As I mentioned last week, I’m making my way through Rare Breed, and as I approached this week’s topic of being adaptable and open to change, the example of Kevin Kelley that was brought up in the book came to mind.
If you’ve never heard of him, welcome to the club.
Kelley, for the unaware, coached Pulaski Academy’s football team.
Kelley’s team never punted.
In football, if a team has not earned a first down after three downs, it is common to punt the ball, forcing it further down the field for the opposing team to start their drive from. The idea is that, rather than turning the ball over to the opposing team at a closer point to their goal, you make them work harder for it.
Kelley looked at the stats and didn’t see a significant advantage to this play.
He decided that punting was dumb, and he didn’t care that everyone else did it; he wasn’t going to.
Most of the coaches that he talked to told him that they punted on fourth down because everyone did it, but no one knew why everyone did it.
The authors bring this up to illustrate the importance of knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing as well as encouraging you to choose a different path if what everyone else is doing seems wrong.
That also means that, in the grow as in life, your playbook needs to be adaptable; you can plan for everything, and, eventually, dial most of those things in. But, especially as you’re learning, it is important to be ok with changing your ways and examining the “why” behind your efforts.
For Kelley’s playbook, that meant examining why football teams often punt, and deciding that he would never do that.
For yours, it might mean examining more closely the growing advice or professional direction you’ve been given, and deciding that the “normal” way doesn’t make sense for you even if “everyone’s doing it.”
A good friend of mine whose substack I have previously recommended to other writers recently spoke about a piece of advice he’d been given by one of his mentors:
“You can’t steer a stationary ship.”
The point being that you have to start by actually starting, and, once you’re moving, you can further define your trajectory.
I’d take it a step further:
“You can’t steer a stationary ship, and you don’t have to hit the iceberg.”
The point being that when you chose your initial course, you have a limited scope of understanding of where you are going, and the decision you make are based on that scope. As you progress, you learn more, and it is ok to steer your ship in a different direction if an obstacle (or iceberg) presents itself; you are not married to your first decisions if there are logical reasons to change your course.
The more you learn about life, your job, your passions, growing, etc. the more you may come to disagree with conventional wisdom and “broscience”.
Be ok with changing course.
Don’t do anything unless you know why.
Accept that just because everyone else is doing something, does not necessarily make it right, nor the best route; be willing to find what works for you.
If you recognize a change of course that better suits your direction, follow it.
1. Professionals in the Cannabis Space
It’s ok to change course.
I had the chance to connect with an old friend this week over a few joints and dabs (and one really spicy ghost pepper Bloody Mary). During our sesh, I also had the chance to learn more about his professional path.
I knew him as a grower at one of the more established dispensaries in Denver, but he had actually been hired for his extraction experience.
He was a cup-winning extractor who was brought on to help make the extracts for this brand, but, after a series of events with the property, ended up being moved to the grow.
Things changed, he found himself in a new role, with a new passion and approach to working with the plant, and he ran with it. And it worked.
He’s now in charge of the entire cultivation facility. (And they hand water every single plant. Respect.)
As he describes it, he’s grateful for this change because, even in 2020, he “Didn’t have a day off during COVID.”
But, had he stuck to what he knew, what was comfortable, what his original path was, his trajectory could have been very different.
It’s a real world lesson in being flexible and having the willingness to adapt as life and jobs throw curveballs your way.
It’s also ok to realize that something ISN’T for you.
If you joined the industry and are frustrated regularly or have found your position change to where it is unenjoyable, it’s ok to decide that it isn’t for you, especially If you don’t smoke, don’t grow, or don’t have a relationship with this plant (and you’re still here, reading? Thanks!), this realization may be best for you and allow you to find a new path to that you can excel on.
2. Growing Better Cannabis
Growing advice, and growers who give it, often come off unintentionally dogmatic. “This is what everyone does so you should do this” is a common approach.
This is especially true for intermediate growers (new growers don’t know enough; experienced growers know better than to deal in absolutes). There are approaches and techniques that work for some that won’t work for others; Rarely are there agreed-upon “best” approaches for all situations.
Just like in the example above with punting, just because “everyone does it” doesn’t mean you should do it.
And yet, as you turn to forums or social platforms, you’ll find posts asking for advice with literally hundreds of comments from people telling the author what they should do or should not do as if sharing passages from the Bible.
It can be hard to sort through what does and doesn’t apply. And, for many of us, you just have to say “Here’s what I’m going to do, let’s see if it works” and run with it; That’s the advice I’m giving when I say “just keep the plant alive” for your first grow.
There are so many variables to try to dial in that it is easy to become overwhelmed by what everyone else is telling you is the best way to do it.
Once you’re growing, your ship is no longer stationary, and you have the freedom to steer as you wish, and the capability to avoid icebergs when you see them.
A perfect example of this was my decision to go organic with my nutrients. Even before I started growing, I was buying “organic” cannabis and praising growers who took the time to organically grow their harvests.
And I still do, don’t get me wrong. It truly is an art to grow exquisite cannabis organically, and my hat is off to those growers.
But in a conversation with another grower, I was discussing this decision and how I was frustrated with one thing or another and couldn’t find a way to make it work “organically”.
At the time, he questioned why I was growing organically. I responded that, for starters, I respected organic growers, and then the practical reasons: that I knew non-organic methods could be more prone to root issues like locking out (I actually thought that it was impossible to lockout your plants with organic feeds) and that you could more efficiently feed a plant with organic nutrients than a hybrid or mineral feed.
Every situation is different, but I made the decision organic was for me and for the last few cycles, I’ve been almost entirely organic from clone to harvest.
But, over time, as I learned more about the plants and my own experimentation in the grow, I realized that organic options alone weren’t cutting it. They were a great base, but certain plants, certain genetics, certain environmental conditions were forcing me to have to supplement my garden’s unique needs.
And this frustrated me until I looked at why I was frustrated.
I was frustrated because I was convinced that my completely organic approach was superior to any mineral or synthetic approach, and was married to the idea that my grow had to prove this hypothesis (rather than test it).
As I realized that I was testing my own theory, and was being proven wrong, I realized that my aversion to changing course had nothing to do with the task at hand but my self-imposed desire to be “right.”
And sure, organics are “Right” for a lot of growers. But, for my situation, I’m finding that organic alone cannot satisfy the hunger of some of my plants.
It’s ok to change course, to admit that you weren’t as right as you thought, that a new direction might be better.
And anyone who says it’s not is likely someone you shouldn’t be taking advice from anyhow.
– – –
Here’s a shot of the Poon Tang Pie at Day 40. I had quite a few friends reach out privately to reiterate my observation that the plants looked underfed; happy, praying to the sky, but malnourished. Feeds have since been bumped up. Every cycle there’s a new lesson. Amor fati.
And, here’s a shot of my Planet of the Grapes auto flower to keep you updated. It’s incredible, fun, and strange to see a plant flowering in the veg area.
3. Cannabis Myth-Busting
Myth: Organic is better.
False; What’s best for your plants is better.
I’m going to catch some heat for this one, but the reason this is a myth is twofold:
First, it comes down to your definition of better.
Define “better”. Better for whom?
The environment? Sure, I’ll concede that one.
Better for your individual situation and grow environment? Can’t answer that without a serious deep-dive into everything you’ve got going on. Something that is better for some does not make it universally better.
Secondly, it comes down to WHY you believe organic to be better than not.
If you believe organic is better than a hybrid or synthetic approach, why do you believe that? For me, I believed that the best flowers came from organic grows, that it was impossible to lock a plant out with organic feeds, and that I could give the plants in my garden everything they needed organically.
Since, I have been exposed to truly phenomenal, exquisite, boutique-quality flowers that far surpass many of the organic grows that I’ve seen. I’ve personally locked my plants out with 100% organic feeds. And I’ve seen (and had others observe) that my plants were still hungry for certain nutrients even with everything I was doing to try to make organics work.
So, based on my definition of why I thought organic-only would be better, and what I’ve personally experienced, I am comfortable saying that this statement is not universally true.
In some cases, organic only can absolutely be better. But is it a universally better approach than a hybrid mineral-organic blend or a purely synthetic setup? Not hardly.
The most experienced growers that I’ve talked to are not dogmatic about one or the other, but rather recommend an appropriate mixture of both mineral and organic nutrients depending on what your plants need.
4. Navigating the Nuances
Organic: Certifiably organic nutrients, typically by groups such as OMRI, or growing setups such as living soil that rely on cultivating an organic food web and ecosystem that feeds the plants without the need for mineral or synthetic additives.
Mineral/Synthetic: Nutrients that are isolated or synthesized by humans for specific purposes of delivering specific molecular minerals and elements.
5. Blunts with Ben
As I sit here writing this, I’m headed to my first happy hour since probably March of last year. It’ll be socially distant, and we still have to step outside to smoke, but it’ll be nice to see some familiar faces and enjoy the bar scene of Denver again for the afternoon. Our restaurants have been closed for indoor dining and our weather has been pretty shitty, so 50s and partly sunny with a patio bar happy hour sounds splendid.
This past week has been the inaugural test of our 2021 resolutions and goals.
How’d you fare?
I’m comfortable with what I achieved in the first week. I read a bunch in my book, made time to play some music, worked on a few client projects, and even found time to start working on my third book.
I’ve also managed to only smoke 6 Backwoods so far in 2021! As much as I love blunts, I know that the tobacco isn’t great for me, so I’m allowing myself a pack of Woods each week. It’s a fun experiment that benefits everyone (including my flower stash which lasts significantly longer even with giant joints).
2021 is about being ok with making changes that make sense.
If you enjoyed this Substack, please give it a like by clicking the heart at the top or bottom of this email/post or consider forwarding to a friend.
I found this adorable instagram account today that combines two things I love: dogs and cannabis (It goes without saying that bringing a dog into your grow is not recommended due to the increased risk of dander, hair, and contaminants, but it’s still cute). Check them out: @dogsofcannabiz.
I’m thinking about doing a seed giveaway for my loyal Substack subscribers. If this is something you’d be interested in, make sure to throw a like on this post and comment with your plans for those seeds if you won! (You can email me privately if you don’t want the world to know)