"Do what it takes"

By a former member of Lifespring's "Leadership Team"

I was involved in Lifespring from 1981-1984. I went through all its trainings, including the Leadership program; plus I assisted in several trainings.

The Lifespring office was located in San Rafael. I resided in Palo Alto at that time. While involved in the Leadership program and assisted trainings, I was told (not asked) to volunteer in their office as many as two to three times a week, and weekends.

The drive from Palo Alto to San Rafael was approximately one and a half-hours at the peak rush hours. I was told what my hours were to "volunteer," which sometimes meant I was expected to take time off from work or leave work early. When I told them I couldn't do that, their classic response was, "Are you willing to do what it takes?" In other words, I was expected to take time off from work. If I declined, I would be severely reprimanded and humiliated, usually in front of their staff and other graduates.

Women who had children were not allowed to bring them to the office. They were expected to find childcare, often at times late at night and on the weekends as well.

While involved with Lifespring, I was a witness to one situation wherein a graduate I knew on the Leadership Team father passed away. He had to go to LA for his father's funeral. The trainers of the Leadership Team gave him a hard time for having to go to the funeral because he would miss meetings, which he was required to attend. They told him if he missed the meetings he would be off the Leadership Team. In other words-- he was asked to choose between his father's funeral or staying on the team. He opted to be off the team.

Getting people to their breaking point was their goal [sic]. You were not allowed to have "bad" feelings--i.e. sadness, anger, grief for extended periods of time and they defined the time required. For example, the gentleman who came back from his father's funeral was not allowed to bring his feelings of grief to their arena. He was told to "get off it and move on," which is one of their many favorite expressions [see "Loaded Language"].

I was involved with Sterling Institute from 1987-1994. Their tactics were very similar to Lifespring. The rules of keeping your agreements and "doing what it takes" were the same. (Justin Sterling was a student of Werner Erhard, which ought to tell you something.)

After doing the Women's & Men's weekends, respectively, graduates were assigned to "teams." I was on one of these women's teams from 1987-1994. In 1991, my dad passed away. The week prior to his passing, he was home with Hospice care. I went to see him every day. One night I was with him, which was two days before he passed away, on a night my team meeting was scheduled. When I told my team I wouldn't be there because I would be attending to my father--need I say the reaction I got? The following week, after my dad passed, while at my team meeting, I was "read the riot act" for missing a team meeting--in other words "breaking an agreement."

The week following the 1989 earthquake, there was another Women's Weekend scheduled. Many women who had signed up for that particular weekend had dropped out. One woman, in particular dropped out because she lost her home in the earthquake. I recall volunteering at the Sterling Office a few days before the "Weekend" and they had us making phone calls to the women who enrolled. We were told to "do what it takes" to make sure those women attended that particular Weekend. When someone made reference to the woman who lost her home we were told not to allow her losing her home as an excuse.

Another woman had a death in her family and the funeral was scheduled at the same time as an upcoming "Women's Weekend." Need I say what response there was to that? Suffice to say we were again told to make sure this woman was at the "Weekend".

One thing all these organizations seem to have in common is that members are expected to "enroll" more people for their trainings/weekends. In other words, graduates were expected to be recruiters. They had you believing you were doing something worthy for their cause, so to speak.

I believe we all make choices in life and we are responsible for those choices. I admit that I willingly chose to be involved with these organizations at certain times in my life. However, to this day, as you can surmise from descriptions of my involvement--I still harbor some ill feelings.

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