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What happens when a Skeptical Behavioural Scientist goes to a Tony Robbins event.

Darren Hill
Jan 26, 2018 · 10 min read
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Curiosity killed the cat

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Grumpy Cat with Dunning-Kruger Effect in full-swing

[Part 1] I’m curious. Just a lil’ bit.

Tim Ferriss, who’s podcasts I find refreshingly direct and rational, raved about Robbins. OK. Surely just an outlier, right? But then a never ending series of guests on his show also raved about him. People I respected and thought were impressive. All giving a huge wrap to the six-foot-twenty-seven-inch high motivational monolith. Hmmm…what’s this all about?

[Part 2] My first, first-hand Tony Robbins (TR) experience

My first real exposure to TR wasn’t one of his events, it was actually his book, Money Mastery. A huge tome of over 700 pages, I bought it in a moment of weakness but also because financial investing is of interest to me.

[Part 3] Cant. Look. Away.

From memory there was more than a little hubbub when the documentary finally landed. I like thousands of others jumped onto Netflix and watched ‘I am not your guru’ when it hit the airwaves.

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Welcome Darren…first, I will hypnotise you with the whiteness of my teeth…

We’re going in LIVE baby…

So there we found ourselves, my wife Ali and I. Standing in a queue so long it could be seen from space. Not a great start. I’m really not a fan of crowds nor lines. If you’re phobic to either of these, then a Tony Robbins event is most certainly not a place for you. Unless you’re going some extreme form of desensitisation, it’s going to be very, very painful.

Our preparation principles

Our commitments prior to entering the room were the following three things.

  1. Experience first, judge later—we decided that simply sitting critiquing the experience for four days wasn’t the best use of our (or Tony’s) time. There would be plenty of time for critique later.
  2. Above all else, stay curious—across a multi-day immersive event, there’d no doubt be things we’d not like. But rather than emotionally react to them, we’d keep curiosity as our friend.
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take me to your leader….

The results…

So straight up, as an overall sensory experience, a TR program is a total assault on your senses. It’s effectively a 50 hour rock-concert. With all the dancing, jumping, shouting included. But I’m guessing you might already know that. So let’s jump straight to my observations, judgements and outtakes.

What I liked

To be 100% honest there was a heck of a lot to like. The whole ‘show’ was tight, the production values amazing and you can see it’s been years in the making. But to sum it up into two key areas;

The time flies

He’s a master of running a room. They have a sense for when the crowd’s energy is dampening and use music, movement, humour or shock tactics to keep you active rather than passive in your learning experience. As the days go on you start to crave the movement and energy. And whilst the days are long, you actually get more energised as the days roll on.

It’s entertaining

It’s a total rock concert. So if you’d prefer a quiet gin bar as your form of entertainment, then steer well clear. But if you like the energy of a crowd committing to goodwill, then it’s pretty magic.

What I learned

Heck, I took pages and pages of notes. And I’m not a huge note taker. Rather than pure data and studies, much of TR’s learning is story based and summarised into key learning chunks. His method is certainly to take a key point and drill down on it relentlessly.

Out of your head and into your body

I’d love a dollar for everyone who’s said this cliche to me over the years, but i didn’t really understand it until my TR experience. Sure, there have been times surfing, playing sports or in sheer high intensity training when you truly move out of your cognition and thinking and get into a pure body state.

There’s always something under the surface

It obviously relates to the first point, but as humans we’re blessed by this beautiful, big brain. And it’s a curse. So often we feel we can out think a problem, develop a strategy, map and chunk a plan and it’ll all be sweet. Won’t it?

Prime your state (especially before making key decisions)

There’s a mountain of research out there to support Robbins’ cornerstone approach to living life on your terms;

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What I didn’t like

Of course across the program it wasn’t perfect. It was certainly up in my best learning experiences I’ve been to, but like anything, there are things that weren’t appealing and needed improving in my opinion. In order from things that were most unpalatable;

Gender Bias

Tony is a powerful masculine force. It’s in keeping with his absolute certainty. But almost every single success reference is male. His stories are about male friends and associates. The visuals when used are 90% male. I’m hypothesising Tony carries a bias towards powerful male role models (perhaps because of a lack of his own in formative years) and this shows up time and again in his language, references and stories.

Heavy selling

They don’t miss. There’s plenty of selling. I have a pretty thick skin around that, so it didn’t spoil my experience. But for those who hate being sold to, you’re gonna hate it.

Big statements

Big Tony can tend to slip into hyperbole from time to time. Some very general sweeping statements that sometimes actually contradict themselves, but it’s not a huge deal. Most keynote speakers (me included) are guilty of this less-than-heinous crime.

Terrible seats

We’re talking seriously long days. 9.00am starts and 2.00am finishes. Total marathon conferencing. Crammed into rows on Day 1 made for a cramped, uncomfortable experience. We remedied in following days by sitting in aisle seats which gave us the chance to move better and made a huge difference. So if you’re going to a TR event, spend the extra couple of hours in the queue. It’s worth it.

Final Thoughts

I have travelled the journey from pure cynic to convert. So if you started to read this piece looking for additional evidence to support your confirmation bias that Tony Robbins is a joke, then my guess right now is you reckon I’m a tosser too. That’s OK, you’ll join a decent queue. I’ll sleep easy.

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Darren Hill

Written by

Thinker. Reader. Writer. Speaker. Unfortunate it rarely occurs in that order. Behavioural Scientist: Co-founder Pragmatic Thinking www.pragmaticthinking.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +687K people. Follow to join our community.

Darren Hill

Written by

Thinker. Reader. Writer. Speaker. Unfortunate it rarely occurs in that order. Behavioural Scientist: Co-founder Pragmatic Thinking www.pragmaticthinking.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +687K people. Follow to join our community.

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