Jairek Robbins on the Importance of Building a Community

UPDATED: October 26, 2023
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2023
Jairek Robbins on the Importance of Building a Community

“Hopefully there’s something useful being said here,” Jairek Robbins says, grinning widely, as we sit down to talk on a sunny afternoon in late January.

It’s the kind of gleeful self-deprecation you only get from a guy who knows he’s got plenty of “useful” things to say. If anything, Robbins, the high-performance business coach, personal improvement coach and bestselling author and entrepreneur, has too many good ideas to fit into just one feature. What follows is my best attempt.

As he sees it, his role as a coach and speaker—centered on strengthening and expanding individuals’ personal development—comes at an inflection point for our culture on a broad scale. He believes the very pillars of personal development are changing, because, well, consciousness evolves. Humans evolve. And one thing he’s grown to see in the recent past is that personal development has its limitations—at least the way we’ve been approaching it.

The importance of building community as an entrepreneur

“I think personal development had so many benefits, where people grew, people learned, people expanded, people reached new heights,” he continues. “They saw new things and experienced a new evolution of self. But it came with consequences. And the consequences were: They felt separate; they felt alone; they felt disconnected from their community.”

Depression now affects roughly 1 in 10 Americans, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Depression-adjacent feelings such as anxiety and loneliness saw a similar spike during the pandemic, though rates of anxiety declined in 2021. It’s not that a focus on personal development has been a bad thing or that it’s responsible for any of those statistics, and Robbins certainly isn’t saying, “Try to be worse.”

It’s just that the myth of individual success—that if we drive hard enough, work hard enough and strive long enough, good things will follow—puts too much emphasis on the individual.

“I think there’s an evolution of personal development—which is an individual sport, it’s about oneself—to human development, which is a team sport and requires community to do,” Robbins says. (His word for the year? “Community-building.”) He points to the old proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together. “We’re at a point in culture where it requires endurance.”

Going it alone is lonely

Robbins understands the appeal of the lone wolf mentality and believes there’s certainly some benefit to going it alone. “But what I’ve noticed is, when you get to the precipice of any goal, the peak of the mountain of success, there’s only three things there: a feeling of accomplishment, thin air and a nice view,” he says. “That’s it. And then there’s a walk back down.”

Robbins has seen how lonely it can be at the top firsthand. He worked for his family’s coaching organization—he’s the son of self-improvement legend Tony Robbins—before leaving to do his own coaching. He realized he could go faster alone, making and keeping more money for himself, without dealing with the chaos of working with other humans. He achieved the life he’d always dreamed of: working three days a week, four hours a day, making the big bucks.

“And I can tell you from personal experience: feeling of accomplishment, thin air, nice view and a walk back down,” he says, shaking his head. “The only thing that makes it different, and better, is who you take with you.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by Nick Onken.

Cassel is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor, a co-owner of Racket MN, and a VHS collector.