Rick Vuyst, host of the Flowerland show and author of Operation Rumination, talks about the spark that ignited a journey of personal growth. Join Lynne and Rick as they explore the concept of selflessness and leadership in today’s world.
00:07 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome on in. I’m in Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union, and we are here from Financial Fitness to Financial Wellness. We’ve got it all for you, and I’ll tell you what today’s podcast is something that is just an amazement, I am sitting in front right now of Rick Vuyst. Now Rick, if you listen in on the Fruitbasket Flowerland show or you see him on television, you might know him. You’ll definitely know his voice. He’s a very dear friend of mine and has been for many, many years. But I’ll tell you what, today we are going to talk a little bit about a passion that Rick has started and what I like to call later in life even though it’s really not later in life, I would say. What are we? Our middle age now?
00:53 Rick Vuyst: Well, it is Lynne. It’s, boy, pushing 60 this year.
00:57 LJ: Wow. Congratulations.
01:00 RV: Thank you.
01:01 LJ: So let’s start off at the beginning. And you are a gardener, you’re an expert gardener. You own Fruitbasket Flowerland that people in the Michigan area know, and probably actually all over the world now, but you’ve really taken a look deep inside and have started to change what your focus is.
01:23 RV: It was writing, writing, for me, I always loved to write, never had the time to write or I was like… Other people will make an excuse. I want to write a book, but I don’t have time to write a book, or the same applies to exercise, I want to exercise I want to run, but I don’t have time to do it. And for me, I was driving down the expressway listening to NPR, and they were interviewing one of my favorite authors, and she said, “I’m going to tell you how you write a book.” And then they said, “Well in the true spirit of radio, this is a tease. We’ll go to a break first, then will tell you.” So, I’m scrambling for a piece of paper, a pen, pull off the expressway find a parking spot. They come back and they say, “Okay, how do you write a book?” And this, well noted author said, “Here’s how you write a book, you park your chair, you park your rear end in a chair and you write it.” And that was her advice, and I was like, “You know what, I’m going to do that,” and that’s how ‘I Just Wet my Plants’ was born. And now the second book, ‘Operation Rumination.’
02:28 LJ: We’re really going to focus in on ‘Operation Rumination,’ but let’s… The very first book came out last year.
02:34 RV: Yes.
02:34 LJ: ‘I Just Wet my Plants.’
02:36 RV: Yes.
02:36 RV: You are known for your puns.
02:38 RV: Thank you very mulch. You are an entremanure.
02:42 LJ: Always have been. I’m trying to… I’d leaf it to you to do another one.
02:47 RV: Oh well done! Wow!
02:50 LJ: So, bestseller. It’s been amazing and it’s very fun for you.
02:56 RV: Yeah, it has been loads of fun. And I was amazed at how it was received. A lot of fun. Because what I do is I take a light-hearted look at gardening and it has to be fun in order for people to garden and in the book, I tell people that if you haven’t killed any plants, you’re not trying hard enough. That’s my approach. And so we give you a permission to kill some plants and have some fun. And that’s where ‘I Just Wet my Plants’ spun off. There are over 440 gardening puns in the book, but I would say over my…
03:34 LJ: I’m glad you counted them.
03:35 RV: They’re listed in the back. But over my years of doing radio, there’s so many… You’re in for a root awakening. Maintain your composture. All that kind of stuff. But the one that really resonated with people, for some reason, was ‘I Just Wet my Plants.’ And of course, when you write a book, you want the title to be intriguing, cause people to pull it off the shelf, and well we, I think we hit a home run with it.
04:01 LJ: I’ll tell you what, we are so glad you’re here. One of the culture values that we hold dear at Consumers Credit Union is to really focus in on well-being for an individual, whether they are our members, our employees, our colleagues, our family members, neighbors, friends. It’s very near and dear to our hearts and you have literally hit the nail on the head, I think, to prove that you can look deep inside you and decide what is important and what do I want to do that just is going to change my corner of the world.
04:38 RV: Well, thank you, and yes it did for me last year, I changed mentally, spiritually, physically.
04:44 LJ: Let’s start at the beginning. How? Why?
04:48 RV: In 1977, I graduate from high school and at that time, morale was very low in the military, also the Vietnam draft had ended, and so I got busy working, going to school, got married, had kids at a young age, and before you knew it, it was too late to serve in the military. And it’s a regret that I’ve carried with me my entire life. It wasn’t until… I would say, 1986 when the movie ‘Top Gun’ came out and President Reagan was our president. That’s when morale really started to build again in the military. So my chance had passed, and so I carried that regret with me, and I had an occasion a year ago where something happened to me and an individual said to me, “Well, you don’t really understand veterans and you really don’t care for their cause.” And it stung me.
05:47 LJ: Wow.
05:48 RV: And I’m like, “Okay, I need to drill deeper.” Therein, ‘Operation Rumination’ was born. Now think about rumination Lynne. There’s healthy rumination, and there’s unhealthy rumination. I decided to have healthy rumination. Unhealthy rumination or the word rumination can be another word for worry. You recycle it in your mind over and over again and you worry. We know that’s not healthy for…
06:17 LJ: Can’t sleep.
06:17 RV: Can’t sleep.
06:18 LJ: Keep thinking about it.
06:19 RV: Exactly. Healthy rumination, we do, as you said Lynne, we do a deep dive into a topic. I decided to set aside a year and spend the year with veterans to learn their story and to figure out what it is I could learn from them. In the process, I decided, I tried to turn back the clock and what I would do is I would train on the beach and at the YMCA to meet the physical requirements of something they call the APFT which is the army physical fitness test. So I went to an Army-Navy Surplus Store, bought a sweaty smelly old PFU off the rack, which is a physical fitness uniform, wore it all year long to see what kind of reactions I would get from people while I trained, but in the process of training, I would ruminate healthy rumination on the stories and the lessons that I was learning, from these veterans that I was hanging around with Vietnam veterans, World War II veterans, over the age of 100 years old, you sit across the table from one of those individuals and have a cup of coffee, you’re in… You’re in for a treat.
07:34 LJ: It’s interesting because most people, I shouldn’t say most, but I know you very well, and consider you a dear friend, and I can’t imagine anyone thinking that you would… Well, you don’t know veterans. I just can’t imagine that just because I know you. So it’s amazing to me how you decided to turn that into good action.
07:58 RV: Well, it was a situation where somebody put a huge sign in the parking lot of my business without my permission, for a gun show, and I had it removed and so it just wasn’t, you know, a real friendly…
08:12 LJ: Conversation.
08:12 RV: Conversation.
08:13 LJ: Understandable.
08:15 RV: But it really caused me to think, and so as I thought about it, one of the things I thought Lynne was I know from my personal training from doing things like running in the River Bank Run, that sort of thing. As we age, I’m going to be turning 60 this year. We develop something I call brain fog. And we clear that brain fog by getting busy by being active. You don’t have to run, you don’t have to lift weights whether it’s yoga, walk, bike, swim, whatever it is, but move, and it clears that brain fog. And that was an important part of ‘Operation Rumination.’ So, I picked two young men who were actually going through boot camp and corresponded with them via snail mail, all summer long, while I was on the beach running and training with them. Now granted, I was only doing the running push-ups, sit-ups, these guys were going through actual boot camp, like the 60 or 90-second showers that they take.
09:17 RV: I mean, for me after my work out, it takes me 90 seconds just to get the temperature adjusted right, right? I mean, I’m not going to do that. So it was a… It helped clear my mind. And let me mention, Lynne, in answer to your question too, one other quick thing. 7.3% of the US public has served or is serving in the military. That means there’s 92.7% of people running around like me who, yeah, don’t know what it’s like.
09:50 LJ: How long did it take the fog… Like did you wake up one day or was it all of a sudden the fog started lifting for you, in the sense of that brain fog you talk about? And was part of it, mental with the communication that you had with the veterans that you were speaking with too that did it all just gel together.
10:10 RV: Absolutely. You’re right on there, Lynne. Because it was a process over time, not only the physical exercise, but the mental and also, again, participating in something called healthy rumination. Where were my thoughts? What was I thinking about? What was I thinking about as I ran? For example, simple little thing, July Day, you’re running on the beach after a busy weekend day. There’s trash all over the beach. And I would ruminate on things like, “Why do some people act selfishly and other people practice selfless service?” Because the day before, there were individuals there who chose to leave diapers, cigarette butts, beer cans, you name it, thinking, “Well, somebody else will pick it up.” The next morning, running the beach, I see individuals walking the beach with bags picking up the trash. And I talk to them. They’re not paid to do it, they’re not part of the city, the government, they’re just individuals who go down there and clean the beach.
11:19 RV: Now, why? Why do some people act selflessly and some people act selfishly. And so, in this year of rumination, picture this, something for me to think about while I’m running on the beach, I have coffee with a World War II veteran. He’s 111 years old, still does swing dancing okay, he’s a wonderful gentleman, and I asked him that question, I said, “Why did you do what you did? What caused you to be the type of person that you are?” And he looks at me and he sets his coffee down and mind you, this is a 101 year old individual and from memory, he says to me, “somebody said that it couldn’t be done, but he with a chuckle, replied that, maybe it couldn’t, but he would be one who wouldn’t say so till he tried, so he buckled right in with the trace of a grin face, if he worried, he hid it. He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done and he did it.” I had goosebumps sitting across from this man.
12:32 LJ: Amazing.
12:32 RV: Yeah.
12:32 LJ: Amazing. You talk about that selflessness which we call servant leadership, and this is a leadership book bar none, Rick.
12:46 RV: I believe it is, and I believe that it is super important to study history and hear stories, and I firmly believe that it’s important to hear these veterans’ stories. You take for example, the Vietnam veterans that I talked to last year and how they were treated when they came home and how they felt. They all shared the same things. Loneliness, fear, but absent… Courage is… This is what I learned over the course of the year. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing what you need to do despite the presence of fear, and you could apply that to just about any context of life, whether it’s raising your kids, taking a new job, whatever it may be. These people humbled me, and they changed me physically, mentally, spiritually.
13:53 LJ: It’s just an amazing… We’re going to continue talking. This is an Amazon book. It is out right now, just head to Amazon. If you’ve ever been the individual that is thinking about, you know, something I really want to find, there’s just something I want to find that makes me a better person, then this is the book for you. Rick Vuyst. It’s called ‘Operation Rumination.’ We’re going to continue talking with Rick in another podcast about the steps of leadership that he talks about in the book. Selfless service, continuation, a sense of humor, humility and courage. Very important. And I’ll tell you what, it’s just so exciting. And where do the proceeds go?
14:36 RV: The proceeds are going to go to the Grand Valley State University veteran’s history project. And so if people want to learn more, they can go to OperationRumination.com. You’ll see a link there to the endowment because what we’re trying to do is raise money for that veterans history project, which is associated with the Library of Congress to capture more of these stories because Lynne, like we just talked about, that’s how we learn selfless service.
15:07 LJ: Thank you so much. This is Money, I’m home. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thank you so much to Aaron Bowersox, our producer, and we will see you next week.