GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. So think of your most efficient day, maybe a day when everything just fell into place. You took a run, you answered e-mails, meditated, wrote a chapter of your book - whatever it was, it was a successful day, right? Not exactly, especially compared to this dude's.
TONY ROBBINS: I run, jump, walk, seize into the audience 26 and a half miles on average, on that day alone. So I do ultra-marathons in a weekend, physically. Everybody has days where they come to the end of the day. I come to the end of the day bone-tired and victorious.
RAZ: If at this point you are wondering, was that just Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker? You would be correct because we cannot actually do our show today without him. It is a show all about success - what we think it means and why that's wrong and why that word causes so much anxiety. Can we just, like, get a small elephant out of the room for a sec?
RAZ: 'Cause some people are going to be listening to us now and they're going to be thinking, like, Tony Robbins. He's, like, the self-help guy. I mean, come on. That's not for me.
ROBBINS: (Laughing) I guess I'm not everybody's cup of tea. But, you know, it's been pretty good for four presidents and royalty in many different countries and some of the top athletes in the world and Academy Award members. I mean, these - people who think that don't have a clue what I really do.
RAZ: So what is it exactly that he does do?
(SOUNDBITE OF INFOMERCIAL)
ROBBINS: Good evening. How you all doing out there?
RAZ: OK, you know what I'm talking about because you've had insomnia, and you've been pulled into a Tony Robbins infomercial at some point in your life.
(SOUNDBITE OF INFOMERCIAL)
ROBBINS: Let's give everyone a hand for attending and coming here. I appreciate it.
RAZ: The stadium crowds, the high-fiving, the fire walking, the cheers, the smiles, the slides, the numbers. The numbers.
(SOUNDBITE OF MULTIPLE INFOMERCIALS)
ROBBINS: So the first step - I'll just tell you that - is C, is capture. I look at life and say, there's two master lessons. There's three things - three parts - three decisions. There's four kinds of love. Level one love is baby love. And the last step, number five - five C's - six needs - seven forces. Seven things in that seminar. Two thousand people from 45 countries were translating four languages for a week.
RAZ: Tony Robbins knows there is a lot of confusion about what he does, which is what he wanted to get out of the way when he began his TED Talk.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ROBBINS: People say to me, well, I don't need any motivation. And I say, well, that's interesting. That's not what I do. I'm the "Why" guy. I want to know why you do what you do. What is your motive for action? What is it that drives you in your life today? Not 10 years ago. Are you running the same pattern? Because I believe that the invisible force of internal drive, activated, is the most important thing in the world. I'm here because I believe emotion is the force of life. All of us here have great minds. You know, most of us here have great minds, right. But when emotion comes into it, the wiring changes in the way it functions. And so it's wonderful for us to think intellectually about how the life of the world is, and especially those who are very smart.
We can play this game in our head, but really what you got to remind yourselves is decision is the ultimate power. That's what it really is. Now when you ask people, you know, have you failed to achieve something? How many have ever failed to achieve something significant in your life? Say "aye." Thanks for the interaction on a high level there. But if you ask people, why didn't you achieve something? Somebody who's working for you, you know, or a partner or even yourself - when you fail to achieve a goal, what's the reason people say they failed to achieve? What do they tell you? Don't have the... Didn't know enough. Didn't have the knowledge. Didn't have the money. Didn't have the time. Didn't have the technology, you know. I didn't have the right manager. Didn't have the Supreme Court.
RAZ: All right. Let's pause here for a moment, Tony, because that guy who shouts out the Supreme Court in the audience, that was Al Gore.
ROBBINS: Yeah, it was.
ROBBINS: It was quite a surprise. I looked down and saw him, and I think he and the audience weren't quite ready for my response, right 'cause my point here is that all these things you say you don't have, the reason you failed, are resources. A lack of time is a resource. A lack of money is a resource. A lack of technology or key people is a resource, you know. But the real problem is resources.
RAZ: Oh, wait, wait, wait. Don't give it away because we're about to hear your response to Al Gore.
ROBBINS: Oh, you're going to share it? Go for it.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ROBBINS: What do all of those including the Supreme Court have in common? They are a claim to you missing resources, and they may be accurate. You may not have the money, you may not have the Supreme Court, but that is not the defining factor. And you correct me if I'm wrong, the defining factor is never resources, it's resourcefulness. And what I mean specifically, rather than just some phrase, is if you have emotion, human emotion, something that I experienced from you, day before yesterday, on a level that is as profound as I've ever experienced - and if you'd communicated with that emotion, I believe you would have beat his ass and won.
RAZ: Wow. You're saying that right to Al Gore.
ROBBINS: Well, it's true. And in fact, I mean, guys from Kleiner Perkins all took me out that night afterwards, and said, oh, my God. You know, we've wanted to say this to him. We couldn't believe you said that. That was so amazing. Will you coach him so he runs for president? And I said, he doesn't want to run for president. So, you know, I'm not coming from a place of gloating or something of that nature. But the truth is, if you'd saw Al Gore during those debates with Bush, you know, it was pretty hard to vote for him, right? And if you'd seen him the night before when he'd done his presentation, you know, "An Inconvenient Truth," you'd say, oh, my God. If this guy was in that debate, you would've voted for him in a heartbeat. He didn't have the passion. He didn't have the connection. He didn't have the emotion.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ROBBINS: And emotion then creates what we're going to do or the action. So think about your own life - the decisions that have shaped your destiny. And that sounds really heavy, but in the last five or 10 years, 15 years, haven't there been some decisions you've made that if you made a different decision, your life would be completely different? How many can think of one, honestly? Better or worse, say "aye." So the bottom line is maybe it was...
We forget that in this moment, if you don't like your job, fricking change it. You don't like your relationship, change it. You don't like what your business is, change it. You don't like how you feel, change it. We forget the power of decision. We forget we can draw a line in the sand and say, no effing more, about anything we've experienced in the past.
RAZ: Your own story of not allowing past events to define you, right, or at least to take those events and to find a different kind of meaning...
RAZ: How did that change your own life and then how you kind of lived it?
ROBBINS: I think everybody's got a story, right? So either your story empowers you or disempowers you. If it disempowers you, destroy it 'cause it's something you created. So, you know, my story could have been I came from an abusive family, and my mother beat me and smashed my head against the wall until I was bleeding, and poured liquid soap down my throat until I vomited. Which, you know, I never shared with anyone until very recently when I was working with a group of these battered children.
And I was just - I thought, you know, they think I'm the smiling, happy, motivational guy. So I told them the full story, and it got out publicly. But I never shared it before because I didn't want that to be a story. That's not the story that defines me. But I wanted them to understand that your past does not equal your future, that out of the worst, most severe injustice, some good or, ideally, greatness can come. We can't control events. We can't control people. But we can control what life means to us. And the most successful people on Earth are the people who've learned to take control of that. And so, to me, you know, divorce your story, and marry the truth. When you find that story, it's going to be the one that moves you forward.
RAZ: So we hear a lot of, like, this idea of finding your passion and following it. And later in the show, we're going to hear from Mike Rowe who says this is all nonsense. Don't follow your passion. Actually, do what you can do to make money. Is that the right idea for everybody?
ROBBINS: Well, I'm not here to correct him. I might have a slightly different point of view. You do have to find out if your passion can reward you economically. If it doesn't, then it's a hobby. It's wonderful. We all need things that fulfill us. If you can find something where you can do something 50, you know, a real 80 or 90 hours a week - which is what people do when they're truly passionate - and you can be paid for it, as well, well, gosh, that's extraordinary. You know, when I first, you know, went to work in business, I went to work at this company. And the guy that was a 10 times a better speaker than I was and he could go out and take an audience, and, you know, 98 percent of the people respond. And I might get 5 percent.
But I just decided, you know, he's doing four talks a month on average. I want to do three talks a day. When I've gone through a month, I'll have blown past what he would have done in a year. And that's exactly what I did, and in six months, I dwarfed him in my capacity and my ability. It wasn't this gift. Ultimately, it's what are you willing to do? How hungry are you? How driven are you? I say don't settle. If you settle, you're going to have a life that you're going to be apologetic to yourself about if you don't say it to anybody else. Find your passion and rip through it. How do you find your passion? You stop settling. How do you find it? You get yourself in a different state. You got to work out. You got to do something every day that gets you strong enough that your mind functions differently than the average person.
RAZ: You're intense, man.
ROBBINS: I'm passionate.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
ROBBINS: There are 6,000 emotions that we all have words for in the English language, which is just a linguistic representation, right. It changes by language. But if your dominant emotion - say if, you know, if I had more time - I have 20,000 people or a thousand and I have them write down all the emotions that they experience in an average week. And I give them as long as they need, and on one side they write empowering emotions, the other is disempowering. Guess how many emotions people experience - less than 12. And half of those make them feel like (bleep). So they've got five or six good frickin' feelings, right. It's like they feel happy, happy, excited, oh (bleep), frustrated, frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed. How many of you know somebody who, no matter what happens, finds a way to get pissed off? How many know somebody like this?
ROBBINS: Or no matter what happens - no matter what happens, they find a way to be happy or excited. How many know somebody like this? Come on. Your model of the world is what shapes you long-term. Your model of the world is the filter. That's what's shaping us. That's what makes people make decisions. If we want to influence somebody, we got to know what already influences them. So my invitation to you is this - explore your web, the web in here - the needs, the beliefs, the emotions that are controlling you - for two reasons - so there's more of you to give, achieve too. We all want to do that. But, I mean, give 'cause that's what's going to fill you up. And secondly, so you can appreciate - not just understand, that's intellectual. That's the mind - but appreciate what's driving other people. It's the only way our world's going to change. God bless you. Thank you. Help those who serve.
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Tony Robbins.
RAZ: What do you think is more important to success, understanding what drives other people or understanding what drives you?
ROBBINS: I wouldn't pick. That's, you know - would you rather have a punch in the face or kick in the stomach, right? You know, that's silly. You need to do both. And frankly, every time you say the word success it kind of - it's annoying to my nervous system 'cause it's really not what I believe that life is about. And we use the word success - it seems so shallow to me. That's never been it. It's never been on my values list. I'd much rather say what creates a meaningful life? What makes people light up? What makes people feel alive? What's going to make somebody wake up in the morning excited? Not 'cause they've been motivated. I don't even do that. I might inspire somebody from the moment.
What I'm looking for is your drive. What are your drives? Your drives aren't going to go away. Motivation's like a warm bath. You should take a bath. You're going to stink if you don't, you know. If you don't get around inspiration, then, you know, something to put you in your spirits, something to trigger you, you might trudge along sometimes. But my real belief is you got to tap into your drives. You got to find that hunger. That's what this is all about.
RAZ: Ladies and gentlemen, Tony Robbins. You should really watch his full talk at TED.com because it is truly awesome. Our show today, a word - success. What it means, why we all secretly and not so secretly want it, and why we might be all wrong about it. I'm Guy Raz. Stay with us for more TED Radio Hour in a moment from NPR.