As someone who thoroughly enjoys documentaries, I was glad to come across Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru for I have always liked Tony, yet I’m not a follower. I’ve never bought any of his books or attended any of his overpriced seminars, especially the Day of Destiny six-day seminar that takes place in Boca Raton, FL every year, costing $4995 to attend (that’s 2014’s cost). If I spent $4995 on a seminar that lasts 6 days, 11-12 hours a day, I would need a shrink, and not a so-called self-help guru. So, being able to watch the process from the comfort of my home, without having the pay the hefty fee, allowed me to enjoy more. Sort of.
I would watch the documentary before going to sleep because during the day I was watching shows that would only produce a stressful sleep such Marcella (Netflix original), The Man in the High Castle (Amazon original based on the book of the same name), along with binge-watching Mr. Robot and Queen of the South ( both currently in Season 1 – via USA Network, either on the computer or the app). I wanted to end my nights with something a bit more calming, and Tony’s documentary did the trick, to a point.
The documentary is the brainchild of Joe Berlinger, who, after attending one of Tony’s Date with Destiny seminars, wanted to document the whole thing, including Tony. After two years of asking, Tony finally agreed. Not sure if begging was included, but you would think that someone who believes in helping others, would have conceded sooner than two years. Problem number one for me to this whole documentary.
Everything started out great for me, when learning of Tony’s goal for the attendees and what he offers people in the 12 hour a day, six day seminar, until the fee was announced: $4995. In 2015, it was $6k for the seminar. For 2016, here are the prices for the seminar that took play in May of this year (2016):
They try to con you by stating you are saving $4k, but the prices are still ridiculous and seem to go up every year. As mentioned, the one in 2014 coast $4995 and I couldn’t get this out of my mind while watching the show. The people at the seminar were not broken people, they were idiots. If someone gave me $4995, I’ll fix them myself. Being a self-help guru doesn’t not take skill, it takes compassion, and compassion can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.
I feel if you can fork over $4995 bucks, you are doing fine, financially that is. Save $4971 and go buy a $24.00 book by Tony that will do the same thing as the seminars will do. Or, how about someone just forks over $25.00 to me and we go have a beer or two.
Picture it. Sicily, 1924…a little Golden Girls joke there. Seriously. Picture it. You’re in a room with 24,999 other people you don’t know (that’s if you came alone. If you came with someone, then there are 24,998 strangers in the room with you). Tony picks you out of the crowd (I’m not sure the process, but he does) and now you have to tell you bleeding heart story to a room full of strangers. Why? Because Tony makes you feel that comfortable. He makes you feel like it’s just you and him in that room while reminding you there are thousands of strangers in the room rooting for you. He starts by asking what your issue is, and you tell him. He asks you again, and again, you tell him, with more details added on. This process goes on until he has reached the real underlying issue you’ve been carrying around. He makes you think it’s OK to express yourself in front of total strangers, and perhaps it is, for some. But this is the beauty of this documentary’ we are only seeing those that were willing to share and had a “breakthrough.” We are not privy to those who refused to share, not to mention, just refused to stand. Not all are there to share, but to listen.
I can barely express myself in a room full of people I’ve known for years, how can I express myself in a room full of total strangers?
Tony claims he goes by the energy in the room and can tell who he should pick. But he has another method. At the end of each day (or almost each day), Tony and his crew go through some flash cards that were filled out before the seminar began by those attending and emails sent to Tony’s office of those with issues. He and his crew go through the cards and emails and pick out “red flags”. Red Flags are people in real need of help, such as those contemplating suicide. There was one person who attempted suicide two days prior to the seminar. I, personally, doubt this, and feel it was to get attention. And yes, there are those who do go there for the attention, the hope of being singled out by Tony. This is one thing I enjoyed, watching Tony determine who was there for attention and who isn’t. And when one of his team members read someone’s story to Tony, and he knew it was for attention, he would say, “she only wants attention” or “he only wants attention.”
Once he and his crew picked out the red flags the previous night, Tony single those people out in the seminar the next day.
As mentioned earlier, Tony singles out some people to tell their story or get to the root of the issue so he can “help” them. I use the word ‘help’ very loosely. My understanding is, he spends one to two hours with these people in the seminars, but the documentary only allows us 10 minutes of he is interacting with them. One particular person, he singled out was a lady named Hali. Hali states her father always treated her like a princess. She also states she was in a bad relationship but is currently in another relationship. Tony seemed to narrow it down to her being the issue and not the other person in the relationship. Why? Because she knows she will always get love from daddy so getting love from other men is not important to her. Or some BS like that. Knowing that we are not seeing the entire interaction with the person, I am going boldly says that Tony has CONVINCED her that she’s the problem in the relationships. What we are able to witness is Tony telling Hali that she should break up with her current boyfriend because he does not deserve what she’s putting him through. He first asks Hali if “Joe” (I can’t remember the boyfriend’s real name) is the one, to which she really has to think about it. The next words out of Tony’s mouth is, “take out your phone”. With this comment from Tony, comes the gasp from the audience for they all know what Tony wants Hali to do. Tony wants Hali to break up with her boyfriend right there on the spot, yet he says to her and tried to convince everyone in the room, that the choice is hers to break up with him or not.
Hali is standing in room full of her peers and being told by Tony that she needs to break up with her boyfriend. He convinces her, and the others in the room, that it’s of her free will to do this, while telling her she must do this. She is faced with two decisions: follow the silent crowd and break up with her boyfriend right then and there, or tell Tony that she wants to think about it. If she does the latter, Tony will make her look like a coward, like she’s not facing her fears and she’ll never grow. Hali caves in and calls her boyfriend (phone on speaker) and breaks up with him. During the call he hangs up on her. Tony convinces her it’s OK and she did the right thing.
I have to admit I had to turn the show off before Hali’s phone call for I was feeling a great deal of embarrassment for her and a great deal of sadness for the soon-to-be-dumped boyfriend. I viewed Facebook, Twitter and played a round of Candy Crush Soda before making my way back to the disaster about to take place. I cringed when she dialed the phone and cringed at each ring that took place. I was hoping it would go to voicemail and save her the embarrassment and him the heartache. But luck was not on my side, nor hers, for you could see on her face she was hoping it would go to voicemail as well.
The boyfriend answers and she give some lame story and breaks up with him. After he hangs up on her, she is still under the impression that what she’s done is OK and for her own good. We learn, at the end of the documentary, that Hali and her boyfriend got back together, which I was glad to hear. This speaks volumes about the interaction earlier, in that Hali felt what she did was not right. What Tony told her she did not believe, and that this person she’s with is the one and she’s willing to work on her own issues while keeping this special someone in her life.
Another thing that bothered me about this whole process was Tony’s unwillingness to talk about his past completely. He does mention during the seminar that his mother used to beat him every day. He also mentioned that his mother was depended on drugs, prescription drugs, for he would have to go the pharmacy a lot to get Vicodin for her, telling the pharmacist his mother lost the bottle. I’m not sure how things were back when Tony was old enough to get Vicodine for his mother, but I don’t think it was that easy to get a prescription that often without a red flag being thrown up at the doctor’s office as well as the pharmacy. But this is the story he told.
Tony doesn’t reveal much of himself on stage nor on camera. There was a member who shared with the world that she grew up in a commune in Brazil (I hope I have that right) called Children of God and at the age of six on, was engaged in sex with different people (sex slave, basically) in the name of God. While telling the story, Tony begins shedding tears. Backstage the director asks Tony about the incident and tries to get him to talk about his past and what has happened to him. I understand not wanting to tell you a story to others.
We all have bad things that have happened to us, that we don’t want to share. And I also understand Tony’s stance that the bad he’s endured makes him the person he is today. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stranger. I get that. However, how am I to trust you can help me if you won’t open yourself up to me, yet, you want me to open myself up to you?
I’m aware when you go see a counselor or shrink, they are there to listen to you and advise you. However, I, and I think the director too, was expecting Tony to open up more about himself. After all, this documentary was about him and his Date with Destiny seminar, but that was not to happen. Berlinger asked Tony multiple times, throughout the film, about his past and Tony just would not talk about it. This tells me that Tony has not fully healed from his past. As the saying goes, if you say it out loud it makes it real. All I got from the film is Tony’s mother used to beat him a lot, he used to protect his brother and sister and he had to go to the pharmacy a lot to get Vicodin for his mother. We don’t need to know every single detail of his rough past at home, but I think he should show more of the human side of him instead of this “I can heal you of your issues”.
Here’s something else that got me throughout the film: Tony’s house in Florida
A modest life he does not lead. Parts of the is house featured a few times throughout the documentary. This is another reason I find the fee for the seminars to be a bit much. I look at what is included in the prices (for there are two packages – refer to above for chart). I didn’t see anything about food and lodging is included in the prices. Not only that, the seminars each day, are 12 hours long: 11:30 am – 11:30 pm. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Jim Jones have 12 hour long services? I’m sure you are free to come and go during the seminars, but 12 hours is a bit much for six days. So now, I have the $4995 fee stuck in my head along with Tony’s fat house and the 12 hour days. The fee stuck in my head more than anything else.
I believe in the adage, do what you love for free and the money will come later. Did Tony do this for free at all or has he always charged for his “words of wisdom” that can be found anywhere if you look hard enough. And nowadays, you don’t have to look that hard. There’s YouTube, books, articles on the Internet. But more importantly, surround yourself with good people and you won’t need to pay $4995 for someone to tell you what you already know or can find out in a $24.00 book.
I do admit that I enjoyed the documentary. I took some things away, such as when Tony said that settling for a low paying job means you feel you are not worthy of a high paying job. I almost fell into this statement. I took a very low paying job because I felt I wasn’t going to find another job in my respective IT field paying what I should be getting paid and have been getting paid. I ended up not taking the job and decided to pursue what I am worth. He also states that when you settle you are not moving forward. Very true.
The whole 1:56 minutes wasn’t completely wasted. I did sleep a bit better at night until I finished the film and realized a lot of things that brings to mind a lot of questions.
I understand the purpose of the seminar is for others to find whatever it is they are seeking in FL with a fee $4995 (yeah, I’ll never get over that and the fact it increases each year), and that’s all well and good. But I feel like a documentary, Tony should have shared more of his past. Him not sharing his past was not a deal breaker for me with this film. Would I watch this film again? No. Would I recommend this film to anyone? Probably not. And if I did, I would give the three things mentioned to keep in mind when watching the documentary.
The lady that was part of the commune sold all her furniture to attend the seminar. Somehow, she ended leaving Boca Raton with $100,000 due to people giving her money. I guess she told anyone that would listen that she sold her furniture so she could attend the seminar and people fell for it and just handed money to her.
I feel Tony Robbins has a good heart and wants to help people. I also believe the same of Deepak Chopra, but I lean more towards Chopra than I do Robbins. It’s a preference thing, that’s all.
If anyone told me they were going to the Date with Destiny seminar or thinking of going, I would quickly talk them out of it. This is where I would tell them to watch the documentary and save them $20 million dollars. I would advise them to buy one of Tony’s book, look him up on YouTube, find articles, if they are set on Tony. I would recommend they explore Chopra or other ‘self-help’ wizards out there.
I don’t doubt there are people that have and will continue to benefit from Robbins, I’m just not one of them. I don’t need Robbins telling me I’m good enough and I shouldn’t be down on myself about anything. One, it’s not realistic, and two, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stranger. I prefer to continue being strange and getting stranger by the day.
Here is the trailer for Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru currently playing on Netflix.
If you haven’t seen Shallow Hal with Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jason Alexander, you have to find this movie and watch it. It’s about a man, Jack Black, who only sees people from the outside. It’s not until he’s giving a keyword (provided by Robbins) that he begins to see people’s inner beauty.
Here’s a scene with Jason Alexander asking Robbins to undo whatever he did to Hal: