new video
hot off the press!  
    more about rocket
mass heaters here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

the extremely high cost of flakes  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22179
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Earlier today I wrote the following reply to somebody:

100% of the people who flaked out used the words "trust me" or "you can count on me" or "my word is my bond" or "I promise" or "I am not a flake" or something to that effect.   And the flake out rate is about 60%.  If all of these people had kept their word, we would be about seven times further along now.   The wofatis would be done and we would probably have four more built.  I would have posted about 60 more youtube videos and I would probably have ten times more coin in my pocket right now.  So we are taking extremely strong steps to mitigate this problem.  


About fifteen minutes after posting that, I was talking to jocelyn about something else and I asked:   "I just wrote that if it were not for the flakes, we would be seven times further along with our projects here.  Does that number sound about right to you?"  And she said "yes." 


I was keynote speaker at an event last year.   I arrived a day early to get the lay of the land and maybe take in some of the event.  Jocelyn and I got really cool badges that said in giant letters "VISIONARY" which was awesome.  It was a huge campus with a lot going on.  About 20 minutes in, we sat down with the map and tried to get our bearings.  A woman said "you're paul wheaton!" and she turned out to be one of the upper-brass helpers for the event.  She told us that the event was built on work-traders.  The work-traders were given their passes before the event and told what they would be doing when.   It sounded like the event suffered from a 70% no-show rate.  More than 100 people decided, for one reason or another, to not hold up their end of the deal.   So the work traders got into the event, enjoyed the event, but most of them took the position to not do the work part.  The woman told me about some of the things some of these people told her .... there were tales about other events a few hours away and they wanted to leave to go to that event; one person was up late and just needed to sleep in, so missed their work-trade thing; one person just decided that their task was not within their comfort zone, so decided to not do it. 



I think we probably have about 400 stories of people flaking out in 400 different ways.   And that's just for our site here in montana for the three and a half years we have been here.

In february of 2015, we bought a bunch of food for two guys that would be here through the summer, but they decided to leave.   A few weeks later a gal needed a job, and rather than just come out and get to work, she asked that we first interview her at a restaurant in missoula.  All is fine.  We hired her and she was going to come out and stay for two weeks.  One of the big food items we bought was potatoes which started to send out sprouts - so on her first day we had her plant those all over the place.   She went back to missoula that evening to "get some stuff" and then sent us an email at about 4pm the next day to say that she got a different job. 

This is just three people and three tiny flake-outs.   They can certainly leave whenever they want.  At the same time, if they had honored their word, we would not have wasted food, and we would have gotten more stuff done in a planned and organized manner. 

There are stories that involve thousands of dollars and a couple of stories that involve tens of thousands of dollars.  But the moral of this story is: 


                                7


Would all of permaculture be 7 times further along right now if not for the flakes?



Jocelyn just now came in.  She took some kitchen scraps outside where we cover them with some sawdust.  She knew the sawdust container was empty and she would need to get some more.  She got there and ....     the container was full!  She found fred and apparently fred and kai witness her use the last of it and they refilled it. 


The silver lining is:  if you bring through 400 people and 390 people leave (for one reason or another) you are left with amazing and reliable people.  So I guess we just need to bring through about 2000 more people and we will then have a great 40 great people here.  And that's what I need to change the world.




 
kevin stewart
Posts: 73
3
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When someone says:
"trust me", now I don't.
" do you think I'm lying?" Now I do.
"Don't worry about it" now I worry.


 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2047
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
175
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hurray for Fred and Kai!! 

I think you're right - if everybody did what they planned to do, likely the whole world would be a better place.  As Mork said, long ago, "the road to Earth is paved with good intentions."

It is also true that things tend to get better as they get better, if that makes any sense.  It's the opposite of a vicious cycle.  Weeding out the lame leads to more cool people, who create a place that attracts more cool people.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"The road to Earth is paved with good intentions."


I love that!!!

Yes, it's so hard to tell the flakes from the 'doers'. And I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, as I hope they will do for me. But, when it comes to a business, or something like Paul has set up, then giving that benefit of the doubt starts to come with a high price. Such a difficult situation. How to help people reach their potential, without losing the farm (figuratively and literally!)?
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 354
Location: Western Kenya
29
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Flakes are an international phenomenon.  How do you find those stellar people who really want the opportunity, who appreciate it and respect it?  Especially those gold nuggets who can see a problem, like an empty sawdust bucket, and solve it without being asked!?  Seriously!  My current employee has been with us since October 2016, and she still can't ( or wont) differentiate between trash and compost.  She can walk past an item that has been dropped 20 times, and not pick it up.  She basically does the bare minimum she can do without getting fired. And she won't take the initiative to do anything without being told to.   I want to help her, she's a struggling single mother... But its like I have to chew her food for her.  And she is just the latest in a long line of frustrating hires...  Most of whom just stop coming to work sometime around the 6 month mark, believing they have a bigger better deal elsewhere.  And then a couple months later almost all of them have come back, asking for their jobs back.  Its really disheartening.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
117
forest garden urban
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We had a produce department at one location that I worked at that had a particularly high number of long lasting and very hard working employees. I don't know if it would be any help to you, but I asked the manager what he did in the interviews to get such good results. He would take them into the store and ask them to bring him something from the other end of an aisle. If they strolled, meandered or otherwise wasted their time doing this, they didn't get hired. The good workers took that odd interview question (he usually asked for toilet paper) and briskly walked down the aisle and then back with the item. Even on such a simple task it was obvious that they set their goal and then applied their full attention to completing it.

edit: I'm not sure if I would pass or fail. Once I set off after the paper I would have been fine, but first I would have had a whole suite of clarifying questions... what brand, did the price matter, quilted or unquilted, the ply, ect. I'd want to be sure I brought him the absolute best roll of tissue for his needs.
 
A Walton
Posts: 64
2
bike dog rabbit
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This phenomenon is perplexing to me. What is wrong with people? We let a work trade person move in last fall for a trade of x hours per work per month and a small fee to cover utilities. He held up about 20% of his end until we finally kicked him out almost 5 months later, and I won't even get into some of the nightmarish events that occurred with this individual. I am now months behind on an important project and I'm not going to complete it on time. I don't know if I could trust someone again in this kind of arrangement.

I'm thinking that the only way to go is to use services like Workaway where people have reviews and a reputation to maintain.
 
Lakota Myers
Posts: 7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A Walton wrote:

I'm thinking that the only way to go is to use services like Workaway where people have reviews and a reputation to maintain.


That sounds like a good start; use some sort of service that utilizes reviews and reputations.
 
Mike Cantrell
Posts: 555
Location: Mid-Michigan
28
bee books duck food preservation forest garden hunting solar trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paul Wheaton wrote:The work-traders were given their passes before the event and told what they would be doing when.   It sounded like the event suffered from a 70% no-show rate.

I wonder if work-trade in 21st-century USA is a selection mechanism that filters for what you don't want.
People available for work-trades aren't tied to careers, at least not the typical kind of career where you arrange work for an employer indefinitely with one to five weeks of vacation time per year allowed.
Some people are above careers (they've got plenty of money, and they've thoughtfully decided they value freedom more than setting their mind to a long-term path)...
but many more are below careers (they can't stay in one place long before conflict or unreliability causes them to exit or be expelled).

People interested in work-trades are also intent on leaving money out of the transaction. There are noble reasons for this, like suspicion of government or making the transaction more authentic by disintermediating it, but I suspect that there are more of the ignoble reasons. Working for money maybe connotes a higher standard, a "real" job that you have to show up for and have to do; a work-trade, somebody just thinks of that as "a thing I'm gonna maybe do". If you make a deal involving money, somebody might sue you, but who would sue you for not showing up for a work-trade (this is legally groundless, btw, but it's a common perception). Or, I don't know, reputation. "That guy scammed me out of $400" just sounds a lot stronger, a lot more embarrassing, than "That guy scammed me out of four days of cleanup duty!"

Unfortunately, it's easy for hardworking, reliable people to get jobs nowadays. (Not good jobs, maybe. I'm not trying to talk politics here.) It's also powerfully normative for people to get a job. My main string of questions for a prospective work-trader would revolve around, "Exactly why don't you have a job?" Meaning, what about you isn't normal? Something's not normal if you don't have a job. So is it something extra good about you? Or is it something bad?






kevin stewart wrote:When someone says:
"trust me", now I don't.

These are weak attempts to create a higher degree of familiarity, intimacy, or trust than the conversation naturally warrants.
Same thing with "have a blessed day" and "God bless you" with strangers. If we're talking about religion, we must be close, right?

(For what it's worth, the more powerful way to escalate that intimacy and trust is by having a conversation or interaction that naturally warrants it. Answering personal questions is one thing that leads to trust. Intuitively, you might think that you trust someone when you know about them, when they talk about themselves. But that's not what happens. You trust someone when you talk about yourself. Because trust is not about rationally judging someone's trustworthiness. Trust arises when you perform trusting behaviors.
Another one is doing a favor. When you do someone a favor, you begin to trust them more. It's like your brain goes, "Well, I know I only do favors for people with whom I'm close, and I know I just did this guy a favor... I wasn't sure whether we were close, but I guess obviously we are." Please, folks, only use these powers for good. )
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2047
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
175
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Or when sometimes says "believe me," you should maybe not.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1166
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
38
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lots of people are simply non-confrontational.  For people like that, I think it is easier to say "I forgot something at home, I'll be back tomorrow" and never come back than to say they don't like the work, your personalities just didn't mesh, or whatever the case may be.  It would be much better if people could just be honest about the issue they actually have, but I can understand why they do it.  The people that actually make the commitment and stay, but do just enough, or not quite enough, to get by are more troublesome to me.  If they do much less than they have signed up for, you can just send them packing, but if they do just enough to get by, you aren't happy with them but it's harder to justify getting rid of them so you can get someone that is great.
 
Henry Jabel
pollinator
Posts: 168
Location: Worcestershire, England
14
bee bike forest garden fungi hugelkultur toxin-ectomy trees urban woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I seems to me there is something about a 'thing' of low to no monetary value that attracts a certain type of person who will make your life a pain in the arse. They seem able to only judge the 'thing' you are offering purely on its monetary worth (rather than any other value system) and then consequently don't appreciate it.

To begin with I used to sell my products at a lower price than I currently do in an effort to sell 'as much as possible'. Eventually I realised the only people who were negative about my products were the ones who haggled me down to the point I was barely making a profit. Now I have raised prices they don't even both to contact me. I do less work, earn more and don't have to deal with any stress inducing nasty comments.

Simply don't offer a service for too cheap/no financial risk to people you don't know unless you want to deal with a few nasty people. You might cut out some genuine people who can't financially afford it but life really is too short to deal with the people that end up grinding you down.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1269
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
126
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yep, I agree with that ^^

I know I've said this elsewhere in a discussion about volunteers, but we found that volunteers were generally of much better quality when they had to pay for their room and board. When it was free, we always got some kid or kids who were traveling but ran out of money or energy and just wanted to hang out and listen to their headphones. Once we started charging for room and board, we didn't get those flakes anymore. Many years later we started getting so many volunteer enquiries that we had to say no to some when there were enough already "confirmed" for a given time. So since 2013 we have asked most volunteers to prepay their room and board for the minimum period of volunteering (4 weeks) before we consider them confirmed. That sure has cut down on the no-shows and flakes!
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2047
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
175
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tangentially related:  I have given up offering things up for free on Craigslist.  It's far better to set a price of $5 to $20.  Then the person who says they are coming after work tomorrow has a much better chance of actually showing up to get the thing.

When I offered things for free, I got dozens of responses, and almost as many no-shows.
 
Henry Jabel
pollinator
Posts: 168
Location: Worcestershire, England
14
bee bike forest garden fungi hugelkultur toxin-ectomy trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Julia Winter wrote:Tangentially related:  I have given up offering things up for free on Craigslist.  It's far better to set a price of $5 to $20.  Then the person who says they are coming after work tomorrow has a much better chance of actually showing up to get the thing.

When I offered things for free, I got dozens of responses, and almost as many no-shows.


Reminds me of the anectote of my dad's friend trying to give away a washing machine outside their house for weeks and no one wanting it. As soon as they put a price on it someone ends up stealing it!

I think Mollison has a similar one regarding fruit trees he was trying to give away. I think some cynical people assume it's defective if your willing to give it away.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1197
126
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"Flakes" to me, is really a name given to a person who has no integrity.

If I was to be honest, an I always am, as my mother says "to a fault", I used to lack integrity in my younger years. I honestly did. I would say I would do something, seriously intend to, but might not carry through with it. It was NOT laziness as I am not lazy at all, I think the problem was I felt I had something more important to do. In other words, my needs came first. It was 100% selfishness.

Now at 42, I realize I was wrong. The most important thing I can do is ensure I am a man of integrity. It is not easy. It is not just pycho-babble regarding staying true to my ethics and morals, it is doing what I say I am going to do. Sadly I promise a lot. As my integrity grows, and my character is cemented, with AGE I now realize being less selfish is the best possible thing I can do. For my wife, for my 4 daughters, for my farm, for my friends, for my church, for my community, and yes even the people on Permies.

The good news is, if anyone tends to be a flake, or was a flake; they need not lack integrity. They can make up for lost time. It has taken me awhile, but my heart is set on doing what I say.

Here is a case in point. I was asked to do a sheep presentation to 4H'ers on April 8th. I agreed to it, yet I forgot that our church has a men's Retreat that weekend that my Father-in-Law is coming from out of state to attend with me. DRAT! I could flake...I could risk the integrity I have in the community, but instead I will go to the men's retreat, leave early, go to the 4H presentation, then return to the Men's Retreat. Its a lot of hustling, but its the right thing to do. I can do both...it is inconvenient, but I can do both.

Somewhere in there I hope I can thread what I did into the sheep presentation so that young budding farmers will not make the mistake I did. They will have integrity from the get-go and not be "Flakes".

 
Elizabeth Rose
Posts: 72
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, it's very frustrating to put your trust in people who don't follow through on agreed expectations.

One thing I see missing from this thread is something the central Texas community has been talking about for a long time, a way to mitigate the "flakes." We call it "designing for ownership." How do you design systems where the idealists (many in the permaculture world) can experience how their needs may or may not be met BEFORE there are commitments or agreements that might not work out. Land stewardship, farming, facilitation - these are intense and taxing tasks, often less glamourous than our instagram feed. The problem is the solution, right? If we can design our people systems to cultivate ownership of a project, more wofatis get completed, the sawdust bucket gets full, the garden gets weeded.

Do I know how to do this? Nope. I think an interesting starting place is the Holistic Management crowd, who's discovered that a Holistic Context imposed from the ruling / primary decision maker folks onto the rest of the peons often fails, because the peons have no ownership in it. When you craft a vision with input from all parties, they feel invested in its outcome, because it accurately represents something they (and the rest of the organization) is seeking.

There is similar thoughts from the Open Book Management camp - when you open source your numbers (sales, members, costs, salaries, etc) to the employees, they are far more invested in the overall health of the company. ("Wow! If I just sell ONE more popcorn tofu sandwich, the whole department hits our goal for the month!" - ownership of upselling more motivating than doing it because your boss told you to). The best example of this in the country is Wheatsville Food Co-op in Austin. You can attend their Tuesday Open Book meetings and see all the numbers and hear the reports. It's awesome.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1197
126
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To some degree homesteaders and small farmers pay a high price for the "flakes" of society. For the most part, Homesteaders and Small Farmers are reliable and dependable people, so they make assumptions based on their own integrity. In short they feel others will treat them like they want to be treated. That is far from the case, and many a beginning farmer has had to learn this the hard way.

It is one of the reasons I often sell on the wholesale market. It seems crazy, a person can get more money if selling locally raised food at retail prices, and without question, getting rid of the middleman helps up the profit margin. But that middleman is the one who deals with the "flakes" too. After so many times of people dropping out on buying lamb, selling wholesale looks pretty good. Make a phone call to the cattle dealer, move sheep onto trailer, and hour later there is cash in my hand. This is a lot different than emails, texts, phone calls, missed delivery times and final people who just say, "oh never mind." That takes time and that is a limited resource for me.

Then there are the partial flakes who do not understand the logistics of farming. While it is possible to sell cuts of lamb, I no longer do that because people only wanted the best portions of the lamb like chops and leg of lamb. That is well and good, but after a bit, it left me with front shanks and less desirable cuts of meat that kept filling freezers which cost a lot to operate. When I switched to whole lamb only, they did not want the same problem I did, lets desirable cuts of lamb in their freeze. Well imagine mine, only 100 times more in portion. Fooey with that.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from selling locally, but since this thread is titled. "The High Cost of Flakes", it serves as a good reminder, that in my experience, there is a high cost to Homesteaders and Small farms that cater to local residents. At the very least, before committing an animal to slaughter, get a down payment of some sort. Get a little risk into the game and your a better assured they will follow through.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2047
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
175
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travis Johnson wrote:At the very least, before committing an animal to slaughter, get a down payment of some sort. Get a little risk into the game and you'll be better assured they will follow through.


Very good advice.  I've bought multiple animals for home butchery, and a hefty down-payment is standard.  Just make it clear that the down payment is non-refundable at some described point.  Having a page on your website about how much space is usually needed for X pounds of meat in your freezer will help people make good decisions (and you can crib from one of many, many good websites already out there for this) and lessen the chance of people trying to flake out after they take delivery. 
 
lorance romero
Posts: 37
2
dog solar tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Elizabeth Rose wrote: We call it "designing for ownership." How do you design systems where the idealists (many in the permaculture world) can experience how their needs may or may not be met BEFORE there are commitments or agreements that might not work out. Land stewardship, farming, facilitation - these are intense and taxing tasks, often less glamourous than our instagram feed. The problem is the solution, right? If we can design our people systems to cultivate ownership of a project, more wofatis get completed, the sawdust bucket gets full, the garden gets weeded.
.


Ms. Rose, I couldn't agree more. unfortunately authoritarian regimes don't work in this environment. Plus your way takes "so much time"
 
Elizabeth Rose
Posts: 72
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lorance, can you clarify? Are you saying designing for ownership is an authoritarian regime?

It's true that crafting a great Holistic Context takes time. Isn't that the whole point of permaculture though? We invest time up front in planning, so we save time/money/energy over the lifetime of the project.
 
Kyle Neath
pollinator
Posts: 112
Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
28
dog hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Conversely…

I've often reflected on the opportunities afforded to me in life because I have been reliable.

At every job I've had, I found myself promoted often and given more autonomy to shape my team. This eventually led to me getting a gig early on at a company that took off. Which led to me making enough money to quit, take care of my family, some time off, and venture into new industries. The common thread here was that I was always the person who did what he said he would. It wasn't that I was the most skilled (I wasn't) or the most political (definitely not). It's that I pulled through while others found excuses.

Whenever I stay at other people's houses, I make it a point to leave things nicer than when I got there. This has eventually led to getting free places to stay all over the world. You never know who happens to have a villa in Mexico they'd be happy for you to stay in since you did the dishes in their San Francisco apartment.

Being reliable allowed me to purchase my land without getting a bank or realtor involved (saving tons of $$). Turns out a lot of old ranchers value integrity over paperwork.

You'd also be surprised how nice people are when you show up on time for an appointment. I've gotten a ton of great deals of Craigslist just because I was polite and showed up when I said I would. The great part here is that it isn't even about inconveniencing my schedule. It's just showing up when I decide to.

My point being that being reliable often becomes a superpower. It's a way to cheat otherwise impossible hurdles — accessibility, affordability, etc.  Yes, it's a bummer everyone doesn't always follow through with their commitments. But this average level of flakiness affords an opportunity for those who are reliable. Suddenly opportunities that could never have been available to others are available to you.
 
Tim Rockwell
Posts: 5
Location: Michigan, tip of the pinky
1
fungi solar wofati
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Paul,I think the root of the problem lies not in what you are asking of people, but what you are offering. Any system the has a high potential to empower people (permaculture, work-trade, ecobuilding, etc.) is going to attract unpowered people. Unpowered people walk around with a trunk full of excuses why "the world" never lets them get ahead. Powered people see setbacks and unsavory tasks as chances to grow and learn.
     Seems that the easiest way to weed out the unpowered is 1. apply Casie's toilet paper test, and 2. ask them what they have accomplished on their own, if they tell you about all the things they have tried, but "through no fault of their own" where thwarted by " the world", walk away quickly. Responsible, powered people will acknowledge at least partial blame for their failures.
 
Message for you sir! I think it is a tiny ad:
Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!