Sunday, 7 September 2008

Is It Worth Doing the Landmark Forum? Is It a Racket?

Buster McLeod has produced an interesting take on the Landmark Forum. As he says, "Mostly, what I got out of the Forum was a collection of very expensive new works and phrases."

Here's his report and the comments following: 

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

do the landmark forum (read all 2 entries…)

Worth doing!

What I learned at The Landmark Forum: The story slows you down  — 1 year ago

The Landmark Forum was fun. It was a fun weekend trip. Probably almost as fun as visiting a new exciting city, except this city is in your mind. Muhahaha. You notice things that you’ve probably thought about before at one time or another, but they string it all together and package it all in such a way that it feels more tangible. Plus, you paid for it. They constantly remind you about the cost of the Forum, very deliberately I think. You paid $425, and offered 3 whole days of your life. Using the pressure of prior investment, you feel strongly compelled to get ANYTHING out of the Forum, even if it’s just a few phone calls where you tell your family and friends that you love them. Once that happens, it’s difficult to feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth.

Mostly, what I got out of the Forum was a collection of very expensive new words and phrases. Here are some of them:

  • Inauthenticity: Being false with someone in order to avoid or gain something. Doing something for a reason.
  • Blind spot: Something that you don’t know that you don’t know. Your set of blind spots has more control over you than the set of things you actually do know, or even know that you don’t know.
  • Racket: A persistent complaint with someone or something that leads you into a habitual way of being, thinking, feeling, or acting.
  • Strong suit: One of your strengths. But the quality that makes you strong and productive will sometimes be used in such a way that it will hurt you.
  • Being unreasonable: Being reasonable means being controlled by your reasons. You may feel compelled to find reasons before you can do something. Being UNreasonable means doing something simply because you are doing it, taking responsibility for it, and enjoying it as it is.
  • What’s happening vs. the story: There are two universes… one in which things are happening (words are passing through the air as soundwaves) and another in which a story is created about what the soundwaves mean. In the story, the past and future are very prominent (motivations, intent, expectation, attitude). And in what’s simply happening, there is only the present, and an constant stream of new moments, each complete in itself.
  • This is not the truth: The Landmark Forum is very explicit in stating that nothing they’re saying is the truth. They claim to have created a POSSIBLE way of being that they’ve found produces results, and works in a practical way for people who want to live more powerful lives. It gave an easy out for any arguments that seemed to fall apart to just say, “oh, but this is not the truth, it’s just a possible way of being”. It is a good safeguard against getting too attached to the philosophy though.
  • Extraordinary problems: Extraordinary people have extraordinary problems. There is an endless cycle of problem -> solution -> problem -> solution that you can’t get out of… the only thing you can do is choose bigger, more exciting problems to tackle. Problems that you don’t want are really just boring problems.
  • Life is empty and meaningless: Their mantra is that life is empty and meaningless and it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless. Yes, we are meaning-making machines that fill the emptiness with whatever meaning we can invent. I like the second half, which many people trip over. The resulting mindset isn’t one of futility or depression or hedonism but rather the opposite: feeling free, excited, inspired, and ready to face life.
  • Transformation: To be transformed is to realize that you can invent yourself as one of an infinite number of possibilities, limited only by what you can invent, and your ability to not be driven by automatic default behaviors. I think every field of self-help advertises this truly free way of being. The difficulty of getting it to stick is their business model.

Being transformed means you feel free, keep your word, don’t need to be right, are straight in your communication, acknowledge but are not controlled by your fears, responsible for what’s happening, don’t scheme or do things for ulterior motives, and share with and inspire others.

What I learned

I think I learned about the costs of living in a story. You know how in a movie, people are shooting at you, or you’ve fallen in love, and you have to wait 2 hours to finally die or fall in love? I remember when I was playing paint ball with some friends, I would start the game and within 30 seconds I’d be dead (usually shot right between the eyes by my friend’s father who was a retired cop), and then I’d have to wait 15 minutes for the next game. I remember feeling that there was something wrong about that… I never would’ve died that quickly if this had been a story in a book, or a movie. We’ve come to expect life to be a movie… for it to begin, build up, climax, and end. But in reality things just happen. The less we try to make things stick to a story, the quicker they can happen. I needed a story to get divorced. And a story to start a company. That’s being reasonable to an extent that it actually slows me down. I should just do things when I do them, and not spend months or years on “reason-gathering” missions.

What stories am I currently gathering reasons for? I can think of several. Some of them are as simple as getting my eyes checked. The period between deciding to do it and actually doing it can be months simply because I’m waiting for my story to create an opening for it. It’s why we’re all procrastinators. Things get done according to an invisible timeline, often because of deadlines, and when there are no deadlines nothing gets done. Because the story just goes on and on like War and Peace. Things can happen immediately. Screw the story. Stop being ruled by reasons.

Would I recommend it?

I guess I would recommend it. It’s definitely a cult, so there’s always the danger that you might get caught up in it and give them all your money (that’s all they’re really after), but if you like cults and are careful you can gain a lot of the benefit without becoming dependent on them for a sense of purpose in life. That would be madness. And, anecdotally, a lot of people do get caught up in the madness it seems. So, if you’ve got a cult-sensitive personality, or tend to only feel at home in a big supportive group, I might stay away. Lost souls and cynical bastards will find it sort of weird and fun. Our “coach” was a bit of an asshole, though, so if you go to the one in Seattle, I’d love to hear your impressions of him.


Great summary. I have so many thoughts about this experience and I really need to find a moment to write it all down. I totally had moments where I felt caught up in the madness myself and found myself considering advanced courses in order to sustain the high, even while a little mouse in my brain was whispering, “Maggie, are you crazy?” I felt part of my brain becoming “Landmarky” even as I resisted it.

But after a couple days of distance I am also starting to see some of their techniques as very transparent—for example, now “being unreasonable” seems like it is just a way to combat all our excuses for not signing up for more classes.

However, I can’t deny that I had a couple of what I suppose would be called “breakthroughs” (perhaps better described as moments of clarity) and that I felt intensly happy and peaceful on Sunday night and Monday morning, and I felt a really strong connection and ability to express myeslf with you on Sunday. The question I am left with is, can I sustain that kind of attitude without the high prices and cult-like atmosphere of Landmark? Maybe all it take for me to feel connected to you or other people is a few words of acknowledgment and a couple glasses of champagne? Hmmm.

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

I think being unreasonable is a good thing to strive for as long as it’s coming from inside yourself rather than as a pressuring tactic. They were inconsistent in their unreasonableness… for example, not signing up for the free seminars wasn’t allowed to be considered unreasonable.

And yeah, I think we can by-pass the expensive route by just paraphrasing it into our own words and continuing to talk about the things that are useful.

We already have our own phrases for so many of their ideas. I should make a list:

  1. Enroll -> Rally
  2. Being unreasonable -> Accept all offers, in it to win it, stop dilly-dallying
  3. Extraordinary problems -> Higher highs and lower lows
  4. Meaninglessness -> That’s absurd
  5. What’s happening -> Now this is happening
  6. Give up “there’s something wrong here” -> Be the thing

I know there were others. I think these phrases are the way you can keep good ideas in mind. And champagne.

be the thing!

well, not going to the free seminars is pretty reasonable using their definition—after all, I did not “accept all offers.” I understood “be unreasonable” to mean something more like “no excuses.” No excuses for not calling your ex-boyfriend, no excuses for not signing up for $1000 classes.

you forgot my favorite—be the thing! Also, I know it is not our phrase but “creating possibilities” is intent manifesting and they also mentioned the concept of the the zeitgiest.

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

Oh yeah...

I meant for that last one to be “be the thing”.

And yeah, an unreasonable person would just say, “I’m not signing up for the classes because I’m not signing up.” It’s as easy as not giving a reason. I can see how this could easily be abused though. It’s very similar to the infuriating “Because I said so” of our youths.

Fantasic Summary

I think you did a good job on this summary. It’s funny because I can read it and understand exactly what you’re talking about, but I wonder if that’s only because I received the same neuro linguistic programming.

So, it’s been almost exactly a year since I started my ‘life of transformation.’ I want to dispel the idea that you’ll somehow forget what you learned or the feelings you had upon exit. I’m sure the metaphor will sound familiar, but it’s like riding a bike. You’ll never forget it.

For better or for worse, you now have access to a way of thinking that will never go away.

However, you will have breakdowns, and you will have rackets, and you will have cynical and resigned moments. The thing is, now you can call them what they are.

Over time the Landmark stuff and my own personality/beliefs/philosophy have worked themselves out. Most of my exceptions where the ones you mentioned. The hard-sell, the exploitation of emotional high, the cult-like recruitment tactics, were all things that bothered me from the beginning.

However, it certainly changed my life for the better, and I don’t have any problem recommending it to people I feel are ‘strong enough.’

The thing that helped me the most with this settling process was a single big realization:

The Landmark Forum is a ‘racket.’

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

You’re right, it’s totally a racket. I realized that I love running into rackets. It’s sort of like running through a car wash.

hey Buster -

I did the Forum back when I was in high-school.

My dad got into it back then, and my stepmother is actually a Landmark seminar leader.

anyway, it’s cool to know other cool people I respect have done it as well.

I loved it!

Yeah, sure there are moments when you think “What the hell?!” but overall it was the most powerful and inspiring thing I have ever done and I cannot wait to start putting everything into practice!

I originally did it 2 years ago and have just done it again this weekend where I got x50 more out of it! I have a lot of time and respect for people who have taken the plunge – it takes guts to do something like this, but once you do, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it. xx

Nice post thanks

When they announced that everyone who had not signed up for further seminars should go to the back table for consultations (badgering)...
all of these people dutifully reported to the back tables.


share some stuff

I have been in breakthrough and break down situation for the many time. I was breakdown for 2 days and never thought that breakthrough will come back. any do you have any trick for bringing this feeling back?

1 comment:

Michael Patrick Brewer said...

Fascinating to read in retrospect to my EST training in 1983 and then being the Landlord of the EST office, or Erhard and Associates, in Tucson, Arizona. I liked the training, even though I was in that cynical category. As a Philosophy major and a trained Gestalt Therapist, I was impressed with the synthesis of Existential philosophy and the writings of Fritz Perls. Werner just knew how to bottle it!