The Landmark Forum — a rationalist's first impression

by Nisan2 min read1st Jun 201155 comments


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Last week I attended an introductory seminar to the Landmark Forum. Landmark is the modern form of est, a seminar series started by Werner Erhard in the 1970s. Like the Less Wrong community, this is an organization which claims to empower people and enable them to achieve their goals. I heard people recount how Landmark had enabled them to become a responsible adult, to build a relationship with their estranged son, to repair their relationship with their wife, to decide to quit their job and become funded as a grad student.

It's quite successful in attracting members (more than 1 million participants), so you may be interested to know how it works. Note that I only attended one session; this is a first impression. If you have more experience with Landmark, please tell us about it in the comments.

Also, a word of warning: Landmark Education is a for-profit employee-owned company. If you go to one of these things, beware the Dark Arts. The purpose of the free introductory session is to persuade you to sign up for the weekend-long Forum retreat, which costs around $500. And after that retreat, there are more advanced seminars to sign up for. Forum graduates, who are universally enthusiastic about the positive change Landmark has effected in their lives, are encouraged to recruit their friends. (By the way, this is a really good way to recruit people.) I had precommitted to not make any purchasing decisions while at the seminar.

An optimistic worldview

The seminar was mostly a lecture conveying an empowering, optimistic worldview. The message was that you can achieve anything, basically. Or, put more charitably, the message is that you can construct a personal narrative in which your actions are guided by goals and possibilities, rather than being limited by constraints. The speaker evoked laughter in some of the veterans — not humorous laughter, but the kind of giggle that comes from feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. The speaker was pretty good, admittedly. But her words and ideas were fuzzy, blunt, imprecise. Aspiring rationalists could do much better.

The exercises

Religions are also good at conveying a comforting worldview in lectures. But unlike in the religions I'm familiar with, every participant in the Landmark Forum is promised personal growth or rebirth. To be sure, the realization of this promise is facilitated by a placebo effect — everyone who signs up and pays for the Landmark seminars expects to get a lot out of it. But at least as important are the instrumental rationality exercises. These exercises are meant to internalize one's locus of control, manage one's dispositions, manage one's personal narratives, communicate effectively, and become more effective in general.

In accordance with Bhagwat's Law of Commitment, they led my fellow participants in an exercise in taskifying goals. I won't describe the exercise exactly; but if you spend five minutes thinking of a first exercise in taskifying goals, you'll come up with it yourself.1 Anyways, the exercise is very basic, but surprisingly effective if you don't already have the skill of turning goals into tasks. We were told beforehand that a common reaction to the exercise is "Wow, my goal is so easy to achieve now! I am relieved." Of course, this expectation made the exercise seem super effective (and probably made it more effective in fact).


Exercises are important. We already knew that, right?


1Landmark has intellectual property rights to its curricula. And they also have money. If you start using Landmark intellectual property at your Less Wrong meetup, they might sue you. I won't publish Landmark exercises on Less Wrong unless I'm sure it won't hurt Less Wrong or the Singularity Institute. I'm happy to talk about this stuff privately.

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One of my mom's friends was into Landmark. He was not what I would describe as a successful person, to put it bluntly.

On the subject of dark arts, the longer course involves several greater than twelve hour days of lectures with limited bathroom and meal breaks. These are clearly not designed to promote clear thinking about the content of the courses.

A coworker of mine has done Landmark and speaks highly of it. He's successful and intelligent.

Take that as a warning (even intelligent people can succumb) or a comfort (it won't destroy you completely) as you like.

The information is largely obsolete, and may never have been accurate. As to the "mom's friend," the suggestion that a program involving about 180,000 people each year is to be judged by a snapshot of an individual is ... interesting. Anyone can take the Forum -- they no longer exclude people based on psychological diagnoses, though they recommend that certain people not take the Forum -- and I've seen some rather damaged people even go on. The question would be if those people benefited or not, and what I've seen is progress, sometimes startling progress. But you can also find on the internet a story of a Landmark Communications Course Leader who murdered his wife. Appears to be true. And so?

The Forum is for real people, not saints. Forum Leaders aren't saints, they make mistakes, they are simply highly trained in presenting the "distinctions." That involves consciousness far beyond the ordinary, I can see and say that much, but it's still only training and practice.

The Forum and Advanced Course are about the same: 9 AM to 10 PM. There are two half-hour breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and there is an evening meal break of an hour and a half.

Calling it "lectures" is quite misleading. I have very low tolerance for lectures. Landmark has honed the Forum script for decades, they know what works and what doesn't. There are periods where the Forum leader reads -- or "recreates" the material, but these are relatively short. There will then be conversations with individuals, which are, by nature, somewhat unpredictable, showing or demonstrating the material or whatever comes up. The Forum leader will ask for volunteers from the audience to go to the microphones. Nobody is required to do this.

And then, as a third modality, there will be "paired sharing." The seats have been arranged to make this generally work out easily. People will talk to the person next to them about what's coming up for them about the issue just covered. That's the only place where there is any expectation that individuals speak. Don't want to share with strangers, sit with someone you feel okay about sharing with. And you can still decline.

The only time I felt that it was all going on for too long, it was really difficult for me, was in the Advanced Course when I'd become aware of my long-standing "act," what had disempowered me for so many years in so many contexts. Until it became clear to me, I became convinced that this whole thing was indeed a cult, I was odd man out, nobody would understand me, it was all group-think. That went on for about an hour, and it was excruciating. And then it became totally obvious to me what had happened, and I was free. My "act" was precisely this: I was a loner, standing for the Truth, which only I could see. Nobody was going to hear me, they were going to reject me. And, of course, with this expectation firmly ensconced and believed, that's exactly what happened, often.

In fact, once I saw what I'd been doing, I also could see what I could do to move beyond this. It was actually obvious, so, right there, began the rest of my life. My act still comes up, the grooves are deep, but it can now be quickly recognized. My act was based on certain experiences in grade school, it was the reaction of a very bright eleven-year old, to a social situation that was not favorable to his connection with people. He was indeed isolated. Then.

Now, he actually knows how to speak for a large group, instead of to it.

it is encouraged that people take care of personal needs before the course and during the breaks, but nobody who walks to the door is denied exit. It's possible that in est they might have been asked what they were doing, or that they might have been reminded of their commitment to staying in the room for each session, but they never would have been prevented from leaving.

Nowadays, though -- and I've worked the door in the Advanced Course -- nobody is questioned. If someone approaches the door, we open it, carefully, so that minimum noise is made. We don't talk to them, unless they talk to us (in which case we would probably walk outside the room with them.) We smile at them when they leave and when they come back in.

The course is experiential. It's true that people will "think about it," but that actually can inhibit the work. This is not "informational learning," and there is no dogma or information being transmitted. Rather, people are encouraged to simply listen, to be aware, of the leader and of each other and, as well, of their own internal conversation, to identify it as what it is, generally, a pile of conditioned responses that can isolate us from what is actually happening. It's coming from the past, not so much the present.

What is being transmitted is not "clear thinking" -- which is almost, by definition, an obscuration, if it involves "judgment," decisions about true./false -- but "clear perception." Clear thinking needs clear perception as a basis, or garbage in, garbage out.

It's an ancient technique. Used to transmit dogma, it could be highly offensive. I haven't seen it being used that way in Landmark, and I've had a lot of opportunity to observe. What I've seen are people being freed of their limitations, and they know it, it's visible in their faces, and they can communicate it to people who have had the experience.

It can be hard for a beginner, though, to explain this to others. "Well, it was fantastic, man, it just was amazing ... you have to be there!" With an excited smile and wide eyes.

It is no wonder people think it's a cult, it sure can look like one. People just don't have a right to be so happy!

A major difference, though, Landmark is quite effective at connecting people with their families, people reconcile with estranged parents and children, one hears stories at every closing session. There are no "suppressive persons," and people who blame others for trouble in their lives are confronted with a choice: continue the "racket," with its very limited payoffs, or let it go and move into a new realm of unlimited possibilities. "Rackets" are not "bad and wrong," they simply are limited and disempowering interpretations of life.

Landmark takes people to "nothing," and then they create their future. Landmark doesn't tell people what to fill that space with. It's silent on God/not-God. However, I'm a Muslim, and I rode to Boston (four hours per classroom) and did a lot of work in the Introduction Leader Program with a United Church of Christ minister. If we talked theology, well, we were pretty distant. But when we talked about Reality -- which is my definition of "God," -- we literally saw eye-to-eye. I suspect that this work is what was actually being taught, so long ago, using differing metaphors and ways of expression.

So it can't be unique. However, it's rare, as far as I can tell. Closest thing I've seen to it is 12-step programs.

The ontology involved in the Landmark "conversation," though, is remarkably similar to what I've seen from Yudkowsky, and Yudkowsky uses certain language, in certain places, that would indicate to me familiarity with the Landmark work. If I really cared, I might pull out some linguistic analysis tools, do a little Bayesian work on this. But I don't care. Yudkowsky is quite clear, and that's fantastic.

I have a suggestion for you: Since you're running some of these courses yourself, you could make a list of which specific rationality skills you think that the courses, with their present content, improve. For instance, increasing cognitive reflection, reducing framing bias, reducing sunk cost bias, etc. Then you could test it by handing out surveys to half of your students before the course, and to the other half after, and see what kind of results you get.

Thanks. I'm not running courses. I was in a training to lead Introductions, which are just that, a brief Introduction. A typical Intro might have a handful of guests. There is a survey form handed out, but it's not any kind of test.

The Forum might benefit from such a survey, but it's not generally done. If I worked like crazy, I could be a Forum Leader in a few years, but I'm not going there. Other people can and will do it, and they will do it well.

Landmark is in a process of revisioning itself, and measures of performance as suggested could be useful. However, Landmark isn't about teaching rational skills, as such; rather, it's about opening a clearing which can enable the recognition of "identity" and the realm of "self" that must underlie deep rationality.

An old story: the Sufi had been out talking with barbarians, fierce tribesmen, and brought them into the mosque. However, they were wearing boots, and the imam pulled the Sufi aside and asked him to get his friends to remove their boots.

The Sufi said, "I got them into the mosque, you get them to take their boots off."

Landmark doesn't "teach" the tools of rational process, it opens the door to the space of clarity, in which transformation becomes possible.

You get their boots off.

Personally, I'm skeptical of anything that capitalizes nouns that aren't normally proper.

Personally, I'm skeptical of anything that capitalizes nouns that aren't normally proper.

What about Germans? Are you skeptical of Germans?

First, my comment was slightly sarcastic. It was making fun of my own skeptical reaction, while still noting it.

Second, Germans aren't a good counterexample because Germans are capitalizing their nouns according to some traditional scheme. But when people capitalize things without any real reason, it's a way of making them seem special and interesting and worthy of respect.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

My comment was not slightly sarcastic.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Such as? "Reality?" I do that for a reason. Essentially, I'm personalizing Reality, as a single, unique entity. Nothing like it. I used to capitalize nothing, now I capitalize Nothing.

I'm distinguishing a special usage from a "normal" one. It's a cue.

As, "The Forum Leader asks the group, 'What did you get for your $500?" The group replies, unprompted, "Nothing." And they are laughing. Of course, maybe I just capitalized it there just because it's the beginning of the sentence.

With Forum Leader, "Leader" is capitalized because it is, in fact, a formal title.

"Normal" communication is not as fun as abnormal. I'm trying to figure out, though, what this "thing" is that capitalizes. I thought I did that. I don't think that my post capitalized itself. In fact, I'm glad it didn't.

You capitalized words in accordance with whether or not they were special according to the group. Capitalizing words makes them seem special and deserving of respect. Capitalizing lots of words that aren't normally capitalized is a signal that you're approaching these issues in accordance with an ideological system that's oriented towards things in terms of respect and belief rather than skepticism.

Can you give a specific example of capitalization that shows what you are saying, chaosmosis?

The only word that I capitalized that would be outside of common usage would be "Reality." And that's my own personal decision and expression. it has nothing to do with Landmark. Capitalization is used to indicate a specific entity as distinct from a generic kind of entity. What "belief" is involved?

Yes, I have respect for Reality. I am not skeptical of Reality, only of my own "reality."

Reality is not a "thing."

Note: Landmark Education "vigorously disputes the cult accusation and freely threatens or pursues lawsuits against those who call it one" [1]

EDIT: also worth checking are Landmark Education litigation and Landmark Education and the law.

An organization that sues people for calling it nasty names needn't be a cult to be seriously problematic for the pursuit of truth.

I'm curious whether I should treat "X sues everyone who calls it a cult" as evidence for "X is a cult." Anyone have any input on whether this sort of reaction is actually signalling that the organization is alarmed that the allegations might have substance to them?

"X is a cult" seems to me to be an unneeded node.

"X worsens its members' rationality about itself" and "X uses state violence to deter criticism of itself" are pretty bad by themselves.

"Cult" might not be a very useful term given the existing LW knowledge base, but it's a very useful term. I personally recommend Steve Hassan's book "Combating Cult Mind Control" as an excellent introduction to how some of the nastiest memetic viruses propagate and what little we can do about them.

He lists a lengthy set of characteristics which cults tend to have in common which go beyond the mind-controlling tactics of mainstream religions. My fuzzy recollection is that est/Landmark was considered a cult by the people who make it their area of interest to keep track of currently active cults.

In a sense these organisations are the polar opposite of LW. LW attempts to maximise rationality, although not always successfully, and cults attempt to create maximum dependence and control.

In a sense these organisations are the polar opposite of LW. LW attempts to maximise rationality, although not always successfully, and cults attempt to create maximum dependence and control.

I hear some ambiguity there on the word "attempt". In the first case you're talking about the stated motives of the founders and high-status members, whereas in the second case you're talking about a behavior that arises from the social relations in a group. A group can become a cult even if its founders and leaders don't try to be a cult; cultishness is a mode of group behavior.

I'd also caution that "the people who make it their area of interest to keep track of currently active cults" may have some difficulties as well — some are missionaries from larger cults (e.g. conservative Protestantism), for instance ....

Note that when at Alcor, Mike Darwin threatened to sue those who alleged the business was engaged in fraud. I think it's a rare business that won't sue those who prominently allege that it is fraudulent without evidence, but some people (eg David Gerard) pattern-match this into "cryonics is pseudoscience".

If X sues everyone who calls it a cult, you probably have fairly strong evidence that it is a cult. I think you have to evaluate how reasonable the lawsuits seem: Would this be the sort of thing an established, legitimate company you trust would sue over? Ciphergoth's example of Alcor suing people who accused it of fraud, for instance, strikes me as potentially reasonable - I think most companies would take legal action there.

As a general heuristic, I'm not aware of any respectable business which is often referred to as a cult and takes legal action against this. Apple does not sue people who talk about their fans as zealots / blind / cultists / etc., for instance. It's also, as far as I know, not a solid legal case, unlike fraud, intellectual property, etc..

Thus, I'd generally conclude that "X sues anyone for calling them a cult" is a pretty good heuristic for "X is not an organization I trust."

Whether they're actually a cult seems moot, past that :)

It's a pretty good heuristic, and if they're not very cultish it's a sign they're sufficiently detached from the world to fail to understand that it's a really bad sign.

Erhard was previously in Scientology. How many of the memes carried over is open to question. He actually successfully fought off the CoS, which was quite a bit of work in those days.

It seems like there are quite a few organizations that are supposed to help you get better at things. (Note: these don't seem to have arisen independently)

It seems easier to convince someone that something improves their life than it is to actually help them improve their life. A lot of people say that LGAT and est and whatnot work, but outside sources are more skeptical.

On the other hand, fitness and PUA groups have objective ways of keeping track of their improvement, and AFAICT have achieved wild success within their domains. Keeping score on how well you're doing seems to be really important to actually succeeding.

One major donor of the Singularity Institute got involved after a casual mention of the Singularity at a Landmark session.

My father, who is quite successful and I at the higher end of the rationality scale, was at one point very heavily involved with Landmark (he may still be, I've never brought it up). During the time I lived with him as a teenager, I often wouldn't see him most weeknights until 10 or 11 PM, because he was off doing some Landmark related activity or another.

I still don't know exactly what he got out of Landmark, aside from having met his wife there (which is certainly a big gain). After much pressure from him, I eventually went to a version of the Forum designed for teenagers. I can confirm novalis' claim about the lengths of the days. Ultimately, spending that weekend was a positive experience for me, though I remember very little detail about it. It did help me bond with my father at a time when our relationship was incredibly strained (as I suspect quite a lot of father and 15-year old son relationships are).

I don't know what to add beyond my anecdotal experiences; those are more than a decade removed at this point and detailed memory is largely obscured by a number of issues I had at that age. Still, I'll be happy to answer any questions I can about it.

The Landmark Education is probably yet another one of those non-serious self-improvement course providers. I do not know too much myself about them but e.g. the Swedish Skeptics who are often quite reliable are one of those who have accused Landmark Education of not serious methods. E.g., Landmark lämnar Sverige: Landmark Education, an American company that offers courses in personal development, to abandon services in Sweden, reported Dagens Nyheter 2004-06-08. The reason is a substantial reduction in interest rates. It should be related to several critical reports in various media, including in TV4. Critics argue that the courses are similar ecstatic revival meetings and mainly aims at attracting new participants or the participants to perform otherwise free work for Landmark. Several cases of mental breakdown has occurred in persons who have received Landmark's courses. (Google translation from Swedish.)

Well, this was a useful post because we have discovered that the Landmark Forum encourages its participants to post comment spam. (I guess it's that rather than, say, paying small amounts to people in developing countries to do it.) At least, I'm calling it spam unless we see TonyPaukar, daniel81, Christiano30, Nicole_Babin, 1986Ashleu, EvandroFerreria, or RebeccaSchwab participating here to any extent beyond posting single hit-and-run comments about how great LF is.

Mostly, I just want TonyPaukar to come back and tell me more about this "10% satisfaction" guarantee.

Great point! Good catch. please post this comment in the next Open Thread.

Okay, it was requested that someone with more Landmark experience comment.

My history: I read most of the criticism of Landmark on the web before becoming involved. The "seminar" that Nisan attended appears to have been an Introduction or Special Evening. Introductions are a free Landmark program run by "Introduction Leaders," whereas a Special Evening may be run by a Forum Leader. Introductions are done in many venues, including homes, whereas a Special Evening will normally be done at a Landmark Center.

In the best Intros and Special Evenings, a Forum Leader will actually demonstrate the technology. It's not merely a lecture about Landmark, it's a demonstration.

I just completed the Introduction Leader Program, a seven-month training. The purpose of an Introduction isn't exactly what Nisan stated. It is that the guest come away with something of value, and, in addition, that the guest was provided an opportunity to register into the Landmark Forum, having experienced enough to be able to make an informed choice . In the standard Introduction -- which is based on a specific format, a script -- there is a process run called the Possibility exercise. Being in the program, I was at Intro after Intro, and normally I did the exercise myself. The more I did that exercise, the more value I got from it. For example, my relationship with my small children was radically transformed, and they know it and they can tell me exactly how I changed. The shift was very simple, but it wasn't going to happen anyway.

Landmark is indeed an ESOP, owned by Staff. Almost all the work of Landmark, however, is done by "people in the Assisting Program," which is one of about fifty Landmark Programs providing training. The prerequisite for all Landmark programs is graduation from the Landmark Forum, which one accomplishes by not running away from it (some do), or, if one runs away, one has come back. Basically, be there or be square.

Introduction Leaders, Seminar Leaders, SELP Leaders, are not paid. Nobody gets a commission if someone signs up. The "payoff" is in the satisfaction of seeing a life transformed, and "transformation" isn't centrally defined. But it's palpable.

The work is not hard, but it can be challenging, because the foundations of knowledge and the genesis of identity are addressed. Some people don't want those questioned. That's okay, Landmark isn't proposing a new standard by which people are to be judged, but, at the same time, what limits us is generally our identity, who we think we are. I should say, "what limited me."

The paid staff consists of Forum Leaders, a handful of staffers at Landmark Centers, and at the corporate office in San Francisco. However, most Landmark Programs are run by Program Leaders, who are all volunteers. Only the two initial programs in the core Curriculum for Living are given by Forum Leaders. Forum Leaders are highly trained, and are faced with a task that used to be considered impossible: enduring transformation in three days.

I was at a Special Evening in Boston the other day, and a woman was brought to my registration table by a friend. "You have to talk with Abd," he'd told her. Damn! I was there to try to finish up my "measures" to be "candidated" as an Introduction Leader, and this woman hadn't decided she wanted to register, and that can be a lengthy conversation, taking up my table!

I recognized this, though, immediately as being caught in the "small game," forgetting about the "big game," which is about "reliably delivering that which makes a real difference for people in what they are actually facing and what they really care about ... etc." So I dropped my attitude immediately and listened to her. (And there went my numbers!)

She was a psychotherapist and she was saying that she was skeptical. She just couldn't understand how the Forum could do in three days what years of therapy often failed to accomplish. I told her what I knew to say, pointing to what was becoming clear about her, and mentioned a Seminar Leader who was Assistant Director of Outpatient Psychiatry at a major local hospital. He walked up and joined the conversation, and he told her exactly the same as what I'd said. To boil it down, there was no way for her to answer that question, practically, without seeing it herself. What she could do was to look around, see all the people there telling their experiences, assess their credibility, etc., but no way to know, especially, how it worked.

I even told her that, though I have lots of ideas about how it works, I could write a book about how it works, I didn't actually know how it works. Just that it works.

She registered. She had not brought any form of payment with her, so she signed a promise to pay -- I had to get special permission from the Center Manager to accept that. Legally, Landmark could insist on payment, but, practically speaking, they won't. I don't know yet if she actually mailed in the check as she promised.

But I do know that if she does pay and attend, she is highly unlikely to ever regret it. I do read the stories of those who were not satisfied, on the web, but I've made many calls to lists of graduates, and dissatisfaction is rare. About 100,.000 people take the Forum each year, Landmark claims that 94% later say that the Forum resulted in a powerful and lasting transformation, so, do the math. I think they may have underestimated it.

However, a lot of people are there at the Forum, from the outset, to prove that it doesn't work. (I heard a Forum Leader estimate "more than half.") Some of those wake up, some don't.

Lots of people don't like what they call the "sales pressure," but the reality of that is complex. (I've heard comments like, "Best thing I ever did, but I didn't like the pressure to tell my friends and family.")

I detested "pressure," myself.... and then I dove into the most intense training in Landmark, the very center of what might be considered "pressure." The Introduction Leader Program.

(By the way, I had a "personal policy" not to sign up immediately for anything. I pulled it out at my first Introduction. The effect? Well, that policy might make sense as a way of "avoiding domination," but it also delayed my moving on to the rest of my life for about four months, until I finally got around to it. Once I knew that this work was likely to produce the promised results, further delay was stupid. But, hey, that was my identity! Can't give that up!) To be sure, I wasn't so impressed at that first introduction, but, by this time, I had lots of other evidence.)

"Pressure" is actually one half of a spectrum; the other half could be called "disinterest," "not caring," or "not taking a stand for people." When a conversation is perceived as "pressure," it indicates that something was missing, it was an unskillful conversation. And these conversations, in general, in Landmark, are commonly undertaken by people who are not perfect, they are developing skills, they are being trained. (And the Introduction Leader body is training for becoming Seminar Leaders or Forum Leaders.)

There are many issues brought up in this thread, but I'll leave this here.

Just to complete my description of my participation in Landmark, I'm actually pretty new. I know people who have been doing this work since the early est days, i.e., the 1970s. However, I just took the Landmark Forum in March, 2011. I then took the Forum in Action Seminar (a free seminar is included in the Forum tuition; but because I chose to do my seminar in Boston -- that psychiatrist was leading it -- my "free seminar" cost me about $500 for transportation. Ouch!

I'd signed up for the Advanced Course at the closing of the Forum, taking advantage of the incentive provided. I put it off as long as I could, because it was expensive. See, I'd never paid for training of any kind (I was on a full scholarship to Cal Tech, for example, and I was a teacher in about everything else....) But the money showed up and I moved up the dates, then I registered in the Self Expression and Leadership Program which completes the Curriculum for Living. From there on, for the most part, I wasn't paying for anything. I was a coach in the next SELP session, and the next step for me was the Introduction Leader Program.

The reputation of the ILP is that is the most difficult, the most challenging, and the most rewarding of all the Landmark Programs. It was. I'm not going to be an Introduction Leader, which is of little concern to me, because I can "play the big game" without that badge. We were told that we would be unrecognizable after the program, and it was so. People who had known me a long time literally did not recognize me. Where it really counts, though, with my children, well, my daughters now tell me every day how "awesome" I am. Maybe that's because I tell them the same.

This isn't what I was like before. I didn't even talk to them every day. (I'm divorced from their adoptive mother, live up the street, but wasn't talking to them on days when I wasn't seeing them. Out of a Possibility Exercise in a Home Introduction, looking at a situation where I wasn't doing something I'd said I'd do with my 11-year-old, I came up with a "Missing" of "reliable relatedness" and realized that I could call them every day, and started it up. Their mom wasn't completely thrilled at first, but she let go, and the results have been spectacular. So simple, just showing up for them steadily. Yet so powerful, at their age.

I was very successful before doing the Landmark Forum, and continue to be successful.

A course or a book does not transform any person - it is the commitment behind the action that alters the reality for anyone.

Books, courses [such as Landmark Forum], conversations with successful people, daily life etc all contribute in some way to mould people's personalities.

While I have greatly benefited from using the technology of Landmark Education [and continue to be, even 12 years later], I have also seen several others fail miserably. Therefore, it is a delusion to think just by doing a course will alter life circumstances. Opinions dont change situations - taking committed action does. My request to people is not to simply go by opinions, but try out [any new experience] by their own. And while you try, REALLY try it on - meaning, give it a chance, and see if it works.

If it does, great! and good for you. If it does not, wonderful! - you have just found one more thing that you need not pursue further! :- )

I just finished the first course (my graduation is Tuesday).


1. No limitation on bathroom breaks. People came and went as they'd like. The course leaders didn't know where the students were going. and there was NO EFFORT made to limit this. some people just left and didn't come back for hours. AFAIK, no one was chastised for this and I observed a Leader catching someone up who had missed part/all of the previous day.

2. There were sellling the next package up. There was effectively group pressure (who wants to walk out during that) to watch it (about 2-3h of it in the first 3 days).

It seems that there are really several questions:

1. Is the course worth the resources (time and money)?

(this is all that really matters to me). YES, for me, I suspect for many.

2. Is the course manipulative or "mind controlling" to the degree it impacts #1. (Maybe it gets you to do something you don't really want to do, ec.)?

Some of this happens on a very subtle level. Not not enough to diminish #2. Makes me suspect of #3, #4.

3. Is being a participating member of the organization going to improve your life?


4. Is it an authentic organization (to use their words) : does it do what it claims to represent?


1. Its a bit too soon to say, but it seems like it's worth the time and resources. (Most of it was fluff, for me. Didn't add value, confused me, etc, but less so than 16 years of schooling. So it's doing better than average :). It's given me some good tools to look at my motivations for interactions (what they call Rackets). Example: avoiding asking someone to lunch or "hemming and hawing" with an akward offer. This is out of fear of rejection. And it costs me the opportunity for a nice discussion/lunch. Once I realize that I'm able to be much much more direct. I make an offer (hey, want to have lunch). It's more direct, less loaded with MY BAGGAGE, and actually more successful. Win, win, win.

2. Is ti manipulative or mind controlling.

There is definitely some "deception" going on. There are times what the deliberatly do things for effect. Example: they are big on "be back on time. your word is your bond". A valid point. I'm not very punctual. This was illuminating to me. I was always on time b/c I CHOSE to be. I suggested they put the return time on the board (b/c it was often nonround time b/e we might stop at 12:34 and have 15m so it's return at 12:54. hard to remember. The response I got was "we want you to remember the time. Maybe we don't want to provide a crutch. what do you think?" (Ironically, they then started posting signs (but NOT on the board, in the bathroom) "return time: xyz". I found this amusing. Was it what they call a "racket"? (didn't want to admit they hadn't thought of it.

BTW, I just realize my big issue:

I want to know I can trust these folks. So.... when I see them doing something Inauthentic I want to call them on it. And (usually) not to be "smart" but I want to give them a chance to show me "nope, wasn't being authentic" or "yep, I was, but I'm going to fess up".

Now, the reality, this "can i trust them" doesn't impact on #1. I can get something out of it even if I can't trust them. I trust me.

I did not find the manipulation (it was minor) to impact on #1. It might impact on #3 or #4.

3. would participating in the group (as a volunteer, etc.) improve my life.

Unclear. I need to practice it a bit.

They gently and ENTHUSIASTICALLY promote assisting as a way to learn more. Valid point. And they address all objections very skillfully.

I was tempted to say "well, they are trying to maintain momentum by getting me to think of the next commitment". But they would admit this is rationalizing. And they'd be right. The real issue is I am afraid of assisting b/c it may be a waste of time or I may be bow to peer pressure. And there is subtle but definite group think going on.

4. This is unclear

If they were truly authentic they'd include "oh, there is 3 hours of where you'll FEEL like a captive audience, where we'll extol the benefits of Landmark and more training.) Now, they'd be the first ones to say "don't bow to peer pressure" and no one was every called out for leaving the room.

They WERE authentic about the Tuesday night graduation where they strongly encourage you to invite a family member. "we'll watch a (I think 20 minute video". Bravo for being authentic.

Or, put more charitably, the message is that you can construct a personal narrative in which your actions are guided by goals and possibilities, rather than being limited by constraints.

This is a really nice way to put this; I think I'll have to remember that phrasing.

I don't understand why the "Dark Arts" (what a silly term, really) are something we should "beware".

From what I've heard from others, Landmark Forum is essentially a racket designed to pump money out of the naive. Haven't confirmed it myself though.

The Dark Arts warning stands for "This organization employs salesmanship tactics such as framing, recruiting your friends as salespeople, and exploiting the affect heuristic. You could end up in a cognitive state where you think you are making a rational purchasing decision, but in fact are making a biased purchasing decision. Being aware of this fact, and using specific countermeasures, can protect you from such a situation."

I suppose the idea behind "beware, dark arts" is that rackets don't just pump money out of the naive, but also out of the clever and the wise with some probability. So even if you're not naive, being forewarned is still a good idea.

That's true, I just think that using the neologism "dark arts" in this case does not make the explanation clearer to the ear; it just obfuscates it. Why not just say that "this is a racket that can fool some people who aren't total idiots"? I'm just expressing my opinion here -- the quibble is not really a matter of right and wrong, just explanatory taste. I appreciate the overall review of Landmark, I'm just reacting to the use of the term "dark arts".

I'd like to see use of this term come to an end.

Strongly disagree. It's a short, sharp, compact expression meaning "These dudes are going to try and pull all the shit I read about in Cialdini; constant vigilance." I've found it very useful to prime myself into an appropriate state of mind. And I need something like that, because I am a doormat and a very, very, very easy sell.

One of my colleagues introduced me to the Forum. I did this course because I was facing a few issues with my spouse. That weekend course taught me many lessons and I changed my behavior towards few sensitive situations in my life. I am glad I took up to myself and tried to make a change. I saw a vast difference in my lifestyle and now I have been feeling happy. I have created a sense of understanding with my other half. Thanks to the Forum I got the chance to make things right.

Life is all about feeling alive. I always believed I was worthless because I got married young and was a housewife. Being dependent on my husband for everything lowered my self-esteem. After the forum I changed my attitude towards various things, I love baking and hence have started serving small parties or get-togethers near my place. Its Landmark Forum that helped me gain the courage to talk to my hubby and come up with a plan. Now things have taken an upward trend and I am more than just happy. I cried the other night to my mum and she said she’s proud of me. Each one of us needs to be confident and empowered & Landmark is the right place to learn about personal growth.

Landmark is a very effective course of personality development. I did this course 2 years ago but did not take efforts or do the assignments. I came back after realising the importance of the forum and later gained success. I saw how my business grew and my relations improve with my family. My dad has now been in good terms with me and understands me well. I observed that I have been extremely happy these days. I have been spending a lot more time with my loved ones. Thanks to Landmark Forum I have reaolised the worth of my family and close friends. I recommend this course to all of you for a happy lifestyle.

Unlike the others on the internet, I appreciate this course a lot and have accomplished a few very important things because of the Landmark Forum. I saw life in a very different and inspiring form after the weekend. Life was no more a burden or routines. The most important thing that I learnt was that "Life has no rules." This may have changed a lot in me. Now we all have some or the other kind of worries and Landmark Forum is the place where we could see through them and solve all the complications. Just after the course I took a vacation and travelled by myself. It was blissful and gave me some time to reflect on the course and all the heavy learning from the weekend. I saw things in such positive perspective because of the Landmark Forum. I have shared the info and my experience of the course to many of my colleagues and couldn't stop myself from writing about it here because it might be a blessing for you as it's for me!

The reason I went for the Forum was to find a pathway through my problems. Here I wasn't judged or disrespected. I liked the concept and it helped me with a few things in my current life. I was depressed as I failed my exams and have been aloof since. This course taught me how to be self-expressive. I haven't seen much of a difference yet but am looking forward to a few good changes in life. I haven't recommended this course to anyone yet, but you can go ahead if you need to talk about something in particular. I witnessed a few disappointed people in my batch but they were taken care of later.

There is an introductory night wherein they give a tiny promo of the entire course. The participants and the volunteers convinced me to do the Forum and guaranteed 10% satisfaction. On the first and the second day I was unsure of the ability of this course, I assumed it was like any other program which resulted in nothing. After consulting one of the volunteers I realised that working on the assignments was essential which I wasn't doing with integrity. After taking all of the assignments seriously I did see instant results. The forum made a difference in my behaviour towards all situations in life. I used to over-think due to which I lost my confidence and built stage-fear. I lacked self-expression. Now I am confident and out-going. I recommend this course to the ones who want self-improvement.

"I completed my Landmark Forum around 7 weeks ago and it was one hell of an experience!

A few things I would like to bring to your notice-

  1. This course is held in a hall with no windows due to air conditioning.
  2. They do provide breaks and ask you to stretch in-between the seminar.
  3. They don't force you to sit inside, rather allow you to go to the loo or just for a little walk.

It all started on a Friday morning and lasted for 3 long, non-tiring days. We were welcomed by the volunteers and name tags for easier conversations. We were hammered and questioned at every point but the results were remarkable. It was a life-changing adventure and we learnt a lot of things. The vocabulary used was a little different but the message was effective and helpful. We basically worked as a team and helped each other out, analysed the matter and gained a new perspective. We all experienced a huge transformation till the end of the third day. All the participants benefitted a lot from this program.

P.S - They don't force you to advertise their courses, they just ask you to make a difference in someone else's life whom you care about. Also, we signed up for the advance courses ourselves. (It was irresistible).

At the end, I would like to say that Landmark Forum is of great value; it changes your life and makes it a happier journey. Somehow we all are stuck in some part or the other and this program helps us get rid of all the blockages. Many people rave about them and it's definitely worth a try!"

  1. They don't force you to sit inside, rather allow you to go to the loo or just for a little walk.

It might be true for the seminar that you attended but historically there's limitation of how often people are allowed to go to the toilet.

All the participants benefitted a lot from this program.

That's a silly statement. You very likely don't have access to metrics to know whether it's true.

P.S - They don't force you to advertise their courses, they just ask you to make a difference in someone else's life whom you care about. Also, we signed up for the advance courses ourselves.

They tell people that they can say "No" but they do exert psychological pressure on people to advertise the seminar.

Landmark quite often pretends that the care about inviting friends&relatives for a graduate party and then treat that graduate party as a sales event.

As a mother, I have been upset for almost 3 years now about my son's education. I tried everything but in vain. My stress level got really high and I suffered from weight gain as well as high blood pressure. I wasn't doing well in work and my lifestyle was deteriorating. One of my colleagues recommended the Landmark Forum to me and took me to the introductory seminar. I thought all my problems were going to be solved if I attended the Forum. This wants true, I realised the coach did not provide solutions but a new perspective towards such situations. I am so relieved now and in terms with my health and work life. I have received positive replies from my boss, my son and my friends. To be honest, I am more than just happy now; life is blissful. I have also done the advance course and highly recommend it to all of you.