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


Serving High

Luna Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA

March 15, 2015



This essay, Serving High, is the tenth in an open group Visits With A Friend Prequels:
  1. Anticipation: Accounting For An American Love Affair
  2. Eye Of The Needle
  3. Secret Service
  4. Everyone Loves You
  5. Close Up, Face To Face, Larger Than Life, And Twice As Natural
  6. View From A Fallow Wheatfield
  7. Flying
  8. Three Stairs At A Time
  9. Something Fierce, Something Wonderful
  10. Serving High
  11. Simple But Not Easy
  12. A Request Asked Harder
in that order.

It is also, with Three Stairs At A Time and Something Fierce, Something Wonderful and Simple But Not Easy, the prequel to the eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.

It was written at the same time as I am indebted to Judy Golden and to Patricia Zentara who inspired this conversation.




There are those things in life which work best when we enjoy them privately, by ourselves. Then there are those things in life which work best when they are shared ie when they're given away. Indeed, there are those things in life which only  work when they're shared ie when they're given away. This conversation is about the latter.

I invited a close friend of mine to an evening I'll be at with amazing people. I know this guy well. Knowing him as I do, it's fait accompli  he'll get something beyond  great from being there. He'll get something spectacular, something awesome  from being there. I knew before I invited him, that if he got to know about this amazing gathering, if he was aware of its agenda, and in particular if he knew which other people were also invited ie if he knew about the people he'd get to meet there, that he would do anything  to attend. He wouldn't want to miss it. If he was aware an event like this was going to happen, he would've run not walked to secure his place.

The thing is he wasn't  aware of it - not because it was kept secret from him but because it was intentionally not widely publicized. So I invited him. I called him and left a message. Without my invitation, the opportunity for him to attend, even though the location isn't far from his home, would pass him by like a ship in the night.

He returned my call quickly. I could tell by the sound of his voice he knew exactly  how valuable the event would be. After briefly sharing how blown away he was by this opportunity and how he'd love to be there, he then began rattling off a long litany of considerations about why he couldn't  come - which is to say he rattled off a long litany of considerations about what stood in his way preventing him being there. I could tell he had already completely bought into  the circumstances preventing him from being there. He was even reasonable  about it and, at some point, sounded resigned to not coming in spite of  really wanting to come. I also noticed that he was settling in to have a long conversation with me about it - not about the value of the evening he'd be missing out on, but about the circumstances which prevented him from attending. He had so convinced himself it was not possible for him to come, that I knew I wasn't going to get him to give up his position just by being nice.

Roger Federer

Winner of 17 Grand Slam tennis singles titles

Photograph courtesy optimumtennis.net
Serving High
So he was surprised when, after his long ramble, I didn't argue with him or try to change his mind. I simply wasn't buying into any of his considerations as he had done. I said "Create a miracle: be there, with all of us.". Nothing else. Then I remained silent. I had spoken to who he is  - not to his considerations. I had simply floated  it way above the morass of his considerations, serving high.

There was an awkward silence on the other end of the line - as if he was waiting for me to say more, waiting for sympathy, waiting for understanding. He appeared to be taken aback when I offered none. He didn't need sympathy - nor did he need understanding. What he needed (and didn't yet realize he needed) was a new possibility. Given his current point of view, there wasn't much chance he could possibly attend. And when he started up again ("No, you don't understand  ..." blah blah blah - you know, he had it on full automatic) I repeated "Create a miracle: be there, with all of us" (that's a conversation I'm willing to have) and hung up the phone.

There was a voicemail from him the next day. In it he was suddenly no longer listing the circumstances which he said were stopping him attending, and instead listed what he had to do to overcome what was stopping him attending. I let out a quiet "Wow!"  when I heard it. People are so great!  One moment he knew exactly why  he couldn't come. Now, with minimal input on my part, he was listing ways he can  come - which is to say he was listing what he needs to make happen if he's going to come (could it be because no one bought into all his considerations?). I texted him "I got it. Create a miracle: be there, with all of us.". That's it. Nothing else.

The quality of his voice in the next voicemail he left two days later, gave it away even before I'd listened his message in its entirety. He was coming. He had rearranged whatever he needed to rearrange so he could be there. He had effectively risen above ie he had broken through  whatever stops were in his way - which is to say he had broken through whatever stops he said  were in his way.

There were two expressions of excitement in his message. The first was now he was free to attend. And even though that was the essential  thing, the second was not altogether unexpected yet it was more powerful: it was that he experienced himself as someone who could confront "impossible" barriers and have them not stop him. I texted him back "Well Done! See you there" (I didn't want anything extra I may say to get in his way of celebrating this discovery). And the voicemail he left for me the next  day really said it all. He said he had been up all night unable to sleep  in excitement and anticipation of coming. I texted him back "Congratulations!". I knew.

If there was one thing I got from this exchange with him, it's the confirmation that people are bigger than their circumstances. What works even better than engaging in and getting bogged down in a going nowhere  conversation with a victim of circumstance (and we're all thrown to be one from time to time, yes?) is serving high ie it's floating a new possibility, then standing for it unflinchingly. I don't know why this works as well as it does. If I were to guess, I would say it speaks to who people really are and not to their considerations about what they can not or can do. When you speak to who people really are and not to their considerations, magic is afoot.

Now I'm really careful not to ruin this by stating dogmatically this is  the way serving high works. But between us I'll bet good money it's got something to do with it.



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