Landmark Education and the Landmark Forum

May 28, 2013

Landmark and Lululemon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 6:55 pm

Many people know that Lululemon Athletica is one of those companies that sends its employees to The Landmark Forum for training and development (Panda Express is another one). I’ve read this in a few publications, which usually have some snide things to say about both Landmark and Lululemon – I’m not sure whether they’re using Landmark to insult Lululemon or the other way around.

Lululemon and Landmark seem to attract the same fans and the same haters, which besides their business connection, seems like it’s because both are cult brands that people often love or hate.

Personally, I think it has a lot to do with responsibility. Both Landmark and Lululemon promote responsibility over making excuses and blaming others for one’s failings. While this seems like a common sense approach to life, it seems like it annoys some people. I think many people are attached to their reasons and blame of others, and don’t know what they’d do without them.

Also, some people seem to equate the idea that if one is responsible, one is somehow to blame for the stupid things other people do. Being responsible, to me, is a view one takes to give oneself power, not some evaluation on the state of the world, and it doesn’t mean stupid things others do are your fault.

Chip Wilson, Lululemon’s founder, has some interesting things to say about this in this old article about Landmark and Lululemon.

May 22, 2013

Landmark, Cult Brand, not Cult

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 8:59 pm

One of the things that gives rise to the Landmark cult myth that floats around the internet and gets recycled like Facebook rumors debunked by Snopes a year ago, is the fact that Landmark and The Landmark Forum, are in fact a cult brand. Now a cult brand isn’t a cult – a cult is weird group that separates you from your family and your money and tells you some fable about the origin of the world is the god’s honest truth (this is much closer to many religions today than it is to Landmark).

A cult brand, on the other hand, is something that can feel ‘cultish’, by which I mean simply that it has a group of passionate devotees, who speak incomprehensibly in their own jargon about things outsiders don’t understand, and spend a lot of time on their shared passion. This definition applies to Manchester United fans, Landmarkers, and those who worship at the church of Apple.

Now, those other groups don’t get taken seriously as real ‘cults’ because they are selling computers or football, which most people can understand, but if you feel ‘culty’ and you are selling ‘personal development programs’, well that just seems dodgy, some people conclude, maybe it is a real cult.

Personal development in general tends to have a dubious reputation outside of those who aren’t personal improvement diehards. The idea of going to someone to have a conversation which could improve your life seems very suspicious these days to Westerners trained to worship at the altar of individualism and self-reliance. If I walk up to you and tell you, I had an amazing conversation with my priest today, and my life will never be the same, or my therapist is the best, my life was headed downhill, but I had some amazing conversations and now I feel great, the best thing you might think is ‘that’s great for you’. Along with this you might have a hope that you don’t get invited to talk to said priest or therapist, along with a vague sense that this your friend is probably a bit soft, a tad weak.

Anyhow, when someone is in your fact, evangelical, and as I said, a bit ‘cultish’ about self-improvement – well that makes some people suspicious. This website does a good job of talking about the Landmark cult brand, and gives a good summary of the controversies. I just wish that their Man U article was a bit longer…

June 6, 2012

The Press Landmark Forum Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 4:51 pm

Someone recently sent me a very thoughtful Landmark Forum review written by John McCrone of The Press, Christchurch’s main newspaper, and it doesn’t appear to be up on the internet anywhere, so I thought I’d put it up here.

 

February 14, 2012

A New Review – Landmark Forum , Cult or Transformation?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 7:55 pm

Another rational review of The Landmark Forum has appeared as a Yahoo Voices contribution titled Landmark Forum: Transformation or Cult? As you can probably guess from the title, the article reviews the Landmark Forum while clearly addressing those who call Landmark a cult.

What is distinct about other sane reviews of this type is that it goes through the things that distinguish a cult one by one – a leader to be obeyed, possessions to be surrendered, isolation from family, meditation/chanting, etc. – and of course finds that The Landmark Forum and Landmark Education don’t qualify at any level. Of course you probably knew that already – people call Landmark a cult and people cultists is more the kind of vague insult that people toss at any group of people who seem to have a passion for something.

Read more above.

January 13, 2012

Mass Casualties Review – Landmark Forum not a Cult, etc.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 5:34 pm

After what seems like an eternity, I’m back! I’ve been travelling so much I almost forgot the password to the blog! I’m home for a bit, and someone passed along an excellent review of The Landmark Forum, so a post seemed appropriate. From a blog from a U.S. veteran named Mass Casualties, this Landmark Forum review dismisses the usual cult nonsense, then goes on to give a detailed and fair review of the program, focusing specifically on how The Landmark Forum has one look at the stories one makes up in life (as opposed to the simple facts), and the power that’s available from taking responsibility from one’s actions. Here’s a brief quote I like:

“elling yourself  that your boss is a jerk and treating him like he’s one and complain all day and telling yourself all day that he’s a jerk, is going to put you in a pretty crummy mood.So when something happens, just ask yourself why you’re telling yourself the story that you’re telling yourself—and ask yourself if it’s a fact, or a story.”

Read the whole thing (linked above) and enjoy! Happy New Year everyone!

March 18, 2011

Time Magazine Landmark Forum Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 5:02 pm

While I tend to report here about Landmark Forum reviews written by individuals on their personal blogs, I would be remiss in not mentioning a review of the Landmark Forum written in one of America’s largest magazines, Time, which came out a short while ago. While this review is in a magazine, and also talks about other personal development options, the reporter’s story about Landmark reads a lot like the sort of personal reviews I often link to here, so I think it’s relevant, even if I don’t think it’s more or less important just because it’s in a big magazine.

I think the reviewer insightfully notices something that the people who lead the Landmark Forum are very good at – pointing to where we make excuses for where we don’t have what we want in our life.

Here’s the Landmark Forum Review in Time Magazine.

February 22, 2011

Sane Landmark Forum Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 6:09 pm

I’m going to break one of my usual rules of this blog – usually when I post a review of the Landmark Forum, I’ll talk about it and post a brief excerpt of the review and link back to where I found it, but in this case, the link requires a whole log in procedure, so I’m just going to put the whole Landmark Forum review right here – it’s worth doing because the review is so sane and so clear in describing the Landmark Forum, Landmark Education, and how they work. If you want to go find the original of this post, go to http://www.quora.com. The review is answering a question about what the Landmark Forum is – here it is:

DISCLOSURE: I’m still an active participant in various Landmark Education programs, although I neither work for them nor represent them in any capacity. I am also a friend or acquaintance of several high level executives at the company, and I think they would appreciate it if I say that this is my personal view and not a strict statement of fact.

I must admit that I clench my teeth whenever anyone asks a general question about the Landmark Forum such as, “What’s it like?” It isn’t that such a question isn’t sensible or fair. It’s just that it is very broad, and it’s open to a lot of responses that I’ve come to dread over the last decade I’ve been around the company that range from very airy positive-thinking-like reactions to really visceral anti-cult screeds.

Before I take a shot at the original question, I want to suggest that, if anyone follows on with a question in the future, it would be helpful if the question were concrete and related to some tangible problem or phenomenon. For instance, a really workable question would be, “If I’m having regular conflicts with my boss, does the Landmark Forum provide any useful methods of resolving these? If so, what might those look like as a slice of the course?”

So anyway, my description of the Landmark Forum will probably be unlike one you’d receive from its participants or the staff. I’ve spent a fair bit of time picking apart the experience, because when I like a product, I really like to know as much about it as I can. I’m a nerd. That’s what I love to do.

The Landmark Forum is a three day course with an evening event a day later. The course runs from 9am to about 10pm on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and a Tuesday evening. There are breaks every 2-3 hours for 30 minutes and a 90 minute dinner break. The original “Forum” was actually two weekends long, but it was found that it was very difficult for people to get two weekends in a row off, so the content was compressed into one long weekend. Hence the hours.

A typical course has from 75 to 200 participants in it. The room is setup in auditorium-style seating, and there’s a single leader who facilitates and leads the program. The number of people in the room is consistent with other “LGAT” (Large Group Awareness Training) programs, and the best way to explain the reason for it is to say that it allows everyone to see someone like themselves going through the experience of the program even if they themselves aren’t actively engaging at the time. In effect, it ensures that there’s always a living “mirror” of you in the room.

If you were to draw a flowchart of what happens in the course, the sections of the course all have pretty much the same design. Each section is about 90 minutes long. The leader will introduce a topic, usually including something shared from their own lives to illustrate how the topic might relate to the participants. The leader will then ask a question about the topic, and people will come to a microphone and share. During the participant’s sharing, the leader will begin to pick out the pieces in the sharing that relate to one of a handful of key theses of the course. There will be some back-and-forth between the leader and the participant which is a practiced method but totally unscripted where the leader applies the implications of the thesis to have the participant see something about how they’ve been thinking or acting that is inconsistent with how they imagine they really are – some blindspot of the participant’s persona. Usually this is a very positive experience for the participant as well as for the rest of the course participants, because the new knowledge is highly actionable. Sometimes it is upsetting, as deep personal insights often are. The course participants clap to acknowledge the sharer’s willingness to do something potentially personally uncomfortable. The sharer sits. Usually the sharing cycle repeats a few times until nearly everyone in the room is clear how the thesis relates to their own life. Then the leader asks the participants to choose a partner next to them and share. After that, there are often one or two more people who come to the mic to share what they noticed when they shared with their partner. Then the course moves on.

Given that, you’d probably be interested in what the various theses of the course are. Fortunately, the syllabus for the Landmark Forum actually does a good job of explaining them: http://www.landmarkforumsyllabus…

Because the course is meant to be applied to your own life and personal situation, it is hard to know exactly what benefit the course will have. For instance, I hadn’t spoken to my parents in a few years before the course, and they flew to visit me a month after I called them during the course. But you may have a very good relationship with your folks. I wasn’t very active in my community before the course. Right after, I took on a major accountability managing volunteers across a large part of Texas for an organization I’m a member of, and I received very public recognition for it soon after.

The majority of people who complete the course enjoy it and get value out of it commensurate with both what they pay for it and the time, effort, and potential discomfort they commit to it. Some smaller percentage of people who complete the course do not feel that they get a benefit from it, and when they ask me, I encourage them to contact their course leader and raise a complaint. The company has a decent history of resolving customer complaints relative to other service industries.

I worked for Landmark Education, and I frequently got asked whether it’s a cult. First, I’m a fairly devout Anglican, so I’m not sure I’d be comfortable actually being a member of a cult. But that’s my personal view.

Second, and more quantitatively, there is very little continuity of participation among potential customers and actual customers. For every person who registers for the Landmark Forum, they bring, on average, about one person as a prospect to register after they’ve taken the course. Of those people, only about 20-25% register for a future Landmark Forum.

The Landmark Forum comes with a free 10-session seminar which is three hours one night a week over three months that helps participants apply the content of the Landmark Forum over time. Over 90% of people who complete the Landmark Forum register for the seminar, mostly because it’s free. Some smaller number actually attend, and even fewer of them complete all 10 weeks.

There is a second course that the Landmark Forum is a pre-requisite for – the Advanced Course. Its structure is similar to the Landmark Forum, although there is a small amount of compulsory at-the-mic time for everyone, unlike the Landmark Forum where you can (and I did) stay in your seat the whole course. About 45% of people who complete the Landmark Forum register for the Advanced Course.

The third course in the curriculum is the Self-Expression and Leadership course which is a three month course somewhat like the seminar. The Advanced Course is a pre-requisite for it, and about 65-70% of people who complete the Advanced Course go on to do this last course in this particular curriculum.

So if you were keeping track, if there were 100 guests, 25 of them registered for the Landmark Forum. Of those about 12 registered for the Advanced Course. And of those, about 8 of them registered for the Self-Expression and Leadership Program. Of those 8, about 4 will go on to register in other curriculums like communication programs and such. There are only about ten major course offerings, so although there are a bunch of flavors of 10-session seminar, it’s hard to spend lots of time in courses.

The upshot of all this is that, after six months, fewer than 5% of people who walk through the door as a potential customer still have any relationship at all with the company. If it’s a cult, it has a really crappy retention rate.

There are three things that people seem to bristle at. The first is that the company uses word-of-mouth marketing exclusively, and participants are encouraged strongly to bring guests who might also want to buy a seat in a future Landmark Forum. There are two sides to that. On the one hand, it bugged me too, but I did really like the course, so I did it anyway. And it worked out. For some people it’s not such a great experience, and I can understand why they weren’t happy with it. It’s a real mixed bag. On the other hand, I’ve just written two screenfuls of stuff about the course. It really isn’t easy to explain to people, and it’s not the sort of thing that lends itself to mass marketing. It takes a lot to describe it to people. So there is a decent explanation for the marketing method. I do know that the company is working on new, less uncomfortable methods, but I don’t yet know what they are. So this may all change in the near future.

The second thing people tend to bristle at is the fact that the company runs an ongoing training program called the Assisting Program. People who assist receive coaching and face time with the Landmark staff while doing tasks in and around courses. It’s pretty ordinary stuff that you’d do assisting – straightening chairs and making nametags and whatever. The work isn’t exactly brain surgery. But it’s a great chance to be around people who essentially do personal coaching for a living.

I think people bristle at this because it looks very much like menial volunteering for a for-profit company. And I suppose, it’s possible to end up that way. I’ve certainly seen it happen. Having said that, most people who assist seem to really like assisting. I’ve done it for a long time, and although sometimes it’s a pain, I’m friends with a lot of people there, and we have really fun, rich relationships with each other. We have the sort of interactions that are deep and intimate and difficult to develop in the first place. So it can be great. And, although it’s never been intolerable for me, I’d wager that it’s happened to someone.

The last thing that people are bothered by will sound silly till you see it: there’s a lot of clapping. A whole lot of clapping. Even long-time participants will occasionally say to themselves, “Geez, this much clapping is sort of creepy and weird.” However, it’s just clapping. There’s nothing really going on underneath. People get happy and clap. They appreciate something someone said, and they clap. They like the leader and they clap. They clap to break up the sections of material. They’re just clap-happy. I’ve heard people suggest that it’s something sinister, but never once in a staff meeting did we say, “You know, we ought to get them to clap at this point so they’ll feel some particular way.” I would guess that at least once a week someone on staff says under their breath, “Jesus, enough with the clapping already.” Seriously, it’s just clapping.

One last thing: the Landmark Forum is not original content – 100% of it can be found at the library if you read through the philosophy and psychology sections thoroughly. Having said that, it takes a handful of valid ideas and creates practical uses for them. Some of them seem like they should be common sense, but I would argue that if sense were all that common, the world would run a lot better than it does. Can you get this information for under $500 in sheer dollars spent? Sure, if you were willing to study, you could get it for free. From a cost-benefit perspective, is it possible to do better than three days and $500? No. You would almost certainly come out ahead if you did the course.

Is the Landmark Forum for you? As I said in the beginning, I’m uncomfortable answering that question. I liked it, and thousands of other people like it, but you might not. It provides useful methods to deal with many common life situations, especially those having to do with other people. Odds are good that everyone has these sorts of situations and could benefit in those areas. If you want to know for sure, you might try asking a more specific question about something you’d like to deal with that matters to you personally.

February 17, 2011

Mom, I Joined a Cult

Filed under: Uncategorized — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 5:48 pm

I like this next blog post about the Landmark Forum because it points out to how much we think we already know, and how limiting that can be. The woman blogs about how she’d heard about the Landmark Forum for a long time, but she dismissed it as some cultish thing that personal development junkies did. When she actually ended up doing the Landmark Forum, she saw some things that she’d never seen before that made a huge difference in her business.

I think this points out our human need to fit something new into something we already recognize – human beings tend to be pattern recognition junkies. So if I mention something like the Landmark Forum to someone, they will instantly categorize it under something they already know, even if they haven’t a clue what it’s about. Whether they think it’s a cult, a new age hippie thing, a corporate white collar seminar, or even a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, they will seek it to put it into some sort of box that their mind can feel comfortable with. Our minds really don’t like the idea of not knowing what something is.

Here’s the post.

February 4, 2011

Extremely Informative Landmark Forum Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 4:07 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a review of the landmark forum that so precisely and accurately described what happened during the course – giving information without the intent of heaping on praise or taking critical potshots.

The review goes exactly what ideas are covered in the Landmark Forum, what the atmosphere of the course is, how the Landmark Forum leaders interact with people in the course, what the rules are, what it’s like to be in the course, what he was left with out of the course, and more.

If you really want to know about The Landmark Forum and what it’s like to be in it, read the Thirty Two Thousand Days blog.

August 24, 2010

Why ‘Breakthrough’ Failed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 3:18 pm

A lot of people I know in the United States who have taken the Landmark Forum and are interested in personal development have been talking about the brief life of Tony Robbins’ “Breakthrough” television show – specifically, why no one turned out to watch it. The show, which featured Tony Robbins coaching people to have breakthroughs in their lives, was canceled after only two episodes due to poor ratings.

Some of my friends thought it was canceled simply because it didn’t execute – it wasn’t good television in that some of what Robbins had people due was so outside the realm of what normal people could do without the financial help of a TV show made it hard for people to connect with.

Others cynically say that television viewers aren’t ready for good news. A show that is neither tragedy nor comedy just doesn’t get watched.

This begs the question, though, why wouldn’t people watch a show about personal breakthroughs or inspiring stories. Obviously, the success of reality television in America proves there is a huge market for real life stories.

My answer, and this comes back to the whole topic of personal development and the Landmark Forum, is that uncomfortable is a hard sell.

The act of watching television is an inherently ‘comfortable’ one. You are sitting somewhere comfortable (hopefully), taking your mind off your troubles, seeking to be reassured, or at least transported to some other reality that makes you forget your own.

Comedy is comfortable. It reassures you that all is well in the world. Action, fantasy, and science-fiction, are comfortable as well – they carry you off into a different world. And tragedy and most reality television, surprisingly, are also quite comfortable. Bad things happen, but by showing people with such huge problems, or in the case of most reality television, such a huge degree of pettiness, we feel comforted that whatever our problems, we are better off than the people we are watching. We may be petty people with human foibles, but at least we’re better than most people we see on reality TV.

Ordinary real people having real breakthroughs and doing inspiring things, on the other hand, is not comfortable. Watching such a show raises the uncomfortable question of why aren’t I having such breakthroughs or doing such inspiring things? Such self-examination isn’t part of the comfort that television is selling.

And I think this is why personal development will always have to deal with something in the selling of it, whether it’s a television show or a course. The decision to do something uncomfortable, look at oneself truly regardless of what one may end up seeing, isn’t a quick and easy sell.

I’d love to hear what others think on this one.

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