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

Stepping Down

New Technology Foundation, Napa, California, USA

July 28, 2005

I first encountered computers when analyzing statistics for my graduate thesis in Psychology at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa in 1968, then again later while working as a lighting technician at Le Lido Cabaret de Paris in Paris, France. That was followed by two years with IBM in Wellington, New Zealand in the early 1970s, a time which was so educational, so productive, so rewarding, and so intense that it is worth at least two masters degrees in data processing from any reputable university. The truth be told, prior to all that I did not do very well in the pure computer courses I took at university. The academic approach to computing never worked for me. I just didn't get it so I dropped out of those courses. Yet later when I got my fingers on a keyboard in an applied environment I instantly saw what these machines are capable of. The approach to computers that I have evolved is pragmatic rather than academic or intellectual. In my approach to computers I am scrappy. I am not erudite. And it works.

Over the past two decades I led computer seminars for many of the Fortune 1000 group of companies throughout the United States and Canada. In many instances I traveled to a different state every week to lead a seminar. In some cases I traveled to more than one state in a week to lead seminars. I accumulated literally millions of frequent flyer miles. I traveled to forty two of these fifty United States. I was represented by sixty agents. I amassed a respectable client list requiring ten pages of single spaced type to print.

In alignment with Werner Erhard and Associates, the name I chose to do business as was Laurence Platt and Associates. Laurence Platt and Associates was not a firm with employees. I employed no one. Rather it was a context  from which to come, a structure within which to relate to and to work with people.

Working as a hired gun, as an independent contract trainer, I spoke in front of groups for as long as seven hours a day five days a week for months and months and months and years and years and years on end. In retrospect it was an altogether extraordinary experience, one which altered the very fabric of how I operate in the world as a human being and which trained me to think on my feet and to generate perfect technical conversations sweeping along all the young whizzkids of the day whose sole playful purpose in life seemed to be to invent questions to stump me and embarrass me in front of the group. I had to learn to deal with them. I had to learn to think fast. I had to learn to think clearly and then to maintain the clarity advantage. To that end I even stopped drinking beer any night before I was due to lead a seminar. Eventually there were so many seminars to lead that I stopped drinking beer entirely.

As hard as it was for me to say "I don't know" to a group of people who were paying me to have answers, I eventually did learn to say "I don't know" when I didn't know. Before I figured that out, whenever I didn't know or didn't have an answer to a question I would guess or make up an answer so that I didn't look bad. Anything  is better than not knowing all the answers! But later I came to totally eschew that way of responding which, in essence, is embodied in the adage "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with BS.".

Figuring that out was actually a huge relief. To be quite clear, I did have answers 99% of the time. I am a good computer trainer. I have integrity. I am responsible. I always do my homework and I thoroughly prepare my presentations. From then on, whenever I didn't know or didn't have an answer I immediately came right out with it and said I didn't know or I didn't have an answer, and I promised I would get an answer before the seminar was complete - which I did: by asking colleagues, by consulting reference manuals, and / or by creating experiments, original research whose outcomes would provide the answer. In the technical universe no one has all the answers. Being willing to research and to find out is way more valuable than pretending to know it all.

Now, after working as an independent computer trainer for hire for twenty years, it's almost impossible for me to believe that I have actually been offered, have accepted, and am enthusiastically looking forward to a full time position of employment in my home town of Napa in the Napa Valley in California. I have committed to being as much of a full time Mom as I can be so I can be with my children at every available possible moment until they have flit the coop and are living under their own steam.

As a computer trainer for hire, Laurence Platt is stepping down.

Werner Erhard As Source

Werner Erhard is not a computer trainer - Photography by Robert Buelteman Jr
Werner Erhard
Werner Erhard is not a computer trainer. I was already an expert computer programmer when Werner first introduced himself to me in 1978 but I was not yet a trainer. I watched Werner and listened to him leading many seminars. When I saw Werner leading seminars I was struck by a possibility for myself in the way I could be  with people when I am in technical conversations with them.

What I saw was impossible to derive at first but then later became blindingly simple. I saw that if Being is truly brought forth and is present in education conversations, aspects of learning magically become vastly simplified and accessible. Once the epistemology is clear, whatever it is that is learned becomes easier to own. I didn't understand  that at the time and I still don't. However it doesn't require understanding and it doesn't require proof to be successfully applied. I have seen it work over and over and over again since then, both in Werner's seminars as well as in my own.

I have proven that theory many, many, many times over the years. I've had opportunities to lead seminars for incredibly intelligent people, some of whom had double, treble, and quadruple PhDs - there was no shortage of already intelligence in the participants in my seminars. And yet I was still able to make a contribution and to make a huge difference in the value they got from the technical material out of who I was being  as I led their seminars.

Without what I got from Werner I probably would have still delivered well planned, dry, almost boring exposés of the functioning and interactions of softwares as well as the operating systems they run on which makes what they do possible. What I got from Werner and then put as much of as I possibly could into my own presentations is who I really am. Without it I probably would have become known as a competent computer trainer. But with it I drew accolades like "computer trainer of the year", "best computer trainer in the United States" etc you know, ridiculous  acknowledgement. And the beauty of it was that almost no one knew Werner was my source. Yet everyone got their money's worth. Everyone got value from my seminars. Everyone got more out of the experience than they had ever gotten out of technical training before. Everyone got what they wanted and needed from my seminars.

I really get exactly how decisive Werner's context is in creating the space for all content and especially for technical content to be extraordinarily successfully delivered. And with regard to all the traveling I did around the United States and Canada leading computer seminars, I say that context Werner's - Werner's space, if you will - became that about which is said "Don't leave home without it.".

Retirement Announcement

This retirement announcement, the subject of which was "Laurence Platt steps down", was distributed to my agents, work contacts, and clients by e-mail on July 28, 2005:

Good morning Everyone.

This is more a change of state letter than a goodbye letter, but nonetheless I am writing to say goodbye.

Having traveled out of state to work almost every week for the past twenty years, I have now committed myself to being as much of a full time Mom as I can be so I can be with my children at every available possible moment until they have flit the coop and are living under their own steam.

I have accepted a position of employment with the New Technology Foundation right here in Napa. The New Technology Foundation is not simply leading edge. They are so far ahead of the curve that software has not yet been written for what we want to accomplish.

The New Technology Foundation supports twenty schools around the world. Forty more will be added in the coming year alone. This is bleeding edge work and it is hard to believe that I can say goodbye to the cattle outside my home window at 6:50am and be seated at my desk at 7:00am. That is a huge change from the kinds of interstate commutes I have been used to.

I have built a back end database which will hold all records from all schools internationally. I have built a website through which the database will be accessed by administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

The database is DB2. The code is Java. The platform is WebSphere.

I will no longer be available to you as a trainer for hire, at least for the next seven years by when my youngest child will be eighteen. And by then, who knows what any of us will be doing ...

Working with you has given me an extraordinary life. It is really hard to say that because it sounds so trite. But I want you to know that I have been gifted as a direct result of everything you and I did together.

Thank You for Everything.

Being with you and working with you for the two decades that we have been partners has been a privilege and a blast.

All the Best.

Laurence Platt

Trainer (retired)
Laurence Platt and Associates

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