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

Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing

Elizabeth Spencer, Rutherford, California, USA

September 17, 2015

This essay, Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing, is the second in the ninth trilogy Questions For A Friend:
  1. Questions For A Friend
  2. Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing
  3. Free To Be And Free To Act
in that order.
The first trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Prelude
  2. Ask Me Anything
  3. Coming Around Again
in that order.
The second trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Familiar Unfamiliar Territory
  2. Interview
  3. Straight Talk
in that order.
The third trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Dancing With My Mouth
  2. Cave Paintings
  3. Velvet Tsunami
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Creating Creating
  2. Tell Me Something About Nothing
  3. Lucid Disclosures
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Closer And Closer
  2. Tête À Tête
  3. Dancing With Life
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Would I Ask You If I Could Ask You Anything?
  2. Wonderings About Nothing In Particular
  3. Tipping Point
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Beyond Breathing Underwater
  2. Bold Faced Truth
  3. What You Create For Yourself About Me
in that order.
The eighth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Once In A Lifetime
  2. Fireside Chat
  3. Whole And Complete
in that order.
The tenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Attracted To Dance
  2. I Told A Friend I Love You
  3. Terse Transformed Communication
in that order.
The eleventh trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. A Context Worth Playing In
  2. Tie The Brush To My Hand
  3. Unimaginably Terse
in that order.
The twelfth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. What Will I Do When You Die?
  2. Access
  3. The Newest Piece Of Work
in that order.
The thirteenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. Worthy Of The Company
  2. Creating Them For Myself
  3. Standing With Masters
in that order.
The fourteenth trilogy Questions For A Friend is:
  1. This Context Of Privilege
  2. I'm Not Going To Let It Go
  3. Questions For A Friend XIV III: Not Yet Titled (working title)
in that order.
This essay, Nothing Else I'd Rather Be Doing, with Performance Artists, is the prequel to Approximations.

Of all the things I could be doing today, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing than this: sitting here working on this project. Nothing else even comes close. The significance of life fades away (which is to say the significance I put on life  fades away), the panic of the world is gone, and for a few glorious moments I can get down  and be with the very essence of You and I  and nothing else.

These are precious moments. They're my favorite kinds of moments. I work hard (life can be both a simple and  a hard row to hoe) to do what it takes to maintain a decent lifestyle. Moments like these are like oases from which I never want to leave. They're rewards, respites. They're also the reminders of what's possible. They reveal, when the chaos subsides long enough to allow me to be clear, what's worthwhile, what's valuable, and what (when I tell the truth about it) I really admire most. There's no ambiguity in this for me. None whatsoever. What I really admire most is who we really are, and who we are for each other.

I could sit here in the space of our friendship all day and forever. It's full enough for me to be in it without saying anything and without doing anything. It's enough. But to have something at stake, to take advantage of the unique opportunity you provide, I've composed these questions for you so that, as you answer them, you can share your uncannily fundamental view of things, a view which will invariably find its way into my being as it always does, and become my own.

More than that, it provides the substance of a gift I can take away with me and share with others. There's no greater gift I'd rather share than this. There's no other gift more worth sharing.

Ten Questions In No Particular Order

 1)  Transformation, which is essentially a conversation, has a profound physical  effect on people. That much is obvious. If you look at people's before  and after  photographs, it's readily apparent. In the "afters" you can see years  have fallen from their faces. With the responsibility that comes with transformation, I notice I've spontaneously become interested in and committed to maintaining a higher level of health and physical fitness than I have before in ways I never did before.

First question:

"You recently turned eighty. To look at you, you're ageless. To watch you in action, you're unstoppable. Do you adhere to any physical health regimens? If so, which ones?"

 2)  Staying with the theme of transformation as a conversation, I've often wondered if it's possible for people to get transformation from a conversation which is conducted in a language they don't speak ie in which they're not fluent. It seems to me that something becomes presenced  with transformation which could indeed enable this, regardless of which actual language is being spoken.

Second question:

"It's a matter of legend (which means it may be true or it may not be) that a Japanese Zen monk who didn't speak English, participated in your training. At the end, he came up to you, put his palms together, bowed, and said 'I gaht it!'. Does language have the power to communicate transformation in the absence of an accurate translation of what's being said?"

 3)  As you've sourced, developed, and led The Leadership Course since its inception, I imagine you've personally had discontigous breakthroughs in being a leader, simply congruent with the actions of bringing forth the material.

Third question:

"What discontigous breakthroughs have you had in what it is to be a leader, out of sourcing and delivering The Leadership Course?"

 4)  The way you work is always evolving. Nothing stands still around you for too long. Staying with your ever evolving work and The Leadership Course in particular for a moment, I can't help but think of it (in some sense) as the harbinger of what's to come - in the same way as what came before it, led to it. From the very beginning, everything you've ever done has evolved, attained critical mass, then blazed the trail for the next thing.

Fourth question:

"What will be the next major iteration of your work following The Leadership Course?"

 5)  Something happens for us as we take on honoring our word as who we are. It fundamentally shifts who we are in action. As a writer, my word shows up on paper (so to speak) even more than it shows up in my speaking and in my actions (and it shows up there too). I have a special admiration for people (and performers in particular), specifically for those whose entire profession is given by their spoken word.

Fifth question:

"Given who we are is our word, the four performers I admire most are (in this order) Landmark Forum Leader / Seminar Leader, stand up comedian, stage / film actor, rock star. Who are yours?"

 6)  My three children, Alexandra, Christian, and Joshua, are all graduates of the Landmark Forum for Young People and Teens. Although none of them have (yet) gone on to participate in other programs, it doesn't seem to matter. The genie is out of the bottle, and I speak with them in the way I would speak with any other adult graduates. What's resulted from this is a quality in our relationship (not to mention viable and level-headed directions in their futures) which is arguably the envy of all parents. The conversations I have with them work well, given they're grounded in and launched from their participation in the Landmark Forum for Young People and Teens, and what that's made available for them (and me) in everyday life. Without this platform, things may have gone another way (and probably would have).

Sixth question:

"If I'm going to start a conversation for possibility with children, teenagers, and young adults, particularly those who aren't graduates of your work, what's an effective opening line of questioning to pursue?"

 7)  My writing is inspired by you - which is to say it's inspired by your ideas and by your speaking and by your listening and by your conversations, by our friendship, and by who I am in our friendship (which is to say by the way I'm empowered to show up  in our friendship). This is the way it works best, and I'm quite content to be continually re-creating who you are this way - which is to say I'm quite content to continue re-creating my experience  of who you are this way. So while the distinctions I may re-create in these essays are mostly yours and not my originals, the format, style, structure, embellishment, and execution of each finished piece are all my own. And then every once in a while, I will  come up with something that really is a spontaneously original work.

Seventh question:

"I wrote an essay in which I asserted (quote unquote) 'Transformed people are just ordinary people who happen to have access to extraordinary distinctions.'. Do you have anything to add to my assertion so that it's completely accurate?"

 8)  Dave Logan, Associate Dean and Executive Director of Executive Development, and Associate Professor of Clinical Management at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, said "Werner's thinking - I don't know any nice way of saying it - is just out there  in the world. You can't have a Master's Degree in organizational development or human resources without picking up some of it. And it's usually not credited back to him. His stuff is just out there.". Even without being credited, I suspect you know you're on target - even though I don't know how  you know you're on target if you're not credited.

Eighth question:

"Business coaches and commentators say your ideas are everywhere. Yet you're not always credited as their source. For me, you model 'creating simply to create' with no attachment to being acknowledged. I'm also 'creating simply to create' but acknowledgement tells me when I'm on target. Without acknowledgement / feedback, how do I know I'm on target?"

 9)  Staying with the theme of not being acknowledged for your business ideas, it's probably all done with mostly good intentions when people post your materials (old and new) to the internet without your permission. They want to share you and the value they get from you. That said, there's no escaping the fact that such postings are clearly in violation of copyright. Given the easy access to the internet, and given people's enthusiasm for posting your materials for others to experience, without considering the impact of copyright violation on the integrity of the pieces, it's a problem which isn't likely to go away any time soon.

On the other hand, many of the websites on which your materials are posted, will remove these materials very quickly if we prove they're posted in violation of copyright - and that's not difficult to prove. Another perhaps more pragmatic solution would be for us to take the offensive and post all  your original tapes and videos to the internet ourselves. If we made them all officially available, the rate of unauthorized postings would rapidly diminish, we'd have a handle on exactly what's out there, and the breach of integrity resulting from copyright violations, would be quickly stanched.

Ninth question:

"So much of your work has been posted to the internet without your permission that I'm concerned about the breach of its integrity which results from copyright violation. On the other hand, having you available to a worldwide audience via the internet is a boon. At what point do we cry 'Foul!' and at what point do we let it go?"

 10)  The truth for me is I love being around you - that is to say I love the experience I have being around you. When I look closer at what might be the source of this experience, it's clear there's a shift in the quality of my experience when I'm around you given the way you are with me.


There's no doubt I'm the source of my own experience - no matter what my experience is.

So even when I say "... there's a shift in the quality of my experience when I'm around you given the way you are with me", I'm the source of that shift ... and  ... there's a certain way you are with me. It's both.


Given who you are, the way you are with me is the way you are with everyone. Clearly the way you are with people, is valuable. This initiates an inquiry for me as to how I can also be that way  with people.

Tenth question:

"You never relate to me as my 'stuff' but rather as who I really am. Always. Every time. No exceptions. Ever. If I'm going to do the same for others, what ball (so to speak) should I keep my eye on?"

The Bottom Line:

Being With You As A Question Rather Than As A Given

There's a way of being with people (which is to say there's a way of being with you)  as if you're a given. While there's a certain comfort which comes with familiarity and with knowing someone well, there's also the real danger that when I hold you as a given, it leaves no room for you to grow, to expand, to come from what's possible.

What I get ongoingly throughout this series of Questions For A Friend trilogies and in particular throughout this ninth trilogy of Questions For A Friend essays is when I'm being with you as a question, there's no fixedness, there's no given (it's all  up for grabs) - and there may not be any comfort or familiarity either (at least for some of the time). That said, when I'm being with you as a question, there's an opening to expand, to grow, to interrogate what's possible rather than remaking and resmoothing what already is. And the token required for me to pass through this opening (if you will) is surrendering being with you as a given, and instead being with you as a question.

The impact on the quality of our relationship of being with you as a question rather than as a given, is unambiguously and abundantly clear.

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