Each year for the past few, I have had the privilege of supporting Tony Robbins’ event, Date With Destiny. And every year, I try to find words to describe what these events are about — and every year I fail. Are they about motivation? Not really. Are they huge money makers for Robbins? Yes, but I believe he delivers far more value than the price of the event. Are they just a big rah-rah? Well, there is some of that, but it is a side effect rather than the Purpose. So what are these events about, then?

Let me back up. My story starts about 7 or so years ago, when I was in a place in my life where I was not really sure what I wanted to do, what I should do — and so I started talking to people for whom I had lots of respect. I talked to the owner of a large local business who had been through some hard times and come out the other side in amazingly great shape. I talked with an out of state friend who has bought and sold more than 100 businesses in his lifetime. I spoke with a very successful real estate broker. They all had interesting advice. And they all recommended that I go to a Robbins event and see what might happen.

And yet, I still wasn’t ready. The tipping point was when I watched Tony’s 20 minute talk on TED, about why we do what we do. This talk was recommended to me, out of the blue, by a friend who is not particularly successful, but she is pretty much happy all the time. She hasn’t been to any events, but knew the TED talk would interest me.

Before the talk had ended, I was on the phone booking tickets to go to the weekend event, Unleash the Power Within. Before going, though, I bought one of his books; one of the earlier ones. I would not say it was well written, but I could immediately put what I learned to use (and talked my way into 1st class on a flight).

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. First, I found out that I was going to walk barefoot across hot coals. It isn’t the process of doing it that is important, rather it is a metaphor about being able to accomplish stuff you never thought you could. Before the event started, we wrote down a limiting belief and threw it in the fire – another metaphor about limiting beliefs. Most of the weekend turned out to be about limiting beliefs, and how they can affect your life.

Robbins came to the stage around noon or 1PM. and he did not leave the stage until we went out to do the firewalk after 11pm. Not to pee, not for a break. And at 11PM he was still delivering with as much or more intensity as when he began 10 or so hours earlier. It seemed impossible, and I saw it with my own eyes.

The first half day of the event, Tony asks if anyone is suicidal, and of course in a crowd of 3,000+ there are always a few. He talks about physiology – how we stand, breathe, and move; about Focus – what are we focused on? And about the words we use. These things comprise a State, and to demonstrate, Tony finds someone who is depressed, and stands like they are standing, breathes how they are breathing, tries to focus on what they are focused on — and he says, “Well crap, you have no choice BUT to be depressed if you do all this!”

It reminds me of the peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown talks about having the right posture to be depressed.

Then he talks about something he developed called Human Needs Psychology – that we all live our lives based on 6 human needs, and what makes the difference is which two needs we value most, and what our vehicles are for achieving these needs. He often takes someone who is suicidal and looks at their needs structure. It becomes obvious pretty quickly what is going on with them.

UPW is a 4 day sprint, while Date With Destiny is a 6 day marathon. UPW covers human needs, and limiting beliefs, and there is a day of information about diet. All in all it is a really interesting event, and by itself can change people dramatically. And it is only the tiniest introduction to what Robbins has to teach. What I learned at UPW alone took my closing ratio in listing appointments from maybe 35% to closer to 65%, mostly because of what I focused on right before the appointment.

DWD is a much deeper study. Participants are asked to look at their core values. What do you value most about life? Love? Honesty? Integrity? Fun? We make a big list of all the ones we can think of (individually) and then rank them in order of importance. Similarly, we look at feelings we want to avoid – Hate, disappointment, betrayal, embarrassment, etc. Whatever list the participant comes up with. And we also rank these in terms of worst to best.

Then, we talk about what has to happen so that we feel each one. These are the rules we have subconsciously made up about our desired and undesired emotions. The really interesting part at this point is that it is easy to see conflicts, and easy to see that we tend to make it really hard to feel good, and make it easy to feel bad.

The end result of DWD is to reprogram your mind with a list more likely to make you happy, and also to implant the rules about these things. A typical rule about love might be that someone feels love only when their spouse smiles at them every day and dresses how they like and doesn’t pick a fight. So, almost never, right? A new rule about love might be anytime they see their spouse; anytime they smile at them; anytime they think about them. Lots easier!

Another piece of the puzzle is something Robbins calls the Primary Question; this is a question people ask themselves, almost without thinking about it, several times a day. Mine used to be, how can I fix it? Presuming everything (and everyone I met) was broken. A friend of mine asked himself “Why live?” and another (who had not had a relationship lasting more than a month in her 35 years) “Why doesn’t anyone love me?”

Can you see how asking ourselves questions like these, repeatedly, might lead to some poor outcomes?

And yet another big piece of DWD is all the time spent on relationships. Robbins doesn’t just talk about, but vividly demonstrates, the differences between male energy and female energy, and between light and dark energy. Robbins says that for any intimate relationship to work, there must be male and female energy. There are feminine men, and there are masculine women in addition to the conventional roles. A good friend of mine has a great relationship with his wife; it’s just that when you stop in to see them, she’s in the garage with a power screwdriver building something, and he’s making the bed, or cooking. They have that polarity, and it works great!

Robbins demonstrates that many issues occur when a masculine man has been feminized by society, or their work, or something else, so they are masculine, but wearing a feminine mask; and sometimes they put a second masculine mask on over the feminine, so they are really messed up. Similarly, society has masculinized women – from powerful women in the workforce, or women who got divorced and had to stand up and “be a man” to support their children or for other reasons – we see all these examples, in the flesh, and we can come to understand how their relationships might have some issues as a result. When I was dating (hindsight is 20/20…) I tended to be more feminine, and I dated very masculine women (national trampoline champ, national champ gymnast, rock climbing instructor…) and as I became comfortable in the relationships, I tended to lose the feminine qualities I had and my masculine core would come out, and … well, it just wasn’t pretty; two guys (two people with strong masculine energy) in a relationship. Or not.

Another piece is that passion in relationships comes from uncertainty, and from the balance of light and dark energy in the relationship. If we have total certainty all the time, it gets boring. So we need a bit of variety to juice things up! And again, Robbins provides great examples, stories from his life and demonstrations from the audience.

All this is what goes on, on the surface. At UPW there are no teams, just a room full of folks. At DWD, participants are put in large teams, and each team has some leadership people associated with it. This is where the true magic of DWD happens. The event leadership makes a huge effort to connect with every member on the team, and deal with any issue they might have that is holding them back in life. Whether it is someone who was abused, just broke up with someone, lost a loved one, had a business failure — whatever their issue is, the leadership team leaves no stone unturned in attempting to help them. We aren’t trained psychologists, but many of us are coaches, and a surprising number have had outside training either in coaching, or The Work, or are NLP practitioners or trainers. So we have gotten halfway decent at talking people through big issues.

Robbins does most of the work for us; he picks people from the audience who want to ask a question, or share something. If it is something that will serve more than just that one person, he will go deep with them, talking to them about how their behavior or outcome has been governed by their beliefs, or their rules, or their need structures, or primary question – and these discussions often cause many other audience members to have deep insights into their own issues. Then, often, someone will come up to one of us with a request like, “could I please talk to you for a moment?” and we are ready to see how we can help.

I keep going back, because I see the difference we make in people’s lives; my hallucination is that I have saved dozens of relationships, prevented at least two suicides, and given many who had given up hope something to live for. I know it is not all a hallucination because I am still in touch with many of them. I also know that when Robbins has an interaction with someone in the room, he follows up with them, often for more than a year.

One of his DVD products, The Ultimate Relationship Program, is full of video clips taken from various events, including many DWDs, and the interactions are unpacked by an award-winning psychologist, Cloe Madanes. The product is so well received that Doctors can get continuing education credits from going through it. And, he and Cloe have created a new class of coaches, Robbins-Madanes Strategic Interventionists (quite a mouthful…) We are trained to use Tony’s techniques to help people.

The seminars are not about motivation; they are about personal growth. And just as the event leadership is there to help participants grow, the leadership gets there a couple days early and we talk about our outcomes and growth plans; and we are all deeply committed to each other’s growth and learning. We all keep in touch through social media, and there are YES groups all around the country where we spread the word. I love these events also because one of my top needs is growth. Happiness often does not come from achievement, but rather from progress. This was an important distinction for me.

The education I got from UPW and DWD, and other Robbins events is probably more valuable, in terms of life skills, than any other education I have ever had (including 4 years of college, 2 post grad, and lots of other stuff). If you think you might be interested in learning a little more about yourself, drop me a note. I’m happy to share.