I've always been a fan of personal development. I took that first scary step many years ago in New York City and attended a Lifespring workshop -- terrified that I would find this horrible monster inside of me that I really didn't want to be aware of. Instead, I learned a lot about myself, saw what holds me back, what I'm afraid of, and I found a peace and joy inside I never knew was there.
But then life gets in the way again, and you forget what you learn. And so I think it's always a good idea to take a new personal development workshop or retreat every year or so to dig a little deeper, remind yourself of things you already know, and peel back another layer to discover and get rid of what makes you unhappy.
It's been a while since I ventured down the path of taking time out of my life to work on myself. In late summer of 2017 I decided I REALLY needed a break from feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and incredibly unhappy with myself and knew I needed to do something drastic. And so I signed up for a Tony Robbins "Date With Destiny" workshop taking place in December of 2017 -- yes the one shown on Netflix's "I Am Not Your Guru" documentary.
I had been familiar with Tony Robbins for years. I had purchased some of his CDs many years ago, but found him to be too slick, too commercial, and a bit of a snake oil salesman. But when I watched him on that Netflix documentary, I saw an entirely different side of the man. This was something I knew I needed to check out. I kept going to the website and looking, but I couldn't bring myself to book it. Week after week I went back and just looked. I started watching Tony Robbins YouTube videos and I just loved what I saw.
And then one September afternoon, I said the hell with it, and hit the "buy" button on the Tony Robbins website. I booked myself a ticket to Florida from where I live in California, basically shut down my business for a week (which I never do), kissed the husband and the dog good bye, and got ready for my Date With Destiny. I actually couldn't decide between taking his Unleash The Power Within seminar or Date With Destiny, but figured if I was heading off to Florida I might as well do the week-long version. Unleash The Power Within is a shorter, less expensive workshop which most people do as their first Tony Robbins experience.
I'd read a lot about the event before I arrived and so I tried to prepare myself as much as possible. They even set up a Facebook page for attendees which is a great way for people to ask questions and share ideas. For example, I learned Tony likes to keep the Convention Center cold, so I made sure to dress in layers and brought a winter coat, gloves, and a scarf. Yep, I needed them all.
He also doesn't provide many meal breaks and he can go on for hours so I shipped boxes of energy bars, nuts, snacks, and water to my hotel so I had a stash of food as I didn't know if I would have time to go shopping during the week (I didn't).
I had to mentally prepare myself to be out of my comfort zone completely. It was going to be long days, a lot of standing, jumping, and dancing (I sit behind my computer all day long), a lot of sharing your innermost thoughts and fears, and hugging people I had never met before. I purposely didn't take along my husband or ask any friend as I wanted this to be my experience alone without feeling the least bit inhibited by someone I might know in the room. They assign you a "buddy" at the end of the first day (me on the right with my buddy at left above) and it's nice to have someone you don't know and become "fast friends" with to share with.
From the second you arrive, you are totally kept off balance. The event does not run according to schedule, so for Type A personalities like me, it puts you off guard. You're left standing in crowds and then waiting in the huge convention center for quite a while before Tony takes the stage. But that's my Type A personality with my preconceived expectations. You learn to let all of that shit go. Not just for this event, but in life, too.
The first thing you learn to do is dance. A LOT. Tony believes that dancing changes your mental state and energy and it totally does. He has the greatest playlist for his event and he makes it available on Spotify for those of us who want to enjoy it afterwards. In fact, every morning I still put on that playlist and dance around to pump up my mood while I'm making my breakfast.
I also have to give kudos where kudos is due -- outside of the inconsistency in the timing, the production of this event was top notch. Cameras and big screens so you never miss the action, fabulous music, and just an overall spectacular event. They even gave you snacks and water when the event was running into the wee hours of the morning (yes we saw 2 and 3 a.m. a few days) and there was nothing I found at fault in the overall event production. Sure I was a little put off by the sales pitches every now and again to promote other Tony Robbins products and events, but I just ignored them and focused on the event at hand.
From the very first day of the six-day seminar I saw incredible value in the event. You learn about yourself, how you have your thoughts and emotions set up, what you value in life, and how your brain is wired to make you unhappy most of the time. None of it is brain surgery or something very complicated. It is all basic common sense, practical psychology, and very easy to understand — BUT it is nothing any of us ever takes the time to examine closely.
Tony starts with your Primary Question -- something you ask yourself unconsciously many times a day. What I quickly discovered was that my Primary Question was "Is this a waste of my time?" I was someone who was always busy. Always stressed. Always short on time. I ran two businesses and was overwhelmed. So whenever anything arose I asked myself "is this a waste of my time?" Usually my response was "yes" -- unless I had absolute certainty that it was not -- and so I cut myself off from any possibility of spontaneity, unexpected joy, or just experiencing something new or different in life. That was a horrible way to be living your life.
Over the course of the week you examine so many things about yourself, your values, basic human needs, emotions you tie to certain circumstances, relationship interactions, and so much more. A few days in, I felt like the pressure inside the pressure cooker of my own body had been finally released and I could breathe again. I felt lighter, happier, and amazed at how wrong I had been living my life. How I had myself set up to fail. How I didn't appreciate the things I already had in my life. How I operated from my need for significance and certainty. And how I was way too controlling in my relationship with my husband -- the death knell for most women with their man.
What I also learned was that my initial perception of Tony Robbins was completely wrong. He is not a snake oil salesman, a charlatan, or a fake. Helping people to get into a beautiful state and create the life of their dreams is what he gets off on. He thrives on it. It's what he was called to do. He has this incredible knack to interact with people, see where they get hung up, and coach them to see things differently. His wife, Sage, is a very spiritual and lovely woman as well whom Tony shares about a lot at the event and who also is involved in certain aspects.
While Date With Destiny was by no means cheap -- the event alone cost a few thousand dollars not to mention the airfare, hotel, rental car, etc., and lost time out of the office -- it was the best thing I had ever spent money on in my life. It taught me how to be happy. How to have the life I have always wanted. How to be grateful for what I have and look for the positive in situations and not the negative. I try to have compassion, and when I get frustrated with slow service or nasty people, I realize this person is doing the best they can. And I have realized that it's just not worth it for me to get angry or expend my energy on things I can't change.
What I also found very interesting was that at the start of the event, Tony comes out and says he knows people have paid a lot of money to get there. And they have also taken time away from their businesses (a high percentage of people in the room were entrepreneurs) and their families. And he commits to giving the best possible experience. At this point in his life, this man could have just been on the stage for a few hours and called it quits at 5 p.m. There were days when he didn't show up till the late afternoon in order to rest his voice from the day before as he does have vocal cord issues, but then he would be on stage, screaming and giving the crowd his all until 2 or 3 a.m. He doesn't take it lightly and he wants to make sure you are a raving fan by the time you leave. We all were.
Thanks to Tony Robbins, I've got an entirely new outlook on life. My destiny looks so much brighter from my new perspective. If you have the time and the money, I would encourage you to skip the Starbuck's frappucinos for a year or cut down on the retail therapy and spend the money on something that is really worth it -- your sanity.
Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways I had from this event is that Tony believes life is happening "FOR" you and not "TO" you. We all spend our time thinking "poor me...this or that happened to me so I just can't be happy or get the job or the man I want...."
I went into this event feeling sad and beaten down after the death of my sister nearly four years prior. Poor me...I don't have my sister any longer. And then I learned at this seminar to look at it a different way. What could her death mean to me? I now see it was a wake-up call that life is short and I, too, could go at any moment and much quicker than I might have planned like my sister. We both expected to be in our 90s sharing a nursing home room together. Were we WRONG!
So I now look on her death -- as tragic as it was -- as a gift to me. I can't change the fact that she died. But I CAN change the meaning I take away from it. Her death was meant to wake me up to realize that I have to stop being a workaholic, taking on clients and doing business that doesn't fulfill me, and to design my life in the way that makes my soul truly happy.
I'm ecstatic to say I'm already on my way. Thank you Tony Robbins.