“In this conversation we discover another possibility: living in a way, now, moment to moment, that makes a difference to life. We discover that as human beings we can live in a possibility instead of in what we have inherited, that instead of just being a human being because we were born that way, we can declare the possibility of being for human beings. This is the work of transformation: bringing forth a breakthrough in the possibility of being human.”
CHICAGO TRIBUNE, November 21, 1988
By WERNER ERHARD
THE HEIGHT OF the traditional famine season in Ethiopia has come and gone. Yet in a year in which the devastation of drought and war have left millions without a harvest, there has been no mass starvation, no horror pictures like those which shocked the world in 1985. This year, thanks to an extraordinary cooperative effort of governments, private voluntary organizations and the Ethiopian people, there will be no famine.
For most people, the news of this remarkable accomplishment comes as a surprise. There have been reports of war, corruption, failure and occasional break-downs in the relief operation. But little has been heard about the thousands of times the operation worked. The focus on isolated incidents rather than on the whole picture has dramatically distorted the public perception of the situation.
IN THE ORDINARY COURSE of events it is easy to assume that geopolitics and political ideology forma barrier to effective humanitarian assistance. Here, the United States, the U.S.S.R., Ethiopia and many others, working under the leadership of the United Nations, managed to pull together in spite of their very real differences, not merely to react to a widely publicized disaster as they have before, but to keep the disaster from happening in the first place.
Our images of the Ethiopian people also fail to reflect reality. We think about the people of Ethiopia in terms of the television pictures of 1985: pathetic, helpless victims, sitting on barren plain, waiting for rescue or death. We certainly don’t see them as the key players in the relief effort —the people who carry the lion’s share of the burden for the campaign to avert the famine. The women, children and men of Ethiopia — the people whose lives are at risk — are people whose courage, hard work and determination to stay on their land, to care for their families, to make it through the lean times, are virtually unknown to us.
WE OFTEN TALK ABOUT learning lessons from our failures, but equally important is the need to learn from our successes. Most of us cloak ourselves in a sophisticated air of resignation called “hard realism” which does not allow us to see a future better than the present. What is happening this year in Ethiopia is some-thing we can learn from — a demonstration that even in a situation perceived by many as hopeless, genuine accomplishment is possible.
Ethiopia’s problems are by no means over. Its government is far from a model of openness and reform. It remains embroiled in two protracted civil wars. Even when harvests are good, Ethiopia faces substantial food deficits. It remains one of the poorest countries in the world, a place where the persistence of chronic hunger keeps people weak, productivity low, and vulnerability to famine high. And now it must also deal with a new tide of refugees from Sudan and Somalia coming into the country at a rate of nearly 2,000 per day.
WHILE THE PICTURE IS far from rosy, some promising developments are emerging:
• The lessons of the last year are being applied as governments and organizations gear up to meet the new refugee situation before it becomes a spectacle of death.
• The Ethiopian government is con-fronting the need to make the country “famine resistant,” seeking support for a nationwide program of food banks, transportation, rainfall and crop monitoring and labor-intensive projects to build irrigation systems and dams.
• Even more important in the long term, small but real first steps are being taken on the difficult road of agricultural and economic reform.
Nothing will really happen, however, unless there is a demand, and demand for action is generated when people can see both the need to intervene and the chance for a successful outcome. Governments now respond very effectively to famine, because pictures of starving children call forth massive support for quick action. Yet when it comes to development, to addressing the much more complex and frustrating problems of chronic hunger and poverty, they remain mired in the mud, with no sense that anything can be done to actually get things resolved.
When we realize what we have accomplished and are accomplishing, we begin to see new possibilities — new ways to get things done in situations we previously considered with a sense of helplessness, of resignation to the “hard realities.” Even knowing that we do not have all answers, we are stirred to act.
It is then that movement begins, that priorities get shifted and resources reallocated. It is then that our actions go beyond the mere ceremonial, the making of “politically correct” gestures and become forward motion toward real solutions. For people committed to ending the needless persistence of hunger worldwide, the remarkable accomplishment of averting the famine in Ethiopia in 1988 can bring that reality one step closer.
Integrity (in our model) is not about good or bad, or right or wrong, or what should or should not be.
We distinguish integrity as a phenomenon of the objective state or condition of an object, system, person, group, or organizational entity, and define integrity as: a state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, perfect condition.
We assert that integrity (the condition of being whole and complete) is a necessary condition for workability, and that the resultant level of workability determines the available opportunity for performance. Hence, the way we treat integrity in our model provides an unambiguous and actionable access to superior performance (however one wishes to define performance).
For an individual we distinguish integrity as a matter of that person’s word being whole and complete, and for a group or organizational entity as what is said by or on behalf of the group or organization being whole and complete. In that context, we define integrity for an individual, group, or organization as: Honoring one’s word.
Oversimplifying somewhat, honoring your word as we define it means you either keep your word (do what you said you would do and by the time you said you would do it), or as soon as you know that you will not, you say that you will not to those who were counting on your word and clean up any mess caused by not keeping your word.
Honoring your word is also the route to creating whole and complete social and working relationships. In addition, it provides an actionable pathway to earning the trust of others.
Happiness is almost not worth talking about because the instant you turn happiness into a goal it isn’t attainable any more. In other words, happiness isn’t something you can work towards. It isn’t something you can put someplace and overcome barriers to get to and so it makes a kind of difficult subject to talk about.
The thing which I think needs to be talked about is at the other end of the spectrum, the barriers to realizing happiness. The barriers to realizing happiness are a lot of very unhappy things. And they are the things which almost nobody talks about because very few of us are willing to confront those things.
Happiness is not a disease. It does not creep up on you slowly. It is something that happens in an instant. And the truth of the matter is that you can alter your state to a state of happiness, by simply choosing to be willing to have it be the way it is. In other words, if you walked in here tonight troubled, or if you’ve been sitting there troubled, or if you’re troubled in any way, in the next instant you can be totally untroubled, and it comes from a simple willingness. I’d really like you to get this. It comes from the very simple willingness. It is the willingness to look at what is as what is. It’s the willingness for it to be the way it is. Now, it may take you some days, or years to move through all of the circumstances of life and move from a resistance to them, an unwillingness for them to be the way they are, to a willingness for them to be the way they are. You can do all that. You can spend your years moving through all of it happily. You don’t need to do it unhappily. Happiness isn’t at the end of the rainbow. Happiness is at the beginning of the rainbow. Following the rainbow is happiness, not getting to the end of it.
To take a stand that you are cause in the matter contrasts with it being your fault, or that you failed, or that you are to blame, or even that you did it.
That you are the cause of everything in your life is a place to stand from which to view and deal with life – a place that exists solely as a matter of your choice. The stand that one is cause in the matter is a declaration, not an assertion of fact. It simply says, “you can count on me (and I can count on you) to look and deal with life from the perspective of my being cause in the matter.”
When you have taken the stand (declared) that you are cause in the matter of your life it means that you give up the right to assign cause to the circumstances, or to others. That is, you give up the right to be a victim. You also give up the right to assign cause to the waxing and waning of your state of mind – all of which, while undoubtedly soothing, leave you helpless (at the effect of).
At the same time, taking this stand does not prevent you from holding others responsible.
Consider that all accomplishment is constituted by a series of resolved breakdowns.
Leaders do not act from a plan, but plan from their action. The planning is really a conversation which gives other people access to the possibility to which you are committed.
The only thing you are going to do today is: what you do today. Therefore, the only thing there is to do today is: what you do today. That’s all there was to do when you started no matter what you thought or think.
Most people go around thinking that what there is to do today is all that stuff that there is to do, that is to say, everything that isn’t done. This is a lie. This lie leads to stupidity. This stupidity leads to ineffectiveness. The ineffectiveness leads to fewer results being produced, leaving, apparently, more to be done. And there you have the downward spiral which is unworkability.
The only thing there is to do today is: what you actually do today! There is nothing else to do today! You get it? There isn’t anything to do today except what you actually do. That’s all there is to do today. Do you get it? If you do actually get it, you should feel the muscles in your body begin to relax. A sense of freedom and power begins to well up within you.
Now, you want to go to work, get to it, get at it, get it done. And here you have the upward spiral which is workability.
In manifesting your aliveness, you will want to follow a principle which was beautifully stated by Albert Schweitzer when he said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Notice that Dr. Schweitzer says “sought and found how to serve.” He did not say “try to serve,” or “try something and drop it,” or “do the best you can.”
Happiness comes from having served successfully.
One continues to expand in one’s ability to serve by meeting the challenge of actually delivering the results.
Decide on a project for which you are willing to take complete responsibility. Complete the project successfully. Relate this achievement to others as an inspiration for them. Your willingness to express yourself may be just the trigger needed by someone else to do something for themselves. From now on, don’t wait for something to happen to you. Actually take responsibility for making something happen. Keep at it until you make it a successful experience for everyone. You can make the difference.
You do not have to get there. You cannot get there. You have only to ‘realize’ your self, and, as you do, you are satisfied. Then it is natural and spontaneous to express that in life and share that opportunity with others.
The experience of being yourself is innately satisfying. If who you really are does not give you the experience of health, happiness, love and full self-expression – or ‘aliveness’ – then that is not who you really are. When you experience yourself as yourself, that experience is innately satisfying. The experience of the self as the self is the experience of satisfaction.
Satisfaction is not ‘out there’. It cannot be brought in. You will never get satisfied. It cannot be done. When you want more and different or better, that is gratification, and while that is gratifying, we always want even more or even better. Satisfaction is completion, being complete – what has been called ‘the peace that passeth all understanding’. It is a condition of well-being – a sense of wholeness and of being complete right now – a context of certainty that right now is completely all right as right now and that the next moment will similarly be, fully itself. Not a judgment of good or bad, right or wrong, just what is.
Each of us has experienced moments in our lives when we are fully alive – when we know – without thinking – that life is exactly as it is in this moment. In such moments, we have no wish for it to be different, or better, or more. We have no disappointment, no comparison with ideals, no sense that it is not what we worked for. We feel no protective or defensive urge – and have no desire to hold on – to store up – or to save. Such moments are perfect in themselves. We experience them as being complete.
“Human beings did not have rights. Human beings created, from nothing, the domain of human rights. They called it up. They languaged it. They communicated it. Communication has that power. It has the power not only to represent and not only to evoke, but literally to bring something into being. And to know yourself, to know your self, as a context creator, is to transform the quality of your life.”
Abstract: The seemingly never ending scandals in the world of finance with their damaging effects on value and human welfare (that continue unabated in spite of all the various efforts to curtail the behavior that results in those scandals) argues strongly for an addition to the current paradigm of financial economics. We summarize here our new theory of integrity that reveals integrity as a purely positive phenomenon with no normative aspects whatsoever. Adding integrity as a positive phenomenon to the paradigm of financial economics provides actionable access (rather than mere explanation with no access) to the source of the behavior that has resulted in those damaging effects on value and human welfare, thereby significantly reducing that behavior. More generally we argue that this addition to the paradigm of financial economics can create significant increases in economic efficiency and productivity. http://www.nber.org/papers/w19986
Sands Leadership Lecture Series
“Professor Michael Jensen and Werner Erhard, two extraordinary thinkers, engage in a conversation that explores groundbreaking access to being a leader and to the effective exercise of leadership as one’s natural self-expression.” -Simon Business School, University of Rochester
“what est is about is transformation. est is about the self being self. And one of the things you uncover or discover or recover when you discover that you are your self is that absolutely everybody is themself, and that you can’t get transformed because in order to get transformed you’d have to be not transformed and if you’re not transformed you can never be transformed because transformation doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end.” Werner Erhard 1976