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Following the Leader

This is a fine example of how skepticism (or cynicism, as the Landmark Forum puts it) and being cautious can come in handy:

I went to a meeting last night for the Landmark Forum. I went against my gut feeling, the little voice in my head, the negative things I read about it. I went because someone important to me is involved with it, so of course I want what's best for him.

There were tons of people at this meeting; most of them looked like they were pretty well off financially, dressed well, talking about their businesses.

They weren't serving cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, or handing out matching sneakers this time. Phew!

A man got up on the stage in front of the room and gave a little introduction to the Forum, and then invited people who had gone through the course to give their testimonials (I think this is when they hook most of the people they are trying to recruit). It seems like it has helped a lot of people. The man that was leading this meeting, I guess you could call him the "leader", was on the charismatic side, had a sense of humor, and seemed like a pretty good public speaker. But I kind of felt like I did in elementary school when phony men would come to the school with fundraisers, catalogs for us kids to take from door to door selling stuff, and then we could win prizes for how much stuff we sold. They made everything sound so great and so easy. And of course this "leader" had an agenda, like those fundraisers did; to make a profit.

Pay no attention to that little voice inside your head.

After the introduction we were given the opportunity to sign up for one of their weekends. Their $400 weekends.

Then the guests were split up into small groups and taken to different rooms with about five "volunteers" for the Forum. We were instructed to pick a problem in our life that we wanted to change. I entertained the idea and picked an easy one. Time management. Then we went through all of these steps, and after every step shared our thoughts, and after sharing our thoughts, clapping for those who shared. We were to ultimately finish the steps with an idea of what we wanted our problems to turn into. We were instructed to share how that idea made us feel. The "volunteer leader" asked me to share how my idea made me feel. I think I said something like, in control and stress free, and the volunteer leader said, "Does that inspire you?!" in an excited voice. I said something like, umm sure I guess so. And she asked some other people if their feelings inspired them.

Yada Yada Yada.

Finally the group meeting was over, and the volunteers gave us another opportunity to sign up for their weekend course.

Even if I had $400, there was no way they were going to get a hold of my mind for an entire weekend.

Several volunteers approached me, and asked me if I was going to sign up. No. Asked me why not. I rattled off some excuses. Asked me what some of my problems in life were. I made some up. Told me their sob stories. Groan. Asked me why I would pass up an opportunity to change my life for the better. Rattled off some more excuses. And so on. Like I said, this happened several times.

The volunteer leader said something along the lines of, "If I could tie everyone in this room to their chairs and not let them leave until they signed up, I would. But we're not allowed to do that." I wasn't really sure if she was joking or not. She had a weird look in her eyes.

I then realized that they don't give much information on their website, because they need to have you in their clutches and squeeze the money out of you once you've succumbed to their mind games.

Finally, I got to leave. I left feeling flustered and angry. I felt like I was in one of those Twilight Zone shows, or stuck in a bad dream.

I know this person that I care about believes that the Forum is a good thing, but I think that it takes advantage of people's vulnerabilities. There is something very eerie about it. How they have this special language. How they make millions of dollars every year, but they use volunteers instead of paid employees. I guess they use volunteers, because that makes it seem more valid than if they paid someone to rave about the Forum. They use the fact that thousands of people all over the world participate in the Forum every year and love it, as a selling point. Well, it is possible to cheat thousands of people out of their money every year.

Overall, I think the Forum is the biggest scam, and I think putting your trust into something like this is risky business. But for those insistent on signing up for it anyway, do a little research first.

Enough said. Right?

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