The est Training

est didn’t come out of the world. est originated out of an experience. And the experience lives on through the over one million people that participated in the est Training. Got it, possibility, authentic, sharing, making a difference…one need only listen to the language of popular culture to know the impact of est. The Hunger Project, the AIDS Ride, Youth At Risk and so many other not-for-profit organizations sprung from the inspiration of the est Training. Here are some of the people and the organizations that illustrate the influence of the est Training (Erhard Seminars Training) throughout the world and the impact they have had on our world, making a difference for all of us.

Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges has been involved in the hunger issue for a long time, and in 1983 helped found the End Hunger Network, which among other things staged the Live Aid concerts in 1985 and produced the movie “Hidden in America,” about a father who can’t provide for his children, starring his brother, Beau Bridges. Asked to be more specific about what triggered his interest in the issue, Bridges revealed that it goes back to “est” and the controversial human-potential movement headed by Werner Erhard, who challenged his followers that once they knew the facts—that widespread hunger could be overcome—they shouldn’t look to others to solve the problem but should take action themselves. Read the full article.

Bernard Roth

Dr. Bernard Roth, Rodney H. Adams Professor in the School of Engineering, is the Academic Director, and one of the founders, of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the at Stanford University. In his book, “The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life,” he writes, “In the 1970s I participated in a two-weekend workshop known as Erhard Seminar Training (usually abbreviated in lowercase as est). On the second day the group was led through an exercise called the Truth Process. I found, to my surprise, that the exercise completely eliminated an annoying habit of speech that I had picked up years earlier. I was naturally impressed and I incorporated the exercise into my teaching. The results have been very favorable. It is a good tool for getting rid of aspects of your self-image that stand in the way of developing your achievement habit.”

Lynne Twist

“Everybody has milestones and epiphanies. Mine came in the EST training which I took in 1974 with Werner Erhard. It just revolutionized my life. I really came to understand that I could turn my life over to making a difference. That experience led me to be in the right place at the right time when The Hunger Project was born. I heard Werner Erhard say for the first time at a big meeting that he was taking a stand to end world hunger. My whole body started to shake, and I knew that that was why I was born, that that was what I came here to do. It was impractical because I was a very busy young mother, but it was a calling so remarkable that I could not deny it, and so I went with it. That’s what the EST training did for me…What was almost a split personality, between my spiritual path and my more public path, became one. I became fearless about living authentically after the EST training.  Then The Hunger Project gave me the platform to express it.”

Werner Erhard was a great thinker and genius in ontology, in the ontology of being, and training people in the principles of transformation. Buckminster Fuller was a great scientist and was one of the first people to really see a long-term breakdown that would come from unsustainable practices. He was an incredible man. When they met each other, they met in a setting and in a context that we helped to create, where they actually saw themselves in one another and saw a new future.”

“Out of that series of conversations with Buckminster Fuller and Werner Erhard, something called the Hunger Project was born. They actually saw that the greatest breakdown in human integrity was hunger. To let millions of people die of hunger in a world awash with food was an integrity issue, not a food issue and not a political issue, but an integrity issue.”   From an Interview with Lynne Twist

Lynne Twist, Soul of Money Institute, acknowledges her work with Werner Erhard – listen to the interview

John Denver

“Before est came into the picture, I was already searching for expressions of myself, beyond music, but it was est that gave me confidence to follow through.” John Denver first became involved with est in 1973 when he was 30 years old. Many of his lyrics are tributes to the ideas and awareness he gained through his experiences of himself through est. Denver, along with Werner Erhard and Buckminster Fuller, was one of the founding members of the Hunger Project, an organization dedicated to eliminating world hunger. John Denver said of Werner Erhard, “Werner Erhard epitomizes for me what it is to be a human being. It is through my experience of him that I have most completely come to know myself.”

“The training is two weekends. It was quite an incredible experience in my life. I’ll forever be grateful for the experience. I got a great deal out of it. We really want to know who we are and there are things going on and we learn more about ourselves all the time, to really learn what it is that makes us tick and how we are discovering ourselves.” est became hugely successful; singers, film stars, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans underwent the training in the 1970’s.

Denver credited the song Looking For Space to his experiences in the est movement.  In his autobiography, Take Me Home, Denver said, “Space was a metaphor for what needed to be internalized.  It wasn’t a fixed entity, but spiritual territory to be staked out and built upon… Before est came into the picture, I was already searching for expressions of myself, beyond music, but it was est that gave me confidence to follow through.”

Roy Scheider

The star of The French Connection, Jaws, and All that Jazz, Roy Scheider talked about his est training as an experience of theater: “You come to understand that within each of us is a tremendous beauty, passion, joy, and love for life; you realize that everyone is you… I’ve never had a better time in my life. I never laughed so much, I never cried so much. I was actually dazzled. I couldn’t believe that degree of intimacy could be achieved in a hotel room with 300 people… And I was one of the actors in the show. It was sensational.”

Time Magazine

Time Magazine, March 7, 2011, issue describes Werner Erhard:

“The American obsession with Transformation isn’t new. It’s about as old as the nation…. But it was Werner Erhard who created the first modern transformation when he founded est seminars in 1971. It’s a tribute to the power of his central concept…that more than 20 years after he sold his ideas to a group of employees who went on to create Landmark that Landmark is still the natural first stop in any transformation tour.”
Change We Can (Almost) Believe In” by Nathan Thornburgh.

Ellen Snortland

When I was 19, I studied “est,” a controversial “enlightenment” program created by Werner Erhard (“est” is Latin for “it is” and stands for Erhard Seminar Training). It turned out — and continues to be — the best thing I’ve ever done. It was a secular approach to my internal life that included self-reflection about my promises to myself and others and about my participation in my world and community, and resulted in my connecting with a spiritual side that felt like what people had described as Buddhist.

I originally registered for “est” not because I was looking for secular spirituality but because many people I loved and respected raved about the program. For others, it was considered a “California wooey-wooey, fruit-and-nut-cake cult.” Never mind that the detractors were usually people who had not actually attended the training.

Nonetheless, by my early 20s I was relatively hip to the idea that almost everyone and everything I’d ever loved got assassinated somehow, literally or figuratively: John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy in the hero column; liberal politics, feminism and “est” in the worldview column.

I started to see a pattern. Those people, experiences and views that encouraged people to embrace original thinking and their innate altruism got killed off in body or in reputation. How grateful I am that Gloria Steinem and Werner Erhard are both still living examples of reinventing what it means to optimize our human spirit.

Excerpted from Count Your Blessings, by Ellen Snortland – read the whole article at

Dana Meadows

“Before I took the training I saw the world as I had been educated as a scientist to see it. The training opened new aspects of the world to me – the “soft” subjective aspects of human experience – which did not contradict the scientific world view, but enhanced it.” Dana Meadows, Ph D. Adjunct Professor of Environmental and Policy Studies, Dartmouth College, author of Limits to Growth, The Club of Rome study.

Father Basil Pennington

“Essentially the training is a challenge to have the courage to step out of the limiting confines of our concepts and memories, not just for some fleeting moments of experience, but as a constant, repeated practice.” Father Basil Pennington, Monk of Cistercian Order, Roman Catholic Church, world renowned spiritual teacher and author of several books.

Ron Travisano

“Living life without making a difference is to be among the living dead. The est Training is an experience that creates the opportunity to make a difference.” Ron Travisano, Vice Chairman, Creative Director, Travasino and Partners; Recipient “Clio” Award; Instructor, Syracuse University and School of Visual Art.

Stephen Lorne Williams

In the late’70s, English actor Stephen Lorne Williams switched gears, becoming an instructor of est, a controversial training system developed by Werner Erhard and aimed at releasing human potential. “I thought it was terrific at freeing people up to their natural creativity, whatever that might be,” he explains, adding that, “it seemed to fulfill what I wanted theater to fulfill — people getting an experience of themselves and what was possible in a way that was freeing.” ‘THE TEMPEST’ IN RICHMOND, VA JUNE/JULY 2007. Veteran Shakespearean actor takes on ‘Tempest’ Monday, Jun 11, 2007, by Celia Wren

Tiger Woods

In the 1996 Sports Illustrated article in which Tiger Woods is named the 1996 Sportsman of the Year, Earl Woods talks about the impact of the est training. He says that what he learned in est allowed him to devote himself to his son and his son’s development into the champion that Tiger had become by 1996, and the world’s most renowned athlete that he is today.

“What I learned through est was that by doing more for myself, I could do much more for others. Yes, be responsible, but love life, and give people the space to be in your life, and allow yourself room to give to others. That caring and sharing is what’s most important, not being responsible for everyone else. Which is where Tiger comes in. What I learned led me to give so much time to Tiger, and to give him the space to be himself, and not to smother him with dos and don’ts. I took out the authority aspect and turned it into companionship. I made myself vulnerable as a parent. When you have to earn respect from your child, rather than demanding it because it’s owed to you as the father, miracles happen. I realized that, through him, the giving could take a quantum leap. What I could do on a limited scale, he could do on a global scale.” from Sports Illustrated, 1996

In the New York Daily News, Tiger says that his father used techniques from the est training to make him, “the toughest golfer mentally.”

Phillip Lee

Philip Lee, M.D., professor of social medicine and health policy and Chancellor of the University of California Medical School from 1969 to 1972, said that it was the training that led him to join the est Advisory Board, which he viewed as a public service. Philip Lee served as Director of the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies from 1972 to 1993, and in September of 2007 the IHPS was renamed the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies in his honor. He continues as Senior Scholar at the Institute, and Professor emeritus of Social Medicine, in the School of Medicine at UCSF. Throughout his career he has been advisor, mentor and teacher to scores of students, fellows and peers, many of whom have who have advanced into important posts in corporations, government, and education.

Sam Harris

Sam Harris, a quiet, retiring and almost shy music teacher in Florida, attended a Hunger Project event in 1977, having earlier taken the est training. Like tens of thousands of others, he was deeply moved by the idea that “the little individual” could make a difference. He checked the little box that said “I will create my own form of participation”, and in doing so created what would become a lifetime commitment to ending global hunger. He started Results which rapidly became the largest and most effective grass roots lobbying organization in the United States for the end of global hunger.

Sam met Werner Erhard personally in 1987 and talked with him about Results. It was that same year he first met Muhammad Yunis, who was chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize for creating the idea of microcredit when he started the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.

The Grameen Bank took off like wildfire in Bangladesh, shattering traditional myths regarding banking, credit and the very poor. With Muhammad, Sam created the idea of the Microcredit Summit Campaign to take this success global, using many of the principles of The Hunger Project. Muhammad Yunis and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”. Read more about this in a letter from Gordon Starr.

Mike Oldfield

In 1978 Mike Oldfield surprised the music press by changing his image and starting to talk with the media. The change was due to Mike’s participation in the the est training. As a result of est, Mike organized his first tour in 1979, together with an entourage of almost 100 different artists from around the world holding concerts to raise awareness and protest the use of child labor.

Raul Julia

Valerie Harper

At the 1975 Emmy Awards ceremony, Valerie Harper gave a “personal thanks to someone who’s profoundly influenced my life, Werner Erhard.” In an interview when asked if she still looked back on est as a positive experience, she responded, “Oh, yes. Daily!” and another time, “est has taken the effort, sweat and strain out of what I do. I can handle the daily upsets better. I used to get some ego thing out of saying I wasn’t a star, just an actress. Forget it. I’m a star. I wanted it, I worked for it, I got it. Werner helped me take the lie out of what I was doing.” She described Werner Erhard as “a class-A human being, a real wonderful person on the planet doing brilliant work. What Werner was really doing, I think, was getting Eastern philosophy to Western minds, and Western minds as a society have shifted.” Rhoda Online

Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki – Author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series

Excerpted from Rich Brother, Rich Sister (Vanguard Press, January 5, 2009):

In March of 1974, I walked into the est training, and two weeks later, as she had promised, my life changed.

A great deal of the training was about agreements. In other words, do you keep your word? Notice the word word again. Agreements are about keeping your word. When someone says, “He is a man of his word.” it is a very high compliment.

During the training, it became glaringly clear that most of our personal problems begin with our not keeping our agreements, not being true to our words, saying one thing and doing another. That first full day on the simple class agreements was painfully enlightening. It became obvious that much of human misery is a function of broken agreements – not keeping your word, or someone else not keeping theirs.

At last I realized that my misery was caused by my lack of integrity and not keeping my word…

And my “changed life” went well beyond the two weekends I spent in the est seminar. I realized I had the power to create the best destiny for my life, or the worst. It was my choice.

At this point I decided that my lifetime work would be to focus on myself and develop a higher ethical, legal, and moral character.

John Curry


From the Graduate Review, July 1976
The winner of the Olympic Gold Medal in Men’s Figure Skating, and the Men’s World Figure Skating Championship, is an est graduate.
Lyn Malone, a media sports photographer, and member of the est Guest Seminar Leaders’ Program, invited John to lunch one day and in a letter to Werner Erhard, Lyn wrote:

John Curry is an artist years ahead of his time in the arcane and elegant sport of figure skating. For the past four years, he had never won a continental event in the sport he dominates. He was superlative, and not winning. Being with John that afternoon, I shared from the deepest level I know. I was very clear that if John took est and did not win in Europe, he would at least, and at last, know that he did not want that path. I was also clear that if John indeed wanted to win – the training would get him in touch with what was in the way. He graduated from the training three weeks after that lunch.

On February 11th John Curry won the Olympic Gold Medal in Men’s Figure Skating, the first Gold Medal won by Britain in 12 years. Three weeks later, he won the Men’s World Figure Skating Championship. After winning the Gold Medal, John talked to est staff member John Poppy about his experience:

Quite honestly, I can say that from the day I signed up for est and from the first time I did it, my skating just changed. I suddenly realized that it was me who is doing the skating. I was the one in control. I was doing it, and it wasn’t other things that could make me fall over, or make things go wrong.

Ivy Rosequist

1934 – 2008
Early in the summer of 2008 the San Francisco design community lost one of its most creative forces.
Ivy Rosequist was born in Hallock, MN, on September 12,1934. Although number one in her high school graduating class, Ivy passed on college to follow her love of art, design and photography, moving to California in 1953. While working at Photo and Sound in San Francisco, she decided to pursue a career in interior design. She attended the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design and then studied fabrics at Stroheim and Roman. In the late fifties, Ivy joined the European Antique Dept, at Gumps, and then began working on her own interior design business. While Ivy was married to Ron Mann in the mid seventies, Mann and Rosequist consulted on the re-design of The Cannery and numerous other award winning public and private spaces. Together, they transformed a 1940s bungalow beach house, south of San Francisco, into a now famous and often photographed compound of integrated structures, lawns, and courtyards.

So important to Ivy was her relationship to Werner Erhard, which motivated her own contributions in her transformational seminars on Design and Beauty. “The only people for me are … the ones who are mad to live… the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars….. ” San Francisco Chronicle

Andrew Cherng – Panda Express

Andrew Cherng, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Panda Restaurant Group (PRG), a privately owned, 1,350-location “fast casual” Asian restaurant chain with $1.4 billion in annual sales, is passionate about the Landmark Forum, a program that utilizes Werner Erhard’s EST methodology. He is committed to his managers (who call themselves Panda’s) maintaining healthy lifestyles, eating well-rounded diets and participating in “a continuous commitment to sharpening yourself,” through speaking honestly and openly about personal and business matters.  Read more at: Werner Erhard’s est Training ideas alive and well at Panda Express – Bloomberg Businessweek Article and Business Daily Africa: Sharing Personal Problems Spurs Success at Work

Peter Gabriel

Coming to adulthood in the ‘70s “Me Decade”, Peter Gabriel did EST (Erhard Seminars Training), of which he still remains an enthusiast.

“Anyone with an open mind wanting to explore the world was drawn to that movement. There were fairly scary adventures that could change lives. Last year I met Werner Erhard; many people feel negatively about him, but I enjoyed him enormously. The whole system he set up felt like a hard-sell American organization but if you didn’t have a year to spend in an ashram yet still wanted to shake up your life a bit, you could go for a couple of weekends and get severely challenged.

“It taught me all sorts of things, of which one was to be responsible for your life and who you are—don’t blame others, don’t be a victim. I’d been doing that. The analogy is of a boat in dangerous water: would you rather be in the hold bitching about the captain or standing at the helm with the power to change direction? You can only get to that position if you’re prepared to take responsibility. It’s very logical but very hard sometimes—I can’t always stay in that place but I know life works better when you’re there.

“The other thing is to be authentic about who you are, how you feel, and what’s going on…It’s about being real. We spend so much of our lives not actually being who we are but who we imagine we ought to be.”

From MOJO Magazine, April 2010

Vikki Brock

Dr. Vikki G. Brock, leadership coach with a Ph.D. in Coaching and Human Development credits Werner Erhard as one of the founders of contemporary coaching. “Werner Erhard introduced the idea of transformation in the early 1970s through his est courses which also opened people’s minds to the possibility of their growth and potential. According to a coaching colleague, Erhard’s work was “an interesting blend of philosophy, psychology, sociology, spirituality, and life affirming wisdom—which perfectly prepared me for becoming a coach” From Werner Erhard Popularized Transformation and Personal Growth.

George Goodman (Adam Smith)

George J. W. Goodman, who demystified financial complexities in best-selling books and on a long-running public television program under the name of one of history’s most famous economists, Adam Smith had this to say about the est training:

“EST is a synthesis of several exotic blends. It is a course given over two weekends, largely in hotel meeting rooms around the country. EST stands either for ‘it is’ or for Erhard Seminars Training. When Valerie Harper stepped to the microphone to get her Emmy for Rhoda she said to 26 million viewers that she wanted to thank her producer, her director, her crew – and so on, the traditional thanks – “and Werner Erhard, who changed my life.’ John Denver, the country and Western star, has extolled EST on TV. The waiting list for new training sessions is several months long. The alumni list includes such notables as the co-chairman of Warner Bros. and big-time agent Ted Ashley, the publisher of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, the managing editor of Vogue, numerous educators and psychiatrists and me, class of 1973.”

“Experience is the keystone word in Werner’s vocabulary.” “Let’s see Werner said, “Money is the symbol of security, right? It’s not the experience of security. Some people want the experience of security so they pile up money, but they still don’t have the experience of security, they can act as if they are experiencing security, they can buy things that go with security, but they haven’t experienced out the barrier between them and feeling secure. Now, if they experience out the barrier between them and feeling secure they may or may not have more money or less money, but they will have the feeling of security.”