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podcast 406 - Mr. Slappy or Finding Joy

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Credit: Eric Tolbert

Paul and Jocelyn are on a road trip through rural Montana and start off the podcast with an overview of several hot springs they were able to visit, managing to visit one near Whitehall Montana, even though Jocelyn is in flip-flops, with a broken foot and not supposed to be walking on uneven ground.

Paul's current Kickstarter managed to top out at an amazing $80,000 dollars on an initial funding request of $8,700 dollars. The Kickstarter occurred in the middle of Paul's current PDC and Appropriate Technology Course, causing an energy drain on Paul. Jocelyn points out that sitting behind a computer is exhausting, more than some people realize. Paul discusses the difficulties of producing and generating the content for the Kickstarter at the same time as everything else.

Coincidentally Paul and Jocelyn's Ten Year Anniversary (tin or aluminum in case you would like to send a gift or card) occurs just after the Kickstarter ends and that prompts the trip to the Hot Springs and the Lincoln, Montana Blackfoot Pathway's Sculpture Art Park. Paul and Jocelyn talk about the expenses associated with a Kickstarter campaign, the actual costs associated with the Kickstarter and what else is involved in creating the stretch goals and other expenses that occur with every event and project.

Mr. Slappy (a new term that hasn't come up previously during the over 400 podcasts) is a phrase that Paul remembers from his childhood but is unsure of the origin, but probably comes from a movie. Basically  "Mr. Slappy" is a motivating person on each project who has to slap people around so they get with the program and understand that they need to "get shit done or we are all going to starve". Without  a "Mr. Slappy" nothing much ever seems to get done and nothing moves forward.

Paul would like to think many projects today would be going forward without someone taking the role of "Mr. Slappy" but it seems that there are not many self-starters currently working. Many people bail when things seem to be getting tough or might get tough without actually attempting a task and figuring it out even when things get bumpy. Jocelyn points out that we have to work with the material we have, not the material we want.

The conversation moves on to discussing that Wheaton Labs is looking for someone, preferably with experience, to take on the role of Rental/Event Manager. Paul is open to someone with no experience attempting the job but they would have to be open to transitioning out of the role if it proves to be a poor fit. It is pointed out that Montana has some challenges with rental locations because of the sheer distance between locations. Internet access can be an obstacle to people living at the lab if they don’t have a data plan or hotspot so a future manager would be wise to take that into account and have a plan to deal with that as part of the job requirement.

Paul and Jocelyn then turn to talking about the Rocket Oven Kickstarter occurring in parallel with the Peasant PDC, the Scientific PDC and the ATC events. Paul gives credit to Alan Booker for running an information intensive PDC, well organized and packed full of useful stuff. Jocelyn was very impressed with Alan's knowledge and teaching prowess but found it a little overwhelming when all the men went into "engineer speak" and would really like to have more women come participate in events and activities at the lab (a point a future Event/Rental manager would be wise to explore). Kudos were also given to Chris "Uncle Mud" McClellan who ran the ATC this year, along with guest instructor James S. Juczak.

The podcast comes to a close with a brief discussion about Paul's next Kickstarter that will be for his new book, probably occurring several months from now. The new book is in process of being written and edited at this time and Paul is also working on the PEP (Permaculture Experience according to Paul) courses. PEP courses will be a series of educational programs that are currently being defined. PEP1 currently is being worked out as a two week course, PEP2 is a three month program, PEP3 will be a one year program and PEP4 will be a three year program. A more in-depth discussion of PEP can  be found at permies.com in the educational forum.

Relevant Threads

Steven Harris
Dan Ohmann (The Grass-Fed Homestead)
Rocket Oven Kickstarter
Wheaton Labs Appropriate Technology Course
Blackfoot Pathways Sculpture Park
Wheaton Labs PDC
Permie's Rental/Event Manger Position
Eldenbridge Institute (Alan Booker)
Chris "Uncle Mud" McClellan
James S. Juczak - The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging

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Location: Idaho USA
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Thanks for another interesting and thought-provoking podcast. I really appreciated how Jocelyn referred to the “Mr. Slappy” role as a project manager. Having spent some 15 years as an IT project manager for organizations large and small, this resonated with me.

In working with hundreds of project managers over the years, I have seen plenty of Mr. Slappys (aside: should the plural of Mr. Slappy be Mr. Slappys or Mr. Slappies?). Most Mr. Slappys are quite effective. But driving teams in this way did not work for me, due to my reserved personality. I am a task-driven guy, and I want to see the work completed, but I can’t start slapping people whether literally or figuratively.

So I have spent a lot of time developing skills to imbue projects teams with the "get shit done or we are all going to starve" mentality, without carrying a big stick or a flashing red light. I have worked hard to develop a sense of urgency in teams, without it being My Urgency. Rather, I’ve found that when it becomes The Team’s Urgency and The Organization’s Urgency that team members are much more engaged and willing to get the tasks accomplished.

Those of us who are more reserved have a tendency to act like Bill Lumbergh from the film Office Space (another Jocelyn reference). “Are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?” This overly passive approach is clearly anti-motivational for many people.

While Mr. Slappy and I have the same goals, my approach has to be different to be effective. I work hard to develop a shared vision of the target the team is striving to hit. I work hard to help people find their individual role on a team based on skill sets and interest. I work hard to help the team set goals – short-term and long-term – which the team members believe in and are dedicated to accomplishing.

Then I spend a lot of time removing hurdles. Paul talked in the podcast about people who come up against a hurdle and give up. My job is take those out of the way so that giving up is no longer an option. Or to add an American football analogy, my job is to block and tackle so the team can run with the ball. In essence, I play whatever role needs to be played to help the team move forward to accomplish the objectives of the project. I wear many hats. I change communication methods. I observe and adjust and pivot and adapt and try again.

I am glad there are Mr. Slappys out there in the world who can use their drive and will and personal force to get team work done. But I hope there are some words here to help people who, like me, aren’t Mr. Slappy but still want to find ways to motivate people and teams to get this work – this truly important and essential work – done.

We could call people like me Master Scrappy.
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Great to hear there's a new bunch of podcasts, and it's good to hear about what the needs are.  

I'm going to list a few of them at the end of this post.

Jocelyn's idea is good, to have biennial events.  
having a full event calendar is important too, but without a solid event coordinator, it's easier to go "slow and small" until the event coordinator shows up.  Which you just said as I've listened further
more women friends for Jocelyn!  really important. how can we create that?
cleaning.  Volunteer Cleaners for the Planet.  
in some cases, take a deposit from people who want to volunteer or do a paid position—they get it back when they deliver.  (like the million dollar bond the company would have had to pay)
charge enough for the kickstarted—if it it's really $13,000 and not $8000 just to break even, ask for $13,000!  If it's really $20,000 just to pay yourself enough of a salary to take care of your basic needs while working, then charge $20,000.
I don't really know how kickstarted works, but it seems like "fully funded" really means "minimally funded and I'll put in my own money to do the rest but at least it can happen" and I"m thinking it's best to communicate this.  Not "stretch goals" but "this is the bare martyrdom minimum," "this is the bare minimum," "this is breaking even," "this will fund future projects, the ant village, the boot camp, and new experiments." or something.  I was glad you got over-funded, but I think it would be clearer if you made the real numbers needed clear at the outset.  And I will threaten to comment on the next kickstarted and say "This is what it really costs."  And now you just talked about the book having a kickstarter.  So I'll be ready…mwaha.

I hear you say a lot of times "brute force" and "work harder," and I like it better when you say "permaculture allows me to be even lazier."  When might it serve better to use slower and smaller solutions? when might it serve better to take a break?

That's my two cents, take what you like and leave the rest.  

Labs needs:

Paul would like a person with an MBA (Master's in Business Administration) to make Wheaton Labs run in the black and make use of hte opportunities here.

event coordinator who will really do the work, and move around the hurdles that inevitably will come up.

rental manager who will "

more women, friends for Jocelyn

People to clean up their rooms when they're leaving

People keeping their word more

Paul not trusting people's word as much, or having some other solution to people not following through.

Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Some thoughts on "from slappy to happy":

Slappy is a transitional tool.  

What might be a rough time-frame by when you could see the Labs transitioning from using this tool to no longer needing it?

Saying 'we're %100 Mr SLappy through 2020, %50 slappy through 2030, and aim to be %25 Slappy by 2040" or something would be very clear.  As it has been, it sounds like you've gone back and forth, in a dance of over-giving or over-trusting and then cracking down.  To have a clear progression in mind and articulate it in some way could clear it up and turn the sense of dithering into a sense of clarity.

Keeping the prize in mind is beneficial.

next thought:

Appreciating a transitional tool for what it accomplishes is beneficial.

Observe, observe, observe: a permaculture principle.  Even observe conventional agriculture and mining-based thinking--just observe it.  Mr. Slappy got the job done.  The team ate.  War has had its place in history.

It's distasteful in many ways, but its' worth observing first before deciding to make a change.

next thought: what is the prize? what is the goal?

What is the end-game?  a group of self-actualized, reliable people who all have matured to take responsibliity for their own commitments and communicate clearly, yes?  And before that, a small group of responsible people, a critical mass of them who can hold a space for others who are not there yet to become mature.  

Raising people to maturity is a big project.  It can't really be an afterthought, it must be built in to one's thinking, informing virtually any and all interactions we have with others.

Seeing the potential in everyone, but not necessarily handing them the keys until you've gotten to know them by their actions.

Still seeing the potential in anyone no matter how many times they've disappointed you, but then asking them to leave and come back later, clearly and without equivocation.


How about some creative thinking--I'll create a few ways of motivating people to keep their promises.  I invite others to help with this too, please!

* PO way of ensuring people keep their promises PO tiger.  

A tiger cannot change its stripes.  A tiger is a tiger.  If you're really honest about your feelings up front, you get a better result.

random word PO's

Way of ensuring keeping of promises PO blood.
Blood pacts.  Blood is thicker than water.  

Way of ensuring keeping of promises zoom.  
Have a face-to-face conversation (zoom conferencing, skype, google, whatever) with each collaborator every day--even if it's only for five minutes, even if it's just chatting about random stuff.  Builds connection.

PO way reuses.
Who are the people who've gotten stuff done they said they'd get done in the past? use them again.  (not "use" but work with).  You've mentioned many awesome, competent people.  Maybe they've gone and fallen in love or gotten other opportunities that took them away from the labs, but they could still be brought on to do a project, or carry the ball a certain part of the way, and you know them--you can count on them not to commit to something they won't or can't carry out.

PO way is full.  
Imagine you're full already with the number of competent people you need to get the amount done you believe is necessary to be fulfilling your purpose, your whole purpose in life.  Now, from this perspective, how do the people saying they want to work for you appear? what can you afford to risk with them? what benefits can you find, for them or for you, that will work even if you're not counting on them even a little bit to be reliable? what the the non-reliability benefits that they bring?

PO way is a ghost.
A ghost is commonly perceived as immaterial, but it has as way of haunting us.  What is it to embody the principle of the ghost? what is it to speak to people's conscience, to their unavoidable knowing that something is off? would a follow-up email to someone long after the fact of their disappearance from duty draw at least some benefit?


I'm not really feeling any of these ideas so much, they're OK but could be better.  But maybe some are not bad.  The reuse one I sense has something to it.  Reuse, reduce, recycle...

Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 5a, flat 4 acres; 40" year-round fairly even
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I forgot to say, happy anniversary!!!
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Mr. Slappy gets discussed a fair bit in this:

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Tiny lumberjack ad:

World Domination Gardening 3-DVD set. Gardening with an excavator.

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