The Diary Of An Avid Reader

Okay, so you know that we teach the Great Books, and that we have long classroom discussions, and that we doing a lot of hard farm work.

But now I want you to hear straight from the students themselves. For the next few weeks, I will be featuring student blogs so you can get to know our students directly.

This entry features Dani Nieman of the Tri-Cities area of Washington State.

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Success vs Failure

failureIn our current culture failure means: lack of success; an unsuccessful person, enterprise, or thing.

But that is a narrow and incomplete definition.

If you look further, you will find a more complete definition: a lack or deficiency of desired quality; the action or state of not functioning; a sudden cessation of power.

What this demonstrates is that failure is not something that happens to you, but something you choose.

Failure is really just us quitting.

Failure quotes (13)EPIPHANY!! As long as we never quit, we never fail.

Let me say it differently. There are two types of success; gestational success and actual success.

Actual success is defined as: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the outcome of an undertaking specified as achieving its aim.

So Success means that you have achieved 100% or more of your desired aim or outcome. Gestational Success simply means that you have not yet fully achieved your desired aim or outcome, but are on the path to doing so. Success is not instantaneous. There is a lag time or gestation period between desire, action, and outcome.

On our campus farm, we often have a goal to hatch out chicks. We take action to setup the incubator, wherein we place the fertilized eggs. Then when we return the next morning and there are no chicks—we have no choice, we must concede failure…right?

Of course, not! Because we understand that there is a gestation period, we know that it is a work in progress and that it will take 21 days for the process to complete. So if we are not failing during the 21-day process, what are we doing? We are participating in gestational success!! Even though we can’t see it, there is plenty happening inside the egg, or the seed in the ground, or the mind of the infant, etc.

WebFailure then is not something that can happen to us, it is not a phenomenon that is out of our control—it is a choice…pure and simple.

Gestational Success is continued effort until the completion or end of the gestational period.

When dealing with the hatching of chickens or the breeding of any farm animal, long experience has taught us what to expect or has informed our expectations, so we are resolved to maintain our vigilance for the duration of the perceived gestation period.

But what if we are creating something new and are not sure of the gestation period or all of the proper steps to take during the gestation process? This is where preparation is vital. Even though the process may be new to us, it is not new to everyone. Chances are, someone has already done all of the hard work to figure out the gestational period and process. All we have to do is find them and replicate what they have done—and never give up.

090912-chick-chicagoWhen we are hatching chicks, we don’t get creative and try to change the gestation period or process.

In a similar manner, we trust those who have gone before us in areas where we have little first hand knowledge.

Our expectations are created based on their “fruits”and we follow their example to the “T” anticipating the same results.

We have full confidence that what they have done–we can do. We clearly see that Gestational Success precedes Actual Success and we never concede to failure, because we never give up.

Not all of our eggs always hatch…so do we then consider our efforts a failure? Of course not, even if only 5 out of 10 eggs hatch (which almost never happens), we still have 5 chicks that will grow up to lay eggs from which we can try again. As long as we never quit, we never fail.

successThe dictionary and real life definition of failure is to enter a state of not functioning or a cessation of power.

Only death can force us to not function or to cease exerting power. Let’s be honest, any other situation where we enter a state of not functioning or a cessation of power is nothing more than us quitting.

Bottom Line: we are either quitters or we are doers, and it has nothing to do with anyone else.


Bottom Line: I am either a quitter or I am a doer, and it has nothing to do with anyone else.


An Apple Orchard Is Born!

Orchard and Blue Mountains 4

Our “Blue Mountains” In The Background


We are so grateful to all the donors who helped raise the $8,000 + to fund this orchard and to Joelle Mancuso – CA (MC Trustee) who managed the entire fund raising project every day for over a month.


Who’s The Boss Around Here? Maddy’s Pretty Sure She Is.


A super big thank you to the volunteers who helped our students make this orchard dream a REALITY by planting 65 – apple, pear, and nut trees under budget and with 1/2 a day to spare.

Students mod

These Girls Can Give You A Run For Your Money When It Comes To Hard Work







On Campus Students:

(left to right)

Noelle Dupuis, Idaho Falls, ID

Rebecca Georgeson, Boise, ID

Dani Nieman – Benton City, WA

Hailey Hardman, Highland, UT

Heather Fuqua, Petaluma, CA

Ben Brooks, Monticello, UT (not pictured)


Planting Trees2

These People Know How To Work

MC Student - 2032 So Dang Cute

MC Student – 2032
So Dang Cute

Willam Downer – NV

Leigh Ann Downer – NV

Greg Downer – NV

Madilyn Downer – NV

William Downer (the smaller) – NV

Surveying What's Been Done, And What's Left To Do

Surveying What’s Been Done, And What’s Left To Do

Bella Downer – NV

Emma Leigh Downer – NV

Rosanna Downer – NV

Levi Downer – NV

Lori Mitchell – UT

Brent Mitchell – UT

creative copy









Brandon Mitchell (MC Mentor) – UT

Malinda Severn – UT

Kerry Severn – UT

Pete Ortiz – CA

Deena Ortiz (MC Trustee) – UT

Ben Brooks – UT

Julia Brooks – UT

Samantha Brooks – UT




Just Beginning To Snow As We Begin To Prepare The Orchard Ground

Just Starting To Snow As We Begin To Prepare The Orchard Ground








The Orchard IS Nearly Completed

The Orchard Is Nearly Completed

Lunch Time

Lunch Time


Securing fencing1 copy

Deer “Proofing” Our Trees

























Needs Versus Wants

Over the past 50 years, America has developed the world’s largest consumer culture. You really have to see this. The U.S. has the 3rd largest population in the world following China and India.  But the U.S. also has the 2nd highest rate of consumption (following the oil rich country of the United Arab Emirates), where as China weighs in at 106 out of the top 160 countries globally and India shows up at 116.

Americans are addicted to spending. Financial services companies (primarily credit cards services) spend about $17 billion each year on marketing. That works out to about $54 a person per year. That doesn’t even count marketing of retirement products, college loans, and investment products.

And how much money is spent on financial education in America?  It’s no surprise that it’s less than the amount spent on marketing. As a nation, we spend only about $670 million dollars on financial education, about $2 a person per year.

consumer debt per capita 2010-07 indiviglio-thumb-550x378-33879A 2010 ATLANTIC article,
How American’s Love Affair with Debt Has Grown, make this point well:

This chart should be startling. It shows that total debt has increased from around $1,186 per person in 1948 to $10,168 in 2010. And remember, that’s using 2010 dollars — and it doesn’t include real estate debt either like mortgages or home equity loans. This debt includes credit cards, auto loans, student loans, personal loans, and other non-real estate consumer debt.


Perhaps an even more interesting observation is the rise of credit card debt. They account for most of the “revolving” debt shown with the green line. It was virtually non-existent until 1970. Now Americans average $3,480 in credit card debt per capita. Since just 1980, that’s an increase of 285%.

What’s worst is that this revolving credit card debt phenomenon has not confined itself to just credit cards. We now treat all of the other kinds of debt, auto loans, personal loans, student loans, etc. as normal components of life, never thinking twice about the consequences.

All this spending has caused us to lose our way. It has blurred the line between needs and wants. One of the primary desired outcomes of a Monticello College education is for our graduates to distinguish and value the difference between fulfilling legitimate needs and identifying and taming unnecessary wants. Especially when fulfilling those wants are the cause of so much debt, divorce, and destruction of relationships.

MaslowIn 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of human needs in a paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation.” When you look at the chart it is divided into 5 levels. The idea is that you can’t really work on fulfilling one level until you have satisfied the one below it. For example, you can’t real make headway with Love/Belonging until Safety has been established.

It appears to me that in our “ConsumerSphere” we spend virtually all of our time trying to hyper-fulfill the first two levels–allowing ourselves to engage in continuous and lifelong debt, which then becomes a serious impediment to levels 3, 4, and 5.

It is hard to feel good about ourselves and it is hard on relationships when we are concerned about paying bills that never seem to end and which non-payment of actually could put us in jeopardy of losing Safety.

Our goal is to education our students to adopt a more grounded and minimalistic view regarding the needs of clothing, housing, entertainment, and even food.  By not going into debt for these things, they will immediately find themselves in a stable financial situation that tends toward the development  of the Love/Belonging and Esteem levels and gives them a good shot at the positive aspects of Self-Actualization.



The American Order

handholdingtorch-copy-189x300 (1)America Is In Crisis.

Some people are immune to the sound of that drum, hearing only a Chicken Little cry of “the sky is falling.”

More people however, are beginning to sense that something is really wrong and they want to solve the problems.

Without fail, in every lecture and class I give, the question always comes up: “OK, I believe you. Now what?” or “I already know America is in crisis. So what do we do about it?”

Keep in mind that this inquiry comes after two to four hours of lecture or classroom experience where I was just explaining the solution. Why do people not see the solution I just explained to them? Why are they asking me this question?

Is it them or me?

After serious contemplation, I remembered something Dr. Skousen told me once over dinner. He had an impactful experience two decades earlier that shed light on the subject. Suddenly, it all became clear. What follows is my best attempt to answer my students’ question, “So what do we do about it?”

First Things First

In Russell Kirk’s Roots of American Order , he spends 500 pages explaining who we are and where we came from. However, for many of us, the essence of Kirk’s message gets lost in the journey.

Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and Robert Bork’s The Tempting of America both make the same case:

There is an American Order.

That is what Kirk is really talking about. He is asking the question, “Is there an American way of life that made this country a ‘Light on a Hill,’ ‘A Refuge of the World,’ and ‘The Hope of Humanity?”’

He claims that yes, there is, and that we have forgotten our American Order, the system to employ it, and the responsibility to lead out.

The reasons that this has happened are not mysterious or even hard to understand.

And while the results of the loss of the American Order are painfully obvious; political “carpet baggers” are using our present crisis as a means to enlarge personal power and wealth, all at the cost of individual liberty. (See Federalist Paper 1)

We are told that the solutions to the American Crisis can only be provided by government, that Congress and the Executive Branch are our only hope to tackle these crises, or at the very least that it can only be solved at the national level.

And mostly, we are told, over and over again, that the American people can not succeed without national leadership if these problems are to be solved. Many citizens have accepted this propaganda.

This is reminiscent of the party line of those British Empire supporters who opposed John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and company in their struggle for the protection of rights and ultimately liberty (See Revolutionary writings of John Adams).

Getting Our Hands Dirty

In a letter to his wife Abigail John Adams once wrote,

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.


“My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Different situations require different focus and preparation, and once a problem has been clearly identified, we then need to establish the best solution to solve that problem.

Often it requires the problem-solvers to try a different path, to stray from the regular, normal approach (which is often broken or not applicable) and create a whole new method to solving the problem.

At the very least it requires an acknowledgment that we — and all other generations — have the responsibility of getting our own hands dirty.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius suggested this as a solution for national disorder:

The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their own states, they first regulated their own families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own selves.


Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.


Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost, their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.


Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated.


Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy. (The Story of Civilization, Will Durant – Vol. 1 – Our Oriental Heritage)

Only We Can Solve Our Problems

I agree with Confucius. Ultimately, we as individuals must be the long-term solvers of our problems because we are the creators of our problems.

Political leaders at all levels often approach their offices from a “Big Government” mentality which almost always is destructive to personal rights and liberty.

I see this in my own little town of 2,000 citizens. But why does this happen? Why does government always expand and grow and take over?

The simple answer is because we allow it. We prefer to let others assume the often boring, monotonous, frustrating, tedious, and stressful work of governance. We prefer to entertain ourselves with an almost nonstop diet of movies, computer games, social media, sports, and other diversions.

Most of us have become so engrossed in the accumulation of wealth or things that we neglect our natural spousal, familial, and even community duties; we prefer to let others dictate and make decisions on all but our most personal issues.

This has gone on for decades. When on extreme occasion, an issue arises (almost always after-the-fact) that pricks us so hard as to wake us from our fog of self-indulgence, we become indignant, angry, and even hostile. We demand change now while offering little or no substantive solutions or effort to the cause.

This produces a civic disruption, which generally leads to one of three ends: either a long unproductive and unresolved stalemate—expending huge amounts of energy, a compromise that resolves the immediate concern, but ultimately does not solve the problem, or an eventual collapse back into our miasmic self-indulgence.

When will it be time for us to “Man Up” and shoulder our citizen responsibilities? I really don’t mean to offend anyone or point a finger at us, I have been guilty of this apathy myself, but I think that our national, state, and community problems are almost at a point of requiring an intervention.

What happens if we don’t make some serious, long-term principle-based changes? Politics is not, nor has it even been the solution. In terms of providing solutions, the last decade of elections were mediocre to abysmal.

When are we going to figure out that the system is broken? Party is the cancer of America. The executive branch can not save America. The legislative branch will not save America.

Syncing Our Actions and Values

But, back to my discussion with Dr. Skousen. Twenty years ago, in a quiet dinner setting, he related his experience with a coalition of national leaders from South America who had hired him to teach them and help them set up a system of governance that would lead to the affluence evinced in the United States.

He was very excited with the prospects.

He did his due diligence, studied their culture, the prominent religions, and the current systems of governance.

He created a proposal to introduce principles of liberty and wealth into their culture that would modify their countries enough to enter the domain of liberty and prosperity.

He said all was going well until the last meeting. He indicated to them that there were a couple of more things that needed to be modified before all of this would work. The leaders gave him their full rapt attention.

He said that as he had prepared to meet with them, he had discovered many beautiful and wonderful aspects of their culture that were very much in tune with the principles he was suggesting and the desired end result they were seeking.

However, there were two common practices that would tip the apple cart and he was there to suggest that these leaders be the ones to promote the end of such practices if they desired to succeed.

“What practices?” they questioned.

Dr. Skousen very gently pointed out that the practice of having mistresses and the system of corruption that was currently in place were not conducive to liberty and prosperity and would need to end.

Dr. Skousen said that these leaders objected and said that these were part of who they were and that the aristocracy would not stand for such changes. This led to a fairly speedy end of the meeting.

Dr. Skousen got on the plane the next day and a great opportunity to bring unprecedented liberty and prosperity to the average South American was lost.

I am not suggesting that you have a mistress or the equivalent (although if you have one, we probably need to talk). I am suggesting that if we are not happy with the state of the nation or the condition of our city or state, it is likely things are happening that are contrary to principles of liberty and prosperity and that we are out of sync with natural law.

No form of government or set of laws alone can protect liberty, create prosperity, or fulfill the end of man. All of the solutions for our current crisis are in the archives of our bygone American Order.

Our heritage speaks of it. Our ancestors lived by it. If we are to return America to her greatness, if we are to improve our lot and leave a national legacy to our great grandchildren, if America once again is to be that light on a hill, the golden door, the hope of humanity–we will need to search out our American Order and restore it.