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For love and landing your dream-life: An Apopka couple shares what's worked for them

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Faith & Inspiration

By Denise Connell, Publisher, in conversation and correspondence with Mike and Jennifer Fox

Twenty-two years ago this past week, Mike and Jennifer Fox began a journey together that would lead them down a path of humility, at times great risk, and success. Celebrating their wedding anniversary brought back memories of those early days when they were shaping their new lives, developing their own careers, and figuring out what would keep them going for the long haul.

What they found in and with each other was a shared life perspective that eventually led to a shared dream - building and running Fox Valley Farm & Hopyard in Apopka. This shared perspective not only laid solid foundations for their love for each other, but also guided them in doing what they love, and has led them to successes along the way.

It's not often that you find a couple who work together, side-by-side every day and night, and are still alive! AND still together. So we asked them, how on earth?! What makes your marriage, and your dream-work, work?

This is what they shared.

Curiosity

This is the number one thing that the Foxes attribute to their being able to make things work out. They're not immune to challenges, relationally or work-wise; they're human, just like the rest of us. But their 'insatiable curiosity' and 'shared desire to walk the path less traveled' keeps them looking for ways through - and sometimes over, around, or under - to get them to the other side, together.

Researchers have found that remaining open and curious are precursors to creativity. This is good news, for who of us doesn't need a bit more creativity - in marriage... careers... or just in the daily living of life?

Taking time to follow our curiosities and practice remaining open to the unknowns keeps things fresh and possible. New solutions can be found for our differences, we can discover unexpected career directions, or even, simply, figure out something novel to do on the weekend. All of this is possible when we choose to fan the flames of curiosity.

This is what the Foxes discovered.

"We knew our world was immense and had so much to offer if we would open our minds to greet it," Jennifer shared.

This philosophy is what propelled them into becoming young entrepreneurs and taught them how they could more easily "discover" new ideas and bring them into reality.

So to find, pursue and embrace your loves - in relationships, dreams, life:

  • Be curious
  • Remain open

Apply Energy Daily

Photo by Danielle Macinnes

It's great to be curious and explore new paths and solutions, but when you hit upon a significant idea or direction, the Foxes found that something key has to happen next.

"We learned very early on that the key to a successful outcome was not merely the opportunity itself, but the amount of passion and energy you apply toward it on a daily basis," Jennifer said.

Eventually, a writer has to write, a fund-raiser has to implement the strategy, a business person has to make the phone call, sign up for the class, hire a team in order to move forward.

Whatever your dream, there comes a point where passion has to move from processing and prayers to paper, and from plans to pavement and people and places. Potential has to be acted upon, played with, practiced, and put out there in order to become something more.

And as the Foxes shared, this happens one action at a time, energy applied toward the goal, every single day.

One word at a time. One step. One movement... applied to your dream... day after day after day... it's what widens the road, strengthens the relationship, plants the trees, builds the hopyard, and brings in new baby chicks to create the dream farm and life you envisioned! Well... at least that's how it worked for the Foxes.

Maybe your dream isn't a farm, but you get the point.

Applying energy daily gets the dream down the road.

Together is Better

Genetic Brewing came by to help Mike test the new harvester for their hops at Fox Valley Farms & Hopyard, July 2020[/caption]

"We discovered that acting alone did not have the same effect as when we came together and focused on our intentions as one," said Jennifer.

Acting alone...not as effective as... acting together.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 in the Bible tells us the same: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Those words may have been written c. 450–200 BCE, but their wisdom clearly reverberates through present times.

In the book Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas by Jordan Ayan, collaboration with others is the first strategy highlighted to move our dreams, ideas, and solutions into reality.

Connecting with others in pursuit of a common goal produces profound advantages. It gives us:

  • insight and inspiration for new angles or ways to approach it;
  • wisdom, knowledge, or understanding that we don't have on our own;
  • strengths and skills that compensate for our weaknesses;
  • brainstorming power to help break through blocks;
  • reality checks or "grounding" when our ideas have gotten out of focus;
  • support and encouragement;
  • motivation to try again.

The Foxes have experienced both sides of this alone-together equation.

"There were many times we would, together, make something happen only to see it suddenly begin to dissipate merely because one of us lost focus or attention. It’s that constant that is necessary to keep building on a mission, and it’s what keeps the puzzle pieces coming together to bring it to reality."

Think about your own dream, and look back over those bullet points. Who do you know that might share your passion? Who has experience or knowledge, a different perspective, or a set of skills that you don't have? Make a list. Consider finding a mentor... a partner...or maybe a team of objective supporters that can be your '2 or 3-strand plan' for greater strength, and ultimately, a greater chance for success.

"The day you stop believing in the goal is the day it takes a back seat," said Jennifer.

Protect against that happening. Don't go it alone or try to figure it out on your own.

Whether it's pursuing solutions for our marriages, careers, or dream-life ideas, together is definitely better.

Take Risks...Fail Spectacularly

Photo by Lachlan Ross

"With reward comes great risk," said Jennifer, "and you have to be prepared to face the possibility that sometimes things simply will not go as planned. By experiencing these downfalls, you can gather great learning, and then apply those lessons in the future."

Take risks. Fail spectacularly. Learn something new.

Risk. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

A good mantra to tape to our mirrors, and apply liberally in our lives.

A few notable others have learned what the Foxes did as well, people such as Joan Littlewood, a theatre director who concluded, "If we don't get lost, we'll never find a new route."; Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying "I haven't failed. I've discovered 10,000 ideas that didn't work."; and of course, Thomas Edison was thrilled with his failures, saying, "Of the 200 lightbulbs that didn't work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt."

Maintaining the status quo is easy (and boring). Having an idea and pursuing it... being willing to fail... takes courage. Boldness. Faith. It's not for the weak of heart, but what a brilliant, creative, full life it will yield!

Reflecting on their pursuits, Mike and Jennifer recognize these truths in their own journey.

"The biggest challenge we face in chasing our dreams is most often ourselves," Jennifer said. "We all too often stand in our own way. Once you push your negative thoughts out of the equation, What if I fail? What if it doesn’t work? What if nobody likes what I have to offer?, you will be amazed at how powerful your true self can be."

Try this right now: Grab a sheet of paper and write down five things you would try, if you knew you would not, could not fail.

People who change the status quo do so because they rise above resistance - in themselves, or from others. They are willing to risk the perceived "humiliation" of failure and choose faith instead, says Seth Godin in his book Tribes. "Faith that they can do it. Faith that it's worth doing. Faith that failure won't destroy" you, but rather, will bring about the change - the new idea, solution, creation - the world needs.

Failure is a precondition to success. So take risks, and fail spectacularly all the way to your better life.

Final advice

You can't help but be inspired when talking with the Foxes or visiting their farm. Their energy, joy and eagerness to keep building and dreaming, together, creates this space, alive with possibilities. Not just for themselves, but for your own hopes and dreams as well.

When exploring the concept of pursuing passion, Jennifer wrote, "Even in small doses, positivity creates an environment that stimulates ideas and inspiration."

Small doses like a few words written and shared... a few flowers planted, eggs collected, hops brewed... a hug... a smile... a "yes, let's try, together". These small doses, small steps, may be just what's needed - a risk taken, the energy applied, an open, curious spirit - to create a new path, renew a relationship, or step into a passion waiting to become reality.

The Foxes summed it up well:

"Always go after whatever it is that moves you, and do so with undeniable faith and commitment, believing in every aspect of your goal. A steady motion forward will always bring you to your destination, one step at a time."

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