“So, what was Tony Robbins like?”
After returning from Tony Robbins’ Unleash The Power Within seminar, I have been flooded with questions about the experience.
I’ve been telling people the same thing — “I can’t describe my experience quickly. I’ll unpack some thoughts in a blog post”
This is that blog post!
Quick TL;DL — if you’re reading this, open a new tab, and buy tickets to the next UPW seminar, wherever it is in the world. There is no blocker that doesn’t have a solution. There is no obstacle too great that should prevent this. The ROI on your life is that immediate and significant. For everyone: Buy the ticket right now, and figure the rest out later.”
Is that too long for you? Here’s an even shorter TL;DR — “LOL HOLY SHIT”
How I Got Here
For years I read everything related to personal development that I could get my hands on. Like most people who are well read in the discipline, I realized quickly that there was good content out there but that there were a lot of charlatans and hucksters.
One of the people I could never quite get a handle on was Tony Robbins. I always saw my personal development related directly to skill set in my career, so people like Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy made sense because they did everything with a bend toward sales. While I had read a ton, I hadn’t read anything by Tony Robbins.
2015 was when my curiosity toward Tony started to pique. After a group of co-workers attended Tony’s Unleash The Power Within, I asked a few people I trusted for some feedback.
I didn’t ask just anyone. I asked specific people whom I respected. People who could see through the fluff. People who called BS on con artists. I heard the same response. “Tony is the real deal”
By 2019 and my personal development journey was not in a great place. My life was a series of promotions, excellence at work and learning to become a leader. At the same time, I got married and started a family when my son Theo was born in 2018. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work on myself, it was just that there wasn’t any time. Personal development had taken a backseat to the demands of life and work, and I knew I needed something. Some type of spark. A reset to get some mojo back.
So, I blindly bought a ticket the next Unleash The Power Within seminar.
Unleashing The Power Within
Logistics are fairly straight forward. UPW is a 4 day seminar that lasts over 50 hours — there isn’t time for anything else. I purposely gave myself an easy travel day, flying in mid-day Wednesday. The only thing on the agenda that day was getting registration done so I could avoid it on Thursday morning.
Registration was smooth and effortless on Wednesday. This turned out to be a great idea — I waited in line for 45 mins on Wednesday, whereas lines has wait times for hours and a lot of people missed the beginning.
With registration complete and everything ready to go, I woke up Thursday morning both excited and nervous. Excited that I was about to undergo a new experience, but nervous that I was going to a freaking Tony Robbins event and I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.
I set one ground rule for myself before starting: I was going to play ALL OUT. That meant I was going to fully participate, be a part of the process, and have an open mind.
Day 1 started as I expected. The vibe is closer to a EDM festival than a seminar, and you are dancing to bad 90’s techno and current hits. They are getting your energy up for Tony’s arrival, and it works. The reaction of the crowd to Tony’s arrival is something I’ve never experienced. I’ve been to Stanley Cup games, and the sound of a goal is 1/10th the volume of what happened when Tony arrived.
If you are familiar with Tony’s ideas, Day 1 will be very comfortable for you. Thursday is a overview of many of the strategies and philosophies that you put into practice later. If you have read Tony’s books or attended any short workshops, you have heard some of this before.
Ultimately, it is fear that holds us back. Even the courageous and successful, who often use the word “stress” in place of “fear”. Whether we can face those fears or not determines the quality of our lives.
Everything begins with your state. Your state is your attitude. Your mood. The vibe you give off into the world. Your state determines how you react to stimuli in the world. How you approach problems and challenges.
When your state leads you to actions and decisions that serve your goals, you are in a beautiful state, anything else is suffering.
You have the power to overcome your fear/stress if you put yourself in the right mental state and have the right strategy. It isn’t going away. Fear/stress are always consuming us. We must face it head on. Fear and stress can only harm us if we take ourselves out of the right frame of mind.
The peak of Day 1 is the famous fire walk. This has been the one thing that most people have asked about, so I’ll go into a bit of detail here.
I hadn’t thought much about the fire walk. I knew it was a part of the program, but because I have a logical mind, I wasn’t worried. I didn’t think a billion dollar corporation would let 15,000 people walk across fire without protecting themselves and limiting legal liability I honestly saw it as more of a gimmick than anything. I was there to learn the content, but because I made the commitment to participate fully, I played along.
At about 9:30pm the content is complete, and Tony begins to prep you for the firewalk. He gives you the logistical details (walk out those doors, follow the arrows outside) and gives you physical tips (look forward, etc).
Then comes the meditation. Because I was in the front row of my section, I was able to lie down for this. Tony takes you through a guided meditation and visualization exercise to get yourself in a peak state for the fire walk.
After roughly two hours (yes, two hours) of this prep in dark meditation, you are ready for the firewalk. As a group, we then shuffled outside. This was a strange process the first time. It was completely dark and 15,000 people are chanting “YES. YES. YES” at the same time, over and over. After about 30 minutes of marching and waiting in the dark, our surroundings began to illuminate as we got closer to a giant fire. At this point, people at the front of the line were beginning to turn back and walk back toward the mass of people, trying to escape.
As we marched, I repeated to myself over and over again the advice that Tony gave us. Get yourself into a peak state. Make your move. Walk with intent, do NOT walk too quick. Look forward.
The line got shorter. At that point I realized why a lot of people had been scared. These weren’t smoldering coals. This was “the chicken can’t go on the grill yet because it’s Hades in the Weber” type of coals. Not only that, but there were volunteers with wheelbarrows putting new hot coals on top. This was not some carnival game. The ground in front of me was on fire!
While I’m still learning about peak states, there was no doubt that by the time I go to the front of the line, I was in the exact peak state Tony talked about. I felt like I could have run through a brick wall at that point. I stepped up to the front. A volunteer looked at me and gave me a loud “GO!” prompt — I pounded my chest and took 6 steps over the coals.
When I got to the other side, another volunteer grabbed me while they spray cold water onto your feet. It was at that point that I realized that I had done the fire walk exactly as Tony described. While my face was melting from the heat of the coals, I don’t even think I felt warmth on my feet. I slowly walked across what felt like a carpet. No burns or blisters. Except for some charcoal, my feet didn’t look any different than before I started.
Not everyone was in the same peak state I was. I saw a ton of people medicating blisters. A few couldn’t walk due to burns. However, I felt more energized than I had in years. I was running on less than 6 hours of sleep, I had just spent the last 14 hours in a seminar, and I was so jazzed up I could not sleep.
As I would find out in the next few days, this fire walk would be the key to the rest of the weekend.
Drinking the Kool-Aid
After the peak of Day 1, I was excited to see what the rest of the weekend would bring. Day 2 started the same — I left early to grab some breakfast from a local juice bar and grab a good seat.
Day 2 is definitely a different vibe. This day is taught by Tony’s #2, Joseph McClendon III. Joseph has a different style than Tony, but is just as dynamic of a speaker and is just as good as delivering the content. This is a very valuable tactical day — you learn strategies for creating lasting change — and what that change can mean for your own life.
I found the visualizations and meditations throughout day 2–3 to be immensely beneficial. While Day 2 is content heavy and you are learning a ton, you are guided through visualizations and meditations that keep your energy up in an incredible way. However, nothing could prepare me for the emotion of Day 3.
The third day is “Transformation Day” — the day where you learn how to put everything you have learned into practice. This is the day in which you complete the Dickens Process, which many (including Tim Ferriss) have called the most practically beneficial part of UPW.
The idea is simple: You write down three limiting beliefs (“I’m not educated enough”, “I can’t run”) and three empowering beliefs. These represent the two paths — what your life would be like if you lived according to these limiting beliefs, or what your life could be like if you turned those into empowering beliefs.
This is a common practice a lot of people — including myself — have gotten wrong in the past. Rather than going right to the worst case scenario, the guidance through a step by step process is important. I’ll use a hypothetical to illustrate my point:
If someone decides they want to lose weight, it’s often because they say they don’t want to die early. However, life doesn’t work that way. You won’t just wake up one day and be in poor health and die.
Rather, imagine being overweight today. That leads to an inability of your body to self regulate blood sugar which leads to pre-diabetes which leads to diabetes which leads to limb amputation which leads to being immobile which leads to a sad death. Watching a parent die in this way can screw up a child, so your child is now a drug addict eating out of a dumpster.
Visualizing your future — in small 5 year increments — through this lens of limiting beliefs puts you into an incredibly emotional state. However, the real power is hearing the real and raw emotion of the people around you. The goal here is to create a negative emotional feeling around the limiting beliefs.
Hearing 15,000 people crying and screaming in agony while you visualize your own limiting beliefs is a profound re-wiring of your brain. This is one of Tony’s signature NLP techniques, and I found it to be one of the most emotional experiences of my life.
“How Do Your Problems Feel Now?!?!?!?!”
By the close by Day 3 I became a believer. I felt less stress, less weight on my shoulders and just happier. The feeling isn’t that you don’t have problems. You will. Life is always going to throw challenges your way. The key here is that I felt the confidence that I could solve those problems immediately. I certainly didn’t feel all-knowing, and that was okay, because I felt all-powerful.
Day 4 is a lighter day that centers around health and wellness. This is a day that a lot of people skip, and the agenda is lighter with more sales pitches and breaks.This was the only part of the seminar I wish was different — a lot of people use Sunday as a travel day and are tired from the emotional experience of the previous three days, but I still wanted more.
Because your internal state is central to all the decisions you make, and your physiology is a central part of your internal state, health and wellness is therefore vital to living in a peak state. How your body feels is as huge part of the vibe you put off into the world.
The highlight of Day 4 is Master Co, who takes you through meditation and mindfulness. Not only do you learn great meditation techniques, but Master Co publishes a ton of content on his social channels as well for free that are worth a follow.
Joseph comes back at the end of the day to close out UPW and do one more meditation. By 7pm on Sunday night, after 4 days and roughly 52 hours, you are a completely different person.
Many people have asked whether I found the time away from family/work and the financial cost to be worth it. The answer is an unequivocal yes.
A few tactical tips I learned along the way:
- Doing pre-seminar research, one item that came up over and over again was the temperature of the room being cold. I read estimates as low as 40 degrees and I was very skeptical. However, I can now say that the room is very cold. 40 degrees might be a stretch, but the room is definitely sub 60. My estimate was that the room was somewhere in the mid 50’s.
- The seminar is a marathon but it doesn’t feel long. I generally go to bed pretty early (9pm central time) and I never felt tired, even at midnight pacific time.
- I attribute a lot of that energy to not eating a ton of food. You don’t have many breaks Thursday to Saturday, so you end up in a fasted state for a lot of the conference which actually increases your energy. The seminar is a great excuse to go on a fast.
- The crowd was the most polite and orderly crowd I’ve ever been a part of. Even when we started the fire walk, Tony’s instructions to us in our chairs was “Ok, everyone out those doors” — 15,000 people came out at once but we never had a ‘traffic jam’ because people weren’t cutting each other off. When everyone is polite we all get there faster.
- My Apple Watch move numbers were off the charts. On a typical day I work out in the morning and work at a standing desk all day. I didn’t work out at all at UPW and still crushed my normal move rate. UPW is a better workout than a workout!
- If you’re not going to play “ALL-IN” and participate, don’t waste your time. If you are going to attend, attend 100%.
- Both Tony and Joseph are unbelievable public speakers and we can learn a lot from them. My #1 takeaway was Tony’s effectiveness at “breaking the fourth wall.” At UPW, you do a lot of weird stuff, like giving strangers a back rub, high fiving people, and dancing with 100% energy. Tony acknowledging that people may feel a little weird gives everyone permission to participate.
- One cool takeaway is that I bought a bracelet to symbolize the transformation. It’s not literal, rather just a physical reminder. Similar to how kids would tie a string around their finger to remember something, the bracelet is a physical reminder for me to live in a peak state, not an attempt to dress like Steven Tyler!
I cannot wait for my next Unleash The Power Within.