I’m a Jerk, You’re a Jerk—Reflections on the Landmark Forum

Werner Erhard

In 2005 I took the Landmark Forum. It was an incredible three-day workshop.

The Landmark Forum is an extension of the est seminars from the 1970s. (If you are too young to remember Werner Erhard, founder of est, then read about him here. For the full treatment, see this book.)

If you take the Landmark Forum, the first thing that you will be told is that you are forbidden to take notes on the workshop.

This was too much for me to resist.

I took notes. In fact, I have many pages of notes on the Landmark Forum.

Following are selected quotations from those notes:

We live absurd, small lives based on suppressed emotions, irrational decisions, hiding what we truly think and feel, and a total absence of integrity—that is, on making promises and consistently failing to keep them.

We live with a constant fear of looking bad in front of other people, and then we pretend constantly that we aren’t afraid.

Our whole existence is based on pretense and being inauthentic; on failing to keep our agreements; on settling for reasons, rationalizations, and excuses rather than results; and on irrational decisions we made as children.

We make up stories about what happens in life, and we use those stories to justify breaking our agreements, holding back, and avoiding risks.

We are not human beings. We are machines that are based on automatic reactions—complex chains of stimulus-response pairs.

We don’t choose our response to events; we just react to them. And we can easily be manipulated.

This is only the tip of the iceberg—a statement of the problem and not the solution. If you want more, leave a comment on this post and let me know.

I will say this, though: During the Landmark Forum, I learned to not fear what other people think of me.

This was liberating.

21 thoughts on “I’m a Jerk, You’re a Jerk—Reflections on the Landmark Forum

  1. Were you allowed to take notes on the “seven distinctions of being an unreasonable and extraordinary human being”? (We were.) If so, then you got the essence.

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  2. Taking notes in The Forum is counter productive. The Forum is a “journey”. not a lesson. You’ve been learning stuff all your life and yet you’re left unfulfilled. Here you constantly leave your old self to a new, not better self, but a self unattached to your past. Why re-live the steps of how you got somewhere by taking notes, it’s the “arrival” that matters. At the end, you are left with an “opening”, not an education of learned facts.

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  3. “If you take the Landmark Forum, the first thing that you will be told is that you are forbidden to take notes on the workshop.” You were asked not to take notes DURING the sessions themselves.

    Landmark says nothing about writing or taking notes on breaks or at night or outside the actual sessions. I have encouraged people to do so.

    I thought you said you took notes during the program itself based on what you said:

    “This was too much for me to resist.

    I took notes.”

    which is where my comment came about doing it as it was designed from. There is no contradiction between taking notes in the way you did AND participating fully for sure.

    I think what you wrote is unclear about the request to not take notes.

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  4. I want more Doug. I’ll have to ask Xandra why we came away from a Landmark thing thinking it was cult-like. I’m glad you took notes — I do appreciate the stridency!

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  5. Danny, good point. That’s what I did—I took notes on breaks and at night before I went to bed. I see no contradiction between taking notes in this way AND participating fully.

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  6. After presenting that kind of seminar for so many years , Landmark has observed that note taking takes people out of the course, designed to be an experiential program.. People are encouraged to take notes on the breaks if they like. It is that simple, they want you to get the most out of it.

    Doug, if you paid $500+ dollars, why not do it the way that it is designed and see if it is any good? Of all the many programs Landmark offers, the entry level program The Landmark Forum is the only course that asks people not to take notes as far as I know.

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  7. Hi, Mike. The prohibition on notes was never explained. Ironically, taking notes IS allowed in the advanced course, the follow up to the Forum. Go figure.

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  8. Also — why the injunction to not take notes? Trade secrets? I attended a race-awareness workshop where we were not allowed to take notes, because the leader felt that note-taking intellectualized the experience and put a distance between you and your feelings.

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  9. I assume they gave you some training on interrupting the stimulus-response chain. Would love to hear how they approached a solution to the problem they framed.

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