Tony Robbins is stupid.
I said this to my boyfriend sometime last year after he quoted Tony Robbins, casually, during one of our conversations.
“Do you know who he is?” He calmly responded.
“Of course I do! Duh!” I shot back, though truthfully, I didn’t know much about the guy. I heard his name being tossed around as THE motivational speaker and because of that reputation, I wrote him off as a phony.
We see people the way we want for nonsensical reasons we don’t care to admit.
My boyfriend seemed kind of upset. He was telling me about a Netflix doc he just watched on Tony and how he seemed really awesome and life changing to some people. He asked me to watch the doc with him and give the guy a chance.
I wanted to scream back, “NO WAY! NEVER.”
But then I remembered that people who seem to know what they are talking about when they talk about relationships always say that relationships are about compromise. My boyfriend had done plenty of things I’d wanted to do that he didn’t (EX: watch The Bachelor, eat pizza for every meal, go to a Dashboard Confessional concert where he didn’t know one song and I knew every single lyric to every single emo-sounding song)
So I agreed and we watched and halfway through, I thought that this Tony guy didn’t seem so bad. He seemed pretty fascinating. By the closing credits, I was in tears, and two months later, I found myself standing in front of the guy, at 1am, as I walked on fire.
Yes, fire. Yes, I walked on it Yes, It sounds cult-like. Yes, maybe it was.
Let me back up.
I signed up thanks to a BOGO special that was offered to attend Tony Robbins’ Unleash Your Power Within seminar in New Jersey. I thought it was going to be a casual weekend thing where you listened to him speak, did some networking, maybe had a few introspective conversations with yourself and that was that.
I was wrong.
It was four days and in total, 50 hours long.
On day one, I arrived 5 hours late (because I had to work) and when I got there, I walked into an auditorium where 14,000 people were jumping up and down screaming on the top of their lungs.
I almost walked out.
Then I remembered the whole “relationships blah blah blah are about blah blah blah compromise” and I found a seat next to my boyfriend who had a giant smile on this face.
That is what people do at Tony Robbins event. They listen to him speak and then every 20, 30, 60 minutes pop up when they hear the loud pop music play and jump up and down, with their hands in the air, and scream.
Even though I was feeling left out and not in the mood to jump and scream, the power of watching almost 14,000 other people do it, suddenly makes you feel weird for not. I refused to get out of my chair and so for most of day one, I felt like an outsider. I felt like a bad person.
At the end of day one, which is midnight, Tony invites you to walk across fire. It’s optional, yes, but just like the jumps and screams, you hardly want to say no.
He spends day one preparing you to be in the mental state to place your delicate feet on top of burning hot coals. I didn’t pay attention to much so I wasn’t prepared mentally, but I didn’t care.
I’m stubborn and curious, which is the worst combination when it comes to having common sense about situations that might be dangerous.
I had to do this. I was going to do this.
Most of the 14,000 people there decided to do this, so we all lined up outside and one-by-one completed the walk. While waiting for your turn, it’s asked that you clap and chant, “YES, YES, YES, YES” non-stop as tribal music plays in the background.
Before it was my turn, I googled searched, “Fire walking”. There it was. An article that said at a Tony Robbins’ event last month, 30 people were injured and burned severely by this.
I shut off my phone and buried it on the bottom of my backpack.
We ignore what we want to ignore when we want to do what we want.
It was my turn. I was going to do this, partially because I was too tired to make good decisions and partially because I felt like it was my initiation into this cult I had voluntarily joined for the weekend.
Right before I went, a staff member shouted something in my face (I was too nervous to remember what it was) and pushed me forward.
There I was. Walking across flaming coals. Before I could recognize that my feet were burning, I was done. Two staff members were hosing down my feet. My boyfriend, already finished, waited for me with a look of excitement and shock.
“What did we just do?!” I screamed as I hopped into his arms.
We laughed like middle school kids, as our feet let off steam in a puddle of cold water.
Day two, 9am. There I was. Jumping, clapping, screaming, head-nodding to everything Tony said.
I was a fire walker now. Things were different.
By day three, I was over this. The cult-like, group-think mentality was wearing off. I was sick and tired of jumping up and down all the time and digesting information for 15 hours straight (there are very few breaks given during the day). I also wasn’t sure any of the information that was being taught was having an effect on me or that it was substantial enough to change anyone’s life. If anything, it made people see their lives differently – which is good – but temporary.
By day four, I was back to jumping and clapping, head-nodding and cheering.
That’s the weird thing about our minds, we love what we hate until we hate what we love.
Before I walked out of the venue, exhausted yet inspired, motivated yet desperate for a nap, changed but also a little bit of the same person, I made a list that breaks down my experience in terms of what I thought was cool and what I thought was very very strange.
Here’s my list:
-One of the best parts of the seminar is that you force yourself to answer questions about who you are, waht you want to do and the current state of your life. These are questions that you never get the chance to answer or are too lazy to think about. Having someone push you to answer them is a very powerful thing.
-A huge part of the seminar is allowing Tony to teach you how to strip pre-exsisting thoughts you have about the type of person you are and the limiting beliefs you tell yourself on repeat.
-Fire walking was pretty freakin’ cool. It’s a mental game to do and it’s a (dangerous) yet impressive reminder that we are more than our thoughts and that we can control our thoughts.
-One day three, you experience quite an intense 2-3 hour program where Tony works on getting you past those limiting beliefs. It is such an intense program, he makes kids under 10 leave the room. Without going into details, you find yourself in a pitch black room where everyone around you (including yourself) is hysterically crying and screaming on the top of their lungs, while Tony speaks to you in a way that gets you to give up on those negative beliefs. It’s powerful, frightening, and the best part of the entire four days.
-There’s a lot of jumping up and down. There’s also a lot of dance parties. What feels like every 20 minutes, Tony will stop speaking, have the DJ play some upbeat tune, and make everyone get up and dance and jump and scream.
-Tony also makes you get very close to the people you sit next to – very close. What feels like every hour, he makes you massage your neighbor – for a very awkwardly long amount of time.
-This isn’t Tony’s fault – but the venue wouldn’t allow us to bring in outside food. So here you are – at a conference where you don’t get a lunch or dinner break – where you are there from 9am until midnight - and the only food you can buy is overpriced, unhealthy arena food like fried chicken and a $6 slice of pizza. I stuck food down my pants to sneak it in. One day, my peanut butter sandwich, that I hide in my pants, set off the metal detector and things got WEIRD.
-Tony calls this a “Kindergarten” level event. There’s a lot of time spent at the event being upsold to go to other events or get coaching. Tony changes $1 million for private 1:1 coaching and about $10,000 for his other programs.
-While you learn a lot of great lessons and inspirational quotes from Tony, you don’t learn much about how to really make lasting changes in your life. You leave the event realizing what you need to change ASAP but for some people, it might be hard to see how to make those changes.
Check out Tony’s teachings here.