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task is the hope of the world.”

May 242019

3/22/2019 by SOFB

Last week I had noticed a distinct noise while driving the Ford Ranger for deliveries in Athens. Similar to a squeaky belt, but more metallic and harsh, the sound was coming from something that was rotating, but I couldn’t determine where from. I pulled over and called AAA to get a tow back to the house.

Earlier, I has driven a short distance with the parking break engaged, so it was suspected that something in the break assembly had broke. This had potential to lead to the break pads being eroded, and was a major reason why we decided to tow the truck. After removing the break assemblies and determining this wasn’t the cause, Con moved to the differential, which allows the outer wheel to rotate faster than the inner wheel while turning. He had known there was an issue with it for some time. Wear on the end of each axle from the bearings and a soaked left break indicated an oil leak, and the high leakage rate indicated low oil in the differential. After removing the cover of the differential he discovered that it was indeed dry. None of these symptoms, however, indicated the noise I had heard while driving.

After lubricating the axles, axle bearings, and differential, and reassembling them, Con started the Ranger and turned the wheel, only to hear the same problematic noise. With the knowledge that turning the wheel turns the drift shaft, he removed the drive shaft and found that its rear u-joint bearings also had no lubrication. Lo and behold, the source was revealed!

We are currently in the process of ordering new bearing assemblies for the u-joint; the current ones have too much wear from lack of lubrication. We tried and failed to buff out the wear on the bearing housings. If we take away too much metal, the diameter changes and the bearings will not fit snugly inside.

Two important lessons have arisen from this experience, the first being to be attentive to a vehicle while driving, especially if you do not have the skill base to determine if it’s safe to drive with or fix whatever problem may arise. The second lesson is to monitor a situation even if you think you’ve solved the problem. Con could’ve stopped after the differential and not bothered to check on the noise before signing off on the Ranger; but, he was thinking holistically, with foresight, and discovered what is now suspected to be the source of the noise I heard. By monitoring a known symptom, he was able to find its source before any more damage was caused.

May 242019

4/9/2019 by SOFB

Q. What resilience skills do I want to work on? For this question, it’s important to think of resilience beyond basic survival. Athens’ Own defines resilience as “positive adaptation to perceived difficulty.” You’ve just lost your job of 10 years as an accountant, and can’t find another in this field. What do you do? Maybe you apply your hobby of cooking and find a job as an assistant chef. You overcome a difficulty through your diverse skill set.

A. Species identification; foraging and wilderness cooking; photography; knowledge of car mechanics; systems thinking; solar power system familiarity; dietary/nutritional familiarity

Q. Which of the Four Agreements do I most want to work toward?

A. Trying my best. My absolute best effort, every time.

Q. Which of the rest of the Worker Readiness Certification do I most want to work toward?

A. My initial response was that I wanted to be more creative, but now I think I would benefit most from being highly organized.

Q. What “hat” at a business table do I want? This question comes from Con’s concept that a business should have positions (hats) for history, communication, environment, etc. He believes only one hat should be for “business”, the rest to help maintain a business as socially and environmentally engaged and responsible. Community resilience cannot be achieved through businesses motivated by profit. Each person that comes into Athens’ Own has the opportunity to wear the hat that they want, if they demonstrate the appropriate skills to do so.

A. I expressed interest in having a journalist position, which Con stated would fall under the communication hat. I see the concept of journalism as a combination of research and communication. What appeals to me most about journalism is spreading truth through honest reporting, and invoking empathy by sharing stories about adversity, overcoming it, and working towards a better future for the whole of life.

Q. What skill(s) do I possess that I could carry out reliably without assistance? E.g., If Athens’ Own needed my skills, or were to lend me to an organization for use of my skills, how would I be of use?

A. Research/writing, whether scientific or social; basic cooking; photography