Peter Block on Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard has created thinking and learning experiences that have affected millions of people’s lives.

The power of language.

Werner understands the primal creative nature of language. Many of us have focused for years on improving conversations. We have known that dialogue and communication are important tools for improvement. Werner takes it to a whole new realm by asserting that all transformation is linguistic. He believes that a shift in speaking and listening is the essence of transformation. If we have any desire to create an alternative future, it is only going to happen through a shift in our language. If we want a change in culture, for example, the work is to change the conversation–or, more precisely, to have a conversation that we have not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. This insight forces us to question the value of our stories, the positions we take, our love of the past, and our way of being in the world.

The power of context.

Another insight is in the statement, “The context is decisive.” This means that the way we function is powerfully impacted by our worldview, or the way, in his language, “the world shows up for us.” Nothing in our doing or the way we go through life will shift until we can question, and then choose once again, the basic set of beliefs–some call it mental models; we’re calling it context here–that lie behind our actions. Quoting Werner, “Contexts are constituted in language, so we do have something to say about the contexts that limit and shape our actions.”

Implied in this insight is that we have a choice over the context in which we live. Plus, as an added bargain, we can choose a context that better suits who we are now without the usual requirements of inner work, a life-threatening crisis, finding a new relationship, or going back to school (the most common transformational technologies of choice).

The way this happens, (made too simple here) is by changing our relationship with our past. We do this by realizing, through a process of reflection and rethinking, how we have not completed our past and unintentionally keep bringing it into the future. The shift happens when we pay close attention to the constraints of our listening and accept the fact that our stories are our limitation. This ultimately creates an opening for a new future to occur.

The power of possibility. Changing our relationship with our past leads to another aspect of language that Werner has carefully developed. This is an understanding of the potential in the concept and use of possibility. Possibility as used here is distinguished from other words like vision, goals, purpose, and destiny. Each of those has its own profound meaning, but all are different from the way Werner uses the word possibility. Possibility here is a declaration, a declaration of what we create in the world each time we show up. It is a condition, or value, that we want to occur in the world, such as peace, inclusion, relatedness, reconciliation. A possibility is brought into being in the act of declaring it.

Werner described this with more precision in recent personal correspondence:

I suggest that you consider making it clear that it is the future that one lives into that shapes one’s being and action in the present. And, the reason that it appears that it is the past that shapes one’s being and action in the present is that for most people the past lives in (shapes) their view of the future.

…it’s only by completing the past )being complete with the past) such that it no longer shape’s one’s being and action in the present that there is room to create a new future (one not shaped by the past – a future that wasn’t going to happen anyhow). Futures not shaped by the past (i.e, a future that wasn’t going to happen anyhow) are constructed in language.

In summary, (1) one gets complete with the past, which takes it out of the future (being complete with the past is not to forget the past); (2) in the room that is now available in the future when one’s being and action are no longer shaped by the past, one creates a future (a future that moves, touches, and inspires one); (3) that future starts to shape one’s being and actions in the present so that they are consistent with realizing that future.

Peter Block, excerpted from his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, 2009

Access To Being A Leader and The Effective Exercise of Leadership

The ontological methodology gives one access to being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as it is lived and directly experienced on the court.

You get left being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as your natural self-expression. When you think about what it is to perform on the court it really does need to be your natural self-expression. I like to watch Nadal play tennis or Federer play tennis. I don’t think they are remembering how to play. I don’t think that they learned something and then remembered it. No, for them the game is a natural self-expression and as such they become extraordinarily powerful players.

We allow people to discover for themselves that their way of being and their actions, or if you like, their way of being when being a leader and their actions when exercising leadership effectively, are a match, a natural match, or as we would say it in the course a natural correlate of the way what they are dealing with occurs for them. So we could say that being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as my natural self-expression depended on the way what I am dealing with as a leader occurs for me. How does it show up for me, what I am dealing with?

Now the question is – how am I going to get whatever it is I am dealing with to occur for me such that my natural self expression is one of being a leader and one of exercising leadership effectively? The question is –  where am I going to get my being and action now? And for the most part we get our being and action right from the contents of our brain which is what’s happened in the past. But if I am standing in the future, what my brain has to draw on is its imagination and its creativity. If I am standing in the past looking at the future, it’s difficult to see the pathways. It’s kind of like looking from the bottom of a mountain up to the top, it’s difficult to see how I might get there, but if I stand on the top of the mountain and look down the mountain I’m probably going to see more than one way to get there. Leading from standing in the future reveals a lot more possibilities for realizing that future.

My experience with really outstanding leaders is that they never come up with the future to be presented to the people that they are leading. They find a way to get that future created from the people they are leading. If you are leading me and you come to me with, “Well Werner, this is the top of the mountain. This is where we are going to get.”  I have to buy in to it.

But if I participate with you in creating which mountain is going to be the top of the mountain, then it doesn’t require buy in. Getting there belongs to me equally as it belongs to you. You may have had a lot to do with shaping the conversation so I could see which mountain was going to make it. I think that being a really good leader one wants to keep in mind the critical importance that the people who have to act to realize the future that you are committed to realizing, that that future really belongs to them. They are moved touched and inspired by what that future is, both its accomplishment but also by seeing that along the way they are going to be able to fulfill their concerns. They are going to find an opportunity for self expression and finally they are going to see that they can make a contribution, a noteworthy contribution that really made a difference in realizing that future.

Over the 40 years and the impact that I’ve seen people engaged in this work have on their own lives you have a sense that there is something truly valuable here. I am sure that there is a lot more that’s beyond my reach and I’d like to leave it so that people standing on whatever it is that my colleagues and I have created that they can get to that more that is beyond our reach.

– Werner Erhard

A Breakthrough in Individual and Social Transformation

Presentation By Werner Erhard At The Eranos Conference 2006
Ascona, Switzerland
18 June 2006

While I was asked to speak about individual and social transformation, I will start by talking about knowing.

Think of the circle I have drawn here as containing all knowledge. The circle is divided into three sections. The first section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I know.” We all know what to do with what we know that we know – we put it to use. The next section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I don’t know.” Again, we all know what to do with what we know that we don’t know – we learn. Finally, there is this vast remaining section of all knowledge called, “What I don’t know that I don’t know.” What to do about what we don’t know that we don’t know is something of a dilemma. And, what we don’t know that we don’t know about human beings is an important question when it comes to individual and social transformation.

I am reminded of a physics paper entitled “Chaos” that I read some years ago about the discovery of the chaotic nature of certain physical phenomena, where a small input could result in a very large scale output, while a large scale input could result in a very small output. As I read the article it occurred to me that chaos theory certainly applied to human beings. For example, with very little said, a person might get massively upset, while years of training have very little impact on some people. Chaos theory was followed by complexity theory where, to oversimplify somewhat, the whole was not merely the sum of the parts, but the sum of the parts plus the interaction between the parts. Again, complexity certainly applies to human beings.

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Four Ways of Being that Create the Foundations of A Great Personal Life, Great Leadership and A Great Organization

“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), 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), and 4) being cause in the matter as a declaration of the stand you take for yourself regarding everything in your life is also a purely positive proposition”

Werner Erhard and Michael C. Jensen

Your power is a function of velocity

Your power is a function of velocity, that is to say, your power is a function of the rate at which you translate intention into reality. Most of us disempower ourselves by finding a way to slow, impede, or make more complex than necessary the process of translating intention into reality.

There are two factors worth examining in our impairing velocity, in our disempowering ourselves.

The first is the domain of reasonableness. When we deal with our intentions or act to realize our intentions from reasonableness, we are in the realm of slow, impede and complicate. When we are oriented around the story or the narrative, the explanations, the justifications, we are oriented around that in which there is no velocity, no power.

Results are black and white. In life, one either has results (one’s intentions realized) or one has the reason, story, explanations, and justifications. The person of power does not deal in explanations. This way of being might be termed management by results (not management for results but management by results). The person of power manages him or herself by results and creates a space or mood of results in which to interact with others.

The other factor to be addressed is time. Now never seems to be the right time to act. The right time is always in the future. Usually this appears in the guise of “after I (or we) do so and so, then it will be the right time to act”; or “after so and so occurs, then it will be the right time to act”; or “when so and so occurs, then it will be the right time to act.” The guise includes “gathering all the facts,” “getting the plan down,” “figuring out ‘X’,” “getting ready,” etc.

Since now is the only time you have in reality and now will never seem to be the right time to act, one may as well act now. Even though “it isn’t the right time,” given that the “right time” will never come, acting now is, at the least, powerful (even if you don’t get to be right). Most people wait for the decisive moment, whereas people of power are decisive in the moment. – Werner Erhard

By Werner Erhard, March 21, 1983

est: A Philosophical Assessment

Michael E. Zimmerman
March, 1982

Est: A Philosophical Assessment

The purpose of this report is to provide a philosophical assessment of est training. I first took the training in New Orleans in January, 1981, and reviewed it as an observer in Sacramento in February, 1982.
My analysis of the training is guided by my understanding of the philosophy Of Martin Heidegger, existential psychotherapy, and Eastern religions. The following appraisal arises not only from my theoretical training as a philosopher, however, but also from my own personal experience. This report is by no means exhaustive; much more could have been said about the topics covered below. Moreover, many more
issues could have been dealt with. Because of my own philosophical expertise and personal interest, however, I chose to focus my attention on those aspects of the training that bear on the topic of authenticity. I hope that this report will prove to be of some help in resolving whatever problems remain in what is already an excellent training.

My analysis of the training addresses itself, in part, to four questions posed by Jack Mantos:

1) Can the authenticity of the training be established more directly and explicitly at the start of the training?

2) How can one speak more effectively of the Self as emptiness or nothingness?

3) How is one to understand the notion of resoluteness i.e., the notion that the authentic Self takes a stand on itself as the context of contexts?

4) Is there too much subjectivism in the idea that we “create” our own experience?

Answers to these questions will be found in the body of the text, a summary of which follows.

Summary of Findings:

1) The “authenticity” of the training may be more firmly established initially if the trainer explicitly asserts that the trainer and support team are prepared to enter into agreement with the trainees. The agreement would be that everyone give 100% of himself or herself to the training.

2) There is a tendency to speak as if the training will provide more “satisfaction” in life, but if satisfaction is made the goal by trainees, they will never find it. Satisfaction ensues; it cannot
be pursued. At times, the training conveys the impression that the reason for keeping one’s agreements is to gain satisfaction. Such a utilitarian view of behavior is inimitable to the fundamentally sound view, expressed elsewhere in the training, that the key is to act impeccably: from this, everything else–including satisfaction as well as unhappiness–follows.

3) More explicit treatment of death, and the attendant phenomena of anxiety and guilt, are needed to provide a more complete account of human existence. Anxiety is constriction of the self that occurs in
the face of the disclosure of mortality, but only such disclosure enables us to make the leap from mechanicalness or inauthenticity to aliveness or authenticity. Guilt is the ontological self-corrective
that reminds a person that he or he is failing to repay the loan of life by experiencing everything there is to experience. Guilt and anxiety call the individual to the resolution or decision to live.

4) Resoluteness refers to the decision of the individual to experience whatever there is to experience. Resoluteness (Entschlossenheit) is authentic openness or disclosedness (Erschlossenheit). The decision in favor of being openness is a free choice to be the freedom that we already are, ultimaletly, freedom is not a human possession, but instead the openness or no-thingness into which we are thrown. Human existence or Dasein constitutes the clearing or openness in which the Being of beings manifests itself.

5) While the training currently makes some reference to time and temporality, a more thorough discussion is probably in order. Such a discussion would show that the leap from inauthenticity to authenticity
involves a transformation in temporality: from linearity to the circling temporality called eternity or “Now.” Linear time arises from the constriction of human openness to that of the ego/mind, which reveals things merely as objects to be exploited for human ends. Circular or eternal time arises when human existence opens up and lets beings be just what they are.

6) The training needs to define more .carefully what it means by the notion that I am responsible for all my’ experience.’ that :r am God in my universe. Apparently derived in part from Hindu doctrines of Atman or the Transcendental Self, this conception of responsibility is too easily confused with more ordinary notions. The notion that I somehow create my experience is metaphysical speculation that cannot be verified. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to redefine creating. Instead of speaking of creating as a kind of producing or making, we could say that creating is a letting-be. The former notion of creating
is masculine and typically Western, while the latter is feminine and more in line with Eastern views of reality. We could then say that I am responsible for all of my experience in the sense that I am called
on to experience whatever it is that manifests itself within the openness that I call me.” The true “I,” of course, is not ego/mind but the temporal-historical clearing called Dasein.

7) While the training speaks of everything/nothing, Heidegger speaks of Being/nothingness. Although what both parties mean by nothingness or nothing is similar, they differ considerably on what they mean Being and everything. For Heidegger, Being does not mean the totality of things, but the presencing or self-manifesting of beings. To identify Being with every thing to make a category-mistake.

8) Although the training currently emphasizes the importance of participating and sharing with other human beings, the implicit idea of the training is that we humans should share ourselves with all
beings. Hence, the Hunger Project should naturally lead into the Planet Project designed to save the earth from environmental destruction.

9) Heidegger claimed that everything great happens from within a heritage or tradition. Perhaps it is time for est to acknowledge that it is part of the great wisdom traditions of East and West. One goal of est would then be to empower people to revitalize their own traditions.

10) Miscellaneous Observations.

11) Conclusion.
12) Appendices.
A) Michael E. Zimmerman, “Heidegger’s ‘Existentialism’
B) Michael E. Zimmerman, “Towards a Heideggerean Ethos
for Radical Environmentalism.”

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Being Empowered

What do you mean when you say, “People don’t know they make a difference?”

“I mean literally that people think the choices they make in life don’t make any difference. They feel as if the decisions they make don’t matter much. In fact, we live in a kind of unseen agreement that nobody really makes any difference. When you do make a difference you are empowered. People are often unwilling to be empowered.”

Why would people be unwilling to be empowered?

“If you are empowered, you suddenly have a lot of work to do because you have the power to do it. If you are unempowered, you are less dominated by the opportunities in front of you. In other words, you have an excuse to not do the work. You have a way out. You have the security of being able to do what you have always done and get away.  If you are empowered, suddenly you must step out, innovate and create.  The cost, however, of being unempowered is people’s self-expression.  They always have the feeling that they have something in them that they never really gave, never really expressed.  By simply revealing the payoffs and costs of being unempowered, people have a choice.  They can begin to see that it is possible to make the choice to be empowered rather than to function without awareness.  Empowerment requires a breakthrough and in part that breakthrough is a kind of shift from looking for a leader to a sense of personal responsibility.  The problems we now have in communities and societies are going to be resolved only when we are brought together by a common sense that each of us is visionary.  Each of us must come to the realization that we can function and live at the level of vision rather than following some great leader’s vision.  Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader in ourselves.”

Werner Erhard Interviewed by Loretta Ferrier
Scene Magazine/September-October 1982

Current Work of Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard has been creating transformational models and applications for organizations and individuals for more than 40 years.  He is a leading thinker currently engaged in rigorous examination and presentation of his ideas in academic and corporate communities.   He provides new paradigms to thinkers and practitioners in fields as far ranging as philosophy, business, education, psychotherapy, third world development, medicine, conflict resolution, and community building. Werner Erhard has lectured at universities and schools such as Harvard University, The University of Rochester, Erasmus Academie, University of Southern California, and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.  Werner Erhard’s current work includes BEING A LEADER AND THE EFFECTIVE EXERCISE OF LEADERSHIP An Ontological / Phenomonological Model and  INTEGRITY: A POSITIVE MODEL THAT INCORPORATES THE NORMATIVE PHENOMENA OF MORALITY, ETHICS, AND LEGALITY

Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard

Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
Symon Productions, Inc. & Eagle Island Films, Inc.
Robyn Symon Writer, Producer and Director

Watch the full length film here.

If not now, when?

“We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about. Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us. It will require courage, audacity and heart. It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives. I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.

If not you, who?
If not now, when?
If not here, where?”

Werner Erhard

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