Re: Momentum Education
Date: February 05, 2010 12:30PM
First, I applaud this site for what it does. As an atheist, I believe the world would be a better place without religion and the cults that spring them. If only this site were around during the time of Christ, Moses, Joseph Smith and all the other prophets! Now with that said, I am also a graduate of the advanced program at Momentum Education - though I have been in no way active since. Like with any high-touch organization where individual employees can have a profound impact on the experience of their clients, I acknowledge that there are probably over-zealous individual mentors in the program who have over-stepped their bounds or said something foolish along the way. Despite all this, I know that it is not a cult and I firmly believe that the program itself is designed with good intentions. While there may have been references to faith, spirituality, religion, etc. throughout the experience, it was no way ever imposed, there were people of all religious backgrounds in the room and none of that was relevant to the message being delivered. Although the delivery and the context may seem "cultish" the message itself was one of self-empowerment, which ironically, is quite contrary to what most cults try to accomplish.
The Basic: As mentioned in previous posts, the Basic is definitely an introduction to the ideas and focuses more on self-discovery than anything else. You go through exercises that dig deep to discover the assumptions by which you are living your life. While it was a draining exercise, the feeling throughout and the outcome was quite positive.
The pressure to continue to the advanced was definitely over-the-top, though in the end, I made my own decision to do it. I understand that their business relies strictly on word-of-mouth and so having graduates recruit people and convincing Basic grads to do the advanced is paramount to their business model. I would argue that the extent to which you are urged to continue will vary by instructor and by individual. Some people might seem more likely to succumb to the pressure and may therefore be pressured more.
The Advanced: This was a nearly week-long course and the most emotionally draining thing I've ever experienced. I definitely would not consider it fun and every bit of it was stressful. I would liken it to an emotional bootcamp and like with any military bootcamp, not everyone makes it through. Some might call it emotional abuse though I can't help but wonder what Full Metal Jacket's Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey might think of them. Now sure, you didn't sign up for a military bootcamp, but complaining about bathroom breaks and being kept 3 hours without access to food? Really? The bottom-line is that this isn't some lie down on the couch session with your overpaid therapist, it is a real gut-wrenching look at who you are, how you are perceived by others and what is holding you back from being a better person. But in order for it to work, you have to be there for you and not for any other reason. Part of their success in engaging you is by pushing you to fully commit to what you are doing (an important lesson in life in general). It took me a few days to stop laughing internally about the silliness of the exercises and really engage in what was going on. Some people don't react well to the process either because they seem threatened (maybe from pre-conceived notions about it being a cult) or because they were pressured into something that they really didn't want to do for themselves. No matter what, it is really difficult to stand up and hear things from people that you really do not want to hear. It's not just the "instructors" who are providing the feedback, it is the eclectic mix of New Yorkers (and a few from out-of-town, myself included) that tell you their honest impressions of you. The subsequent bond that forms amongst the group you graduate with seems "cultish," but it is no different than the bond that forms among a high school football team throughout a season or among soldiers in a bootcamp, or college students in a fraternity pledge class. When you experience something as grueling as this with a group of people, you are bound to walk away from it with a connection. I don't really keep in touch with any of my classmates but I know if I ever bump into any of them that we share a connection that will last a lifetime.
Lessons learned: I think it is important to spell out some of the ideas that are taught as it may help people understand the importance of the message. Here are a few of my takeaways from this grueling experience:
1. The experience you have of yourself and the person that other people experience you as may not be one in the same. The course is about understanding who you are and making sure that "who you think you are" is as close as possible to "who other people see you as being."
2. Honest, authentic communication is a key component to any relationship. This is no different than anything you will read in texts on leadership and management communications at top tier business schools.
3. People don't change. You won't "change" and this entire course is not about changing you. From time to time, you will stray, one way or another, from the core of who you are, but like a pendulum, you will always return to the center. You can't always stay centered, but you can, however, limit the degree to which you stray by being self-aware.
4. You matter. This is probably geared more for people who are really struggling through their lives, but I think it was a valuable lesson to never forget. Often the question was being asked if you were acting as a victim in this world. Here is where the concept of self-empowerment really kicks in. Most certainly anyone can point to a time in their life when they treated a situation as a victim. Momentum teaches you to look at it differently, rather than a product of your circumstances, your circumstances are a product of what you did or did not do. There is no "higher authority" here that put you in this situation, nor one that will get you out of it - a vastly different idea than the one propagated by cults or religions. You have no one else to blame for anything in your life than yourself. This is the key to the entire thing... you learn that you control your own destiny AND even if that is obvious, you become aware of how easily you can forget that. This is why so many people come out of this experience with a whole new energy level and an entirely different sense of purpose.
Finally, I'll conclude with some advice on this program. I am not familiar with Landmark or EST or any of these other LGATs, so I can't speak to them, endorse them or compare them to Momentum - though it sounds like something I'd never want to endorse. I was ignorant when I showed up at the Momentum Classroom for the Basic over 3 years ago. I had just left my job to matriculate at a top tier business school. My CEO had recommended Momentum to me and offered to personally pay my tuition in Basic as a going away gift. I trusted her judgement, didn't ask many questions and at her suggestion enrolled in Momentum before I left for school. Unlike a small majority of my Momentum peers, I was not really dealing with any great trouble in my life. There were no skeletons in the closets, no personal demons. In fact, the smile hadn't left my face since the day I'd gotten the call regarding my acceptance to business school. So as the course went on, I felt a bit out of place. There were some people there that were dealing with some serious problems and I often wondered why I was there... putting up with the emotional exhaustion of the process. Some of the mentors who had gone on to get their MBAs would tell me how much they wished they could have done it before school. I was always suspicious and wrote it off as them selling me on the idea. Looking back, having done it when I did, the timing could not have been better. I was about to enter a school where I would meet and befriend hundreds of new people. I did so armed with the experience I had with Momentum, an experience that inspired me to dive deeper into personal relationships with people, to engage them, to not be afraid to ask tough questions and to communicate directly and openly. I can only imagine how different my experience might have been if I had taken the same aloof, apathetic approach to relationships that got me through college where I can count on one hand the number of friendships that have lasted the test of the time.
With that said, I can see why some people might be concerned about a loved one going through Momentum Education. It is such a mystery and each individual experience can seemingly vary wildly. Even if I were to send someone to it, I probably would pay close attention to make sure that they are getting out of the program what they should. Some people are more impressionable than others and some seemed to be in search of something to be a part of, something positive to cling onto and sometimes seemed like there really was nothing else going on in their lives. I don't agree with the idea that you can only be great if you do Momentum. If you decide to try it or if you have a loved one that might, be sure to remind them that it's not about the program, it's about them. Who you are in this world matters more than the influence that Momentum Education should have in your life. It is just that, an education that you take with you. While I appreciate the people who have devoted themselves to being mentors, instructors or disciples (how ever you want to look at it), I believe that if you truly got the message, you will take what you learn and return to your life as it was with a whole new perspective. I'm confident that the result can have an immensely positive impact if you make the most of the experience.
In his farewell speech on his much publicized departure from the Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien cited his distaste for cynicism in this world. I found it particularly interesting that of all the things he could say at that moment, he decided to harp on cynicism. If you ever choose to embrace Momentum Education, you'll have to leave your cynicism at the door. It won't serve you any good in there because it is not about them, the experience is about you.