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'Transformation' in a Weekend?

ABCNews.com, August 13, 2002

The following is a series of excerpts from an article that appeared on abcnews.com on August 13, 2002.

Seven months ago, Chmela attended the Landmark Forum, an educational seminar that has drawn rave reviews from many participants … "It was completely different than what I thought it would be," Chmela says. "I thought it would be a motivational seminar."

Chmela learned about Landmark while doing research for his Internet business, a Web site called Top100Expo.com, which ranks activities and products.

After taking the course, he decided to rate the Landmark Forum as the No. 2 top adventure, just below a company that plans to offer tourists trips into space.

He may have stumbled upon Landmark by accident, but Chmela speaks of it now in the language of a true believer.

Landmark says it teaches people how to recognize and break behavior patterns and take responsibility for their selves and their actions. It teaches people not to simply do what others expect them to do.

"You may discover that why you are the way you are is the result of some decision you made and you never saw you made the decision," Wilmore says. He agrees that Landmark isn't the first to preach taking control of one's life, but he insists the course is different and vastly more effective than reading a self-help book.

"You're not just doing it with anyone — I mean this is a particular field we've developed expertise in," he says.

But Wilmore and others involved in Landmark say it's difficult to fully explain the Forum to people who haven't taken course. “I was skeptical before I did it,” Wilmore notes.

Troy Beyer, an actress and director in Los Angeles, took the Forum three months ago and says it transformed her life by showing her that she had been unknowingly holding herself back.

Mostly through word-of-mouth, Landmark has overcome skepticism to reach thousands every year.

The company says 125,000 people take its courses every year — a total of more than 600,000 since 1985 — with only minimal advertising. They have offices in 22 states and 18 countries outside the United States.

Simon Crosby, a psychotherapist in East Sussex, England, is an enthusiastic Forum graduate…

"It does sound weird …"  But overall, Crosby believes the Forum is not a gimmick.  "I think you'd also be astonished, frankly, at what is possible in this setting."

There is no denying that many Forum graduates believe it has changed their lives.  

"I've always thought of myself as a nice guy but who always kind of sat on the sidelines," says Mike Dean, another Forum participant, who took the Forum on the recommendation of his wife's boss.  Now he says he's working harder and relating better to his wife and family.

"It was just an excellent thing for me."