Why you should listen
Tony Robbins might have one of the world’s most famous smiles; his beaming confidence has helped sell his best-selling line of self-help books, and fill even his 10,000-seat seminars. What’s less known about the iconic motivational speaker is the range and stature of his personal clients. From CEOs to heads of state to Olympic athletes, a wide swath of high-performing professionals (who are already plenty motivated, thank you very much) look to him for help reaching their full potential.
Robbins’ expertise in leadership psychology is what brought him to TED, where his spontaneous on-stage interaction with Al Gore created an unforgettable TED moment. It also perfectly demonstrated Robbins’ direct — even confrontational — approach, which calls on his listeners to look within themselves, and find the inner blocks that prevent them from finding fulfillment and success. Some of his techniques — firewalking, for example — are magnets for criticism, but his underlying message is unassailable: We all have the ability to make a positive impact on the world, and it’s up to us, as individuals, to overcome our fears and foibles to reach that potential.
Robbins has won many accolades for his work — including his memorable performance in the Jack Black comedy Shallow Hal. (It was a small but vital role.) His Anthony Robbins Foundation works with the homeless, elderly and inner-city youth, and feeds more than 2 million people annually through its International Basket Brigade.
What others say
“What Tony delivers is an ever crescendoing call-and-response oratory that often gives the proceedings a teetering, Pentecostal kind of energy. ” — GQ
His father was a parking garage attendant, and his mother was an alcoholic and drug user. Robbins is the eldest of three children. His parents divorced when he was 7. His mother then had a series of husbands, including Jim Robbins, a former semi-professional baseball player who legally adopted Anthony. Robbins was raised in Azusa and Glendora, California, and attended Glendora High School. He worked as a handyman to help provide for his siblings. He was elected student body president in his senior year, and grew 10 inches in high school, a growth spurt later attributed to a pituitary tumor. He has said his home life was “chaotic” and “abusive”, and that his mother chased him out of the house with a knife when he was 17, and he never returned. Robbins worked as a janitor, and did not attend college.
Robbins began his career promoting seminars for Jim Rohn. According to Robbins, Rohn taught him that “happiness and success in life are not the result of what we have, but rather of how we live. What we do with the things we have makes the biggest difference in the quality of life.”
Later Robbins began his own work as a self-help coach. He taught neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and Ericksonian Hypnosis after training with NLP co-founder John Grinder. In 1983, Robbins learned to firewalk from Tolly Burkan and began to incorporate it into his seminars.
Robbins promoted his services as a “peak performance coach” through his books and TV infomercials, gaining strong public recognition and lucrative sales. He gained wide exposure through infomercials advertising his Personal Power series of self-help audiotapes.
In 1997, Robbins began the Leadership Academy seminar, in which he said participants learn to “create an identity for them self as someone who can help ‘anyone’, no matter what his/her challenge may be.” Robbins is a featured speaker on the seminar circuit sponsored by Learning Annex. Robbins appeared as a featured speaker at the 2007 Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference. As of August 2012, his talk was the 6th most popular TED talk.