7 years ago, I went to the Anthony Robbins workshop “Unleash the Power Within.” It was fun to feel like part of a cult for a whole weekend. The effects of his drug-like charisma stayed with me for almost an entire week after the seminar. When the high wore off, I was left thinking, “Woh, what the fuck just happened.”
You might not know this, but Tony (I’m allowed to call him that) has extra human growth hormone which has turned him into a Godlike giant. He’s 6’8, weighs 250 lbs and has huge clydesdale teeth contained in a spelunkable mouth that speaks in an assertive baritone voice. He’s a middle aged Zeus, and even a jaded college educated ultra leftwing smart ass like me was swept off his feet.
The tenet of his seminar is to set your brain into positive action. That’s how you unleash your power within. You erase fear and replace it with decisiveness. All you have to do is spend a few days rewiring your brain so it gets psyched whenever you “do your move.” Your move can be a fist pump, a loud clap, or anything that marks the moment and breaks the current cycle of thinking. My move was a Tiger Woodsesque swooping fist pump accompanied by a loud “YES.” No, I will NEVER do it for you.
Tony’s theory is based on complicated methods of “neurolinguistic programming” that have been around since the 70’s. Tony has no formal education in any of these methods, but as he says, “I’m glad I don’t have a PhD in psychology because that means I don’t have to make all the same mistakes they do.” That sounds suspiciously like a Michelle Bachman argument about why she believes in creationism: “Well, thank goodness my mind hasn’t been poisoned by science or else I might say things that are true!”
He’s co-opted something that usually takes years of cognitive behavioral therapy and packaged it into a commodified weekend long lifegasm. Are you desparate to change your life forever in two days? Do you have $900? I can help you while helping 299 other people at the same time… Pretty culty, right? I remember fighting back a feeling of doubt that first night as I laid in my hotel room eating pizza hut and smoking cigarettes. “Jason, it’s not supposed to be working YET.”
Throughout the next day I spoke with some of the junior members of the Tony army. They all felt my innate negative energy was blocking the delivery of positivity to my brain (WHAT?!?!?!). So I tried to let go, stop rolling my eyes, let everything in, follow the rules, and do all the stupid visualization exercises. It was working. I started to feel a boost of energy and positivity. I was raring to go, but to where, I hadn’t a clue. All I kept saying to myself was “this is the only life you have, don’t waste it!” I would say this to myself and outloud with other seminar goers after hours when we met at Applebee’s to smoke cigarettes and pound beers.
We were all talking about what we were going do in the future. One woman finally found the motivation to lose weight. Another had found the power within her to leave her husband. Another man was poised to take the decisive action to start his own business. I was gonna “like quit smoking and maybe pursue something more creative or something like that I guess.”
When I got home I called my Mom and Dad and my best friends and told them how important life is! You only live life ONCE! I was a broken record. I was even doing my move for my wife. The horror. She loved the new me (she loved the old me too). I was positive and wanted to do stuff! But slowly, hour by hour, each time I did my move, it had a little less intensity and commitment. Each cigarette I smoked simply reminded me that I was squandering my lifegasm. A week later I was embarassed about the super psyched happy-as-all-get-out person I had been for a week. I was glad to be back to myself.
My life has totally changed since then. It took a long time and I didn’t do my move once.