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

To Get Out Of A Rut, Be  In The Rut

Muir Beach, California, USA

November 7, 2012

"The way a situation occurs for me (shows up for me) is colored and shaped by my context for that situation, and my way of being and acting are naturally necessarily correlated with (in‑a‑dance‑with) the way that situation occurs for me."
This essay, To Get Out Of A Rut, Be  In The Rut, is the fourth in a septology about my son Christian:
  1. In The Face Of Commitment
  2. Like Father
  3. From Stick Figures To IMAX 3D
  4. To Get Out Of A Rut, Be  In The Rut
  5. Christian Rocks!
  6. You'll Hear The Rumble
  7. Talk About It
in that order.

I am indebted to my son Christian Laurence Platt who inspired this conversation.

My son Christian and I don't just talk: we have conversations. Yes there's a difference. A huge  difference, a difference many other young men like Christian don't easily grasp. Unlike mere talk, a conversation isn't just to impress, isn't just to be smart, isn't just to pass time, isn't just to opine, isn't just to dominate, isn't just to be right. My experience of Christian in conversations (and especially in conversations he starts)  is he's intent on getting something, intent on creating a breakthrough, intent on generating a new context (and with it a new direction) for his life. Christian, it would seem, is a student of the Confucian adage "If you don't change your direction, you'll end up where you're headed.".

Confucius' ending up where you're headed  is close to Werner Erhard's idea of the "probable almost certain future". Christian is always looking ahead, always steering his own ship so to speak, always inventing his own future, never simply settling for being destined by default for the probable almost certain future.

He's never simply destined by default for the probable almost certain future ... that is, except when he is, except when he can't clearly see how to get from here to there where he wants to be. That's when he calls me. That's when he starts conversations to illuminate where to tread next to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. It's a great honor for me when he chooses me to be his partner this way.


Rather than saying "... except when he can't clearly see how to get from here to there  where he wants to be", it may work better to say "... except when he can't clearly see how to get from here to here  where he wants to be.".

But that's a subject for another conversation on another occasion.


One evening when he called me recently, he spoke of things which, I told him, sounded exactly  as if he'd picked them directly from my own life when I was his age and attending university. I majored in psychology with a minor in mathematical statistics. Since I graduated I've never worked either as a psychologist or as a mathematical statistician. Neither, for that matter, do I remember  what I spent all those years studying - at least, not in any great detail. This is exactly what Christian was questioning: why bother taking the time with subjects, many chosen only by the curriculum requirements of the degree, which he'll never apply and probably won't ever remember anyway?

His economics subjects don't apply directly to (and are too abstract  for) what he wants to do in life: run a business. They're becoming uninteresting to him, so much so that he's losing motivation to study, and so falling behind, making the going harder. As I listened to him, I heard the deeper conversation he was really  having: "Why stay at university and study when I could be out in the world starting a business?". Suddenly I realized his was a conversation not about dull and uninteresting subjects, but rather about whether to stay on at university or drop out. I told him in my own days as a student before I graduated, this was something I also confronted on more than one occasion.

Because he can't see any value in studying and therefore moving ahead, he was stuck. In a rut. The deeper the rut, the less he felt like studying. It was self-perpetuating. And the solution he came up with (which I actually thought was quite well thought through) was to drop out of college and instead use his college fund to start a business.

Christian is a graduate of the Landmark Forum for Young People and Teens. I've never hesitated to discuss Werner Erhard's ideas with him when I know they'll forward what he's looking at. So I said to him (and I'm paraphrasing - this isn't a quote) "Let me share with you something I got from Werner which I find incredibly useful: the way this situation (university is a waste of time) is occurring for you (showing up for you) is colored and shaped by your context (no possibility) for this situation (university is a waste of time), and your way of being and acting (get me out of here) are naturally necessarily correlated with (in‑a‑dance‑with) the way this situation (university is a waste of time) occurs for you. Look: it's not 'university is a waste of time' which isn't working for you. It's the way you're being  about 'university is a waste of time' which isn't working for you.".

I suppose you could call me pragmatic for asserting Werner's work works. But it does. So I guess I am. And so for me it was a foregone conclusion Christian would get value from whatever conversation ensued, as long as he stayed in it - which he did, and which (to his credit and to my lasting respect and admiration for him) he always does.

The net result was he saw he had a precious, privileged  opportunity to attend university and graduate - not only for the applicability of the subject matter to his life and work, but also simply for the experience of the discipline of self-motivated research and study (and also for having some fun participating in university campus life along the way), and for challenging himself. He saw in the work place, university graduates are valued regardless of which courses they complete and how much of the minutiae  of each course they remember afterwards. Not trivially, he saw he has the ability  to graduate: Christian is no dumb cookie, has a good brain on his shoulders, and is a Mensa  graduate. He also realized his current semester of study ends in about eight weeks. Really, that's all (he'd been in a rut for so long it had started to seem to him like he'd be in it forever).

With this conversation he's shifted his entire  context for being at university. The way his situation (university is a valuable experience) is now occurring for him (showing up for him) is colored and shaped by his context (possibility) for his situation (university is a valuable experience), and his way of being and acting (I'm going to study and graduate) are naturally necessarily correlated with (in‑a‑dance‑with) the way this situation (university is a valuable experience) occurs for him - and thank you Werner!

To be sure, he has to catch up on some long delayed reading, and he now has to prioritize his time, leaving behind any now unnecessary extra work, focusing instead on the core subjects with which he'll graduate. I spoke with him again about a week later. He (I could tell by the sound of his voice) was no longer in a rut. He was preparing for a critical paper for which he expected to get an "A" - which he later confirmed he did. Not bad for a guy who not so long ago was considering dropping out ...

I'm clear he got it about being in a rut. I'm clear he got that how he was being  was determining the rut he was in, a complete turnaround  from his erstwhile way of assuming the rut he was in was determining how he was being. I'm clear he also got that it's his shift in the way he's being which got him out of the rut without changing any of his circumstances. Now, whenever I call him to say hello, he's studying diligently.

I can only wonder what else would have been possible in my own life today, had I gotten what he's got now, when I was the age he is now.

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