Frankly, this article scares me.
Allen was a 23-year-old grad student at UC Berkeley in 1968 when he met a psychic named Michael who said he owed Allen a karmic debt over a past-life transgression. Michael began teaching him karate and sharing Zen concepts such as “mind like water. ” (It means that just as a pebble tossed into a still pond creates only gentle ripples, small events need not create big waves in our lives.)
Michael’s teachings convinced Allen that the life he was living was phony. He quit everything — school, drugs, his first marriage, his home — and took a job driving a cab. “I was just one wired, raw thing,” Allen says.
Thus began a spiritual quest that eventually led him in 1971 to John-Roger, an L.A.-based mystic who later formed a church called the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness that has courted controversy and attracted such high-profile adherents as Arianna Huffington.
“I knew in the first 30 seconds that he didn’t give a rat’s ass if anybody believed him,” Allen says. “He knew what he was talking about.”
Allen was inspired. He quit his job and moved to Los Angeles. For the next six years, he worked a series of odd jobs — landscaper, vitamin distributor, glass-blowing lathe operator, travel agent, gas station manager, U-Haul dealer, moped salesman, restaurant cook — until John-Roger started a personal-growth training program in 1978 called Insight Seminars.
Insight was based on a popular self-help seminar for young professionals called Lifespring, which employed potent psychological techniques to break down participants’ entrenched thought patterns and replace them with ostensibly more positive states of mind. Although many graduates swore that Lifespring changed their lives for the better, the for-profit company was also slapped with dozens of lawsuits claiming psychological trauma and even wrongful death by suicide.
One of its trainers, Russell Bishop, upset by the harshness of the Lifespring program, approached John-Roger about creating a more benign version of the weeklong seminar.
“Insight started with the heart,” Allen says. “We said, look, what people are really after is to love and be loved, and we just do it in weird and awkward ways. So let’s try to find out how we’re screwing that up and what you need to do to fix that.”
Within a few years, Allen was ready to become an Insight trainer. He turned out to be a natural — a gifted speaker with charisma, humor, and a quick wit. Among his students were many high-powered executives who wanted to use Insight to transform their companies. Around that time, Allen got an idea: Why not become a management guru?
He wasn’t the only one thinking this way. Lifespring and Werner Erhard’s Est were already tweaking their seminars for corporate clients. During a weeklong session that Insight conducted for Scott Paper, one exec excoriated himself for talking too much; another admitted he couldn’t control his temper. Bishop recalls that when then-CEO Phillip Lippincott stopped by, a senior VP broke down and apologized for fighting his boss at every turn.
The two men committed to repairing the relationship. “I have no idea what took place here,” Lippincott told the group, “but this process clearly needs to be nurtured.”
Such cathartic moments happened frequently during Insight training sessions, according to Allen. But he realized it wasn’t enough just to send people out into the world pumped up to change their lives. Somebody needed to show them exactly what to do when they got back to the office. (read the whole thing)
Maybe it’s a failure of character, but while I feel free to borrow and learn from various rationalist atheological types, learning that someone is from the goofy spiritualist “new age” leftifornia world makes me want to run away.
Sometimes I wonder if all this productivity stuff is a way of tricking the inmates into guarding themselves. Why constantly try to make your employees work all the time without stopping when you can get a guy to convince them it is empowering to do so on their own? There was a time when a business man on a business trip could read a book or catch a nap on the train without feeling like he was shirking work.
That being said, while I’m going to try to be more suspicious, I still appreciate what I’ve learned from the GTD book and am still confident I could learn more.
But there is now definitely a creepiness factor involved. I liked it better when I was blissfully unaware.