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, bestselling author and entrepreneur, who last year became the president of SUCCESS Enterprises, has too many good ideas to fit into just one feature. What follows is my best attempt.
As he sees it, his leadership role—centered on strengthening and expanding SUCCESS’ personal development offerings—comes at an inflection point for both the company and our culture more broadly. “The magazine itself, the organization, is a 126-year-old piece of the legacy of personal development,” says Robbins. But 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. No matter how many times you get to the peak, if you do it by yourself, eventually it gets boring, eventually it gets lonely and eventually it doesn’t feel very satisfying.”
It was around the time of his walk back down the mountain that Robbins got a call asking him to join SUCCESS. At first, he had no interest in working for a big company again, with lots of people, each with their own problems. But both his business mentor and his wife told him that this was a special kind of opportunity—that he should do it. And he’s so happy he did.
Building a community of and for entrepreneurs
In the year since he joined SUCCESS, Robbins’ biggest undertaking has been the expansion of the company’s coaching platform. SUCCESS has added more than 100 total coaches in the last year, who are partnering with and acting as ambassadors for the brand. “We’re building a community,” he says. “We’re building a community of humans who are dedicated to human development.”
He’s also workshopping some new ideas, like SUCCESS Adventures, that would allow participants to embark on unique, bucket list-type travel experiences with other accomplished business owners around the world. Creating something that big would mean lots of moving parts, complex planning and creativity—roughly the opposite of climbing up alone. But finding a way to do it would further that evolution from personal development to human development.
And besides, Robbins went up the mountain already; he knows the path. Now, he’s bringing a new group of dedicated people up the mountain with him.
“On the other side, we’ll sit back and be like, ‘It either worked or we learned a lot of lessons,’” Robbins says. “It’ll probably be hard. It’ll probably be messy. It’ll probably be overwhelming, at times. But my belief is that the other side is worth it.”
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.
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