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

Nice Guys

American Canyon, California, USA

April 28, 2012

This essay, Nice Guys, is the companion piece to Low Road.

If I tell the whole, no holds barred  truth about my life, many of the people from whom I've learned truly profound things about living, aren't necessarily what you would call "nice guys". It's true. I'm a nice guy. I would know. And even though they're not nice guys, I wouldn't want to go back to the life I lived before I learned what I learned from them. No kidding! I wouldn't.

If this conversation is going to have any value at all (I was going to say "If this conversation is going to make any sense  at all", but I changed my mind), I'll need to articulate what I mean by "nice guys" ie what I mean when I say "He's a nice  guy" or "They're nice guys.". However, what I consider nice guys to be, may not be what you usually consider nice guys to be.

The starting point in articulating what nice guys are for me, doesn't start by describing what nice guys are for themselves. Rather it starts by describing what nice guys are for others. To do that, I first need to suggest what others  may be for themselves.

Whether people are introverted  or extroverted  isn't as powerful a distinction for me as whether they settle for the status quo  ie for the way it's always been, or whether they have a sense of something else possible other than  the way it's always been. You could say transformation  is shifting from settling for the status quo, to living with possibility. That's as good a view of transformation as there is. As good as it is, it's not what I intend to outline here. What I intend to outline here is this: if you're comfortable settling for the status quo, the idea of something else possible other than the way it's always been, is threatening. It's very human to be threatened this way. Who others may be for themselves is carefully guarded against expanding, and all the while assuming being guarded against expanding is a prudent way to live.

If that's the way you are, you'll prefer being around people who neither expect you to expand nor challenge you to expand. Nice guys  are those guys around whom it's easy to be, who aren't threatening, who don't challenge you to expand. Guys who aren't  nice are threatening (threatening, that is, to the status quo) and intrusive, challenging you to expand even when it feels risky and uncomfortable to expand. Nice guys aren't intrusive. Rather than challenging you to look into and expand into new areas of Life you may not feel comfortable looking into, nice guys are protective of the status quo - which is to say your  status quo. This is what nice guys are for others: protective of your status quo.

Nice guys for themselves may be more committed to their own status quo, more committed to staying the way they are (comfortable, not risking expanding) than being committed to their own expanding and the expanding of others. Nice guys rescue others from the threat of expanding. Nice guys, being committed to maintaining their own status quo, are also committed to others maintaining their own status quo. Rather than seeing expanding as an opportunity (even if a risky and uncomfortable opportunity at first), nice guys see the threat  to others of expanding, as an opportunity to fix  and rescue  the threatened.

Nice guys are those who, committed to their own status quo, protect me from the wild west outback beyond my own status quo. Make no error: for that, I've been deeply  grateful in the past. But it's taken me a while to see there's only so much I can learn from nice guys. The guys I've not considered to be traditionally nice guys, aren't committed to their own status quo. They're committed to something bigger than themselves. They're committed to expanding - in any way they can.

Now, there are ways of expanding any way you can, which are pure lawlessness. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in those not nice guys who expand any way they can without pandering to the status quo and without resorting to lawlessness. These are the guys I'm interested in learning from. Not nice guys.

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