My First Tony Robbins Experience — It’s the Real Deal

I arrived at my first Unleash the Power Within event feeling skeptical with a lot of doubts. Is it all a scam? Is it a cult? Are these people just desperate? Does it have any lasting effect for people? Like most of you, I have heard of Tony Robbins before. First in Shallow Hal. Then through random podcasts or articles I would read. Recently I watched the Netflix documentary.

Even when my friend Stephen offered me a ticket (he’s on the Tony Robbins team), I was still hesitant. He said, “just go…if nothing else, you’ll get to see how an epic event is run and it’ll be a unique experience”. I said ok.

I told a few friends that I was going and it turned out a bunch of them were interested in going too, so a group of 7 of us ended up all going together. As we walked up to the SAP Center, I started to feel excited.

As 7 entrepreneurs and startup types from the Bay Area, we definitely weren’t the typical attendees. If I’m being really honest, I was also feeling a little judgmental as I scanned the thousands of people eagerly waiting in line. Like “these people must really need this but I’m just here to analyze the event. I don’t REALLY need this like they all do.” There were people from all different age groups, 54 countries and a range of professions. A lot of them were business owners, in real estate, fitness, coaching etc. Others were in management positions, teachers or a whole random assortment of jobs. There were a few celebrity actors there too. Some people showed up to get help with their relationships. Some were looking for a confidence boost. Some wanted a raise or to start their own business. Some were fighting depression. I’d soon learn how wrong my judgments were and how alike we all are. Everyone has something they want to change. I’m grateful for that lesson.

10,500 people total in the crowd. Every seat filled.

The first thing I was surprised by was the intensity. 13 hour days, no stopping, no breaks. If you want to go to the bathroom or get food, you’re going to miss something. Most people just bring all their food with them so they don’t have to get out of their seats.

Tony’s stamina is incredible. He never sits, you rarely see him drink water, his energy never dips. He’s just on stage, in “peak state”, for hours on end. It’s crazy.

And every 30–40 minutes or so, they hype up the audience, blasting dance music, lights going crazy, Tony getting people jumping up and down, smashing two big sticks together. The energy in the stadium would be quiet and attentive one moment and then go absolutely insane in an instant.

On day one, he brought Pitbull out for a surprise show and talk.

It was incredible how he controls the crowd. The first day was a lot of priming and essentially teaching people how to interact. When he says “SAY I” everyone says “I!” and throws their hand up. When he claps, you start clapping. When he says “SAY YES” you knew there were two more “SAY YES”s coming. When he said “How quick?” everyone snaps. By day 3 I found myself doing this without even hearing what he was saying. The influence of the crowd and the trained response plays an important role in getting you to become immersed in the experience.

On the first day, I found myself over analyzing everything. My friends did too. There are things that Tony says that I don’t agree with, or some that just seem flat out scientifically incorrect. He says things that seem cheesy, and makes you do things that make you feel stupid. There are some points where they try to sell you on other products. All the things that I came in “skeptical” about, I was on the look out for them, and when you’re looking for something, it’s not hard to find. Still, I was enjoying it, learning a lot of good information, and Stephen who gave me the ticket was right… the event production was insane. The way they use music, lights, sounds, body movement, all these elements to create the experience. I took a lot of inspiration since I run conferences and will definitely be implementing some of their techniques.

Day one finished with the fire walk at midnight where you walk over hot coals. It was a lot of fun, and he spent the whole day tying a lot of meaning to the fire walk so it became about more than just walking on coals. It became about realizing you can accomplish more than you think, about taking the leap, about getting into what he calls a “peak state” where your mind and body are in sync and you’re ready to take on the world. The fire walk was a fun time.

Even Oprah has done the firewalk!

On day two, I tried to go in with a more open mind. I tried to stop analyzing everything, and just commit to the experience. I figured, millions of people have done this, and everyone else in the crowd seemed to be immersed, I might as well give it a shot. So I made an attempt to stop analyzing everything, and went all in. My friends and I all sat separately so we wouldn’t feel self conscious around each other. That’s definitely the way to go. I started to get more into the activities, even if I felt silly, it felt good to let loose and share the experience with the people around me.

The real powerful stuff, the real “breakthroughs” happen for people when Tony puts you through these deep thought exercises. For example on day two, he had you visualize your perfect life in the future, and then had you imagine that it was being pulled away from you, stretching away like a rubber band. You feel the pain of your ideal future pulling away, and you feel yourself moving back toward where you don’t want to be any more. He makes you feel it, and express your feelings vocally and with your body. It’s all about feeling and associating real pain with the beliefs that you want to change and associating joy with the beliefs you replace them with. It’s hard to explain in a post what these experiences were actually like. He did a lot of them. Some of them would go on for 1–2 hours, so you can imagine the depth of the emotion that people would feel. I didn’t realize that this was all just building up to a much heavier, much bigger experience later.

On day three, the “transformation day”, those mental experiences were taken to the next level. This is the day where shit gets real, and you’re going to have a chance to truly change your belief about yourself, rewiring your brain and setting yourself up with tools you can use to maintain your new belief system in the future. He tells you to go to the bathroom now, because you won’t be able to leave for 4 hours. He asks all the kids in the room to leave, because we’re about to express our deepest pains in a very vocal, even violent way and it can be traumatizing for them. I thought to myself, “oh shit”, and off we went, into this 4 hour emotional journey.

First he has us write down our limiting beliefs and share them with each other. When I first wrote down my limiting belief, that “I need people to like me in order to be happy”, I didn’t really think it would be that emotional for me. It was something I’ve been aware of for a long time, and I’m open about talking about it. Then he has us start to think about how that belief has hurt us and the people around us in the past, and how it will in the future. “What have you failed to accomplish? Who have you hurt? Who is no longer in your life? What do you think of yourself? Look at yourself in the mirror, how do you look?” He really makes you feel the pain in the strongest way possible.

As he took us deeper and deeper into truly feeling the full weight of our limiting belief, the experience that first created it, how it’s impacted our lives, how it will impact our lives in the future… deepening that pain more and more, I, and everyone around me, started to cry.

I don’t cry often, I can’t actually remember the last time I really cried. At first it was just a couple tears. Then for hours, he builds and builds and builds on that pain. He tells us to intentionally double and triple the pain because we WANT to associate the worst possible pain with this belief so we never want to feel it again. I was straight balling my eyes out… boogers, sobs, full on crying harder than I have in over a decade. It was real. It was visceral.

He has you scream out how the pain makes you feel and there were moments where the room felt like the depths of hell because it was dark with red lights, and 10,000 people were screaming like they were being tortured in unison. It was brutal, but necessary for uprooting our deeply held beliefs.

After feeling and expressing the pain, he works you up to a more positive response to the belief and gives you the chance to stand up to it. Then you come up with a new belief. My new belief was that “I need no one’s acceptance but my own”. He then has you celebrate that new belief with dancing and chants to reinforce that belief with extreme joy.

Associate the bad with pain, and the good with joy. It was that simple. I walked away from the event feeling physically and emotionally lighter. I recognized all the ways that the belief was holding me back and made a commitment to never let that happen again. It’s not just something I’m saying, I actually feel like that belief has changed inside me. I have more clarity now. More confidence. It unlocked a whole new level of my self that I always knew was there, but couldn’t get over that wall created by that limiting belief.

I’m writing this 3 days after that experience and so far, it’s stuck with me. The big question is, will it stick with me in the long run? Tony gives you some tools and advice for maintaining it, and keeping your momentum. Some of them are things you can do on your own. Some of them involve getting a coach, or attending more events. Yes there were upsells, but if any of his other events or services are as valuable as this was, they’re worth it.

So in summary… I went in skeptical, but came out with an experience that I believe has changed my life for the better in a very real way. I also had a great time, met a lot of interesting people that I wouldn’t usually meet. I learned a lot about how to run an amazing event. As a speaker myself, I took a lot of notes on how he speaks and engages with the crowds and have already put some of it into action at a conference I spoke at today. It worked SO well, someone actually came up to me after and asked me what pump up music I listened to before that talk in order to have so much energy. No pump up song man… I’m just my peak state.

If given the opportunity, I definitely recommend you go. Everyone I went with thought it was well worth their investment as well. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else and you’ll get to dance around a lot. Best case scenario, you can change your mindset for the better for the rest of your life. Worth a shot.

Thanks to Stephen Litman for the ticket, I’m eternally grateful. Thanks to Shaan, Jonathan, Adam, Jason, Tyler and Sonia for sharing the experience with me and for the comedic relief.