Tony Robbins is a business and life strategist who helps people achieve personal and professional breakthroughs. He has reached millions through his wildly popular motivational seminars, his coaching of CEOs, U.S. presidents and billionaire hedge fund managers and his five internationally acclaimed books.
Joe Berlinger is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose films include the landmark documentaries Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, a film that re-defined the rockumentary genre. In addition to his documentary work, he is a two-time Emmy and Peabody winner and has created many hours of television as both a producer and director.
After attending Robbins’ “Date With Destiny” event, Berlinger felt compelled to share his experience with the world through film. His team embedded themselves into Robbins’ event to give viewers an immersive look at the seminar. After years of planning and editing, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru was released in July of 2016.
In this unique interview, Robbins and Berlinger come together to discuss creativity, vulnerability, risk and reward. How can entrepreneurs and artists face repeated failure, criticism and rejection, and still find both achievement and fulfillment? The duo shares four steps:
1. Fix yourself first.
“Start where you are and solve your own challenges before you try to solve challenges for someone else,” Robbins says. Only then should you share what you learn with others. Robbins does not mince words about the “bastardized” state of the online coaching industry, in which many try to coach others when they have not yet produced results in their own lives.
Realize, though, that this process is a long one. To have a massive impact like Robbins or Berlinger — saving someone from suicide, exonerating the wrongfully accused, creating or completely changing an entire industry — takes decades of practice and commitment.
“Have some patience and know that you’ll overestimate what you can do in a year and underestimate what you can do in a decade,” Robbins says.
2. Forego the safety net.
At the start of his career, Robbins would speak to uninterested, distracted crowds and push himself to gain their attention. Once he could command rooms, he started coaching people through their phobias on the spot, live and in front of crowds. The chance of failure was high and there was no backup plan.
If you’re feeling unfulfilled in life and work, it maybe be that you’re playing it too safe. “All passion is found in uncertainty,” Robbins explains. “There’s no net. I’ve got to go out there, and there’s these people from 72 countries and their lives are on the line… and I’ve got to deliver.”
While Robbins solves people’s problems on the spot, Berlinger puts his life’s work on the line again and again, trusting that he can find the truth through filmmaking. “I don’t have a script,” Berlinger says. “I basically have to jump out of a window and hope that there’s a mattress on the other side to catch me. This kind of film is a huge act of faith to find the story.”
3. Focus on the mission.
All of the aforementioned risk brings extreme pressure. How do Robbins and Berlinger deal? First, they hold tightly to the belief that they can execute the task at hand, thanks to years of practice. Second, they focus on their mission, which they both describe as seeking out the truth. In fact, this was Berlinger’s biggest piece of advice for aspiring creative entrepreneurs and filmmakers. “You have to, in your gut, believe in what you’re doing,” Berlinger says. “You can’t take no for an answer.”
Robbins chimes in, “When you have a mission that’s larger than yourself … when you believe what you’re doing is so important … I see it as a privilege. I see it as a gift.”
4. Foster gratitude and appreciation.
Many creative individuals, especially those with years of experience, have a bias toward cynicism. This makes sense if the cause of cynicism and skepticism is, as Robbins explains it, a defense mechanism. Creatives put their souls into their work, then send that work out into the world for feedback. This can wear on a person, and the way to fight it, Robbins and Berlinger agree, is by practicing gratitude.
“When you don’t fully appreciate [life], you cheat yourself,” Robbins says. Our ancient brains, he explains, are wired to look for danger in order to survive. We must rewire our brains to look for and appreciate the positive aspects of life each day. The ability to overcome the law of familiarity and truly appreciate life is a skill people are not really taught, Robbins says. The key is to be able to stop and find joy, pleasure and appreciation at any point, even when your business isn’t producing or critics tear your work apart.
This shift in Berlinger, after attending one of Robbins’ events, prompted his eventual documentary. “It was eye-opening for me to appreciate my life,” Berlinger says. “I get to make films for a living? How lucky am I?”