Recently, I attended Unleash the Power Within, a 4-day seminar by Tony Robbins. It was a birthday gift from my husband. Tony Robbins is arguably the most successful coach in the world. You need to pay a million dollars to be coached one-to-one by him. He was coaching the president of the United States when he was 31. He has also coached Serena Williams among others.
You would assume he started with powerful connections but no. He was chased out of the house by his mother with a knife when he was 16. Now, he fills arenas with thousands of people. To say I was keen to see what he does in these seminars would be an understatement. Here are my top learnings from the experience.
We follow people for us, not for them.
So there I was in an arena with 12,000 other people. The participants had traveled from 62 countries. Twelve translators were working tirelessly in their booths. The conference lasted 13 hours every day.
When Robbins came to the stage, the crowd went wild. On the big screens, I saw the words: "Let Tony hear you." And, surprisingly, I found myself cheering as loudly as I could!
I say surprisingly because I am not the “groupie” type of person. I never idolized stars, even as a teenager. I had a sore throat before the event. I had a team-coaching assignment scheduled for right after the event. What the hell was I doing, shouting my lungs out at a seminar?
It was only the previous week that I had ran a workshop about entrepreneurial leadership. I shared with the participants that communicating your “why” helps people who have the same beliefs find you and follow you. And they follow you for them, not for you.
Little did I know that I would experience what I taught in the Tony Robbins seminar a week later. I believed in the same “why” as Tony Robbins. That people are capable and deserve to have a magnificent life. Therefore, I felt happy to be led by him. I was not cheering for him but for his why and for me. Tony Robbins helped me get in touch with my own inspiring beliefs, and that’s what great leaders do.
There was another element to me converting to a passionate follower for a few days. As a parent, you learn that the best way to get your kids to listen is by developing a strong relationship with them. This way they will trust that what you tell them to do is for their own good. They will also want to please you because they love you. Robbins had developed enough of a relationship with me over the years through his content, that I was happy to follow his instructions. Building relationships through service is another crucial element of great leadership.
I was amazed at how a coach managed to achieve such a rockstar status. But Robbins is not your regular coach. Like a rockstar, he alters the way you feel not just the way you think. By the end of the first day, I felt at the highest of energy, strength, and joy. Drunk in this ecstasis, I thought: “Shut up and take my money.” Whatever my husband had paid for the event it was worth it.
You can change how you feel fast
Robbins spent much of the first day preparing everyone for the famous firewalk.
He used music and guided meditation to make us relive the happiest moments of our lives. Then the funniest moments. Then the most romantic moments. Then we remembered the lucky coincidences that changed the course of our life for the better. And we stuck them up filling ourselves with joy and gratitude.
He also had us dance and jump up and down often. Robbins taught us that you can change your
emotional state in three ways:
He shared his definition of a beautiful state: feeling positive emotions like joy, love, enthusiasm, determination, etc. And his definition of suffering: feeling negative emotions. We all have our favourite flavors of suffering. It could be anger or worrying or sadness.
Through the workshop, he helped us change our state at a click of a finger multiple times. He built our confidence in how much in control we were of our state.
Robbins invited us to decide to live in a beautiful state no matter what. We could allow 90 seconds of any negative emotion. Then shift our state by altering our physiology, focus or language.
How would your life transform if you implemented that? I noticed that most of us have suffering as our emotional home. Many people are almost always angry. Others are constantly worried. And you can always find something to be angry or worried about. But, also the opposite is true. There is always something to be happy or grateful for.
At the end of the first day, I was approaching the fire walk fired up. I was feeling strong but also fearful at the same time. I remembered the last time I felt a lot of fear. It was before the birth of my children. I was scared. They say that everything you want is on the other side of fear. In the case of labor, on the other side were the happiest and more spiritual moments of my life. The moments I met my babies.
Suddenly, the firewalk felt easy compared to the experience of birthing. I did it, and it felt short. I celebrated afterwards as instructed. And I maintained the high of the fire walker. Yes, I am capable of so much more than I thought. And so are you.
If your first need is significance you will live a limited life
Robbins shared his model of six fundamental human needs:
uncertainty / variety
love / connection
Everyone has those six needs but not in the same order. Robbins mentioned something that caught my attention. You will have problems if certainty or significance are your primary needs.
I could easily see why certainty as a key driver can be limiting for many of us. Life is not certain and as we mentioned above, a lot of the things that we want live on the other side of fear.
But it was what Robbins said about significance that struck me. If you are driven by significance you are constantly comparing yourself to others. You will either lie to yourself by telling yourself you are better than the rest. Or, you will put yourself in environments where you are the best, and therefore you will not grow as much. One of my favourite “Tonyisms” is that “What you achieve in life is a direct reflection of the expectations of your peer group.”
Significance is so crucial for many of my coaching clients. And it has also been a critical driver for my career. But, I knew Robbins was right. Growth comes from letting go of external metrics of success. Love and connection can be a more productive need to pursue before significance.
If you are good you are going to get poor rewards
Robbins said that in the current world if you are good, you will get poor rewards. If you are excellent, you will get good rewards. And if you are outstanding, you will get all the rewards.
There is a big leap you need to do to go from poor to good and from good to excellent. But, you only need to move 2 millimetres to go from excellent to outstanding.
The metaphor Robbins used was sports. The person who gets the gold medal is only milliseconds faster or better than the rest. Yet, he gets the hero status and the disproportionate rewards. It may seem unfair. But that’s the way it is.
We probably give all the rewards to the outstanding people because they remind us of what we are truly capable of. This idea inspired me. After the seminar, I shared this model with a team I was coaching and pushed them to aim higher.
I guess part of my work as a coach is to help my clients who are already excellent to move those 2 millimetres to outstanding. If they do, the rewards will be disproportionate.
Tough love works
The other highlight of the seminar after the firewalk was the Dickens process. That was an experience Robbins created for us. It takes its name out of the Dickens novel Christmas Carol. The three ghosts of Christmas take the hero in the past, present, and future. They help him see the pain his cruel behavior caused and will cause. The hero changes as a result.
Robbins had us identify our three most limiting beliefs. We then wrote all the negative consequences they had in our lives. Afterward, through guided meditation and music he had us experience all the pain these beliefs had caused us. In the past and present. Most importantly he helped us experience the pain these beliefs would cause us in the future if we continued living with them. He had us imagine the worst case scenario.
I was thinking about the impact my limiting beliefs would have on my kids, my husband, and my health for years to come. I felt intense pain and tears were running on my cheeks. Other people were screaming or wailing.
Robbins had warned us that we should not offer support to a person suffering next to us. That they were not going to break. A dose of short-term pain to help them free themselves from these limiting beliefs once and for all was worth it.
It was true. The pain I felt was totally worth it. It helped me wake up and not tolerate these limiting beliefs any longer. Robbins continued the process by helping us replace those beliefs with the truth. The truth is usually the exact opposite of our limiting beliefs.
I was inspired by how powerful this process was. My clients would usually give me feedback that my coaching was challenging them. But that was generally due to my commitment to being honest with them. I never intentionally set out to cause them pain or challenge them for the sake of it.
Robbins intentionally helps you associate pain with a self-sabotaging behavior or a limiting belief. He also helps you associate pleasure with a self-enhancing behavior or belief. It sounds basic, but it works.
My key takeaway was that many of my clients are strong enough to take some tough love by me to help them get rid of a self-limiting behavior if appropriate. Of course, I need to explain what I am doing, and have their permission.
What I most want from my body is energy
One of the critical decisions I took during the seminar was to hire a personal trainer. I have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on my professional development. I have completed two masters degrees on top business schools, and consistently hired coaches, therapists, teachers and mentors to help me in most aspects of growth: emotional, relational, career, financial, etc.
Yet, I always thought that a personal trainer was too expensive. I neglected to invest in my body, while that’s what is supporting everything else. I do not want a personal trainer to lose weight or to build my muscles even though these would be pleasant side-effects.
I want someone to help me get the energy necessary to be an outstanding coach, mother, wife, and friend. Any suggestions for great personal trainers in London who can help me build my energy reserves are welcome.
I saw a lot of benefits in the event. At some point of euphoria and generosity, I wanted to buy tickets for all my best friends for next year’s seminar. The reason I did not do it was that I was disappointed with the “upselling” part of it. It lasted 2–3 hours daily and detracted from the experience. It felt quite manipulative and pushy. I would still recommend the event, but I wish someone would fix this element of it.
Tony Robbins has spent more than 30,000 hours on stage in his career, and he is a master at what he does. It was inspirational to see him in action. It has been a couple of weeks since the event, and I still experience the benefits of being in a beautiful state.
Which one of my key takeaways resonated with you?
Caterina Kostoula is an executive coach. To receive tips on how to create meaningful impact and a fulfilling life, you can subscribe to the Leader’s Path. Connect on LinkedIn or Facebook.