It is very natural for me to write about having an online business in a remote area, as I tend to gravitate toward lightly-populated places. In fact, I lived for 20 years in a house I built myself on Spruce Island, close to Kodiak.
Those 20 years were the culmination of a dream I’d had for some time. Now that I am in another small rural Alaskan community and deeply entrenched in my online business, I can see that my experiences in wilderness living helped me hone the very skills that move my business forward.
For an example, consider gathering firewood. Those two simple words encompass much planning and hours of physical labor. No choice — without wood, the house became very cold. If we would adopt the same “no choice” attitude toward our businesses, we might gain surprising success.
When gathering firewood, sometimes my attitude of downright stubbornness was the only thing that brought me success. I’ll share a couple of my favorite stories here:
I spent some time before moving to my homestead learning how to use a chain saw. As I practiced, I improved. I think the biggest log I ever cut up was a piece of “fatwood,” my name for fir, that measured only about 16 feet long, but a good 30 inches across.
The day I discovered that piece of fir was an Easter morning. I had walked in to Ouzinkie, leaving home at 5:30 a.m. in order to arrive in time for the sunrise service at the Baptist mission. Reverend Norman and Joyce Smith gave an Easter service in their little chapel every year, and many villagers attended.
When the service was over, we all trooped upstairs for breakfast. Tables and chairs spread through the main-floor rooms, and sometimes out into the large front hallway. Folks brought potluck breakfast dishes. Joyce always had a large quantity of hard-boiled eggs, colored by her preschoolers, and her famous hot cross buns.
We also enjoyed frosted kulich, the Russian Easter bread baked in round containers, usually coffee cans saved by village bakers for the occasion, along with many other yummy choices.
On this particular Easter, a light snow dusted the ground, as it often did at that season. New clouds high above promised more snow, but not until later in the day. When I got home, full and mellow from the morning, I went down to the beach to see if any new firewood deliveries had come in during the tide change.
There, right in front of my house, I found my superb Easter present, that magnificent fir log.
I looked it over carefully and found it sound and dry, straight-grained and clear of sand. I envisioned it cut up in my woodpile. I wanted that log! The tide was rising. I could find no convenient tie-downs near the spot. I had no one around to help me. If I wanted it, I had to cut it up myself. So I did.
The job challenged me. It took a long time. When I finally rolled the log over to make my final cut through each round, I felt a sense of triumph akin to that of an Olympic champion. With all the pieces stashed high on the beach and tarped, my satisfaction became a sufficient reward.
When my buddy, Russian Orthodox monk Father Ioasaph, came to visit, and said, “Where did you get that log?” I just said, “Oh, it’s a little something that drifted in.”
Treat your online business with the same sort of stubborn determination. If you adopt the attitude that you WILL do it, chances are you will succeed.
I was also motivated because the tide was coming in. Developing a sense of urgency about the tasks you have to complete for your business helps a great deal to move you in the right direction.
Here’s another experience I had. In this adventure I was accompanied by my faithful dog, Teddy.
To get my firewood, I used the only boat I had in the water at the time — a little 12-foot dinghy built by Spruce Island’s master skiff-builder, Ed Opheim, Sr. I found it to be a great little rowing boat, easy to maneuver by myself. I went out on every nice day, rowing the Spruce Island shoreline, checking beaches and rock snags for likely logs.
Every day I sawed or chopped a little wood and began filling the empty woodshed. Slowly the line of stacked wood grew.
A summer storm hit, and three nice logs washed up high on Eskimo Cove beach, next door. I
tried my best to pry them loose and roll them down to the water, but couldn’t budge them. So I asked my friend, Carl, if he would come out and help me roll them.
The next day, while I spent time in Ouzinkie at our pottery studio, Carl and his son, Kevin, went to the cove, rolled the logs down into the water, tied them in a little raft, and secured them to a tree.
Before I left for home, I stopped by and asked Carl when he could help with the logs. “They’re already in the water,” he said. “You’d better get them home right away, though, as there’s going to be a big Southeast blow tonight.”
I thanked him profusely and hiked the mile and a half trail home at record speed. A Southeast breeze already rippled the water, and I knew I had to get those logs right away.
I untied the dinghy from the running line. My dog, Teddy, who loved skiff-rides, jumped in with me. He took his seat in the bow, where he could act as a combination watch-dog and figurehead, and we started out.
It took me less than 10 minutes to row next door. I untied the log raft and made sure it floated free, then tied it to the back of the little dinghy. I started rowing, thinking I’d make the return trip quickly and without incident.
Getting out of the cove proved to be slow because of the weight of the logs I pulled, but we moved steadily forward. However, when we emerged from the cove and into unprotected water, I could see that Carl’s prediction of a Southeast blow hit right on the money.
The wind had picked up already. I had to row into it. Now the load I towed became a lead weight, holding me in place; trying to pull me back into the cove.
The message my arms gave me told me that I had rowed for hours and had gotten nowhere. I could have cut my load loose, hoping the logs came to my beach. However, I didn’t want to lose those long, straight-grained, dry logs, one of them coveted yellow cedar.
I wanted them on Banjo Beach, well-secured against the coming wind. So I kept rowing for all I was worth. Even the dog got a worried look on his face after sitting in the cold bow for a long time and seeing no change of scenery.
Little by little I made progress toward my goal of the distant shore of Banjo Beach. When we finally landed, both the dog and I felt very relieved. The storm had begun in earnest, now, and rain gathered for a rush at land. I tied my boat and logs securely, and Teddy and I gratefully returned to the house with its warm fire.
The trip that seemed an eternity had taken most of an hour — certainly one of the longest hours I had experienced in some time. I counted my blessings, grateful for our safe return and the bounty of prime firewood.
Give your own business this kind of perseverance, and eventually you will overcome your obstacles and can set a straight course for success.
Last, but not least, a word about my favorite wooding activity, cutting kindling. I have often compared cutting kindling to accomplishing a goal. I’d start with a round of wood. I always used red cedar for kindling.
First, I’d chop the round into slabs… One could equate choosing the round and cutting it into slabs as setting a large goal, then dividing it into smaller manageable pieces.
On a beautiful day, splitting cedar into fire starter on my chopping block in the front yard gave me exercise for body, mind and spirit. The rhythm of the axe made woodcutting like a dance. Joy rose with the motion, as the kindling formed the seed for a full-grown fire, sure to ward off winter’s chill.
My daily blaze of crackling logs had to begin with these little strips that fell off the larger wood with the urging of my axe.
You might say I practiced goal-setting and persistence simply with my lifestyle. Self-reliance and the strength to stick with something and the attitude that I could find a way around any problem were character-forming skills that help me every day with my online business.
These are excerpts from my book, Alaskan Attitudes. If you would like your own copy, click on the image or the blue link and you will be taken to Amazon, where you can order a copy. Please note that as I am an Amazon affiliate, I will make a small commission on the sale.