Robbins is not only the personal performance coach of business leaders like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, he's the head of a conglomerate of companies and the main attraction for long, incredibly lively seminars that he has relentlessly given around the world for the past 30 years.
He told Business Insider that he wasn't born a naturally energetic person, that he gets little sleep when he's on tour, and that he doesn't take stimulants for a boost. Instead, he's developed strict habits around diet, exercise, stress management, and the approach to his work. The setting for this mass act of catharsis is the third floor of the Moscone West exhibition space in downtown San Francisco.
Some 150,000 registered attendees wearing sky-blue credentials have invaded the city and are shuffling among some 1,400 sessions spread over the course of four days.
On this opening afternoon of the conference, however, Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff, 50, has given the big stage to one of his most important mentors: the bestselling self-help author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. For the past hour Benioff has been sitting in the front row and nodding his head enthusiastically as the almost larger-than-life Robbins—he’s six-seven, with hands the size of catcher’s mitts and a head that looks as if it were carved from granite—digs into the topic of “engagement.” Dressed in a black button-down shirt and dark jeans, he moves confidently on a round stage in the center of the crowd, projecting his trademark scratchy baritone through a headset mike. It’s the responsibility of the people in the room to attack this engagement problem, he says. Few if any self-improvement gurus are as familiar to Americans as Robbins, but somewhat more quietly over the years he has assumed a different role—as trusted adviser to corporate chieftains and captains of finance. Leveraging his relationships with Jones and others, Robbins set out to interview 50 of the investing world’s elite and distill their lessons for the masses. The result is a mix of core practical advice—build a balanced portfolio, use low-cost index funds, and beware of brokers whose financial incentives aren’t aligned with yours—filtered through the Robbins regimen of empowerment. The book reveals a different side of a man dismissed by some as a purveyor of common-sense inspiration. Over the two decades that Robbins has been working with Jones, the investor has made money every single year, including in 2008 when the U.S. Multibillionaire Bridgewater Associates founder Dalio, who manages money exclusively for institutional clients, had some familiarity with Robbins before sitting down for an interview for his book. For Dalio, who last year released a 30-minute animated video called How the Economic Machine Works, that ability to distill information is particularly compelling.
Long before he had acquired those tools, Robbins was a scrawny kid trying to find order in a chaotic home life.
In his last two years of high school, Robbins began a period of huge growth—both figuratively and literally.
Shortly thereafter, Robbins landed a job with a motivational speaker named Jim Rohn, and his career in self-improvement was launched. In 1984, Robbins became a family man in a hurry at age 24 when he married his first wife, Becky. To Guber, Robbins’ message was both simple and authentic: “He said, ‘Be in charge of your life.
With my eyes closed and my hands palm up, I’m trying hard to stay focused on feelings of gratitude when I feel Robbins’ massive hands gripping my skull. Robbins bought the house a year and a half ago for $24.75 million when he got fed up with state income taxes in California and decided to make Florida his main base. Robbins discovered meditation eight years ago when he was searching for something that would alleviate Sage’s extreme motion sickness, an affliction she had struggled with since childhood. As Robbins’ hands wrap over my skull, he delivers the Oneness “blessing,” or deeksha, which is said to initiate a neurobiological change in the brain. In addition to his core work as a strategist, these days Robbins presides over a diverse portfolio of businesses—but the size of that portfolio is not easy to derive. To be sure, there’s a theme that runs through the Robbins business empire, the book sales and seminars, the road warrior lifestyle that has him on a plane roughly every four days, even his philanthropy—he’s donating all the earnings from the book’s sale to feeding the hungry and has pledged over the next 12 months to serving at least 50 million meals to people in need through a partnership with the nonprofit Feeding America. The day before his keynote seminar at Dreamforce, Robbins and I visit Benioff at the elegant row house in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco where the Salesforce CEO used to live and that he now uses as a home office. When he was at Oracle, Benioff borrowed a system that Robbins calls RPM (or Rapid Planning Method) and adapted his own version he calls V2MOM (Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures) as his management model. As economic uncertainty continues to shake Wall Street and Main Street, many success-minded professionals are being put to the test. Robbins continues to attract thousands of people to packed arenas all over the world, seeking to take their lives to the next level. That change has resulted in big business for Robbins, who serves as chairman of five companies all geared toward his creed of improving the quality of life for people around the world. But none of the success he enjoys would ever have happened if he hadn't been able to find a way to break through his own limitations.
Robbins has worked directly with more than 3.5 million people from more than 100 countries.
Over the years, Robbins has noticed patterns in what makes people succeed or fail, what makes them feel happy or sad, and what it is that creates a life of meaning and fulfillment versus a life of frustration and despair. The father of life coaching answers some questions about failure and success, and everything in between.
Q: How did you go from living in a small apartment, practically broke, to the successful and fulfilled person you are today? Anthony Robbins: I took advantage of my intense pain, and I turned it into the fuel for action. Just remember, two people can have the same circumstances, but they pull different meanings from it, and therefore a different set of emotions, actions, and a different life.
AR: It's true the world has changed dramatically over the last few years, and it's going to continue to change.
These kinds of seasons not only shape our personal lives, but there are seasons in history as well.
We'll explain below howA one of the world's greatest distance runners, an 85-year-old Catholic nun triathlete, cryotherapy, and a strange anxiety-reducing headset haveA contributed to Robbins' seemingly limitless energy. But there’s something undeniably appealing about the experience: Unleashing so much raw energy, in however absurd a fashion, is seductive. Robbins tells the crowd that he recently ran across a study that found that just 29% of employees in the U.S. He burst onto the self-improvement scene nearly three decades ago with the publication in 1986 of his first bestseller, Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement. He counts billionaires such as Virgin’s Richard Branson and gaming magnate Steve Wynn among his friends.
His 25 multiday events this year will attract audiences of thousands who pay richly to learn his techniques for living a richer and fuller life. But that is about to change in November with Money: Master the Game, a 600-page tome that promises to give readers “7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom” (see excerpt). Woven alongside classic Tony aphorisms (“Complexity is the enemy of execution”) is a passionate desire to explain—to solve the mystery of why so many people are set up to fail when it comes to their own financial management.
It was 1993 and Jones, then 39, was already regarded as a full-fledged master of the hedge fund universe. Robbins helped Jones identify what made him profitable in his trading—the behaviors and circumstances under which he did best. He was born Anthony Mahavorick in Los Angeles, where his father was a parking garage attendant, but grew up in Azusa and Glendora, Calif., after his parents split when he was 7. Robbins, the eldest of three children, found himself searching for ways to manage the environment. The growing field of personal empowerment was a natural fit for an intelligent young man with a driving desire to lift himself beyond his origins.
He will frequently toss off a comment like, “I don’t believe in a bunch of self-improvement bullshit.” Raise the subject of his infomercial past or teaching people to fire-walk, and he bristles a bit.
In the mid-1990s, for instance, Guber was ready to give up his job at Sony, but he was struggling to let go of the status and the responsibility. You’re going to have reward and risk wherever you are, but be authentic to what you want to be and what you want to do.
He still has a home in Palm Springs, another in Sun Valley, Idaho, and one in British Columbia, Canada, in the small town outside Vancouver where his wife, Sage, grew up.

In late October he joined his friend Guber as part of a group—including Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, and several other investors—paying $100 million for the rights to launch a new Major League Soccer franchise in Los Angeles.
They do everything from sorting, coding, and summarizing his emails to brainstorming material and creating the circular “mind maps” he likes to study as a visual outline for his seminars. Everything the man does is outsize, as if cast from the same mold that shaped his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame. Robbins greets his friend with a kiss on the cheek, and we sit down to talk around the dining room table.
The book includes a chapter devoted to Buffett, but Buffett declined Robbins’ request for an interview. He understands that when people are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and fearful, they're rarely capable of brilliant analysis and decision-making. The 48-year-old Robbins vividly remembers the days when he was living in a stark, 400-square-foot apartment in Venice, Calif., and reduced to washing dishes in the bathtub.
Robbins Research International Inc., based in San Diego, stages more than 100 events a year, offers professional coaching services and a variety of multimedia programs, including his best-selling The Ultimate Edge and Personal Power CD programs, which have sold more than 35 million units worldwide. He had to get clear about what he really wanted and harness the fuel of human emotion to force himself to consistently take action to make his dreams a reality. And he's as active as ever, often spending more than 15 hours on stage per day for a four-day event. When he started 30 years ago, Robbins was a pioneer in personal and professional development—which is a $10 billion industry today. He saw it early on in his own life, and he sees it in the people he spends time with today—whether it's a hungry entrepreneur, a seasoned corporate executive or a mid-level manager. When you're living in a 400-square-foot bachelor apartment, cooking on a hotplate above your trash can and washing your dishes in the bathtub, you have to start looking at yourself. For me, that means, first of all, giving and sharing love, and I'm truly blessed to have that kind of love in my relationship with my wife, Sage. But what's been helpful is that I've worked hard to learn from these mistakes so I don't have to repeat them. It's true that when people see news coverage of my seminars they see 10,000 people jumping or celebrating. It's to understand what season of life you're in, to understand what season the world is in, and to figure out how to take advantage of it. In its 12th year, Dreamforce has grown from a small, sober customer event of 1,300 to the Lollapalooza of corporate gatherings. His special gift, say admirers, is his ability to help successful people not only take their performance to the next level but also find personal fulfillment in the process. The book, he says, was born out of a sense of moral outrage following the financial crisis of 2008. Morgan Asset Management’s Mary Callahan Erdoes, Vanguard founder Jack Bogle, Charles Schwab, and T. Spend a few days with Robbins and it becomes clear that he isn’t just a hyperenergized salesman with a headset. His legend had been established when he correctly anticipated the market plunge in October 1987 and made huge profits when most of his peers lost a bundle. But he was captivated by Robbins’ ability to converse with him—what Robbins likes to call “pitching and catching”—at a high level. His mother, an alcoholic and pill user whose father was a writer for Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera, had a series of husbands—men whom Robbins refers to as his “fathers.” He especially connected with a former semi-pro baseball player named Jim Robbins, who legally adopted Tony. Robbins says he studied speed-reading and gave himself a goal of reading one book a day, gobbling up stories of great leaders as well as self-improvement literature.
Then there’s the Namale Resort and Spa he owns in Fiji, which he says is his favorite place in the world—not just because of its inherent beauty but also because of the inherently positive outlook of its people.
But he has incorporated elements of the ritual into his routine—a process he calls “priming.” He takes 10 to 20 minutes a day to put himself in a positive state of mind. The actual sequence is improvised as he goes (see “Robbins’ Rules: How to Give a Presentation, below”). He is so comfortably larger than life that when his eyes water with suddenly intense emotion—as they frequently do—it is hard not to want to feel along with him. Benioff discovered Robbins through his tapes two decades ago when he was a fast-rising executive at software giant Oracle, and then began attending seminars. People often call upon Robbins to help remove barriers holding them back and to inspire them to take action. He was 30 pounds overweight, had a dead-end job, and in relationships that weren't working.
He also created the award-winning Namale Resort and Spa in Fiji, where he also spends a few months each year. On top of that I was 30 pounds overweight, had a job that was going nowhere, and I was in relationships I hated.
For some people it might be creating their own business or starting a nonprofit foundation. But an extraordinary life for me is also finding a way to make a difference for others to grow and love. I realized along the way that if we can learn from our mistakes, we can create shortcuts that can help us to make a measurable difference for other people in their lives. I just understand that in order to get peak performance, you have to get people in a peak state.
But one thing is constant—there are seasons in everyone's life just as there are seasons in nature. I teach everyone in my seminars how to find the season they're in, which is different for everyone, and to take advantage of it. For a full half-minute, while techno music blasts over the speakers, we try to outdo our partners in this exercise—tapping into a primal aggression that rarely makes an appearance in the corporate world. But it was through the ever-expanding series of infomercials that many people first met him. Robbins’ knack for combining pragmatic analysis with empathy has turned him into a modern-day consigliere to the C-suite. But he also devotes a significant portion of his time to working intensely with a small group of global power players—a Latin American industrialist, an Asian entrepreneur—who, he says, pay him seven-figure fees to coach them in their lives and careers. Watching the 2010 documentary Inside Job, he got angry that a handful of reckless financiers had tanked the markets and caused millions of less financially sophisticated people to suffer. Some of the most accomplished business and financial figures in the world deeply respect his ability to listen, process information, and translate it into positive results. Jones sends Robbins a couple of paragraphs summarizing what happened that day in his trading. Robbins often did the grocery shopping, cooked meals, and persuaded the pharmacist to refill his mother’s prescriptions. Packaged in phrases like Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Neuro-Associative Conditioning, the message boiled down to this: It’s possible to exert mind over matter, take control of your own destiny, and achieve your goals.
That son, Jairek Robbins, is now a motivational speaker and performance coach like his dad.
The only light comes from the 30 white candles burning on two hanging trays and a credenza.
The Robbinses have only recently finished mostly renovating the Palm Beach house—not counting the guesthouse they’re building on the property. Then he heard from a friend who had traveled to the Oneness University, a meditation center in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. First he does a physical and breathing routine to change his state, and then he focuses on one emotion. This master motivator is equally adept at keeping a crowd of 10,000 people on its feet for hours. There are no weeds." For people to be true leaders, they have to first see things as they are, not worse.

So I grabbed a journal there on the beach, drew a line in the middle of the page, and on one side wrote everything I would no longer stand for in my life, which was virtually everything I was living at the time. The driving force in my life is to help make a measurable difference in the quality of life for people everywhere. There's a passageway that, if you see it, it will pull you out of the uncertainty and guide you on how to maximize this time in your life.
You can’t maximize resources if you don’t have engagement.” And if you want to reach people, Robbins believes, one of the best ways to do so is to change your “state”—physically and emotionally.
Long-form TV ads for his 30-day programs to achieve personal growth ran 24 hours a day in different parts of the cable universe throughout the ’90s and beyond—lodging the life coach somewhere in the public consciousness between Ron Popeil and Dale Carnegie. This group notably includes Paul Tudor Jones, founder of $13 billion hedge fund firm Tudor Investment Corp. He talked asset allocation with David Swensen, who runs Yale’s $24 billion pension fund, and grilled Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund with $150 billion under management, on how to build a portfolio that will generate returns in any market environment. But six years later he was going through a “rough patch” that had hurt his confidence, and his friend Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who was then leading the New York Knicks, recommended that Jones reach out to Robbins.
He also dictates a set of 12 to 15 criteria that he and Robbins measure together so that Robbins can monitor them. I find that it’s a rare case that people have an ability to see things in a simple way and also appreciate the complexity of things. He worked as a janitor and found a small apartment, but he dropped his dream of attending the University of Southern California to study sportswriting. In 2001, Robbins and Becky finalized a divorce, and later that year Robbins married Sage, whom he met when she was working at one of his seminars.
There is a 165,000-gallon infinity pool, and the master bedroom has a balcony that overlooks the Atlantic. The guru there had a technique that could slow the activity in a person’s parietal lobes, the part of the brain that controls motion. And more recently he has begun using a cryotherapy machine, which exposes the body to –220° F for three minutes to reduce inflammation. He's also addressed the World Economic Forum, British Parliament and Harvard Business School. I had a series of experiences with frustration at myself, and moved into unbelievable humiliation.
For someone else it might be the ultimate satisfaction of raising a son or daughter to be an extraordinary soul. It is my greatest joy to share the tools and strategies for creating a life of meaning and fulfillment. And when you recognize a pattern for success, you can take the on-ramp for what you want much more quickly. I want to know, for example, why you claim that you want to lose weight, yet each day, you seem to be motivated to eat things that cause you to gain weight.' The ultimate question is 'Why?' And when you can answer this question, you can change your life forever. The transformation of the quality of life for early humanity came when seasons were recognized. If you were born in 1910, what was happening in the world by the time you were 19 years old?
You might remember him as the guy who has inspired thousands of people—including Oprah—to walk over burning coals. He’s blessed with a mind that allows him to see that way.” Elliot Weissbluth, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based HighTower Advisors, experienced much the same thing when Robbins reached out to him for help on the book project. Robbins didn’t find out until he was in his thirties that the rapid growth had been due to a pituitary tumor in his brain. And Robbins is cagey about divulging specifics or discussing his net worth, though his life of lavish homes and chartered Gulfstream jets suggests that he’s living on a par with some of the power players he advises.
And he still seems a bit in awe of his mentor, as if he’s in the presence of a childhood sports hero.
And if you can get your employees to also learn how to constantly answer those questions, you can get this mass alignment.” Benioff and his executive team use the process every year to set the company’s goals. I began to realize that who I was as a man—how I was living mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially—was far less of a man than who I really was inside.
Nothing stokes me more than to see someone or an organization transform and begin to pursue goals with a purpose that inspires them, and gives them a greater sense of meaning—in not only what they do, but who they are.
I call these 'Pathways to Power.' And my life is truly about sharing those strategies, those pathways, those shortcuts that allow us to save ourselves time and pain. Part of my job is to help people uncover the inner conflicts that hold them back, to find the conflicts in their motivations.
Others know Robbins as the guy, playing himself, who cast a spell on Jack Black in the movie Shallow Hal.
Robbins has worked with Jones for 21 years, helping the investor keep his edge through wildly fluctuating markets. The first thing Robbins had him do was get in the best physical shape of his life, because so much of winning is mental and attitudinal.
As Robbins tells the story, a Sikh cleric he met was the first one to warn him that he had a pituitary disturbance and should see a doctor.
As Robbins observes, “I’ve had the privilege to be around some of the most successful people on the face of the earth, the best in the world at what they do. Robbins says that he’s started more than a dozen companies and owns a piece in another dozen or so more.
When I hit that threshold of pain, I didn't know at the time what I was doing, but I decided at the very minimum I was going to go on a run.
I think the most important thing is for you to defi ne what would be an extraordinary life for you today because it changes as our lives change. Ultimately, what I've learned, though, is that life is not about success or failure; it's about meaning. He’s been called in to advise Bill Clinton during his impeachment ordeal, to work with athletes like Andre Agassi when they were off their game, and to help actor Hugh Jackman stay in the zone.
The range goes from CloudCoaching International, a holding company that owns businesses focused on “corporate improvement” and has clients like Dell and Ingersoll Rand, to Unlimited Tomorrow, which is working on “exoskeletons” that could someday allow paralyzed people to walk again.
What the hell happened over the weekend?’” For this level of personal guidance, Robbins charges Jones and his other elite clients $1 million a year, he says, plus a piece of the upside of their business. But at his next physical the doctor told him that, indeed, he had a tumor and needed surgery or else his heart valves could expand fatally. And that’s how he met Rick Allen, the drummer of rock band Def Leppard, who had turned to meditation years earlier to help deal with the trauma of losing his left arm in a car accident in the 1980s.
Otherwise, you may fi nd yourself with one of those insane moments where you actually achieved your goal and then your brain says, 'Is this all there is' There's no worse feeling in life. After seeking multiple opinions, Robbins determined that the tumor had stabilized on its own. I began to search for the answers, but instead of just reading about them, or hearing them, I began to apply them.
Take a moment to update your wish list and ask yourself, 'If my life was truly extraordinary, if it was magnificent, by my own definition, what would my life be like today: physically, emotionally, with my family, in my career, in my level of happiness?' Set the standard for yourself so your brain, body and soul know what you're committed to creating.
He’s been monitoring it for 20 years and says he’s perfectly healthy but with a bonus: an elevated level of human growth hormone. Not long after, Robbins and his wife made their own trip to the Oneness University for several days of intensive study—and virtually nothing else.

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