Tony Robbins has built a reputation over the past few decades for helping people achieve outstanding results. He’s been recognized as the leading world-class peak performance strategist, advising some of the world’s most influential leaders. Millions of people have gone to his live events and had life-changing experiences, including my family and I.
Last year, he interviewed 50 of the world’s financial leaders and created an expansive New York Times #1 bestselling book out of it, MONEY: Master the Game. Recently, he’s authored a new New York Times #1 bestseller, UNSHAKEABLE: Your Financial Freedom Playbook. I had the extraordinary opportunity to ask him some questions and get some advice for all of us on how to live an UNSHAKEABLE life.
Adam: What was the key inspiration behind writing UNSHAKEABLE?
Tony: 3 reasons really. First, after writing Money: Master The Game, I realized that people needed a concise playbook that contained all the essential facts and strategies needed. Second, I am saw (and still do) levels of fear that were off the charts. Political and global instability was influencing people to make extremely poor choices when it came to their finances. When fear steers, it is impossible to make rational decisions. Successful investors have emotional mastery in that they don’t fall victim to the noise. And finally, we are in the second longest bull market in history. A correction or a crash is coming, but nobody knows when. Unshakeable show how the masters of the financial world prepare themselves—how they profit by anticipating winter instead of just reacting to it. These dips can represent one of the best opportunities of your lifetime to accelerate your path to financial freedom…if you know how to navigate.
Adam: What does it mean to be UNSHAKEABLE? What's an UNSHAKEABLE life look like? What do you specifically do on a daily basis to be UNSHAKEABLE?
Tony: Unshakeable is not just a matter of money. It’s a state of mind. When you’re truly unshakeable, you have unwavering confidence even amidst the storm. It’s not that nothing upsets you or rattles your cage. But you don’t stay there. You recognize it, shift and don’t allow fear to take you over. When others are afraid, you have the presence of mind to take advantage of the turmoil swirling all around you. An Unshakeable life is one marked with gratitude and joy. It’s a commitment to choose presence and peace of mind regardless of the circumstances. It’s a choice to believe that life is happening for you, not to you. On a daily basis, being UNSHAKEABLE means starting every day with 10 minutes of focus in an exercise I call priming. First, is a breathing exercise to change my physiology. Second, I focus on something I am grateful for and really experience it. You can’t be angry of fearful and grateful simultaneously. Gratitude is the antidote. And third, I pray. Pray for guidance in my mission and for the those I love and care about.
Adam: What are your top pieces of advice for Millennials and Gen Z in regards to setting themselves up for a successful financial future? What are some immediate things they can do right now?
Tony: Millennials are scared of the markets because they witnessed 2008 and many saw their parents lose their homes, jobs and retirement savings. So first, they need to get educated on how markets behave and how they can take advantage of the incredible long term growth and even the corrections/crashes that are sure to come. They need to move from the consumer to the owner. Don’t just own an iPhone, own Apple itself (Note: not suggesting you buy Apple here; just pointing out that owning leading companies vs. just buying their products is the right mindset). Second, choose a percentage of your income that is automatically taken off the top and deposited. A 401(k) is ideal if the fees are low. People often say, I will save more when I can. But that’s a poor excuse for those with a steady job. If the government decided to take you an extra 10%, you would complain but you would pay it. Its non-negotiable and your future-self with thank you. And starting early is a MUST for financial freedom. Regardless of debt levels, you have to begin savings a percentage off the top NOW. I have included a chart showing a comparison between two friends and why starting early is so crucial.
Adam: What would you suggest to those who want to invest who also feel overwhelmed about where to invest/how to start?
Tony: I would suggest a low-cost solution like Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. It’s extremely simple to set up and deposit your funds. They will handle the asset allocation and rebalancing for you. Once you get to a higher level of assets (i.e. $100,000), and your financial life has more moving parts, you may want to start looking for fiduciary advisor – one who is legally obligated to put your interests first at ALL TIMES. I have found that the highest quality advisor do more than just investments. They look at taxes, estate planning, business planning, risk management, asset protection and more. Most importantly, find someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight – someone who doesn’t make commissions, get kickbacks or sell you their more expensive name brand proprietary products/funds.
Adam: What are the biggest misconceptions that you've discovered that people have about investing, becoming financially free, and money in general? What are the biggest truths you've discovered?
Tony: My co–author, Peter Mallouk (CEO of Creative Planning), was the first to share some startling facts with me. First, corrections (defined as a 10% drop but not greater than 20%), happen once a year on average since 1900! When I first heard this, I was floored. Just think about it: if you’re 50 years old today and have a life expectancy of 85, you can expect to live through another 35 corrections. Why does this matter? Because it shows you that corrections are just a routine part of the game. Instead of living in fear of them, you and I have to accept them as regular occurrences — like spring, summer, fall, and winter. And you know what else? Historically, the average correction was 13.5% and has lasted only 54 days — less than two months!
The second fact is that less than 20% of all corrections turn into a bear market. When the market starts tumbling — especially when it’s down more than 10% — many people hit their pain threshold and start to sell because they’re scared that this drop could turn into a death spiral. But 80% of the time, the market reverses course and heads back up again.
In short, the biggest misconception is that people lose money in the stock market. You might be thinking “of course they do!” But let me frame it another way. As I write this (June of 2017), the SP 500 is just near its all time. That means, that if you simply invested in the S&P500 (a basket of the top 500 stocks) and never locked in your losses by selling when the market was down, you never would have lost. People lose money by trying to time the market and by letting their fears drive their decisions. The trick is knowing that corrections and crashes are part of the game. The media perpetuates a myth that, if you’re smart enough, you can predict the market’s moves and avoid its downdrafts. The financial industry sells the same fantasy: economists and “market strategists” from big investment banks confidently predict where the S&P 500 will stand at the end of the year, as if they have a crystal ball or (equally unlikely) superior insight. This is all nonsense. Nobody knows where the market is going in the short run. We simply know that over the long haul, the top companies have always driven stock prices higher.
Adam: One of the top goals for many people is to have financial freedom, but it often sounds like it's a moving target for most people. What does financial freedom really mean?
Tony: Financial freedom really means life on your terms. Getting to do more of what you want, with whom you want, when you want. Financial freedom is different for each person and it’s important not to let the world and media define what it means for you. I always say that money is a vehicle. When people say, “I want a billion dollars,” what are you really after? A billion pieces of paper with pictures of dead notables on it? No. you’re after the EMOTIONS that you think money will give you — freedom, abundance, peace of mind. Financial freedom is really a feeling.
Adam: I know one of your main focuses in life right now is to feed 100 million people this year, which is an absolutely extraordinary, noble and philanthropic act. I know that all proceeds of this book, UNSHAKEABLE, and your previous book, MONEY, have and will be donated to FEEDING AMERICA. I know that 1 in 8 people in America are struggling with hunger. I also know through the U.S. Census Bureau that 45 million Americans live below the poverty line. To take it a step wider, it's been measured that 2.7 billion people live on less than $2 a day, 805 million people don't have enough food to eat, and over 663 million people live without clean water. What are some things that we can all do to not just create an UNSHAKEABLE life for ourselves and our families, but to also support the baseline/foundation of humanity to be UNSHAKEABLE?
Tony: To me, there are two aspects to creating an extraordinary quality of life – the science of achievement and the art of fulfillment. And I truly believe that success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.
The science of achievement, is following truly a science, there are rules that lead to success and to failure. Whether it’s your body and health, a fulfilling and passionate relationship, or your finances, there are rules. If you play by them, you’ll achieve success, violate them and you’ll be in a world of pain.
But what fulfills you is different for everyone. I discuss this in the book. Fulfillment is truly an art because its different for everyone. After working with millions of people from all over the globe, I can tell you that what really creates fulfillment is getting outside of yourself, and serving something greater. To me, the secret to living is giving. I have met many multi billionaires that are miserable and while they might be financially unshakeable, they are emotionally fragile and full of anxiety.
The key to becoming UNSHAKEABLE emotionally is to get outside of yourself. And it’s incredibly easy to make an impact in the lives of others through money AND time. Cutting checks is an important component, but you don’t get beyond scarcity, you start beyond it. If you won’t give a dime out of a dollar, you won’t give $1,000 out of $10,000. Start with whatever you can afford now and also remember that you can give your time as well.
Over 20 years ago my foundation launched a program called “Basket Brigade” where thousands of volunteers get together and hand deliver food to families in need on Thanksgiving. My family was the recipient of such a gift when I was 11 years old, and it completely changed my life, and gave me the drive to do this for others. It showed me that strangers care, and through that care you can dramatically change the trajectory of someone’s life.