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
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California, USA
May 4, 2010
"No man is an island, entire of itself."
... John Donne
Whenever I'm operating solo, whenever I find myself being the lone
gun, it's great. It's really great. No kidding! I get a
lot done in this mode. But it's never for long. On
it always comes back pretty soon to being with people. The myth of
total, absolute independence is easily pierced. Imagine an ocean with
only one wave. Get the picture?
I worked solo with a company once. I contracted with them providing a
service. What I provided worked - brilliantly, in fact (even if I may
say it myself). I delivered what I was hired to do, over and beyond the
call of duty. They got their
worth. Many times over. For a while, everything was sweet.
And then something happened. The details of what happened aren't
essential. Sharing them in a public forum like this wouldn't only be a
betrayal of trust: it would just be
In essence, something which once worked, something which the company
was well known for providing, started failing. And when it started
failing, it all went downhill from there very quickly.
Nobody expected it to happen. No one expected this company to suddenly
start failing to provide what prior to then they'd been considered to
be the experts in the field at providing.
I know why they were failing. They'd become complacent. And yet knowing
why they were failing wasn't useful. It contributed
nothing. If I'm contracting for them and they are failing,
I'm impacted even though it's not my company, and so
what I know why? What became unavoidably clear to me is this:
if their side of the canoe tips over, I'm in the river
That's when I saw it: I'd become complacent too. It wasn't just
them, the experts in the field, who'd stopped generating their
livelihood assuming their prowess in the area assured
future business. It was I who had become comfortable, secure in
the contract, certain the contract needed me which assured me my tenure
would last. This comfortableness brought with it its own complacency.
My complacency had ceded responsibility for generating my life (or at
least for generating my financial life) away from me. When
watching the possible ramifications of this became uncomfortable, I
noticed my wheels of blame started spinning ie there was no
traction any more in my story calling out the company for
becoming complacent. And before I got that, there I was: pointing my
finger at their complacency. I saw not only was I finger
pointing, but I was being petty finger pointing.
Looking at what works, the moment I took responsibility for my own
financial well being even though there was ample
opportunity to plausibly blame something else or someone else for the
company's already begun demise, I was suddenly
into a position of being empowered to make a real difference with the
company for the first time. Until then, all I'd done was provide a
service which was wanted and needed (and paid for). But from that
moment on, I was in a position to really make a difference, something
which simply wasn't available before, something which wasn't even on
the horizon before, something which wasn't possible until
I'd taken responsibility for my own complacency.
"That's interesting ..." I mused, watching the
whole dynamic gradually unfolding then clearing up in the space created
by taking responsibility.
Once I could be responsible for how I was being with the company, only
then could I make a difference with the company. At first, I couldn't
see where I could make a difference. I was just a
contractor with the company. I had no decision making authority. At
first, I couldn't see anything I could do which would make
any difference at all.
Then I started being the possibility of the company
getting its complacency wasn't working ie I started being the
possibility of the company working. I never really figured out anything
to say to them either, although clearly I did say
something. Whatever I said, coming from being the possibility of the
company working, worked. And that's a very subtle
distinction right there: it wasn't what I said, whatever I
said, which ultimately made a difference - it was whatever I said
coming from being the possibility of the company working
which made the difference.
I said (only to myself at first) "I'm being the possibility of the
company working.". It's an assertion. It's a declaration you make. It's
a stand you take. It's not necessarily something you
do. It may not even necessarily be something you say out loud to
others, although you may. I know you can grok what
being it is (as Robert Heinlein may have said).
This is the bottom line: the company stopped being complacent. They got
the possibility they are and they started being true to it again - even
though I'll bet my hat, ass, and overcoat they wouldn't say it in those
exact words. But they did get it. They got it by direct osmosis,
so to speak, without saying anything, without acknowledging it, from
As it turned out, this is what they really contracted me
to provide, even if they didn't quite articulate it exactly this way
when they hired me originally.