What started as a curiosity turned into a life changing experience for me — and more so a better understanding of myself and the life I want to live. Over the past few years The Landmark Forum has come up in conversation; I had a friend tell me it helped her get over a breakup, another friend say it helped him with his career path, and some other similar anecdotes that all ended with life changing experiences.
While none of these incidents at the time caused me to sign up or dig deeper, with every story I heard I grew more curious until finally this summer I was having lunch in LA with a producer friend (who I never expected to have done it) and that was the final straw. None of these friends of mine had anything in common; how was this program making such a difference?
Let me back up by explaining what The Landmark Forum is. It’s a 3 day + 1 night program available all over the world that’s set up in a workshop setting where there are anywhere from 75-250 participants and one instructor leading a series of exercises geared around better communication and personal development. While many enter the room with baggage they are looking to resolve; financial problems, failed relationships, mommy issues, difficulties advancing in the workplace… the course isn’t some type of therapy meets AA interface but rather a communication tools that offers new perspective to help you discover what you don’t know, you don’t know. It subscribes to all the fundamentals of humanity and focuses around being authentic, and taking responsibility for your life and by doing that it allows you to address and resolve all the parts of your life you’re looking to take control of.
Lets be clear, when I walked into The Landmark Forum, it was like walking into the DMV — diverse crowd, white walls, sterile chairs and all. I had no idea what to expect out of so many participants and one leader from Landmark that sits on stage and takes us through a series of lectures and exercises. However, in participating in the course, and more so just by listening to members of the group share, I was able to understand why you can be in a room with over a 100 complete strangers that you have minimal (or multiple) traits in common and still get everything you hoped for and more out of the forum. It’s because all of our issues and personality traits stem from the same place, our pasts and the image we form of ourselves based on these occurrences. And once you’re able to take an honest look at yourself and why you’re life is the way it is, you’re able to take responsibility for it and control of it and create the possibilities to have everything you want out of it.
That said, it’s a ride, I walked in taking more of a reporter stance — how could I compete with someone going through a painful divorce, lived through child abuse, survived bombings or many other scenarios I can’t even begin to fathom? Here I am just trying to figure out how to grow my career. You get over that — the first thing my group leader for the forum, Kathy Bosco (who is amazing!) said to us was don’t compare yourself or your issues to others. (Naturally all of day 1 and part of day 2 I did but fortunately it didn’t make a difference, but learn from my former listening deficiency). I was just so self conscious every time I shared or talked about myself, but then this miraculous thing would happen at every break — other participants would come up to me and thank me for sharing or asking a question because they we’re going through something similar.
I may not have been able to relate to 80% of the incidents people shared (and vice versa), but I could relate to their feelings whether it be loneliness, fear, feelings of intimidation or otherwise; and I was still able to take so much out of their words and apply it to my situation to see a completely different perspective. This sharing portion of the course (which is the majority of it), is when just by listening (and speaking if you choose to) you learn so much about yourself and have some major realizations. It’s incredibly powerful to the point that you may sign up for the forum to fix an area of your life and become completely transformed in another.
Whatever got me into that room, I’m glad it happened. I’ve never been so moved by a group of humans or more aware that you never know who you’re sitting next to. And if you think you this is one of those things for people with issues or who aren’t successful, it’s not. There are plenty of millionaires sitting in those seats. The course is about “living life powerfully and living a life you love”. Often times we tell ourselves we’d be happier if we were skinnier, richer, younger, more successful, married, taller, shorter, smart or whatever we blame our constraints in life — and that’s not true. Because all of those demographics are in the audience, and it’s because that’s not all it takes to be happy or live a life you love. It’s understanding what’s stopping you from pursuing that life, because you’re actually perfect and complete just as you are and skies the limit as far as what you can accomplish and have. In doing the Landmark Forum, I’ve come to appreciate the value and power of what it offers people and I completely understand why so many companies pay for their employees to do it.
It came up several times in the forum when someone would share with a friend that they we’re doing the course and that person would reply ‘isn’t that some cult thing?’, I’m going to address that. It’s a communication course — no one that reads my blog regularly or knows me could even question that I would promote one or fall into one. Cults try to keep you from your family and outside world and can be destructive, Landmark encourages you to talk to your family — even members you’ve been estranged from and works to strengthen the relationships in your life as well as go out into the world go after your dreams. There’s nothing scary, radical or negative that goes down during the course; every exercise, and every sharing activity is all centered around integrity, honesty, being authentic, forgiveness and taking responsibility. It’s separating the “what happened” from “the story we tell ourselves” so we have control over our futures. And a lot of the same exercises or principles can be found in other seminars, self-help books, Buddhism or other philosophies. Whatever faith or religion you practice isn’t going to be compromised by taking a communication course, that’s no different with the Landmark Forum.
The only area that I had some difficulty with was with all of the conversations around enrolling your friends and family and what felt like pressure in all of these reminders and encouragement to sign up for part 2 of the forum, The Advanced Course. It was like I just had these major breakthroughs and you’re telling me I need to sign up for another class? It was like watching the season finale of my favorite show and then seeing “to be continued” up on the screen, only I was satisfied with the ending so what’s this big finale I’m missing? In any case I had some clarification on both topics which have helped me immensely. And before I get into it, everyone here should learn to ask for clarification on anything they are unclear about (and that’s just my general policy in life). Otherwise, it’s too easy to lose focus and just blame something as wrong or let that one part take away from your experience (you get I’m not just talking about the Landmark Forum here, right?). What’s so great about the course is you’re in a room of cynics, activists, believers, and otherwise and they are all equally important. You need all of those parts in the room otherwise how will everyone relate? Or understand it. So speak up, if there’s something you’re unclear about or disagree with, chances are you’re not the only one.
First off I wasn’t really clear when I signed up that the course is made up of 3 parts: (1) The Landmark Forum ($575), (2) The Advanced Course ($575), and (3) Self Expression Leadership program ($250) — none of my friends mentioned that and I didn’t read the website fully because I wanted to be unbiased when I walked in. All three parts together are the curriculum for living life powerfully and a life you love. You don’t need to do all three to get the benefit of each, but each course is incredibly powerful and having just completed The Advanced Course I can attest it’s beyond worth it. In fact, I felt so good about The Landmark Forum, I felt rather indifferent to doing The Advanced Course and did it because I figured there would be some value and that’s what bloggers do, they try things, so why not… Having just completed it, I can’t believe I even considered not doing it, it was like the Landmark Forum x 100! I do think I live life powerfully and a life I love so at this point I should feel even more indifferent to doing the last part, The Self Expression Leadership Program, but I’m so taken with what I’ve learned and just more excited with every step that I want to see it through. And to clarify, while they do have other courses this is the last step of this curriculum.
I want EVERYTHING out of life, the career, the man, the blog, volunteer/give back, the family, the friends — and I actually have it all but it’s been such a big juggling act getting it all together and making time for all the parts, that my biggest struggle until now was enjoying all of it instead of feeling like I am always letting someone down and exhausting myself in trying to prioritize. Did I mention I’m always late?
Now the other part of my challenge the strong encouragement (and many reminders) to invite your friends to see what it’s all about and register. First off, having made it this far I’m in the post you know that if you’re not living a life you love, I’d want you to do this. However, I’m that person that when I get a trial membership to a gym, I am not having that conversation about joining until my pass is used — I don’t care what the ‘sign up now’ offer is, I’m willing to bet that offer will still be available after my trial and I hate feeling pushed. (I get 600 emails a day of people trying to sell me on their brands so that I post about it, if I wasn’t a born skeptic obsessed that insisted on trying every product or experience prior to posting, this would be a completely different blog). That said, some of you will naturally want to enroll all of your friends and family, some of you will just have a few you think it would work for, and others may still have enjoyed it and not want to invite anyone. All of these scenarios make sense and are perfectly okay. Some of you may even want to invite people but feel too self-conscious because of how you sound. That is okay too!
Here’s my point, don’t fixate on any part that frustrates you. Ask questions for sure, but even if you don’t, DON’T FIXATE. If you just focus on the one part you’re struggling with then you could miss out on all the parts that could make a real impact. The course is about making your life better, not about the forum. What I got out of the Landmark Forum was an ability to listen better when it comes to myself. Before this I couldn’t hear compliments. Or worse if I got 99 compliments on something and one negative comment — all I heard was the negative. I had a ration of 99% to 1% and the 1% is what I heard. That’s ridiculous, right? Of course it is, our thoughts and feelings are filled with ridiculousness. What’s worse is I actually was aware of this even before doing the course, I just didn’t know how to resolve it. Now this may be small to you, but it’s huge for me and going to have a big impact on my life. Small corrections can have huge impacts. So can huge changes. There were several conflict resolutions — I’m talking big custody battles, relationships on the rocks, management issues, and I got to watch as this education resolved them.
Okay, enough on Landmark, you get my point. Here’s the website to learn more: landmarkforum.com and I know when it comes to conversations about being happy or living a life you love it can be quite private (no one wants to admit they are unhappy with any part of their life or at least I didn’t), so if you have any questions or want to know about my experience you’re welcome to email me at [email protected]. (Put “LANDMARK” in the subject line since I do get a high volume of emails and would hate to miss it!).
Disclaimer: I was given a scholarship. I was under no obligation to write this post.