Why I Walked Out on Tony Robbins (my very honest review)

Why I Walked Out on Tony Robbins

After paying $2,000 for a ticket to Unleash the Power Within

After the 3-hour flight out to California…

After fully committing, with a completely open heart…

I walked out of Tony Robbins' seminar.

In this post, I will share why I went to Tony's event, what it was like, and why I walked out. I will also show you what I did after I left, and what I learned from the whole experience.

If you're skeptical of friends who say, "You have to go see Tony Robbins..."

If you're on the fence about Unleash the Power Within ($2,000) or Date with Destiny ($5,000)...

This article is for you.

If you'd prefer to watch a video about it:

"But doesn't everyone LOVE Tony Robbins' events? Are you just a hater?"

I know the diehard fans -- the self-proclaimed Cult of Robbins who "drink the Kool-Aid" -- are already having doubts about this article.

"This guy wasn't truly committed. He didn't do the work, because he was afraid. Now he just wants to act like he's more enlightened than everyone else."

None of that is true.

Btw -- If you hate reading, happy to send you personal day productivity checklist:

Here's what you should know about me…

I have a ton of respect for Tony Robbins. I've read (or listened to) several of his books. I'm amazed by what he does (I recently shared how he gets 1 million visitors per month), and wanted to experience his coaching in person. A lot of my friends are big TR fans, and they all gave strong endorsements for UPW.

I'm not "better than you" for walking out. I'm not writing this because I'm a sophisticated aristocrat who turns his nose up at self-help groups. At many points in my life, I've been a total mess. I've written about depression and addiction. I wrote about the most embarrassing and painful period of my life (then I published a book about it).

I put in the work. I've had a ton of failures, and a few huge successes, because I'm constantly trying new things. Like how I built an 8-figure business. Or how I intentionally gained 40 pounds in 2015, then got into the best shape of my life in 2016. It wasn't easy to eat so much food, or to go to the gym every week, but I put in the effort to reach my goals. (You can read more about my goals in 2020).

I've read hundreds of books and taken action, because I am 100% in on improving myself. (Here are 18 books that changed my life). I've also publicly documented my self-improvement journey for the last 15 YEARS. If that's not "doing the homework," I don't know what is.

I've attended a lot of paid seminars before, and loved them. A few events that changed my life were Gayle Hendricks' Big Leap event and David Deida's workshop. Both were three days long, 5–8 hours per day. I didn't even consider walking out of either. I've even hosted my own seminars! Last September, my company AppSumo hosted our second annual conference, with over 200 attendees. I'm astonished Tony hosts events for 10,000 people at a time.

SumoCon 2016

This article isn't "fear-driven." I committed to the event for seven hours. The only thing I was afraid of was wasting more time. Besides, I believe in helping people overcome their biggest fears -- like talking to strangers, or starting a company. I now have had time to reflect on this experience.

Finally, Tony Robbins is one of my customers. In addition to Appsumo, I run a sister company called Sumo. Tony's team uses our products. Do you really think I'm dumb enough to bash one of my highest profile customers? Hell no. This article is written with love.

In other words…

I'm not hating on Tony Robbins, or people who love his events.

I'm just defending a viewpoint few people ever bring up in public: the negative experience.

Most people are hesitant to talk about experiences that make us sound foolish. We diminish our losses, we downplay the bad stuff -- especially if it goes against the crowd.

Think of Vegas.

Hardly anyone says, "I lost $2,000. It was a waste of time and money."

We always say, "It was fun! Almost broke-even. Hashtag WORTH IT."

For me, UPW wasn't worth it.

BONUS: Get the checklist to build your own Personal Development Day

 

My Experience at "Unleash The Power Within"

In the days that lead up to the event, I felt nervous. The discomfort was reassuring.

I'm going in the right direction.

The two areas of my life I most wanted to tackle during the event were:

  1. How to better position myself to be in great relationships.
  2. How to create a work environment that continually motivates and excites me.

Before the seminar began, I had a chance to talk with my neighbors. One was a recovering Jehovah's witness. The other was transitioning jobs in Los Angeles. We had a nice discussion about why we were there, what our struggles were, and what we hoped to get out of the seminar.

Then, Tony came out on stage.

Tony's presentation skills were incredible. The guy has been doing this for 30 years, so I expected him to be good. He was great.

Some of the things Tony did really well:

  • He encouraged us to meet our neighbors and keep each other excited.
  • He kept participation super high. He continually asked everyone to raise their hand and say "I" if they agreed. He also let the audience finish a lot of his sentences ("The truth will set you ____").
  • He challenged us: "I'll deliver but you have to promise to commit. If you sit down during the dancing, then you aren't committed, and you aren't going to get what you came for. Play full out with me."
  • He repeated things over and over to drive points home and increase retention. He also backed up his claims with statistics.
  • He told great stories and incorporated a lot of humor.

Of course, there were some things he did NOT do so well…

  • At times, he was all over the place. "Let's work on what you're afraid of… Now let's talk about how to get anything you want… Focus, mean it, do it!"
  • There was conflict of interest. There's a day where we talk about health and nutrition... and then he sells supplements. Tony also mentions his other events, and encourages you to sign up for more seminars during the middle of UPW.
  • He name-dropped and bragged constantly. Credibility markers are essential for a presenter to be taken seriously -- especially with an audience of 10,000 people. And we all know Tony has done some amazing things. But the number of times he mentioned his relationships with presidents, celebrities, and business people was overkill. We get it  —  you have a private jet.
  • Finally, Tony has the weirdest clap I've ever seen.

In the first few hours of the seminar, we danced (a lot), massaged our neighbors, fanned our neighbors, did aerobic exercises, pumped our fists, watched Tony run through the audience like some idol, and other ra-ra tactics.

Still, these were minor annoyances. Those come with any event. None were deal-breakers.

But as the day unfolded, I began to question whether this seminar was a good use of my time.

Tony called on people in the front row and recited their names. Which made it seem like he knew everyone in the audience, though I'm sure they were his VIP ($75K per year) customers.

He called on John.

"What's your issue, John?"

John wasn't loved.

Here was Tony's response:

  1. Everyone in the crowd faces that issue.
  2. John should come up with a new name. "Edward."
  3. "Edward" walk towards Tony like a bad-ass.
  4. Tell Tony you are unleashed (basically).
  5. Everyone in the audience say "I love you, John."

Problem solved.

Of course, no one expected Tony to solve John's emotional issues with some light role-play and applause. The whole sequence was superficial (and entertaining).

Still, John clearly has deeper issues around his family. He wasn't loved enough.

What then?

I wanted John and Tony to go deep.

I wanted to go deep.

I wanted to do the hard work we needed to do.

Then we had to massage our neighbors. Again.

Okay, I understand we need to break through social discomfort and energize ourselves, but I don't enjoy random dudes touching me.

Hour 7…

I looked at the agenda for the next three days.

Nutrition. Interesting.

Then booklet work.

For two days.

I looked back over my notes.

Sure, there were some great takeaways, like...

Dedicate time every week to work on yourself. Reflect upon whether you are growing, and making progress.

What are you scared of right now? How can you move towards that? Discomfort is your growth!

Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.

Look at things from appreciation and gratitude. Instead of complaining about traffic, appreciate that we have cars to get us to places faster.

Modeling is valuable. Study and replicate the people that have already figured out what you want to do.

What's a goal that excites you? What goal would genuinely energize you immediately?

What distractions are holding you back from your goals? Remove them.

These are his quotes I turned into instagram memes.

"No growth in comfort."

"Success is how much uncertainty you can deal with."

"Your worst day can be your best day"

"Complexity is the enemy of execution."

"Have hunger that's insatiable, always expanding."

It finally hit me. Dread.

I was officially dreading the rest of the seminar.

To stay for three full days felt like a self-imposed prison, rather than an opportunity to genuinely grow.

I thought about what I most wanted to get out of my time, and whether this event was the best use of it. I decided it would be better for me to work on my specific issues, one-on-one with a friend.

So, I walked out.

Did I feel embarrassed? Yes.

Did I feel disappointed? Yes.

But what I really felt, more than anything else…

Empowered.

Empowered to make choices about what I want, and empowered to turn down the things I don't.

What I Did After I Left

Rather than fly home, I planned a "Personal Development Day." Here's what I did the following day:

  • Drank coffee
  • Went on a 3-hour hike to discuss personal and professional growth with a friend
  • 90-minute personal development discussion (recorded on video)
  • Ate a healthy lunch
  • Reviewed some of Tony's other materials
  • Read a book
  • 60-minute discussion with my mastermind group, where I shared some of my biggest issues
  • Got a massage
  • Sushi dinner

 

Get my Personal Development Day checklist

 

This may have been the best part about Tony's personal development seminar -- it forced me to create my own.

Final Thoughts

Tony has great intentions, a strong presence, and it's clear most of his attendees feel the event is worth the investment. I am in the minority, who asked for a refund.

A quick Google search shows his net worth in the several hundreds of millions. So luckily my refund request didn't break the bank.

For many of his attendees, it seems there are deep-seated issues with a lack of love, and the belief that they are not enough.

If you struggle with those issues, then Tony's seminars might change your life.

For a few days, you will feel loved.

For a few days, you will feel like you are enough.

That's intoxicating, and many attendees (understandably) go back for more.

For my friends, the seminar was overwhelmingly positive and deeply moving. For me, it felt superficial and cheesy.

I don't plan on attending another Tony Robbins' event. But I would, if his team made a few big changes:

  1. More time to talk with the people around us. The most valuable time, for me, was when we shared our lives with each other. We all attended for personal development, and we all faced similar challenges. Bonding over common ground was great, and I wish there was more time dedicated to it.
  2. Shorten the seminar to just ONE day. Less dancing, less hoopla, less fluff... Just get to the meat. We wouldn't need to be "awakened" every 20 minutes if the event didn't take so long. (Then again, maybe it's dragged out to create the sense that we got our money's worth.)
  3. Focus. The seminar felt too general. I know it's impossible to custom-tailor an event for 10,000 people, but more specific topics would have helped.

My good friend Tynan said it best:

"If you never quit, you probably aren't trying enough new things."

I don't regret attending Tony's seminar.

Nor do I regret walking out.

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1,851 responses to “Why I Walked Out on Tony Robbins”

Scott G
May 13, 2022 at 5:08 pm

I’m actually commenting on this while sitting in on Virtual Wealth Mastery with my GF. I can’t even actually speak about Tony because Tony hasn’t been here in person yet halfway through day 2. I was in and out of virtual UPW a couple months ago. In the end, Tony is fantastic for some people, and not great for others. His stuff is 80% psychology. If you’re being held back in life due to mental blocks, Tony can help you overcome that. If you’re in a good mental state to start, it’s a lot less.

Funny enough, speaking about upselling, the host Scott is pitching the Platinum Partnership right now. Disclaimer: my GF is a recent Platinum Partner, so I’ll get a good inside look over the next year.

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CeeCee
May 10, 2022 at 3:14 pm

Attended his seminars with our entire staff some years ago determined to make a total commitment. He did the same neurolinguistics hand slapping you described back then but with the added pressure of some investing deal. As the master salesman, he sells a tasty elixir for what ails you with his powerful personality. Nearly everyone responds to his brand of cheerleading as life invariably weighs us down. That's the key. As driven people, we are all hungry for some powerful nudge to reinvigorate ourselves. Self improvement gurus know we are weakened by countless burdens from the complexity of life. Robbins takes his pretty stick and jabs you in the ribs to jolt you out of your current weary thinking. You may thank him at first, then realize this particular brand of hype is not sustainable for long beyond his CD's and seminars. The strategy you describe of nature walks, talks, listening, sharing feelings is the real sustainable connection and inspiration our souls yearn for without the hoopla.

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Michelle
April 28, 2022 at 11:59 pm

Thanks. I was pretty sure it seemed like bullshit. The way you expressed yourself in this relay assures me I am listening to a reliable assessment, sans kool-aid. I appreciate you. If you'd like to get together for another 3 hour hike to meet a stranger and work thru life's shit, please let me know! Ps I'm Canadian- we have awesome trails to hike

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Janet Lyons
April 28, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Thanks so much for your article, Noah! The things that bugged you about the session, are the things that bug me in general.! I just saved a lot of money and 4 days of my time, including a weekend, that frankly is very precious to me!

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Andy
April 17, 2022 at 3:09 pm

Is it the case that TR deals with people at a certain pyschological state of their lives/development/socioeconomic place and that those who aren't there yet may not benefit? I wonder then if TR is only suitable for a certain type - define/understand this - and that people with more difficult issues may find it unhelpful?
The world is full (by virtue of its system) of many who can/cannot access certain levels of 'help' relevant to themselves and that a one-type-fits-all scenario is not always beneficial.
TR can't help people who have no money. Aren't they the ones who need that help the most...but then, do we believe they did that to themselves? There is much to think about.

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Laur
April 3, 2022 at 3:27 pm

He sounds like a cult leader.

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Carol Bailey
March 28, 2022 at 6:00 am

There are just so many "Life Coaches" I'm developing a radar sense to identify them at 500 paces. I think it is sad that people are so 'motivated' by someone getting into their heads.
I think Billy Graham did this for the first time - yes he was an evangelist..... but so are all the ones who have come since and they have similar followings. Whether they use "God", "Jesus" 'Self-empowerment' or "Light" - it's all much the same.

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Dt
March 27, 2022 at 10:14 pm

I paid $400 for my UPW. Four days, 50 hours. However, there was another bill $158 for two extra boxes for people to attend with me in the house. never invited anybody nor did I order these boxes. I felt ripped off and scammed and there was nothing I could do about it. no phone number, no email. Nothing worked.Finally got two people at different times to speak with me on the phone. They came back and said there is nothing we can do. You cannot return those boxes, they are yours. With $16,000 a year on disability. $158 down the drain for nothing is robbery. upset. Then in the final final final ending someone was kind enough to send me to to Bert, in the Philippines a genuine dear man. Bert gave me a course of Tony’s to own and that cost $260, more or less. I asked him what to do with the boxes and he said they’re yours just keep them. What do I want with those boxes. Anyway, Bert made things feel a lot better but how can someone rip off another when they make millions of dollars a year.

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R. Mary
March 27, 2022 at 12:44 pm

I just attended the UPW in March. Loved most of it, but go frustrated w day 3 and the heavy handed sales pitches half way they the day. It made me feel like I prob wasn’t interested in doing my best if I couldn’t somehow scrape up the money to do the most costly seminars coming up..

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Linda
March 25, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Love your video! So informative! You’re a great speaker!

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Beth
March 22, 2022 at 6:13 pm

Everyone is entitled to their own experience.
One thing, about that clap. I noticed it too and I was intrigued. Why does he do that? I tried it. His hands are actually bouncing off each other, not dead final motion like a regular clap. The bounce is energizing, invigorating and you can do it for a long time while a regular clap is draining.
Just my observation.

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Emjay Bolton
March 31, 2022 at 3:16 am

The techniques used on the group you describe bear the hallmarks of mind control; compliance through implied guilt/lack of commitment.
Getting people to massage each other regularly compounds the effect of these techniques and various seminar games demand attendance or you're 'letting the team down'.
If you don't do as everyone else is doing, dancing for instance, you're not really trying.
Religions do this, 'pray five times a day, eat this, don't eat that, wear this, never wear that'...pure mind control, leaving your sense of reason and autonomy battered. Zealots, be they religious or part of a self-help cult, merely demonstrate that they've stopped thinking for themselves.
I'd applaud your walking out, but not in that weird way TR does.

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Jill Bess
March 22, 2022 at 4:24 pm

If you walked out the first day, you missed the full immersion day which was so worth it!!

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Cheryl Munoz
March 21, 2022 at 8:20 pm

I just finished UPW 3/2022 asked for refund not getting one. I rather watch Oprah. Thanking God I only spent $395 vs $2000. Too much overselling of his products. I would of tried another seminar if they didn’t push so hard on needing to buying a 15,000.00 package. It was 20 hours on topic 30 hours of selling. I finished the seminar hoping I would feel inspired and I left empty.

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R.Mary
March 27, 2022 at 12:55 pm

I agree. I felt so proud of myself for h hi ping out on a limb and investing in $695 for a silver ticket.. but the heavy handed sales pitches on day 3 and then again in day 4 really frustrated me! And not enough Tony time! Yes, I realize it was because of his voice issues, but shouldn’t Team Tony have had the correct info to share that w us? Honestly, day 4?could have been cut in half.. w the last part of the day just for the sales pitches. Made me feel like if I didn’t have the money to invest in the more intense upcoming seminaries, u you weren’t doing enough … I actually was told to maybe sell something to get up the money. Not everyone has the means.period

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Anna Yardley
March 21, 2022 at 1:37 pm

I wish I had these posts before I signed up to UPW. I have just done four days online doing UPW and I feel completely underwhelmed and quite honestly feel sick. After four days of scribbled notes I don’t feel I have much else taken from it. The course was essentially a lot of jumping around and a lot of story telling from his perspective. There was very little content apart which in the main was very irrelevant. There was an incredible amount of selling and also reference to his supreme life style which seemed very arrogant. Overall I wish I’d spent the money on some proper therapy as I think it’s generally a perspective of bloke who has read tons of self help books.

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Sabrina Nolan
March 21, 2022 at 4:03 am

My husband and I just attended his 4 day virtual Unleash the Power event and I feel exactly as you talk about here. My husband was ready to drop $10k for the 2 year program where you attend 4 events discussing everything. We could not even make it through each 12 hour day because of alot if the BS you talked about. I told my husband there ar probably groups and events out there where we can surround ourselves with like minded people for a fraction of this cost. And then i found ths article! Would love to chat more.

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Boston
March 20, 2022 at 9:46 pm

I. Freaking. Love. This.

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Penny Monett
March 20, 2022 at 2:14 pm

I'm in Tony's UPW right now and it's been 5 hours and Tony still hasn't shown up. I'm hoping his health is okay, but I've walked out too as I'm so tired of getting the upsale pitch of attending the mastery class, and in an outbreak session, one member had so much anxiety about pulling together 7,000+ dollars she was told to go out and take a walk and that she could pull her resources together. Really? I'm a trauma therapist and the damage done on shaming someone, especially in a public forum, is abusive. I love what Tony shared, but with Tony not showing up for one day, and they said we were told he wouldn't be there when both my son and I don't recall the announcement (so I totally feel gaslighted) and him not showing up for the last 5 hours, I'm looking to get a refund. If Tony's health is in question, I certainly understand, but there should have been honest communication. I'm going to plant flowers instead on this beautiful day and request my money back.

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