I was working on organizing photos late last night as I sailed with a cruise ship through the waters and amazing landscapes in the midnight sun of Norway. My wanderlust was ignited as I watched that show on Netflix. When the cruise ended, I scrolled through other recommendations and stopped on a documentary, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru. The documentary followed Robbins at one of his seminars in Boca Raton that cost around $6,000 per person. That could be my down payment on that Norwegian cruise, and either one might change my life. I opted to watch the seminar and save my money for a wishful cruise someday.
Each day of Robbins’ seminar focused on different human issues. On the first day, a young woman began her encounter with Robbins saying she wanted to work on diet. He honed in on the real issues as her craving of love from her father who had often fallen short in giving her all the love she needed during her childhood. We learned later that she had connected in a more honest way with her father that might change their relationship, at least as long as the impact of that seminar stayed with her. As another woman spoke to Robbins, he suggested to her that her father had given her such unconditional love that no partner could ever hope to emulate that father’s love. He had instilled in her a sense of entitlement to love that required no effort from her; that entitlement may have been a contributing factor to the failure of her marriage. She offered the excuse that her husband had hurt her, to which Robbins quickly responded that she had also hurt her husband. She agreed that was the truth. Then he asked about her new relationship and the hesitation in her reply was the answer. Robbins insisted she call that boyfriend for an honest conversation about the relationship. The call ended with a hang-up by that boyfriend. Perhaps he needed the seminar too. The next day this woman explained that though Robbins had been harsh with her, she understood that she needed to make that call.
The group leaders who spoke with attendees called out in the planning sessions each day stories of abuse and kidnapping by terrorists and murders of family members and suicidal thoughts. Those singled out by Robbins and highlighted in this show felt new hope for their problems. Are the stories real and the solutions long-lasting? Is Robbins some type of magician in pinpointing the real issues or does he just have an innate ability to read people? Do these types of programs or all those self-help books help us find solutions to our problems? I read those books too believing that some more intelligent or intuitive author has found just the answer for my problems. Perhaps this seminar does provide that moment of clarity leading to solutions and change for each person. Obviously everyone attending spends this money hoping for answers to the problems that brought them there.
Why does Robbins do this work? He called it an obsession to help others. He believes that who he is now was molded by his childhood with an addict mother who relied on him to get her supply. He did not blame her for that childhood though, but rather thanked her for making him the person he is. So his painful childhood led him to a wish to help others overcome painful life events. His experiences impelled him into his life’s work. So perhaps I should thank all those who have brought me such pain for exposing strength and building character. Certainly that might seem to be more agreeable than blaming them for being insensitive lying destructive people. That is a difficult hairpin turn to make on this road.
I think Robbins viewpoint makes sense, but ask how he was able to divert his pain into purpose; because for every man or woman like him, there must also be those who are swallowed by their pain into self-destructive lives. I thought of people I had known in the past. One woman watched her father die a painful death from lung cancer and stopped smoking. A young employee came to our office one day to take a phone call informing him that a sibling had died from an overdose. That employee also used drugs, and this death would seem to be just the event that was the warning that it was time to quit using. Yet a few years later that employee was dead of an overdose. Why was one person able to embrace the painful events to make meaningful change while the other was not? Was it just that one was ready and willing to make change and the other not?