Landmark Worldwide

Landmark Worldwide (formerly Landmark Education), or simply Landmark, is a company offering personal development programs, headquartered in San Francisco.

Landmark Worldwide LLC
FormationJanuary 16, 1991 (1991-01-16)
TypePrivate LLC
PurposePersonal development
ProductsThe Landmark Forum, associated coursework
Key people
Harry Rosenberg: director, CEO;[1] Mick Leavitt
  • The Vanto Group
  • Tekniko Licensing Corporation
US$77 million (2009)[2]
525+ employees[2]
RemarksCalifornia corporation

The current company started with the licensing of rights to use intellectual property owned by Werner Erhard, author of the est (Erhard Seminars Training). Landmark has developed and delivered multiple follow-up and additional programs. Its subsidiary, the Vanto Group, also markets and delivers training and consulting to organizations.


Landmark was founded in January 1991 by several of the presenters of a training program known as "the Forum".[3] Landmark licensed the intellectual property rights to the Forum from Werner Erhard and Associates. The new company offered similar courses and employed many of the same staff.[4][5] The Forum was updated and reduced in length from four days to three, and this revised course was named "the Landmark Forum", which has been further updated over the years. It has since developed around 55 additional training courses and seminar programs which it delivers in 23 countries around the world.

According to Landmark, Werner Erhard (creator of the est training which ran from 1971 to 1984, when it was superseded by the Forum) consults from time to time with its research and design team.[6]

The business traded as Landmark Education Corporation from May 1991.[7] In June 2003 it was re-structured as Landmark Education LLC, and in July 2013 renamed Landmark Worldwide LLC.[8]

Landmark has stated it never paid royalties to Erhard under the licensing agreement,[9] and that it purchased outright the intellectual property in the Forum and other courses by 2002.[10]

Current operations

As of 2013 Landmark Worldwide's core business operation is the delivery of seminars and training courses which aim to offer improvements in personal productivity, vitality, communication skills, and decision-making.[11] Some of these are intensive two- or three-day courses; Landmark structures others as weekly three-hour seminars over a three-month period. The organization also advertises six- and twelve-month training programs in topics such as leadership, teamwork and public speaking. Some of the courses require participants to start a community project, and those courses are structured to support them in its design and implementation.[12][13][14]

Landmark Worldwide operates as an employee-owned for-profit private company. According to Landmark's website, its employees own all the stock of the corporation, with no individual holding more than 3%. The company states that it invests its surpluses into making its programs, initiatives and services more widely available.[15]

The company has reported that more than 2.4 million people had participated in its programs since 1991.[16] Landmark holds seminars in approximately 115 locations in more than 21 countries.[17][18] Landmark' revenue surpassed $100 million in 2018.[19]

Business consulting

Vanto Group, Inc., founded in 1993 as Landmark Education Business Development (LEBD), a wholly owned subsidiary, uses the Landmark methodology to provide consulting services to businesses and to other organizations. The University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business carried out a case study in 1998 into the work of LEBD with BHP New Zealand Steel. The report concluded that the set of interventions in the organization produced a 50% improvement in safety, a 15% to 20% reduction in key benchmark costs, a 50% increase in return on capital, and a 20% increase in raw steel production.[20] LEBD became the Vanto Group in 2008.[21]

Landmark Forum

Landmark's entry course, the Landmark Forum, is the default first course for new participants, and provides the foundation of all Landmark's other programs. The Landmark Forum takes place over three consecutive days plus an evening session (generally Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday evening.)[22] Each full day begins at 9:00 a.m. and typically ends at approximately 10:00 p.m. Breaks occur approximately every 2 to 3 hours, with a 90-minute dinner break. The evening session generally runs from 7:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.[23] Forum attendance varies in size between 75 and 250 people.[24] Landmark arranges the course as a dialogue in which the Forum leader presents a series of proposals and encourages participants to take the floor to relate how those ideas apply to their own individual lives.[25] Course leaders set up rules at the beginning of the program, and Landmark strongly encourages participants not to miss any part of the program.[26] Attendees are also urged to be "coachable" and not just be observers during the course.[26][27]

Various ideas are proposed for consideration and explored during the course. These include:

  • There can be a big difference between what actually happened in a person's life and the meaning or interpretation they make up about it.[25]
  • Human behavior is governed by a perceived need to look good.[28]
  • People often pursue an "imaginary 'someday' of satisfaction".[24]
  • People create meaning for themselves since "there is none inherent in the world".[24]
  • When people have persistent complaints that are accompanied by unproductive fixed ways of being and acting,[29] this can be "transformed" by a creative act of generating entirely new ways of being and acting, rather than by trying to change one's self in comparison to the past.[24]

During the course, participants are encouraged to call friends and family members with whom they feel they have unresolved tensions,[28] and to take responsibility for their own behavior.[30]

The evening session follows closely on the three consecutive days of the course and completes the Landmark Forum. During this final session, the participants share information about their results, and bring guests to learn about the Forum.[29]

Companies such as Panda Express, and previously Lululemon Athletica, pay for and encourage employees to take part in the Landmark Forum.[31][32][33]


Landmark emphasizes the idea that there is a difference between the facts of what happened in a situation, and the meaning, interpretation, or story about those facts. It proposes that people frequently confuse those facts with their own story about them, and, as a consequence, are less effective or experience suffering in their lives.

Meaning is something that human beings invent in language, Landmark suggests – it's not inherent in events themselves. Therefore, if people change what they say, they can alter the meaning they associate with events, and be more effective in dealing with them.[34]

Landmark suggests that as people see these invented meanings, they discover that much of what they had assumed to be their "identity" is actually just a limiting social construct that they had made up in conversations, in response to events in the past. From this realization, participants in Landmark's programs create new perspectives for what they now see as possible. They are then trained in sharing these with family members, friends and workmates, so that the new possibilities live in the social realm, rather than just in their own minds. In other words, Landmark suggests that the more one's social environment supports one's goals, the easier it will be to accomplish those goals.[34][35] When Landmark uses the term "new possibilities", it does so differently from the everyday sense of something that might happen in the future, instead using it to refer to a present-moment opportunity to be and act differently, free from interpretations from the past.[35]

Influence and impact

The ideas found in Landmark's programs, as well as those of Landmark's predecessor est, are identified by some writers as being among the most influential in the development of the modern coaching industry.[36][37]

After completing a Landmark program, Gavin Larkin started RUOK? Day, an Australian national day of awareness about depression and suicide-prevention.[38][39]

Landmark's Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP) requires participants to undertake a community project; such undertakings have become nationally recognized.[40]

Organizations including Nasa, Apple, Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline, Reebok, and Panda Express have employees who have participated in Landmark's programs.[41]

Public reception and criticism

In his review of the Landmark Forum, New York Times reporter Henry Alford wrote that he "resented the pressure" placed on him during a session, but also noted that "two months after the Forum, I'd rate my success at 84 percent."[42] Time reporter Nathan Thornburgh, in his review of The Landmark Forum, said "At its heart, the course was a withering series of scripted reality checks meant to show us how we have created nearly everything we see as a problem" and "I benefited tremendously from the uncomfortable mirror the course had put in front of me."[43]

Nikki Walsh, writing in the Irish Mail on Sunday says the effects of The Landmark Forum "...can be startling. People find themselves reconciled with parents, exes and friends. They have conversations they have wanted to have with their families for years; they meet people or get promoted in work."[44]

Amber Allison, writing in The Mayfair Magazine describes Landmark's instructors as "enthusiastic and inspiring". Her review says that after doing The Landmark Forum, "Work worries, relationship dramas all seem more manageable", and that she "let go of almost three decades of hurt, anger and feelings of betrayal" towards her father.[45]

Scientists are divided.[46] Some scholars have categorized Landmark or its predecessor organizations as a "self religion" or a (broadly defined) "new religious movement".[47][48] Others, such as Chryssides, or the Australian neuroscientist Dr Watson question this characterization.[46][49][50][51] Landmark makes clear that its own position is that it is purely an educational foundation and is not a religious movement of any kind.[52] Landmark has threatened or pursued lawsuits against people who call it a cult.[53]

Journalist Amelia Hill with The Observer witnessed a Landmark Forum and concluded that, in her view, it is not religious or a cult. Hill wrote, "It is ... simple common sense delivered in an environment of startling intensity."[54] Karin Badt from The Huffington Post criticized the organisation's emphasis on "'spreading the word' of the Landmark forum as a sign of the participants' 'integrity'" in recounting her personal experience of an introductory "Landmark Forum" course, but noted, "at the end of the day, I found the Forum innocuous. No cult, no radical religion: an inspiring, entertaining introduction of good solid techniques of self-reflection, with an appropriate emphasis on action and transformation (not change)".[24]

In 2004 the French channel France 3 aired a television documentary on Landmark in their investigative series Pièces à Conviction. The episode, called "Voyage Au Pays des Nouveaux Gourous" ("Journey to the land of the new gurus") was highly critical of its subject.[55] Shot in large part with a hidden camera, it showed attendance at a Landmark course and a visit to their offices.[56] In addition, the program included interviews with former course participants, anti-cultists, and commentators. Landmark left France following the airing of the episode and a subsequent site visit by labor inspectors that noted the activities of volunteers,[57] and sued Jean-Pierre Brard in 2004 following his appearance in the documentary.[58]

The episode was uploaded to a variety of websites, and in October 2006 Landmark issued subpoenas pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to Google Video, YouTube, and the Internet Archive demanding details of the identity of the person(s) who had uploaded those copies. These organizations challenged the subpoenas and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) became involved, planning to file a motion to quash Landmark's DMCA subpoena to Google Video.[59] Landmark eventually withdrew its subpoenas.[60]

See also


  1. Landmark staff 2002a.
  2. Landmark staff 2014b.
  3. Pressman, Steven (1993). Outrageous Betrayal: The dark journey of Werner Erhard from est to exile. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-09296-2, p. 254. (Out of print).
  4. Marshall 1997.
  5. Pressman 1993, pp. 245–246, 254–255.
  6. Faltermayer, Charlotte; Richard Woodbury (March 16, 1998). The Best of Est?. Time. Retrieved on October 22, 2008.
  7. "Landmark Company History - Landmark Worldwide".
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-28. Retrieved 2015-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. Landmark (Art Schreiber) 2005, pp. 3–4.
  10. Grigoriadis 2001.
  11. Hill, Amelia (2008-03-05). "I thought I'd be brainwashed. But how wrong could I be…". The Guardian. London: Retrieved 2009-12-09.
  12. "Helping professionals take up community welfare projects". Chennai, India: Hindu Times. 2010-09-13. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  13. "Charity walk to boost anti-suicide initiatives". Bay of Plenty Times. 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  14. "Cherish the mammary: Restaurants raise funds for breast cancer survivors". Philadelphia Daily News. July 31, 2008. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  15. Landmark Fact Sheet. Retrieved on October 22, 2008.
  16. "Landmark Worldwide, the arts community and the big, bizarre business of personal development". Colorado Springs Independent. July 31, 2008. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  17. Caroline Phillips (1 Mar 2017). "How an American motivational guru is inspiring British businesses". Spear's Magazine. Retrieved 6 Jun 2018.
  18. See:
  19. "Landmark Worldwide, the arts community and the big, bizarre business of personal development". Colorado Springs Independent. July 31, 2008. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  20. Logan 1998.
  21. (February 1, 2008). "Landmark Education Business Development, LEBD, Changes Name to Vanto Group Archived 2009-04-08 at the Wayback Machine". Reuters. Retrieved on October 22, 2008.
  24. Badt & 5 March 2008.
  25. Stassen 2008.
  26. Hill, Amelia (2003-12-14). "Investigation: is the Landmark Forum a cult?". UK News. The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  27. McCrone & 1 February 2008.
  28. Compare: Hill, Amelia (2003-12-14). "Investigation: is the Landmark Forum a cult?". UK News. The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  29. See:
  30. See:
  31. Businessweek & 18 November 2010.
  32. Sacks & 1 April 2009.
  33. Rosman, Katherine (2016-02-02). "Chip Wilson tries to reinvent himself after his Lululemon turmoil". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  34. McCrone, John (November 2008). "A Landmark Change". The Press Supplement.
  35. McCarl, Steven R.; Zaffron, Steve; Nielson, Joyce; Kennedy, Sally Lewis (January–April 2001). "The Promise of Philosophy and the Landmark Forum". Contemporary Philosophy. XXIII (1 & 2). doi:10.2139/ssrn.278955. SSRN 278955.
  36. Wildflower, Leni; Brennan, Diane, eds. (2011). "20". The handbook of knowledge-based coaching from theory to practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 9781118033388. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  37. O'Connor, Joseph; Lages, Andrea (1 January 2009). "How Coaching Works: The Essential Guide to the History and Practice of Effective Coaching". A&C Black via Google Books.
  38. Santow, Simon (15 September 2011). "Inspiring tale from founder". The World Today. ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 22 May 2015. So I went and did a self-improvement course I suppose you'd call it, an education called Landmark and as part of that they had you do a project which was about inspiring yourself and stretching yourself and inspiring others and I chose suicide prevention. [...] And with the help of some key people got it started and kick-started RU OK? Day.
  39. Compare: "RUOK? - Home". Retrieved 2017-06-11. In 1995, much-loved Barry Larkin was far from ok. His suicide left family and friends in deep grief and with endless questions. In 2009, his son Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and to try and protect other families from the pain his endured. [...] While collaborating with Janina Nearn on a documentary to raise awareness, the team quickly realised the documentary alone wouldn't be enough. [...] To genuinely change behaviour Australia-wide, a national campaign was needed. And from this realisation, and with Gavin and Janina's expertise and passion, R U OK? was born.
  40. Compare: Apoorva Verma (17 Jun 2015). "Amdavadis Realise Their Potential by Making a Difference in The Lives of Others". DNA India. Retrieved 11 Jun 2017. A member of SELP works for several causes like blood donation, women's empowerment, health related issues, education, etc. Initiated by a US-based company, Landmark, it has helped many to gain confidence and develop into a better person.
  41. Compare: Caroline Phillips (1 Mar 2017). "How an American motivational guru is inspiring British businesses". Spear's Magazine. Retrieved 11 Jun 2017. This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Spear's, an award-winning British luxury lifestyle and wealth management magazine founded in 2006. [...] There are people who have created global businesses after doing it. Others who have seen their profits leap after attending a seminar. FTSE 100 companies that swear by its approach. Names like Nasa, Apple, Microsoft and GlaxoSmithKline that have benefited from its methodology. [...] This is Landmark Forum, a self-development course and global educational enterprise dedicated to personal and professional growth, training and development. It marks the return of Werner Erhard, founder of 'est' and Seventies avatar of the human potential movement. In the Eighties, Erhard repackaged est as the (gentler and more success-oriented) Forum. In 1991 he sold it to some of his employees. [...] Many global brands send staff on Landmark's seminars, and others benefit from its teachings through its corporate arm, Vanto Group.
  42. Alford & 26 November 2010, p. L1.
  43. Nathan Thornburgh (10 Apr 2011). "Change We Can (Almost) Believe In". Time Magazine. Retrieved 3 Nov 2015.
  44. "Landmark Forum: One Weekend to fix your LIFE?". Irish Mail on Sunday. 2012-02-18.
  45. Allinson, Amber (April 2014). "Mind Over Matter". The Mayfair Magazine (U.K.).
  46. "Landmark Forum Program in Australian workplaces". Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  47. See:
  48. See:
  49. Communication for planetary transformation and the drag of public conversations: The case of Landmark Education Corporation. Patrick Owen Cannon, University of South Florida
  50. See:
    • (Beckford et al., eds. 2007, pp. 229, 687);
    • Chryssides, George D. (2001) [1999]. "The Human Potential Movement". Exploring New Religions. Issues in Contemporary Religion. New York: A&C Black. p. 314. Retrieved March 23, 2017. [...] est and Landmark [...] have addressed human problems in a radical way, setting super-empirical goals, and addressing what some may regard as a spiritual aspect of human nature (the Core Self, the Source, which is at least godlike, if not divine. est and Landmark may have some of the attributes typically associated with religion, but it is doubtful whether they should be accorded full status as religious organizations.;
    • (Bromley 2007, p. 48).
  51. Education Embraced: Substantiating the Educational Foundations of Landmark Education's Transformative Learning Model Marsha L. Heck International Multilingual Journal of Contemporary Research, 3(2), pp. 149-162 DOI: 10.15640/imjcr.v3n2a14
  52. Puttick 2004, pp. 406–407.
  53. Scioscia 2000.
  54. Amelia Hill (13 Dec 2003). "I thought I'd be brainwashed. But how wrong could I be..." The Observer. Retrieved 3 Nov 2015.
  55. See:
  56. Roy & 24 May 2004.
  57. See:
    • (Lemonniera & 19 May 2005), French text: "L'Inspection du Travail débarque dans les locaux de Landmark, constate l'exploitation des bénévoles et dresse des procès-verbaux pour travail non déclaré." English translation: "Labor inspectors turned up at the offices of Landmark, noted the exploitation of volunteers and drew up a report of undeclared employment.";
    • (Landmark staff 2004), Landmark's response;
    • (Badt & 5 March 2008), quote: It was this TV program that closed down the Landmark in France, leaving it only 24 other countries in which to spread its word.
  58. Palmer 2011.
  59. See:
  60. Landmark Education and the Internet Archive. Self-Help Group Backs Off Attack on Internet Critic. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2 October 2015.


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