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Tony Robbins is a busy guy.
In the six-and-a-half weeks prior to our interview, Robbins traveled to more than 15 countries. Brazil, Panama, Scotland, Russia, Serbia, Australia and Fiji were only some of the stops on his list. He motivated, advised and coached tens of thousands of people.
Despite his near-constant travel, Robbins still finds time to manage his 54 businesses that gross $6 billion in annual sales; spend time with his wife, Sage, his four children and his four grandchildren; advise celebrities and politicians across the country; and host seminars that help millions of people tap into the best version of themselves.
How does he manage to do it all? He says the right question isn’t how, but why?
“I’ve got so much passion for it,” he says. “It gives me so much energy to see peoples’ lives change, to build these things, to create things that can touch people even when I’m not there. That’s where the energy comes from. So you find the time.”
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Known for his booming, gravelly voice and his towering 6-foot-7 frame, Robbins has penned five books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers. He’s coached countless celebrities, from Bill Clinton, to Serena Williams to Pitbull. But what he’s best known for—and what was explored a couple of years back in a Netflix documentary, I Am Not Your Guru—are the seminars he has held for the past few decades. These events, including Unleash the Power Within, Date with Destiny, Life and Wealth Mastery and Leadership Academy, bring in hundreds of thousands of people with one common goal: improving their lives in some way.
Related: Tony Robbins Is Not Your Guru
For the past decade, Robbins has devoted a huge chunk of his professional focus to trying to help people recover from the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
“When I saw this going on, I thought, As much as I know, I want to help other people,” he says. “I want to figure out how I can really help people who are not being helped. How do I educate them? How do I arm them? How do I free them?”
He tapped into the minds of financial experts like Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn and Ray Dalio to learn about how he could help people recover. He held personal finance-focused seminars and wrote two books, MONEY: Master the Game and Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook.
Now, Robbins, 58, has set his sights on a whole new realm.
“I’m proud of what I did—where I made that shift [into finance],” he says. “And so now, my focus is really on vitality and health. There are some breakthroughs that are happening in the health field right now that most people don’t know about.”
In addition to helming a stem-cell research company called Celularity, Robbins is working with a talented techie team to build a world-class artificial intelligence system. He also has a forthcoming book on the secrets to optimal health co-written with Bob Hariri, a surgeon and health entrepreneur, and Peter Diamandis, a physician and the executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation.
“The three of us are joining forces,” Robbins says. “We are going to interview the best of the best who are working on the answers that can truly save lives, that can transform your body, that can help you regenerate. It’s really focused on how you can increase the life force in a human being.”
* * *
Year in and year out, improving one’s health is at or near the top of Americans’ list of New Year’s resolutions. But achieving a New Year’s resolution of any kind is a different matter. Robbins is often asked myriad questions surrounding the major life changes we set for Jan. 1: How can I reinvent myself this year? What is the secret to maintaining my goals? How can I have an extraordinary year? What am I doing wrong?
But starting a year off on the right foot, he says, regardless of what you’re striving to achieve, begins with one simple behavior: Creating a vision.
“If you want the best year ever of your life, you’re going to have to come up with a vision,” Robbins says. “What do you want? What’s going to be different this year? What do you want to change, what do you want to transform?”
From a straightforward plan for having an amazing year to the secrets for successfully reinventing yourself, Robbins told SUCCESS everything you need to know to truly transform and make this your best year yet.
The 5-Step Plan to an Extraordinary Year
Transforming into the person you want to be in 2019 is not difficult so long as you have the dedication, focus and correct tools at your disposal, Robbins says. But you should always remember to set your sights on something within reason.
“Most people overestimate what they’re going to do in a year, and they underestimate what they can do in a decade, or two or three or four,” he says.
Follow this roadmap to begin crafting the best year of your life.
1. Feed your mind.
Born in North Hollywood, California, Robbins had a tumultuous, abusive childhood. On Christmas during his senior year of high school, his substance-dependent mother kicked his latest father out, and then chased the young Robbins out of the house with a carving knife.
Robbins got a job as a janitor and stayed in the laundry room for a couple of weeks until he could get his own place. “What changed me was that I realized I was so depressed,” he says. “I was so sad, and I was so uncertain—so fearful. And nothing was working. That’s when I realized I had to feed my mind.”
Feeding your mind, Robbins says, is all about perspective. “You’ve got to bring something new to it,” he says. “Otherwise, you’re going to keep operating off the same old beliefs, the same old thoughts, the same old emotions that have not gotten you to the level you want.”
Step 1? Don’t just hope things will go the way you want. Condition yourself to believe that they will. Robbins read The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol when he first left the house, and from there, he strengthened his mind by doing incantations while running, writing positive messages on the mirror, reading autobiographies of people he admired and selectively choosing what information and news permeated his world.
“Every day, you’ve gotta guard your mind,” he says.
Feeding your mind is all about perspective. “You’ve got to bring something new to it.”
2. Strengthen your body.
Strengthening one’s mind is crucial. But equally important is strengthening one’s body.
“Go on a sprint,” Robbins says. “Go lift some really heavy weights. Go on a really long walk.” Every single day, for example, Robbins begins his morning by plunging into a pool of 56-degree water. And if he’s not home, he’ll jump into a nearby river or walk through snow.
“I don’t do that because it’s fun,” he says, laughing. “I don’t do that because I want to do it. I do it because I’m training my body that when I say go, we go.”
Priming your physical self can set the stage for the change you want to see mentally or emotionally.
“You’re going to get depressed if you drop your shoulders, drop your head, speak slowly and think about what you’re afraid of,” he says. But if you go for a really intense run, music blaring and heart pumping, your body and mind will both be energized and clear, and you’ll be able to better focus on what you want.
3. Find a great role model.
“If you want the best year of your life, you need to decide to find a great role model,” Robbins says. “Who is already getting the results you want?”
Robbins recalls seeing his parents fight one Thanksgiving about not having enough money for food. He thought to himself that he never wanted to have that stress as an adult, and he vowed to find a role model to learn from as he pursued a different path.
“You don’t want to just try to do it yourself,” Robbins says. “You want to model someone who’s already getting results.”
Related: Who Inspires Tony Robbins?
Robbins selected the late Sir John Templeton—once called arguably the greatest stock picker of the 20th century by Money magazine—as his role model. “I said, ‘Here’s a man who started with nothing just like me. Now, he’s the first billionaire investor.’ ”
4. Take massive action.
This step is simple: Make a huge step forward. Build your company’s website. Reach out to a prospective investor. Talk with your spouse about couples counseling. Plan that grand vacation for your family you think will bring everyone together.
But, Robbins says, you must remember to be flexible and alter your course if necessary. To really demonstrate the importance of this point, Robbins often shares the same metaphor. Let’s say your goal was to see a sunset, and you began by running east.
“I don’t care how positive you are, I don’t care how enthusiastic you are, it’s not gonna happen—you have the wrong strategy,” he says.
5. Get outside of yourself.
Instead of focusing 100 percent on your goals and what you want to achieve, you must also find a way to add value to others.
“As corny as it sounds, the spirit of living is giving, and it’s what makes us alive,” Robbins says.
As a 21-year-old, Robbins volunteered at prisons in California. At one point he was matched with a man around his age who had been convicted of murder. Robbins was trying to help the man cope emotionally. Robbins says that helping others figure out their problems, as he did with this inmate, will have two primary impacts:
No. 1, your problems will lessen in intensity.
No. 2, your life will have more meaning.
“Life is not about me; life’s about we,” Robbins says. “So it’s not just growing, it’s growing and contributing beyond yourself that makes your life meaningful.”
One of the most important things you can do to make 2019 your best year yet is become comfortable with uncertainty. Robbins says it’s that simple.
“I tell people, ‘The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with,’ ” he explains. “Because if you want to be certain about everything every moment, then you can’t do something new, you can’t grow.”
“Have you ever been skiing?” Robbins asks me.
“Just once,” I reply, wondering how this topic relates to uncertainty.
Robbins says most people who have learned to ski or snowboard are always locked into a basic skill level. “They’re eternally intermediate,” he says. “And the reason is because they do what they’re comfortable with.”
But if they’re on the slope and suddenly see a sharp turn or steep decline, what happens? In many cases, they commit to quickly learning how to carve and not fall flat on their faces. They learn that they’re actually able to conquer what they were so afraid of.
Robbins says most people give up when faced with uncertainty. But if you can force yourself to take action in the midst of it, you will become better and better at coping with not knowing what will happen.
I ask why humans are so bad at dealing with uncertainty. “Because of the nature of the mind,” he says. Our brains were designed to assess and combat risk, and fight or flight when necessary. “But we are more than our minds. We’re our heart, we’re our soul, we’re our spirit.”
And if everything in life were certain, life wouldn’t be worth living.
“We all want certainty so bad,” he says. “But if you’re totally certain every moment, what’s going to happen? You’d be bored. So we need uncertainty. We need a lot of it.”
Six Questions to Reinvention
As Robbins watched the financial crisis begin to play out in 2007 and 2008, he knew he wanted to get involved. But finance wasn’t his area of expertise. He decided to pivot, focusing his energy on this new realm he wanted to tap into.
“I didn’t so much reinvent myself by changing myself, [but rather] I connected to my deeper passions,” Robbins says. “I figured out what resources to get. I figured out why I’m doing this. I figured out what would be available, what skills I needed. And I went and got them.”
The word reinvention is tossed around a lot in society. A mother might want to reinvent herself to have a renewed emphasis on her career, an accountant might want to reinvent himself to have more vitality and passion in his life, a painter might want to reinvent herself to have a new vision. But reinvention isn’t about making a small tweak here or there.
“I think reinvention is not so much about changing the appearance of things,” Robbins says. “It’s about connecting with a deeper part of yourself. Who are you really? What are you made for? What are you here for?”
Robbins says to ask these six questions to successfully reinvent yourself in 2019.
1. What am I here to serve?
This question is not easy. But it’s crucial. Instead of thinking, I want to be richer, smarter or more successful, try to tap into your true internal drive.
2. What is my core passion?
Once you’ve identified what you’re here to serve, connect to your core passion. Ask yourself why you want to pursue it.
“The most successful people on earth know what they’re here to deliver and they know why,” Robbins says. “And then you figure out the how.”
3. What resources are available to me?
Before taking action, figure out what assets are at your disposal. What brilliant minds do you have access to? Who can you consult for advice? What can you read, absorb and take in that will help you on your path?
4. What do I need to change in myself?
Figure out what you need to do differently to achieve a renewed sense of self. What skills do you need to acquire? What do you need to retool in yourself? Is there anything you need to condition your mind to do?
Regardless of what you’re changing in your life, make sure it’s something truly meaningful to you, not just a quick fix or a Band-Aid on a deeper problem.
5. What is my how?
Remember: This step should not come before you’ve identified your why.
“Come up with a vision of something that you’re driven by, and then come up with strong enough reasons to figure out the how,” Robbins says. “But if you start with the how, it’ll be overwhelming.”
Only once you’ve truly identified your why—your core passion—can you begin to think about the how. How are you going to execute? How can you leverage your resources, passion and skills to make this happen?
6. How can I implement this?
It’s time to take action. And remember that it’s OK to change course if things aren’t working.
“As you’re implementing, you have to stay awake to what’s working and what’s not, and change your approach,” he says.
* * *
Regardless of what you’re changing in your life, make sure it’s something truly meaningful to you, not just a quick fix or a Band-Aid on a deeper problem.
“When you reinvent yourself, you’re going through a process of how do I become more so I can give more?” Robbins says. “If that’s your mindset, you’re probably going to prosper. If you’re saying, ‘I want to reinvent myself so I just feel a little better,’ you’re probably not going to pull it off.”
“Have you ever shot a gun?” Robbins asks me.
“Uh, no I haven’t,” I reply, caught off guard.
Early in his career, Robbins tells me, he worked in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a psychological approach to increasing one’s performance. Robbins quickly rose in the ranks as a trainer, but people were skeptical that a 22-year-old was becoming so successful despite having only worked in the field for a few months.
NLP founder John Grinder said that in order to prove to people that Robbins was the real deal, he would put him in situations he wasn’t prepared for and show that he could pull anything off. He connected Robbins with an Army general, and Robbins told him he believed he could compress the training time of anything they did in half.
The general tasked Robbins with teaching enlisted men how to effectively shoot a .45-caliber pistol.
Robbins’ partner on the project, who had experience shooting guns, had to cancel at the last minute. His stomach turned. So what did he do? He asked the general for his best shooters so he could study them and figure out what they were doing right.
“Because I had nowhere else to go—I had no net—I became resilient. Because I had to,” Robbins says. “I was like, OK. Some part of me knows the answers.”
Robbins warily showed up to train the men. They asked him about his experience, baffled at how young he was. He then went on to compress the four-day training course into less than two days, and increase the trainee success rate from 70 percent to 100 percent.
“Resilience comes from putting yourself on the line, it comes from playing with no net,” Robbins says. “It comes when you trust yourself when you have to succeed. I always tell people: You’ll discover how resilient you are when you have to.”
Don’t Let This One Thing Get in Your Way
Walking between two buildings suspended only by a tightrope, Nik Wallenda might appear fearless. Jim Gaffigan, who cracks jokes on stage in front of thousands of people, or Jennifer Hudson, who belts her songs in front of millions, might also appear to have ice in their veins.
But in reality, no one lives without fear. It’s engrained into us as human beings.
“I don’t care who you are—I don’t care how smart you are, I don’t care how educated you are or how much passion you have,” Robbins says. “We all have a 200,000-year-old brain. And that brain is not designed to make you happy. It’s designed to make you survive. And that mind is always looking to try to protect you from some form of danger.”
The No. 1 thing that stops people from having the quality of life they want and deserve, Robbins says, is fear. But it has a simple solution.
“Courage,” he says. “It means you’re scared, but you train yourself to do it anyway. You push yourself.”
It’s Not All About Achievement
There are two primary skills people need to master to have an extraordinary life, Robbins says. The first, mastering the science of achievement, is pretty straightforward: Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
The second skill, Robbins says, is where people struggle: mastering the science of fulfillment.
“If you go out and have this massive success but you’re not happy and you’re not fulfilled, you’re gonna be empty inside,” he says.
Instead of changing things in your outside world, you must focus on what makes you feel good inside—what makes you feel truly alive and what makes you feel like you’re growing and becoming the best version of yourself.
“When people ask me, ‘What does it take to be happy?’ I always say to them, ‘It’s simple. One word: progress. Progress equals happiness,’ ” Robbins says.
Watch Your Coffee
When Robbins was a young man, his mentor, Jim Rohn, instilled in him a lesson that has persisted for decades.
“Do you realize how powerful your mind is?” Rohn asked Robbins.
“I think so,” he said, hesitating.
“Well, tell me something,” Rohn said. “What if you let anybody put anything you want in your coffee? What if your worst enemy put sugar in your coffee? What’s going to happen?”
“I’ll have sweet coffee,” Robbins replied.
“What if a family member, a friend or somebody by accident dropped strychnine in your coffee?” Rohn then asked.
“I’m dead,” Robbins said.
“Well, guess what? Life is both sugar and strychnine. You better watch your coffee,” Rohn said.
Much like we must guard our metaphorical coffees, Robbins says, we must guard our minds. We must selectively choose what news and information we want to absorb, and filter out the noise.
“We’re drowning in information,” Robbins says.
“And we’re starving for wisdom.”
Life Is Growth
“When people come to me or come to your magazine, what do they want? I want more money. I want to be happy. I want to get more physically fit. I want a better relationship. I want love in my life. I want to grow my business. I want to make ‘x’ amount of money. What they’re really after is a greater quality of life. And if you really think about it, we all want that.
“Even if life is great, we usually want more. And that’s a healthy mindset, because life is growth.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.