Brent

crop 3-2014I, Kenneth Brent Whistler (and don’t call me Kenneth!), have taken a circuitous route to Dancing Rabbit and to success in general.

Born in rural Wyoming to hardworking Oklahoman parents, I wandered throughout Wyoming (more places than I can count) until age 5 when we moved to Denver.  I consider Denver to be my “hometown.”  I had a typical suburban upbringing and went to fantastic public schools (that used to be a thing, believe it or not!).  In eighth grade, after my first week in French class, I decided I’d be going to France as an exchange student during my junior year in high school (yes, these days, I can’t plan next week, but in those days, I was planning 3 years in advance!).  My parents struggled financially (which honestly, I thank God for, since paying my own way has made me the person I am today), so I scrimped and saved and worked washing dishes and bussing tables and delivering newspapers and made it happen.  I only spent 4-months in Pierrelatte, France, but I’m still reaping the benefits of the experiences I had there.

Fast forward to career – previously diagnosed but then untreated attention problems made me kind of be thrilled to be away from high school, and my college aspirations didn’t last long.   I never did get a degree (which I now consider a badge of honor, because I managed to do some crazy stuff without one!). I worked a ton of hours at pizza delivery and restaurant jobs and had a lot of fun for about a year.  I moved to Houston, went to travel school and became a corporate travel agent.  What a low-paying, thankless job that was, but it lead me to new opportunities and technologies.  I spent the last several years of a  9-year career at American Express Travel working as an advanced technical support engineer. I worked in partnership with Microsoft on development of the corporate version of Expedia (travel booking with rules!  A big deal in 1998! It was called AXI).  I also worked in a partnership with Concur technologies to integrate expense data from credit cards into their expense management system.  This experience, coupled with my self-taught programming experience led to a job programming for a small financial reporting company, which landed me at Microsoft after two acquisitions.

Boredom and early midlife crisis lead me to the Peace Corps for a two-year stay in Trujillo, Honduras, one of my favorite places in the world.  I taught Junior Achievement, did tourism and business development, taught English and sometimes did mundane stuff like count trees (a forestry study).  I washed my clothes on a concrete washboard, lived comfortably without A/C in scorching heat and learned new skills and new values.  I started to wonder why Americans are so wasteful and spend so much personal energy chasing a supposedly comfortable life in these huge spaces that they climate-control even though nobody’s there.  I had more of a culture shock readapting to life in the US than I did adapting to life in Honduras.  I kid you not.

I never did adapt and have been mentally exhausted ever since I arrived in Chicago 7 years ago.  I did some consulting, followed by a second 4-year career at Microsoft and decided enough was enough.  I started my own pickup and delivery laundry business, Drive-By Laundry.  I saw a need and an opportunity in two things I really hated (driving and laundry) but never stopped to consider how much DRIVING AND LAUNDRY I would end up doing!  We sold the laundromat, but I still run the service (thank God I don’t have to do the laundry and the driving anymore!).

So, that brings us to Dancing Rabbit.  As long as I can remember, the importance of living sustainably has been a tenet, though not a central theme in my life.  I’ve always tried to take just what I need, not waste resources, be helpful to others and kind to animals and the environment.  I switch off lights, I don’t drink bottled water, I use just a tiny bead of soap (when I use it / I just shower and wash my hair with plain old water these days) etc.. On the other hand, though, I’ve traveled to 23 countries, lived in large houses, eaten a ton of meat, driven all over the place .. so my carbon footprint has not been small.

My move to Dancing Rabbit was driven by a desire for simplicity and a quiet life as much as by my desire to really get a little more serious about leading by example.  I’m under no illusion that my behaviors, however eco-friendly, matter at all in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the multiplier effect that interests me.  I’ll bet I’ve started 500 conversations in the last year about caring about the planet.  I think the actions stemming from those 500 conversations (and hopefully the 5000+ conversations that stemmed from them) will lead to more benefit to the planet than any direct actions I could ever take.  So, walking the walk is where it’s at to me, so I can have these conversations from an authentic place!  I know Mother Earth will survive the threat that mankind is becoming to her survival, but I’m hopeful we can find a way for her not to have to do so by purging us from her crust.