Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

The Landmark Forum — a rationalist's first impression

11 Post author: Nisan 01 June 2011 03:55PM

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).

Conclusion

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.

Comments (41)

Comment author: ciphergoth 01 June 2011 05:15:27PM *  18 points [-]

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.

Comment author: David_Gerard 02 June 2011 04:11:51PM 7 points [-]

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.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 02 June 2011 02:45:11AM 11 points [-]

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

Comment author: Dorikka 02 June 2011 03:48:16AM 3 points [-]

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?

Comment author: ciphergoth 02 June 2011 09:29:32AM 10 points [-]

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".

Comment author: fubarobfusco 02 June 2011 04:15:27AM 10 points [-]

"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.

Comment author: PhilosophyTutor 31 October 2012 07:19:46AM 1 point [-]

"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.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 31 October 2012 04:34:42PM 1 point [-]

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 ....

Comment author: handoflixue 16 June 2011 08:41:22PM 1 point [-]

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 :)

Comment author: David_Gerard 01 November 2012 08:37:27PM -1 points [-]

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.

Comment author: novalis 01 June 2011 05:20:04PM *  16 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 01 June 2011 10:44:10PM 5 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Abd 31 October 2012 05:13:04AM -1 points [-]

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 ...it 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.

Comment author: chaosmosis 31 October 2012 05:32:16AM 2 points [-]

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

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 31 October 2012 05:40:04AM *  3 points [-]

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

What about Germans? Are you skeptical of Germans?

Comment author: chaosmosis 31 October 2012 02:23:54PM 2 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Abd 31 October 2012 06:28:19AM -2 points [-]

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.

Comment author: chaosmosis 31 October 2012 02:29:07PM 3 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Abd 01 November 2012 04:52:57PM -2 points [-]

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."

Comment author: novalis 31 October 2012 04:04:49PM 1 point [-]

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.

Comment author: Abd 01 November 2012 04:42:23PM 1 point [-]

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.

Comment author: atucker 01 June 2011 09:26:38PM 13 points [-]

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.

Comment author: chesh 02 June 2011 12:57:29AM *  5 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Abd 31 October 2012 04:04:13AM 3 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Kevin 03 June 2011 02:27:46AM *  5 points [-]

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

Comment author: TraditionalRationali 01 June 2011 04:53:10PM *  5 points [-]

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.)

Comment author: MichaelAnissimov 01 June 2011 08:06:23PM 1 point [-]

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.

Comment author: Manfred 01 June 2011 09:51:11PM 14 points [-]

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.

Comment author: MichaelAnissimov 02 June 2011 08:30:22AM 6 points [-]

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".

Comment author: ciphergoth 02 June 2011 09:30:52AM 1 point [-]

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

Comment author: Leonhart 07 June 2011 12:28:28PM 11 points [-]

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.

Comment author: Nisan 02 June 2011 01:24:55AM 16 points [-]

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."

Comment author: vmkumar 03 June 2011 04:10:47PM 1 point [-]

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! :- )

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 03 June 2011 04:19:38PM 1 point [-]

An earlier thread on est.

Comment author: Vaniver 02 June 2011 08:51:45AM 1 point [-]

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.