3/13/10

My Introduction to The Landmark Forum

Okay, I’ll go
For the past month or so, a friend of mine had been trying to convince me to attend an introductory meeting for something called The Forum. When I asked him to describe The Forum, his answer was hard to grasp. Apparently, even though he was already fairly happy with his life (and making good money), The Forum helped him realize his unreached potential. He told me that taking it made him a better artist, businessman, and person; that he owed his current successes in his company to The Forum, as well as his being able to establish a civil relationship with his former wife. Upon hearing me tell him that I wasn’t interested in a self help program, he insisted that the Forum is not, absolutely not, a self help program at all. All he wanted me to do was attend an introductory meeting in which I would meet a representative, and if I decided to attend, then I could sign up for the price of $425. I declined to attend. But he continued in his pursuit until ultimately, over a pleasant dinner and a couple of drinks, I graciously, yet grudgingly agreed to attend the next introduction.

I took some time over the next few days to read up on The Forum via the net. What I found was quite interesting: a multimillion dollar company, accusations of cult-like activity, banned from operating in France, complaints of brainwashing, and a close connection to the now debunked est programs from the seventies.

Here are some links to articles and information about The Forum that are much better than mine:

Skeptics:
Inside the Landmark Forum, Karin Badt
The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns

Supporters:
Investigation: is the Landmark Forum a cult?
The Landmark Website


What is left unsaid?
So I would guess that if you are the skeptical type, then the top two links will appeal to you, and if you are the Chicken Soup for the Soul type, then you fancy the bottom two links. Either way, all of them conspicuously omit some aspects of The Forum. The skeptics either neglect to mention progress made by other Forum takers, or, if it is mentioned, it is done in a way that implies their gullibility. The writer for the Guardian who came out in support of The Forum fails to mention the large chunk of the seminar that is dedicated to indoctrinating its students with the desire to sell it to their friends and family. So who is right? Generally, I will usually side with the skeptics, and this is no exception.

Volunteering? Really?
Those who had a good experience with The Forum, such as my friend and his family, would never admit that they are actually selling it to their friends, but instead say that they are trying to share something life changing, something important and inconceivable until it is experienced. Sound familiar? It should if you have ever been courted by a religion or a cult. You would think that The Forum is Jesus from the way that its participants speak of it. It seems like The Forum uses the same selling tactic as some religions, which is to convince their customers that their product, enlightenment, is completely unobtainable except through them. Quite evangelical.

Participants in The Forum are so dedicated that they volunteer their time to help it gain new customers. I can’t understand why they would do this. They are basically working for free to make money for other people. Landmark Education, the company that owns The Forum, is a for-profit company. Like all other companies, they only care about their bottom line. That is not to say that those who volunteer are trying on purpose to make money for this company. They must believe that they are spreading good news and helping other people. Maybe they are. But, as a consequence of their good intentions, an international multimillion dollar company is making tons of cash.


Think of the children!
A remarkable and somewhat deplorable development in Landmark Education’s seminars is their offering of classes to teenagers and children. Given how The Forum’s participants are indoctrinated with the evangelical tendency to convert their friends and family, it makes good business sense to offer classes to their kids, as kids can not decide for themselves whether they should take it or not. Their parents will most certainly enroll them. Strangely, Landmark’s website notes that for parents to register their children for the 8 – 12 year old sessions, the child must chose attend on their own. This is preposterous, of course, as no child would even be aware of, let alone want to attend The Forum unless brought in to it by their parents. I have never met anybody whose children have attended the program, so I will not make any assumptions about whether they receive the same “hard sell” that their parents did. I won’t pretend that I’m even remotely concerned for the kids themselves. I’m not one of those “won’t somebody think of the children!” assholes that you see clogging up the news. I merely want state the opinion that offering a self-help program of this nature to children is absurd, and the only people who will not think it absurd are those who have already attended The Forum. Luckily, Forum initiates who can’t wait to get their family and friends involved can enroll their own children for $400 - $500 dollars, each.


Alas, I won’t go
So, armed with all of this information, I attended my introduction prepared to receive the “hard sell” that I had read so much about. What I actually got was a warm and friendly reception by my friend and a Landmark volunteer. We chatted and had coffee before going into the benefits of the Forum. The ordeal lasted a few hours, throughout which the Landmark volunteer spoke with me using a combination of her personal experiences and an obvious script. We made a list of parts of my life that were working and parts that were not. Every life could be better, so when I talked to her about how I wanted to improve my life, I made it clear that I was already comfortable with how I was handling my issues. My personality type is one that is quick to deal with hurtles and patient in doing so. I get along  with all of my family and friends. I have a healthy romantic relationship. I am well aware of my foibles and have clear approachable goals for my future. To put it bluntly, I lead an enjoyable, low stress, and happy life. Even parts of my life that could be better are still pretty good. Keeping that in mind, I simply could not see any immediate benefit to attending The Forum. I imagine that these kinds of introductions might appeal to those who are confused or perhaps just to those who feel like they are missing something that they can’t quite finger. These people, who may be in a vulnerable point in their lives, must be Landmark’s bread and butter. When my volunteer realized that I was satisfied with what I had, she shifted the focus of The Forum from the realm of what we know to the realm of possibility. I might think that I am happy and that I have everything I need, but I don’t know what else is out there that I don’t even know I want. The Forum will help me discover this…new possibility. I wasn’t buying it. I like having things in front of me. If I am going to pay hundreds of dollars for something, I want a clear physical benefit. The idea of paying for possibility seemed absurd to me. Possibility is free. It’s effing free.

Free.

Ultimately, I turned down their invitation to purchase my attendance at a seminar. They graciously accepted my answer and thanked me for attending.


Certainly not me
So, does Landmark Education deserve all of its controversy? I still don’t know, and doubt I ever will. I never attended one it its seminars nor do I see myself doing it in the future. The Forum, however life changing it may actually be, is clearly a self-help program that uses questionable selling tactics. The product? Enlightenment and freedom. The cost? $425. There are many out there who would pay millions for what The Forum is offering. But certainly not me. I’m not saying that I’m enlightened or that I’ve reached my full potential. But I’ll venture that I can get there even with a Forum-free life.

6 comments:

  1. Hey just read this. I have attended Landmark, so Im bound to be biased? No. What it has shown me, is highlighted the weaknesses I have, shown me how to be aware of them and what to do when they show up so I can be a better person.

    I was taken aback having to look for and pay upfront, but then clever person that I am, thought to myself I need to make this money and more back, if I dont I ll leave it forever. You know what? I found after doing the course that I shrunk from responsibilites and I didnt want to lead things, as I thought myself a target to be shot down, and nobody wants to be shot in the back (i.e. when you lead in front). I took landmarks advice and started playing the game for my life and yes, getting back to work, being on top of things, showing up on time, meant my new found burst of energy and speed was noticed and I got promoted i.e. was able to pay for more courses...and to save money I did volunteer time on other courses as a taster.

    Ok, you could say that I always had it in me,but never had to confidence, but also nobody ever noticed. It took a stranger standing on a pulpit to talk me into being a better person. Which is why I do landmark. Yes they are pushy; but you need to understand that sometimes something is good, and needs to be sold just like any other product regardless of what prejuices you might or might not have.

    Another angle I have thought of, was that I thought of getting therapy, as my friends are doing that; I now know I have spent 1/4 in bills to landmark doing four courses in one year (yes it was tough) than they have in two and they are still going to therapy with no obvious end/solution. And get this, sometimes therapist go to landmark....to check on things being said, but I figure they also get ideas!

    Yes you can lead a forum free life; but now I know that there is another (easier) way of living the life I love. I dont get wound up when people dont deliver things, I dont make them wrong, yes I do highlight ineffiencies, but thats what management is for, I dont own the company and I am a good worker so if Im doing my work, and its being affected by others I just see it that I need to highlight that it is not me....and not worry about it. Thats the access landmark has given me. Also, the power of saying no to things. Even to landmark asking me to do more courses...lol.

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  2. If I posted the underlying and obvious brainwashing techniques this company uses, they tend to get very angry and hostile towards negative information and views. Take into consideration before starting course that it got its it's methods based on scientology. Werner Erhard was in scientology for 7 years. He started Est group and the forum. Afterwards he sold part of it to his members. They created the landmark forum through Steve Saffron and others. I know all this because I do my research and my uncle is involved in scientology. I have been to a few scientology courses as well as the landmark forum. I found a few things to be of interest and good for humanity. Overall, it has questionable practices.

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  3. My husband joined this Landmark for over 3-4 months. He was struggling with his personality, and had many problems with us at home. He is now doing some advanced courses or seminars(whatever term they use), but at home, the scenario is still the same -verbal abuse, undignified behaviour, bad behaviour in front of kids. When confronted why he dosent change at home- or talk how we can work things out, he says I can get along with the whole world but not with you. He is a different person when he steps out of home, and someone else when he is in. Its easy to duplicate being a very positive person in front of strangers, but the reality shows at home.He still reminds us how we are paupers in front of him, and eat his food everyday. I dont know how this landmark has helped him, but it has helped me to realise its high time I take up a career(which we Indian women are forced to quit in orthodox families like mine), before we are thrown out of home. I have just shared my experience. I wish he had actually transformed in these 4 months. if this happens, i will come back here to tell about my wonderful life with my changed hubby and not post as anonymous

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  4. Hmmm. If Landmark Education is only in it for the money, who is raking it in? Then when you look at the numbers, you really get a sense of how much money the DON'T make. Their revenues are only about 80 Million dollars a year - That is for a company that operates in over 20 countries world wide. Most companies could not (and would not) try to operate on such a big scale on such a low budget.

    Then there is the value that participants get... 40 hours of classes for $500. People pay at least that for one college class which has very little value in real life. If the Landmark Forum works for you, you get tremendous value for the money.

    Yes, I've participated in Landmark Education. At times I love it, and at times I hate it. Overall it has has a bigger positive impact on my life than any thing else I have ever done in my life - and I do a lot of stuff. Those the give it a bad review are the ones who get to the point where they hate it or get confronted by what they are learning and give up.

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  5. The whole comment about "the only way you can be "enlightened" is through us" wasn't my experience at all. Nor was any brainwashing. In fact one attendee asked the forum leader why we need to to get our "enlightenment" this way, to which she responded, "There's a thousand ways and likely more to get to the point that this course brings you to, but you are here now, paid money to be here, and can get it in three days. If you or anyone else here thinks this is a mistake please go to the back and collect what you paid and you can be dismissed." This was during day 1 of the course. One person went back and collected their money and left.

    This doesn't seem like any type of brainwashing or evangelism to me ...

    The course offers you something, and you decide what to do with the information and personal changes gained. There is no coercing, there is no brainwashing (some NLP - but anyone keen can see exactly how this is used and to what effect), no evangelism, no talk of spiritual "facts", God, religion, nothing -- just useful skills to be learned.

    The course cannot change you, but if you are motivated to change yourself for the better, the course merely gives you tools that work for doing this.

    If selling a gun to someone is brainwashing them into killing, then I guess the course can be seen as brainwashing people to be better people. :)

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  6. I met two people recently that are members and volunteers for landmark. They have asked me multiple times to participate and I've told them I'm not interested. No offense but if they keep this up, I will stop spending time with them. I am happy with my life and am thankful that God is my enlightenment for free. I don't push my views into them about religion and poltics. What gives them the right to do continually do so. The organization absolutely makes money off of of people who are vulnerable. They've recruited people with marriage problems, people with depression and etc. that I know of. If they really want to help a roomful of people so much, why charge them $400+. Their event certainly doesn't cost that much. I know enough about finances as a former business consultant to know that they are making money. The comments above from supporters justifying costs and etc are a bunch of brain washed fools. I feel bad for them. Work on yourselves. The two people I know are both people that are so unaware of their surroundings and other people. Low social IQs. Not to say that these two people represent their members at large but if one is so enlightened then why act so oblivious to what is going around them? Anyhow, let landmark folks be happy with themselves and when people don't care to join, please just stop. Don't push your agenda into others. Maybe it'll occur to you that other people without landmark are happy and know their possibilities already.

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