It’s the little things in life that we often end up taking for granted. You know the popular adage that says “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone”? Well that’s especially true for the little things. Often, it isn’t until those things are gone that we realize how valuable they were to us. 

Steve Napolitan lives on a 20-acre farm outside of San Francisco. In a recent conversation, he said that one of his dreams is to buy more farmland, turn it into permaculture with a broad diversity of animal and plant life species, and build a retreat center for his coaching and training firm.

His goal is to bring in the most successful entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, and give them a humble dose of minimalism, returning them back to their roots, playing in nature, and forgetting about the material wants of their outside world.

Why should he want to do this? Well, we know that humility is one of the greatest forms of servant leadership. If he can help them strip their ego, learn to play again with nature and serve each other, he can create an ecosystem for great entrepreneurship.

Enter Scarcity

I checked into my first rehab on May 14th, 2008.

If you looked at my life before then I was a drunk, a drug addict, crashing cars, spending too much money, and fraternizing with the wrong people.  It was certainly not a good life. 

The prior day, I took my last hit of cocaine, grabbed a couple of beers for good measure and hopped on an airplane. Hungover and coming down from my high, I landed at a Utah airport and two goons picked me up to escort me to a local motel.

They actually sat guarded in front of my motel room the entire night until I checked into rehab the next day, 20 years old, at the prime of my young adulthood. 

The program that I went to was originally founded under the name Wilderness Conquest. It’s original goal was to help convicts be rehabilitated into society. And so similar to intake at jail, they stripped me down to my skivvies and removed all my material possessions to recreate the founding intention. 

They gave me:

  • Three pair of underwear 
  • Three pairs of socks
  • One pair of boots
  • Two pair of pants
  • One dry wick shirt
  • Two jackets
  • One sleeping bag
  • An 8 x 10 military tarp
  • 90 feet of military parachute cord 
  • Two army surplus backpack straps 
  • One lunch bag
  • A notepad
  • The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
  • A rehab workbook
  • A few pencils

Then they said, “All right, off you go”.  They put me in a car and we drove 84 miles into the Manti La Sal National Forest. 

Once joined with the existing, rolling admission of degenerates, our sole objective was to use topographical maps to get from point A to point B to point C to point D.  The goal, survive.  

Oh, and spill your guts to the counsellors. 

New food would be allocated on Tuesday and Saturday, which meant new spice packets, new rice and beans, new McCormick seasoning, new brown sugar, new spam, and yes; new peanut butter.   But here’s the kicker, peanut butter only arrived on Saturday’s. 

Now was the time to learn how to ration.

Enter Abundance

At the time, peanut butter was the only thing I had to look forward to in life.  I’d sleep with it, eat it, and even carved a spoon out of a Ponderosa pine branch to suckle on it to sleep.

Here I am, in the most pivotal two months of my life, and all I care about is peanut butter.  Yes, we had made a good habit of sitting by the campfire at night, and dreaming what life on the outside would look like.  But those were just dreams, wants, hopes, and prayers.

Peanut butter was real.  I could taste it, sleep with it, sniff it, and savor it.  

It was something I longed for on a weekly basis.  And it was just a spoonful away.  All I had to do was appreciate it, and make it last until the next re-ration.

Pretty soon, I started developing gratitude for this peanut butter.  With all of the turmoil happening in my life, I started to appreciate the simple smallness of this new found ritual.

This simple, small thing, is what got me through those arduous two months in rehab.  It gave me hope, optimism, pride, and self confidence that I could set that small of a goal, celebrate it every Saturday, and start building more momentum in my life.

Turning Abundance into Connection

13 years after first checking into rehab, peanut butter has never been more prevalent in our lives.  We ended up building a company whose sole purpose is to help build meaningful relationships around the dinner table.

Instead of bringing entrepreneurs into the woods of Utah for a 2 month life reset, we’ve somehow figured out a way to do it across a few hours and the dinner table, our vehicle for transformation.

Yes, in the last few years of this company, we’ve become known for our pasta sauce.  But I think we’ve been missing a core ingredient in the communication of our connection. 

The goal of every dinner, like Steve’s retreat, is to return our attendees back to the simplicity of the human experience, stripping away all ego, empowering them to work together to create the meal, and knowing they have sweat equity in the experience.

This creates humility.  This develops a humble mindset.  This births abundance.

Gratitude for the Simple

Every dinner, through our delegated tasks, we choose a few lucky attendees to have the distinct honor of making the peanut butter for our dessert.

I’ll never forget at one 7:47 dinner, when the global CEO of the Girl Scouts (who used to be an executive at Apple, IBM, and Dell) was selected to make peanut butter with the Academy Award winning writer of Rain Man, Barry Morrow. They approached the peanut butter like a humble dose of connection pie.  No fancy silverware, no five star chef, just them and a food processor.  They had one job, which was to make darn good peanut butter. Their role for the evening was as simple as adding sugar and honey to a pile of chopped up nuts.  

And the impact was HUGE.  Their dessert created so much joy and abundance for the people around the dinner table, and ushered in the most important part of the evening…gratitude.

What are little things in your life right now that you might be taking for granted? What are some ways that you can find minimalism in your life? Start saying no to things you shouldn’t be a part of, and allow yourself to dive deeper into the YES of things that you should.

You might feel like you’ve just engineered a scarcity mindset, by convincing yourself that you only have the mental clarity for so many things…but in truth, these creative constraints will actually help you create more freedom.