Operating Principles for a You and Me World

Operating Principles for a You and Me World
From the March 1980 Graduate Review report on ‘A World That Works For Everyone’

Since we have been raised and educated in a you or me world, and since very few of us have noticed the shift to you and me, we are going to have to work out the rules for living on our own. We won’t get much help. Werner shared his own perceptions of some of the other new rules, or operating principles, for the you and me context:

  • Respect the other person’s point of view, whether or not you agree with it. Recognize that if you had their history, their circumstances, and the forces that play on them, you would likely have their point of view.
  • Consider life a privilege – all of it, even the parts that are difficult or seem a waste of time.
  • Give up the islands that reinforce mediocrity, the safe places where we gossip and complain to one another, where we are petty.
  • Take a chance. Be willing to put your reputation on the line; have something at stake.
  • Work for satisfaction rather than for credit
  • Honor your word. There will be times when the circumstances of life will make you forget who you are and what you’re about. That is when you need to be committed to honoring your word, making what you say count.

The Mind’s Dedication to Survival

The est process is designed to assist the participant to discover through experience, rather than analysis, aspects of his mental functioning and behavior.  The participant “looks at” (without explanation or rationalization) his behavior, feelings, thoughts, history, justifications and the concomitant payoffs.  The realization that previously unrecognized payoffs of apparently negative behavior cause the negative behavior to persist occurs here.  For example, the person may come to experience the self-justification and righteousness that can occur when he is blocked, “out down” or dominated.  As he gets a glimpse of what the mind has accepted as the payoff of these feelings, he gradually becomes aware of the patterns he uses to assert power and control the situation.  He now has the opportunity to see how this behavior allows him to feel “right” while it allows him to make others “wrong.”  He discovers how these old patterns and acts of domination reduce his aliveness and result in perpetuation of unhappiness and discontent.

The Mind’s Dedication to Survival, by Werner Erhard, Gilbert Guerin and Robert Shaw

Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard, pioneer of the multi-billion dollar personal growth industry, breaks his long silence about his ideas, his life and the controversial program est that became the ‘thing to do” among celebrities and middle America and made him a cultural icon of the 1970’s and 80’s. With exclusive and rare footage, you’ll step inside est seminars, and hear provocative interviews with peers, naysayers, family members, participants and experts. The seminars exploded out of San Francisco when Erhard introduced the notion of “transformation” which would become a worldwide phenomenon.

Two-time Emmy winner Robyn Symon offer viewers a rare insider view into the life and ideas of Werner Erhard. Erhard speaks candidly about the early days of est, the adulation and media attacks, and the ideas themselves that underpin his work. The documentary doesn’t shy away from the hard questions about his controversial program, his past, his enemies, nor the “60 Minutes” expose that prompted him to leave the US in 1991. Viewers will be surprised at how Erhard’s course and ideas have permeated the very fabric of society today – in our language, advertising campaigns and in personal growth seminars around the world.

What People Are Saying
About the Film:

The film was great.

“It redeemed or balanced the lopsided/negative reports about Werner’s life via earlier media. Also, showed how pervasive his work is in the world, he seemed to be the “granddaddy” of transformation, with little credit given to him. I highly recommend.”

It was Fascinating!

“My friends told me about est for years and I never did understand why they wouldn’t leave me alone about it. After seeing your film and getting an in depth look at the man and what he cared about I now see what all the excitement was about – it was fascinating!”


Werner Erhard’s trip to Moscow in 1990

Werner Erhard leads workshop in the Soviet Union in 1990


Excerpted from Werner Erhard’s trip to Moscow in 1990:

“At the beginning of the year, we had an opportunity to look at our work in the context of the beginning of a new decade.  We saw that on the one hand, it’s true that this is a year like any other year, and on the other, we also had and continue to have an opportunity to generate this year, and this decade, as a powerful springboard into the next century for both our individual intentions and as the conversation we are engaged in together, standing for a new possibility for what it is to be human.  In creating this future for ourselves, we allowed ourselves to be inspired by the unprecedented changes which took place in the world, particularly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe….”

“We have been engaged in an exchange with organizations in the USSR for the past ten years, both through Werner Erhard and Associates (which funded our initial work in the USSR), and the US/USSR Project of the Werner Erhard Foundation…”

“The USSR that we found on this visit is palpably at an historical crossroads. While many people are disturbed by the changes that are taking place because of the basic disruption the represent, there are many people who are taking the opportunity, and the sudden lack of guidelines for action, as a window to create and generate a new and unpredictable future.”

Read the full article.

Nothing is so Powerful as an Idea Whose Time Has Come

Hunger is not something impersonal, something “out there.” It exists in each of us, in all that is incomplete and unfulfilled in our own lives, in all that we have disowned in the world.

Fifteen million dead of starvation each year. Perhaps a billion hungry. The fading, failing cry of a child every moment day and night, undeniable testament to human failure. We try to place that sound on some dusty plot of ground far away – Asia, Africa, South America – anywhere but here and now. We succeed at the cost of some portion of our aliveness, our ability to marvel at the miracle of birth, to hear the hidden depths of love in a son’s or daughter’s voice.

There is land enough, and food to feed all who live on the earth. There is no shortage of practical, well-thought-out ways to end the suffering and dying. But in the refusing to make the condition of starvation our own, we allow it to continue.

We allow it to continue by taking positions that prevent us from acting: the cynicism that alleges starvation to be inevitable, the guilt and shame that go along with powerlessness. We allow it to continue by supporting doctrines that create their own opposition and solutions that produce their own new problems. We take refuge in the belief that relieving the world from hunger is impossible.

The time has come for a different approach. It has come in an age of awakening, when history and technology meet to prepare the way fro transformation. Electronic nerve fibers join once-distant continents. A famine on the Asian steppes affects the destiny of American presidents. The cry of a single hungry child reverberates around the globe at the speed of light. Every day it becomes more difficult to pretend we stand alone and unmoved while millions starve.

The urgent global messages now beating at our conscience offer external evidence of a deeper connectedness: We are in the world. The world is also n us. Each of us is a self, a whole, a context, holding all that was and is and can be. In this light, each of us has the power to create our own universe, our own heaven or hell.

We begin by taking responsibility for the hunger and starvation that exist in the world. And then we take responsibility for the end of hunger and starvation within 20 years.

A simple thing. yet nothing under the sun could be more profound. For when context changes, all that happens within that context takes on a new and different life. Not is this a private, passive matter. True personal responsibility always involves action in the world –

Action that hews to no single doctrine.
Action that does not strive to make itself right and others wrong.
Action that claims no credit for its successes.
Action that is flexible and effective and sure.

We need only open our eyes to see a path of action: contributing time aned money, fasting, influencing public policy, working with organizations, supporting those who are directly involved, offering our own skills and knowledge to starving people. The possibilities are endless. Whatever our own path toward hunger’s end, we move with the power of personal responsibility. Each of us, in our own way, is the end of starvation, each complete and fully responsible. Whether thousands of us or hundreds of thousands or millions, we act as wholes in alignment, not parts of a movement.

But no need to wait for the thousands and the millions. A moment exists for each of us in which context suddenly shifts and what has seemed impossible becomes possible, and instant in and out of time when we take responsibility for the world and what it could be.

In that instant, the end of hunger and starvation begins.

Introduction written by George Leonard to Nothing Is So Powerful As An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Werner Erhard Interviewed by Charlie Rose

The Four Foundations of A Great Personal Life, Great Leadership, and Great Organizations

“We argue here that the four factors we identify as constituting the foundation for being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership can also be seen as the foundations not only for great leadership, but also for a high quality personal life and an extraordinary organization. One can see this as a “value free” approach to values because, 1) integrity as we define it (being whole and complete) is a purely positive proposition, 2) authenticity is also a purely positive proposition (being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others and who you hold yourself to be for yourself), and 3) being committed to something bigger than oneself is also a purely positive proposition (that says nothing about what that commitment should be other than it be bigger than oneself). ”

1. Authenticity:

Being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others, and who you hold yourself out to be for yourself.  When leading, being authentic leaves yuo grounded, and able to be straight without using force.

2. Being Cause In the Matter of Everything In Your Life: 

Being Cause in the Matter is a stand you take for yourself and life – and acting from that stand.  It leaves yuo wil power.  You are never a victim.

3. Being Committed to Something Bigger than Oneself: 

Source of the serene passion (charisma) required to lead and to develop others as leaders, and the source of persistence (joy in the labor of) when the path gets tough.

4. Integrity (in our model a positive phenomenon): 

Being whole and complete – achieved by “honoring one’s word” (creates workability, develops trust).

from The Four Foundations of a Great Personal Life, Great Leadership and a Great Organization, by Werner Erhard and Michael C. Jensen, May 3, 2012; posted at SSRN

You Don’t Alter What You Know, You Alter The Way You Know It

A CONVERSATION WITH WERNER ERHARD about The est Training, philosophy, “enlightenment,” authoritarianism and legitimate authority, arrogance, leadership, and vision.

The Network Review, Volume 1 Number 4, September 1983

From their base at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, members of the Center for the Study of New Religious Movements have been exploring ways to evaluate the confusing array of activities they define as spiritual, self development, or consciousness oriented. A continuing seminar at the Center has worked on criteria which lay people and professionals can use to discriminate between harmful and helpful conditions in groups pursuing such activities.

Werner Erhard and 17 members of the seminar met in April 1981 to discuss some of the distinctions between authoritarianism and legitimate authority. The conversation covered other topics as well, and the seminar leader, Dick Anthony, later commented that it was “one of the important turning points in our meetings.” An edited transcript of the interview is scheduled to appear in a book, Spiritual Standards for New Age Groups and Therapies, due to be published next spring. While The est Training is not a therapy or a religion, the conversation between Werner Erhard and members of the seminar clearly applies to the issues raised by the book, and to everyday living.

Read the rest of this entry

Handbook For Teaching Leadership

The Editors of the “Handbook for Teaching Leadership” say the following in their introductory chapter:

“How does one teach leadership in a way that not only informs [students] about leadership but also transforms them into actually being leaders?” (p. XXIV)

The sole objective of our ontological/phenomenological approach to creating leaders is to leave students actually being leaders and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression. By “natural self-expression” we mean a way of being and acting in any leadership situation that is a spontaneous and intuitive effective response to what one is dealing with.

In creating leaders we employ the ontological discipline (from the Latin ontologia “science of being”, see Heidegger (1927)). The ontological model of leader and leadership opens up and reveals the actual nature of being when one is being a leader and opens up and reveals the source of one’s actions when exercising leadership. And ontology’s associated phenomenological methodology (explained in (2) below) provides actionable access to what has been opened up.

The being of being a leader and the actions of the effective exercise of leadership can be accessed, researched, and taught either:

1) as being and action are observed and commented on “from the stands”, specifically as these are observed by someone, and then described, interpreted and explained (third-person theory of), or

2) as being and action are actually experienced “on the court”, specifically as these are actually lived (real-time first-person experience of). As a formal discipline, the “on the court” method of accessing being and action (that is, as being and action are actually lived) is named phenomenology.

In short, an epistemological mastery of a subject leaves one knowing. An ontological mastery of a subject leaves one being.

Of course the students themselves do not need to study ontology; they only require the access to being and the source of action that is provided by the ontological perspective. And, they don’t need to study phenomenology; they only need to be provided with the actionable pathway to the being of being a leader and the actions of effective leadership made available by the phenomenological methodology.

THE HANDBOOK FOR TEACHING LEADERSHIP, Chapter 16, Scott Snook, Nitin Nohria, Rakesh Khurana, eds., Sage Publications, 2011
Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper 11-037
Barbados Group Working Paper No. 10-10
Simon School Working Paper Series No. FR 10-30




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