So, a few weekends ago I attended a three day seminar run by The Landmark Foundation. The Seminar’s cost was covered by my employer and going was voluntary. Back in late January or early February our boss invited some representatives from the Landmark Foundation to our office for an introduction to the program. Here is what I got out of it
1. The language being spoken was very customized and used in a confusing manner.
2. It had something to do with the power of just taking action as opposed to waiting, thinking, or procrastinating.
3. This presentation was also a hard sell.
No sooner had the presentation finished than we found the application forms and credit card authorizations being passed out to each of us to sign. To be clear, going was voluntary and costs would be reimbursed. Still, it felt like a hard sell…it was very directive. ‘Now please fill out the sign-up form, OK, now please we’ll need a credit card, etc’
The introduction had piqued my interest though. There did seem to be something there among the convoluted language and questioning that was going on during it. Also, my boss really believes in it and he’s earned my respect of his opinion. So I read through the legal stuff and signed it.
About that legal stuff. I didn’t think much of it when I signed, as I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, but there is a provision in the contract for reporting on the event. As such, I will not be identifying anyone who attended or reproducing any material used there. I will also not be discussing what their methodogy actually is. This post is about my experience, thoughts, and opinions on the Landmark Program. Had I thought about writing about the experience back in February, I may have challenged the conditions or asked for a waiver. On one hand some of them seem a bit silly and heavy handed, on the other hand many of these conditions do act to protect the privacy of others who attend. Seeing people break down or sharing traumatic experiences was common over the weekend and the group we made up was a true champion of diversity. All races, creeds, ages, backgrounds, political leanings and economic class were well represented. Many of the conditions served to protect their identity and privacy.
Anyway, this was around February and the dates I had chosen to go were at the end of March. Lots of time before I have to go, so I did what I always do in these situations, research it and then mostly forget about it.
The research was interesting. Do a quick Google search on ‘Landmark Foundation review’ and on the first page you’ll see words such as ‘cult, scam, breakdown’ scattered among some of the links. This did not look like a good way to start off. Still I chose 7 – 10 links and started reading. Reviews were mixed. Some claimed it was a cult, or scam, while others praised it profusely. In the end though, after cutting though all the bias and rhetoric and trying to just grab onto the facts, my general impression was this was not a cult, or some kind of brainwashing program. But I also really was no closer to knowing just what it was.
The course is pretty intense from a time standpoint. It was in Chicago and the schedule was
Day 1 – 9:00am – 10:00PM
Day 2 – 9:00am – 10:00pm
Day 3 – 9:00am – 10:00pm
Day 4 – OFF
Day 5 – 7pm – 10pm
You get two 30 minute breaks and one 90 minute dinner break on each of the first three days, which also happen to be the guts of the course. The last day is really just a graduation/recruitment event, even if it did include a bit of existentialism 101 as part of the ‘course’.
So what is the Landmark Forum? Well, the best way I can describe it would be: It’s part applied philosophy, part peer pressure/ support group, and part business plan. It’s not a scam and it’s not any type of brainwashing. Real good can be done by participating and following their program. Where my opinion will differ from theirs is, they try and make you believe their way is the only way to a happy fulfilled life. It’s not.
That’s the biggest issue I have with the Landmark Forum. They teach a perspective which can be very insightful and helpful to some people. But the course also seems fashioned to suggest that without this method your life will will somehow be lacking. It’s never said directly, but the way the concepts and definitions are laid out, by the end of day one they’ve already defined that emotions, logic, analysis, caution are all bad things which prevent you from ever bettering your life.
The thing is, it’s true. Emotions, viewpoints we hold, how we choose to remember or perceive things, can be devastating to our ability to grow. They also can have profound impacts on our happiness and sense of fulfillment. The key word here is that they *can* be these things. The problem I had was over the course of the program they are almost exclusively portrayed in the negative.
This may seem like a damning piece of criticism. It’s not. It simply reflects the struggle I am having in reconciling the experience in an ethical sense. Part of me doesn’t like how the program is packaged.
- The language and phrasings seem purposefully difficult and confusing. This makes it difficult to ‘teach’ or convey to other people their method. They want to be the ones doing the teaching (and getting new customers).
- The program is designed to make you feel like you need the program, otherwise you won’t be as happy or fulfilled as your could be.
- Recruitment is a big part of the course/program. It’s built into the method. Part of the method is group support, you get that by getting more people into the group.
Having said that, I have to stress the method itself is sound. I have no doubt whatsoever that it can change lives for the better. Part of their program also stresses community outreach, non-profit, volunteering, etc. That is admirable. They also have programs for children and teens. If I had children I would not hesitate to enroll them in the Landmark course. It really does offer something to most people.
My struggle with my Landmark Weekend lies solely in reconciling the good of the course with my perception of it’s business plan. Perhaps I’m more cynical than I want to admit, but in the end Landmark feels to me like a great open source program that someone put a wrapper around so they could sell it.
Summary: I’m for it. I think if you’re interested, you should try it. I have no issues with the method. I just don’t like how some of it is packaged.