INTERVIEWER: I’m here with John Hanley Senior and we’re conducting an interview–a conversation primarily regarding Lifespring and the experiential education work that John Hanley, Sr. pioneered and has dedicated his life to.
So John, tell me how you originally got started with experiential education?
JH: In 1971, after I got out of UW Milwaukee, I took a job with an organization named Mind Dynamics which was a fairly new organization, and they were doing general public trainings in awareness. In a certain sense, you could say on the order of transcendental meditation, which was quite popular at the time, only this had a little bit more rigor and discipline to it. And I spent…let’s see, from October 1971 until January, sorry, November 1973 working for them. Had all kinds of jobs: trainer, administrator, etcetera, and then decided to move on and form a different entity that was directed a bit more specifically at, shall we say, assisting people who were more goal-oriented and wanted to up their ability to produce results and sort of work smarter, not harder.
So, with that, five of us started Lifespring and incorporated in January 1974. I think we may have done a training in December of 1973, and the five were Robert White, Charlene Afrenow, Larry Jensen, Randal Ravell and myself.
INT: And…you were all involved with Mind Dynamics?
JH: Yeah, all with Mind Dynamics.
INT: But you were considered the founder?
JH: Yes. Well, I was President, and three of the initial five that started it with me left in the first year. And then, in 1977, or ’78 I think, I bought out the last partner. So from 1978 until almost 2000 I did it by myself. So, the last 22 years I did it by myself. In the first year there were five, the second year there were two and so that’s how that went.
INT: What was the main thing that you wanted to add that was missing from the Mind Dynamics approach?
JH: We felt that it was a little bit too conceptual and we wanted to make the training experiential. We’d done some research and saw that the new, emerging notion that if people really got something in a way that they could hold it, it would be much more valuable than getting it…like out of a book, for instance.
So, we put down the first training with the idea of having people incorporate the emotional, the physical, the mental, the spiritual–all sides of a human being in the five day course, and to give people an opportunity to immerse themselves in all those domains. The idea being that, when they finished the training, they had a set of tools to go out and have their life turn out the way they were committed to having it be; to go beyond wishing and hoping but actually be an action in an effective and powerful way. This contrasted to Mind Dynamics which was more of achieving a…what they call an alpha state, which was a state of relaxation. That was kind of their primary objective, if you will, which we all know is good and valuable, too, but it ran a little counter to the way we felt we wanted to participate in the seminar business. We were more action oriented, more goal-oriented, and wanted to reach out to a wider band of people who were dealing with the rigours of raising families, starting businesses, working inside organisations, to be able to provide them with an aid which, up until then, simply wasn’t available.
Now, the whole idea of what we now call Large Group Awareness Trainings simply didn’t exist before Lifespring and EST started. EST started a little bit before us–about a year–and then we started after that. EST’s focus was not so much on the experiential side, although it was, I think, important. I’m not an EST graduate so I really cannot comment first-hand, but we do know that this whole experiential learning concept, as it turns out, seemed to catch on. In fact, no one is more surprised that it caught on the way that it did than I am.
INT: Where did you do the research that led you to this interest and belief that a more action-oriented approach would produce lasting results?
JH: Well, I think the name of the outfit was the National Training Labs, and that came out of the National Institute of Education and National Institute of Health. And it just so happened that a guy named Jerry Fletcher, who had a Ph.D. in education, was one of our first contacts. And wouldn’t you know it? This guy is an expert in learning per se. And we had heard about National Training Labs and the work that they had done with the Korean War veterans returning home. They had helped them shift their ground of being from one of war-time to peace-time, now that you’re home reconstituting yourself for a sort of job and family. And the way they were talking about it, the National Training Labs, anyway, was that if you could get people to experience something, you could cut down the time it took for people to really get something of value, because in-lecture learning took three or four or five times as long as experiential learning. So those are the two, the National Training Labs and Dr. Jerry Fletcher are the two that helped us most there.
INT: And Dr. Fletcher was a part of the National Training Labs?
JH: No, he worked for the National Institute of Education in Washington D.C.
INT: Is that a government entity?
JH: It is, yes.
INT: And is the National Institute of Health, which you said the National Training Labs was a part of, a government entity as well?
JH: Yeah, I can’t be 100% on that. I don’t know that the National Training Labs was a part of the National Institute of Education or Health, but I think it was.
INT: Now, can you speak a little more about the National Training Labs and the Korean War?
JH: Yeah, the government saw that there was something missing from people sort of tracking now as soldiers and then abruptly changing to civilians, and they were considering the idea of abrupt change and how best to facilitate that. It was with that that they started to experiment with this whole business of learning by doing–learning by experience.
INT: So then you found out about this research. You started getting this research from Dr. Fletcher and National Training Labs and then started considering and thinking about ways in which it could be practically applied in an experiential learning format.
JH: Yeah, that sums it up fairly well. And, you know, like anything else we had a few hits and misses. We tried a couple, three approaches before we came up with one that ultimately worked say, 95% of the time. We wrote the first course in December of 1973 and it was a good course, but it lacked a bit. But what I would say, our contribution was that we were able to call audibles. And, it’s interesting, when we looked out there and saw that, in our opinion anyway, the course wasn’t quite working, we would either take a break or, you know, on the lunch hour or in the evenings sit down and say, “You know, that part where we did so-and-so really did not seem to have the kind of fire-power that we thought it would or break-through potential that we thought it would. Why don’t we try this?”
And you know, it’s kind of silly looking back at it because you wouldn’t think that some of the exercises that today probably 1,500,000 people have experienced globally would have had the kind of impact that they did, especially coming from, shall we say, these humble beginnings. But it worked out and we were able to complete the design of what we now understand as the Lifespring Trainings. It’s called by many different names in many different countries but that model finally evolved in about 1974 and a half or 1975.
INT: You mentioned the phrase ‘Large Group Awareness Trainings,’ and I’ve heard that phrase bandied, about especially by people who take exception to this style of learning. Where did that phrase come from, ‘Large Group Awareness Training?’ What does it mean as far as you understand?
JH: Well, we took it upon ourselves to hire experts to study this phenomenon which we called experiential learning, and one of the researchers who was sort of the lead on about 15 studies that we did over the course of seven or eight years, is Dr. Mort Lieberman, who is at the University of San Francisco. Prior to that, he was at the University of Chicago. He coined the phrase ‘Large Group Awareness Trainings.’
INT: And what does that mean, specifically? For example, what constitutes that some learning formats fall into that category?
JH: Well, I think that awareness trainings at the time were, for the most part, taking place with humanistic psychologists on more of a one-on-one or a small group basis–you know five, ten people. We were the ones to sort of break through that and say, “Well, you know what? We are not therapists so we are not fixing people per se. What we’re doing is helping good people get better, or people who aren’t dysfunctional in the first place. People who are functional but wanted to get up on top of the Maslowvian pyramid, if you will, the domain of self-actualisation.” And we felt like “Well, we think it is doable to move it from five or ten people to 100, 200, or 300 people at one time” and produce maybe even a better result than the humanistic psychologist or the persons who were doing small groups were able to do at the time.
Thus we hired Lieberman and Yalom from Stanford to begin a series of studies. Lee Ross, another professor at Stanford, we hired to determine whether in fact we were making a difference or not making a difference. And, as it turned out–I think all the way up until the ’90s now (’94-’95 is the last study that they did)–it seems the case that Large Group Awareness Training did in fact exceed even our expectations of its ability to help people produce the kind of results that they were looking for in their lives.
I don’t know in precise terms which groups they compared it to, but they had a database made up of several hundred other training organizations, you know, from the small group therapist to the adult education college course in the evening, etcetera, and they washed all those against a Lifespring Basic and Advanced and Leadership program. Fortunately, they found that the kind of benefit people were getting was significant, over and above what had, up until then, been something other than Large Group Awareness Training.
INT: One more question on the Large Group Awareness concept and then we’ll move on. Dr. Lieberman coined the term ‘Large Group Awareness.’ Awareness of what? In other words, in these experiential trainings they increase one’s awareness. Obviously large groups, that’s sort of implicit in that name. But awareness of what?
JH: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m now speaking on behalf of Dr. Yalom, and you’d be better off asking Lee Ross and also Mort Lieberman. But I think that they equate awareness with the ability to take a new action. So, their point of view was that people are pretty straightforward and they’re not stupid, and that when people become aware of an opening for a new possibility, they step into it. That from their point of view, at least (and I’m sort of speculating here), I think they felt that once people had a shift in their perception of the way that life was occurring to them–once they became aware that, one, it was just their perception, just their interpretation, and two, that they could choose (because they could interpret it any way they chose)–as long as their actions became consistent with the way that they chose, they could create a new future.
So awareness plays a big part in human nature. Again, my speculation is that what they were saying is, in a very simple sentence: human beings, when they become aware of a new potential, will automatically step into it. And it’s those walls we keep running into and those mistakes we keep making and those breakdowns we keep having simply because we’re not attuned or we’re not aware of re-creating the same old mistakes over and over again, and that once we become aware of how to prevent that, we automatically step aside and create a new possibility.
INT: You mentioned that this approach is not therapy or psychologically-based. What are the primary differences between this approach and a therapeutic, psychological approach to improvement?
JH: Well, I think that, at least for us (and I think most of the educational community would agree), what we’re presenting is a curriculum for learning, a curriculum for education, and I distinguish education from psychology or therapy. Not to say that people don’t learn in therapy. I’m certain that they do, but I think, initially at least, the reason people go to therapy is because they have some dramatic or potentially dramatic emotional break-up/breakdown upset. In the case of the educational model, it’s just asking people, “Hey, listen, do you want to learn new things about yourself and the way the world works? Do you want to learn about how to achieve your goals more effectively and more smoothly? If you do, we invite you to take our course.” But from this perspective it’s strictly education: we’re not here to deal with your therapeutic needs because we’re simply not equipped to deal with therapeutic needs.
INT: Can you just give me a rundown of the history of the development of Lifespring from its inception?
JH: I can. Actually we started in San Francisco and then we expanded to Portland, Oregon. Then we went to Orange County, and then from Orange County to L.A., and then we went way across the country to Washington D.C., and then we spun off the East Coast from Washington, and then ultimately the hub of the East was New York. Then from New York–sorry, we did Washington, Philadelphia then New York–and then from New York we had people coming in from Florida and Atlanta. Then eventually we spun Atlanta and the Miami area after that. Then we went back to the Midwest. We had Dallas, then we opened Chicago, and so it goes, you know. I think we had fifteen or eighteen centers in the US.
INT: Over what period of time did this expansion take place?
JH: Well, let’s see. The first three or four came within the first couple of years, and then the next ten took about five or six years more.
INT: So you started in the mid-70s…so that takes us up basically to the mid-80s, right? So you’re at that point?
INT: Then at that point you just worked on continuing to develop into these cities?
JH: Yeah. We started also to work on new products. By that time we’d come up with several workshops. We had invented a new training called the Masters Course which we felt was a premium piece of work, and we really took it upon ourselves to continue to develop our staff, our trainers, and our trainings.
Then we began to look overseas. We opened up Tokyo, Japan in 1977 and then, about 1990–I cannot remember exactly, maybe ’92–we sold the license for Asia to a company called AsiaWorks. And then we trained all their trainers as well as our own. AsiaWorks is a big company today and is doing very well. Again, all Lifespring trained personnel and Lifespring technology.
And then we saw several spin-offs around the world, with several here in the US. I think the most interesting spin off is Dr. Phil. In fact, the first day somebody called me and said, “Did you know that Dr. Phil on the Oprah show has the Lifespring training?” I said, “No, I did not.” And they said, “Well, you should tune into this and watch it.” And I did, and I was simply amazed that somehow this guy had gotten our manual and, verbatim, took the basic training as his own and then followed with the Advanced course as his own. Really, if you watch Dr. Phil, for those who’ve seen the show and have done Lifespring trainings, you will know that there’s only one place he could have gotten that information and that is the Lifespring Basic and Advanced courses.
INT: So you’re not aware of how he ended up having that information?
JH: No, I’m not, actually. But, he got it.
INT: That is wild.
JH: Yeah, it really is. Well, it’s wild because, when we started out, we were (how would you say?) ‘high risk.’ And people were sort of looking at us cross-eyed saying “Come on now, is this really possible that for five days you can give me my life back–you can turn my whole life around? I don’t think so.” So this was met with a lot of scepticism, and I think most everything is. FedEx was met with a lot of scepticism too, so we’re in good hands. You know, today, if you really look carefully, you will see experiential learning and, really, the center-points of the Lifespring training in almost every corporate training in America. I think, globally, you’ll see pieces of it here and there, and I think the next step is going to be seeing pieces of it in the high schools and colleges around the country.
So you know, that has all of us win at the end of the day, anyway, because, after all, we really started out as young, enthusiastic, can’t-be-stopped-by-anything kids. I was 27, and we really were on a mission, and the mission was to transform the planet. Everybody goes sort of thing, everybody wins. We were coming out of an era where that was not the case, where there was a lot of suppression of people’s thought and value-systems and ability to step outside what called the establishment and think for themselves. But, of course, today, as we see, that’s “pc.”
So it’s funny, I really enjoy looking from the abstract at the thirty year process, the evolution, the transformation. And it has gone from sort of ‘very risky, we don’t know if this kind of thing will actually work,’ to mainstream. You know, if you want to know more, turn on Dr. Phil and you can watch Lifespring every day if you like.
INT: Well, I have noticed even in the time that I have been involved with this style of education, since ’96, significant cultural movement just in that period of time in terms of resistance. It must have been pretty intense at times, this being an unknown at the time.
JH: I think that’s right, and I have to say–again, this is just my opinion so there’s not necessarily truth in it–but, as far as I’m concerned, the group most threatened by what we were doing in fact turned out to be the psychologists. They were not talking to very many people because they were all taking Large Group Awareness Trainings. If you think about it, are you going to pay 150 bucks an hour for three years, or are you going to pay 300 bucks for five days and produce an extraordinary result as compared to the one you’ve been producing for a year or two.
So you know, I think the only place people had to go for self-improvement was the therapeutic community, and once a new possibility opened up for people who wanted self-improvement, I think it hurt, both financially and intellectually, the psychological community. I think they’re the ones that really suffered and went out of there way to see if they couldn’t make us suffer, too.
INT: And thinking about it, too, there’s very few arenas in life where people are more committed to being right, and maintaining the fact that they are right, than in academia, education, and religion. I think a lot of the heartburn with this style of education came from those arenas.
JH: Well, I’m glad you mentioned the religious part. You know, again, I think that the church–again, this is just my interpretation–the church really felt threatened as well that, somehow, Large Group Awareness Trainings (Lifespring, et al) were trying to take away what they were set up to achieve. Of course, we were not: we were not a competition in any way. We didn’t want to have anything to do with being a religious organization, or having people’s belief systems be like ours, or having people involved in all the ambience of what one does when they are a member of a church. But I believe that the church got defensive and said, “Hey, wait a minute! People aren’t coming to church as much as they used to, or they’re coming in a way or they are speaking up whereas before they were just following.” And I think that created a little hubbub as well.
But as time goes on, I believe that the technology of transformation now has gone through the bumps and bruises that, frankly, I think any society has got to test. So I don’t feel as if they did it to us; I think that what the psychological community and the religious community and all the rest of the communities did was to the good of all, and it forced us to be as good as we could be. At the end of the day, I think now that most psychologists and most sociologists and most educators will agree that there’s something to this transformational technology and that, be it religious or secular, all can benefit from that technology.
And also the fact that–and I don’t know whether I should have let it happen or not or if there was anything I could have done about it–but the fact that so many people now are using the Lifespring technology in the US and worldwide. After a while it just becomes obvious that there’s something of real value here, and I think the institutions in America have accepted the fact that there is real value.
INT: When you use the word transformational technology, technology indicates, to me, something that is identifiable, replicable, duplicable, and intentional versus something that is mysterious. Can you expand on just what you mean when you apply the word technology to the approach that Lifespring has taken?
JH: Well, I can give it a shot. When I say transformational technology, what I mean is that there’s an understanding that the training presents a certain world view and that that world view is not presented as the truth, but rather as a possibility, and also that it’s presented that same way each and every time. The results from that presentation and people’s experience and participation produce a fairly predictable, positive result at the conclusion.
INT: Just coming back to the historical development. Lifespring was involved in all these cities and obviously you’ve now taken the technology and taught and presented it in various formats. You mentioned Asiaworks being someone that took it and moved on in another organizational format. How did that transformation go, from where you were in multiple cities as a corporate entity called Lifespring, to where it is today, where it’s really manifested in a multi-faceted and variegated corporate environments and training companies?
JH: Well, I think that people saw that the risk of entry into the transformational field was fairly low and that, in other words, it wasn’t like owning a car dealership where you had to spend you know, $3-4 million in inventory and build a building. So, given the ease of entry, I also think that with given people’s passionate commitment to make a difference with others, you put those two together and the word spreads. Of the thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of people who’ve taken the training, a lot of those people had strong desires to spread the word, and some of those people who took the training and were trained by us, they felt like they’d like to strike out on their own. Initially, I was concerned about that, but I got over it and I saw that really this wasn’t something that I owned; it was something that I was the caretaker of for the first 20 or 25 years, but really my job was to bring it into being, to socialize it in a way that it had roots and that it could carry on apart from my personality, to develop the technology such that it could stand on its own, and to see that no one except skilled and capable individuals could take that technology and replicate it and get the job done.
So I really feel that we didn’t have a patent on it. We did have a copyright and I suppose we could have been tougher about that–we could of taken on a bunch of these organizations and shut ‘em down, but at the same time we also tried to walk the talk, and the talk was about everybody winning, and the talk was about everybody goes, and the talk was about let’s have a world work for everyone.
So you know, somewhere in there between my own selfish, competitive desires and sort of a bigger mission, the thing evolved, and I’m very pleased with its evolution and think of the old adage, “if people are copying what you’re doing, then it must be pretty good stuff.” So, it’s actually wonderful now that people in all walks of life–be it in high tech or in religious circles–have their Lifespring-esque organisations and are doing very well with them and producing results. Hey, so much the better.
INT: What are the central distinctions intrinsic in the whole philosophical concept of transformation? What are the building blocks of that?
JH: Well, there’s a course that I recently found out about called Millionaire Mind which I thought was a clever name for a course.
INT: Who put that up?
JH: I don’t know, but I just recently heard about it and I thought, “Well, if that’s Millionaire Mind, then what we are is Billionaire Being,” if you will. So being is the number one abstraction that we want to give people–a real opportunity to experience their own being. You know, we live in a society that’s really oriented to consumption and to having and to lots doing and activity. But, you know, the being part is just sort of taken for granted, and what we do is sort of reverse the order: if doing and having are primary in the real world and in most people’s thinking, then, when they come into the training, we want to present the idea that maybe being has a lot more to do with their ability to do and have than we’ve previously thought. So that’s number one.
Number two, we want to open up the possibility (not like we know this is so but we have strong indications that it’s valuable, for people to look at this question) that really what we see out there and what we hear come through a filtering system. We call it a paradigm, and that’s not a new word now–it was some years ago when we started, but now it’s sort of taken for granted. Paradigm. And really, what paradigm means is that we have a set of beliefs and values through which we see the world. That’s all fine and well, and when I say we, I mean all of us and, therefore, we don’t have some perfect access to truth. So, if we don’t have to deal with truth, then we don’t have to deal with a fixed being, then we can deal with being and possibility. And, ultimately, the third and most important distinction, in my opinion, is that yesterday has very little to do with tomorrow. What the trainings try to do–what transformational technology is about–is separating the past from the future, and that’s what opens up possibilities when people can begin to see that there’s not a cause-effect relationship between the past and the future. That means that everything I did up untill now isn’t necessarily what I’ll continue to do or isn’t necessarily an extrapolation of what I have been doing. In fact, I could take a 180º turn up, down, or sideways because I’m not lashed and tied to the past.
So those are the three that I see, and we could talk about that for a long time because the first course is five days and the second is five days. So that’s a long conversation, but I’d say those three are, to me, primary.
INT: In the same vein, what do you think are the top–number one, two and three or however many–influences that prevent people from being able to do and be who they want to be? What are the obstacles?
JH: Well, I just think that really there aren’t any obstacles so much as it is just exposing people to this experience and giving them an opportunity to take a look-see at something from a different point of view than they’re accustomed to. I just think about the old adage that “you can’t teach a new dogs new tricks” and that people think that learning happens when I’m in grade school, high school, and, in some cases, college, and then after that we’re all about doing. So, what we try and do with people is to let them know that, really, this is about learning to learn again. And once people say, “Oh, okay. You mean I don’t have to know?” No, you don’t have to know, it’s okay not to know. Then we can start looking at those areas in our lives which we didn’t know we didn’t know, and as soon as people get the concept of, “Oh yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know that I don’t know, and it’s okay that I don’t know it. And it might be interesting to see if, experientially, I can access some of that stuff that I know I don’t even know I don’t know.” It becomes commitment to learning, and that’s really, at the end of the day, the breaking of the barrier: having it be okay to learn again.
INT: What would you say are the philosophical roots of this approach in terms of classical philosophy? I think it’s always fascinating to consider the fact that every influence today is a result of a whole stream of hundreds of years. It seems to me that one of the great geniuses of the Lifespring approach is that reality is deeply rooted in philosophy but applied as a viable, practical process.
JH: Well, philosophy is a wonderful study, it just doesn’t pay very well. The economics of being a philosopher are a little weak unless you happen to be a tenured prof at some fantastic university, but most organisations don’t have, “Hi, this is our CEO and this is our Director of Operations and this is our Chief of Philosophy.” So it’s not considered sort of the heartbeat of America, but what we tried to do was to make philosophy accessible for the average person in a way that they could use it and produce value in their life in a way that, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to do. So, the roots of transformation per se are continental existential philosophy, and there’s a lot of people involved, but two primary characters. One is Soren Kierkegaard and the other is Martin Heidegger. These two philosophers gave us the notion of what a self is. Up until that time, we were thinking more like René Descartes’ description of what a self was. He was the guy who came up with “I think therefore I am,” and he’s what’s called a Cartesian. A Cartesian notion of self means that “there’s me–the subject, and then there’s everything else–the object.” And that “I have a certain relationship as a subject with all those objects, and it’s real and it’s true and I am part of the symbolism between myself and everything else, the objective.”
INT: So your primary focus now is to be able to support ‘Corporate America’ or ‘Corporate World’ so to speak. So if people wanted to learn more about what’s available, how would they pursue that?
JH: Well, we’d appreciate it if they’d dial up our website which is www.leadertrain.com and take a look for themselves at what we have done, the recommendations we have gotten, what we plan to do, and what’s available for them, and so on.
The other area that I am thinking about now is education, and I’m thinking “Well, I’m going to be 60 years old this year and I’d like to take some time to convince the educational community that a transformational-esque kind of training or kind of course could be designed and used in our colleges, our junior colleges, and even, perhaps, our high schools. I did a joint venture project with…the largest university in Hong Kong for three years where we designed a transformational training for students which turned out to be enormously successful and continues of its own inertia now, so I know that there’s a need in our school systems for people to start thinking about themselves in a more powerful way. I don’t have a mechanism at this moment, but I’m thinking about a way to dig deep into our educational system and see if can’t find a home for this kind of thinking.
INT: That’s exciting.
JH: Yeah, it really is exciting because, at the end of the day, if somebody who is 14, 17, 18, 20 has gotten this technology, I’d say it saves a lot of bumps and bruises that life can hand out, and I’d say that it puts them in high gear right off the bat rather than shifting through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.
INT: So, if someone’s in the field of education and they were interested in collaborating and bringing you on board to help pioneer something like that, they can reach you through the leadertrain.com site?
JH: Yes, they can, and I would really to love to sit down with those kinds of people and just listen to where they are and discuss what their needs are and collaborate. You know, figure out some way to invent something, design something together that would work in our school systems.
JH: (Continued) Let me just backtrack a bit. So, philosophy’s job, more or less, has been to tell us what it means to be a human being. And if we look at philosophy in the long view, we’ll note that from time to time–every 100 years or every 500 years or every 1,000 years–what it means to be human and, therefore, what possibilities are available to human beings, change. And they change because some philosopher, like Plato, for example, comes up with a heck of an argument and people say, “Yeah, that’s right. It sounds right. Yeah, that’s what we are.”
Well, then Kierkegaard and Heidegger come along and say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe Descartes didn’t get it exactly right.” They say, “Hey, we know how you’ve described what it means to be a human being and what’s possible for a human being.” And there’s a certain metaphysics which each generation, or every third or fourth generation, of philosophers has made known and that has been accepted as the way it is to be human. And that definition–that metaphysical description, if you will–opens certain possibilities for action and closes certain other possibilities for action. Well, Kierkegaard and then, subsequently, Heidegger said, “Well, what if there wasn’t any real metaphysics? What if there was no ‘This is really, really this time, no kidding, we’ve found it, this is what it means to be a human being?’” And with that–the idea of what it means to be a human being as an interpretation–if you play with that, you begin to see that, “Hmm…so there’s no home plate for human beings; so there’s really no real ‘what it means to be a human being.’” Then the idea of being able to declare what it means to be me and declare what I’m up to and declare the possibility that my life is opens up. So that’s a little short summary of the sort of philosophic background of the transformational training.
INT: You’ve really spent your entire adult life breaking ground as what I would term the leading arrow-catcher and groundbreaker, so to speak, pioneering a new way of approaching learning and education. What do you see now as the future for transformational technology experience for education?
JH: Well, I really am committed to moving the general public side forward and being as available as I can to assist anybody there because, again, I think that is enormously valuable for individuals. And then, simultaneously to that, a group of us have made a much larger commitment to the business world. In the last two or three years I have spent about 98% of my work time working for corporations doing cultural change and leadership training using this technology, and I must tell you that it works as well, if not better, in the business community than it did for the last 30 years in the general public community.
The thing about business which is so terrific is that they’re pretty results orientated, and if you go in there with transformational technology and get the job done, well, there’s no questions after that. It seems that business has exhausted almost every other skills training, psychologists, field trips, whatever, to get the kinds of people on their staff that they can empower to not only get the job done for themselves but get the job done for the organisation. And it’s with that that I believe that business has now opened to a new approach. For instance, IBM spent $30 million on a program called ‘Transforming the Manager,’ and IBM–big blue and white shirts, black suits–for them to embrace this technology is a wonderful thing for all of us and really for business worldwide.
Then, also, we’ve been spending a good deal of time overseas in Asia primarily and working in the emerging market, China, and we see the multinational organizations that are going over there. For instance, we’re working with the Director of Training for Home Depot in Beijing, which is kind of funny because we’re not working with Home Depot here in the US. But we are working with the Director of Training over there so, you know, you take it where you can get it.
But the point is that transformation in the business community is worldwide, and business is calling for a new recipe to support their employees 360º. They know that if an employee’s life is working, then their work life is working. You know, we used to think, “Listen, don’t bring any of your other issues to the workplace; put in your eight hours or your nine hours, do a good job, and then, you know, if you’re going back to a broken situation or an upset or a personal breakdown, so be it.” But now business recognizes that the whole person really is who they’re counting on to get the job done, and so the idea of transformation becomes extremely important. We don’t just work with people transforming their experience in the workplace, but rather, as a sort of side effect, these transformational technologies and these tools that they get in business are applicable in their everyday life as well.
INT: Well, there’s a real need for that.
JH: There really is. You know, it’s funny. I’ve got to tell you 30 years later, I didn’t think we were going to make it past the first seminar. And you know, I was always surprised back in the early 70s when I’d come home from a training and my wife would say “How did it go?” and I’d say “Well, they liked it.” I did that several times and then, after a while, she’d say, “I know, they liked it,” and I’d say, “Yeah, amazingly enough they did.”
So the thing caught on. I have to chuckle when I think about it because I just didn’t figure…well, I figured it might go for a year or two or something like that and then I’d be selling real estate or something or be assistant manager at McDonald’s. But the thing caught on and I think that’s a testament to the power of the course and it really doesn’t have anything to do with me. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, with the right kind of people beside me to guide me. And the next thing you know, there’s this huge demand for experiential transformational learning, and I happen to be able to play a part in that which I will always appreciate.
INT: Well, thank you so much for your time. This has been very insightful and informative.
JH: No, I thank you. I’ve really enjoyed this interview and I appreciate the time that you took to prepare. You know, you never know how people will respond to what I had to say today. But I really felt that it came out very nicely and I hope it was helpful.