You may or may not know who Anthony Robbins is, if you do you will definitely have an opinion about him! I have met Tony, as a member of his audience, a few times and he is not a man you forget easily. When he shook my hand I felt like a child compared to his height and size of his hands! ( I am 5′ 9").
I decided to write about him because I want you to think about attending one of his courses!* But before you decide I want you to know why…
I asked the same question above myself when I read about him and before going on a seminar of his for the first time in 2001. In fact it was over the 9/11 weekend and it changed my life. However, as an Englishman, I took all the B.S. that comes with ‘self help seminars’ with a huge pinch of salt.
I actually wrote something similar to this blog to him personally and I repeat the sentiments as I feel that his image does not do him justice and works against many of the great things he does and represents.
One of my biggest ‘issues’ when attending his first seminar (other than cynicism) was the almost religious fervour of some of those that had been on his earlier program UPW. This seminar was Life Mastery and was the pinnacle of his Mastery University program at the time. (UPW is a great program in that it gives those that attend a 3 day introduction to some really useful and life improving ideas, the downside is that it is a ‘hook’ event to sell attendees on paying big money for his other events).
All I knew about him at that stage was a rather scary ‘infomercial’ I had seen that made him come across as totally unbelievable and something of a ‘snakeoil’ salesman to me (the English are much more immune than Americans to this type of advertising!).
So my first impressions we not good! I didn’t like the hard sell and I didn’t like the religious nuts. This almost stopped me attending but a friend insisted it would right up my street and because I am curious and always up for a new learning experience I decided to go.
So back to the question: Tony Robbins (TR) – Snakeoil salesman or modern day messiah?
Well my answer is neither – he is a very charismatic speaker that really enthuses you about the topic he is talking about. His real skill is as a ‘showman’ in every respect, he has worked out how to make a seminar into a rock concert, learning and changing experience and a place of overwhelming power to help you and your fellow attendees to change your life for the better. His content is often gleaned from others and then re-packaged as his own. For some this is bad, for me its great because his delivery is compact, high energy and highly effective.
Tony Robbins seems to be a man of contradictions, he is clearly very intelligent, passionate and caring but also ruthless, controlling and manipulative.
For example, on the first seminar I attended he told us the benefits of many things and then opened the doors to all the vendors that sold the associated goods like time management software, training CDs, re-bounders and useless QLink pendants etc…so we all rushed out and bought these en masse! He then took 40% commission from all the vendors.
Now personally I thought "clever" when he did this but many of those who are more gullible and less ‘well off’ were taken for a bit of a ride in my view (someone I know sold her car to pay for all of the stuff) – this is the central problem for him. It’s a bit liking smoking. We were all adults on the course but many in society will have us believe we need to be protected from ourselves, we can’t control our buying decisions if we are being ‘sold’ too by adverts or powerful speakers! In this case his ‘disciples’ just did whatever he ‘suggested’ and went home many $1000’s poorer in monetary terms. I think that TR could be a little less hard sell but frankly, like I said, we were all adults and should be able to make value judgments.
In addition, he helped many people in the audience make some big life changes but sometimes he got carried away with his NLP sessions and we missed out on big chunks of the course. I think this was a bit of an ego trip. He did this again on other seminars I attended.
He has quite a few detractors who don’t like his use of science, or his sales-lead approach or his use of NLP for that matter. To me these are the ‘whiners’ of society and frankly I listen to them about as much as I listen to the TR hype. My view on life is to extract what I want and discard the rest, I advise you to do the same!
One positive thing (in my view) that has upset some people is some participants arriving with their partners or spouses found themselves separated and paired with strangers, and then were directed to repeatedly massage and confide in these strangers. Many participants were surprised and uncomfortable with this. Well there is good logic behind this approach to me in that you are unlikely to give up all those deep thoughts about your relationship directly to your spouse are you? One of the great things about the course is that you can talk to a stranger who you will never see again if you don’t want too and they can listen dispassionately to you.
Now for the plus side. Despite his money making machine (he used to be a salesman) and his rampant ego he really does seem to care and really does make a huge difference to a great many people, including me.
What he did for me was to open my eyes and provide me with ways to deal with many of the issues lurking in my subconscious at that time of my life. He helped me understand health issues and gave me real scientific facts and solutions. He helped me consider my life balance, my relationship, what I wanted out of life and provided me with more ideas and guidance. He helped me craft a life vision and helped me set out to pursue it. He helped me set out some really interesting and stretching life goals (almost all achieved) and most of all he set me on the course for a much happier life.
How the hell did he do all that you ask? You sound like one of those religious nuts yourself now…
Well he did this by getting me stop working for 9 days – in itself something of a miracle as many will testify!
He provided me with a ton of other great people’s work in a condensed form, he got me in the mood for learning and then delivered the content in a way I could consume it easily and effectively. He motivated me and my colleagues to challenge ourselves and to push ourselves towards our dreams! So he used his greatest skills, his ability to communicate.
He helped get the best out of me. He was like a coach. He was very clever in that we all felt like we were in a ‘loving and caring’ environment and we were not afraid to sing, dance, jump around, talk, think and change.
Now you must understand, I am a staid company CEO, quite shy and definite not much good at dancing or singing. He got me singing my heart out, crying, laughing and loving every minute for 12 hours a day for 9 days in a hot seminar room. This was in Hawaii, the sun was shining outside and the golf course was calling but we all sat through the whole program and all those I know that attended are the better for it.
Now I don’t want you to think he has hired me to be nice about him because I think he is as flawed as the rest of us. He has made plenty of mistakes along the road and his ego can sometimes get in the way but overall I thought his ‘contribution’ to my life was well worth the many $1000’s I have spent.
So in short, I urge you to try one of his courses for you, don’t fall for the B.S., if it works for you then keep giving him money, if not then don’t. BUT DO TRY IT! You can do this for very little at one of his UPW seminars.
I have sent 5 people on these UPW seminars out of my own pocket and they have all come back and made some fundamentally positive changes in their lives, some bigger than others, but all of them have benefited.
So go ahead give it a try, if you are curious and willing to learn and stretch yourself I think you will really benefit.
Tony Robbins main website here.
In addition to his seminars I have bought many copies of his books and CDs and given these to others and used them for my own self development, they are all excellent if expensive. You can buy many of his CD programs second had from those lapsed disciples!
Other things that impress me about him are his contribution ethic and his good works for many other people through his foundation. I love many of his ideas and how he has helped others across the World, especially children.
Robbins is the founder of the Anthony Robbins Foundation which empowers students, helps prisoners to improve their lives, and organizes food drives (including the annual Basket Brigade which has provided ‘baskets of food and household items for more than 2 million people in 74 countries annually’). The charity also funds Robbins’ summer "Discovery Camp."
More about Tony Robbins:
Anthony J. Mahavorick, also known as Tony Robbins, pen name Anthony Robbins, (born 29 February 1960, Glendora, California) is an American life coach, writer, and motivational speaker. Robbins has authored a number of books, including Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within. His best known tape program is Personal Power II; other programs include Get the Edge! and Lessons in Mastery. His work has drawn praise from people including Erin Brockovich, Andre Agassi, Norman Schwarzkopf, Princess Diana, President Bill Clinton, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Roger Black, Martin Sheen and Quincy Jones.
* I have no connection to Tony Robbins in any form. My mother’s friend used to work with him and provided some insight to this article. I have been on Life Mastery and Date with Destiny seminars. I have sent people on UPW and Date with Destiny seminars. I have bought most of his books and CDs.