My LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) experience: Millionaire Mind Intensive

After being dead-set against (actually, just plain scared of) Large Group Awareness Training programs like Landmark Education, the Kairos Foundation, and so forth, I accidentally attended one over the weekend and watched them take well over a half-million dollars from the pockets of their unwitting participants. It was appalling.

The Millionaire Mind Intensive “seminar” was held last Thursday-Saturday here in Seattle. It’s a free three-day experience that’s marketed as a way to turn your financial life around, but is actually a three-day long series of sales pitches and upsells. I’d heard from friends around the world that the these people (the MMI is put on by T. Harv Ecker’s company, Peak Potentials Training) were some of the best in the world at mass room sales (aka platform sales), so Craig and I signed up to attend. I spent a year selling to large rooms myself, and I love learning about sales anyway, so I was really excited about the event. We got a lot more than we bargained for.

The first day didn’t disappoint. The seminar leader immediately started building compliance by getting the audience to answer questions out loud and raise their hands on command. Soon they were finishing his sentences for him. I was amazed at how quickly 500 adults could be turned into mindless automatons, unquestioningly following every instruction.

He also did some of the most beautiful inoculation I’ve ever seen. There’s an idea in sales that if you bring up an objection and refute it before your prospect thinks of it, you make the objection disappear in his mind. So early on in the seminar, the leader told us, “This weekend will push your comfort zone, and your brain often reacts in one of two ways: by rejecting the message or rejecting the source of the message. I just want you to be aware when that’s happening.” Nice move, any criticisms an audience member thinks of are now immediately discounted as a meaningless reflex reaction. The particularly brilliant touch was what came next.

“It’s going to be a long weekend, so I know people will get tired. And some people will start complaining: ‘My leg hurts, my back hurts, my eyelashes hurt, this information doesn’t make any sense.’ You know what I tell them? I tell them, ‘Thanks for sharing.'” And just like that, the audience is now inoculated not only against any criticisms they think of, but any criticism anyone else in the room brings up. Scary brilliant.

By the time the first sales pitch rolled around, the seminar leader had complete control over the audience. “We have a special price on this book today; it’s an at-seminar special.” He paused and asked the audience, “A what?”

“An at-seminar special!” they shouted back. It was one of the best closes I’ve ever seen. By the time he said, “First come, first served”, people were running to the sales tables in the back of the room.

Unfortunately, Craig and I had other commitments, so we left Thursday afternoon and skipped Friday. But we came back on Saturday to see the big pitches for the most expensive packages.

The red flags were immediately apparent when I came back on Saturday. The mindless obedience to commands, the feelings of euphoria, the complete lack of inhibitions – I had walked into the middle of an large group awareness training (LGAT) session.

I became interested in LGATs a few years ago (see my old post: The Landmark Forum Cult) when I had some friends report positive experiences with Landmark Education and the Kairos Foundation/More to Life Weekend. After their glowing reviews, I started reading more about LGATs, learning that by leading people through extreme emotional swings you can induce a sense of euphoria and connectedness while simultaneously lowering inhibitions and encouraging more impulsive behavior (often reframed as a newfound sense of freedom).

But hearing the effects of an LGAT described in a journal article doesn’t compare to witnessing one in person. I never would have imagined that grown adults (though there were some children in the room, to make things even sadder) could be so quickly completely stripped of their mental defenses. I watched people respond like Pavlovian dogs, chanting, clapping their hands, waving their arms, answering questions, completing sentences, dancing with no inhibitions.

When it came to the emotional part of the day, the leader had no problem breaking people like Ming vases. There were tears all over the room, after which the leader brought everyone back up, made them feel good again, and then took us all back down one more time before bringing everyone back up.

I should mention that while I think it’s a wonderful thing to teach someone to share their emotions, I find it appalling to exploit these huge emotional swings for a sales pitch. By the time we linked arms around the room for a sing-a-long, I saw some people whose states of consciousness were so altered I would have sworn they were drunk had I seen them anywhere else.

And of course, after this came the big sales pitch. Craig and I figured they would be working their way up to selling a workshop for a few thousand dollars. It was a free weekend, after all, how big a sale could they possibly expect to close?

Thirty thousand dollars was how big. I felt sick. Thirty thousand dollars! Bring people who are bad at money management into a room, strip them of their inhibitions and mental defenses, and then convince them to make an enormous impulse buy. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. When the leader suggested using their childrens’ college savings to send them to his “University of Light” I thought I was going to throw up. What a scam.

But the audience was completely bought in. In three days, I’m sure Peak Potentials pulled somewhere between half a million to a million dollars out of that room. I doubt a single person came to the free seminar on Friday with even an inkling that they would be $30,000 poorer three days later.

At one point, the speaker read one audience member’s question back to the audience: “My spouse is trapped in a middle class mindset and thinks all this is voodoo. Should I take Quantum Leap [the $30k package] alone?” In unison, the audience shouted back, “Yes!”

I’m still trying to process what I learned from the event. What made it so sickening to me? I used to say that the difference between persuasion and manipulation was intent. But I really believe the seminar leader believed he was helping people. Is it that he’s taking money from people who can’t afford it? But I’d be much more supportive if he was convincing the audience to send their children to college. So is my objection just the fact that I think Peak Potential’s courses are worthless? Because who am I to impose my values on someone else’s purchases? Craig thinks it’s the bait and switch, that people came expecting a course on money management and were instead sold a $30,000 dose of temporary euphoria. But I’d still be appalled if the courses were sold completely transparently with the same sales tactics. And I can’t even say it’s the sales tactics, because every salesman out there uses the exact same techniques on a lesser scale to make people buy emotionally. If people bought rationally every time we’d never have buyers remorse.

So I don’t know. The best thing I can say is if I ever start asking myself these questions for any practical reason, it will be time to back off and reexamine whatever I’m doing.

11. May 2008 by Niels
Categories: Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 59 comments

Comments (59)

  1. When I took the MMI in Denver, the trainer told an unbelievable story of having survived being burned in a house fire. Everybody got roped into the emotion. It dawned on my later that he didn’t appear to have any visible scars: face, hands, neck….When I broached this with someone sitting next to me on day two, he said that he had taken the MMI in Seattle, with a different trainer, but who told the same story!!!!!!

  2. Thanks for saving me from this capital B. S. My gut initially told me this was a type of ”scam” although touchy aficionados do not want to call it what it is, for whatever reason.

    I am hearing things like people are paying $9999 USD to take these “courses”, and ”bring a $100 bill with you to the course is a requirement. Well I am guessing that this particular bill will stay in someone else’s pocket by the time the 3 day seminar is over.

    Save the $10,000 for your kids education, or hell, go blow it at a Casino, god knows it will be better spent there.

  3. i feel umotivated to write as lengthy a response as this likely justifies.

    in brief, over three years my girlfriend and i attended mmi. my girlfriend and i purchased the quantum leap program. we attend many camps and courses including warrior, wizard, ultimate leadership, train the trainer, business school and more. both of us paid for it with credit cards. today, without hesitation, we will both say that the courses have paid for themselves several times. we both enacted career changes that have led us to earn a combined $50k+ more annually. the income’s a byproduct of the attitude that one can learn by from attending the peaks courses.

    have you noticed that no one who attended a peaks course such as the camps actually criticized it here?? ultimate leadership camp taught me lessons that i failed to learn from attending tier 1 mba courses. the experience so ingrained the lessons in me that i still utilize them almost daily in business. warrior and train the trainer forever changed me. five days at train the trainer elevated my public speaking to a much higher level than two years of toast masters. what’s that worth today? five years from one? how many more deals have i successfully closed since then and will close in the next five years? what’s the confidence -real or delusional- that i feel worth?

    peak potential, like any experience – whether a course, your job, technology, etc- is a tool. given a tool, some will create a work deemed a masterpiece by some and as absolute rubbish by others. who’s right? if considered worthless today and priceless 100 years from now, what’s the real value today? two people experience the same event and one finds it life changing and while the other walks away unmoved. how come? the mindset and expectations with which we enter any situation determines our experience. i feel immensely grateful for the peak potentials experience. i created some amazing, amazing amazing relationships. some of my dearest friends in the world i met through peaks. i have a loving and supportive network of people in the usa and canada on whom i know i can depend. what’s that worth? what’s the feeling of love and support worth?

    too often we take a short-sighted view about money and investing. i’ve invested a considerable amount of energy and resources in my self-development. i meditate daily -the single greatest way to change your life. change the mindset and we change our lives in every way financially, emotionally and spiritually. i guide my son with many of the principles gleaned from peaks. i feel immensely blessed and proud of him. many of the lessons that i learned enabled me to raise a fantastic child. what’s that worth?

    is peak potentials for everyone? is attending university for everyone? is an office job? construction work? unlikely. peaks worked for me. for those who shared their perspectives here and judge without experiencing peaks at all, ask yourself how such attitudes manifest in your life? as another poster shared. the real assessment of the value of peaks comes from following up with those who completed the courses years later and asking about the ultimate impact on their lives. proponents of chemotherapy will quote its success and yet when one evaluates its success rate beyond 5+ years, it appears no better than doing nothing. what did you do with $10-20k you saved by avoiding the experience that could have changed you forever? do some real research and talk to people who attended peaks courses a couple of years of more ago. ask them if they found and valuable and would they do it again. is that the real measure of its value?

    i criticize peaks and t harv eker, perhaps for the heavy emphasis they place on money. yet, as i say that, i recognize that they do that because it motivates people to act. the camps -warrior, wizard and ultimate leadership- were amazing transformational experiences that have little to do with money and yet have a lot to do with. success -whether financially or whatever it means to you- has everything to do with attitude. many people attend peak courses multiple times. guess they failed to see through scam the first time? perhaps and invalid question: who do you associate with success? (naysayers , doubters, skeptics, pessimists) vs (optimists, hopefuls, inquisitive, curious)? when approaching death, we most regret what we didn’t do NOT what we did do.

    btw, i also attended mmi in denver where the trainer gave account of his burns. his name is doug nelson. during that event i walked up to doug and shook his and spoke to him. i clearly saw the burns on his skin. he also led one of the camps that i attended and again, he burns were evident. so, not sure about the comment that implies deceit about his burns. here’s doug’s bio: http://is.gd/yXof00 and here’s a link to his book “catch fire” http://amzn.com/1600375286 not trying to help him sell books. just lending credibility about him and his burns.

    okay, not so brief as i intended. guess that i got a bit long-winded. i wish you love and joy in your endeavours.

    be grateful. be love. be joy.
    –willie

  4. I also attended the initial 3-day training event a number of years ago back when his book first came out and all you needed to do was bring a voucher that was included with the book to “get in”.

    I thought the basic financial principles were ok. Using the jar system is never a bad idea. Budgeting. Breaking your mental barriers regarding how you view money (good, bad, indifferent). It does affect how you spend and how you save. But, it all stops there. My friend and I also bought one of the next level courses (can’t remember the name anymore) – but it was the one that claims to teach you how to become a millionaire. After the 1st day I demanded my money back. After a few weeks of constant pestering, I did indeed get my money back. It was tough, but, doable.

    I demanded my money back because the “course” was not about teaching you how to make money but how to play the stock market, use the internet, gather information, and this is where I almost lost it – having people stand up there recommending stocks to buy. This was pre-2008 stock meltdown, so stocks were riding high. But still, more like a jim cramer show that a fundamental approach to building wealth. I was ticked.

    As far as all the other courses go, my friend did indeed take the courses. She’s like that, she enjoys those types of things and in many ways, it has helped her. She’s no millionaire today, but, is she a better person? maybe. But I am a millionaire today and I was deeply in debt when I took the ekart course. I not only got out of debt but accumulated wealth not because of anything I learned from harv (I hate the jar method), but, simply sticking to tried and true methods.

    Spend MUCH less than you make. Develop a plan and stick to it. Be relentless in saving. Ignore the tony robbins and harvs of the world – their goal is to become rich off of you. And do not gamble in the casino’s or stock market. Keep it simple. Yes, it’s boring and simple. And that’s the point. And nobody else is going to make a fortune off of you in the process.

  5. I hope this open your eyes and your mind.

  6. I really appreciate the through review and response based on what you observed, Niels and grateful for the honorable way you shared what was your experience. I resonate with much of what you wrote.
    I also appreciate the Quantum Leap (QP) member Willie, sharing his experience.
    I’ve been very close to purchasing one of the programs or packages myself. I have read mixed reviews and have heard mixed things from people that have taken them.
    I too am aware of some of the manipulative or persuasion techniques used and often wonder if it isn’t possible to accomplish the same thing by inspiring and empowering people. My own personal experience has been if people experience value they will want to continue learning from where they had that experience. And if something works persistently people tend to want to share it with others.
    I’ve only taken one of the courses on trading stocks and I felt it was misrepresented and not for novices (which I was told before signing up). I also paid for a friend to go who knew more about stocks and trading than I did, and she got a little value from it but she did not feel it was worth the price of admission and much of it was over her head as well. Aside from that I have no personal experience, but if I decide to take one of the courses or the QL or other program I would be delighted to report back (not only my experience) but also the results I gleamed from it/them.
    Thank you again for your review!

  7. WOW! a lot of testimonials. Very interesting to see the point of vue… All is perception has I can see. I love the post of Willie. Very mature, write as it is. that it. I hope Willie will see this post and reply to me. This post was in 2012. I really want to exchange with him.. now it’s 3 years later! And need to know all the course about Peak potentials.
    thanks

    Carole/in Canada.
    sorry about my basic english writing… I’m a french canadian woman :)

  8. I was hooked into buying the Quantum Leep program in a group of 14, they sold it to us for $4,000. They told us we have 72 hours to cancel our credit card transaction and will get our full refund back. I looked at the back of the contract and sent in my cancelation letter exactly with the words they said to use, I sent it a number of times to make sure the email went through. I called the office and Lisa answered the phone, I told her I wanted to cancel Quantum leap and I am within the 72 hours. I told her I was in a group of 14 people. Lisa told me that because I was in a group and everyone was paying the price of $4,000. They all now have to pay the full price of $6,995.00.
    I said to Lisa the contract does not say this and they can’t just make up rules as they go along. I asked her who her boss was and she said she is the boss. Ok, What is the procedure to cancel within the 72 hours. She gave me an email address that did not work in Canada, but I called Canada and talked to someone in customer service and he said my cancelation went through and someone would be calling me for an exit interview. I went through the exit interview and the man wanted to know why I wanted to cancel. I told him I was caught up in the excitement but I can’t afford the big price tag. I told him I was in a group of 14. He told me that everyone else in the group will have to pay the full price now. I told hime I don’t know anyone in the group and the contract did not say that and no one ever told any of us this. It is illegal to make up things that the contract says to intimidate people into not to cancel a contract. I know it is easy to be caught up in all the brainwashing tactics that they use, but they lie. I had a friend call the office and she talked to Lisa and Guess what, Lisa offered her the price of $3995. to sign up for Quantum Leap and this was just the price for calling up out of the blue. oh, I’m still waiting for my money.

  9. SUBJ: OUR PEAK POTENTIALS BUYERS REMORSE

    Thanks for your reflections.

    I attended the MMI twice and both my wife and I purchased the Quantum course after the second time…for around $12K each, for a total of $25K – completely on credit cards. We were financially strapped at the time and soon realized that we couldn’t afford the plane fare and hotel expenses, etc. for most of the courses included in the Quantum package.

    However, we did manage to attend one course together. It focused on life purpose and was overly simplistic, drawing vision boards, basic role-playing, etc.

    My wife also attended a course on health, which turned out to be a non-stop infomercial marathon, featuring over a dozen authors, teachers and practitioners who would give an hour or two talk and then rolled out a paid offering.

    I attended one other course: Train the Trainer, which was, admittedly inspiring and informative, although we were also offered an upsell to Train the Trainer II which was deemed “essential” for our success. I also parted with another $600 to the key presenter, Blair Singer, for his materials which were part of yet another upsell.
    Despite the upsells, this was the one course I found helpful.

    The most disappointing part of the Quantum package was the year of “coaching” we received. The person who was assigned to us did not relate to my business, for starters. And in retrospect, her hours of coaching on setting up money jars (and eventually 6 separate checking accounts) did nothing for our money management or prosperity consciousness. In fact, a year latter, we went through personal bankruptcies.

    Then there were the “CAMPS.” We never did get to attend because no one would disclose the details of these weekends. We had medical conditions and needed to know, for our own welfare, the sleep schedule and whether there would be physical obstacles for us in the daily regime. (Later we learned there would have been obstacles for us.) A couple years later, a Peak Potential’s speaker, James Ray, was convicted and was sent to prison for neglect, after people died and others became sick during his own “camp” event in Arizona. In my opinion, our instincts were right in staying away from the Peak camps.

    Similarly to what you’ve written, it’s been hard to sort out what I find most objectionable. There’s some truth and value in the MMI training. Yet it seems to be used for a Peak Potentials money machine that cares very little if their customers actually get value. T. Harv, in fact, bragged from the stage that he sometimes makes millions of dollars during a weekend, while other trainers present, and he relaxes at home. I guess the MMI works great for him.

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