Thoughts about the est training forty years later

Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard

In 1976 I participated in the Erhard Seminars Training (est), an organization, founded by Werner H. Erhard, that, according to Wikipedia, offered a two-weekend (60-hour) course known officially as the est Standard Training. The purpose of est was ˜to transform one’s ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself.’ The est training was offered from late 1971 to late 1984. Est, the Wiki says, focused on transformation and taking responsibility for one’s life.

As a parting memento, we received a little brown-covered book of aphorisms that pretty much summed up what we learned in that training. One aphorism that has stayed with me over the last forty years is:

If you keep your agreements your life will work.

Since that time, keeping agreements has been the way I live my life, and I find myself very impatient with those who don’t keep theirs.

So it was no surprise that this aphorism, or maxim, was especially on my mind last Friday morning two days before the proposal I was working on was due to ship to the customer. I was impatient with authors who had told me they would have their sections written and ready at a certain time and a certain day because last Friday, many days after their committed-to deadlines, I was still waiting. I didn’t want to hear any more excuses from the engineers for why their inputs were late. I just wanted their work so they could go on to something else and the people who needed to do the final production and printing of the proposal documents could get their work finished as well. Proposal deadlines are important. They are in cement. Being late means being out of the running for a contract that could mean many millions of dollars in business. Do you blame my impatience?

I really find this aphorism such a simple concept. And the benefits are enormous. Mainly, if I keep my agreements I don’t have to make excuses for not doing what I said I would do, I don’t have to feel guilty, I don’t have to lose any sleep at night, and I don’t have to think about it anymore once I’ve completed what I’ve said I’d do. I get a whole lot of space in my life to go on to other things.  That’s what I call making my life work.

I also received another benefit. In writing this piece, I went back to the est website and revisited the familiar logo and photo of the founder. The training felt grueling at the time, but what I learned from it is still very much relevant to my life now. It was well worth it.


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