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

From Stick Figures To IMAX 3D

Napa Valley, California, USA

March 3, 2012

This essay, From Stick Figures To IMAX 3D, is the third in a septology about my son Christian:
  1. In The Face Of Commitment
  2. Like Father
  3. From Stick Figures To IMAX 3D
  4. To Get Out Of A Rut, Be  In The Rut
  5. Christian Rocks!
  6. You'll Hear The Rumble
  7. Talk About It
in that order.

I am indebted to my son Christian Laurence Platt and to Lancelot Hogben who inspired this conversation.

In these United States, is the cost of a university education daunting? Tell me about it! 

The day after my son Christian was born, I started a college fund to pay his university tuition. It comprised a portfolio of four carefully chosen, consistently strong performing mutual funds. Whenever I deposited income to my own bank account, I routed 10% to his college fund. Whenever anyone, family or friends, gave Christian monetary gifts, I matched them, doubling the amount for his college fund. So it went for the next seventeen years.

Now, although well intentioned, the truth is throughout those seventeen years, I always knew  I wouldn't make it. No matter how much I put away, I had it that the amount he would need was unreachable, too much, Yet I diligently kept going, setting aside 10% of my income, matching monetary gifts, for seventeen years ... and all the while, I knew it couldn't be done. I knew it wouldn't work. It was an odd state of affairs - to say the least.

Eventually the time came to send our first payment to UC Santa Barbara, Christian's college of choice. I sit down to assess the complete state of his college fund portfolio. I can't believe what I'm seeing. I'm stunned  into silence. Then I let out a shout of joy and unbridled relief. There's more than enough!  There's enough to cover his university tuition and more, substantially more, even enough to start his life after  college. Seventeen years of living with a sense of inability to reach this impossible financial goal (or, said more rigorously, seventeen years of erroneously believing  I'm unable to reach this financial goal) is over. Christian is going to college, fully funded and paid for, with money to spare. It's a triumph for me - just as it is for Christian when I share it with him.

Last week something happened for Christian which was a triumph for him - just as it was for me when he shared it with me, What happened was Christian discovered his life  - I mean his awesome  life, his magnificent  life, his powerful  life along with all its potential. He discovered the totality  of his life like a possibility. It moved him to tears. And when he shared it with me, it moved me to tears also.

For two years, he's been studying engineering. He's done very well at it, especially given the subject's abstracts and complexity. Then two things happened: one, he took a job in a pizza restaurant and was quickly promoted to junior manager (no surprise there ...) which gave him hands on  experience running a business. And two, as part of another program he's registered in, he attended a weekend course which focused on business and finance. It's during this weekend that he has his epiphany.

What he realizes (which he shares breathlessly with me) is how much he loves business and finance. He was getting great grades in engineering. But engineering isn't what he loves!  He registered in engineering largely because of the encouragement of others. Yet in his heart, he always knew it isn't what he loves. In the weekend business and finance course, what he gets  is he loves business and finance. He wants to start his own business not out of need  but out of love for the genre.

Christian didn't simply spent his college fund on his education. Even if he only  did that, I would be totally fine with it. After all, that's what I created it for. No, my son Christian rode  his college fund for all he's worth, into the pivotal fulcrum of his own life. My son didn't merely spend the money. He used  it to get something of inestimable  value for himself. At the tender age of nineteen, what he got of inestimable value for himself was his own life like a possibility.

It's all I can do to not  interrupt him with congratulations as he shares his heart out, how excited he is, how his life's direction has irrevocably altered given what he's seen, how he's discovered what he loves to do (ie what he really  loves to do), how he's discovered a life he loves. The excitement in his voice is resonant, palpable, and deeply authentic. Eventually I get a word in edgeways. I say "Christian, I can tell how much you like this new direction you've taken.". He pauses for a moment, then he says "No Dad, I love  this new direction. This is what I want to do with my life.".

It's a moment many people two and three times his age will never experience.

I say "I love you my son. You just shifted your perspective on your life from stick figures to IMAX 3D.".

He's changed his major from engineering to business and finance. It's very timely. All the credits he's gained toward engineering will count toward business and finance. He's lost no credits and he's lost no time. It's a switch which is right for him and which obviously works. Along with the shift from engineering to business and finance, he's also gotten a vision for his future family:  he wants to start now  providing for his as yet unborn children. It's riveting and startling to hear this from one so young and yet so suddenly and so absolutely clear about his future. Actually that doesn't really tell the truth about him. The truth is it isn't his future he's clear about. The truth is he's clear about the future he's creating. Or, said more rigorously, the truth is he's clear about living into a future of his own creation, and he's completely inspired by it.

He could have simply not rocked the boat and lived out his college career as an engineering student. He could have simply stuck with the status quo. But instead, my son created a future for himself in which he's now fully invested, based on what he loves doing.

This is the genesis of a new realm of possibility for Christian - and for me, and for us, my son and I. This new realm of possibility marks the end of him experiencing his life (and of him and I experiencing our relationship) like stick figures, and the start of us experiencing them like IMAX 3D.

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