The Forum is philosophical, not scientific or research-based. It’s about experiencing a personal epiphany rather than planning to change your behavior.
I often question the Forum — especially the way that participants were pressured to promote the training to relatives and friends. Yet I still find many Forum ideas to be useful.
When people ask you about the Forum, I was told, don’t summarize the content. Just explain what you got out of it. That’s the purpose of this post.
What I mainly got was:
- Freedom from fear of what other people think about me
- The experience of being a blank slate (nothing) — releasing a personal identity that was based on past events and all my made-up stories about them
- Freedom to create new possibilities simply by speaking about them from that blank slate
- A reminder to act with integrity by aligning my behavior with my speaking
In essence: Get to nothing. Create from nothing. Act with integrity.
This is simple — not easy. In my notes, I fleshed out these ideas as a “distinctionary” — an alphabetical list of the main concepts that I took away from the Forum.
Some caveats about what follows:
- These are simply my personal reflections on a course that I took in 2005. I cannot guarantee that these notes are accurate or up to date.
- These notes come directly from my personal notebook with minimal revision. You might find them cryptic. They are cryptic. This is not my typical blog post.
- I have no affiliation with Landmark Worldwide. These notes have not been reviewed or approved by that organization.
Interestingly, Werner Erhard carried forward many of these ideas into his latest teachings about leadership. My notes might make more sense in that context. To learn more, see Werner’s website.
We live absurd, small lives based on suppressed emotions, irrational decisions, hiding what we truly think and feel, and a total absence of integrity.
We live with a fear of looking bad in front of other people while we pretending that we aren’t really afraid.
Our whole existence is based on pretense, including:
- Failing to keep our agreements
- Settling for reasons, rationalizations, and excuses rather than results
- Basing our behavior on irrational decisions that we made as children, adolescents, and young adults
We make up stories about what happens in life, and we use those stories to justify breaking our agreements, holding back, and avoiding risk. (See story below.)
We are machines that are based on automatic reactions — complex chains of stimulus-response pairs. (See machine below.)
We get to struggle with our inauthenticity for the rest of your life. And then we die.
Start by taking responsibility for being inauthentic. This creates a new realm of possibility.
The Forum distinguishes between:
- What you know that you know
- What you know that you don’t know
- What you don’t know that you don’t know — blind spots.
Blind spots produce constraints. They are also points of access to personal breakthroughs.
In the face of breakdown, skip the conversation about what’s wrong. Just re-commit to the possibility that you originally spoke about. Then act in alignment with that possibility.
The Forum does not give you a new set of beliefs or certainties.
Look for whatever you’re certain about. These are the points where you stopped learning.
Change is about getting more or less of what you had in the past. It’s about doing what you did in the past but in a different way. In short, change is playing your old games in new ways.
In contrast, transformation creates a new realm of possibility — a whole new set of options. Transformation is independent of the past.
There is the game of change and the game of transformation. These are different games.
Conventional goal setting and problem solving is grounded in change, not transformation.
Choosing is independent of reasons.
I choose chocolate because I choose chocolate. If you ask me for reasons, I’ll say that I don’t have any.
To commit is to stand for.
Committing to a new possibility in the future changes our actions in the present.
Action based on commitment produces results.
- Commitment —> Actions —> Results
- Being —> Doing —> Having
- Future —> Present —> Past
This is the opposite of the way that we usually think about the relationship between past, present, and future.
You create a new possibility by speaking it. The possibility comes into existence with your word.
Ask how you want a possibility to show up in your life. State it as a SMART goal — in specific, measurable terms. Set yearly goals and then translate them into semi-annual goals and monthly goals.
Remember that you don’t create results in order to become happy. You are happy and then you create results. (See gratificationand satisfaction.)
A context is system of knowing. For example, you can live your from the context of satisfaction or the context of gratification.
Creating a new context creates a new view of life and new possibilities for action:
A new context —> new commitments —> new actions —> new results
Transformation comes from new contexts — not from new circumstances.
Human beings are clearings for conversations to occur — much like a blackboard is a clearing for writing with chalk to occur.
Organizations are clearings for networks of conversations.
To distinguish is not the same as to define.
To distinguish is to call something into the foreground through your use of language — something that was undifferentiated and not noticed before.
To enroll is to create possibilities and inspire people.
To register is to ask people to make a commitment to act.
Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” is enrollment.
Asking people to march to Selma is registration.
Enrollment is the heart of transformation. And enrollment starts with being authentic with someone about how you’ve been inauthentic.
Sharing is the basis for new results and enrollment.
Stop trying to fix or change people. Enroll them instead.
We often live as spectators. We’re in the stands rather than on the court. We avoid risks and stay in our comfort zone.
Instead of sitting on the sidelines and just observing, you can participate. You can play full out. You can be in the game rather than in the stands.
Taking risks brings aliveness.
The conversation that happens between players during a game is a form of action. The conversation that happens in the stands — explanations, reasons, excuses — does not change what happens in the game.
A game is based on rules and declarations. In baseball, a strike happens when the umpire declares a strike.
We are playing a game called life. The stakes appear to be the highest imaginable — death. But we forget that we are playing a game and that we invented the rules.
We also forget that we are nothing — and therefore everything — and can never die. (See nothing below.)
The Forum is a game. The leader is a coach. Be coachable. When others share, listen for ways to apply it to yourself.
You can have reasons or results. You choose.
We experience gratification when we satisfy a need, achieve a goal, or solve a problem. Contrast this with satisfaction (below) — an experience of being fulfilled and complete that is independent of circumstances and conditions.
Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting new results.
Integrity means being complete, whole, and powerful. Levels of integrity include:
- Following the rules (less power)
- Being true to your values (more power)
- Honoring your word as yourself (even more power)
Your word has creative power. You create a new possibility by speaking about it and then aligning your behavior with it. Being powerful means that your word produces new results.
Keeping your agreements allows you to access transformation. Keeping your agreements is not right or wrong; it just works. Failing to keep your agreements is not right or wrong; it just does not work.
You are a jerk when your life is about dominating other people by making them wrong and making yourself right. You do this at the cost of being in relationship with other people.
We are machines. Our behavior is based on reflexes — chains of stimulus-response patterns.
Like machines, we respond automatically to stimuli. We get turned on and off by events. We do not consciously choose to act. We simply react.
You are a machine. You don’t act. It acts.
When a machine observes itself, it stops being a machine in that moment. You stop being a machine while meditating, for example, and while you sleep. But when that’s over, you go back to being a machine.
Life is empty and meaningless.
The fact that life is empty and meaningless is in itself empty and meaningless.
We are machines that make meaning by our rackets and our strong suits. Transformation means transcending those meanings.
It’s not the amount of money you have that produces suffering — it’s the meaning you make up about the amount of money you have.
Don’t look for money to bring satisfaction. Be satisfied. Then make money.
When you see through your rackets and strong suits, you are left without a personal identity.
You are left with nothing.
This is what you get out of the Forum: the experience of being nothing.
Nothing is an open space, however. Nothing is a clearing that allows for new possibilities. From nothing you can declare a way of being. That way of being comes into existence solely through your declaration.
Everything that we’ve learned tells us that the most important factor in shaping who are is the past. This is wrong. You can choose and create possibilities independently of anything that happened in your past.
Starting from nothing, you can create anything.
Sartre saw nothingness and it left him with nausea.
We can see nothingness and then create a new realm of possibility.
We define possibility in a new way — as bringing something new into life. This is inspiration.
Your view of life determines what’s possible for you.
A possibility changes you in the moment that it occurs. A possibility changes you in the present as you take action based on that possibility.
The future that you’re living into creates your experience of the present. Action brings your future into the present.
Create possibilities that draw you forward by practicing new ways of speaking:
- I invent the possibility that….
- I create the possibility of being….
- The possibility I am inventing for myself and my life is the possibility of being….
Some ways to complete those sentences are:
- fully alive
- complete with the past
- someone who shares and invites other to share
- an extraordinary human being.
- a space where love happens
- a space where negativity disappears
- free from judgments
- free from fear of looking bad
People tell you that your life will really start someday, such as when you:
- Graduate from grade school.
- Get your drivers license.
- Graduate from high school.
- Graduate from college.
- Get married.
- Have kids.
The result is that your life never actually starts. You keep living a “practice” life in preparation for “real” life.
Give up someday. Stop becoming and start being.
We get it now or we don’t get it at all.
Any solution creates new problems. The result is an endless series of problems — a problem-solution mass.
Problems will keep happening. So find bigger problems — those that are worthy of your attention and action.
You run rackets by complaining constantly about circumstances while receiving a payoff from those circumstances.
To enroll is to create possibility and inspire people.
To register is to ask people to make a commitment to act.
The “I have a dream speech” is enrollment.
Asking people to march to Selma is registration.
Enrollment is the heart of transformation.
When we meet people who disagree with us, we typically shut down. Instead of listening fully and trying to enter their world, we do everything possible to prove them wrong.
We do this at the cost of being in relationship with other people.
You can be right or be in relationship.
Werner Erhard defined this term in a paper about the est training:
Each of us has experienced moments in our lives when we are fully alive —when we know — without thinking — that life is exactly as it is in this moment. In such moments, we have no wish for it to be different, or better, or more. We have no disappointment, no comparison with ideals, no sense that it is not what we worked for. We feel no protective or defensive urge — and have no desire to hold on — to store up — or to save. Such moments are perfect in themselves. We experience them as being complete.
In Biblical terms, this is the “peace that passeth understanding.”
- The Forum is not about solving problems.
- The Forum is not about achieving goals.
- No one needs the Forum.
Contrast satisfaction with gratification (above).
Give up trying to find yourself. You won’t find anything. Just declare a possibility and then be that.
Seven Distinctions of Being an Unreasonable and Extraordinary Human Being
Be unreasonable in the sense of going beyond your reasons — your excuses for not getting new results in your life.
Be unreasonable in the sense of producing extraordinary results. Being reasonable leads to smaller results.
Remember that going beyond your reasons does not mean being irrational.
The seven distinctions of an unreasonable and extraordinary human being are:
- Integrity. Honor your word. Follow rules. Make and keep promises that make a difference. Clean up messes from broken promises and then make new promises.
- Racket-free. Notice the early warning signs of a racket, such as losing your sense of humor. Give up being right all the time — even when you are. If you are right, then get off it.
- Powerful. Instead of using force, pressure, begging, or conning, produce new results through straight communication and taking what you get.
- Courageous. Feel fear, acknowledge it, and act on your word anyway.
- Peaceful. Be centered in the midst of chaos. Deal with what is rather than what “should” be. Give up the interpretation that something is wrong. Be free and unconstrained no matter what life throws at you. Greet criticism or attack with non-resistance.
- Charismatic. Be present. Be here now. Give up trying to get somewhere.
- Enrolling. Share possibilities that touch, move, and inspire others.
The truth about sex is that you’re hot when you’re hot — and you’re not when you’re not.
Sex is pure machinery.
Don’t confuse sex with love. Love is unconditional acceptance — not simultaneous orgasm.
Don’t look for love or sex to bring fulfillment. Bring fulfillment to love and sex.
Give up the myth of “someday.”
Transformation happens now — not “someday.”
You don’t create results in order to become satisfied “someday.” Rather, you are satisfied and then you create results.
Waiting for “someday” is procrastination.
We routinely collapse the distinction between what actually happens and our interpretations of what happens. Stories are our interpretations of the facts.
For example: Your mother-in-law asks you to not call her “mother.” You make up a story that this means that she doesn’t love you. Your behavior around your mother-in-law is then based on this story. And, you pretend that your story is what actually happened.
It’s possible that your mother-in-law never rejected you. It’s possible that she loves you — and that just wants to be called by her first name. You just made up a story that she rejected you.
When you forget the distinction between what actually happened and your stories, you become inauthentic. You lose power.
Feelings are a part of what happens, not the story.
Your strong suits are fundamental decisions about how to live. You made these decisions at certain points in your life:
- During childhood, you experienced a time when you weren’t good enough, and you decided to be…. (fill in the blank)
- During adolescence, you experienced a time when you didn’t belong, and you decided to be…. (fill in the blank)
- As a young adult, you experienced a time when you realized you were on your own, and you decided to be…. (fill in the blank)
These decisions are often random, hasty, irrational, and even absurd. Yet they can shape our thinking and action for a lifetime.
Transformation is the genesis of a whole new realm of possibility — many possibilities, not just one.
Transformation comes from a new context, not a new set of circumstances.
Creating a new context creates a new view of life and new possibilities for actionL
New context —> new commitments —> new actions —> new results
We access transformation through a new conversation. (See conversation above.) Transformation happens when you speak about a new realm of possibility. This conversation about what’s possible in the future changes your behavior in the present.
In transformation, you create your life rather than just react.
The purpose of the Forum is for people to transform.
Anyone can be transformed.
Gaining more information or more money or different circumstances is about change — not transformation. (See change,gratification, and satisfaction above.)
All that will remain of your body-mind after you die is a pile of ashes.
So, live powerfully. Create a life that you love.
Live your life as if your life depended on it.