The Program

2008.Jan.22 Tuesday · 6 comments

in Life

“We often lie to ourselves and others about what we can and can’t get done. If you can’t tell the difference between what to say yes to and what to say no to, then you will be busy. You will have more going on than can be fulfilled meaningfully. Fulfillment is not just about getting a bunch of things done. There are lots of people that just get a bunch of things done and it doesn’t necessarily connect up with what was originally intended or what fulfills.”

– Gail Cantor, Co-Founder, Contegrity Program Design

Dallas – I’ve been mulling over, and it really is mulling, as in stirring about in my mind, seasoning and spicing with various thoughts, feelings, and what have you, how to communicate the “program” I’ve been talking about that I’ve been participating in over the last week. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have a solid handle on how to express what it is we’re up to in the Contegrity community in a way that doesn’t come across sounding like some sort of strange jargon or, if expressed without the jargon, comes across as a flat, pale imitation of the reality. Still, I’d like to make a stab at it, and perhaps flesh it out a bit more in conversation with anyone who cares to engage in that, via comments or e-mail or in person.

Here’s the background, which I’m almost loathe to provide because it will likely color the conversation… but so be it. Nearly three decades ago, the end of 1979 to be exact, I, like many folk at the time, participated in the est training. I got whatever I got out of it, and moved on, occasionally participating in one program or another with that organization, mostly not. But around 1987 I participated in a program that was completely unlike anything else that had been part of that group, called “team, management, and leadership program”, that was a work-in-infancy of Ken Anbender, who had been, for lack of a better term, given permission by Werner Erhard (the founder of the est training) to develop something new to come out of the work that had been done to that point. He had some other ideas as to what it was all about, and took this developing program in a direction that wasn’t about enrolling more people in programs, assisting long hours, self-help or personal development, that, at least from my view (and I think from that of many others) is the way the est, and later forum, programs had/have gone. That put those of us who were part of this new direction at odds with the powers that were, and in 1991 Ken, and Gail Cantor who was his direct, day-to-day partner in the design of this new work, decided to split off and form a new organization, actually, a community of people who were up to something new and different, called Contegrity.

I had had pretty much enough of all the various “transformational” work, and suspected that although I found what they’d been doing far more intriguing than what the forum folk were up to, it would rapidly devolve into more of the same, and I simply opted out of participating with any group of people in the field. The interesting thing, however, is that the work I’d done with Ken and Gail and others, planted a seed, and truly altered the direction that I’d been headed in life. It opened up all sorts of possibilities, many of which I got involved in, from taking on leadership positions in various volunteer organizations, to the same at work, and also my way of interacting with friends and family – mostly in the area of simply being in more open and honest communication with people, and taking on ways of structuring whatever it was I was up to at any given moment in a way that worked, generally quite successfully, in the way that we often define success, i.e., measurable results.

In the last year or so, or maybe slightly longer, as I’ve been living in Buenos Aires and involved with a whole new community of friends, and living in a new culture, that has started to seem more difficult to do. I’ve lost the support network that I’d built up around myself over the last twenty years, and many of the things I put in place to make things work simply aren’t available to me in Argentina. I’d kept in a sort of loose, on and off touch with Ken and Gail and some of the other people who were involved in the Contegrity community, and decided to explore whether or not there was something more available there that was a fit with what I want to take on in terms of projects, daily life, my relationship with Henry and my new friends in Argentina… my current direction in life. Over a series of phone calls with participants in the community I saw that what’s been making things seem difficult… no, impossible… is that lack of support network and a feeling that everything around me was simply too much to get to work on – part of it has been the change in language, part of it has been the change in culture. I decided to participate in a program that was being offered this last week that was focused on leadership development…

Now, “leadership”, unfortunately, is likely to be heard as some sort of quality or skill, that people have or don’t, that can be taught, perhaps, but that’s not what we were up to. The conversation here has been around having people step up to the plate, so to speak, and take on whatever it is that’s appropriate for them to be leading, in collaboration with other people who are taking on the same arena of life, project, organization, relationship… and those other people are taking on leading their part of the same – it opens up the possibility of everyone involved in that arena to be a leader, a guide, a trailblazer, in partnership with each other, rather than one person, or a few persons, directing things and a bunch of other people feeling like they have nothing to contribute, or that no one is interested in what they have to contribute. It’s a conversation worked out in communication between people to accomplish whatever is next to accomplish in their lives, and… and here was the thing that for me was the real “opening” of the week, at a level that’s appropriate – i.e., not trying to take on more than one has the resources to take on – which is simply a recipe for failure. That doesn’t, by the way, mean as one might interpret it, “not giving 100%”, but instead to look at what 100% really is for myself – some things take more than one person giving 100%… ya know?

So how’s that for a muddled way of trying to communicate what it was we were up to this week? Life in Argentina looks very different to me at the moment, and I plan to keep it looking different… it’ll be a week or so until I’m back there, and I have some ideas about what’s up next for me there…


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ksternberg January 22, 2008 at 20:02

I’ll be interested to follow your outlook and plans for life in Argentina, although Gail’s quotation at the top does not strike me as especially original or profound. I think that given enough years and experiences, most people would reach the same conclusion on their own. I feel very hesitant toward organized religions, and probably just as dubious about things like est or this organiztion. But then, I am just such a cynical New Yorker.

dan January 23, 2008 at 00:48

While you may be right that many people, if asked, would come to a similar conclusion – it’s the rare person who actually does anything about it. Contegrity is not a religion, nor, from my experience a “this organization” of the sort that I’m betting you’re referring to. The people involved take on real world projects, problems, and work as a community to accomplish them – as noted, it’s not some self-help, feel better about yourself sort of group. In fact, those aren’t even interesting conversations within the context of Contegrity’s programs.

ksternberg January 23, 2008 at 02:08

If it helps you improve your life, more power to you.

dan February 1, 2008 at 10:58

I’d suggest that it’s possible that not all programs of “this sort” are about improving one’s personal life, self help, self actualization, etc. and, since we’re engaged in this conversation, to suggest that as someone who hasn’t participated in this work (or, to the best of my knowledge about you, anything remotely like it), it’s just possible you’re being a tad close minded, no? As a journalist, it seems you’re coming to this with a preconceived idea of what you think you’d find, rather than a curiosity to see what it might be about.

There’s no doubt there are programs out there that are all about self improvement, etc. – and the roots of this one, in the est training, certainly have tended that way after several decades. However, it’s one of the principal reasons behind the break with that organization.

Rather than being about improvement, or for that matter, anything self oriented, Contegrity is about altering the conversation in the communities you participate in so that it’s focused around neither improvement, nor mere results (in the form of things or scores or money or…), but rather around what makes life fulfilling, i.e., worth waking up for in the morning, for all of that communities’ members, and if one then extends that out, for all the connected communities to that one… eventually, one could extrapolate, to consider the entire population to be one community which could actually be engaged in something other than mundane existence.

Pauline May 26, 2016 at 10:59

MORE jargon. I take it Dan, you are working for Contegrity? All those lost souls out there who are looking for something, that’s who these programs attract.

dan May 26, 2016 at 11:22

No, never worked for them. Took a couple of programs from them some eight years ago (when the post was posted). And as to jargon, other than the quote at the beginning, where? In fact, that was the whole point of the post (and followup commentary), to try to express something to my friends and family who were regular readers of the blog that I found to be very useful in my personal life and growing a new business, in a way that didn’t use jargon, or at least explained it when it did. But, hey, that would have required you to read the post, rather than just have a biased knee-jerk reaction to the idea based on some preconceived notions about what it was all about.

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