Love for the Landmark Forum
** SPOILER ALERT** This contains some spoilers of the Landmark Forum Experience. If you’re already booked to attend, I congratulate you and advise you to revisit this post your attendance. Otherwise, please read on.
The Landmark Forum is a lot of things to a lot of people.
Upheld, ignored, unknown, misunderstood and at some times ridiculed.
I attended the London edition of the Landmark Forum in March of 2016
Here is what happened:
How did I end up there?
A glowing endorsement from a colleague. Plain and simple. “E” gave a review at our morning standup and was glowing. An infectious smile and passion bursting from her. I was taken aback.
I had not heard of the Forum before but was convinced to attend from her review.
“It worked for me, it could work for you” — still the most powerful endorsement across any medium, especially when delivered with max authenticity.
I wanted what happened to her to happen to me, so I booked my place that same day.
It’s £480 of your hard earned cash.
There are courses available each month. Its easy to book & simple to sign up.
It takes 3 whole days & one evening (Friday-Sunday & Tuesday night) and the London edition takes place in a serviced office in the Perineum Zone between Euston and Mornington Crescent.
It starts early and goes on until late.
Sessions are long, phones, food and drink (especially coffee) are banned during sessions (this kind of immersion facilitates breakthroughs).
Simply put, it’s a common sense dose of group therapy delivered over 3 days; you won’t hear rocket science, but what you will do is immerse yourself into the experience. You will be surrounded by 200 others who are doing the same.
I’ll admit I wasn’t a total skeptic pre attending.
I lived with a trainee therapist and had been part of the Tony Robbins coaching Programme for 6 months prior. I had been interested in exploring Therapy for a while. I was a piece of clay that was open to moulding.
Upon arrival, we are appointed a leader who goes through the curriculum for the 3 Days.
Will Steel, our Leader, opens the course with honest instructions. We are here to have breakthroughs and we can have extraordinary ones over the next 3 days.
All we have to do is leave our hangups behind and fully immerse.
Immersion truly works.
Deny us our home comforts, take us away from our families and we start to think, start to explore. We start to justify what we’ve paid for & why we’ve given up our weekend to be there. We’re forced to make it count.
The other 199 attendees
You’re in a room with 200 strangers.
Some of them will know each other. A small percentage will have come together.
Father’s, daughters, husbands and wives, but mostly people come on their own.
Out of the 200, there was not only someone whose music I was a big fan of, but also the Girlfriend of a good friend of mine.
Strange coincidences right? Sure. That’s kind of how Landmark is.
The attendees are a general mix of races, demos, ages and statuses with one thing in common. They all knew someone who had attended and had recommended that they attend.
That’s what motivated them.
They all want to have a breakthrough but just didn’t know how.
By the end of the 3 days you’ve made some real connections and if you want, maybe even friends for life.
Skeletons are bared and experiences are shared with all. By the end there is a shared bond; you know more about these strangers than you do about a lot of your close friends and family.
The 200 present had all taken the hardest step, the first step towards getting better.
Its like starring in an episode of Jerry Springer
Crude description I know, but it can’t be described it any better.
Imagine the Jerry Springer show for 3 days straight with you in the audience and able to participate. But without the need for security. And a lack of verbal abuse. But hurt, pain, drama and controversies in abundance.
I referenced this when I shared on stage (giggles from a few of the audience, a side eyed reaction from Will).
As people came up to share, their stories and experiences ranged from:
Breathtaking (A lady in her 60s who had been adopted and spoke to her natural mother for the first time)
Heart Warming (A lovely young gay Muslim man finally coming out to his parents)
Shocking (Admissions of working in the sex trade)
Relatable (It’s always down to our upbringings)
Monotony (“That’s your breakthrough?)
As the forum progresses, more of the group share and the entertainment of & the affinity for these characters grow.
We track their stories, updates are shared, emotions are presented — we want these people to achieve their breakthrough and when they do the results are often euphoric.
OK, so there is some “Meh”
There are probably a few “plants” — as in planted people in the crowd to get the “sharing started”. This is OK with me, if you attend and you suspect them — don’t let it bother you too much, think of them like the people that sit in the seats when the stars go out for a pee / cigarette during the 3 hour Oscar ceremony — essential and part of the show.
The sales tactics used on the day didn’t sit well with me. I understand the need to lean into tried and tested sales techniques but a refresh of these materials needs to be considered.
It’s all way too “Pyramidy / Ponzi”. Sales guys in bad suits are wheeled out to with documentation to sign when attendees are at their emotionally rawest. It doesn’t feel necessary to me but I guess it works. At least half of the attendees appear to be signing up for additional courses and welcome the presence / convenience of such facilities
It’s a business. As we’re all trying to be authentic here, some updated, 2016 sales techniques could be utilised. The world has moved on from pressurised, in the moment selling.
As for breakthroughs, what was mine?
Going into Landmark, I wanted to improve my communication, become more concise, less hand-wavy, trip over fewer words — especially in front of larger, knowledgable audiences.
When I shared this on stage. I broke through.
Will welcomes us all on stage and then breaks us down in front of the audience, it’s very simple.
We’ve all told ourselves something about ourselves in our childhood that has then shaped the person we have have gone on to become and it’s usually due to something we heard / were told / assumed in the past.
The past was a place I hadn’t spent a lot of time exploring, so with hindsight this proved to be valuable time spent.
It took me till day 3 to go up and share, and when I did, Nothing was going to stop me.
Imagine a pressure cooker that gets hotter over 3 days. It’s like that.
I was sharp, concise and outlined what I felt had been holding me back.
I’d been intimidated by my father (and brother) as a child and whilst they were very “loud, shout, bang crash”. I would stay out of the conflict. Often being quiet, withdrawn whilst they banged and crashed around.
I was still doing this to this day, and like so many more of the crowd, I was letting a decision I had made 30 years previously dictate how I behaved today. By revisiting this, sharing, exposing and exorcising this I could move on without as many of the shackles. We all could.
The Phone Calls…
Ah yes, the phone calls.
When we have breakthroughs (which we all have and around 70% of us share), the demand from Will is to make sure we call others and tell them.
These people could be involved in the breakthroughs themselves or simply our nearest and dearest.
Sounds easy right? Tell them the good news, get them to attend Tuesday’s session.
Well, think about all the people that you want to say things too but you don’t know how / don’t get round to it / just don’t…….
And to quote Will around this topic when asked “What should I say to my Dad when I call him?” Will: “Just tell him you love him” — Simple right? 😉
No, but thats what I did.
Calling those loved ones to just be open and tell them you love and appreciate them is something we never do and should.
I also called a couple of my closest friends and shared my experiences. I wasn’t able to get any of my friends or family to attend the group session but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t about that.
I’d shared. It was all that mattered.
It’s common sight to see people in the corridors explaining to loved ones about what they have just broken though on — its a key part of the session & the journey.
So, was it worth it?
Lets be clear — I’m a major Landmark Supporter, I have views on how the product can be better and as a result more effective, but overall I’m extremely satisfied.
I’ve since paid for friend to attend (and yes — he had a breakthrough as well) and hope to get my parents to attend this side of christmas. I have another friend who’s signing up this week (stimulus to get this post up) and can’t recommend it enough.
A weekend away from your comfort zone and a chance to improve can help us all.
The chance to challenge ourselves, banish the outside world and immerse is one we should all embrace.
Am I a better communicator as a result? Maybe, but that’s not the main point. The barriers have been broken down and I don’t feel I refer to the story I told myself in the past so much. I am now truly aware and I’m working on it.
If your life improves by as little as 0.1%, for one weekend of your time? 100%, it’s worth it.