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A Book About Trying to Build Permaculture Community

Do NOT buy this book!   It isn't a book yet.  There's 95 pages of stuff, and maybe in the next few months I'll flesh it out a bit. Or maybe it will be years.  We'll see.

During my last kickstarter I offered it as a stretch goal.   So I am putting it here for those folks.   And, I figure, if somebody is willing to part with 25 bucks then they can look at an unfinished book too.



$25.00

permaculture thorns, A Book About Trying to Build Permaculture Community - draft eBook
Buy access to this content
Seller paul wheaton
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OK, I'm hoping I'm posting in the right place...and if not feel free to move this to where that is.

I definitely enjoyed this, and have enjoyed the podcasts about this topic previously.

A few thoughts:

1) designing for community spoon-building.

Why do people want community? for the emotional spoons.  We do get that from being in groups.  There's the whole "historically people lived in small tribes" thing, and lots of research showing mental and even physical health benefits from people living in community vs. living "alone."   (Theres' really no such thing as alone, actually, when you live alone you live with Big Oil.  But there are valid transitional tools).  

To get the spoons then--and to get them in person rather than just over the phone or in a social media comment--we could look for some structures for communicating.  Non-Violent Communication, sharing circles, etc.  These have drawbacks--NVC has been covered abundantly elsewhere and obviously isn't a panacea, but it's got some basic common sense to it; sharing circles can help people release charge or get some spoons, but in my experience they don't attract a lot of people, and the people who need them most stay away.  

I think a better tool, one that gives me far more spoons per minute than almost anything else, is drL--a body-inclusive, non-verbal-language-inclusive format for amplifying consciousness.   It was developed by people who were passionate about Non-Violent Communication but flabbergasted at how NVC teachers still seemed to have the same problems in their lives that they claimed NVC could address.

https://www.appropedia.org/DrL_Consciousness_Amplification_Instrument

I have been looking for permies to try this out with for a while...haven't had takers yet, but it's the highest yield on return of pretty much anything I've devoted my time to.   Please purple moosage me!

The main ingredient this has, and that Ganas has some of as I understand it (Ganas is a long-surviving community that shares income, in New YOrk City), is feedback.  Not human's thinking feedback, in the case of the drL, but body and behavioral feedback from the other members of the cluster.  

(Sounds familiar, no? "accept feedback," from your landscape.  Bill Mollison studied human behavior, and said somewhere that permaculture was derived from this study primarily!)

I hear that you don't want to hold hands and sing in a circle, Paul, and that's fine, but I also hear you need to replenish your spoons.  What would a system designed to do that with a group of trusted people look like?  I think drL is the best thing out there, but maybe there's more innovations to be made.  What's your design?


Thought #2:

Other things that also are spoon-related: decision-making processes, "community glue" practices (Diana Leafe Christian's term for feel-good bonding projects like gardening together, doing a work day, having a party or sharing a meal), and so on.  Decision-making processes are a slippery slope, and it's charged with the function of getting a clear decision at the end of the meeting, not simply generating spoons.  But of course if it can generate spoons along the way, all the better--or at least not deplete them as much as business or committee meetings are famous for doing.

Sociocracy is the favored format nowadays, by Christian and others--I've found it a bit confusing and haven't experienced much of it directly, but I would love to see more posts about it from people who have lived in communities using it.  I have a sense it's got similar costs to what consensus has, and I haven't yet seen open source, free documentations of how to do it which is a problem.  It's fine to make money on one's work, but the law has to be freely accessible to all as a basic principle of fairness.  

There are lesser known tools from the corporate world or medical fields.  

--Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats helps individuals or groups get out of "I am right, you are wrong," and into constructive thinking;
--Breaking the Rules by Kurt and Patricia Wright talks about asking "right questions" that build emotional energy--in oneself or in others.

Even if you go the dictator-hybrid route, there's still plenty of things that can be discussed and opened up for discussion or input, and I think a book on community ideally ought to include an assessment of sociocracy.  If it could include some of these outside-the-permaculture-box tools too that would be even better.


Thought #3:

My main wish for the Thorns book is that it address the long-term, visionary aspect of community as well as the here-and-now nitty gritty.  The book is really strong on learning from experience--and accurately assessing what's working and what isn't in that, which is really important.  But I want to see a new design that's not just an assemblage of the old ones (consensus plus dictatorship), but goes beyond transitional.  Or find the Sepp Holzer of community building and talk to that person.  

The wofati is an innovation.  The heating-the-person-not-the-room with electric heat is an innovation.  

Diana Leafe Christian is awesome.  But I don't see her as an innovator of new systems of collaboration.  

I think the inventors of drL are, as a collective, the best there is today.  Vic Baranco, who invented the Mark Group, was the Sepp Holzer of community, but also 10 times as controversial.  And he's dead, so talking to him is complicated.

There's a difference between being a really great charismatic leader and being really great at designing systems that can be replicated.

And then there's intergenerational systems--they may appear to be failing a lot of the time for a lot of the people, but have some pearl within that shines over the long haul.  

What if the people in the system grow more noble over time, and have more surplus spoons over time, and stay in the community for longer periods, and succession by the next generation is smooth and easy?

This thought is more of a question than a thought at this point.

Looking forward to seeing this evolve.

 
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Your description of Symboo village (and the people in it) sounds mighty enticing. Utopian, even. It sounds very similar to the dream in my head of "a town with no cars that can feed itself."

Now I just wish I could go visit Symboo village more than just in my imagination. Live there.

(And maybe when I grow up I can be cool enough to be part of village B or C. (And maybe we'll get to see what Step 3 and Step 4 look like.))
 
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Wow! I haven't read a whole book straight through in probably three years. Couldn't put it down, or couldn't look away is maybe more accurate since it's a pdf.

An insightful look at what's needed to select, form and maintain community by going with (human) nature. Some great examples of how a leader can preserve the harmony of the community. Some great ideas for designing the community to work with the nature of its members and their needs.

If "the click" podcasts resonated with you and community is in your future, you will probably love this book.



 
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Wow, a free & unpublished book by Paul! I'll do my best to read it and then write my review of it
 
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Thank you, Paul.

I hope your generosity returns to you a hundred-fold:)

 



 
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Thanks Paul, always appreciate all this great material from you.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Just wanted to put my plug for having more coverage of "paired programming" at the Lab.  For the book, and also for the podcast.

It seems the devil's in the details, and a lot of organizations think they're doing paired programming but are really just setting up their chairs a little differently.  Only when you stick to your guns and really trust the process does it bear the most significant fruit.

Thanks for doing the experiments!
 
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I realized I hadn't reviewed this yet! I haven't quite finished it yet (life is busy!) but, it's a really good, addictive read. I started reading it one stormy day when the internet went out. I happened to have it downloaded on my computer, so I just started reading it. Even after the internet came back, I kept reading because it was that good!

It's kind of like Paul's life-story. So, if you've every wanted to find out all about Paul's journey and how he came to form Wheaton Labs (and be the Duke of Permaculture), this is a great starting place. A lot of the text in the book is drawn from his various "Pseudo blog" posts here on permies, but they're organized very well and it makes for a very addictive read. I found myself really wanting to read what came next, even though I obviously already knew the "end" of the story.
 
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Hallo Joshua, thank you for your post here. I tried to purple moosage you but the system did not seem to recognise your name. I am interested in learning more about drL and/or try it out. The link you gave does not have it's article right now.
If you'd like to mail me, this is my email: 4satatma@gmail.com .
Thank you!
All the best,
Sat Atma
 
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Thank you Paul ,will read later tonight.
 
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If nothing else, I am so glad that people are reading this.  I feel like I am trying some odd stuff right now - but I suspect it seems reasonable after people have read this.

 
paul wheaton
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Just wanted to put my plug for having more coverage of "paired programming" at the Lab.  For the book, and also for the podcast.

It seems the devil's in the details, and a lot of organizations think they're doing paired programming but are really just setting up their chairs a little differently.  Only when you stick to your guns and really trust the process does it bear the most significant fruit.

Thanks for doing the experiments!



I can't remember - do I mention the pair programming thing in the book?
 
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Amy Arnett wrote:Wow! I haven't read a whole book straight through in probably three years. Couldn't put it down, or couldn't look away is maybe more accurate since it's a pdf.



What every author longs to hear!
 
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Ash Jackson wrote:Your description of Symboo village (and the people in it) sounds mighty enticing. Utopian, even. It sounds very similar to the dream in my head of "a town with no cars that can feed itself."

Now I just wish I could go visit Symboo village more than just in my imagination. Live there.

(And maybe when I grow up I can be cool enough to be part of village B or C. (And maybe we'll get to see what Step 3 and Step 4 look like.))




I'm doing what i can to make it happen.

 
paul wheaton
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I think that this book will never be a big seller and is not worth doing a kickstarter for.  Agreed?
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I think that this book will never be a big seller and is not worth doing a kickstarter for.  Agreed?



*Solemn head nod*

I just finished 0.6 alpha.

You didn't ask, but here's a...

List of things I really enjoyed about 'Permaculture Thorns':
The (multiple) metaphors encompassed by the book title.
The numerous mental models:  

  -Spoons. <- Similar to Marriage therapists Rachel Sussman and Ian Kerner's "Love Bank" concept.
  -Forks.
  -Purple-yellow spectrum.
  -Your subjective law of crazy.
  -Obligation poison.
  -"The root of all of human history..."
  -Your Eco Scale <- Even though I'd already read the post previously of the forums.  Still a fun model.
  -The Evil Banana.  <- Saw this concept play out quite a lot as a barrier to innovation in the military.
The unique challenges of leadership, organizational systems design, and decision making in intentional community. <- I don't have a strong pull towards creating an intentional community at this point in my life, but I feel much more equipped (and cautious) should the winds change.
The overall autobiographical flair of the book:  <- I'm pretty yellow on the aforementioned spectrum, so this really surprised me about myself.
  -Your extreme thirst for knowledge and concept mastery through voracious reading.
  -Your work background.
  -Your pride in your accomplishments, and work ethic... especially in contrast to the crunchy Flakes of the world.  <- You didn't use the word "duty" or "honor" but I still felt those concepts resonate in the book.  I admire those traits in people.  I was fortunate to serve with a lot of men and women who showed up, and gave 100%, and it concerns me that Flaking is trending upwards.
  -Your deep desire for community, especially the gift of a shared meal among friends.
  -Community jumping, and lessons learned at each.
  -Finding your artisanal palette and seeking out the artists.
  -Your need for humor and freedom.
  -Your desire to recognize or own your mistakes. <- Lowering walls is a struggle for all.  Nobody likes to think "I was wrong." let alone say it.
  -Your tendency to beat yourself up and feel as though you carry a little more than your share of the burden.  <- That's what professionals do: self critique.  That's what good leaders often do: carry the team's burdens.

Reading those autobiographical-ish parts during this global lockdown had the meaningful feeling of hanging out around a campfire into the night, making a strange new friend.  That itself made the book worth it.

I have several draft book codes, so if anyone would like a copy, send me a Mooseage.

P.s.  There was an unwritten section called "The Captain Always Dines Alone".  I don't know if this section was ever written, but from my experience, the Captain of the ship rarely dines alone.  Usually, he or she dines, jokes, and fellowships with the officers of his wardroom.  It's a highlight of his day, I'm sure.  He's surrounded by people who respect and support him, though many also fear him, and they can find it tough to strike up conversation.  Sometimes he dines with the Department Heads, other times the Junior Officers, and occasionally he may venture out to the enlisted mess decks, or up to feast with an Admiral.  But he's rarely dining alone.
 
Nicole Alderman
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paul wheaton wrote:I think that this book will never be a big seller and is not worth doing a kickstarter for.  Agreed?



I honestly don't know. To me, it felt like an autobiography. I've never purchased an autobiography, but they do seem to sell well...at least if they're by famous &/or controversial people, right? And, you're getting pretty famous and often controversial. So maybe it'd sell well?  It's a really interesting book, and a great read, but I don't know if I'd support a kickstarter for this book, but I also don't buy autobiographies (I buy sci-fi/fantasy & how-to books), but that doesn't mean there AREN'T a lot of people who'd buy it. I do think it would be great to see it polished up...I just don't know if kickstarter is the way to go for that.
 
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素晴らしい

from one Paul to another

thanks
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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paul wheaton wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Just wanted to put my plug for having more coverage of "paired programming" at the Lab.  For the book, and also for the podcast.

It seems the devil's in the details, and a lot of organizations think they're doing paired programming but are really just setting up their chairs a little differently.  Only when you stick to your guns and really trust the process does it bear the most significant fruit.

Thanks for doing the experiments!



I can't remember - do I mention the pair programming thing in the book?



I'm 99% you don't mention it in the book. I read it a while ago, but I would remember that. When I heard about it in the podcast, it made a strong impression.  

I don't think any one book can hope to answer all the questions about how to build a community/society, but if the author is focused on their own experience and the field of community in which they have experience then it's the strongest contribution they can make. You have that experience in the programming world, which is a different world from a permaculturist who comes to things from farming or from the arts, etc.  So that would be another argument for putting some focus on it in a community book.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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paul wheaton wrote:I think that this book will never be a big seller and is not worth doing a kickstarter for.  Agreed?



It is too soon to tell.  I'll lay out the cons and pros here.

con:

A bit of market research might help: there are many books that have sold quite well, though maybe few peple have actually rad them.  They are of enrmous value to the few twho do bother to: Creating a Life Together, the Twin Oaks story probably (I am now recalling, probably a lot of blood and tears went into that book).

What would sell better at least in the immediate is something more, well, community-ish: a talk, an interactive podcast where you take caller's questions and rant at htem. I dont' know, but the desire for human interaction is a strong desire, and people pay money for it--even if it's not pleasant (workshops in personal development that promise to push your buttons and force you to your "growing ege" and so forth).

Let's say I'm dying to be knee-deep in permaculture or neck-deep, and I am looking for a community; I've realized I won't get to innovate much or any if I join a community in a city where I live, because there's just too much population density (even if the community itself, internally, wanted to allow innovations, which they might not).  My immediate goal is to find like-minded people, and if there's a book reading or talk where that might happen, I would go to it--even if the book turned out to suck, I would have people to discuss it with who I might be able to form a community with.  So that's the  a huge factor in the marketing motivations.

Next, there's geography: let's say I'm attached to New England, I'm determined to live and die here.  I go to a book reading on Zoom, say, and meet a few people from Idaho who are awesome, but they are damn well not leaving the nuclear-free zone, coming to tick country, etc.  That's demotivating.  But if the Paul of the East gave a book talk on community in Wilton New Hampshire, I'd make sure I got there in person.

Could you have regionally-focused talks? would you want to or would that just be annoying?  Is there a secret Paul of the East and where is she/he/they...?

Publishing the book might be better to delay for now, and focus it on farther down the road .

Writing the book as a way to focus your own thoughts on this hugely, hugely,, hugely pivotal, crucial topic, so as to get feedback from that small number of people who've "been around the block" with communities would probably be a bigger yield at this time.  And working on it meaning writing more draft-y bits, rather than polishing them and comma-patrolling.  
------------------------
pros

All that being said, I have tended to underestimate the success of your kickstarters and then been blown away by their success.

Second, I think a lot of people back them mostly because the candy is tremendous, and the product itself isn't even their main reason.  I don't know.  Or they want to support you in doing the work itself even if they'll never use it, just because they see how it could be really useful to someone else. That's a lot of why I back some of them, as I'm not in a position to implement the product.

A book on community is sort of a reference book, like an encyclopedia. Back in the day there were encyclopedia salesmen, but today we have wipedia. It seems worth a huge pile of money to create and ave available an encyclopedia, but each person individually doesn't really need to own one, or even read it cover-to-cover.

It would be helpful to have a survey of why people back the kickstarters, which is slightly distinct from "market research" about who would buy the book.  Even if you don't expect more than a handful of books to get sold, if it can be a successful kickstarter that serves needed functions and just sells a lot of candy, that's a big plus.  That comes back to the book talk idea-people who back teh kckstarter get to have an hour of asking questions of Paul? regionally? on a podcast? on a private Zoom call?  have your community get Pauled?  have the ignobility pointed out and a custom-designed system set up for remedying it?

Bottom line, though, is would it be fun?
 
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Thank You for the book Paul. Im fascinated with this lifestyle. The world 'definitely needs' more guys(teachers) like you!!
Im so glad I did come across you, this site, and all the cool stuff & people here in this AWESOME community!!!

☟ ツ ✌

love-permaculture_screw-the-rat-race.png
[Thumbnail for love-permaculture_screw-the-rat-race.png]
 
paul wheaton
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I wrote this book because I needed to write it.  I also felt it was never going to be a big seller - it just seems like a topic that doesn't do well.   The idea is that I say my piece to a few dozen or a few hundred people.  BWB and SKIP are directed to millions of people.  

At the summer events this year, people wanted to talk about thorns three times more than BWB or SKIP.  

Maybe I'm wrong about this book.  Maybe I need to move this book up on the list of priorities.  

I thought the hugelkultur book would be a biggie.  But I've heard pretty much nothing about it.  

The SKIP book is now going into layout and hopefully be at the printer in a week or so.   The draft version of the rocket mass heater book should be ready in about two weeks, and is a strong candidate to be the next kickstarter.  

Maybe I should put some serious thought that thorns will be the book after that?  If so, what TODOs are in there?  What needs to be added?  Maybe I need a wrapup chapter at the end?  Maybe there is some stuff i have written more recently that needs to go in there?  Maybe something from a podcast?  Maybe some comparison to other attempts?

Maybe I should start to flesh this out a bit over the next eight months or so ...
 
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Paul talks about a tool in this called scubbly, but i think it's defunct. Does anyone know what it did or equivalent things today?

From page 55:
"When Ernie and Erica first started selling their plans , they set it up at a site that would,
at the end of the month, say, "Paul sold 30, so you now owe him $150.” So I became a bill. An
obligation. And it is my opinion that this was starting to poison our relationship. So I harassed
Ernie and Erica regularly until we got moved over to Scubbly. And now I was no longer a bill--I
was the guy who connected buyers to their plans and Scubbly made sure all agreements were
honored."
 
paul wheaton
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K Wagner wrote:Paul talks about a tool in this called scubbly



scubbly is gone.  We have modified the permies.com software to have the digital market.
 
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Hi Paul, I really enjoyed your draft and I hope you continue developing it!

I took note that two of the YouTube references aren't in existence including “we're all a bunch of fucking weirdos” video and the comments from user ”corwyngc”.

I found so much of what you wrote relatable and helped me to reflect on my own experience from five years of living in a consensus model Co-housing community. I found that from the moment I arrived there existed a lot of drama; the drama was not advertised during the tour. there wasn't an effective strategy for mentorship or onboarding new members.  More often was consensus manipulated/abused by one or two people and there was an obvious power dynamic that most people shied away from. Often a lot of the drama was caused by a few people focusing/fumbling to clarify the process for how things should be done or should have been done such that you didn't even recall what the source of the stir-up was about. This community always had a scapegoat. I learned that it’s important to be popular and not rub shoulders. Board members aren't expected to read the cmty policies. I can imagine that most intentional communities are a microcosm of the world. There are political issues, wealth disparity issues, just to name a few.  At about the second-year mark I found myself daydreaming and jotting down notes for a central-leader community that would be better. After a lot of thought I realized I didn't know anyone who would be willing to join my idea of community. Most importantly I found it an extreme challenge to successfully manage a community without resentments and have abandoned my concept. Around the same time, I read a few books about ecovillages and community living because I still had hope for improving this existing community and felt that maybe instead of leaving I was in a place where I had work to do (plus it's hard to leave when you have a mortgage in that community). I think that if I had read your book at that time, I would have arrived at a much different conclusion. I now think I was naïve and wrong to impress my values on a community founded on entirely different values. I also feel like I learned a lot about what my values were while I was there.
 
pollinator
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I really do hope you pursue publishing this Thorns book, I haven't finished it yet but I am thoroughly enjoying it!

It has come at a great time in my life. I recently listened to a Ted talk that has me beaming with ideas about how to build community on our street but we're in an awkward transition phase of building a home and consequently moving.. so I feel like the ~right~ thing to do would be to build community no matter where I am but the logical thing is to not waste my time and energy with where I'm at right now. (Especially since building a house and raising a family is a big job in of itself)

I resonate with the concept of being intentional with forming more organic communities (like with those close to you or perhaps with those you go to church with, for us church goers) Kind of along the lines of an intentional community but more focusing on the organic community that already is and being intentional about enhancing it.

Essentially, after that Ted talk I was left hungry for more content to consume for more ideas... I kind of was dreaming of a how-to manual (lol.. because building community is such a step by step process...) and your book is satisfying that hunger. :)

I also want to point out there should be plenty of other people interested in this book who are not even into permaculture (so perhaps don't include permaculture in the title...?)

One of our own Permies members started a podcast that is all about forming Christian communities. He spends a good chunk of his time interviewing existing communities... and I don't mean communities of nuns and monks (which work on a central leader model by the way) but of day to day Christian people who want to live in community just like so many Permies desire. (these tend to NOT be central leader communities)

One last thing:
I have been talking about community and diving deep into the idea and how to build community ever since I first heard of co-housing two years ago (in fact... I heard of co-housing before I even learned of permaculture... this made the jump to permaculture easy for me)
But even then my husband has just been like 'ya sounds nice' but hasn't taken too much interest in it.

But now... I had your Thorns book open on a tab on our shared computer and he just kept seeing it there for X number of days, so it got him thinking...
And now I learn that he proposed this idea of forming community with some of ~the guys~ the other day and now there is a collective excitement over it!

This book has already sparked inspiration in a non-permie in its unfinished glory!
 
pollinator
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Good read. I've enjoyed it, even if it's incomplete. I've never tried intentional community, but I've shared an appartment, and many of these stories rang true.
Now I understand how real consensus is made in our small group in the shared garden: we have a wonderful leader that listens patiently to everyone and when she speaks, everyone else agrees with her.
There's a whole section that is repeated by the end of the document, I think it's a typo. I'll look for it if you want to doubleproof it.


I think the book goes on for too long explaining why Paul is rude (a dick) sometimes to people and why he thinks he deserves to be coarse. Is the author justifiying his attitude to himself, to someone else who is less than happy with his behaviour? Just making sure new ants understand what they will face?
I accept his point, and one or two examples would have been enough to understand what he's talking about: that he has no patience with people telling him what to do, especially from people who has nothing to support their views.

As for the 'ego' discussion, I think there's a proper amount of ego. False humbleness is as bad as having too much ego. Although where I live it's considered unpolite to show the ego when it's uncalled for, there are times when you have to make a point and use it. In most of the examples of the book, there was a reason for mentioning Paul successes, usually to a person who thinks can tell Paul how to manage his stuff. (I hope I'm not that guy right now!!)
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