The title above is a quote from Tony Robbins, whom I had the pleasure of seeing live last week. Today's post is going to bring some real value, as I'm going to share some of the gems I got from Tony and Sir Richard Branson at a conference. This post is rather lengthy, but there is no other way I could do justice to the amazing content I have to share. I promise you will get some value here if you take the time to read and process these words.
There is an annual network marketing conference hosted by an organization called Go Pro, which is headed by Eric Worre. I've learned a ton from Eric over the years, and my wife Nicole and I booked two seats at this conference a year ago. When the time came to attend we decided finding childcare for four days was cost prohibitive, so we took them with us. To Las Vegas. Fortunately, the venue was the Las Vegas Convention Center and our hotel was across the street. The craziness of the Strip was distant enough that we didn't feel too uncomfortable having our kids along. Nicole and I decided to take turns attending the conference. One of us attended while the other showed the kids a good time in Vegas.
Nicole took the first shift at the conference, and she got to see Mel Robbins (no relation to Tony), one of her favorite speakers. Nicole got a ton of value from hearing Mel in person. I took the kids to Circus Circus. I initially planned on calling a Lyft ride, but when I saw on the nav how close it literally was from my hotel, I said "we're going for a walk kids!" It took over 30 minutes of walking. It's amazing how the resorts in Vegas look so close together, but it takes forever to walk from Point A to Point B.
We arrived at Circus (I hate saying the name twice, so I'll just say it once from here on) just as the Midway opened. It's a good thing we walked there, otherwise we would have had 30 minutes to stand around at a smoky casino.
We visited the carnival games and quickly ran through the little cash I brought. It isn't much different from Chuck E. Cheese, so my kids were in their happy place. The kids each won a stuffed animal, then I won a giant Pikachu, which the kids had to "share," and they each insisted on having a hand on it at all times. A show started at the center stage, so we grabbed a seat in the bleachers and had a blast watching the trapeze act.
I'm not writing this post just to summarize a family vacation, am I? Let's talk about Tony! Tony's session started at 6:00. Our family had dinner together, then I was off to the conference, while Nicole entertained the kids in Vegas.
Tony came on stage to much fanfare. 16k people were in attendance, so the room got pretty loud. There is so much material I could cover and I took several pages of frenzied notes, some of which is illegible because I was writing so fast. I'll stick to the main takeaways I got and not just repeat Tony word for word. Tony covered much more material than I cover here. These are just some of the more digestable portions of his talk that are conducive to a blog post.
One of Tony's main themes was Energy. You are more likely to take action while in an energized state, and energized people have more influence. Tony spent probably one-third of his three-hour time slot whipping the crowd into a frenzy. His aim was to demonstrate the power of energy and put the crowd into a high energy state, rather than just lecture about it. I get it. I'm just not someone who jumps up and down screaming on cue. I can't go from 1 to 11 on a moment's notice. But that's a self-limiting belief, isn't it? Tony's point is that you must train yourself to be high energy, and be able to switch it on and off.
While the jumping around stuff wasn't very effective for me, I totally get the larger point - people are attracted to energy. He's not talking about food energy - look what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, we fall asleep. Have you heard the expression "food coma"? He's also not talking about energy from a good night of sleep. How many times have you slept 8 hours and woke up still tired? Tony's talking about emotional energy.
The following exercise totally resonated with me. Tony had us interact with each other, similar to "greeting your neighbor" while at church. He had us spend two minutes greeting everyone in the rows nearby, but we were instructed to act like we didn't care to meet each other, and to generally greet each other rudely and dismissively. It was very uncomfortable and unnatural, but it drove home the message. I had about a dozen people act artificially rude to me, and even though we were acting, every single one of the greetings hurt. If I was playing my role correctly, I hurt every one else too. Wow. If you greet someone and treat them like you don't care, if you avert eye contact, have a rude expression, mumble and give a weak handshake, you will have zero influence. People will instantly dislike you. I hated this part of the exercise, but it was a necessary evil and very instructive. He asked us to analyze how we used our facial muscles, voices and bodies.
The next step he had us greet each other with trepidation and excessive shyness. I cringed and looked sideways as I gave limp handshakes with my elbow tightly at my waist, while my greeting partners did the same. On a visceral level, I found I felt no respect for the people I was meeting. If they did not respect themselves enough to give me a hearty greeting, then I did not respect them. Those were not my true feelings about these people of course, just how the exercise made me feel in the moment. That's how Tony wanted us to feel.
Then things got fun. Tony asked us to greet each other as if we were long lost relatives or friends, and we were really exicted to reunite. We greeted each other with eyes wide open, loud voices, hugs, double clasped firm handshakes, etc. After doing 1-2 of these greetings, I could feel my mood and energy skyrocket. After 10 such greetings, I felt amazing. You greet someone like that, they feel awesome, and so do you. Both parties feel important, validated and connected.
Right when I thought the message had stuck, Tony took it to another level. He had us crank it up to 11. He instructed us to act totally ridiculous and lose our minds with glee upon greeting each other. I was a little worried at first, wondering how the hell I could top the greetings I just gave. I found a way. As soon as he said Go, I started bear hugging people, lifting them off the ground and rocking them back and forth, as if I was greeting my children. We tried to outdo each other. Imagine walking into a room with 16k people acting like this. You would think we lost our minds, and maybe we did a little bit. I'll tell you this: standing in a room of 16k people, where anyone in arm's reach was grasping at you for an enthusiastic hug, is an amazing experience I hope to have again in my lifetime. It was a high I've never felt before.
The lesson wasn't that you should act like this when you meet or greet people. You would get arrested! Restraining orders would issue. Think of the Free Hugs Project guy (look him up if you don't know him). He enters contentious locations, like political rallies and protests, and offers free hugs. He literally lives in this state. Anyhow, the point was that we need to train ourselves to raise our emotional levels. He wanted us to experience the feeling, so we understood his lesson emotionally, not just intellectually. Imagine your life if you could manifest that feeling at will. What kind of person would you become and what kind of people would you attract?
The main lesson here is that you do not influence people from your words; you influence people from the state in which you deliver your words.
B. Resources and Resourcefulness
Another theme Tony discussed is adversity. Nobody's story is unique because we all have challenges, and challenges are a catalyst for growth. Examples of resource scarcity we use to assign responsibility for our problems can be time, experience, money, energy, relationships, etc. Tony's thesis is that our problems do not flow from a lack of resources, but from a lack of resourcefulness. Let that sink in for a moment.
The stories we tell ourselves about our failures focus on a lack of resources, but we don't recognize our own capacities for resourcefulness. Tony gave an example of a TED talk he gave years ago in Silicon Valley. He asked the room who has failed at something, and not a single person raised their hand. Tony kept pressing and eventually the hands went up. Tony asked for reasons, and the room's responses exemplified a lack of resources. One person in the room yelled out that his failure was caused by an unusual resource: a Supreme Court justice. This person was Al Gore. Al blamed the loss of the Presidential election on the Supreme Court. Tony responded that he lost the election because of poor debate performance, not because of the Supreme Court. Al was blaming a lack of resources, not his own lack of resourcefulness. Had he performed better at the debates, the election would not have been left to the Supreme Court. This is why you can't blame kickers when a football team loses on a missed field goal. Had the team played better the game wouldn't have come down to a field goal try.
When we encounter the inevitable failures and setbacks, we tell ourselves stories about why it happened. We often deflect responsibility by blaming our problems on a lack of resources. Many of our problems could have been avoided or mitigated if we focused on developing our own resourcefulness. He was really talking about personal responsibility here.
Tony put a photo of Robin Williams on the screen, and asked the crowd of 16k people to raise their hands if they LOVED Robin. The entire room raised their hands, myself included. This is a man who brought so much joy and happiness into the world, yet he was not happy inside, and he ended his life. To be fair to Robin, he was also suffering from Parkinson's and dementia, so I don't want to oversimplify the end of his life. Tony's point was that even though the entire world loved Robin, he ended his own life because he was not fulfilled.
Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. Tony repeated this phrase a few times for emphasis. How many materially wealthy people do you know who are miserable and intolerable? How many materially poor people do you know who are fulfilled and happy? Becoming materally successful, by itself, will not make you happy.
Fulfillment is different for everyone. Tony gave an example of Steve Wynn, the casino mogul, who spent $82 million on a painting. Steve called Tony with great enthusiasm about his new acquisition, and invited him over for a viewing. Tony shared a photo of the painting on the big screen, stunning the crowd. The painting on the left is not the precise one Tony showed (I can't seem to find it), but this is pretty close. Tony saw a red canvas, but Steve saw a work of art that provided so much meaning and value that he paid $82 million. Owning or viewing works of art provides fulfillment for some people.
While fulfillment is different for everyone, Tony shared that most people obtain fulfillment by growing and giving. You are either growing or dying, there are no plateaus in life. I have read two wonderful books discussing this topic: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. You can't help but feel fulfilled while engaging in activities that foster your growth. You also feel fulfilled by giving to others.
One way of feeling fulfilled is by trading expectations for appreciation. We feel frustrated (the opposite of fulfilled) when circumstances fail to meet our expectations. Learn to trade your expectations for appreciation.
We also feel fulfilled by appreciating the little things in life. Here is such an example for me. During our last camping trip I bobbed around in the lake for hours. One day a beautiful blue dragonfly landed on my arm and checked me out for a good 15 minutes. We were fascinated with each other. Nicole happened to be nearby with a camera, so I caught her attention and she snapped a few pics. Here is an example of me feeling fulfilled, basking in the beauty of something most people would take for granted.
Tony's three-hour presentation ended on the topic of gratitude. The human brain is the result of 2 million years' worth of evolution. Our brains are designed for survival, not happiness. Our brains are always scanning the environment for problems. Our ancestors were looking for their next meal and making sure they did not become a meal. Modern humans aren't much different, as we are always scanning for problems and negativity. If you look for negative, you will have little problem finding it.
If you want to reprogram your brain to notice beauty and positivity, you have to actively practice gratitude. It is like exercising a muscle.
Tony gave some examples of petty annoyances that get under our skin (myself included). For example, you dial a phone number, and get annoyed because it took a whole three seconds for the line to start ringing - the horror! You're aware that the call had to go to a cell phone tower, then up to a satellite, right? In space? Don't we all get annoyed about airline delays and hassles? Did you then fly like a bird through the air and travel hundreds or thousands of miles in a couple hours? And you eventually reached your destination? We aren't limited to horse and buggy anymore, are we?
In the closing moments of the evening Tony did an interactive exercise, and this was my favorite part of the entire weekend. Tony discussed how our hearts start beating in utero before our brains have formed, and our hearts pump blood into our brains. The screen showed this graphic detailing how, when we are in a state of frustration, our brain waves and heart waves are out of sync. I know from personal experience that when you are frustrated, emotionally compromised, you are incapapble of rational thought. Attorneys play games with each other at depositions by trying to get under each others' skin. When I was a younger lawyer, and old lawyer needled at me until I got so angry I could barely think straight, and this negatively impacted my ability to focus on the witness and my questions. That was his goal.
In contrast, your heart waves and brain waves are aligned when you are in a state of appreciation. The house lights turned dim and calming music played. Tony had us stand and place both hands over our hearts and feel them beating. It has been giving us life before we were even born. Tony told us to think of a significant life event for which we are grateful. I breathed deeply, entering a state of relaxation, and thought of how I won the 5th grade spelling bee. I bested a 6th grader in front of the entire student body, and they all stood up and cheered for me. I have never experienced anything like that since. I was grateful for that moment. I started to feel calm.
Tony asked us to think of another event for which we are grateful, and it took only a couple seconds for me to settle on my wedding day. I recalled standing in front of the wedding guests on the lawn of the Dana Hotel on Mission Bay, holding hands with my bride. Our eyes were locked together, and neither of us looked away during the entire ceremony. The pastor commented on our unflinching focus on each other. In this moment, at the conference, I kept thinking, "I'm grateful that she chose me; she chose me." While standing in a room of 16k people with my eyes closed and hands on my heart, my thoughts started flipping between Nicole's deep blue eyes and the births of my two children, now 6 and 8 years old, I had an overpowering sense of calm and awe, but most of all, total GRATITUDE. I also became overtaken with emotion. I truly felt that my heart and brain were aligned. I felt totally focused, happy and fulfilled.
Please try this exercise right now and see how you feel. Turn down the lights, eliminate noise, close your eyes and place your hands on your heart. Deep breathe and meditate on the things for which you are the most grateful. I recommend starting and/or ending each day like this. That is a guaranteed way of entering a state of gratitude.
Not even a week later, I had the privilege of being a guest on an online event called The Gratitude Show. The timing was perfect because I was only a few days removed from a Tony Robbins conference, where he taught me this amazing gratitude exercise. In the closing minutes of the live show, I demonstrated the gratitude exercise. I wanted to show the audience how this works, so I did it live, and I broke down, live. It is hard enough for a man to become emotional in private, much less in front of a live audience, but I felt it was more important to teach this method to others, so I put my ego aside. Multiple people wrote in the comments that they tried the exercise and felt great, and that made the whole process worthwhile.
Click here for The Gratitude Show's YouTube channel.
Sir Richard Branson
The session with Richard Branson lasted one-third of the time we had with Tony, and it proceeded in Q&A format with Eric Worre.
Richard discussed how entrepreneurship requires bravery and entrepreneurs have ideas about how to improve others' lives. You need an idea that stands out from the crowd, then surround yourself with brilliant people.
Richard's dislike of Donald Trump has been no secret. He said the "you're fired" attitude is inconsistent with reality, that companies should be run like families, meaning you work out your problems. I could tell he wanted to say much more on this point, but held back because he did not want to become political. He never mentioned Trump by name. Richard shared more on his management philosophy, but I won't delve into that here.
Richard said you cannot fear failure. You pick yourself up if you fall down, and your resilience can become part of your story. Richard freely shared and poked fun at some of his failures, such as Virgin Soda and Virgin Brides (!). He has created massive success with some of his ideas, and massive failure with others. You are not a true entrepreneur unless you fall on your face occasionally.
Here is where I got the most value from Richard. He shared that he was in the Mojave Desert that morning, overseeing a test launch of his spaceship. A SPACESHIP. They showed a promo video of the rocket launch, followed by the ship being released, its engine fired, then the ship flew through the stratosphere. Richard said he got a tear in his eye watching this event. Can you imagine? This guy started out as a record label. He got into aviation because he got bumped from a flight, and he was eager to visit a romantic interest. He chartered a private jet, then walked through the terminal with a handwritten sign saying "Virgin Airlines, $29/ticket." He sold out the plane, then decided to launch his own airline. Now he's getting into space tourism.
I pondered how this story might apply to me. I thought how cool it must be to see your own logo (Virgin) on the side of an airplane, much less a spaceship. Of course he got emotional that morning. I then looked down at the pen in my hand. I had a batch of Eternal Roots pens made for promotional purposes. Most of them were snatched up when I naively put them on display at an expo earlier this year, but I made sure to keep some for myself. I looked down at this pen, a $0.49 pen, and marveled at the name and logo that I created. What will this become one day? What will my version of the spaceship be? I then had my own tear in my eye. Right then I got what I needed from the talk with Richard. Work hard, innovate, provide value to others, care about others, create quality products people will buy, build your brand, and there is no limit to what you can become.
About the Blog
Here I write about the evolution of this project, the act of preserving life stories and personal development. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.