Twenty or maybe longer years ago, I was flying from London to Los Angeles. Sitting next to me was a very tall man: Tony Robbins.
From his infomercials I knew he was into personal transformation. I struck up a conversation telling him that I was into organizational transformation.
We shared notes the whole twelve hours of the flight. At the end we decided we would explore the possibility of merging our companies.
I started doing my due diligence. It did not go too far. Everyone I talked to told me not to do it. They said that Anthony Robbins was shallow. Too commercial. I decided not to pursue the potential merger.
Years passed by. Last year, a very good friend of mine--- someone I had lots of respect for and whose judgement I trusted--- came back from a program with Anthony Robbins and informed me that she made the decision to divorce her husband of twenty-two years. It was something she had been contemplating for most of her marriage but never had been able to take the final step. This time she acted.
I was impressed and decided to explore what Tony was doing. I took his five-day course, Unleash the Power Within.
Hmmmmm. Watching people scream on camera which is what one sees in informercials is not quite the same as being one of the people screaming when you are in the audience.
I discovered that the screaming was designed to get the audience out of its normal state of being, to create a condition where change can occur. It is like plowing the soil to be able to plant some seeds.
Then we walked on hot coals. Burning red coals. To overcome fear of change. It worked. I made a commitment to make some changes in my marriage.
This guy has something, I concluded. It is not all noise and commercial fluff. He has a methodology and I better study it.
A year later I took his Date with Destiny Program. Oops, I had some major breakthroughs---the kind that would have taken years of therapy to achieve. Believe me. I know. I have tried numerous therapies for years.
What was this methodology, I wondered?
When you attend the workshop it all looks like a show. A happening. Looks like there is no agenda either. Tony jumps from one page to the other on the manual he provides. It all looks very casual.
It is not.
Every minute is calculated and planned. Meticulously. Tony cries with real tears. Has an argument with his wife on stage at exactly the same segment of the show. Repeatedly.
Through what feels like mass hysteria, three to five thousand people jumping out of their seats, screaming “Yes, Yes, Yes, I can,” music blasting at an ear-piercing volume, images of people dancing projected on enormous screens, he leads everyone from their normal state of being to an unfamiliar place and helps them open themselves to change.
He gets you to see the light of why you behave the way you behave, why you feel what you feel, what is that you fear, makes you commit to change and then by certain exercises, embeds the commitment to change into your body.
There is a premise to his methodology. Namely, that our purpose on earth is to have an outstanding, positive, exciting, gratifying life.
Our emotions determine how exceptional or lousy and depressing our life is. To have a great life we must have great emotional experiences.
What determines our state of emotions?
It is the meaning we give to the events we experience in life.
And the meaning we give to these events is determined by the emotional home we come from.
Let us assume in your emotional home you believe you are a victim. You will probably look at every event through the prism of victimhood. And the meaning you impart to events will only reinforce that vision of yourself as a victim.
Someone else might have an emotional home that is different. That he is a winner no matter what. He will look at the same experience and give it a very different meaning and experience a very different emotion.
Tony makes us aware of what creates and impacts our emotional home. It is:
past unhappy and painful experiences;
belief system of who we are that were implanted in us by parents, siblings, spouses, teachers…..;
values we hold dear and our sense of our own masculinity or femininity.
His methodology focuses on changing our emotional home by changing those variables. They change the meaning we give to events, which in turn change our emotions and thus the quality of our life.
How does he do it?
Take painful and unhappy experiences, one of the factors that impact our emotional home.
He makes the audience write down what those experiences were… and what good came out of them. Not the bad. The good. For instance, in my case, my abused childhood made me want to succeed in life and prove myself. It made me what and who I am. If I was not abused I probably would not be so compulsive about succeeding.
He also tackles our belief system. He made each of us write down what it is we believe in, that guides and determines our behavior. And then he asked us to tell each other that belief by singing it. Or saying it like mickey mouse will say it in a cartoon. Or while laughing our head off.
As our partner did that, I realized how ridiculous his beliefs were . And then when I performed our own meshugas, I realized how ridiculous I was as well. Totally ridiculous, stupid, incredibly stupid.
He made us realize that we were prisoners of a belief system that should not be taken seriously. In my case I held onto the belief I could not be loved, and indeed would never be loved. Can you believe that? I wanted to cry out, merd. Yes. I had held onto those beliefs for seventy-seven years. Crazy? Yes!! But I was not the only crazy one in the crowd. Everybody in that crowd--- and I dare to believe, everybody in the world--- has his or her own debilitating, dysfunctional believes that cause some pain in their life. So,
laugh at yourself. See how ridiculous, stupid, untrue your debilitating believes are….
And guess what?
There are relapses. True. But there is change too.
There is a moral to this story.
Do not judge a product by its package. I lost twenty years to have a happier life by being turned off by infomercials. People told me that he was shallow. Now that I think about it, none of these people took his workshop. They judged him by his advertising.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes