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The Biggest Factor in Your Success as a Grower—And You’ll Never Guess What it Is

Deserted road during the night with a man-silhouette on its endDeep in the Backwoods of Illinois

Approx. 4:45am – Sometime in the late 1980s

Just before sunrise, I drove the rented moving van through the early morning fog. The winding road was in the middle of nowhere and the trees and bushes on either side of me were pitch black and all blended together into one big dark blur of forest.

I was headed to one of my gardens that was nestled into a lush green valley just a few miles up ahead of me.

I was young, reckless, and wanted the whole world.

In the back of the moving van I had just under 1150 young plants. The plan was to drop them off at the site at the break of dawn, get out of there as quickly as possible, and come back later with my partner so we could put those little beauties in the ground.

I was focused on the task at hand and thinking about all the cool things in my life I was grateful for—good health, good buds, good friends, a good income, and the ability to do what I love—grow.

Suddenly I came across a big white broken four-wheeler on the side of the road. Its hood was up and the driver was standing in the dark waving his arms in the air trying to get me to stop.

An image of road in the forest during dawnShit…

I better just keep on driving. Who knows what the hell this guy is up to or what’s about to go down.

Just keep on driving, Mike.

But as I passed the truck, I was struck with the thought that if this dude really is broken down out here, he’s screwed. This is a road hardly anyone ever uses and we’re FAR from normal civilization. He’d need to walk at least 20 miles before he could get help, and who knows how long he’s been out here and if he even has any water.


So I backed up and got out of the truck and that’s when it happened—something that would change my life forever.

And it has to do with something you NEED to be aware of as a grower.

This will—not can, but WILL—make or break your entire future. It plays a bigger role in your success, or failure, as a grower than anything else.

It’s more important than what nutrients you use, what strains you grow, the size of your garden, your CO2 levels, getting your pH handled, the amount of light you give your plants, or how much you know about growing.

Because without this one key thing, none of that other stuff matters.

Get this right and your future as a grower will be bright green in more ways than one.

Get this wrong, and things will fall apart so fast you’ll never know what hit you.

Recycling Center BuildingLet me take you back 4 years earlier to the mid-80s to explain what I’m talking about…

Every month or so, I used to take all my aluminum cans to the local recycling center. It’s not like I needed the money or anything, it’s just that back then the trash companies wouldn’t pick up the recyclables separately for you, so you had to take ’em in on your own if you wanted to recycle.

So one day I pull up to the recycling center with my trunk full of cans and hand them over to the guy who weighs them and then pays you a few bucks for ’em.

The guy working there had a marijuana leaf tattooed on his left forearm.

It wasn’t one of those cool-looking tattoos like you see today—it looked like one of his drunken buddies had given it to him in his garage after a hard night of partying.

The dude actually looked a little beat, and I could tell he needed the money more than I did, so I said, “Keep the money man, it’s your tip.”

He thanked me, and told me his name was Darren.

He and I got to talking, and before long our conversation turned to our common love of marijuana. Darren told me how it really helped him relax after a hard day’s work, but that he hadn’t been able to afford any lately—so the little bit of money I gave him was gonna help him get a small sack for after work.

Man behind prison bars holding to itThen he tells me how he actually did some time for possession of 5 joints back in Texas in the the late 70s. A time and place where you DID NOT wanna get caught with even one joint, much less 5. That explains the tattoo, I thought.

He told me how ever since he got out of prison he’d been on an unlucky streak—drifting from one dead-end job to another. At now at 31 years old he was living with his mom, making minimum wage, and had no hopes of a future, a family, or any of the good things life has to offer.

He told me how his mom was always on his case to go make something of himself, but he didn’t have the first clue where to start and felt absolutely beaten down by life.

Here’s a young man who was good-looking, physically fit, and struck me as incredibly bright, but who simply was not living up to his potential. He was stuck in a self-defeating mindset and, unless he did something about it, it was obvious that his life was only gonna get worse.

I knew I had to help him.

So I shared a little bit of my own story, including my setbacks and defeats, and that going in and rooting out the garbage from my own mind had made all the difference in the world for me. I then showed him a few simple ways in which I had done this and gave him two books that had a major impact on me a decade or so earlier.

We must have talked for an hour before parting ways, and the next time I brought my recyclables in, Darren was no longer working there.

I always remembered our conversation and wondered how he was doing.

The things I taught him that day had helped me create the exact life I wanted. I just wished guys like Darren could experience their own dream life, whatever that life might look like for them.

I had my health, great friends in my life, was doing well financially, and had a few giant gardens going on. So much to be grateful for.

And that’s what I was thinking about four years later when I was driving to my garden in the middle of nowhere right before I saw that broken-down four-wheel drive.

Walking man shadow on lonely road in the forestLittle did I know that stopping on that dark and foggy forest road—that one-second decision to go back and help the mysterious stranded motorist—was about to alter the entire course of my life.

When I got out of the moving truck, the guy standing there just looked at me, and I could tell he was nervous.

At this point, I about had a panic attack. Like I said, I had almost 1150 plants in the back of the truck. I knew I should have just kept on going.

I start to turn around to get back into the truck and I hear the guy go, “Mike?”

My heart fell through my chest.

“Mike? It’s me, Darren, from the recycling center! What the hell you doing out here, man?”

There he was standing right in front in me. Darren, the dude I met 4 years earlier and hundreds of miles away. And not 5 minutes ago I was actually just thinking about the stuff I had shared with him back at the recycling center that day. Whoa.

All I could do was say —in a very awkward and uncertain tone—”Hey, Darren.”

Turns out Darren’s truck had died just minutes earlier, right on the very same dirt road that led to my garden.

After we said our hellos and tripped out on the situation for a minute or two, I gave him a ride back into town. Now even though I knew Darren loved weed, I wasn’t about to let him know what was riding with me in the back on that truck.

On the ride back into town, we totally hit it off.  I could just tell Darren was a good dude. We laughed about the serendipity of the experience—I mean, we were literally hundreds of miles away from where we first met, and now here we were again, in the middle of friggin’ nowhere.

It’s weird how when you know what you want in life, and your heart’s in the right place, life will line things up for you, put people in your path, and make opportunities available to you in the strangest of ways. There’s a serendipitous flow to life that takes place that is almost beyond words.

Now check this out: For almost the entire drive, Darren shared with me how he had applied what I’d taught him just a few years at the recycling center, and how he used the simple exercises I showed him, and in less than four years he went from being broke, alone, and living with his mother to owning a successful construction business, meeting and marrying his dream girl, and creating a life that he never even thought was possible before.

He said he’d also read the books I’d given him—Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and Maxwell Maltz’s “Psycho-Cybernetics”—so many times that they were falling apart at the seams and now looked like a dog tried to eat ’em or something.

He said he buys new copies of the books, but always gives the new copies to other people that he thinks they can help.

And here’s where it gets even weirder…

Me and Darren became fast friends and started hanging out together; I even had his construction company do a bunch of work for me.

Marijuana plant growing in the forestSoon Darren shared with me that he was actually a grower. And that since applying what I’d taught him back at that recycling center four years earlier, he now had 3 giant gardens going and about 5 smaller ones.

In fact…that’s actually what he was doing out there on that dirt road that morning. He was heading out to tend one of his own gardens, which it turns out was just right over the hill from mine—not but a mile or two away!

Fours years earlier Darren couldn’t even afford a sack of dirt weed. And now he was a happy family man, a successful businessman, and one of the most successful growers in the Midwest.

Now, Darren’s path wasn’t necessarily easy. In fact, like many of us have experienced, sometimes when you’re chasing your dreams you have to go through all sorts of tests, trials, and dark nights on the way up. And sometimes you’re gonna fall. Darren fell hard.

In the early 90s Darren got cancer.

I remember visiting him in the hospital when none of us thought he would make it. But he DID make it, and beat seemingly insurmountable odds.

Now, Darren did lose a large potion of his business while trying to fight for his life. He simply couldn’t run his construction business or tend to his gardens and ended up going into debt almost to the point of bankruptcy, just so he could pay his medical bills.

But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, none of the material stuff matters when you’re fighting for your life.

And ya know what? Almost the entire time Darren had cancer, he kept a positive attitude, even while his world was falling apart around him.

One man helping another to climb a rockAnd he applied the exact same strategies he used to become a successful grower and businessman—along with the help of an amazing medical team—to defeat his cancer.

And what’s awesome is that Darren became even happier and more successful AFTER his battle with cancer. Not so much from a standpoint of material success. But success as in living a full, balanced, and happy life.

Darren’s success—both before and after his cancer—had to do with what I’m about to share with you right now…

The fact is that the most successful growers aren’t necessarily any smarter or better connected than you.

Trust me—I know many of the most successful growers in the world, and it’s not connections or smarts that got them to where they are.

Sure, those things help, but at the end of the day they’re actually not all that important.

And you can get your nutrients right, light right, CO2 right, pH right, everything right in your growroom environment…

…But if you don’t get this one thing right, the rest of it simply does not matter.

Darren’s success in life—as compared to the depressing existence he had just a few years earlier living at mom’s and working at the recycling center—was because he changed the way he looked at himself and the world.

And beating the cancer further improved his perception of himself and what he was capable of.

It’s the same with the most successful growers I know. It’s a total inside job.

It all comes down to your self-image…

Artistic impression of a man's face in the skyWhat’s going on between your ears—your perception of yourself and the world around you—is BY FAR the most important thing when it comes to how successful you can become as a grower, and in life.

If you don’t get the head stuff right, it can be hard to get just about anything else right for long. And even if you do enjoy massive levels of success for a while, your limiting belief systems will pull you right back down to match whatever your current self-image is.

And the thing is, most of this happens on an unconscious level, so you’re not even aware of what’s going on besides the fact that you’re not getting the results you want.

The reason for this is your internal programming for success all happens on the level of the subconscious. Your subconscious mind is your operating system.

It’s what drives your actions and behaviors—usually without you even knowing it.

A lot of experts believe that up to 99% of all human behavior is conditioned responses. That the actions you take, the experiences you have, and the results you get all come down to the way you’ve been programmed—the settings in your unconscious mind, if you will.

And most of these settings were installed when you were a little kid!

And now, the results you’re getting in your life, both desirable and undesirable, are coming from these programs that are running in your subconscious.

It’s what makes you believe what you’re truly capable of. It’s what makes you feel worthy or unworthy. It’s what makes you confident in one type of situation, but insecure in another one.

Two tall treesThe good news is that you can actually change these settings. 

But first let’s take another look at how they can have an effect on someone’s life.

Let’s take, for example, the guy who’s a naturally good public speaker, but can’t get a date to save his life.

Deep inside he believes he’s great on stage talking in front of people. Yet he also believes he’s not worthy of attracting a female. So he’s terrified around them and stumbles to find the right things to say.

And this all comes from the conditioning he learned as a child.

Maybe he gave a great presentation to his first-grade class and got a ton of validation from it, so ever since then he’s had a positive association with speaking publicly.

And now, because of this positive association, he’s a confident public speaker—which has made him good at it. And since he’s good at it, he delivers great speeches, and because he delivers great speeches, he gets even more positive feedback, which in return, continues to build his confidence at public speaking.

And the snowball to public speaking success continues to grow and grow.

Now, while he may have gotten positive validation as a young boy speaking in front of groups, let’s say he was also laughed at the first time he tried to make a move on little Sally Sue in the 2nd grade. And not only did she laugh at him, her friends laughed at him too.

The humiliation, embarrassment, and feelings of unworthiness he felt for not only being rejected, but also being laughed at, gave him an extremely negative association to making his feelings of attraction for a female known to her.

Close artistic portrait of a human faceSo ever since then he’s shied away from girls. And the feeble attempts he did make were so filled with anxiety, self-doubt, and the expectation of failure that the results he got were less than optimal—further making him feel unworthy in this area of his life.

And now, at 35 years old, while he can deliver a wonderful speech in front of a room full of people, he trembles so bad with fear every time he gets around a female he’s attracted to that he avoids letting his feelings of attraction to be known at all costs.

Can you go onto do amazing things even with a poor self-image? Sure. But typically you’ll end up sabotaging anything that isn’t in line with your belief systems about what you think you’re worthy of.

For example, I knew a guy in L.A., who—because of a little bit of focus, hard work and few lucky breaks—became a successful television actor for a while in a well-known sitcom. Money, cars, women, fame, the whole deal.

But soon his self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness caught up with him and he self-destructed like a suicide bomber trying to get to that holy place where 72 virgins and a never-ending supply of hashish are anxiously awaiting his arrival.

Before long he was alone, out of work, in debt, and had a $700 a day heroin habit to feed.

You see, his level of success in television wasn’t congruent with his beliefs about himself, so he began tearing everything apart…and before long he dragged himself all the way down to where he thought he deserved to be.

A field of marijuana plantationNow let’s look at Darren, on the other end of the spectrum. Darren went from broke, miserable, and living at his mom’s to owning a successful construction business, marrying his dream girl, becoming one of the best outdoor growers I’ve known, beating a form of cancer few people survive from—and, most importantly, becoming happy.

Darren was so broke he couldn’t even afford a small sack of weed at age 30, and just a few years later he was living his dream life.

That’s what the power of improving your mindset can do.

You currently hold a self-image of yourself that drives your actions. This self-image is held deep in your subconscious mind and not only controls the vast majority of your conscious thoughts and behaviors, but also holds the key to your entire destiny. (Not to sound too Tony Robbins on you here, but it’s true.)

Now, while the limits of your current self-image are responsible for your level of success right now, if you want to improve your level of success for the future, you just need to improve your self-image to be in line with the future you want to have.

Right sided profile of a human headSo how do you do that?

By rooting out the negative beliefs and replacing them with new, empowering beliefs.

I call it my “Subconscious Overhaul Strategy.”

You first start by having clear-cut goals you want to achieve.

Next, spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself accomplishing these goals. Do this two ways. First, see yourself accomplishing these goals in the first person through your own eyes. Like you’re actually experiencing it. And FEEL what it will feel like when you’ve accomplished these things.

Then you ALSO want to see yourself accomplishing, and HAVING accomplished, these goals—like you’re watching yourself from outside your body. Almost like you would if you were watching yourself in a movie.

Stack these two forms of daily visualization with spoken affirmations about your abilities. Even if it’s just 2 or 3 minutes in the shower each morning, speaking empowering truth to yourself about your abilities can do the trick. Now, these things may not be truth when you say them…but if you do enough of this stuff, they will be soon.

An example is saying something like, “I’m smart, successful, have a magnetic personality, and easily attract good things into my life” over and over to yourself, and feeling great about it, while you’re taking a shower or something. I know it sounds kinda funny, but it works!

Or you could repeat something like, “Growing massive amounts of the best marijuana around comes easily and effortlessly to me.”

Your subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction. It just takes in the information and then goes to work to make your reality congruent with what it’s told.

Now, here’s a key part of this equation that most people leave out.

It’s something that the hit movie The Secret left out.

A man chaneling his aura energyYou have to take MASSIVE action to attain the goals you have set for yourself.

And massive action starts with one step. Just put one foot in front of the other and start moving forward.

And when you doubt yourself, remember that self-doubt is usually a sign you’re expanding yourself and you’re on the right path doing something big.

You’re becoming the person you need to become to reach your goals.

Continue to put good stuff into your mind, continue to move forward, learn from your mistakes as you go, and recognize your accomplishments.

Your subconscious mind will take note of all the good stuff you’re feeding it, the actions you’re taking, and the milestones you’re hitting along the way. And your self-image will improve.

And if the actions you need to take make you nervous—GOOD.

A guy who successfully grows two thousand plants does things differently from a guy who grows two plants. Just like a guy who makes $200K a year does things differently from someone who makes $10K a year. Or just like the athlete does things differently from the couch potato. If you’re trying to reach a new level, some of these things are gonna be new and uncomfortable to you.

Just remember, action alleviates anxiety. Feel the fear and trudge through it. Things will get easier, and soon actions that once made you nervous won’t cause you any anxiety at all (and if they do, it will much less than it was before).

Over time your self-image will become stronger and stronger.

And it all starts in the mind.

A girl holding fur toy next to pile of toysRecently I gave a little speech at a function for the Advanced Nutrients Holiday Heroes Charity in Bulgaria, where we bring thousands of toys and meals to needy families over the holidays. This month we’re delivering over 10,000 toys to children who otherwise wouldn’t be getting any, and we’re bringing over 5,000 nice holiday meals to families who can’t afford to have one.

One of the things the Holiday Heroes programs does is bring hope to a country that has very little. Bulgaria is the poorest country in Europe right now, and I’m over there personally working to help them change that. It’s a country filled with so many great people—but they’re really getting a rotten deal from their corrupt government.

Now, because of the way they’ve been treated by their government, the people don’t believe in themselves, their country, and what they’re capable of.

Seeing this absolutely breaks my heart, so I, along with an amazing team of people, are doing what we can to change that.

If we can just get the people to believe in themselves, and to believe in the change that is possible, then they can create that change.

But—just like with my life and yours—it all starts in the mind.

Check out this video:

YouTube Preview Image
What you tell yourself, the way you choose to look at situations, and what you read, watch, and listen to—it all goes in, and what comes out is your life.

Man standing on rock edge looking at mountain topJust like you wouldn’t give your plants anything but the best, don’t give your mind anything but the best either.

If you just put the simple exercises discussed above into action in your life and make them habits, you can accomplish just about anything you want in this world. Almost nothing will be impossible for you.

And NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING—not even total crop failure, losing your house, or going bankrupt—can hold you back for long as long as your self-image is strong, your mind is focused on the right things, and you take unrelenting action in the direction of your vision.

Sure, you’ll come across obstacles and experience temporary setbacks here and there. We all do. But you’ll see them for what they are—chances to learn, grow, and become and the absolute best at what you do.

Golden fish jumping out from aquarium Continue to boldly move forward and remain absolutely tenacious, knowing in your gut that nothing can stop you.

And don’t ever let the fact that what you and I do—growing marijuana—isn’t 100% accepted yet by those in charge stop you from giving it your all. Make no mistake, things ARE changing (as we’ve seen in recent years), but we still have a long way to go. Don’t ever let them tell you that what you do is “bad” or “wrong.”

I’m here to tell you that what you’re doing is a good thing.

You’re helping people get the medicine they need. A natural and healthy medicine that’s a much better alternative than what they typically get pushed onto them by the medical community.

The judgmental, hypocritical, and just plain uneducated can have their opinion. But don’t ever let that opinion hinder your success as a grower or in any other area of life.

Your entire life is front of you, my friend. You have the keys to an incredible future of limitless possibility in your very hands right now. I encourage you to use those keys to unlock the power of your subconscious mind and create reality so incredible that no book ever written could explain just how awesome it is. Not even 10,000 books.

Road in the desertOh, and whatever happened to Darren?

After beating the cancer, Darren built his business back up and then retired from the construction industry with some money in the bank. He also scaled down his growing to just enough for his own personal use and for a few friends. Like it is for me, growing is a hobby of love for him.

Darren and his wife became environmental activists, and today he gives about 90% of his time and money to that cause. He and his wife are two of the happiest people I’ve ever known in my life.

And what’s awesome is that Darren has had a major impact on my own life. Over the years, seeing all the happiness and fulfillment that Darren has gotten by giving has further instilled in me the importance of making a positive contribution to the world and giving from your heart, without asking anything in return. And watching him beat cancer showed me what the human spirit is capable of. (Thanks Darren!)

I’d love to hear your comments below.

Talk soon,

BigMike 🙂

A half naked man standing in the rain

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10 Responses to The Biggest Factor in Your Success as a Grower—And You’ll Never Guess What it Is

  1. Avatar
    john kirkman December 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Nice nice story Mike!! I’ve never lost confidence through making and losing millions but I have several friends that are much like Darren was -smart good looking physically healthy but lacking in confidence -would love to help them but haven’t been able to break through. I’ll check out the books.. One of my favorites is Harvey McKay’s “Swim with the Sharks” without being eaten alive.

    How did you lose the weight -you’re looking good!! I stopped eating wheat a month ago and feel much better and have lost a few pounds with no effort but at 6’1″ and 237 I’d love to get back to 170 where I was at 25 years of age..

    • BigMike
      BigMike December 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      Hey right on John. Sounds like you have some cool stories to tell yourself.

      Congrats on the improvements in the way you’re eating.

      Basically I lift weights, do cardio, drink a ton of water and eat good lean healthy all natural foods for the most part. Lots of veggies, healthy fats and lean proteins. And on top of losing the weight, I feel amazing.

      Thanks a ton for your kind words John

      • Avatar
        Dominique Dupont December 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        You got it Mike,

        I do the same, paleo diet (which is eating animals and plants basically, with few or no carbs), combined with power lifting ! Those two combined togetter = highway to natural health and the body of your dreams (and also the body your gf dreams about…) !


        • BigMike
          BigMike January 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

          Paleo and Powerlifting, what a combo

          Being tall, I’m a natural puller, making bench harder than say rows. I admire the drive, intensity and determination that anyone who powerlifts does

          Westside Barbell all the way (=

  2. Avatar
    Adam December 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Holy shit big mike you nailed it

    Love this story

    It’s so crazy how life unfolds when you’re on the right path

    I’ve had some pretty wild experiences myself – maybe some day I’ll start my own blog

    Love the new look of the site btw

    It’s the growers Mecca

    • BigMike
      BigMike December 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Yeah Adam I love how once you’re on the path, it just kind of reveals itself to you

      There’s no substitute for knowing what you what you want and working your ass off to get it

      thanks for your nice words Adam

  3. Avatar
    Dominique Dupont December 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Very motivational.

    Thanks for writing this Big Mike, I will look into that second book.

    Acting in spite of fear is an “advanced” skill, but as any skill, it gets better with practice and sometimes with a bit of structure to get it going in the first place. But after the first stone is thrown and you`ve made the first crack, what happens in your brain is that every time the neurons are fired together again, they increase the conductivity of that circuit by building a thicker insulation layer of mylar, that makes the signals up to 3000 times faster I`ve heard. lol

    I recently took some of those steps !

    Start with baby steps, even steps that look stupid, you get the ball rolling, you build some momentum, next thing you know, you are easily taking bigger actions by reflex.


  4. BigMike
    BigMike January 6, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Hey Dominique – yes, yes, yes, love the way you put this

    Baby steps, get the neurons firing together, and move forward

    thanks for your comment man, much appreciated

  5. Avatar
    william crumit June 29, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    mike just wanted to let you know i have a new outlook on life im going to put your ideas into motion. i am so ready to change my outlook on the future and my life i thank you for putting things into some perspective for me please email me with any other advise i can use tyvm for all your time and dedication.

  6. Avatar
    Bill August 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm #


    I have been trying for a successful harvest in my indoor DWC, without much success. This has been using Gro-Tek Monster Grow and Monster Bloom.. I am now ready to try Advanced Nutrients products. Please suggest a simple, inexpensive, feeding regimen that will achieve the proper results.

    Due to post-operative pain medication (non-herbal) I have trouble determining what products to use. I can only grow two plants and need my bud to alleviate my current discomfort and confusion.o
    I am an older person, who is a neophyte grower on a fixed, but limited, income.

    Pleas Help,

    Thank You

    Bill Shepard

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