Success Magazine recently published an article about Tony Robbins and his interactions with columnist Michael Mooney. The article tries to capture the essence of Robbins and his views on life.
Mooney writes how Robbins has a question for him when they meet at Robbins’ plush residence in Florida’s Palm Beach. As they sit under the life Elephant photo, he notes how elephants represent the success that Robbins has made for himself.
Here’s the encounter from Mooney’s perspective:
“Robbins leans his massive 6-foot-7 frame forward. His voice is deep, gravelly, and his dark eyes are fixed and intense.
“Do you want to be happy for the rest of your life?” he asks.
“Sure,” I say without thinking about it too much. There’s something about him, about his charisma and the way his voice fills a room that makes you want to agree with him. But that isn’t good enough. He wants me to think about it.
“I’m asking you,” he says. “Are you committed to being happy, or in a beautiful state? Do you really want that?”
The room is quiet for a moment, and I think about the prospect.
“Well,” I say, “I don’t know if I want to be in a beautiful state all the time, even if I’m at a friend’s funeral.”
“Why not?” he says back to me instantly. “Let’s question that thought.”
Mooney goes on to write how funerals have always made him sad. He has never voluntarily tried to change that state of mind, and he has grieved time and again over the loss of his near and dear ones. It is something that has always engrossed him, standing at the funeral of someone you love and looking at the wooden coffin as it gets buried six feet under.
Mooney continues to state:
“I feel like if I weren’t sad, I wouldn’t be paying the appropriate tribute,” I tell him.
“Why not? Let’s question that thought,” he says again. “Why should you live in pain? Would your friend who died want you to feel that way? Or would your friend want you to be strong so you can support the other people there in a suffering state? See, you’re focused on you.”
Robbins explains how he divides every event of his life in one of the two categories; it is either suffering or a state of beauty. He further claims that the beautiful state isn’t just happiness alone.
“If you’re happy all the time, your face hurts”.
The beautiful state may also be courage, joy, creativity, and a number of other things, as long as it isn’t suffering.
Mooney goes on to write about Robbins.
“Robbins is probably the biggest name in the history of the personal-development field. At 56, he’s been coaching people for nearly four decades, since he worked for Jim Rohn in the late 1970s. He’s advised presidents and business geniuses and some of the greatest athletes in history. He still talks to hundreds of thousands of people every year, in countries all over the world, with attendees paying up to $10,000 per seminar. He’s an incredible salesperson, and although I’m skeptical by nature, he’s selling me now on the idea of walking through life in a beautiful state.”
Robbins claims that his idea of funeral is paying homage to the person who has been lost by all of his or her lost ones.
He says, “the best way to pay homage is to bring the best part of their spirit to the people there and remind people that there’s a part of this person we can all take in. And the best way to honour them is to take that in and live that part as part of us.”
Robbins explains how most of the funeral grief is just a cultural construction which determines how much and how long we should mourn our loss.
“I’ve had the same thoughts as you. Some people stay depressed for a year, because that’s their belief system. It’s nothing but conditioning. It has nothing to do with reality. They believe, I should suffer for a year and then I can be happy. But when you suffer for a year, it’s pretty hard to rewire yourself from that”, said Robbins.
He also explains the social construct of funerals by citing the example of the Indian holy city, Varanasi. He has been there several times and witnessed the celebration of funerals because Hindus have believed for years that leaving the mortal world through this holy city would mean eternal salvation.
Robbins feels that staying in a state of suffering also takes away our ability to help other people when they are in need of it.
Mooney goes on to quote Tony Robbins:
“A beautiful state is infectious when it’s real…I’m not talking about the manufactured, I’m-happy-no-matter-what type of thing. It’s not just happy. It could be having the courage to say, ‘None of us should sit here and suffer. Death happens to all of us and none of us knows when it’s here, so let’s use this to live more fully.’”
Robbins feels that questioning the unquestioned is the primary premise of life, our only way to reach the beautiful stage.
“All my suffering, it didn’t come from the past…It just came from believing certain thoughts. And now I just question those thoughts.”
Robbins has tried to stay in this state for over a year after he learnt it from a friend.
“As soon as he made that decision, though, it was put to the test. After a snowboarding injury, he went in for what he thought would be routine rotator cuff surgery and was told his spine was severely compressed and he was at risk of paralysis. Not long after that, he says he started having small memory lapses for the first time in his life, and he was told that years of eating tuna and swordfish had left him with off-the-charts high mercury levels in his body.
“The doctor looked at me,” Robbins says. “He told me: ‘We have no great solutions”.
Robbins has every bit of success he has ever wanted, from the house, to a movie guest appearance (Shallow Hal), to owning a part of over 30 companies and making around $5 billion in sales every year. He has coached everyone from corporate executives to big shot soccer players. He also has a best-selling book to his name, “Money: Master the Game”, and he has also contributed largely to the Feeding America programme. His Netflix documentary and Facebook live chat also garnered tremendous number of viewers from around the world.
The self-made man doesn’t consider himself a motivational speaker.
He says, “People get hungry for different reasons…But that’s the common denominator. I’m not here to motivate anyone. That’s such [B.S.]. I’ve never done that. But I do believe in energy. If your energy is low, nothing’s gonna happen. So I create an environment that’s like a rock concert. Only instead of 2½ hours, it’s 50 hours or 72 hours.”
He emphasises on the importance and need of entertainment over education and awareness. According to him those can only come once he has your attention with entertainment.
“He sees himself as a strategist, a sort of all-purpose consultant for all aspects of life. “I don’t teach people just to solve their problems,” he clarifies. “I help them solve what caused the problem in the first place, which is their beliefs and values and goals.”
This is why he also doesn’t like the term guru. The title of the Netflix documentary is taken from something Robbins says often. He says the word conjures a cult-like figure, telling people what to believe and what to do.
“I’m the exact opposite,” he says. “If you watch what I do, it’s ‘What do you believe? What do you value? What’s most important to you compared to how you’re living, and let’s shift that so that you’re living consistent with what matters to you.’ My life is not your model. You’ve got to figure out what matters most to you. I’m here to help people have a more extraordinary life. I think most people already have one; they’re just not appreciating it fully.”
Robbins has had his fair share of struggles from parental abuse from his mother to a stubborn father who was ready to refuse a family meal offered by a man of charity on Thanksgiving. He also talks about how a nearly fatal tumour in his pituitary gland has made him this ginormous specimen of a man.
Mooney writes about how their interaction affected him.
“As he talks, he makes goals and dreams seem possible, or at least he makes the idea of working toward them seem more worthwhile. I spent five hours with him in his house, talking about everything from psychology to writing habits to what kind of protein bars he eats (a Canadian brand I’d never heard of before). He’s had a lot of ups and downs in life, but he strikes me as someone who earnestly wants to help people, to ease some of the suffering in the world. Maintaining a focus on philanthropy, Robbins is active in multiple charities, most notably providing a grand total of 250 million meals through a partnership with Feeding America (they’re on target to feed a billion people over the next eight years). There’s something about his confidence that makes you believe you can be a better person.
“I left his house trying hard to maintain a beautiful state the way he described it to me. In the next few days, I had both long airport delays and a hellacious stomach bug. I tried to remember the idea of a beautiful state. When I was feeling bothered by something, I challenged my own expectations.
“The delayed flight was annoying at first, but then I thought about what an incredible achievement air transportation truly is, how fortunate I am to get to fly so inexpensively, and how only a few generations back this journey would have taken weeks. And although I’d land a few hours later than originally expected, I got to watch a pretty impressive storm from the large airport windows and have a drink with some equally stranded strangers.
“While my stomach bug was physically unpleasant and quite disruptive to my plans, it didn’t take long before I was looking for things to appreciate. I started thinking about how wonderful my wife is for taking care of me while I was feeling so bad, and how much knowledge I gained after I was inspired to spend a day reading and learning about norovirus.”
Even Robbins wife, Sage, has had an incredible emotional and mental shift after meeting him, writes Mooney. They have gone through good times and bad, and they have been together through each other’s thick and thin, health and illnesses, and come out strong as partners.
Robbins says, “I’ve lived in a beautiful state, in those little oxygen tubes they put you in, it feels like a freaking coffin…You’re stuck there for two hours, and if you have to pee it takes eight minutes to get out”, referring to the detox therapy he had to go through for excessive mercury in his body which was a result of eating too much tuna and other sea fishes”.
Mooney concludes his piece by saying, “Maybe he should be scared or worried, but he questions those thoughts. He tells me he’s feeling better these days, he’s still detoxing. It hasn’t kept him off the stage, he says, and he hasn’t canceled any events. And now when he talks to people, he reminds them to get their metals checked—and to eat less fish. He smiles, living in a beautiful state.”