Musings on Tony Robbins documentary and leadership

I watched the Tony Robbins documentary on Netflix last week.

If you know anything about Tony, he is a life and business coach who has mentored high profile people such as Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, and the 76er’s basketball team. His net worth is valued at some $480 million today. Despite the celebrity roster, Tony is most interested in helping the common man. To this end, he hosts an annual seminar in Boca Raton, Florida. And for several days, he holds up a rather stark mirror to each of his attendees. Cameras are allowed behind the scenes for the very first time.

In the film, Tony has a moment where he is hosting one of his trademark live ‘interventions’ with one of his attendees. A young 19-year old girl is outlining her challenges in dealing with a father who was a career drug abuser. Tony poses a challenge to her: Blame him for all the bad stuff he created in her life.

But this is the truly powerful moment for me: Blame him for the good stuff too.

“Blame elegantly. Blame intelligently. Blame effectively,” Tony says.

If you know a little about my story, you know that my father and I had a fractured relationship for many years. He was someone who raised his hand on my mother every chance he got. He was someone prone to fits of rage, which meant he would disappear for periods of time. He was someone who supported my brother, who is a 5-time federal felon. But he did not speak to me for the last 15 years, despite all my success. I left home at 18 and never returned meaningfully.

Was I angry? Hell yes. Was I resentful at times. Sure. But when he stopped paying for college, I wrote a 100 letters till I got a scholarship to stay in school. When he forced me to become a doctor, I went and visited graduate schools by myself and paid for a Masters in journalism. And when he wrote me a letter in 1999 saying he never wanted to speak to me again, I built a fortress of amazing friends who I am proud to call my family. Some of whom are LadyDrinks members.

“Blame him for the shit,” bellows Tony Robbins in I am Not Your Guru, “Blame him for the beauty too.” So last week, I sat down and I blamed my dad for everything good in my life: for teaching me to ride a bike. For teaching me how to drive. For teaching me how to change the oil in my car. For teaching me to gather up my school bag and still walk my eighth-grade-self to school at 7am, when he had just thrown the toaster oven out the window in a fit of rage.

This week marks one year since his passing away. For the first time in 15 years of us not speaking, this reversing-the-paradigm exercise filled me with love for him. If he had been the father I wanted him to be, I would not be the driven, ambitious, goal-minded woman I am today. And for that I am grateful.

Think about the relief — and the power — in that.

Who was someone in your life who was a real thorn in your side? Can you remember? Can you articulate all the ways they propelled you to become the person you are today? What reflex reaction did you have in whom you have become? Write to me. I would love to hear.

As always, we are building a curriculum with a theme of leadership this fall for LadyDrinks. We cannot be what we cannot see.

We begin with the LadyDrinks table at the SKN Foundation Gala September 17th to encourage South Asians to engage in critical dialogue around cancer. Buy tix here.

The next day, several of us board a plane to attend the Annual LadyDrinks Retreat to Jackson Hole, Wyoming September 18th-22nd.

The 15-person dinner on September 29th will be held at a private Soho loft with a chef and a mixologist. It’s also where Sarika Doshi, co founder of Rank and Style, outlines how she sold her business to the No. 6 person at Facebook. This is sold out with one seat remaining. Buy tix here.

October 13th, we screen Komal Minhas and Erin Bagwell’s film “Dream Girl” following the trajectories of 5 women entrepreneurs, 4 of whom are women are color. Buy tix here.