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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tony Robbins's Bad TED Talk

Apparently, I'm the only one on the Internet that thinks Tony Robbins's Jan. 2006 TED Talk was bad.  It's in the Top 20 of all time, and even if you try to google "Tony Robbins TED talk [bad/awful/painful/profanity-laced/garbage]" you just get the talk itself, or people talking about how good it was.  There are some skeptical comments on the TED site itself -- other people, like me, who he just rubs the wrong way -- but for the most part, everyone seems to love him.  As mentioned before, this was one of the things I didn't get about that book "Quiet" -- about introverts -- author Susan Cain's praise for Tony Robbins.

If it works for some people -- and for some, it does -- that's fine.  People like me can just ignore him.

Having written this post, I now see that it goes on and on.  If you got here by random googling and don't have much time to spare, I encourage you to scroll down to the end.  That's where the most interesting stuff is.  The stuff before is my attempt -- largely unsuccessful -- to try to even figure out what Tony's speech was about.

It's interesting that he used to advise Bill Clinton -- I see the two of them as very much alike.  They are both people that come across to me as complete phonies, and yet they both have something of a cult following, and what's more (sad to say), despite their phoniness and self-absorption, both of them seem to be doing a lot more good for the world than I'll ever be able to do.  Sad but true.

I listened to a set of Robbins's tapes a long time ago.  He always seemed a little sadistic to me -- just a little too happy to rub the fact that he is rich, famous, and successful in the faces of his listeners.  E.g., there was one about forcing yourself to do things you don't like to do.  Like the time he got home and was tired and there were a bunch of phone calls (presumably from people like Bill Clinton) that he had to return.  He made lemons out of lemonade by returning the calls from his hot tub.

And when he gets bored or depressed, he just gets in his helicopter with his wife (well, his first wife, see below) and flies the helicopter on the beach at night.  Or something like that, the way I remember it.

And he seems to grab at any passing fad. In the late 1990s, just as the stock market was ramping up to the soon-to-burst tech bubble, Robbins started teaching seminars about how to make money in the stock market.  And also, on one of his tapes, he talks about a woman who was able to win the lottery a couple of times through positive thinking.  He doesn't guarantee it will work for you, but suggests that it's really worth a try.  In other words, he was preaching "The Secret" before all those other wackos started making money off of it a few years later.  I note in this regard that Wayne Dyer did that too -- the self-help industry is always following the money.

In the TED talk, he does make good points about the importance of passion, perseverance, and the good that comes from helping others.  And he's a great speaker -- he definitely holds your attention.

But he is soooooooo egotistical.  When you think about it, everything is about him.  He starts off by wondering why HE is even here, doing this for free, when HIS TIME is so valuable.  HE's giving back, he says.  He then talks about what HE does -- the 50 hour immersion seminars.  He goes on to say that the sports star calls HIM when he's fallen off his game, is burning down on national TV, and needs to get back on ASAP.  People also call HIM when they have a child who is threatening suicide, and thank God, HE hasn't lost one yet.

In the talk he draws a strange distinction -- he is not there to motivate people, he's the "why guy" -- he figures out why you do what you do.  He believes "emotion is the force of life."  Not (just) self-interest, but emotion.

He sees two major issues in his work -- the science of achievement, and the art of contribution, and the art of fulfillment.  Ok, that sounds like three, I know.  But maybe the last two are the same.

He rambles on a bit at first -- we live in a therapy culture where people think biography is destiny, and that they can blame the way they are brought up for everything that's wrong.  I don't know if it was an intentional paradox, but he also talks about those who were given all the love, money, support etc. as they were growing up but still ended up in rehab.  [Note:  Steven Pinker's TED talk makes the more scientific point that studies of identical twins show that our genes contain our destiny -- it really doesn't matter what you do with the kid for the first 18 years or however long you have them -- they turn out pretty much the same.  Not a particularly optimistic message, and probably not completely true either -- there's no question in my mind that the educational advantages received by the very rich -- as opposed to the disadvantages of those growing up in drug-ridden single parent homes, for instance -- make a very real difference in how a person will turn out]

[Total aside -- I was just on Tony Robbins's website looking to see whether Al Gore was a client of his, which might suggest that Al Gore's "Supreme Court" gag during the TED Talk was staged.  I had gotten that idea by listening to Al Gore's TED Talks, in which he seems to be practically channeling Tony Robbins. And given Gore's congenital wooden-ness, it was hard to believe that he would have the presence of mind to interrupt a TED Talk like that.  I couldn't find any confirmation of the Gore-as-client theory, but I found the thing where Robbins promotes himself as a devoted family man -- father of four children.  That sounded a bit odd to me, since I remember from listening to his tapes back in the 1990s that he talked a lot about his wife and how she already had children when she married him, and how that created an "instant family."  And I see from wikipedia that he also had an illegitimate child with someone else, before his first marriage.  So really, he is the father of eight children, by/with three women, claiming fatherhood only when convenient.  I can't personally verify any of this, and I really don't care, but it sure sounds like he started up with his 2001 wife while he was still married to his 1980s and 1990s wife.  Anyway, I guess one would want to question his first wife and his first set of kids -- plus the illegitimate one -- on whether or not he's a good family man before simply accepting the statement. Google a bit and you can find a letter from him to one of his fans explaining the divorce -- he stuck with the marriage until the children had all reached maturity, and at that point, they split up, because there was no shared vision anymore.  OK, back to the speech]

Here are some snippets:  "If you're creative enough, playful enough, fun enough, can you get through to anybody."

Actually, I'm trying to read this transcript and I just can't follow it.  It seems to be a bunch of platitudes and partial lists strung together.  He says that "decisions shape destiny," and then he promises to tell us the three decisions that shape your destiny.  The first is clearly "what are you going to focus on?"  I can't tell  what the other two are.  Maybe "is this the end or the beginning," and maybe "Is God punishing me or rewarding me, or is this the roll of the dice?"  We are asked if we've made a decision that has resulted in something life-changing happening.  Of course we have.  As he points out, you might take a certain job, and meet a certain person there, and marry that person.  Duh.

In the talk, he includes at least two plugs for Google.  First, he calls the founders geniuses, and asks how the world might have been different if they had decided to follow a different business model.  And later he trashes MapQuest (calling using it a "fatal mistake" and suggesting that it never gets you where you want to go), wishing that Google Maps were available on his Mac [I've never had a problem with MapQuest by the way -- in fact, for the record, I find it more user-friendly than Google Maps, although Google has some features I like].  So now his point seems to be that some people make decisions that change the world -- like the Google guys.  And Rosa Parks.  Or the student in front of the Tiananmen Square tank.

And then he moves on to Lance Armstrong.  That's why I like watching old TED Talks.  The speakers have no idea what the future will hold.  Often they make predictions for the year I'm living in.  And sadly, the predictions aren't anywhere near accurate.  This is a bit different.  Here's what he said:

"Or being in a position like Lance Armstrong, and someone says to you, "You've got testicular cancer." That's pretty tough for any male, especially if you ride a bike. (Laughter) You've got it in your brain; you've got it in your lungs. But what was his decision of what to focus on? Different than most people. What did it mean? It wasn't the end; it was the beginning. What am I going to do? He goes off and wins seven championships he never once won before the cancer, because he got emotional fitness, psychological strength. That's the difference in human beings that I've seen of the three million that I've been around."

Reading it just now I don't know what he means by "different" exactly.  It sounds like he is saying that because Lance asked himself at least two of Tony's questions [is the third "what am I going to do?"], he won a bunch of championships he had never won before.  And that's what makes Lance different from others.

I don't want to diminish Lance's accomplishments any more than he himself has done.  If all of the bikers during that time period were dopers, then it's still a pretty impressive accomplishment, as his defenders are quick to tell you.  On the other hand, if he started the doping, figured out how to do it better than anyone else, and the rest were just trying to catch up . . .  that's not so good.  And profiteering off his drug-gotten successes, and essentially becoming a source of inspiration and then disappointment for millions, was perhaps not the best example to set for our children.  Anyway, I doubt Tony uses that particular example anymore.

And then back to Tony -- HE has worked with "three million people from 80 different countries."

And it turns out that what shapes people is their "state" (a minute ago, I thought it was their decisions, and before that, I thought it was their emotions).

In the lecture itself in passing he mentions that HE can teach you how to change your state.  Interestingly, that doesn't show up on the transcript. But it was another ad for HIM.

Then he says that we are shaped by "two invisible forces."  One seems to be your "state."  Not sure what the other one is.  Possibly it's your model of the world, which shapes you long term.

And now it's the model, not the state, that causes people to make decisions.  What influences people's world view?  Three things -- first, what's your target?  Not your desires, but your target.  You can get your desires and goals.  Target is apparently something different, and he won't tell us what.  And now we're waiting for the other two things on this list, and they don't come -- we get a new list, and it's going to be of six things -- the six human needs.  Maybe those are your target.  Or maybe they have to do with the other two things that influence people.

Now he mentions a "second" -- once you know your target -- or needs -- you know those needs.  I think that's what he said.  But now he's on to the six needs.  The needs are certainty (you rent a video you've seen before), variety (you avoid renting a video you've seen before), significance (by earning it e.g. by making more money or changing the world, or by holding a gun to someone's head, which he points out also implicates certainty and uncertainty), connection and love (we're scared of love; get a dog), growth (get bigger and better; a spiritual need), and contribution (also a spiritual need).

And now back to HIM.  HE was poor, someone gave HIS family a turkey on Thanksgiving, and then HE went out and did it a few years later, and then HE went out and grew companies -- HE "got 11 companies" HE "built the foundation."now HE gives out millions of turkeys.

[update 092013 -- I keep thinking of things that annoy me about him.  He's been bragging about all the companies he started since he was about 20 years old.  I think it comes up in "Unlimited Power."  But I'm pretty sure in those days (and today) you could go to Delaware (and probably most other states) and incorporate 20 or 30 "companies" in an afternoon, if you are so inclined.  I also seem to remember him having some setbacks after incorporating those companies -- something about a business partner cheating him out of a lot of money.  I have no doubt that today he has a company with a lot of employees and good revenues etc., but he was boasting about starting companies long before he really made a go of one, and that continues to bug me]

And then although we thought "contribution" was the "last thing" (we counted six), it turns out "emotion" is the last thing after all, even though at the outset, it seemed to be the first thing.

Anyway, I can't say it better than he does:

"The last thing is emotion. Now, here's what I'll tell you about emotion. There are 6,000 emotions that we all have words for in the English language, which is just a linguistic representation, right, that changes by language. But if your dominant emotions -- if I had more time, I have 20,000 people or 1,000, and I have them write down all the emotions that they experience in an average week, and I gave them as long as they needed, and on one side they write empowering emotions, the other's disempowering -- guess how many emotions people experience? Less than 12. And half of those make them feel like shit. So they got five or six good frickin' feelings, right? It's like they feel "happy, happy, excited, oh shit, frustrated, frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed." How many of you know somebody who no matter what happens finds a way to get pissed off? How many know somebody like this? (Laughter) Or, no matter what happens, they find a way to be happy or excited. How may know somebody like this? Come on."

Ok, I don't really get the point of this, either.

And now he mentions seven different beliefs, but admits that he's not going to tell them to us.


He ends it with 9/11.  And here I don't want to be cynical, but this whole thing seemed fishy to me.  And sure enough, it's used as a selling point for Tony all over the Internet.

In short, he was doing one of his workshops in Hawaii when the 9/11 attacks happened.  It was 3 am in Hawaii. There was a woman there whose previous boyfriend had been murdered, and who had just the night before decided she wanted to be with her current boyfriend after all, and she'd left him a message at his job at the World Trade Center to the effect that she loved him and would marry him.  And then while she was asleep, and the planes had hit, and he knew he was going to die, he left her a message back, which she (according to Tony) played for the crowd.  I suppose this can all be checked, because Tony said she was on Larry King later.

[UPDATE and ASIDE 032814:  I think it's worth looking at the exact quote from Tony on this:

"And then I went through this whole thing about, if you weren't going to get off this island, if nine days from now you were going to die, who would you call, what would you say, what would you do? One woman -- well, that night is when 9/11 happened -- one woman had come to the seminar and when she came there, her previous boyfriend had been kidnapped and murdered. Her friend, her new boyfriend, wanted to marry her, and she said no.  He said, "If you leave and go to that Hawaii thing, it's over with us." She said, "It's over.""

[get it?  Here's this woman, in this relationship with this rich guy who wants to marry her, and she wants to go to a Tony Robbins seminar and he says you do that and it's over.  And so she goes -- choosing Tony over the boyfriend/marriage proposal.  And THEN, at the moment of truth, as smoke is filling the room and the guy knows he's going to die, he repents and decides that it was ok for her to see Tony after all. Tony's stories all seem to come back to Tony.  And the message is, even if your boyfriend girlfriend tells you you're an idiot for going to a Tony Robbins seminar, they'll still love you -- maybe even more -- in the end]


And there was a Muslim there -- a Pakistani guy -- who said that he was sorry but that this was "retribution."  Tony got him on stage along with others who had lost loved ones in the World Trade Center that day, and apparently talked him out of becoming a terrorist (I think that's what he is saying).  And then the guy went on to work with a Jewish guy for four years to make the world a better place, and even wrote a book, called "My Jihad, My Way of Peace."

All very impressive.  If true, I guess I can't blame him for telling it.

I tried to find a reference to the Pakistani guy's book online, and it mostly only shows up on Tony Robbins-related websites.  Not available at all through Amazon, not even a used copy.  The author's name is Asad Ressvi, or possibly Asad Rezzvi, and he apparently gave a TED/Karachi talk in 2010, which I have yet to watch.  Will do that soon.  [ok, now I've done it.  It's mostly another ad for Tony Robbins.  But it does seem to confirm that Asad is a real person.  Apparently he now works in the Pakistani telecom industry]

I have no idea what this means.  It's quite possible he wrote a book, but it doesn't seem to be for sale anywhere on the internet, new or used.  If anyone has any information about this story, I'd love to hear it!  [the notes to Asad's 2010 video say that it will be published by a major New York publishing house very soon.  So he's probably just a bit of a procrastinator -- he's been telling people he's written it since before 2006, he still hasn't published it in 2010 or 2013 -- sounds like he could use a Tony Robbins seminar!  Oh, right -- Tony is just the "why guy" -- he can't provide motivation to us procrastinators]

Oh man.  Of course people have been here before me.  According to the internet ( the woman who supposedly got the call from the man on the top of the Trade Center didn't really exist.  Although she claimed to be CEO of some kind of charity, she -- Ann de Sollar -- only had a total of six google entries in 2009, all of which pointed to the Larry King show.  I.e. she got on the Larry King show (apparently called in from NY, maybe no one saw her face), and told her story (, and then disappeared off the face of the earth.  The blogger (Steve Warran, I guess, although the capitalization of the name makes me think its not real), is pretty sure that the boyfriend -- Gary Lutnick -- didn't exist either.  But I can't quite figure out why.  It sounds like Howard Lutnick -- CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, and a major philanthropist, with connections to Denise Rich -- claims Gary for a brother, but the blogger seems to be persuaded that Gary never existed either.  I don't really understand why and don't have time to unravel it all just now [update:  it looks like the blogger might be part of the 911 "truth" movement; the title of one of his posts refers to possible controlled demolition of the WTC buildings].

It seems pretty clear to me that Gary Lutnick did exist -- why would Howard make him up?  Here's a 2001 article in which Gary is said to have called his sister, saying he was about to die.

Did I say Denise Rich?  Yes, the whole thing has come full-circle back to Bill Clinton (Denise of course is the ex-wife of Marc [the fugitive crook, now deceased, RIP], who got the pardon from Bill).

And actually, Ann de Sollar probably exists too -- the blogger's problem may have been that he insisted on putting a space between "de" and "sollar."  There's an Ann Desollar-Hale living in NYC and apparently sometimes practicing as a "neuropsychologist," which to me sounds like the title someone who believes in Tony Robbins would take.  And she's written a self-published book called "Toddlers on Technology" (7 out of 7 five-star reviews, all voted "helpful," yet 2 millionth on Amazon's top seller list).  If that's the same person, she could clear this up, although the whole thing might still be traumatic for her.

Ok, I'm stopping here.  If anyone reading this was at Tony Robbins' 9/11/01 Hawaii seminar and can shed light on all this, please leave a comment.  Did "Ann de Sollar" really play back the tape of "Gary Lutnick" about to die?  Did Pakistani Asad Rezzvi or Ressvi really get up and say it was "retribution."?  Yes, I know Tony has it all on video NOW.  The question is, did it happen THEN?

In Asad's 2010 performance, he plays a preview of a Tony Robbins movie about the event. There is a clip of Tony announcing the attack -- which by then everybody had heard about -- and then there are clips of (apparently) Ann getting up and saying what she said (but not playing the recording), and Asad making his point about retribution.  And then clips of Tony bringing everyone together.  I guess I'll need to watch the whole movie before really judging here.

Oh, last thing.

Here's the quote of the message from Gary to "Ann" from the Larry King Transcript:

GARY LUTNICK, VICTIM OF WTC: Hey, baby. It's me. I'm in the World Trade Center and -- a plane hit this building and I'm on the 104th floor and it's filling up with smoke. I love you very much, and I'm sorry that we had to go through what it is that we went through. Oh, my God. My life is probably going to end very, very shortly. I love you, baby. Bye-bye.

And here's the way Tony gave the quote:

"Honey, I can't tell you what this means." He said, "I don't know how to tell you this, but you gave me the greatest gift because I'm going to die." And she played the recording for us in the room. She was on Larry King later, and he said, "You're probably wondering how on Earth this could happen to you twice." And he said, "All I can say to you is, this must be God's message to you, honey. From now on, every day give your all, love your all. Don't let anything ever stop you."

So these sound like very different quotes.  The Robbins version is a bit ambiguous -- you can't tell if it's Larry King or the boyfriend talking the way he tells it, but King doesn't say anything like that on the transcript.

So that's that.  I'm confused.  I have a visceral distrust of Tony Robbins that only a minority on the Internet seem to share. And again, if his preachings have helped people make money, and have helped them become better people, then perhaps Tony Robbins is, on balance, a good thing.  But my suspicious nature makes me wonder how much of this 9-11 thing was made up.  He certainly botched the quote above.  And it's a bit odd that when Ann called Larry King, she didn't even mention that Gary was Howard Lutnick's brother; that would surely have been of interest to Larry.  But it would take a lot more research to really get to the bottom of this.

Actually, just to give you a sense of how lazy I am, I haven't yet tried to watch Tony Robbins's movie, which I believe is available on-line for free (I've seen links).  Presumably Ann's playback of Gary's message was caught on video.  If so, then either (1) it matches the audio played back on Larry King, and Tony is just being wildly inaccurate when he recounts it at TED, or (2) it doesn't, and something fishier is going on.  If anyone cares enough to check this out, let me know what you find.

UPDATE 091314:  I recently wrote a post on Tony Robbins's "fire walk" scam -- where he gets seminar attendees to walk across hot coals.  Although this may be a useful metaphor for the notion of "conquering one's fears," his followers seem to believe that they have participated in a mind-over-matter demonstration.  They haven't.

UPDATE 120414:  I recently posted on Karen Heller's Washington Post puff piece on Tony Robbins.  It turns out most of the commenters there (reproduced in my post) have the same visceral dislike of the guy that I do.  As I thought about it, I concluded that really it's a male-female thing.  He's the ultimate alpha male (especially when he's leading his seminars) and as a result, the rest of us men resent him (or want to be like him), while the women swoon over him.  My recent post is here.

If you've gotten this far, maybe you would be interested in my views on other matters, like free speech and Charlie Hebdo and Charlie Hebdo and Boko Haram, Sony's "The Interview, as well as my question "Why Should I be Charlie?" (featuring a hilarious clip from The Daily Show).


  1. Just finished Robbins ted talk and I was very confused why he is so popular! He is such a quack, a classic charlaton. Well done on your deonstruction of him. One more point about his lie of his Muslim-jewish reconciliation - no NY zionist jew( such sterotyping)would trust anyone who referred to disputed territory israel as occupied. Besides, what is Robbins insinuating by calling up a Jew when a Pakistan Muslim says 9/11 was retirbution? Blame the Jews for everything, why not?
    Zionist NYJew

  2. Thanks for your feedback and additional contribution pnina -- I can't understand it either. While there are pockets of people out there that have the same reaction to Tony that you and I do, there seem to be millions who swear by him. I'm just trying to figure out how much of that reconciliation thing he made up . . . .

  3. I just read the last part of your blog. i found the site because I watched the TED talk and then watched the movie trailer. I thought they looked like actors so I did another google search and your blog popped up. Robbins is a joke. He is so transparent, too. I share your confusion about why people like him.

  4. Thanks; I'm glad there are others out there who feel the same way. I still haven't watched his video about the 9-11 thing, and nobody yet has stepped forward to say they were there, and whether or not it (or anything like it) really happened. I'm still waiting . . . .

  5. I have always been a bit cynical of self-help gurus, so I am biased. I started to doing sales and a lot of people love Tony Robbins. My mentor, just a few days ago handed me a 6 vol CD pack (1990) called "Unleash the Power Within." by Tony Robbins. Listened to the whole thing. Basically, all he is saying is "nut up and do it." Duh. The man does have a talent of talking a lot without really saying anything. I could go on and on about how his little life stories didn't really ring true to me. The guy rubs me the wrong way, too.

    1. Thanks for the support. I've gotten my copies of his talks second-hand too. But in some ways we get what we pay for -- there are probably plenty of people out there who have paid thousands of dollars for his seminars, and believe that they have gotten their money's worth (there is science out there that says the more you pay for something, the more you're likely to get out of it). Still, I have a visceral distrust of him, which makes giving him money and joining his "cult" the last thing I'd want to do.

  6. Dan Koons - Chicago, ILApril 14, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    If/when you bring him to task, he may even give you all the money he receives from people who don't give a flying fuck about the authenticity of the finer points of his stories and just like the general message. Seems Mr. Blogger needs to find his own why...

    1. I don't really understand this comment. I'm not sure why Tony would give me (of all people) money. And again, if he's the best "motivator" out there for you, and you don't mind the inauthenticity of his some of his stories, then by all means, stick with him.

  7. Dan Koons, again - Chicago, ILApril 14, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    To add, you answer your own childish, cynical questions about his process. "What are the three things? He only mentioned one?"...c'mon man. Read on in your own little analysis, and you'll find he talks about the other two things. But your so busy breaking those two things down under the assumed veil that "Tony don't make no sense" that you miss the entire point(s). Grow up.

  8. Thanks for this -- I took another look at the video itself (painful to me, but all in the name of getting things right) and I saw that he had the three "decisions of destiny" behind him on a Powerpoint presentation:

    They are:

    1. What am I going to focus on? [focus = feeling; past/present/future; self/others]

    2. What does it mean? [Is this the end or the beginning? Are you being punished or rewarded?]

    3. What are you going to do? (are you going to give up or move forward?)

    I still have no idea what these mean, exactly; but to be fair, I guess the basic points are you need to decide to (1) focus on others not yourself; (2) don't blame God/destiny for setbacks, and (3) keep moving forward. Or something like that. But he doesn't help things by, after the slide is gone, asking us whether the decision to work somewhere might have changed our destiny because we might have met the love of our life there. It's true, but that's kind of random isn't it?

    I see now that for (2) he was telling us the subheading, perhaps assuming that we had read the heading. It doesn't help that he switches from first person to third person in (1) and (3).

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he "don't make no sense." Even if the above "decisions of destiny" are somewhat confusing, most of what he says is perfectly good advice, and he's got an undeniably good, attention grabbing delivery. I've listened to a fair amount of his material, and it's even possible that he's made a difference in my life -- I think many of us have a basic need to have someone tell us to do the things we know that we should be doing. And Tony (and others) fill that role. But interestingly, in this particular presentation, he even denies that he's there to "motivate" people; instead he claims to be the "why" guy -- the guy who knows why we do what we do. But I didn't see a lot of that in the talk.

    As I've said he just rubs me (and some others) the wrong way; even when he's trying to be humble, he comes across as an egomaniac.

  9. I think the truth may never be fully clear. The link is nonfunctional. Maybe the Google plugs during his TEDtalk were intentional. So unless you pay for his video, you cannot know his version of what happened. In the end I agree it all seems fishy. I think it is wrong to profit from a tragedy in such a way. But ultimately, while his message is muddy, eratic, and shameless (like all self-help philosophies), if you take it with a grain of salt the message is a good one. I wish I could see the original video to verify to what extent it is, but the internet elite have made it unavailable. While I share in your frustration and skepticism, I suggest looking at the Tony Robbins spectacle through the lens of the book "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. I highly recommend perusing it to help understand this and other myths, but let me explain its theme. O'Brien uses Vietnam war stories, both boring and inexplicable, to show how it is not the truth that matters, so much as what you take away from the story. Sometimes we bend the truth to help the message of the story. We may never know if Robbins did so; may as well learn what we can and move on with our lives. Hope all that helps and thank you for your original post.

    1. Makes more sense than creating a blog about his 'phoniness'.

    2. Although, after watchig the 2 minute video on the 9/11 incident I got a phony feeling from him. I enjoyed listening to his energetic talk.

    3. Although, after watchig the 2 minute video on the 9/11 incident I got a phony feeling from him. I enjoyed listening to his energetic talk.

    4. Makes more sense than creating a blog about his 'phoniness'.

    5. Of course, "creating the blog" (actually, just one blog post out of hundreds, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with Tony Robbins) is what gave you the opportunity to tell us you got a phony feeling from him too. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for reading and for writing. I totally agree that often the message is more important than the truth, and it looks like we agree that there is a lot to take away in Tony Robbins's messages. So he may be stretching the truth to teach us valuable lessons, and that's fine, on one level. But on another level -- the level where he is stretching the truth to make himself look bigger and better -- it's a bit obnoxious, especially when it draws on a tragedy like 9-11. It also tends to undermine his integrity and thus (at least for me) the integrity of his message, even when I admit to myself that the message contains some universal truth. Since the message that the self-help gurus all teach is basically the same, I'd rather listen to someone who comes across as being a bit less sleazy and self-centered.

    Again, I say all of the above while admitting that I don't know for sure what if anything Tony Robbins made up. But until someone explains all the fishiness to me in a way that make sense, I'll continue to be suspicious.

    And thanks also for the book recommendation. I'll check it out!

  11. I can't stand charlatans and he is a master on the field.

  12. Wow, that's a lot to read. Funny, I think Tony has a lot to bring to the table and also agree that there is a bit of arrogance in his presentation. You are spot on (in my opinion) with your Alpha Male comments. I am not sure woman swoon over him (maybe the gold diggers do?) Few people point out the irony that a person who is going to teach you about relationships got divorced (Google fake "doctor" John Gray). My opinion is that someone giving a talk should not make stuff up. I would be shocked to find out that the 9/11 story is totally fabricated - Tony's too smart to be caught in a giant lie like that.

    Lastly, if you watch any of Robin Williams' stand-up, he's all over the place. Tony's TED Talk reminds me of that - it's difficult to follow. I know what it is - he's used to ad-libbing and this results in confusing messages. If you say you have 3 reasons for something, it would be prudent to go over each one and put a darn slide up on the overhead listing the 3 items. By the way, he makes a mistake adding profanity into his talk - he's trying too hard to be cool.

    1. Thanks for reading and responding! I think we agree on just about everything -- I also don't think the 9-11 thing was totally fabricated, but there is something very fishy there.

      Agreed that the profanity was weird -- if any of his acolytes were to try to talk like that as part of their program for success, they would not get very far in their careers. It goes to show how out-of-touch someone can become after a very successful life of telling other people how to succeed.

      Maybe "swoon" wasn't the right word; I just find it interesting that certain women who have written about him see him as having "movie star" looks, whereas most men seem to find him to be somewhat sleazy looking

  13. I'll just focus on one line from the talk. "I'm proud to tell you that last year we fed 2 million people..." You on the other hand, wrote a blog hyper-explaining why he's such a jerk. Your feelings of resentment and inadequacy are as understandable as they are transparent.

    1. And I'll just focus on one paragraph from my writeup (and there are others, to the same effect):

      "It's interesting that he used to advise Bill Clinton -- I see the two of them as very much alike. They are both people that come across to me as complete phonies, and yet they both have something of a cult following, and what's more (sad to say), despite their phoniness and self-absorption, both of them seem to be doing a lot more good for the world than I'll ever be able to do. Sad but true."

      So I'm not denying that people like Tony and Bill have done a lot of good for the world. But that's not what my writeup is about. Nor is it about "hyper-explaining why he's such a jerk" (whatever that means). My main points were (1) his talk sounded good, and contained some unquestionable truths, but is also almost incoherent, if you try to analyze it; (2) some people seem to love Tony (and Bill for that matter), while others of us (seemingly the minority) are repelled by him/them; and (3) Tony's 9-11 story seems to contain some fabrications, exaggerations, and/or inconsistencies, but it's very hard to tell what's truth and what's fiction.

  14. i'm a woman and in my view, he's a total scam and i don't like guys who are self-righteous and full of himself.

    in my very simple logic, all self help gurus are just like him. that's why i would never engage in any of their stuff. basically, all the stuff they say are stuff you already know. no sense in paying for that.

    i only discovered his ted talk because it came up at work. i found this blog because i was looking for the mentioned book.

    i'm not interested enough to investigate the speech like you did but after watching his ted talk, which is the only material i know of him (i've never seen him before nor heard his name, but he does look familiar, like, i may have seen him on tv as i was scanning or something), i can definitely say i'm not a fan. i find no charming points in the man.

    please don't conclude that it's "a male-female thing" and us people who have ovaries and vaginas just "swoon" at his presence. as you said yourself, some males want to be like him. that would mean his fans then include males. and us females don't just foolishly fall for "ultimate alpha males". NO NEED TO GET INTO HIS FANS' REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEMS, in my opinion. some people, male or female, just trust the guy and believe what he says. some don't. it's not a matter of us having vaginas and him acting as a leader often.

    a 25yo Filipino woman

    1. I'm very glad to hear it. I didn't really mean to imply that I thought all women liked him, I was just trying to suggest that men and women who do like him probably like him for very different reasons. But when I look back at the sentence that caught your eye -- "He's the ultimate alpha male (especially when he's leading his seminars) and as a result, the rest of us men resent him (or want to be like him), while the women swoon over him" -- I clearly over-generalized. I was just thinking about Susan Cain (who seems like a reasonable person) and Karen Heller (who wrote the WashingtonPost puff piece about Tony Robbins). Sorry about that all you women who can't stand Tony Robbins!

      Of course, you're over-generalizing somewhat when you say "all self help gurus are just like him. that's why i would never engage in any of their stuff. basically, all the stuff they say are stuff you already know. no sense in paying for that." I think that's true of all the big ones -- and the ones who offer courses and seminars specifically on "self-help" -- like Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Phil, and the late Stephen Covey. But there are some writers out there that may well be able to make a difference in your life. Right now I'm binging a little bit on Gretchen Rubin. She makes the same point that you do -- that not everybody is alike, and different techniques will work differently for different people. Maybe I'll write a more complete post about her work and ideas elsewhere.

  15. The 9-11 story was real. The woman is a relative of mine. Please leave it alone.

  16. He was on Letterman years ago and stated he did not advise Bill Clinton,because when Clinton called him,he said,"Sorry Mr. President,but I am not a Fan. I cannot help you." Also in 1984,my friend was his Electrician for his castle home,and invited me to his seminar.At the Del Mar Hotel in California,I took the seminar,and 1 hour later,was first in line to "WALK ON THE HOT COALS." He told me to use as a "mantra" if you will,the words,"COOL MOSS".I walked across those coals,they washed my feet off at the end with a hose. It was very empowering,and very hot. There was a tiny piece of debris between my toes I noticed later finding a "very,very" slight red spot on my big toe,nothing major,it went away. I still have my blue & white Firewalk Experience T-Shirt from that event. To this very day if I have picked up a hot pot on the stove or anything,I start saying "COOL MOSS",and this masterful use of Auto-Suggestion,shows its true power.He was 24 when he started all of his Work. Find me a 24 year old who can stand in front of a 1000 people and have them come away with something to wake them up,and I will show you 1000 24 year old's who can't even look at you to say hello,because they are too busy with their little game tablet.As far as his life choices,indeed that is what they are,his choices. Just as our life choices belong to us as well.This is the 21st Century,and I thought we as a people would have evolved a lot more when it came to our respect for one another.The story appears to have remained the same perhaps...Resent those that have more than you.....Condemn the person who speaks his truth,God forbid it should interrupt your ringtone.....but most of all,help someone who has less than you,and share that with others to keep the flow going. I will never understand,why a lot of us,fight for our 15 minutes of fame,and then chastise someone who had 30 minutes. He is one human being,out of billions-"LIVING HIS LIFE WITH PASSION!"-as he said over 30 years ago. What are we doing with ours? Thank you for reading this. All the best to you.Edwin,70 years old.I Miss My Wife Mari.

    1. Thanks for writing Edwin, and sorry about your wife. You've got the first part of your story wrong though. Robbins claims that he said that he was "not a fan" -- and that might have been true in 1993, which is when he supposedly said that -- but then he went on to take the job of giving Clinton self-help advice, and as Clinton got sleazier, they became friends with each of them saying glowing things about the other in public. Seems like a case of "like attracts like" to me. Source:

      Sorry if I sound resentful to you; I don't really mean to. I'm just writing down what I observe. And part of what I observe (which is born out by some of the comments here) is that a lot of people think Tony Robbins is just great, and a lot of others think that he is a egotistical narcissist. And I think most people who think the latter feel that way after just a few seconds of seeing/listening to him.

      Again, I think he is a great speaker, and he conveys a great message (most of the time), and parts of his biography are impressive (I think he started well before age 24), but I just find him very off-putting.

      PS I hate to break it to you, but the firewalk thing really was a scam ( But if it works for you, maybe it's best just to cling to the belief that it really was some kind of mind over matter experience.

  17. Replies
    1. God wants to know who is trying to be all knowing,You or Tony Robbins. I am STAGE 4 Cancer victim. I will pass soon. However I am having the time of my life in a few chat rooms and blog spots. I have followed yours for a few years. I have never listened to any one who perhaps had such a Magnificent Fear of someone else's Opinions. Always making sure that at the very end of your conversation,you put that person in a box,scold them,seal it up,and have your erection from having the last word. You do not have to say your age,that was not the point. Sort of like the letter I wrote you just above regarding Tony Robbins. I respected your blog here,I respected your opinions here. However you made sure you had to put me in my place,a complete stranger who was respectful to you here, and took it upon yourself to tell me "just what it was that I experienced." I will say a few things to you before I go,and as I will not be returning to your site,I will be having the last word on you,here. Post a reply as I bet you will not be able to resist..perhaps for others to digest, I will never read it. I have read many of your articles here. You strike me as a brilliant force of thought,introspection,and a caring for the world and its "Humanity." However the very Humanity that you are trying to "WAKE UP",is the same Humanity that you are "Slamming" for views different than yours. Before I wrote my letter yesterday, I was thinking that if I could have done a "TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE" thing with my last days,it would have been here. However as I have reread my letter here,maybe we just did, and I thank you for that opportunity. There will be none of this "LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE FULLEST CRAP" forthcoming from me. You are already doing it,and it appears to be a rather Large life at that. In closing,There is one thing I learned in my life,a proud Black man from Mississippi,a Sheriff of a small town,and a man who had his Wife murdered in front of him....and what is that ONE thing?.......... Farewell to you, Edwin.

    2. In the hope that you won't be able to resist checking to see if I was able to resist, here is my response.

      Thanks again for writing Edwin, and farewell to you too. It sounds like the world will be losing another good man. Nobody knows for sure what comes next, but I truly hope that you will be with your wife and others whom you have loved.

      I was not trying to slam you or put you in your place here. The overall point of my post was that some people have a visceral reaction against Tony Robbins, and some people don't. Judging by how successful he is, I'm in the minority, and I'm not trying to convince anyone to change.

      I should mention that I own a copy of "Unlimited Power" and even own two sets of 10 or 12 cassette tapes by him (all of which I bought used, but still). I've listened all the tapes at least once, and I've read parts of the book. It's quite possible that listening to the tapes has helped me in some way. They are easy to listen to, he has a good message, and he is a great speaker. It's hard not to learn from that powerful combination. But I still think he's a narcissist. So I'm not trying to slam him or put him in a box or anything; I am trying to learn what I can from him, and I used this blog just to write down some of my thoughts about him and his TED Talk.

      Do I really have a "Fear" of other people's Opinions, as you say? I don't think so. I don't see this blog as being about opinions at all. Most of my criticism of others has to do with what I see as lapses in logic or morals. This may be a sign of my own narcissism, but to be honest I don't think I spend a lot of time on this blog expressing my opinions. Maybe this post about Tony Robbins is the exception, but I've tried to be open about the fact that my "opinion" about him comes more from my gut than my head, although (true to form) I can't help but point out places where I think he is being illogical or unethical.

      I see now that the very last sentence of my "PS" to you above may have come off as a little bit harsh, and I apologize to you for that. As explained in the post that I linked to, I actually used to believe
      that the firewalk thing was a mind-over-matter experience myself, but then I learned otherwise and thought that the point was worth sharing (again, it's this video: My post on that, by the way, is not trying to express an opinion, it's just trying to help debunk a false myth spread by Tony Robbins. (

      I absolutely do believe in "mind-over-matter" on many levels -- and I believe it's an established scientific fact -- but I do not think the mind can control the natural fact of whether or not flesh will burn when exposed to heat. The reason the fire walk works is that the surfaces of the coals are not hot enough to burn you, not because you believe they won't.

      But reflecting on this, maybe I've convinced myself that the fire-walk is a good thing. If it has helped people to believe that they are capable of anything, and if that belief has carried them along and caused them to do good things, then perhaps that's one more example where my quibble with the "messenger" (in this case, the "firewalk" itself) should be outweighed by the fact that the message was received and acted on.

      I hope you spend your last days in peace and harmony with Nature, God, and Your World. If you come back and have time to share the ONE thing with the rest of us, I for one would appreciate it.

  18. So you don't like Tony Robbins. No big deal. But what have YOU contributed to the world?

    1. You obviously didn't read the post in any depth. But since you ask, I'll just say that I have contributed a good bit of honesty and authenticity in my daily interactions with others, over a long period of time -- which is more than one can say for people like Tony Robbins.

    2. I think I read enough. But aside from that, "a good bit of honesty and authenticity in my daily interactions with others" sounds righteous enough, but in my view does not come even close to feeding 2 million people. He may be self-absorbed, but he's made a real difference in people's lives.

    3. What you didn't read is the part where I regret that he has done more for more people than I will be able to do. I'm not criticizing the good stuff he's done; I'm just criticizing his phoniness.

  19. So rather than not regretting that YOU have not done more for more people, you are actually regretting that he has done more.
    Wow. Way to make a dent in the universe, pal.

    1. Sigh. I guess I have to take my readers as I find them. I think this one means "rather than REGRETTING," not "rather than NOT regretting."

      I see now that I could have worded my reply better as well -- all I meant to say is that I regret that I likely won't be able to do as much for as many people as he has. I think it means the same thing as what I said, but I can see how someone hell-bent on finding fault might think otherwise.

      Just for the record, I have done some good in the world and hope to do more. I am a semi-fortunate member of the competent class -- people who do well in school and are able to get good jobs and become valued employees and leaders. And this has enabled me to make a dent or two in the universe. I just haven't made the kind of money that entrepreneurial risk-takers like Tony Robbins have been able to make, so I haven't been able to give nearly as much away.

      It's not over yet though.

  20. I'm glad that, through the noise, your intention is to contribute more and give more away to others.

    In the end, that's all that matters.

    1. What is noise to some may be music to others. That's why I write.

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  22. Ann DID exist and so did Gary. Please see the video from 40 minutes on.

    Also in the TEDTalk Tony was inaccurate as he seems to have mixed up what the woman said (in the above video) and what the recording said... which isn't a big deal.

    no doubt tony plugs in himself, or upsells his seminars via his books/tapes. I dont see that as a reason to hate him. He's an entrepreneur too after all.

    1. Thanks for the link. As noted in the original blog post, I definitely believe that both Ann and Gary existed; I'm just trying to figure out why Ann told different stories to Tony and to Larry King, and how Tony garbled what she told him in his TED Talk. I'm still not convinced that the day-after-9-11 video wasn't staged, but I'm also very open to being convinced.

      And I don't "hate" Tony Robbins. I only wrote this post because I was wondering if he comes across as sleazy to other people as well. From the comments, it looks like some people share my reaction to him, and others don't. That's not surprising; it's all part of how we are all different.

    2. Thanks for your prompt reply. I guess anyone who's famous has that kind of response from the audience..

      It seems very unlikely that an event as public as the Hawaii seminar, with the huge number of guests that you can see in the audience, could have been staged. Also if it was staged, the video I have shared would have been made much more popular by Tony. It is actually really hard to find!

      I think of Tony in two ways: (a) as a coach, I like a lot of the stuff he shares but sometimes do find him sleazy... but then there is a market for that kind of stuff, and he caters to them and not necessarily me.

      (b) as an entrepreneur I think there's a lot to learn from how he's built his brand and business in a hugely competitive industry. He has shown up day after day, constantly evolved his content and marketing, built relations with influencers across various domains, built a brand that people pay a premium for, tirelessly marketed his services on whatever platform he could... A lot of the stuff that entrepreneurs do is common across industries, and from that perspective I think Tony is a great success story to learn from.


    3. Also as far as I can see, Ann said the same thing to Tony and Larry.

      Looks like Tony added the part in the Tedtalk which Ann said on her own (about living in the present, etc.), and he inaccurately attributed it to Gary's phone call recording instead of Ann.

    4. Yup, I think we can agree on two or three things about Tony -- we can all learn from him and his example, he's very good at what he does, and he strikes some of us as sleazy.

      I agree it seems unlikely and it would be pretty brazen for him to have staged the whole thing. And I think you're right that Ann said almost the same thing to Tony and Larry. But there are some inconsistencies. On Larry King, the message she plays says he was on the 104th floor, whereas at Tony Robbins, she says he's on the 101st. Larry King also seems to think that the conference started on Thursday, but according to the narrator of the video, it was a nine-day leadership conference that started on Monday.

      But these are relatively minor inconsistencies, and maybe Tony's mischaracterization of what she said was an honest mistake. I don't think there's any way to tell for sure. It's probably my visceral reaction to him that makes me distrust him; that doesn't mean he isn't trying to tell the truth.

      Maybe the other thing that bugs me about it is that everyone, especially Tony, seems so calm and matter of fact, and analytical. I just remember Jon Stewart on the days after 9/11 -- his emotional reaction seemed so much more real than what I am seeing from Tony now.

      Just watching the video at the link you provided, I'm starting to think if it really is real, Tony must be some kind of a sociopath.

    5. As someone who was physically distant from the tragedy, my reaction was a lot similar... Probably the magnitude of what had happened hadn't sunk in yet.
      And it sounds insensitive, but it is the way humans are i guess. I mean more people die of malaria Every Single Day in Africa than the deaths from 9/11 attacks. Every.Single.Day. So in a way we are all sociopaths.

      Also she said the guy's brother owned the 101st to 105th floor so probably 104th isn't a biggie.

      There's definitely some cheesiness about some of his stuff (especially from his early days), and he was for sure unstructured and a little too hurried in the Ted talk... But my opinion overall for Robbins is that there's so much more admirable about him compared to the average guy i meet on an average day, that I'd rather ignore the minor stuff which puts me off.

    6. I was in downtown DC and saw the Pentagon smoke and was worried -- like everyone else -- about the airplanes that were still in the air that day. So maybe I (and Jon Stewart and a few million others living in NY and DC) took it more personally than you. But I remember being on the phone with someone from Chicago for whom the whole thing completely changed his perspective on life, even as we were speaking. And I still wonder how everyone at the Tony Robbins event could have seemed so calm, given that 50 or more of them had literally lost loved ones to the attacks.

      It's sad that the overall sleazy impression of Tony that I have makes me suspect that this might have been staged. That would be pretty awful, and I admit that objectively speaking, it is unlikely, since it could be so easily disproven, and it's not like Tony needs to make more money by putting his credibility at risk by releasing a fake video, and then bragging about it at a TED Talk.

      I just wish someone would step forward here to either prove or disprove it. If anyone who was there is reading this, please speak up - you can do it anonymously.

  23. Thanks for your article. I read some stuff of his a long time ago and applied a lot of it to my life. After watching his latest documentary I was astonished to see the quantity of foul language. It seems he went from an educator to a guru. Really scary.

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    2. Thanks for writing. Agreed about the foul language -- that suggested to me that deep down, he really doesn't practice what he preaches.

      You can't rise very high in life if you start off talking like that. Tony can do it because he has spent years building himself up, made millions of dollars, loves what he does, and continues getting paid handsomely for doing it.

      Nobody is going to not promote him or not vote for him because of his dirty mouth, so he's flaunting the fact that he can get away with it. I think it's the sadist in him that I mentioned somewhere above -- he seems to revel in the fact that he gets to do stuff that the rest of us don't get to do.

      And now that he's made it, he can do whatever he wants and doesn't really care about setting an example for others.

  24. Agree on the foul mouth in his Netfix doc. Using the
    term crossing the line. Also the women
    that Tony has stand up in this movie are too good looking and the talk seems scripted. Where are the people of colour there? Maybe I did not see them for I stop watching for the curses of Tony was overboard.
    He's super rich he should to free talks and forget
    the army of set up staff. Gene Canada

  25. Related to the foul language point that people have been making -- I recently fired up a cassette player and started listening to some old cassettes of his Personal Power II course (mixed up with some Personal Power I's; not sure if there is a difference), and made some observations:

    He goes out of his way NOT to use foul language -- there's one point where he is talking about breaking someone's pattern and he paraphrases the famous "NetworK" quote as "I'm not as heck and I'm not going to take it anymore" (actually, I think the quote is "this" not "it", but my point is he said "heck" instead of "hell"). So that was back when he was somewhat classy -- i.e. still on the way up, and still had to worry about what people would think of him.

    He also talks about his then-wife, the woman of his dreams (Becky) and how well they got along, and the systems they had in place to make sure their marriage would last. Guess what? It didn't.

    So the bottom line is that he was probably a narcissist back then, but he was also ambitious and he knew how to suppress the outward manifestations of his narcissism. Now, he just doesn't care, because he's so rich and successful he doesn't need to. In fact, he's so great that he can use foul language in front of an audience of eggheads that includes Al Gore.

    What he forgets is what a poor example he is setting, which in the end is inconsistent with the image of himself that he has been trying to create for so long.

    I'll admit (as I have before) that his tapes are engaging and probably can help some people. In fact, I'm trying to get my son to listen to them right now.

    But one thing jumped out at me this time around, which I don't think I've mentioned before. Apparently, for a while (and who knows, maybe still), he had latched onto the "manifestation" craze -- the idea that if you think positive thoughts, what you wish for will manifest itself. Wayne Dyer was big on this (but apparently couldn't wish away his cancer or whatever killed him), and of course it's the premise of the "Secret" and the whole idea that if you want something, you just need to ask the "Universe" for it.

    Anyway, at one of his goal setting seminars, one of his seminar participants made a goal of making $200,000 (I forget the number exactly) in the next year, and then went out and bought a lottery ticket and won exactly that. And then I think that participant did it again. And then another participant, having heard about this, said why stop at $200,000, and decided to wish for a one million dollar lottery ticket. And they got it.

    All the while that he is explaining this, Tony is saying he himself doesn't buy lottery tickets and it might not work for you etc etc - i.e. all the appropriate things. But in the end, it's one more message that all you have to do is come to one of Tony's seminars and you might get really rich, without even trying. So that's a bit of snake oil mixed up with some of the other self-help pablum that we all (admittedly) need to hear every once in a while, whether from Tony or from somebody else.

  26. Tony Robbins is being seen as quite controversial lately, maybe he is what you say, but it's pretty clear you are not only analysing his words from a rational perspective ONLY (which is totally opposite to the goal here), but you are also failing to understand some parts and some references.
    The fact that you don't understand them is not a solid base to criticise them.

    Tony Robbins might have some unclear or not totally consistent parts in his speeches, but we are dealing with long long hours of talking.

    What he brings out is probably motivation and energy, which do not need a perfect rational human.

    1. As I've said, I agree that he's a good speaker and he's clearly able to motivate some people. But the reason I tried to dissect his talk rationally in this post is because HE is claiming to be MORE than a motivational speaker, i.e., he's the "why guy," -- the guy people go to for deep scientific understanding of human psychology. Per the original post:

      In the talk he draws a strange distinction -- he is not there to motivate people, he's the "why guy" -- he figures out why you do what you do.  He believes "emotion is the force of life."  Not (just) self-interest, but emotion.

      He sees two major issues in his work -- the science of achievement, and the art of contribution, and the art of fulfillment.  Ok, that sounds like three, I know.  But maybe the last two are the same.

      His references to "science" in this speech, and the way he refers to motivational techniques as "technology" in his seminars, makes it clear that he, for one, thinks he is more than a mere "motivational speaker." As explained in the original post, I tend to think he is deluding himself, and perhaps some others as well.

  27. I get the points the cynics are raising, but even with their caveats, they still seem to miss the point. What many people need is something to get them off their butts, get past feeling sorry for themselves, and moving forward. TR is like some religions, but at least he isn't attacking Muslims and homosexuals, or getting people to blame others for their problems. So for all those it works for, GREAT. Why waste so much time trying to destroy his placebo effect? :-) Why not spend your energy trying to build something positive?

    1. I think I agree with most of this -- I've always said that TR has a mostly-good message and that he probably has done more good than harm in the world. I think I've even taken away some positive points from listening to his tapes.

      This just started after I listened to his TED Talk -- one of the most watched TED Talks of all time -- and decided to write up my thoughts on it. And those thoughts are basically that I found the talk itself illogical, disorganized, and nearly incoherent, and I was put off by the unnecessarily foul language. Of course, I tend to ramble a bit, and got into how he has always seemed like a phony to me, which got me to wondering whether others feel the same way. And I think the answer is some do, some don't.

      I don't know if it's a waste of time; if people read what I write and react to it, then maybe I've made some people think. That seems like a good thing -- maybe even something positive -- even if my readers disagree with me.

      And I do try to build even more positive things with the rest of my time :-)

    2. Oh, and I forgot to mention that his story about 9-11 just didn't ring 100% true, and it seemed to me that he was trying to capitalize off of that tragedy by glorifying and possibly embellishing his own reaction to it.

      That's still just a hunch -- nobody who was at his seminar on 9-11 has come forward to say whether or not it really happened the way he says it did.

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  30. I just watched the talk, due to listening to a podcast with this guy, and was hunting for more on his end story, and ended up here. I was not so put off by him, but I found him to be rambling at best with little to no discernible content. Then again, if he's used to doing 50 hour presentations, that may be why. I hope he doesn't just ramble on about emotion for 50 hours. Definitely think he is type who appeals to specific types. Despite all the talk of different countries, it did come off as pretty White and Western to me. (I've spent years in an Asian Confucian culture, where I don't think this talk would make much impression. 'Why' is already embedded in the highly competitive, filial, status-oriented, face-defending culture; and the paths one should pursue are specific and known. There's not the open-ended me-culture, or trying to figure out altruism because it's a much more collective and structured society.)

  31. Uninformed hater attracting ignorant haters...gotta love the internet smh. Do a little more research than just analyzing a genius you know nothing about who is doing his best to share and convey 4 days worth of information in 20 minutes. I've followed and studied Tony for 10 years, this blog post makes you look like a fucking clueless hater buddy, along with the bunch of ass clowns making comments and displaying their ignorance as well. Get well soon.

    1. I've followed and studied him for over 30 years. If you're a product of one of his seminars, I rest my case.

  32. Just watched the TED talk.. it was the most incoherent talk I've ever seen. He didn't complete one list or make one single point clearly. He did say he was trying to cram 50 hours into 20 minutes but every TED speaker is required to summarise their life's work into a short time and almost all do it successfully. He could've picked one important topic and covered it respectfully rather than this crazy frenzy of words I just watched.

    1. Thanks for the affirmation. If any of Tony's "anonymous" fans reading this can clarify what he was saying, I think we'd all be grateful.

  33. I just listened to his ted talk as background noise while working. I didn't pay any attention except to the 9/11 story at the end but was totally confused about the sequence of events in his story, shocked that he would refer to a zionist jew as living in the "occupied territory", tried to find the book on google to see what he was talking about but nothing turned up... but your blog post did. thanks for the in depth analysis.

  34. For.the recorr and for all to see - this is a film that documents the transformation Tony facilitated on 911:
    Relevant today as ever!

  35. Years later.. I just stumbled on to this post after watching his ted talk as well. I agree with you, in many ways, that the talk was bad. It was really bad actually, and I say this as someone who has always been a fan of Robbins. I don't think his talk was narcissistic or "all about ME" as you stated, at all. But I did think it was completely scatter brained, went in a dozen new directions every minute, and made no sense. As you pointed out he kept changing his thesis statement and bringing up lists of things and not finishing them, etc. It seemed like he did a bunch of cocaine backstage and then just made the whole thing up on the fly!