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Predictably Decent  RSS feed

 
master steward
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For most of the stuff I write, I have a huge amount to say.  In this case, I have a huge amount that I feel and the words and not jelling.  The thing I wish to say is something like "any collaboration can work as long as all parties are predictable and decent."  Is is just me, or does it seem like these human attributes are getting rarer?

So I kinda want to create a few notes and maybe as the next six years pass, I will be able to cobble something together that will be more cohesive and understanding.

When working with one person that is predictable and decent, both of us end up getting a lot done.  

When working with five people that are predictable and decent, we all end up getting a lot done.

When working with one person that falls short on either predictability or decency, the project is fucked.

When working with five people where just one person falls short, then progress is impeded and resentments are created.



When working with others, it always seems wise to have a bit of skepticism.  Odds are that they will not be both predictable and decent.  This year I have been suffering a bit too much as it turns out that I made the mistake of categorizing somebody as predictable and that fell short.   So the real problem is, in this case, my optimism.   It's a bit like counting on them in the trapeze act, but they didn't catch me.  Crash and burn.  Of course, the moral of the story is - don't set up a trapeze act with somebody that isn't going to catch you.




Building a beautiful permaculture future with a group requires decency and predictability.


About a year ago, Jocelyn and I had a long talk.  We shared it in a podcast.  If people simply kept their word, all of our projects here at wheaton labs would be seven times further along.   We think that about 80% of the people that have been here have fallen short of their own word at least once.    Fred has been here for almost three years now.  I asked him if the number "7" was close - and he agrees with it.  


Mollison points out that permaculture is about replacing petroleum with people.  But, damn, petroleum is just so freakishly predictable.  


----

just notes.   just something i felt the urge to share.   I'm sorry that this post is not something more profound.


----

I wish for four more predictable and decent people to join the bootcamp.

I wish for four more predictable and decent people to join ant village.

I wish for four more predictable and decent people to join the deep roots program.

I wish for 20 predictable and decent people to become active in our affiliate programs on permies.  

I wish for a predictable and decent person to be our education coordinator here.

I wish for a predictable and decent person to build spec wofatis here.

I wish for a predictable and decent person to work with C.E. on our rentals and event planning here.

I wish for more wishes.  


 
steward
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A winning strategy for the Prisoner's Dilemma is to start out generous, then follow the other person tit for tat.

So, you start out assuming the other person is decent, but then alter your own responses if they let you down.  "Trust, but verify" is another good catchphrase.
 
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Paul,

When you talk about people being predictably decent, I understand the idea. You want people that make promises and stick to them. People that behave in a way that is right and fair for all.

However, actually being that person is hard. Like, really, really hard.

I've been a teacher for 13 years, working with what you would probably consider affluent and nice teenagers, who are on the cusp of becoming adults. A lot of what we do is try to teach them those personal qualities that you describe, and time after time these lovely, talented and intelligent young people fall short. They over promise and under deliver. They half-arse their work, doing the bare minimum needed to appease some external authority figure. They straight up break the rules and get things wrong.

My personal experience has been that each person needs to learn their lessons through direct personal experience. They cannot be taught by someone else, they can only be lived through. We learn to follow through with our promises from the negative experiences we have when we don't follow through; the disappointed friends and co-workers, the missed opportunities and the social stigma that comes with it. We learn our own physical and mental limitations through direct experience - I enjoy working in the garden, but I know that I am not currently physically tough enough to drop my school job and spend all day every day working on the land. I've learned that lesson directly, by doing just that. I know that I could get tough enough, but if you called me up tomorrow and said you had a week's work for me hand digging an acre of land, then I know I would not be able to do it. My direct experience has taught me that lessons.

I guess what I am getting towards are two points:

1) Being predictably decent requires an unusually high degree of self-awareness. If you are not clear on your own capabilities (social, physical, mental, etc... ) then it is easy to overpromise without realising what you are committing to. Self-awareness comes with age, experience and maturity - but it doesn't always transfer easily from situation to situation. I am very aware of my limitations associated with my work, but if you were to drop me at basecamp tomorrow I know I would be starting over.

2) Expecting people to be predictably decent is an unreasonably high bar. You are essentially expecting all people you interact and work with to have finished growing and maturing as adults because it is through mistakes and failures that we learn. If you expect some, or indeed many, people to let you down in some way then you can plan and adjust accordingly. Redistribute tasks when limitations become apparent. Ensure opportunities for learning and self-reflection are plentiful. Make sure feedback is meaningful and useful. "I'm pissed off that this project didn't get finished" is less useful than "It's a shame this isn't finished. I know that you got bogged down with x, y and z. Let's have a chat about it and figure out a way to push things forward." This way is hard, not easy, but given time you can craft the people you have into the people you need. Some of them at least.
 
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1. Permaculture is fundamentally a romantic ideal. It attracts romantic types, seeking a better world, freedom, a connection with nature, etc. Speaking as a romantic, we are very seldom predictable.

2. Managing people will always bring dissappiontment. Investing in people, personally, brings joy. In fact, I think I could use another read of Martin Buber's "I and Thou"...
 
gardener
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I think another way of looking at it might be how do we stop burn out of over-ambitious people?

One way maybe for people to be highly encouraged to take it slow or undersize their abilities. To not jump into homesteading ecosystem building isolation all at once? Maybe a permaculture brick every 3 months instead of jumping into the deep end? That makes things adopted more natural.

I know I fight burn out while continually having an urge to do more and have to keep repeating "I'm only human." And according to those around me, I'm super ambitious at this. Imagine someone whose true passions drive them elsewhere?

There are projects I have stopped 3/4 the way because they got to a point I haven't quite figured out what the next step is or something else takes first priority. To continue sometimes requires cheer leaders or self- forcing, or just sitting on for a while until the lightbulb turns on above my head.  I know others who would walk away and pretend these things didn't exist if they could.

I watched some permaculture videos on YouTube recently and I noted the amazing permies suffering burn out. Kids see burned out parents and go the other way with their life. That's not sustainable. So how do we solve,  as an insightful rancher (George Work) once said "we don't have resource problems, we have people problems."

 
pollinator
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I think decency should be the cornerstone of any moral education. I think that should be the starting point, and if that's the only thing parents instill in their children, it's a great foundation.

I also think that people who don't behave that way should be corrected, and harshly, if necessary.

I really like the idea of trusting people as much as is reasonable until such time as they give me cause to not trust them. If such a thing should happen, I think it wise to confront the individual and make them aware of the feelings on the matter, and make it clear that such a transgression will not occur again, or the nature of the association would change again.

I would also make it clear that decent behaviour would almost be enough by itself to regain my trust, over time, and that random acts of kindness directed outward could speed the time required for that to happen.

I think this is a difficult issue in part because of the aforementioned issue of self-awareness. I am, at times, so lost in thought and what I am doing that I, for instance, am unaware of my own emotional state. So if I am perturbed or annoyed and someone tries to interact with me, my reaction might not fit the subject or emotional context, and I might not be aware that I am reacting in an unnecessarily provocative or hostile way.

Getting lost in one's own mind and activities is also a great way to disengage just enough to make it difficult to gauge time accurately, making overpromising a foregone conclusion.

As to predictability, that's for cogs and well-studied systems. I think reliability is the word I would have chosen in similar circumstances. Predictability is why we have computers and machines. When they break down, and we can know with some amount of predictability how and to what extent, and in some cases when, this will occur, we can repair, swap out broken parts, or replace the entire unit, and we can even predict how much this could cost to accomplish.

Reliability and dependability are, in my opinion, more relevant, and suggest that a person is more resilient to changing demands of a situation. I would rather that a person be reliable rather than predictable, in the same way that I would prefer loyalty over a catalogue of a person's foibles and personal vested interests binding that person to my goals. Either will do, but I like loyalty better.

-CK
 
Amit Enventres
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If only in school they put as much effort into team psychology, being a beneficial member of society, and self awareness as they did in learning the works of Shakespeare.
 
master steward
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I think it's very easy to say how others should act or how teachers should teach.  I'm not certain that this does anything to help the situation.  

The post seemed to say that working with unpredictable people - or people who say one thing and do another - makes it difficult for projects to succeed.  I wonder if the question isn't how do we make people more predictable and decent, but rather, how to attract more predictable and decent people into my circle?  I think that's a very good question.  

There are people out there who are dependable, predictable, and who say one thing, and then do the extraordinary thing of following through with what they said they would do.  How do you get those people out to Wheaton Labs?  
 
Nathanael Szobody
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r ranson wrote: I wonder if the question isn't how do we make people more predictable and decent, but rather, how to attract more predictable and decent people into my circle?  I think that's a very good question.  

There are people out there who are dependable, predictable, and who say one thing, and then do the extraordinary thing of following through with what they said they would do.  How do you get those people out to Wheaton Labs?  



Ok, but what about the ones that don't follow through?  Let's talk social permaculture. Why are they not following through? Every plant animal and human has a place in the landscape. The onus is on the designer to seek deeper understanding of every element and place it beneficially to itself and to the entire system.

 
raven ranson
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Nathanael Szobody wrote: ...but what about the ones that don't follow through? .... Every plant animal and human has a place in the landscape.



Plants and animals (including humans) are true to their nature.  It's no use teaching a dog to lay eggs.  I think the question is, how do we identify and work with the different needs and natures of the individual.  

If a tree isn't thriving, we move it to a microclimate where it does.  If a goat is hungry, we tether it near the kudzu or blackberries.  If we want more fruit, we get bees.  


Can we take this one step further?  How do we design a system that automatically provides opportunities for people to thrive according to their nature?  So we don't have to move the trees or change pastures.  That the microclimates are so inviting the tree seed will automatically fall where it thrives, that the goat will automatically seek out the brambles or kudzu and the wild bees, moths, hummingbirds, wasps and other creatures will pollinate our fruit trees for us?  


I've noticed that where the ground is baren, plants struggle to thrive.  But get one plant growing strong, and it provides the environment for more plants around it to thrive, which builds an opportunity for life to increase and create dependable harvests.  Maybe this is the question.  How do we find that pioneer person who will thrive in poor soil and create an atmosphere for more people to also thrive and be dependable?  
 
Amit Enventres
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I'm going to put in a plug to gather more steam on this here thread: https://permies.com/t/86643/education/Easy-Bricks

The idea is that some people jump up the scale too fast so they just fall back down, so we could maybe use smaller ladder wrungs or label the wrungs more clearly so people can climb easier and stay up better. Not that any scale is perfect.

Knowing your capacity in a creative project isn't taught in school really, or your 9-5er. I tell my friends, when they ask me how quitting my job to take care of the homestead and family is going that it's like I'm a factory raised chicken trying to learn to be free range. Even stupid things like sitting down to eat is novel.
 
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https://permies.com/t/90556/planting-cacao-forest-rainforest-Belize
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