Tony Robbins Says There's Only One Thing Needed for Success

Jillian Knox Finley

Tony Robbins says there is one thing all successful people have, and it’s not motivation. He’s not knocking the inspired mind; certainly some of the world’s greatest achievers (many of them clients and personal friends of the world-famous strategist) would self-identify as highly motivated individuals. Alas, there’s something more, a separate commonality that Robbins sees in every person playing at the top of their game. We caught up with the best-selling author, personal finance instructor, and world-renowned peak performance coach at the SXSW premiere of his documentary, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, to inquire about his personal life hacks for mastery in any field. Keep scrolling to hear what he had to say.

Let’s get one thing straight: Tony Robbins’s Wikipedia bio is bound to give you a false impression of his work. The first descriptor you’ll find under the self-help icon’s name is “motivational speaker.”

“I have really never been a motivational speaker,” he says. “It is unfortunate some people see me as thus. Some people see me in a room of 10,000 jumping around with a lot of energy. I believe in energy. I believe in passion. What I really am is a strategist.” He goes on to emphasize the import of strategic planning and pragmatism in producing tangible results. “What I do is help people uncover strategies for their body, their minds, their emotions, relationships, finances. Motivation is a nice thing,” he beams. “It’s like a warm bath. You want to take one, but it’s not enough. You start running east looking for a sunset, I don’t care how motivated you are, it’s not going to work. You need a better strategy.”

In person, Robbins is brimming with easy charisma and a visceral lust for life. His energy is contagious. As a strategist, he is world-famous for his signature brand of innovative teaching techniques and learning modalities. So much so that his “seminars” are practically a misnomer. The Robbins effect is more akin to a rock concert than your average business workshop. When asked what makes his teaching style so effective, he hits us with, “Most learning is boring.” A notion he credits as somewhat of an epidemic in modern schooling, that may be the thing holding us all back from true greatness. “We all went, most of us, to a 20th-century school, and were trained for a 20th-century job. The bell rang, you sat in your position, you weren’t supposed to talk to your neighbor. You don’t initiate. You only do what you’re supposed to do. That doesn’t work in the world we’re in today.”

Back to the topic of what it takes in today’s day and age to truly make it to the top. We asked Robbins what he believed to be the single most significant gap standing between mediocrity and greatness. His response: hunger

“I think the most common thing is hunger,” he tells us. “If you look at the people who are most successful on the face of the earth, they don’t just have hunger for a while. They have hunger for a lifetime.”

Robbins goes on to cite friend Richard Branson as a prime example of his theory in full effect. “Somebody like my buddy, Richard Branson: He is as hungry today, 40 years later, as he was when he began. Marc Benioff, another friend of mine, started a company out of one of my seminars, Salesforce.com, 16 years ago. He’s going to do six billion [dollars] this year. He’s more driven today than when he started.”

Robbins shares the same longing for improvement and insatiable curiosity. “I am driven that way,” he says. “I think if you’re hungry to learn, you’re hungry to grow, you’re hungry to master things. If you won’t settle for less than you can be or do; then you can outstrip anybody else.” A desire to continually hone new skill-sets and gain fresh insights, he ranks as more important that aptitude. “Even intelligence, as important as intelligence is, somebody who has great drive can maximize that intelligence. I think most people just don’t.”

Hunger is only the beginning, however. Robbins’s books and seminars emphasize the notion of massive action and decisiveness to implement real change. A driving principal of his transformational work is that true change only occurs the minute one decides. We asked him what practical tools and routines were best for training the brain to make rapid-fire decisions.

“It’s a muscle,” he tells us. “The more you make decisions, the better you get at making decisions. The less you make decisions, the more difficult it becomes.”

Robbins goes on to clarify that in his experience, the most successful people in the world forgo a fear of being wrong. They make tough calls regularly and course-correct as needed. “Most people don’t make decisions because they want to make the right decision,” says Robbins. “If you’re really successful, if you are a leader, you make the decision no one else is willing to make, and those decisions are not easy.”

There is a willingness to make a mistake if it leads to improvement down the line. “You’re going to be wrong many times,” he says. “Better to be wrong and find out quicker, so you can change it and get on target, than to sit on the fence trying to be perfect all the time and never get what you really want.”

The trick, he says, is fine-tuning your passion and ambition. “I think most people have not found what their higher purpose is,” he reveals, emphasizing meditation, goal-setting, and gratitude as pillars for happiness and fulfillment. “Most people have not found what they are most hungry for. When you do, and you unleash that, then you become obsessed. When you become obsessed, you find yourself coming up with answers most people never dreamed possible.”

Robbins’s practical strategy and no-nonsense candor has garnered him legions of loyal followers across the globe. His fan base and clients runs like a who’s who of the world’s most dynamic movers and shakers, from Olympic athletes to Oprah. In fact, his kinetic learning style incorporates a certain amount of athleticism toward forming new thought patters in the mind. “Most people have been to an educational environment, university, seminar, business environment where they learn something they think is really valuable. They get really excited, and then they never apply it,” says Robbins. Adding, “The reason is because most of us learn in a passive state of mind.”

So what makes his approach so singular? “I get people to be physically active. What I really do is create an active environment with people so that while they are in a peak state, they make key decisions.” The result is a quantum leap in forming new pathways in the brain, with results so radical, Robbins admits most people might not believe the hype.

He hopes one of the main takeaways from his new film, a behind-the-scenes look at his “Date With Destiny” seminar directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger, will be widespread open-mindedness toward change. “Lasting change can happen in minutes, change you might think would take months or years or decades. It works and it lasts. Most people don’t believe that. In the film, you will see people transform their lives in the course of a year in ways that most people never dream of.”

When it comes to his personal morning routine, Robbins has a specific meditation he practices daily. “I call it priming. I do it every day,” he tells us. “I take 10 minutes, because my view is, if you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.” Even 10 minutes of meditation is scientifically proven to increase mental focus and produce a ripple effect of positivity throughout your day. According to Robbins, it’s not about channeling the best mood. “I don’t hope that I am going to show up in a great state. There are days where I am exhausted, injured, or I’m not feeling enthusiastic. But what I do is I sit down and I do a radical change to my body. It’s a breathing pattern.”

Robbins then divides his 10 minutes of meditation into three distinct sections. “I take three and a half minutes and I focus on what I am grateful for. Three specific things.” When it comes to the list, he suggests starting basic. “I usually make one really simple, so I learn to be grateful for the wind on my face, that type of thing. And I really feel it. The reason I do three points of gratitude is when you’re grateful you can’t be angry. When you’re grateful you can’t be fearful. Anger and fear is what stops most people.” After a three-minute meditation on gratitude, Robbins moves on to a three-minute blessing for the people he loves. “Then I do three minutes of what I call my ‘Three to Thrive.’ I think of three outcomes or results I want. I see them as done. I feel them fulfilled. And I’m done in 10 minutes.”

Happiness and fulfillment are a state of mind, a state that can be trained, says the expert strategist. “Most people have a highway to frustration, and they have a dirt road to happiness neurologically,” Robbins concludes. “I neurologically wire myself, just like a muscle, to go to positive things.” Show us the way, Tony. We’ll follow your lead.

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