Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More




Breakfast With The Master VIII:

What People Crave

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

March 21, 2020



 "We cannot put off living until we are ready. The most salient characteristic of Life is its coerciveness: it is always urgent, here and now  without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point blank."
 ... Jose Ortega y Gasset read out loud by  
This essay, Breakfast With The Master VIII: What People Crave, is the first in the eighth trilogy Breakfast With The Master:
  1. Breakfast With The Master VIII: What People Crave
  2. Breakfast With The Master VIII II: Keep Talking
  3. Breakfast With The Master VIII III: Fearless In The Face Of Life
in that order.
The first trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Conversation With A Laser
  2. Shut Up And Do What You're Doing
  3. Secret Agent
in that order.
The second trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Health
  2. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Finances
  3. Breakfast With The Master II: Future Open
in that order.
The third trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Raw Power
  2. It Works Better As A Possibility
  3. Magic At Heart
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Breakfast With The Master IV: Parental Care
  2. Breakfast With The Master IV: Taking The Guilt Out Of It
  3. Breakfast With The Master IV: Language As Music
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Whatever Works
  2. Yesterday's Transformation
  3. Billions And Billions Of Stars
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. Breakfast With The Master VI: Doo-Wop, Coffee, And Intention
  2. Breakfast With The Master VI II: Cherish These Days
  3. Breakfast With The Master VI III: Forwarding The Fulfillment
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Breakfast With The Master is:
  1. We're Here
  2. Being A Being Coach
  3. You Already Got It
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Breakfast With The Master is the sequel to When The Whole World Speaks With One Voice.



After our first breakfast in this series eight years ago, we agreed to have breakfast together a year later. A year? One whole  year? It seemed like a long, long  time to wait. But wait I did. After our second breakfast, we agreed to have breakfast one year later again. And suddenly we fast approached our eighth breakfast in this series. That meant the one year bated-breath wait had become an eight year repeating annual calendar entry. Not only that but the eight occasions had lost all significance as to the interval between them. It's ... always ... NOW. It's not a year apart. It's we have breakfast ... now  ... and ... now  ... and ... now. However what had changed this time was the city was in lockdown. No one was going out. All breakfast diners and restaurants were closed. And then he said we won't have breakfast this year or in the foreseeable future. "Oh, no ..." was all I could muster. Undeterred, I blurted out "Can't we do a WhatsApp video call instead?". "Sure" he said without pause.

That's how I come to be sitting at my desk, smartphone balanced against laptop screen, at 6:00am one California sunrise in March, listening to the WhatsApp chimes calling him to our eighth annual "breakfast" conversation. Regardless of my history as an IBM trainer, I'm really not big on tech. We hardly know (yet) what it's doing to our children's brains. Friends tell me their children have telephone anxiety  - which means they're fine with text, Instagram, Facebook and the like, yet become anxious when they have to deal with a real, live, breathing human being in a phone conversation. Tech is costing them their humanity. That said, I'm glad we have the option to meet here in cyberspace instead - such is my musing as I wait for him to pick up, settling comfortably into my wheeled office chair, a gift from my children.

Online, our conversation gets started sooner than it ever did in the diner (no menus to peruse, no omelets or coffee to order). As always, it's fait accompli  that in this conversation, we'll talk about many things, out of which I'll generate three new Conversations For Transformation essays. And when I write whatever comes out of this, whatever we talk about will actually only be secondary. Primarily the conversations will come from the way of being present I get from him. He's my being  coach, which means that what I primarily get from him are ways of being. If he be's  in ways that have seemed out of reach for me, it's a demonstration  that being that way is a possibility for me too. So I take it on. The subjects of our conversations on the other hand, while extremely valuable for sure, are really only of secondary import.

We dive deep into what's really  disturbing for all of us during this lockdown. The absolute worst, it would seem, is our fear of death. What could be worse  than this thing that's going around, killing you? or the people you love? I share with him (he's as real on my smartphone screen as if he were sitting directly opposite me at the diner table) that for me, death is not  the problem. My whole life (and everything in it) is uncertain. It's all  up for grabs. The only  certainty for me is one day I'll die. Given that my death is inevitable anyway, dying during a lockdown isn't any different than what was inevitably going to play out anyway - it's no different ... unless I avoid confronting and being complete with my own inevitable dying  (wise men say the only thing supplements and vitamins can't ward off is dying of a ripe old age).

In response, he offers what it is about death which we don't get, that makes it a problem to us: we don't fully let in the finiteness of our lives until it's too late. That means whenever our mortality is threatened by anything other than old age, we're ill-prepared. Death (or at least contemplating death) is a great teacher. It makes everyone the same - and Oh Boy! do we ever spend our lives trying to be different! If we knew when we were going to die, we'd live from the highest, biggest part of our being, and maximize whatever time we had left. But we don't  know when we'll die. And the thing is: we don't have to wait  to live big! Really. Why wait at all?

That's an awesome idea, I reflect, looking at all the areas of my life where I don't live from the highest, biggest part of my being, cringing as I see the excuses I make for not doing so. Yet it's not death that's the problem, I conclude. No, the big problem is the unpredictability, the uncertainty, the unreliability of the circumstances - and these are extreme  circumstances. We crave  order, predictability, certainty, reliability. Suddenly, urgently, point blank, there's none. And that's a big  problem.

He reminds me that my being a leader and my effective exercise of leadership is critical in the face of these circumstances and the financial meltdown that's their natural concomitant. Sudden change (and its disruption of order, predictability, certainty, and reliability) causes people to be upset, distressed, and afraid - even more than death. And this lockdown is symptomatic of massive, almost incomprehensible  change. He recounts Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famed Antarctic explorer whose ship became surrounded by and was in imminent danger of being crushed by ice. With him and his men marooned on board, he pivoted immediately from his original mission to cross Antarctica, to bringing all of his men back home alive. He succeeded in doing so against all odds by establishing routines that gave his men order, predictability, certainty, and reliability in the face of absolute uncertainty.

"Great leaders" he says, carefully emphasizing each syllable, "transform every problem into a new opportunity.". I pause, savoring his wisdom. Then after a moment I counter-offer with "Smart people don't wait for the circumstances to provide them with order, predictability, certainty, and reliability. Rather, they generate them for themselves and for others, in midst of the self-same disordered, unpredictable, uncertain, and unreliable circumstances they're dealing with  ie in the midst of what's happening, in the midst of what's so. And by the way, that's not a Laurence original. I got it from him. I'm just giving back to him what he gave me in the first place.

Something profound opens up, and in comes a long list of things I said I would do to and in Cowboy Cottage (clean, sweep, vacuum, garden etc) if only I had time. Well guess what? The gift of this lockdown, if nothing else, is time  - and plenty of it. Suddenly I can't wait  to tackle what's on that list. Suddenly I've pivoted from being run by the circumstances, to running them. And he's looking at me, an icon on my smartphone screen, smiling. But he's not smiling at  me. It's a beatific smile coming from his very Being. He allows the unspoken silence to hang in the air. I myself am often uncomfortable in the unspoken silence between exchanges. I'm often prone to fill it with jabber, chatter ie with noise  as a distraction. Not he. He's silent. Smiling. Waiting patiently for me to say something. Anything. The next thing.



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