That stupid advert kept popping up on Facebook. “Be the best you” or “Super power your life” or whatever it said.
It was one of those adverts where someone good looking smiles into the sunshine, dressed in smart-casual clothing with a smug expression on their face because their life is so fucking together.
I’m not sure how Facebook does it, but I’d been considering getting a life coach for a while and it had been throwing Tony Robbins Performance Coaching adverts at me – like an annoying sibling flicking peas across the dinner table – ever since.
Long story short, a week or two of this mind-reading bombardment and I’m in the middle of my free coaching consultation with some exuberant American called Dominic from the Tony Robbins Foundation who sounds exactly like you’d expect.
My British cynicism is sky high as I try to listen without prejudice.
He talks to me about being clear on what I want from coaching. I told him I’d like to control my nervous disposition and anxieties and he said that achieving “emotional mastery” was an “awesome outcome.”
What a yank.
“80% of success is psychology!” he exclaimed in an accent so American it may as well have manifested itself as a bald eagle flying out of my phone, playing the Star Spangled Banner on a bird-sized guitar whilst wearing a MAGA hat and shouting “’MERICA!”.
Dominic skipped to his sales pitch. He needn’t, I’d already decided to pay for a year of coaching. It wasn’t the call that swung it, I’d already decided before I picked up the phone. I decided when I realised 99% of the time, the only thing stopping me from getting what I want out of life is… me.
I was sick of it.
It was time for action. No more reading, no more procrastination, no more delays. I committed and gave an over-excited Dominic my card details. Gulp.
Let’s Talk Costs
Costs will change due to exchange rates and the rates themselves may vary annually, but at the time of the call in early 2018, the GBP amount for 12 months of coaching was £5,856 broken down to £488 a month.
However, that price was significantly reduced to £3,703 if I paid as a lump sum.
Obviously, I paid the lump sum.
That gave me 36 half-hour coaching sessions by phone, approximately 1 every 10 days over the course of a year.
They also included an Unleash the Power Within conference ticket (which is at least £900 on its own) for London 2019.
I got off the phone as my fiancée walked into the kitchen. On a wave of Dominic fuelled enthusiasm, I excitedly told her I’d bought coaching for £3,700.
She looked at me blankly and said “What about the wedding money?”
Oh fuck. The wedding money.
I just spent all of the wedding savings on telephone coaching without even thinking.
How did I forget?!
Ah fuck you Dominic, this is all your doing. You and your 80% psychology nonsense, you over excited American.
This is why I need my British cynicism, it stops me doing stupid stuff like this.
Still, I was committed. Besides, there was a £900 cancellation fee. What’s done is done. I’d find more money somehow. Anyway, in a year’s time I’ll probably be rolling in it. Bring on the sunshine, the smart-casual clothing and the shit-eating grin. I’m joining the big time and getting my life together. See you later suckers.
My First Call
I was assigned a coach I’ll refer to as ‘D’. I’ll use an initial because he has a uniquely spelt name that’s easily searchable, and he might not want to be identified.
He’s Dutch. I was hoping for an American with Tony Robbins style patter. In fact, I’m sure everyone who signs up for his coaching wants someone just like Tony.
But my fears were allayed. Our initial call was an hour (they always are) and I quickly warmed to him. He was a fair bit older than me and I liked that. I wanted wisdom, not empty enthusiasm.
D told me he’s like a sports coach, he can advise and suggest but it is me who has to put in the work. Great! I wasn’t afraid of hard work, I welcomed it, I just wanted guidance and someone telling me I can do it. Sports coach me all you like!
We chatted about my anxiety issues and how it dominates my work life. He said he had some tactics to address those issues there and then. So we did.
NLP and the Triad
D got me to think of a time I felt relaxed and in control. How I stood or sat, how I held my head, where I looked, my entire physiology in that moment. Then, how I spoke and sounded, the words I used in that scenario; my language. Then finally what I was thinking and concentrating on at the time; my focus.
This was the triad: physiology, language, focus. It’s a Tony Robbins model of getting in ‘state’ and standard NLP practice.
I was told to evoke all these confident feelings as clearly as I could and then anchor them to a movement so I could evoke them again at will. This would be one easier the more I practised.
Below is the triad I wrote and sent to D after the session. Take a look, it might help you understand the model a little more. Bear in mind this is my own feelings and thoughts and won’t be relevant to you. But the basic NLP principles will still apply.
D told me to give my triad a name (I’ve removed that information as the name seems a weirdly personal secret, even though it’s not) and to practice getting in this state at least twice a day; then we scheduled our next call.
What Do You Want From Life?
I was impressed with how well the triad worked. It really did. D told me to re-enforcing the triad anchor every time I experienced little victories to compound its power to flip me into a confident state.
I was eager to try out more NLP techniques, so we did one in my next session but it didn’t really work for me.
It was about making a negative moment in my mind small and dark and pushing a positive bright moment through it using a “woosh” noise.
It didn’t resonate with me but I also didn’t practice it. I just tried it a couple of times and thought “meh”. So take my opinion with a pinch of salt.
NLP aside, we started planning. D asked me what I wanted from life.
This is a daunting question.
Everyone thinks they know the answer, no one without a lot of introspection and regular course correction, really does.
People say they want to win the lottery but it’s been proven that it almost never leads to happiness. People say they want to sit on a beach drinking cocktails, but the human brain won’t let you do that for too long without ennui joining you. People say they want to be happy without ever defining the details what happiness is for them.
Most people don’t really know what they want. And right then, neither did I.
Tony has a solution for this insidious lack of clarity, in the form of a plan he calls the RPM. I’ll explain that in a bit, but before I made my own RPM, I was told to do some free thinking exercises under D’s instruction.
As homework, he told me to close my eyes and imagine everything I wanted, to see it in right in front of me, as if I were there. All the different areas of my life were to be put under scrutiny. What does perfect look like to me?
Once enough things came to me, I had to write it all down, none stop for 15 minutes. A free flow of ideas. Then from that brain dump, work out what I wanted.
I did not do this.
I thought I knew what I wanted.
Just like cocktails on the beach, I had it all worked out. I didn’t need to think about it. I made the same mistake as everyone else. Even though I was paying for D’s advice, I didn’t listen to it.
This is how we all get in our own way. We are our own blocker.
I was completely wrong to skip the thinking exercise but in hindsight, I subconsciously did this to avoid thinking about specifics.
Specifics are scary. They define not only what you want, but the parameters of failure if you don’t get them.
This is why we avoid thinking about them.
I know it sounds mad to pay £3,700 for coaching and then not do the work, but it’s worth pointing out this sort of resistance is normal; confronting it is what coaching is all about. It’s not a perfect, linear process, it’s a dig for discovery.
D kept me as accountable as he could, but I avoided other chunks of homework he gave me and I put a token effort in to much of the rest. I quickly fell into a pattern where I strived to make each coaching call as easy as possible.
I couldn’t help it. We naturally seek the path of least resistance even if that resistance is slowly taking everything from us.
As Steven Pressfield said: “You think resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.”
Goal Setting and the RPM
D and I set about writing an RPM using the visioning exercise (yes, the one I didn’t do) and the chats we had together. Let’s talk about that RPM.
RPM stands for:
- Massive Action
The basic premise is that a to do list doesn’t give you the emotional leverage needed to get shit done. It’s just a list of shoulds rather than needs.
The RPM provides that leverage by attaching actions to purpose. It removes the shoulds and leaves the needs. It provides urgency and reason, if you do it right.
So you start with the purpose. For me, these things included wanting to be my own boss, needing creative work, seeing the fruits of my labour, and so forth.
Then I attached a result to this purpose. I said I wanted to be a freelance video editor (more on how I got that wrong later). Then I wrote down the key actions to get there, the big landmarks.
A finished RPM should provide clarity on what to do over the next 6–12 months as every action is attached to an end result, and in turn that result is attached to a larger purpose.
In business terms this is what’s called a benefits dependency framework. In layman’s terms it’s putting the why before the how.
Below is my original RPM as it was first written in a session. Again it’s just mine and wont apply to you, but it illustrates what a real RPM looks like.
Things I Got From Coaching
Before we continue with the mechanics and models of coaching, and now you’ve got an idea of what Tony Robbins coaching entails, it’s a good time to segue into a list of my achievements that came directly from coaching.
I think this is probably what you’d want to know anyway. So here’s a small list of things I got from coaching within the year:
- I bought professional video editing software and I have become proficient in this new skill
- I have been consistent in booking and performing at open mic comedy nights around London in the face of relentless trepidation
- I have managed to navigate some very high level work meetings that would have had me near tears, only to be saved by the triad method
- I have discovered what I really want to do with my life, at least for now (more on that later)
- I have been able to cope with being endlessly busy by reframing it as a positive sign of things progressing (this small mind shift I went though with D was immense for dealing with stress)
- I have upped my savings through direct debits and putting money aside each time I make “luxury” purchases
- I cold shower every day and do breathing exercises at night as part of a daily Wim Hof practice
- I have a list of affirmations I often recite (though not often enough since the coaching has ended) that helps control my mood and optimism
Then there are the personality changes. Subtle but important shifts that have absolutely come directly from my coaching. These are:
- I have become considerably better at facing fears and pushing myself as a default setting – I have got comfortable being uncomfortable
- I have felt the momentum of progress and been able to make the mental link between thoughts, actions and results
- I am able to get into a positive ‘state’ much more readily which allows me to face challenges and be more productive
Essentially, I feel empowered and congruent with my emotions. I’m clear on who I am and where I’m going. This mental shift cannot be underestimated for its potency. It is this clarity I fear losing the most now the coaching has ended.
I love the person I have become over the course of the year. I don’t want to go back to the old me who felt frustrated and overwhelmed.
Once you experience growth and progress, it becomes addictive.
Regarding the other achievements, they might not seem like mountain movers, but small changes are the building blocks of progress.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes about the British cycling team who went from one of the worst teams in the world to dominating the sport on a global level by making hundreds of tiny, incremental changes.
This is how I see coaching. Tweak this. Fix that. Stop doing the other.
Small, compound actions plus mindset changes meant I have grown more in 12 months than I would have without coaching – categorically.
Things I Haven’t Got From Coaching
Now let’s get real. Perhaps I put emphasis on my personal changes because my tangible results from coaching are negligible.
To provide some balance, it is worth noting that in the year of coaching I did not:
- Earn more money
- Create a passive income or start a new business
- Get extra buffed or super healthy
- Escape my office job (which I really do dislike)
- Change my life overnight
I could argue that these weren’t my goals anyway. But perhaps none of these things happened because I didn’t work hard enough and coaching isn’t a miracle panacea for all life’s woes.
To be fair, I’ve never had money goals other than to save more, though I did have vague aspirations to start my own business. But I changed my mind on that. Talking of which, let’s get into that now.
Having a Coaching Crisis
I think it was call 18, exactly half way through the process that my crisis came to a head.
I was working towards a goal I didn’t want: Freelance video editing.
It was chosen only because it sounded achievable and it wasn’t office work.
It’s easy to think small, it’s an easy answer. We choose a rung or two above us as a goal when we really should be choosing a whole different ladder.
It’s very hard to have the faith to dream big, so we play it safe and aim low. The safer we play it, the more likely we are to achieve crappy goals, even if we don’t want them.
By call 18 I told D I didn’t want to be a freelance video editor. He’d been busy kicking my arse about finding clients, researching price points and setting up websites. He was effective but I’d pointed him in the wrong direction.
On hearing my confession D said “Well what do you want?”
There was some silence.
I said “I want to do comedy.”
I expected a laugh. I expected some doubt or cyncism. He just said “Great!” and it surprised me.
Lots of people in life are negative and will belittle your plans just to make themselves feel better. They are a reflection of their own limited thinking.
Hell, people from Lady Gaga’s school set up a Facebook page dedicated to her not becoming famous. That’s the level of fear we have about other people being happy or successful.
Yet here I am announcing to my coach I don’t want a business but instead I want to be a stand up comedian and here he was being unequivocally supportive of my choices.
“So let’s plan for that!” he said.
I know I pay him to help me, but this level of enthusiasm was refreshing.
We re-did my RPM (and others) and I have clarity in what I want for the first time, perhaps ever, in my life.
In that call, D told me this was a great moment because I’d had a breakthrough.
He was right. I thought it as an embarrassing secret, D saw it as a waking up. It’s the kind of waking up that may have never have happened if I hadn’t spent that £3,700.
Things took off a little more from there. I still had all the work I’d done on learning video editing, and by this point I was being creative on a weekly basis by vlogging. AND I had a new skill under my belt. It all came so quickly it was difficult to appreciate it wasn’t by chance.
But the real pay off for the last 6 months of coaching was D pushing me to attend stand up gigs. I remember gig 4 or 5 and I was terrified to go but I went as I had a coaching call the next day and didn’t want to tell D I’d failed.
He was a great kick up the arse. No-one else in the world was going to push me about comedy. D became the engine for progression when resistance was at its strongest.
That’s what I needed most. It is a terrifying arena to be in (I’ve written about that here) but we talked lots about dealing with fear. The triad, the mindset changes, the weekly encouragement, it all played into me overcoming what would once seem insurmountable obsticles.
Some Words of Wisdom
Before I end this piece, and talking of mindset, I’d like to write down some of the things D said to me as words of wisdom and encouragement. Here’s a simple list of them, which may help you decide on getting your own Tony Robbins’ coach.
To note, some of these quotes he made up, some he learned, and some small epiphanies I wrote down during moments of inspiration in my sessions.
- The energy you put out is the energy you receive
- Nothing has a meaning apart from the meaning you give to it
- Progress is power
- Things don’t change, you have to change
- Let go and believe
- Imposter syndrome is just the comfort zone
- I am not afraid of the storms for I am learning how to sail my ship
- Give yourself permission
- Look at your purpose instead of looking at your excuses
- If you don’t have a plan for your life then someone will make you fit into their plan
- You won’t achieve your goals by being flexible
- Results only come from consistency
- Asking for money is a declaration that I am skilful enough to provide a service
- It might not be my fault but it is my responsibility to deal with
- A courageous man dies once, a coward dies a thousand times
- The bigger your comfort zone, the smaller your life
It’s been half a year since the coaching and I’ve noticeably slowed down in my creative output and pursuit of my goals. I’m nowhere as inactive as before my time with D, but this slow drift back to entropy tells me two things:
- Coaching has had a lasting effect but as expected it wanes over time
- Coaching works – but it works best if you continue with it
The truth is D was a great coach and I was lucky. I’ve read mixed reviews about Tony Robbins coaching, some people with lacklustre coaches, or two or three coaches over the year because people kept leaving the organisation. Thankfully, D was dedicated to the cause.
He wasn’t as effective as he could have been simply because I didn’t do all the work instructed and I gave him mixed messages about what I wanted, much like we give ourselves mixed messages all this time.
This is important: We lie to ourselves.
Don’t labour under the misapprehension that you do not.
Physicist and total genius Richard Feynman once said:
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
So expect a bumpy ride. It’s always you getting in the way of you. Your coach can’t help you if you don’t put in the work or if you’re not going to bare your soul and tell them the truth.
So is it worth £3,700?
I don’t know. How can we measure human growth in such blunt terms? I haven’t made £3,700 back in profit, so in that sense, no, it’s not worth it. In fact, I’ve spent money on video editing software, on driving to endless gigs in London, and on the coaching itself. In terms of cold hard cash, I’m very much down.
But in terms of time — the only commodity you can’t stockpile, buy back or make more of – then I’d say I’ve made giant mental leaps that I could not have done without coaching. I’ve sped up the process of getting shit done and it feels like I’m in credit. So in that regard yes, it’s very worth it.
Ask yourself this: Do we say therapy isn’t worth it because we don’t make money doing it? Do we say holidays are pointless because they’re a balance sheet liability? Do we avoid long walks, or visits to the beach or nice food because none of it generates cash? Of course we don’t.
Coaching is a helping hand. It’s not a magic pill. It might not be for everyone but it’s sure highlighted how I’m limiting myself and since coaching I’ve been able to remove some of those limits.
I’d often come to the sessions stressed out and overwhelmed and I’d leave them a mere 30 minutes later feeling refreshed and capable. “I needed this” I’d always say at the end, as D would remind me. Good old D. Thank you.
Ultimately, I’m very pleased I spent that money. In fact, I break out in a cold sweat thinking about not doing it and being the same old me.
I got a taste of my potential and for the first time in ages, I’m excited for what I can do. Nothing seems impossible anymore. It’s just whether or not I decide to try. And that alone is money in the bank.