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




Performance Is Action

Napa Valley, California, USA

December 27, 2013



"Action is always a closely connected natural correlate of (mutually arising with) the way in which the circumstances that the performer is dealing with occur for (are experienced by) that performer. This correlation between action and the way in which the circumstances occur for the performer, is the source of performance. Because the way in which the circumstances occur for the performer is at least shaped by language, and is in any case always accessible through language, language provides actionable access to the source of performance. When through the use of language the occurring is altered, the correlated action (and therefore performance) is altered."
 ... 
This essay, Performance Is Action, is the companion piece to Endurance.




What is performance?

What performance is, what performance comes down to (which is to say all  that performance comes down to) is action: you do it or you don't.

What sets high performers apart from mediocre performers and low performers, is high performers are in action - which is to say they take  action. There are no other unique, special skills high performers have which allow them to consistently produce results (seemingly effortlessly) which mediocre performers and low performers don't have or haven't yet learned. There are no special textbooks they've studied or courses they've participated in which give them some edge, some inner circle in the know  secret, the knowing of which mediocre performers and low performers haven't yet discovered for themselves. And if they have  read textbooks and participated in courses, I assert those textbooks and courses (that is, if they're worth  anything) showcase the bottom line, which is: performance is action. High performers are in action, mediocre performers and low performers less so. That's all. Performance is action.

The best performance textbooks and courses then, are those which confront their readers and participants in ways which get them to give up  all their tired old concepts and deadening (if not cherished)  beliefs about how to strategize to be a high performer. Part of the difficulty we have in relinquishing our concepts and beliefs about performance so that we can truly perform and not merely know a shed load about the theories of performance  is that when we confront performance as action and only  as action, we just can't get (which is to say what keeps us stuck is we won't let in) that's all it is. It's that simple.

Photograph courtesy Platt & Munk Publishing Company
Perhaps the most famous exposé ever published about performance is the childhood story titled The Little Engine That Could  which has appeared in various incarnations, the best known of which is written under the nom de plume  Watty Piper by Arnold Munk, the owner of the publishing company Platt  (no relation) & Munk.

Although it may seem overly obvious to say this (but then again, all great truths, once grasped, are always overly obvious), the action which is performance, always happens in the circumstances in which the performer is acting ie performing, and is affected by the circumstances.

In drilling down, consider it's not useful to say the action which is performance, is affected by the way the circumstances are, because there's no particular way  (in the very purest Zen sense) any circumstances are. Rather, it's useful to say the action which is performance, is affected by the way the performer experiences the circumstances  - in other words, the action which is performance, is affected by the way the circumstances in which the performer is acting, occur  for the performer.

The big engines in The Little Engine That Could, experience the grade as too steep  ie the grade occurs as too steep for them. The little engine in The Little Engine That Could, doesn't experience the grade as too steep ie the grade doesn't occur as too steep for him. And as all of us children throughout the ages know, it's the same grade  for all the engines.

Watch: the action which is performance demonstrated by the little engine, doesn't come from some special strength the little engine has (as we all know, he has a lot less  strength than the big engines), but rather from the way he experiences the circumstances in which he performs. It's the way we experience our circumstances, not the circumstances themselves, which is the source of our performance, and consequently of whether we're low performers or whether we're mediocre performers or whether we're high performers.

How are our circumstances shaped for us? - which is to say how is the way our circumstances occur  for us, shaped? I'd like propose the way our circumstances occur for us, is shaped by language. The qualities of our circumstances (for example, the degree of difficulty  of our circumstances) aren't somehow embedded, fixed properties of the circumstances. In the very purest Zen sense, there are no particular qualities intrinsic to any circumstances. Circumstances are simply what they are, however they are. Any degree of difficulty they may have (ie any degree of difficulty they may seem  to have) and all other qualities they may seem to have, are added by us through language - which is to say it's we who say  how difficult things are, or not.

Now, be careful: that doesn't mean circumstances are never difficult. Rather, what it does which is extremely powerful is it differentiates between difficulty intrinsic to any circumstances (and there's never any difficulty intrinsic to any circumstances), from the difficulty we say  is in the circumstances. The action which is performance in other words is given by, is made available by language. Similarly the action which is performance is easily thwarted  by language. The language of the big engines is "The grade's too steep. I can't.". Consequently they experience their circumstances accordingly, and don't perform. The language of the little engine is "It's just a grade. I think I can, I think I can.". Consequently he experiences his circumstances accordingly, and performs.

Same circumstances. Different language. Way  different performance. Way different result.

All that said, setting aside all the conversation about how our actions are shaped by the way our circumstances occur for us, setting aside all the conversation about how actions shaped by the way our circumstances occur for us are the source of our performance, setting aside all the conversation about how language impacts the source of our performance, setting aside all the conversation about how language alters performance, the bottom line is you act ... or you don't, you're in action ... or you're not, you take action ... or you don't, you're performing ... or you're not.

So when all is said and done, what's performance? Performance is action. Period.

Nike  got it right: "Just do it.".


Postscript:
The presentation, delivery, and style of Performance Is Action are all my own work.
The ideas recreated in Performance Is Action were first originated, distinguished, and articulated by  .


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