Don't miss the "Joke Of The Month" at the end of this article.
9 March 2011
Keeping Score Nothing More
So, my LETS philosophy is …
Don’t think of LETS points like dollars. Think of them as favours. LETS Favours.
It was easy for me to accept this attitude because my first contact with LETS members, at the NM LETS Get-Together, presented them in the same way. They were offering their services to me without any hint of obligating me to give back to them. Then, when Robert cycled all the way to my home – maybe over an hour’s ride! – and gave me a massage that lasted for two long and extremely relaxing hours, I felt he was doing it in the same caring way. I didn’t ask for a two-hour massage, but Robert noticed my muscles were very tight – due to stress – and needed additional massage, so he did what was best for me. And when I volunteered to design the newsletter for C&D LETS, whenever I was stumped and needed help, it was given to me at once and without hesitation.
I am very similar to most people so I am sure I would be hesitant to “give” if I felt the LETS members were trying to take advantage of me. It is human nature to treat people as they treat you, so when LETS members gave to me unselfishly, I gave back to them in the same way. This is the LETS attitude I tried to instill on every LETS member I came in contact with ever since.
So what is a LETS point to me?
Let me start by saying that the generally accepted view by all LETS people is that a LETS point is not cash, or federal currency, and I agree. However, I do not feel comfortable viewing LETS points as an alternative currency with an equivalent value in cash. I prefer to interpret LETS points as being like LETS favours. That has always made trading more enjoyable for me. I love doing favours for members and they show genuine appreciation for the favour – in LETS points. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I view LETS more like a voluntary self-help group where like-minded people in a local community give their time and experience to help their fellow members and feel welcomed to ask for the same in return … just as they would from family and friends.
But rather than do all this helping without any recording at all, keeping LETS accounts allows the group to keep track of the members’ activities so they can balance their trading activities fairly, knowing that once their accounts are back to zero, they have given to the group just as much as they have received. Basically, it’s just a matter of keeping score and nothing more. This is how I like to explain LETS accounts to new members:
The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for their members' activities; keeping record of these ‘favours’ and putting the members' accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account that is in credit identifies a member who has given more favours than he has received, and an account that is in debit identifies a member who has received more favours than he has given. These credits have no value and cannot be exchanged for cash. Their only purpose is to keep track of each member’s involvement in the group so they can aim to bring their accounts back to zero – a sign of fair and equitable participation in the system.
The presentation I gave to LETS groups around the world was aptly titled …
I noticed the biggest impact I had on an audience was when they grasped the LETS Favours concept. That mind-shift produced a couple of results I am very proud of: an immediate increase in membership – half the guests in the audience joined on the same night – and an increase in trading for the following month (usually about thirty percent). The type of feedback I received from audience members, especially from inactive members was, “I feel much happier about trading if I think I’ll be helping people”. So, it seemed that members would rather trade when they thought of LETS points as ‘favours’ rather than ‘money’.
I also found that focusing on helping members built a community-spirit within the group, and placed a friendlier tone on each trade. That motivated me much more than being profit-motivated. As far as I was concerned, LETS points did not have any monetary value. They simply represented the value of appreciation shown by the member who had been assisted.
The LETS members I helped over the years knew I was not obligated to help them. Trading through LETS was never compulsory; it was always – and still is – optional. The members were grateful to get my help; in fact, any help. It was obvious just how appreciative they were because when I performed tiring services for members – such as lawn mowing, painting and rubbish removals – they always offered me snacks and drinks. They never even complained if my work was not ‘spot on’. Why would they? Would you complain to your neighbour if he agreed to help you with some tedious chore? Wouldn’t you just be grateful that he agreed to be there and help you as best he could? That was how a community-spirit was built within the group. That was how trading became a friendlier and more enjoyable activity. And that was how I saw LETS: a voluntary self-help group of members who were willing to help each other in times of need.
Here is a detailed example of the caring and sharing that took place with my LETS hosts while I was travelling overseas …
In March 2004, Kit, my LETS host in Kitchener (Ontario, Canada) asked, “Can you paint a room for me?”
Now, you had to keep that request in perspective.
My stay in Kitchener was originally supposed to be for only one week: January 11-18. Nine-and-a-half weeks later, however, I was still there! Apart from a couple of weeks spent in Welland, Brantford, Montreal, Granby, Ottawa and Toronto, I spent the rest of my time in Kitchener … and it looked like I would be there for another seven weeks, making it a total of over three months!
Now I was not in the habit of staying in the same place for such a long time; my average stay with a host was about a week. But things just turned out that way when my plans to visit South America fell through a couple of months earlier.
Not only that, but Kit also organised: two performances of my play, The Glory of Athens; three speaking engagements with local Toastmasters groups; a Murder-Mystery night; a winter camping weekend with thirty-seven other crazy Canadians; a visit to an Emu farm; a lift to Montreal, which was a six-hour drive; two lifts to Toronto and back (an hour each way); a cross-country skiing trip; and an ice-hockey game … plus my day-to-day needs, as was originally requested when I first made contact with KW Barterworks, the LETS group Kit belonged to.
My commitment to the LETS group, and their commitment to me, ended after my first week, so all those extras had been provided by Kit.
When the visits to the South American countries had to be cancelled, Kit immediately offered to host me a while longer, because I was the ideal travel guest!
Here’s why: I washed the dishes every day; I regularly shovelled snow from the paths and driveway around the house; I registered a domain name for Kit’s business web site; I also provided the web hosting; I gave web page design tuition; and I was good company to have around, always having something positive to say.
The more I did for my host, the more my host did for me. It was all about caring and sharing, and having said that, I wasn’t going to paint a room … I was going to paint the whole freakin' ground floor! That was four rooms and a staircase, which meant stripping paint off all the woodwork – doors, windows, skirting boards, and staircase; filling in cracks in the plaster; then painting the ceilings and floors.
Why wouldn’t I?
On my travels, there were many times when I had ‘given more’ or ‘received more’ than our original agreement had stipulated. To be quite honest, I found my hosts exceeded their obligations on almost every single occasion. Here are a few examples I recall from my European and African LETS Speaking Tour in 2002:
In England, I had use of a bicycle for a week and repaid the favour by doing a few hours of house renovating for another member.
Also in England, I cleaned a kitchen, bathroom and toilet. I got no extras in return, but I knew my host was expecting a visitor for the next couple of days, and because he was working all day, he wouldn’t have enough time to clean those rooms himself. So I did it for him, and when he got home he couldn’t believe his eyes!
In Spain, I washed the dishes one morning while my hosts were sleeping in. I just wanted to be helpful.
In Norway, I was given a Polynesian Massage and repaid the favour by helping out in a couple of ways before I left. [details Chapter 3]
In South Africa, I got my first taste of working my butt off for LETS. I was giving up to three LETS presentations each day for four days, and by the fifth day I lost my voice!
As you can see, we just helped each other out whenever possible. But I digress, so back to painting those four rooms for Kit …
When was the last time you stripped? … paint, that is.
Well, I only allowed two days for paint stripping. Meanwhile, six days later I was still stripping!
I had a couple of agonising days sanding the woodwork to a neat finish. Why agonising? Because I did not use sandpaper; I used steel wool soaked in mineral turpentine. Very soon I found that applying pressure with my thumbs gave the best results. Unfortunately, it made them ache so much that I could not snap my fingers for six days! Just as well I was not performing my play during that period because when I played the role of Archimedes, snapping my fingers was an essential part of my act!
[Details about my play, The Glory of Athens, can be found on www.The GloryOfAthens.com]
What started out as a simple weekend paint job, turned out to be a self-inflicted sentence lasting about three weeks. The results, however, were very worthwhile and I never regretted it for a moment.
How did I go about my work? In a very organised fashion … just like everything else I did.
Here is how long it took:
That completed three rooms of painting before I had to leave on my Ottawa LETS trip. However, on my return I completed the job by painting the kitchen as well.
That took another:
A grand total of twenty days!
But what a great job! I was very neat and considerate, cleaning up after myself at the end of each day. In fact, it was very reassuring to know that if I ever ran out of audiences to speak to, and web sites to design, I could always offer to renovate houses!
JOKE OF THE MONTH
By the time the soldier pulled into the little town, every hotel room was taken.
"You've got to have a room somewhere", he pleaded with a proprietor. "Well, I do have a double room with one occupant, but he is an Air Force guy" admitted the manager, and he might be glad to split the cost. But to tell you the truth, he snores so loudly that people in adjoining rooms have complained in the past. I'm not sure it'd be worth it to you.
" No problem." the tired Army guy assured him, "I'll take it." The next morning the soldier came down to breakfasts bright-eyed and bushy tailed. "How'd you sleep?" asked the manager. "Never better", said the soldier. The manager was impressed. "No problem with the other guy snoring all night long?" "No, I shut him up in no time", explained the soldier.
"How'd you manage that?" asked the proprietor.
"Well, he was already in bed, snoring away, when I walked into the room, so I gave him a kiss on the cheek" explained the soldier. “Then, I whispered in his ear 'Good night beautiful', and he sat up all night watching me."
linkup to local community exchange groups worldwide!
For More Information About LETS ...
James Taris' LETS Presentations/Articles
Your LETS Image
A very sad accident happened to Bosse. Maybe you know already? He is dead, drowned in his well. Since you met him he had moved to another place in the middle of Sweden. I am so sorry for him. He was a fabulous guy and during a few years we had very close contact and cooperated in money matters.
Love and respect to you and your work!
from 400-Day LETS Odyssey)
BO OF BRANNO
Viktor, my LETS host in Goteborg (Gothenburg) had arranged a trip to Branno Island with Melina (a LETS researcher from Italy), her boyfriend Eli, and Eli’s parents, Aldo and Marina, who’d only just arrived to Goteborg the day before. But they were late getting to the port and missed the ferry by only a minute or two. Viktor and I got on board because it would be another 2 hours before the next ferry, and we had an important person waiting to meet us.
Bo Ljungqvist (pronounced Bor Lioongvist) is a very lean man, about 58 years old, and looks like a hermit. But he’s an ideologist concerned about world problems … trying to solve problems that are called ‘normality’.
Bo lives on Branno, an island inhabited by only 800 people, which is only a short 10-minute ferry ride from Goteborg, Sweden’s second largest city (situated on the east coast). Up to 3 years ago this island was out-of-bounds to foreigners because of ‘sensitive military issues’. And this coming from a country that has not been at war for nearly 2 centuries! Though their historically neutral military status had to change recently when they joined the European Union.
Anyway, Bo has lived on Branno for 30 years and relishes his natural lifestyle. First of all, cars aren’t allowed on the island so he walks or bike’s his way around. And his house is an ecological project that he works on relentlessly.
Bo was a Human Ecology university lecturer for 15 years and he’s put much of this expertise into practise. He has a large glasshouse butting on to the back of his house and apart from providing an endless supply of fresh vegetables it also helps keep the heat and cold from getting into the house. I admired the tomatoes as soon as I saw them.
“Help yourself,” he said. The tomato was delicious!
Above the glasshouse, Bo had covered the entire wall with solar panels. You could see his handy-work everywhere. In fact, you could even see his workshop … in the lounge room!
“Most people don’t like that I have my workbench in here, but I can’t be without my tools,” he said.
... one of the most interesting LETS characters I've met.
I smiled as he wandered from the table to wash his hands in a nearby bucket that still had rainwater in it. And I followed suit shortly afterwards. A lush green reed plant, over 2 metres tall, grew nearby.
“I didn’t think it would do so well,” he said, “but it’s growing beautifully. It’s wild you know.”
The crowing of a neighbour’s rooster was constantly interrupting our conversation.
“I thought roosters only crowed in the mornings,” I said, and I made a gesture implying that I’d like to shoot it.
Then as I turned, I saw a wire enclosure only metres away from me with a lone black rooster in it. “Oops!” I said, “Didn’t know it was your rooster.”
“He crows all the time”, Bo said. “The other rooster you hear is across the street, and has 5 hens. So mine is probably just jealous. I suppose I should get him a hen.”
A visit to the bathroom was an ecological experience.
“As long as you sit down, everything will go in the right place,” he said.
On close inspection I found that a metal ‘funnel’ was positioned to catch the urine and direct it into a different container to that of the ‘heavy’ stuff. So in this way he was able to recycle the human waste most efficiently.
By the end of the day we had quite a gathering in Bo’s backyard, with a couple of neighbours joining us for a chat over coffee.
But the day’s classic line went to Eli’s mum, Marina, after I mentioned that in China I insisted on being photographed with a large toad and snake before I ate them.
She couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and with a big smile she said, “Then it’s dangerous to be photographed with you!”
BO ... (November 24, 2003)
> Hello James, I am glad and proud to tell that our system Brännö Bytesring Sweden with approx 30 members is now in operation again. All the best from, Bosse - accounter and ex-co-ordinator.
A word from James Taris
4 Oct 2010
committee is only as good as the most knowledgeable, determined and
vigorous person on it."
THE 10 COMMITTEE ROLES
The most successful administration system we had, in the LETS groups I was involved with, was the 10-committee-roles system … where ten members were voted into specific committee roles by the LETS membership. By giving the committee members specific roles, and giving them the authority to perform their duties ‘to the best of their abilities’, the administration of the group got the freedom it needed to advance in leaps and bounds. Why? Because, rather than trying to run the group by bringing items for discussion to a once-a-month committee meeting, decisions could be made by individual committee members responsible for their specific roles at any time of the day, or day of the month. They carried out their activities with more enthusiasm, accepting praise for a job well-done and taking personal responsibility for jobs not-so-well-done.
Here are the committee roles that were allocated in the LETS groups I was associated with – along with their duties:
Over the years I noticed that the success of a LETS group, just like any other organisation, was usually the result of good leadership, that is, having a good Group Co-ordinator. What was our Group Co-ordinator supposed to do? … NOTHING! Now that I have your attention, let me explain what I mean by ‘nothing’.
The most common reason for a new LETS group ‘dying’ was the reluctance for members to replace a retiring Group Co-ordinator. And why would they want to?
The typical profile of a LETS Group Co-ordinator for a newly formed group was like this:
a passion for LETS;
So, one day they would get out of bed and say, “Gee, that was a stupid thing to do. I was so comfortable in bed. I don’t really need this LETS headache any more. Nobody helps me, nobody cares, and I don’t get any thanks for it. And guess what … I don’t care any more either,” and they would go straight back to bed again, getting the best sleep they had had since they started their LETS group … their LETS ‘baby’.
Of course, when a replacement Group Co-ordinator was sought, the response was always the same.
“Are you kidding? Jill looked great before she started LETS. In the last twelve months she’s aged ten years! Her hair wasn’t always grey, you know.”
“I could never do what Jill did. She produced the newsletter, and the directory; she arranged all the group’s promotions; she handled all the membership enquiries and organised the LETS events; she kept all the member trading accounts, and goodness knows what else she did.”
Yes, Jill had suffered from burnout, a very common problem affecting overworked, and overwhelmed, people in the workforce, businesses and organisations.
To avoid this happening in our LETS groups, I made several recommendations:
of all, the Group Co-ordinator should to do NOTHING! That is, NOTHING
ELSE but co-ordinate, or oversee, the activities of the other committee
members. By sharing the workload with nine other committee members,
nobody would ever get overwhelmed again, thus ensuring the survival
and growth of the LETS group. In fact, because each committee role was
reduced to only a small time commitment, whenever that role became vacant
it was not hard to find another member to replace them. Actually, the
best, and an often overlooked source for new committee members, were
the new LETS members. They were keen about LETS and could earn LETS
points while performing their new role.
All the roles automatically became vacant at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) – held each year. That allowed members to elect their preferred member for each role, though I cannot remember that ever being necessary. Most members were just happy to see a position filled. In fact, once a member had accepted a nomination they were virtually assured of getting the position. The reality was that several committee positions usually remained unfilled after the AGM. That was not seen as a problem, though. We just continued to advertise the vacant committee role in our monthly newsletter until it was finally filled. In the interim, the vacant roles were temporarily filled by the other committee members. Not jointly, but by several committee members taking on a second role.
So, back to the Group Co-ordinator’s role …
Apart from chairing a monthly committee meeting, the Group Co-ordinator was only required to keep in contact with each of the committee members to ensure they were able to fulfill their duties. That was it!
HOW TO RUN LETS MEETINGS
regular and productive LETS Committee Meetings is a crucial part of
running any LETS group. Here are a couple of tips on how we ran our
As each committee member was totally responsible for their own role, they decided which suggestions to accept … if any at all (although suggestions were usually greatly appreciated and accepted). Rather than being a recipe for chaos, it worked quite smoothly, avoiding many debates and clashes (typical meeting scenarios).
We did not worry about having a quorum in order to make committee decisions. As far as we were concerned, even if only two members turned up, all interested parties were present and would therefore make any group decisions that did not impose on any committee member’s role. We felt that was a much better scenario than putting off decision-making for months on end if we could not get a quorum at our meetings.
2) We held our committee meetings at the same location as our LETS events, but they were held an hour earlier. There were several benefits from dong this. Firstly, it guaranteed we would have several more members at our events … us! Secondly, it guaranteed that the venue for our LETS event would be open and members would not be kept waiting outside if ‘the person with the key’ was running late. Thirdly, it guaranteed that more new memberships would be obtained because guests would be greeted at the event by a committee member and encouraged to join.
JOKE OF THE MONTH BONANZA !!!
These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go on a road trip and party with some friends from out of town. They had a great time. However, after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back home until early Monday morning.
Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it.
They explained that they had gone to visit friends for the weekend with the plan to come back and study but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.
The Professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved.
They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.
They looked at the first problem, worth 5 points. It was "List the reason why you were unable to take the test yesterday". (5 points).
"Cool," they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room. "This is going to be easy."
Each finished the problem and then turned the page. On the second page was written:
(For 95 points): "Which tire?"
A monkey is sitting in a tree smoking a joint when a lizard walks past and looks up and says to the monkey, "Hey! What are you doing?"
The monkey says, "Smoking a joint, come up and have some."
So the lizard climbs up and sits next to the monkey and they have a few tokes together.
After a while the lizard says his mouth is 'dry' and that he's going to get a drink from the river.
The lizard climbs down the tree, ditty bops on thru the jungle to the river and leans over the river to get his drink.
Well, the lizard is so stoned that he leans too far over and falls into the river.
A Crocodile sees this and swims over to the lizard and helps him to the side, then asks the lizard, "What's the matter with you?"
The lizard explains to the crocodile that he was sitting in a tree and smoking a joint with the monkey and got too stoned and then fell into the river while taking a drink.
The crocodile says he's gotta check this hippie monkey out and walks off into the jungle where he finds the tree where the monkey is still sitting and toking on the joint.
He looks up and says "hey you!"
The Monkey looks down and says, "ffuuucccckkkk dude.............how much water did you drink?!!"
A minister dies and is waiting in line at the Pearly Gates. Ahead of him is a guy who's dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans.
Saint Peter addresses this guy, "Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?"
The guy replies, "I'm Joe Cohen, taxi-driver, of Noo Yawk City."
Saint Peter consults his list. He smiles and says to the taxi-driver, "Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
The taxi-driver goes into Heaven with his robe and staff, and it's the minister's turn. He stands erect and booms out, "I am Joseph Snow, pastor of Saint Mary's for the last forty-three years."
Saint Peter consults his list. He says to the minister, "Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Just a minute," says the minister. "That man was a taxi-driver and he gets a silken robe and golden staff. How can this be?"
"Up here, we work by results," says Saint Peter. "While you preached, people slept; while he drove, people prayed."
One day an Irishman, who has been stranded on a desert island for over ten long years, sees an unusual speck on the horizon.
"It's certainly not a ship," he thinks to himself. As the speck gets closer and closer, he begins to rule out the possibilities of a small boat, then even a raft.
Suddenly, emerging from the surf comes a drop dead gorgeous blonde woman wearing a wet suit and scuba gear.
She approaches the stunned man and says to him, "Tell me how long has it been since you've had a cigarette?"
"Ten years," replies the Irishman.
With that, she reaches over and unzips a waterproof pocket on her left sleeve and pulls out a pack of fresh cigarettes. He takes one, lights it, takes a long drag and says, "Faith and begorah! Is that good!"
"And how long has it been since you've had a sip of good Irish Whiskey?" she asks him.
Trembling, the castaway replies, "Ten years."
She reaches over, unzips her right sleeve, pulls out a flask and hands it to him. He opens the flask, takes a long swig and says, "Tis absolutely fantastic!"
At this point she starts slowly unzipping the long zipper that runs down the front of her wet suit, looks at the man and asks, "And how long has it been since you've played around?"
With tears in his eyes, the man falls to his knees and sobs, "Oh, Sweet Jesus! Don't tell me you've got golf clubs in there too."
A woman was out golfing one day when she hit her ball into the woods. She went into the woods to look for it and found a frog in a trap. The frog said to her, "If you release me from this trap, I will grant you 3 wishes."
The woman freed the frog and the frog said, "Thank you, but I failed to mention that there was a condition to your wishes - that whatever you wish for, your husband will get 10 times more or better!"
The woman said, "That would be okay," and for her first wish, she wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the world. The frog warned her, "You do realize that this wish will also make your husband the most handsome man in the world, an Adonis, that women will flock to."
The woman replied, "That will be okay because I will be the most beautiful woman and he will only have eyes for me." So, KAZAM - she's the most beautiful woman in the world!
For her second wish, she! wanted to be the richest woman in the world. The frog said, "That will make your husband the richest man in the world and he will be ten times richer than you." The woman said, "That will be okay because what is mine is his and what is his is mine." So, KAZAM she's the richest woman in the world! The frog then inquired about her third wish, and she replied......
"I'd like a mild heart attack."
John was sitting outside his local pub one day, enjoying a quiet pint and generally feeling good about himself, when a nun suddenly appears at his table and starts decrying the evils of drink.
"You should be ashamed of yourself young man! Drinking is a Sin! Alcohol is the blood of the devil!"
Now John gets pretty annoyed about this, and goes on the offensive.
"How do you know this, Sister?"
"My Mother Superior told me so."
"But have you ever had a drink yourself? How can you be sure that what you are saying is right?"
"Don't be ridiculous--of course I have never taken alcohol myself"
"Then let me buy you a drink - if you still believe afterwards that it is evil I will give up drink for life"
"How could I, a Nun, sit outside this public house drinking?!"
"I'll get the barman to put it in a teacup for you, then no one will ever know."
The Nun reluctantly agrees, so John goes inside to the bar.
"Another pint for me, and a triple vodka on the rocks", then he lowers his voice and says to the barman "and could you put the vodka in a teacup?"
"Oh no! It's not that Nun again is it?"
After 17 years of marriage, a man dumped his wife for a younger woman.
The house was in his name and he wanted to remain there with his new love so he asked the wife to move out and then he would buy her another place.
The wife agreed to this, but asked that she be given 3 days on her own there, to pack up her things.
While he was gone, the first day she lovingly put her personal belongings into boxes and crates and suitcases.
On the second day, she had the movers come and collect her things.
On the third day, she sat down for the last time at their candlelit dining table, soft music playing in the background, and feasted on a pound of shrimp and a bottle of Chardonnay.
When she had finished, she went into each room and deposited a few of the resulting shrimp shells into the hollow of the curtain rods. She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.
The husband came back, with his new girl, and all was bliss for the first few days. Then it started; slowly but surely.
Clueless, the man could not explain why the place smelled so bad. They tried everything; cleaned & mopped and aired the place out. Vents were checked for dead rodents, carpets were steam cleaned, air fresheners were hung everywhere. Exterminators were brought in, the carpets were replaced, and on it went.
Finally, they could take it no more and decided to move.
The moving company arrived and did a very professional packing job, taking everything to their new home ... including the curtain rods.
8 Dec 2009
me, 2009 will be the year I made a feature-length movie, Everything
is Possible, without any money ...
At this stage the first edit is … CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
site is designed and maintained by James Taris.
Please send corrections or updates to JamesTaris@gmail.com
James Taris web sites