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


Leadership:

Thinking

Napa Valley, California, USA

October 31, 2013



"Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness." ... James Thurber

This essay, Leadership: Thinking, is the first in the quadrilogy Leadership inspired by Werner Erhard and The Leadership Course: Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological / Phenomenological Model: I am indebted to Joseph Kempin and to Sarah Thomas and to the creators of The Leadership Course and to the participants in The Leadership Course and to the graduates of The Leadership Course who inspired this conversation.




Foreword To The Leadership quadrilogy:

The four essays which comprise this Leadership quadrilogy aren't about The Leadership Course per se. Neither do they purport to authoritatively recreate any of the underlying abstracts of it or any of the specific ideas disseminated in it or any of the distinctions distinguished in it.

Rather what they are ie their raison d'etre  is they're inspired by ie each of them come from conversations with participants in The Leadership Course and with graduates of The Leadership Course who generously shared their experience of it with me.



If you ask someone for their view of things (and even if they offer it without being asked), they're likely to prefix it with the phrase "I think" as in "I think this ..." or "I think that ..." or "I think ..." whatever. This phrase "I think" is used ubiquitously, so much so that it's never questioned enough and / or never examined enough to discern that in fact it's almost always used inaccurately, and that in fact it's almost always used erroneously.

At some point in my experience ie at some point in my experience coming from listening Werner, which is to say at some point in my experience coming from paying attention  to what Werner distinguishes, I realized I don't think at all. It's more than that actually. It's I realized I've never  thought at all.

Here's the thing: no, that doesn't mean I don't have thoughts. And nor does it mean I've never had  thoughts. It just means whatever thoughts I have, I don't think them. It just means whatever thoughts I've had, I didn't think them. What it means is I'm not who thinks my thoughts. What it means is it's my thoughts which think me.

Be careful. That's not just some smart alecky talk designed to be controversial and intended to impress by sounding pseudo-intelligent. Rather, it's pretty darn close to the way we really function as human beings ie it's pretty darn close to what really happens with us when we, as we say, think. No we don't!  We don't think. Just look. Stop and look. You don't think. Thinking just happens. You have  thoughts, yes - in an almost continual barrage. But you  don't think them. If you doubt this, if you think it's you who thinks your thoughts, then stop thinking  about a blue monkey right now ... stop thinking about a blue monkey ...

<aside>

Listen: don't gloss over this too quickly. It's very  subtle. It's also very Zen, and it'll drive you crazy if you try to figure it out: stop thinking  about a blue monkey.

* * *

And what happened? You can see him clearly, can't you - yes?

Tell the truth ...

<un-aside>

Since it can easily be shown it's not you or I who thinks our thoughts, thinking and in particular saying "I think" is actually devoid of any effectiveness. Yet for the most part, we're convinced  we think (as if "think" is an active verb ie as if "think" is something we do deliberately  like we "eat" or like we "swim" or like we "run" or like we "write"), and we're convinced thinking is effective.

Thinking isn't effective. Here's what's effective: what's effective is distinguishing. What's effective is making distinctions. To make distinctions, all that's required is looking, ... flat  ... footed  ... looking  ..., just looking into the space, then unflinchingly  saying whatever's there.

Writing these Conversations For Transformation calls for distinguishing. It calls for making distinctions. It calls for looking into the space, then unflinchingly saying whatever's there. Thinking, for the most part, only gets in the way of this particular form of Self-expression. Better said: thinking, for the most part, isn't an effective source  of this particular form of Self-expression.

To write these Conversations For Transformation, I schedule occasions for distinguishing. And if I ever schedule an occasion for thinking, it's almost always only to take a break, it's almost always only for a time out  ie for distraction, for entertainment. Then I do the puzzles in USA Today's Life  section (all of them) in ink (never in pencil) in this order: Word Roundup  then Quickcross  then Up & Down Words  then Sudoku  (both of them: they have two Sudokus - first I do the 9 x 9  then the 6 x 6)  then Don't Quote Me  then Crossword  (they also have Txtpert, the only puzzle in the group I never do).

I shoot for a perfect score each time: a perfect score is every puzzle must be complete, no corrections are allowed (neither to the answers nor to my own handwriting), and no dictionary lookups are allowed. If there are any exceptions to any of these stipulations, then it's not a perfect score. Occasionally I'll get a perfect score with the puzzles. Yet even when thinking produces a perfect score with the puzzles, it's totally ineffective for distinguishing Conversations For Transformation.

Sometimes when I'm on a thinking break I'll play computer games instead of doing the puzzles. The only computer games I play are FreeCell, Solitaire, and Spider Solitaire. I only play them in that order, and I play each game only once in a game session. Here a perfect score is winning each of these three games successively in one session, and in each of these three games, only discarding suites in FreeCell and Solitaire in the order of spades then diamonds then hearts then clubs.

Occasionally I'll get a perfect score with computer games. Once in a while I'll get a perfect score with the puzzles and then with computer games in the same game session. Yet even when thinking produces a perfect score with the puzzles and then with computer games in the same game session, it's totally ineffective for distinguishing Conversations For Transformation.

If thinking isn't effective, then why not just stop thinking altogether? Since I don't think thoughts (thoughts think me - automatically), trying to stop thinking (remember the blue monkey?) is about as futile as trying to stop breathing or trying to stop blood circulating. All three processes are simply evidence of a human being's being alive. Stopping any one or all of them is not an option.

What I'm at least attempting to do is to break my brain's entrenched notion that thinking is effective (as Werner Erhard may have said). My implement for doing this is distinguishing distinguishing  (effective) from thinking (not effective), a distinction which empowers me to schedule occasions for distinguishing Conversations For Transformation, occasions I would have ordinarily scheduled for thinking.

I'll schedule occasions for distinguishing, occasions I would have ordinarily scheduled for thinking ... except  for occasions for taking a break, for a time out ie for distraction, for entertainment, for the puzzles and computer games.



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