Esalen, Big Sur, California
Hollyhock Cortes Island B.C
PROBABLY THE BEST COURSES IN THE WORLD
In 1974 I started a Management Training Company called Communication Improvements. I ran this company for 17 years until I sold it to three of my then employees. It grew slowly but in the end we had 15 full time employees, most of them training consultants. We worked for major multinational companies all over the world. Some of the key names you will know like IBM, Lloyds Bank, Glaxo Smith Kline, Gulf. Shell, Mobil, Apple, Honeywell, and so on. In fact you would probably know the names of all our clients as we worked for more than 100 multinationals over the years.
In that time I ran more than 600 training programmes for many of these clients. We worked in the UK, all over Europe, in the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and the Far East. We developed a unique communications programme which ran for 3 days with just 8 participants. There were two full time consultants running every programme and a video operator so it was a very intense and individual course. The principles of this programme, the Fundamental Principles of Communication which never change are set out on the page 'Unchanging Principles' (see button ). This is a diagrammatic representation of the Book which I finally wrote in 1998 'The Little Book of Words'. (see `Books').
Not surprisingly in 17 years I learnt a good deal about what makes courses work. In fact I have been a great course goer all my life and have attended hundreds - and sometimes still do.
Over the years I have attended many many courses, in the UK, the USA and Canada. There are few that our truly outstanding. The few that are are worth recommending - because attendance at any of them is pretty well guaranteed to be a life changing experience!!
I have also included a couple of truly outstanding places to go which hold these programmes. The places make taking pretty well any course they do a truly wonderful experience, because the locations are so spectacular.
2. THE LANDMARK FORUM
Landmark Education http://www.landmarkeducation.com is the world's largest training company and runs a 3 day course called the Landmark Forum which is likely to be life changing. In 3 very long days you will discover aspects of life and how you see it, which have never occurred to you before. They have over a hundred offices around the world and run the courses in 22 countries in 6 languages.
I went on it at 56 years old, largely by accident. i was a Psychotherapist with 18 years in therapy, I had practised for twelve years. I had run a communications company for 17 years. I thought I had a a pretty good idea how the world worked. I was entirely wrong. It changed my life, my attitudes, my relationships, my outlook. Since that time I have got around 80 other people to attend including nearly all members of my family and it has had similar effects for them. Only two people of those eighty have been anything other than thrilled by the outcome. One of the two wrote to me in 2008 some eight years after he attended to say he had finally understood why I had encouraged him to go!
I have met the President of Landmark Harry Rosenberg on a number of occasions. He is a man of the highest integrity. It is an outstanding organisation with truly remarkable course leaders. It is not perfect! but no company is.
Here are some direct quotes from Newspaper articles
Landmark Education is becoming a global brand name with  offices in  countries, and almost [796,000] people having taken The Landmark Forum! Time Magazine Excerpt
If you want a life that is extraordinary and are committed to being all you can be, do The Landmark Forum. I hate to sound like an advertising pitch, but any description of The Landmark Forum will fall far short of doing it justice. Sydney Tribune
"Second Only to SpaceTravel"
Top100expo.com ranks The Landmark Forum #2 on its Top100 Adventures list, calling it an extraordinary and unprecedented adventure.
4. THE MAX
The Max runs at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur in California. It is a four and five day programme - Sunday night until Friday midday. It has been doing so once or twice a year for a good many years and is always outstanding. I and my wife have done it twice. Both my children have done it. Several others have gone I have recommended it to. You can actually go there and back in a week and do the course.
The programme is run by Paula Shaw. Paula is an outstanding leader, tough, quick witted, extremely funny, of the highest integrity and pushes you very hard indeed. The Max is not called that for nothing. It brings out of your best, your maximum effort, things you didn't think you were capable of. I went to the Max to sing on stage. I had never sung. I can talk on a stage without notes to an audience of hundreds without a problem, but to sing I was a quivering jelly. I was truly terrified but I did do it. It was enormous fun, extremely funny, tremendously moving. One of the best weeks I have ever spent. Another truly life changing programme.
5. THE ESALEN INSTITUTE
The Esalen Institute www.esalen .org/ as the pictures show is situated on the cliffs of Big Sur, in beautiful grounds by the Pacific. The hot spring baths - pictures above, are an idyllic place to relax and chat to others of like mind. Sitting in the hot baths watching the sunrise over the Pacific is an experience not to be missed, as is sitting there at midnight and seeing the amazing star spangled sky in perfect darkness without the distortions caused by urban lighting.
Hollyhock in British Columbia, Canada is another fabulous place to visit for holidays and courses. I went to Hollyhock in 1999 to do an amazing singing workshop run by one of the founders and Directors Shivon Robinsong. It was an extraordinary week in a most wonderful setting. Getting there requires a little work since the location is on Cortes Island, off the coast of British Columbia. If you go by car, three ferries are required and a drive up Vancouver Island. But you can also fly directly into the place by sea plane from Vancouver and Seattle which is spectacular.
The island is beautiful and amazingly tranquil. The accommodation has a wide range of choices and you can stay there without actually doing a course. However mostly from late Spring to early Autumn they run an exciting range of workshops in which the creative arts seem to be very prominent. Wonderful home grown vegetarian food accompany your stay and you can sit in a hot tub and look down on the spectacular views of the Strait of Georgia, the coast and other Islands. You can get more information by clicking on the link above. The pictures from the Hollyhock site illustrate the beauty of the place.
7. VIPASSANA TRUST
The Vipassana Trust has centres for Vipassana Meditation around the world. The programmes last 11 days and require much determination and discipline. They are not for the faint hearted! It is a silent retreat where meditation takes up many hours of every day. I can say it was the most difficult eleven days I spent in my life, but nevertheless valuable and enlightening. The programmes are free of charge and you make whatever donation you feel is appropriate. Vipassana Trust, Dhamma Dipa, Harewood End, Hereford HR2 8JS Telephone 01989-730234 Fax 01989-730450
8. ANTHONY ROBBINS
Tony Robbins, the worlds leading motivational speaker, runs huge events, with up to 10,000 people at a range of venues around the world, including London. These are powerful, great fun and life enhancing. It is a fun filled, roller coaster ride, including a walk on hot coals! This is a brilliant way to overcome your fears. You will come back alive and re-charged, ready for any challenge. Go to www.tonyrobbins.com
9. THE UNIVERSITY OF THE THIRD AGE
U3A or the University of the Third Age is alive and well. In the UK there are almost 800 branches around the UK providing adult education to the over 50's and there branches in many countries around the world. Go to http://www.u3a.org.uk
Together they run something like 12000 different study classes and cater for over 250,000 members.
I have been a member of eleven years, have served on our local commiteee and have run courses on Astrology, Poetry, Self-Expression, Moral Dilemmas, Portraits, Life, the Universe and Everything, This is it!, This is Your Life, I have also run a programme for U3A at the Summer School. The portrait of our President Norman Richards, painted by the Portraits Group appeared on the front of the National U3A magazine.
My experience of U3A is confined to my local activities and a group which consists of some 1150 members. However for the very low costs involved in membership every year, to date our local group has charged £35 per year, there is a range of some 70 different classes you can attend. This seems to me to be the best value education available in the country and anyone who has not participated in the required age group, is surely missing something very valuable. I have attended Table Tennis, Badminton, Duplicate Bridge, Mind Gymnastics (learning how to do Cryptic Crosswords), and Poetry.
Next year I a offering a course called 'Uncommon Sense'.