30 Years of Landmark and 50 Years of Transformation
This article is an update to a 2016 Landmark News article that celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Landmark. It is updated to mark both Landmark’s 30th anniversary but also 50 years since the first est training. We hope that readers find this illuminating and interesting.
Landmark’s beginning was precarious when its founders purchased assets and intellectual property from Werner Erhard in February 1991. The first year’s net profit was less than $1,000.
Looking from a new perspective, the organization introduced a new program series called The Curriculum for Living, consisting of The Landmark Forum and three other courses. The series was designed to empower and coach people to create and implement new futures for themselves and their communities, and it propelled Landmark toward its evolution.
Between 1992 and 1998, the company grew swiftly. The Landmark Forum was offered for the first time in India, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the Cheyenne River Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota. New offices opened throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
In 1998, the company initiated an extraordinary new program, a year-end cruise, offering concepts from Landmark’s Wisdom Unlimited course aboard a luxury ocean liner. The popular cruise has since been revamped as an upscale resort vacation course.
In the 1990’s Landmark’s Consulting subsidiary Vanto Group took off. In 1998, a case study from the USC Marshall School of Business detailed the difference the Vanto Group had made in dramatically enhancing the performance of New Zealand Steel. This study inspired dozens of Fortune 500 companies, government departments, and non-profit organizations to seek Vanto’s training.
Vanto has worked with companies as diverse and renowned as Apple Inc., Banco do Brasil, BHP Billiton, GlaxoSmithKline (Europe), Guidant Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lockheed Martin, Mercedes-Benz USA, NASA, New Zealand Steel, Reebok International Ltd., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Walgreens.
Vanto is making a real difference. For example, their work with Magma Copper led to an unprecedented, breakthrough agreement between labor and management at Magma’s mine in Arizona.
According to Robert Guadiana, then a director with the United Steel Workers of America:
“We entered into this team concept for bargaining with labor and management and ended up with a very creative and innovative contract. . . .It provided an opportunity for people to look, not only at themselves, but to look at the corporation differently, to look at their fellow workers
differently and to dream the dreams they never thought possible. The productivity gains that we have made so far are marvelous, but the things that we have really gained are self-worth and self-confidence and knowing that we are enhancing our employment security.”
Following work with Vanto (then LEBD), Magma Copper and their unions created an unprecedented 15 year agreement which included extensive community investment, huge increases in safety and production breakthroughs that set records. In 2021, for the second year in a row, Vanto was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the best management consulting firms in America.
The 2000s saw continued expansion into new cities and countries including Bucharest, Romania; Beirut, Lebanon; Bangalore and New Delhi in India; Kingston, Jamaica; Ethiopia; Rome, Italy; and Istanbul, Turkey. Under the leadership of the late Jerome Downes, participation in Landmark’s programs all over Asia dramatically increased, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in China; Manila in the Philippines; Seoul, South Korea; and Bangkok, Thailand. In 2009, The Landmark Forum was held in Lebanon. In 2010 The Landmark Forum was translated into Persian (Farsi) for the first time, and over the last decade, certain Landmark Forums have been translated into Vietnamese, Russian, Polish, and the Forum is now offered in Brasil and the UAE.
In 2001, Landmark introduced an annual convention, The Conference for Global Transformation, an inquiry that features an array of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, papers and posters. The conference is attended by hundreds of Landmark graduates from around the world.
Also in 2001, in honor of the contributions of first responders on September 11, 2001 and in the months that followed, Landmark began offering scholarships for its programs to police and firefighters.
A 50-YEAR LEGACY
While Landmark is observing its 30th anniversary, what some readers may not know is that Landmark is part of a 50-year history featuring cutting edge transformational work and programs. Werner Erhard, the creator of the est Training and the extensive body of work upon which Landmark’s programs are based, offered the first est training in October of 1971 with 35 participants. In the ensuing 50 years, more than 3 million people worldwide have participated in his programs and programs based on his ideas. People’s lives have been marked by enhanced productivity, more enjoyment, better quality in their relationships, more confidence, peace of mind and, for many, a profound awareness of making a difference. Werner Erhard was featured in a 2006 documentary that explored his life, work and impact. It is available to watch online here.
When these programs first arrived on the scene, they were revolutionary and rapidly grew in popularity with dates booked up months and months in advance. So popular in fact, that in the 70’s and 80’s the est training saw the participation of numerous influential people such as singers John Denver and Dianna Ross, actors like Jeff Bridges, Raul Julia and Valerie Harper, media executives such as Ted Ashley and Arianna Huffington and academics like Dr. Warren Bennis and Dr. Jeronima (Jeri) Echeverria.
Like Landmark graduates today, graduates of the est Training made massive contributions through organizations such as Youth at Risk, The Hunger Project and the Mastery Foundation just to name a few. Through the years, participants have launched more than 150,000 community projects.
The 2000s saw powerful, positive stories about Landmark begin to appear in major media outlets. In 2001, Landmark Forum Leader and Vanto Group head Steve Zaffron co-authored a paper appearing in Contemporary Philosophy, “The Promise and Philosophy of the Landmark Forum.” This paper articulated and summarized the core of The Landmark Forum in a way that had never been done before:
“You become aware of yourself not as a set pattern of desires and thoughts and resulting actions, but as impersonal awareness itself. This awareness is the context of being, the context from which one can choose to live.”
In 2003, striking reporter reviews of The Landmark Forum appeared in The Guardian and in The London Times.
In February of 2009, the book The Three Laws of Performance, co-authored by Steve Zaffron, about reviving passion for accomplishment and creating success, was published. It reached a number of bestseller lists, including those of Business Week, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and was also a best-selling and most-gifted book on Amazon.com.
In April of that year, the Canadian Television Program “Positive Living” featured an inside look at The Landmark Forum, showing parts of the course being held and highlighting the difference they made for one participant.
In 2010, The Landmark Forum was positively reviewed in The New York Times, and soon thereafter, TIME Magazine also acknowledged the value of the program. At about the same time, television, film, and Broadway star Neil Patrick Harris commended the difference The Landmark Forum made in his life in a magazine interview.
In April of 2011, Panda Express Co-Founder Andrew Cherng spoke on ABC’s Nightline regarding the difference The Landmark Forum has made for him and his employees, and why he recommends they all participate in the course. The same month, Landmark Forum Leader Dr. Nancy Zapolski and other graduates of Landmark’s programs were interviewed in The Wall Street Journal about effective communication, and in May of 2012, Landmark was glowingly reviewed by a writer from Psychology Today.
In October of 2015, a leading advocate against the practice of gay conversion therapy talked in TIME Magazine of how, out of participating in The Landmark Forum, he repaired his relationship with his family and reconciled with his father.
A New York Times feature article recognized the life and contributions of Werner Erhard, the man whose ideas are the foundation of Landmark’s programs. The Times described Landmark as “mainstream,” noting its strong corporate presence and wide availability “on every continent except Antarctica.”
Much of this media attention was taking place at the same time Landmark was doing fundamental work to examine and rework itself in major ways. In fact, in 2007 Landmark began the massive undertaking of redesigning every facet of its operation – its programs, business practices, facilities, infrastructure and more – inside of a new promise to empower people in what matters most to them and to provide an extraordinary customer experience.
Groups that represented every aspect of Landmark – its customers, program leaders, employees, executives, and even potential customers – gathered to look at the most powerful ways of achieving this in every facet of the enterprise.
In the 14 years since then, company leaders have created manifold changes throughout the company. New programs have been designed based on best customer service practices and the latest advances in neuroscience. Landmark’s flagship program, The Landmark Forum, has been redesigned from top to bottom to make the course more coherent and add modern multimedia elements and a more satisfying customer experience.
Landmark’s program leaders and people who assist at Landmark’s courses are ongoingly trained in providing extraordinary service in every interaction. Landmark has also dramatically increased its engagement with its graduates and the public through a variety of social media platforms, with over 198,000 people now following Landmark’s Facebook page alone.
As part of the commitment to have Landmark’s ideas be easily accessible to people everywhere, Landmark also has a Personal Coaching Division, and certain Wisdom Course-area programs are available through teleconferencing.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
Whether, educating children to prevent sexual abuse in Mumbai; giving refurbished bicycles to those in need in New Hampshire; creating a line of healthful, socially responsible foods that also provides income for women in Africa; opening kindergartens in Mongolia; creating musical events for deaf people in Amsterdam; planting 5,000 daffodils in New Rochelle, New York — Landmark graduates are transforming the world.
Some of these graduates have been noted in the media and elsewhere for the difference they are making, often out of projects they undertook in a Landmark course.
The Australian media, for example, have widely reported on R U OK? Day, created in 2009 by Gavin Larkin. This is a national suicide awareness day, promoted by Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts and others, initiated out of Larkin’s participation in Landmark’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP).
Gashaw Tahir’s commitment to limit deforestation in Africa is another project from participation in the SELP. In March 2010, the U.S. State Department and the United Nations acknowledged his work of employing youth to plant one million trees.
More recently, the Mumbai newspaper DNA India ran a full feature on local participants in the SELP, describing their projects and the difference they are making in areas such as empowering women, blood donation, and feeding the poor.
TED talks and TEDx talks are other venues that have been showcasing the difference Landmark graduates are making in the world. Topics of graduate projects include having charities and non-profit organizations be more effective, empowering women, empowering sick children, eradicating racism, giving up secrets, exercising leadership, overcoming fear, forgiveness, and many more.
Some of Landmark’s original leaders who contributed to the company’s standing and influence have passed on including Jerome Downes, Phyllis Allen, Jinendra Jain, Alan Edelman, Ron Zeller, Bill Palmer, Marjie Parrot, Sandy Bernasek and Stuart Espositio. Each of them, made an indelible difference in countless numbers of people’s lives.
In 2019, the book Speaking Being: Werner Erhard, Martin Heidegger and a New Possibility of Being Human was published. Written by Dr. Drew Kopp and the late Dr. Bruce Hyde, the book follows a transcript of a Forum led by Werner Erhard in 1989 to show how communication of the unspoken realm of language- speaking being- is actually accomplished in the Forum and show how Erhard did it in 1989. And for the first time, it made Erhard’s extraordinary form of ontological rhetoric available to a wide range of audiences – from scholars to anyone interested in exploring the possibility of being for human beings. To check out the book, click here.
In March of 2020 the global Covid19 pandemic forced Landmark to suspend it’s in person programs in nearly every location around the world. As the pandemic and associated lock downs spread across the world, Landmark quickly began pivoting its programs online. Starting with a series of webinars intended to empower people in dealing with the unique challenges they faced at the height of the lockdowns, soon the weekly Seminars and Self-Expression and Leadership Programs were, for the first time, offered online. These were followed by a Forum for Graduates,
The Advanced Course and Communication Programs and eventually in March of this year, The Forum began to be offered online for first time participants. All of these programs are now offered around the world and are available in even more languages than they were prior to the start of the pandemic.
Landmark’s first 30 years has given the world over 55 distinct programs that are delivered in more than 125 locations in 21 countries, impacting tens of thousands of participants a year. What will Landmark contribute to the world over the next 50 years? Whatever lies ahead will be a creation, not merely derived from Landmark’s past, but an unprecedented undertaking, an authentic adventure, conceived from a wide-open future that will continue to redefine what’s possible.