Sterling--Beneficial or Lifelong Trap?

July 1998
By a Sterling Graduate and former Team member

I have been viewing your Web site for over a year now, and have always wanted to add my 2 cents worth regarding Sterling, but never knew what information I could share. A common thread I read in letters written to you is in regards to the "evil" of Sterling, but nobody mentions the "good" that men have received from it. Of course, getting that good is like making a deal with the Devil, but that is the hook that gets men involved.

No one would go to a Sterling Men's Weekend if there were not a perceived benefit to going. I recall going to the Men's Weekend in 1992, the enthusiasm I felt about all the insights I received and the new focus I felt about doing the right things in life and my relationships. Of course, I could have received many of these same insights about women and relationships by reading the book "Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars". However, Justin [Sterling] presents this in such a focused fashion that the insights he gives seem like you have just received an incredible revelation. He works you up to a frenzy of emotions through his carefully planned emotional sequences.

I noticed that the vast majority of the men that are really involved are recovering addicts, members of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. I don't know if that makes them more vulnerable to this type of organization or what, but since I am not an addict--I always felt like an outsider. All these men seemed to have some sort of kinship with their accomplishment of sobriety.

But the Weekend is just the starter. Where Sterling gets his power is from the teams and divisions that carry on his torch, and unquestionably follow his orders. That part baffled me, as some of the techniques were obviously mind control, and as I saw the men getting totally immersed in the Sterling philosophy--I found myself trying to find some way to extract myself from this mess.

It amazed me how blind the men were to the control the Sterling organization had over their lives. Even though we were taught how important family life was and building our relationships, the underlying philosophy was that Sterling comes first and that "men" come first--before all else. Also--without your team and Sterling you couldn't achieve success in life and would not dare question the wisdom of the "men". Going to Team meetings and events was stressed as much as breathing air--as an inseparable part of the rest of your life, and without it you would fall flat on your face.

I wanted out, but try as I might I couldn't find an "honorable" way out of the organization. The entire Sterling organization is set up so that the only "honorable" way you can leave is to move to a state where there are no Men's Teams. But I finally did just yank myself out one day, and as I knew they would, the men immediately tried to reel me back in--making me feel like I was a totally dishonorable human being and was a traitor to the "Men", etc. I even went to a few sessions of therapy just to help me better understand myself, and how leaving Sterling wasn't some sort of evil act.

I did get some good out of Sterling, however. Because of the pressure from my Team, I finally came to terms with my past, my father and redeveloped my relationship with him, for which I will always be thankful. I did learn a lot about how men and women interact with each other. One of the key things Sterling does is to focus on the differences and how to make those differences work for you, instead of the 80's philosophy that men and women are basically the same.

But as I said in the beginning, getting this "good " stuff is like making a deal with the Devil. Once you are in Sterling, there is no honorable way out. You are also expected to "step up" and take on responsibilities, which involve you even further. I became a coach to get men to the Weekend, every week we would have meetings and there is a totally focused effort to recruit men for the next weekend. Part of my job was to call men, get their money, and make sure they got on the bus for Oakland.

Another job I took on was being a manager for one of the ICSD school renovation projects--which I believe is basically just a way for Sterling to legitimize the organization. You know--"How could we be bad, look at all the great things we do for the kids and the schools". Being involved in Sterling will take up all your time and become your entire life, and I think that is exactly their intent. My wife truly hated what Sterling had done to me, and she was never so relieved as when I physically yanked myself out of the organization. There are some really good men on the Teams, and I did maintain contact with a number of them after I left. However, most of those relationships have since faded away.

My warning to anyone considering a Men's Weekend is to be very aware of what you are getting yourself into. There are a lot of great men involved, but they want you to devote your life to the Sterling "cause". It is not just a self-help improvement seminar. They hope to recruit you for the rest of your life. There is a lot of deception involved. Justin Sterling is making money off the efforts of others, but what it's really about is control.


Copyright © 1998 Rick Ross
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