History of trainings

The first to turn Kurt Lewin’s technique into a profitable business and finally buried his humanistic ideals was one of Alexander Everett’s instructors, Werner Erhard. More precisely, John Rosenberg, a native of a Philadelphia Jewish family, and up to 25 years old – the average citizen and family man, the father of four children. In 1960, disillusioned with life, Rosenberg leaves his family and leaves for St. Louis, where he sells used cars, bibles and encyclopedias. He creates his new name after reading articles in Esquire magazine about the West German economics minister Ludwig Erhard and the philosopher and physicist Werner Heisenberg. Business with encyclopedias went smoothly, from a simple distributor, the newly minted Werner Erhard becomes a personnel manager, and travels all over America on duty. At the same time, he educates himself by reading everything in a row.

Werner Erhard’s psychological background is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, the ideas of psychologist Abraham Maslow, seminars on Zen Buddhism, books by Scientology founder Ron Hubbard, and Dale Carnegie’s course. In 1970, Erhard was trained by Alexander Everett and became one of his instructors. And then “IT” happened. According to Erhard’s carefully crafted legend, as he was driving down an empty Californian highway, he was enlightened and would gain knowledge of ‘IT’. In 1971, Erhard launched his own group training in San Francisco, EST, which stands for “Erhard’s training seminars” and at the same time the Latin word for “is.” Erhard promises getting rid of the negative of the past, achieving maximum efficiency, expanding consciousness, recognizing one’s own strengths and responsibility for one’s destiny.

The first seminar was attended by almost a thousand people – the maximum number of participants in the history of group training. The cost of the four-day course was $250 with minimal organizational expenses – rent of a hotel conference room and fees for instructors (small). The training assistants were unpaid, and neither were the advertisers who recruited new trainees, all of whom were EST alumni volunteers.

The seminar was based on the same principles of Kurt Lewin: “defrosting”, “transformation”, “new freezing”. But if the certified psychologist Levin led his listeners through these stages carefully and correctly, keeping in mind the commandment “do no harm”, then the ambitious self-taught Erhard used brutal tools. It didn’t come to beatings, but insults, humiliation and regulated trips to the toilet are EST trademarks that the new generation of “psychotraining leaders” will adopt. According to the recollections of the graduates of the seminar, over time, the feeling came that the whole training was a complete deception. And at the same time there was enlightenment. People really “received IT”, having felt the absurdity of what was happening, and at the same time the absurdity of their petty problems in the face of the vast and full of possibilities of the world. In ten years, about 700,000 people have been trained in ECT. Erhard’s annual income was about $30 million.

In the 1980s, hippies, hungry for enlightenment, were replaced by yuppies, hungry for money and career advancement. Subtly feeling social changes, in 1985 Erhard closes EST and creates a new training – Forum – for successful, accomplished people who want to become even more successful. It is curious that in 1986 Werner Erhard personally held a Forum in Moscow for 60 representatives of Soviet ministries and departments. From the Forum, all modern training companies have grown, providing services to develop management skills for managers and corporate spirit for employees. In 1991, Erhard sold Forum to his top managers and retired. Today, his brainchild under the name Landmark Forum has 42 branches in 11 countries and earns about $50 million a year.

John Henley

The commercial success of EST touched John Henley, Werner Erhard’s former Mind Dynamics training colleague. In 1974, Henley launches the Lifespring seminar with four partners. Since John Henley’s stake in this project was 92.7%, Lifespring is associated with his name. The Henley seminar strikingly resembles EST from using the same techniques, authoritarian trainers, receipts that participants will not have claims in case of health complications, to the absolute loyalty of graduates who were free recruiters of new students, effectively saving the company from marketing and advertising costs.

If Erhard’s training was criticized in the media and scientific communities, then in the history of Lifespring from 1974 to 1990 there were more than 30 lawsuits for injuries and deaths, in which it was proved that at least six a person died in the process of learning. “Lifespring” was forced to pay compensation to the relatives of the victims and formally cease to exist. At the same time, today only in the USA 75 independent companies use trainings according to the Lifespring methods. And in the post-Soviet territory, these technologies turned out to bethe most popular in the personal growth training industry.