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

Don't Be Where The Blow Lands

Andretti Winery, Oak Knoll Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

October 9, 2016

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." ... Confucius

This essay, Don't Be Where The Blow Lands, is the companion piece to Walking Out Of My Overcoat.

I am indebted to Scott Palangi who inspired this conversation.

It's arguably the  underlying principle of all schools of self-defense. It's also arguably the underlying principle of all forms of the martial arts: don't be where the blow lands. It's what self-defense and the martial arts come down to. It's what you learn in self-defense class. It's the goal of all martial artists' training: don't be where the blow lands. Even more subtly, "Don't be where the blow lands" can be applied to any  potentially reactivating exchange or confrontation in life, as "Don't be  where the blow lands.". I've italicized the "be"  for emphasis. Speak it that way. You'll get it.


It's a given that the moment you get drawn in to meet the attack, you're in trouble.


A friend called me. She was in tears. The sadness in her voice conveyed to me she was hurting. She told me she was being bullied via social media - cyber-bullied if you will. Having nothing pressing planned for the evening, I invited her over for a cup of tea, company, and conversation ie all the three "c"-s which cure a multitude of ills. She showed up about half an hour later. We sat on my garden chairs outside the Cowboy Cottage on the perimeter of the cattle pasture, a bag of carrots at our feet in case the horses also showed up for a visit, sipping mugs of freshly brewed South African Rooibos  tea ("rooi"  is the Afrikaans  language word for "red"; "bos"  means "bush"). Having calmed down and no longer upset, she began telling me what happened between sips.

She works as a self-employed independent contractor. One day a week ago, she dropped in on (ie cold called)  one of her clients whose office she happened to be driving by. She had a gift for the client in her car. She'd been intending to mail it. Now, being in the area, she decided to deliver it and to express her gratitude for their business relationship in person. It was a seemingly innocuous idea. But oh boy! That's not the way this unexpectedly turned out.

Her client was rude, truculent, and abrasive, saying it was the height of un-professionalism to drop in without an appointment. Hurt, and yet maintaining her calm, she apologized for showing up without an appointment (it was clear it didn't work for her client), then left, thinking the unfortunate affair, while uncomfortable, was over. It was far  from over. During a routine appointment with another of her clients later in the week, that client took her aside, saying "I think you should see this", then showed her a page from a popular social media website on his smartphone.

She read it, and blanched. On it was a post from the client to whom she'd taken the gift. It shredded her professionalism, her business savvy, even her common sense. It appeared on nearly a hundred social media "walls" of businesses in the same genre as hers. It was cruel, over-reaching, and unnecessary. Even though anyone who read it would most likely question the poster rather than her, it was nonetheless unkind and hurtful regardless  of the fact she'd already apologized (a fact the toxic post didn't mention). Many who received the post subsequently responded to her privately saying they support her and stand by what she does for them and aren't swayed by this totally out of line and off the wall  (no pun intended) post which embarrassed them by including them in its distribution list. Yet it was, after all, now out there in cyber-space, marking her (so to speak) forever. The client who showed it to her stood silently as she read it, then said "I think it's crazy. But many people will read it. So I thought you ought to know about it.". She agreed, thanked him for bringing it to her attention, and shook his hand. Her eyes brimmed with tears.

I didn't speak for a bit. I wanted her to be clear I got it. Then when I sensed her silently implied "Well?  ...", I said "Don't be  where the blow lands" (it's something Werner once said to me, with powerful  effect) - deadpan, totally monosyllabic, emphasizing "be". She replied (naturally enough) "What do you mean  Laurence?".

The first thing I asked her to consider (I mean to really let in)  is that given the mischief it tried to make, the post clearly didn't mean a lot to, have much sway over, or make any difference with the people who read it. If anything, it may even have backfired, instead raising issues about the appropriateness of the poster, while saying really nothing about my friend which could change her clients' already good impressions of her. Then I asked her to consider the possibility that the reception she got when she cold-called her client with her gift, had nothing to do with her whatsoever. What if her client just went off  at her (so to speak) given an upset that had occurred before she even got there with which she had nothing to do? ie what if she just happened to arrive when it started raining  (so to speak), and her client's outburst was (unbeknownst to her) brought on by the rain? Now that's always a tough one to get because we're so attached to people liking us and thinking well of us. But isn't it the truth that people like us, or they don't?  and they think whatever they think about us, or they don't?  regardless of what we're attached to, or not?

Then I asked her to consider how much of her distress was caused by her. I first explained I'm neither blaming her nor painting her as a victim. Rather I suggested she reacted to the post in a way which, given her other clients' near total support of her, may have made her experience much worse than it needed to be. I asked her to consider that what her cold-called client did doesn't mean anything, and that she wasn't obligated to have any particular reaction. That's when I again suggested the possibility of taking the martial arts stand, and simply don't be  where the blow lands. I've italicized the "be"  for emphasis. Speak it that way. You'll get it.

Be careful. It's an analogy for a way of being. And all analogies are iffy  at best. Ultimately they all  fail. Worse, "Don't be where the blow lands" is not the usual thing to say in a situation like this when cyber-bullying and sympathy are supposed to chase each other around the mulberry bush in equal concentrations. It's certainly not business as usual  to suggest the best action to take is don't be where the blow lands, when the natural reaction to being wronged is getting revenge and hitting back. But the trouble with those approaches is getting revenge and hitting back keep the incident in existence. That's all I said. Then I sipped my Rooibos tea, and waited.

At first she didn't say anything when I stopped speaking. Yet I could tell (ie I knew)  she was getting it. As she simply considered it as a possibility, space was opening up for her to better allow the entire incident to disappear into the past. The color had come back into her cheeks. The warmth had returned around her eyes which I found endearing. All she did was nod slowly. Then she repeated a few times, as if trying it on for size, "Don't be  where the blow lands, don't be  where the blow lands.". And then  ... she laughed out loud (which I interpreted to mean she'd rediscovered her source of power). "That's very cool Laurence, very  cool" she smiled.

Then she threw her head back and laughed some more.

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