10 Things I Learned While Interviewing Tony Robbins About His New Book “Money”

[Here is the link to the podcast: http://bit.ly/1t8RJ80]

When we got to Tony Robbins’ house we were specifically prevented from photographing his  sneakers. I took out the camera but his assistant shook her head. “No”. Which made me feverish to take the picture even more but I didn’t.

Everyone takes their shoes off. And all the other shoes were like normal human shoes. Then there were his sneakers.

My business partner called me after we did our a major deal in 2004. I was about to go broke when we did this deal but we did it and it saved my life.  My partner said, “you’ll never guess what number I wrote down in 2001 after we both read “Awaken the Giant Within” ‘ and of course I guessed correctly. It was the number we made in 2004.

In 2001 he was ashamed to tell me. “Guess who I am reading.” And then we realized we were reading the same books. Both of Tony Robbins books. But they were written so long ago I kept going to the bookstore thinking Tony Robbins was going to have a new book out any day.

Now Tony Robbins has a new book out today. For the first time in 25 years I think.

Bill Clinton is the first blurb on the inside of his book (I ask him about that in his interview: “Why does Bill Clinton even call you? What do you guys talk about?”)

So I was really excited to fly down to his house in Florida and interview him a few weeks ago. It was like going down to visit a member of the X-Men.

Claudia and I got to his house and his staff helped us set up our equipment and then we took a walk out to the ocean. It was beautiful. We felt lucky and relaxed.

Then we went back inside. I told Claudia to start the recording before Tony even showed up. So we could pick up all idle chit chat. When Tony arrived we started talking and he said, “this is good. We should record this” and then he laughed when Claudia said we were already recording.

The book is called “Money” a topic I sometimes know a lot about and sometimes know nothing about. I ran hedge funds, funds of hedge funds, and have advised many money managers, often people managing billions of dollars.

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Tony took it one step further and interviewed the top money managers in the world, how they do what they do. He exposed many of the scams still on Wall Street. He gives simple advice that everyone can follow.

We spoke for an hour. Here’s what I learned from the book and from talking to him. I’m mostly going to leave out the financial stuff. All of that is in the book: the scams, the ways to avoid them, the interviews with the amazing people he spoke with.

Here’s what I personally learned.

A) ASK LOUSY QUESTIONS, GET LOUSY ANSWERS.

Many people say, “Why did this have to happen to me?” Or “Why did I lose that job when I was good?”

These are lousy questions. You will never get an answer that makes your life better. I get bitter, resentful, angry. And anger is  a form of fear.  I’m usually afraid I’m going to go broke. And if I go broke, I’m afraid I die.

You have to ask good questions: “What can I do to improve?” or “How can I find a better job?” or “How can I be grateful that I lost this job?”

Because inside of every problem is the seeds of a “difficult gratitude problem” and it always improves your life to solve those problems.

B) TO MASTER ANYTHING, TALK TO THE EXPERTS.

Tony told us about a time when he was 24 years old and he wanted to train members of the military to shoot better.

“I had never shot a gun in my life,” he said and laughed in his raspy voice. He was scared he wouldn’t do a good job.

So how did he solve this problem? He spoke to five excellent sharpshooters, figured out what they all had in common, and then used that to increase the results of the students in the school by 50%.

C) BRING THE TARGET CLOSER.

Specifically, for every student he had them bring the target only a few feet away. Everyone shot bullseyes. Then he moved the target back a foot. Bullseyes. Then another foot. And so on.

This is true for everything in life. I look at the example Mark Cuban told me. He didn’t just start Broadcast.com and make a billion. First he started a bar. Then he started a computer business. Then a hedge fund.

He brought the target very close and then moved it further and further away as he succeeded at each thing.

I thought about teaching my 12 year old how to serve in tennis. First I had her serve from the net. “All you have to do is hit the ball into this huge box.” Then when she got 10 in a row I had her move back a few feet until she hit the base line. Now she’s got the most consistent server on her team (I’m bragging).

D) LOOK AT GOALS DIFFERENTLY.

Tony told us of one time he asked people what their goals were. One guy said, “I want to make a billion dollars!” At first this would seem like an admirable goal – set it high! There’s that horrible saying, “Aim for the moon, because even if you miss it you’ll find yourself among the stars.”

But Tony said, this guy didn’t really understand his goal.

He broke it down. “Why do you want a billion?” And the first answer was, “I want my own plane”. Tony told him, “Well a plane costs $100 million and you might only be flying 12 times a year. If you charter a yet for $30,000 an hour then it will take you forever to spend $100 million.” So suddenly the guy didn’t need $1 billion anymore. He needed $900 million.

“By the end of that session,” Tony said, “it turns out to achieve the exact lifestyle he thought he needed a billion for, he needed $10 million.” This is still a lot of money but this was Tony’s way of bringing the target closer.

When I read that in his book, I did the exercise with Claudia. Her numbers went down by 90% when we really went through it. What happens then? You feel relief. You don’t have to be on the hamster wheel of money for your whole life. What you want is freedom, not money.

E) EXPERTS KNOW THEY KNOW NOTHING.

All the time I get spam financial newsletters saying, “The Markets are going to zero!” or “This stock is going to go up 1000%!” The reality is the experts know zero. With every investment expert that Tony interviewed they not only had a plan B. They had a plan C, D, and E.

The best professionals in the business admit they know nothing.

Nobody can predict the future. Anything can happen. When I got out of the “future” business I was much happier. I got into the possibility business.

This made me a lot more successful. Leave the future business for the possibility business and the world will get infinitely larger.

F) HIS ENERGY IS INFECTIOUS.

Somebody told me he jumps up and down on a trampoline before speaking in front of 10,000 people. He wants his energy at peak.

I thought about doing that before my most recent TED talk but there was no trampoline available. But it’s true. When he came downstairs to talk to us he was very excited about the potential for his book to help people. It almost made me want to write about financial stuff again.

After Claudia and I left his house (and, by the way, that’s a BIG house) we had so many ideas about creative things we could do we almost had to pull over and calm down. So we went to Cheesecake Factory and ate until we exploded.

G) THE TONY ROBBINS METHOD.

In the interview I said, “Ok, I figured it out. You use “the Tony Robbins Method'”. Which I defined as,

  1. at first you don’t know anything.
  2. you find 5 people who are the experts in the world.
  3. you extensively interview them.
  4. you figure out the most simple things they have in common with each other.
  5. you do that simple thing over and over and over and over (repetition).

And that’s how you succeed.

H) PEOPLE NEED CERTAINTY. PEOPLE NEED VARIETY.

Everyone needs to know where their next meal is coming from. And maybe their next kiss. And maybe… a bunch of things. We crave some stability, which was the appeal of corporate jobs for the past 100 years (although that period is now slowly coming to an end) and was the appeal of all these mutual fund ads that say, “we return 9% a year”.

But most of that stability is a lie. You have to find stability inside yourself first.

For me, it’s stable to make money from multiple sources. To know that if I have ideas every day, then life will be more stable than if I don’t.

But we also need variety. A marriage will die if you stick to the same routine year after year (“the 7 year itch”). A job will get boring. We only have one life. It doesn’t mean you quit your marriage or quit your job. But always look for new things to learn. Always look for new ways to surprise. Always look for new ways to break out of your comfort zone.

It’s this dance of certainty and uncertainty that made us human and we often lean too much in one way or the other. But if you did that on the dance floor you’d fall over.

Tony describes this in the book in a financial sense. His goal is to expose the lies in the financial community and get you thinking about how to provide stability there so you can find variety in other parts of your life.

I) SHOW PEOPLE YOU ARE GRATEFUL.

When we are very young we build strong neural circuits across our brains so that electricity can pass quickly between certain neurons. This is why it’s easier to learn when we are young then when we are older.

After the age of 20, we lose the ability to “insulate” these neural circuits with myelin, the substance which cements these circuits for life. This is where our basic intelligence comes from. Building as many circuits as possible with myelin protecting them.

I think the same thing happens with relationships. Business, personal, family relationships, etc. They start off young and that’s when you can build almost a “relationship myelin” around them. You do that by being honest with people, by showing gratitude, by not overusing the connection, by treating it just right so it develops into something that can last a lifetime.

If someone does something for you, show you are grateful.

J) BE THE SERVANT OF MANY.

Tony said in the interview exactly how much he saved in taxes by moving from California to Florida. It was a big number. He had a big house. He’s spoken in front of three million people. He’s feeding 50 million people. This is a process that took him 30 years or more.

He said the way he did it was by being the servant of many. By constantly adding value to others, you get value come back to you. It becomes the most natural thing.

Tony Robbins has his critics I am sure. But I know he has helped me get through a hard time 13 years ago, maybe even saving my life. I know he has helped others. People always seem to be afraid to admit it. I know I almost feel ashamed to say I needed help.

But it’s by helping others and accepting help that we grow as a society. Sometimes people think “choosing myself” is a selfish concept. But it’s the only way you build the strength to help others. It’s the only way you surrender to not some man-made force, but a force inside yourself that is perhaps the most powerful there is.

Claudia and I left his house and drove around and around talking about what the interview meant to us. And I guess we still are.

[Here is the link to the podcast: http://bit.ly/1t8RJ80]

  • Tony is a legend. And so are you James. What I got out of this was be helpful, by adding value you can create a lasting business. Don’t focus on the money side of it, be helpful and the money will come.

  • Great interview, James. Love how we all hone in on certain takeaways. Thought I’d share my takeaways/quotes:
    1.“certainty is the edge of life” those certain of what will happen, make it happen.
    2.“We must become more valuable”: you have to retool
    3. We all have a “winter” season in life. That reminds us that we need each other
    4. Secret to wealth is to become more valuable. Work on yourself. Greatest investment is on yourself. Then learn to be a servant of many.

  • edit king

    Lot of typo’s. Tony wouldn’t like that!!!

    • JJKOOLKID

      Hey “edit king”, “typo’s” is a typo.

      Using an apostrophe denotates either ownership (john’s shoes) or a contraction (it’s time). Neither apply here.

      You are forgiven for throwing rocks from the safety of your glass house. Just make sure you don’t go buy any “cd’s” later. That one is the most common offense.

      • bob

        more likely a grammar mistake than a typo

      • Jacqueline

        Isn’t “typo” short for “typographical error?” So how else would you indicate the missing letters besides using an apostrophe?

  • Laura D’Ambrosio

    I used to read and listen to Tony Robbins quite often back in the 90’s. Maybe it’s time to listen again. I have so many ideas but not many that have been released to the world. I like the question “how can I be grateful for this time?” I left a corporate contract, tried one idea and it failed to bring income, then another, now the money is running out and I’m stressed…maybe time for one more try.

  • Love this, James.

    I’ve been experimenting with becoming the “servant of many” in my business relationships…and I don’t think I can name a single other thing I’ve done that has caused my opportunities and overall reputation to rise in the past year.

    I don’t know if its metaphysics. And I don’t care.

    All I know is, focusing on giving value to others causes:

    1) Me to feel really good.
    2) My life to go much better, feeling richer in every way. (money, relationships, fun, adventure, ideas, etc)

    • Harper Fields

      Heh. Reminds me of my meditation habits.

      I started mindfulness meditation to beat back depression, let go of anger and, yes, be more successful and effective in my career as a result.

      It made me ever-so-slightly more successful, but far more pleasant and a pleasure to be around. Stressful events still come (and, as they always do, go), but I like being alive far more than I used to.

  • What strikes me in “find out what successful people have in common…” is that both you and Tony are very humble. No matter how much you both know, you both feel that there is so much still to learn from others and through life. Via John Lee Dumas, I’m glad I found you!

  • Natasha

    You’ve helped me and you continue to help me. Thank you for sharing.

  • OK James you got me. I need to read that book.

    BTW on point I) – did you read the book The Talent Code by Coyle? Great book!
    It is about if talent is nurture or nature. It’s a lot about myelin.
    Myelin doesn’t stop insulating in our 20s. It slows down but still continues to insulate. It’s not until our 50s that the amount of insulation we lose is more than we add.

  • Andrew Ramponi

    James, you are very generous sharing your access to experts. The wonderful world of podcasts. Thanks.

  • Fantastic book. First Tony Robbins book I’ve read, going to have to get more now. Great interview.

    What I can’t figure out is how mutual funds and hedge funds are so prevalent if they are so expensive and ineffective as Tony and the people he interviews say. Is it the greatest con of all time? Sounds like it. Wild.

    • Hanfeizi

      The fees are extortionate, but most people are a bad combination of greedy and ignorant when it comes to financial matters- even people with advanced educations- including financial educations!

      The small investor is better off with an index fund than managed funds, and should avoid financial advisors like the plague for everything except insurance (go to someone who calls himself an insurance salesman and nothing else. If they have pretenses of being “financial planners” or a CFP behind their name, RUN).

      If you have a high net worth, avoid hedge funds and planners and get a portfolio manager. They’ll deliver decent long term returns with relatively low fees and take the away the worry.

    • Cyborg1939

      No the greatest scam of all time is the belief in a loving and caring God.

  • I really enjoyed the interview. It was one of your best podcast episodes yet, in my opinion. Bought the book and I’m enjoying it very much.

  • Hanfeizi

    Robbins is one of those guys who gets called a scammer, a sleazeball- then you actually read and look at his work and find out he’s nothing of the sort. A lot like Tim Ferriss, really. Like Ferriss, I don’t know how someone could pick up one of his books and not at least get value equivalent to the time and money spent on it out of it. Many, many useful ideas.

  • Hi James, thanks for sharing this. I know Tony and Sage and have just read the book and I found your takeaways quite different to mine, and very useful.

  • Hi James,

    Brilliant! We just left Savusavu, Fiji after a 4 month stay there. Tony’s famed Namale Resort was a 10 minute ride from the house we lived in.

    Our neighbor worked for TR. He did the wiring/electrical/tech work so Tony could do remote webinars from Fiji. He gave our friend a substantial tip on top of the salary he received, drinks at the bar, a ride home from work daily and a big lobster dinner. He also had a device that our friend couldn’t find on Fiji – for his work – shipped out to Fiji, for a substantial fee I’m sure.

    Tony knows gratitude. And he knows how to show it too. His energy is infectious and I feel your 10 tips are spot on. Ya know, I wonder why I’ve made things so difficult over the years? Oh yes I’m human :) Tony helps reveal our human-ness to us so we can do the simple, freeing and at times uncomfortable things, to make our dreams come true….and of course, to make our customer’s dreams come true, or, our reader’s dreams come true.

    James, I vibe with you dude. I may start wearing doctor’s coats at airports. Or I can do the rice paddy coolie hat bit to protect myself from the sun, as I just bought one in Bali. Either way, you inspire me, to be me, and to be comfy with all of my foibles :)

    Thanks James!

    Ryan

  • Joe Wilson

    We live in a country that has a currency that is dying.
    The people of America have 100 plus trillion in debts for unfunded liabilities.
    80 million producers cannot maintain this socialist system. Open borders. Endless wars(financed on the back of you, your children, and their children.)
    50 million eat courtesy of food stamps. When governments die they tax the people in all ways to make the inevitable go on.
    We are debt slaves. Who holds the debts? Our masters. Who own both political parties. This is red pill truth. Robbins touched on the bankers scamming us, nothing will be done as long as people have their TV’s, ipods, shiny cars, marble countertop kitchens, and nights out for dinner. 95% of so called educated people have no idea.
    Money is not security. Money is not even real. A direct connection to god is wealth.
    Don’t get sidetrack in your desires for things of this world.
    It can all be taken away in a New York minute.
    Peace and god bless.

    • Hanfeizi

      LOL, no. WE hold those debts. Those bonds in your retirement portfolio? That’s the debt. The bonds that the banks buy with your savings? That’s the debt.

      Every liability is an asset in someone else’s column- and often, someone else is you.

      • Joe Wilson

        We meaning the Chinese, Japanese, Russians etc.. ? I may be old fashion but the debtor being servant to the lender still applies. Every wonder why interest rates never go up, because when they do the interest will eat the system….

        • John Richards

          Most US debt is held by US citizens or institutions. The world is always falling apart, and yet somehow it keeps moving forward. That’s why the markets are said to ‘climb a wall of worry’. It’s when everyone agrees that the future is bright and hairdressers are hawking stock tips that the market crashes. You aren’t wrong about the debt being large, and needs to be dealt with, but frankly it’s less debt than most homeowner’s borrow, as a % of income/GDP. Viewed in perspective it’s another thing to worry over, but not a catastrophe.

          • Joe Wilson

            Avg. personal debt for each American is $58K their avg. savings is $9k. The people are truly enslaved…. The markets are rigged by criminals at the top. Those who participate in their game enrich the corrupt.

      • Joe Wilson

        Yes 85 people hold more assets that 3.5 billion people on earth. See Forbes. They are the masters. This motivation mumbo jumbo takes you no where unless you understand the world you live in. If you want to be a success slave go at it.

      • MajorMiguel

        I guess you’ve ignored the Trillions of bonds (government, mortgage and who knows what else) the Fed purchased over the last several years.

    • DieSonne99

      “We live in a country that has a currency that is dying.” Are you talking about the petrodollar system? If so, i totally agree. If that ‘sham’, which allowed us to be both a welfare and warfare state for 4 decades, ever collapses, USA will suffer immensely. Some people think it could happen by 2020. But who knows. Experts don’t know what will happen by then. But it has already started…

  • Marketsurfer

    Absolutely fantastic interview and book. Robbins truly “let the cat out of the bag” with this book. one of it not the best finance book of the century! thank you for the tip!!

    • John Richards

      I wouldn’t go quite that far. It’s a good book with lots of good advice, but some questionable ideas as well. Overall though, if you are a newbie at investing, this should keep you from making any huge mistakes (and huge mistakes are common in investing, so that’s a worthy goal!)

      • What questionable ideas do you see? Would be helpful to others to point out areas needing clos scrutiny…

        • John Richards

          I’d check out Barry Ritholtz and Meb Faber and Pragmatic Capitalism.com for discussion of the portfolio itself. It’s just another decent asset allocation, nothing all that special (though it’s worthy of some consideration). His book promises more than it can possibly deliver (See Dan Solin’s comments). Also, the things he claims are myths are a stretch – strawmen in many cases. (Business Insider article)

          On the plus side he’s right that you should invest in yourself first. Savings should go into low cost index funds. Some 401Ks have very high fees, and then it’s only valuable to invest whatever your company will match (free money).

          I’m not trashing the book, just saying it’s got nothing so revelatory that I’d call it the best of the century.

  • Lil Peck

    Tony Robbins is “that guy who looks like Storch.” I don’t remember where I read that, but it made me laugh, and I remembered it. I read one of Tony’s early books, and got some good stuff from it that I have remembered and used. One of his pieces of advice that I personally found helpful was to re-imagine unpleasant things or people in a way that makes the unpleasant memories of those things less burdensome. Robbins gave as an example, to imagine someone who treated you badly as no bigger than a mouse, running in circles and speaking in a high, squeaky voice. I loved that.

    One error Tony made in one of his audio tapes that bugged me was when he said something about a turkey breast feeding. Turkeys don’t nurse their young. I guess Tony didn’t grow up in the country.

    I have some advice to offer about success in a competitive activity. Work so hard that your competition will never even dream of working that hard. Even if they thought of working that hard, they just won’t. If you work harder than anyone would even think of working, you will win. — That is a formula I independently thought of when I was 13 years old and wanted to win the championships at the local fair with my horse. It is effective. :-)

    • kishan

      Well written!!!

    • palmeria

      re: Your last paragraph. Google Will Smith and his treadmill speech, he says the same thing and I 100% believe it. :)

  • teresa o’keefe

    OK, UNCLE! In less than 5 days I’ve stumbled upon a live broadcast of Tony on Huffington and this podcast about this book. Thank you, Universe, I’m listening. My next Kindle read. Enjoyed the interview very much. Also committing to YOUR advice, JA, to capture 10 ideas a day.
    I’m in my >50 post Corporate life rebirthing. The thing that I am most passionate about pursuing is to be of service, and be able to contribute to many. It’s a very exciting (and scary) time. I suppose it is my “winter” season, but I do see some buds forming for the approaching spring :-).

    • Todd Selle

      I share your perspective very closely, Teresa. I’m also entering a >50 post Corporate life rebirthing. It’s onset was forced upon me, but despite sometimes being worried about what’s next, I also have times when I see this change as an opportunity – which IMHO is the best and most promising option.
      Many, many good wishes on your journey. May your entry into spring be a beautiful one.

    • Kevin

      No, teresa, that is NOT the “Universe” talking to you but just a well-oiled marketing machine!

    • Marli

      What you call ‘the Universe’ is targeted advertising algorithms that track your web-browsing activities and the cookies stored by your browser to deliver ads with a high probability click value.

      • tee O

        I would agree except the links were not thrust upon me, I got there in completely disconnected ways – my mailbox (this link) – and browsing from a friend’s posts through to an article link on Huffington, and from there, I meandered into something else on Huffington and found the podcast. Please believe me I have had more than my share of “coincidence” of looking at something and then, lo and behold, it’s plastered everywhere i turn in every banner, every column, every foot note… It’s kind of funny – i did something that made the algorithm think I was getting married (looked at stationery in “the nest” or something equally innocuous) and thereafter for the longest i was getting things aimed at newlyweds. Anyway – I have had many experiences outside of the internet where “the universe” or whatever bombards me with suggestions or messages about things in my life. Real life example: i was complaining about my aching feet…. less than 30 seconds later, i passed a man struggling up the street with a crutch and one of those shoes built up about 9 inches to make up for a short leg…. now me – I choose to believe that’s the universe showing me what I have to be grateful for. That, my friend is no algorithm, nor is it coincidence.

  • Great stuff James. I have to be honest. I have unsubscribed and resubscribed to your list a couple times because sometimes your stuff really bums me out. I can’t say there’s any other blog that can do that to me, I’m fairly stoic. What you have to say is truly powerful, and I’m not always in the right frame to read such harsh truths.

    I don’t blame you, you’re incredibly intelligent (and you live in NY, where I lived for the last 10 years, so I get it) but I’m glad to see the wheels turning toward positivity this interview.

    I have to say, I am floored by this book. It’s got so many things I need to dive into further. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been labeled as a “financial expert” by many… and have entirely ignored annuities and a lot of the other basic fundamentals in this book for years.

    Great advice, though the particulars are a little nebulous, such as actually finding real world examples of the products he describes and dealing with the actual institutions and setting everything up. It’s not going to be easy as he makes it sound to cut through all the noise, but no matter. It’s a massive step in the right direction and will get people to take action, so that’s a win in my book.

    Solid advice: It always pays to go back to the beginning again and check to make sure your fundamentals are solid. No matter what you think you know, you know nothing. So true.

    Related: I picked up a couple VIP tickets to Tony’s Event at the Meadowlands in March, I have an extra if anyone is interested, hit me on the bookface.

  • DieSonne99

    doesn’t b) and e) contradict itself? i understand what you mean. karate expert or gun expert is not the same as a financial expert. maybe b) should be “To Master Anything, talk to those who have mastered it”

  • “He said the way he did it was by being the servant of many.”- This is a great comment. Actually its really difficult to become a good servant.

  • Let’s hope this brings more people into the stock market.

  • Liz Madsen

    What a wonderful post ! Thank you.

  • I too am inspired to read this book. I read Awaken the Giant Within when it first came out and it was life changing for me. I suspect along with reading his new book I might find some new insights from re reading Awaken again, thanks for this!

  • Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing a summary of your talk with Tony.

    I do recognise some of the things he talks about in other of his books. Questions are so important, aren’t they? Here’s a simple example: I was riding my scooter around Chiangmai (Thailand) looking for the Tesco supermarket, and I was frustrated I couldn’t find it. And then, I remembered I was looking for a towel. So, the question I should have asked myself was “Where can I buy a towel?”, not “where’s Tesco?” I stopped at the first supermarket, bought a towel, went home, relaxed and got ready to do something else. It’s a very simple example. But, it relates to what Tony told you.

    Thanks for sharing this James. I want to thank you for all the great stuff you talk about, in your own, unique and quirky way. It has really inspired me to live my life my way, away from the herd. Again, thanks a million.
    Déwi

  • cosmo smalls

    The person that truly benefits from Tony Robbins advice is Tony Robbins. The best advice is to work your own life out for yourself, whatever that may be. Rich or poor.

  • Giles Lascelle

    Wow! I’m late to this party, but there is pure gold in every point. Thank you so much for sharing James.

  • Gary Epstein

    Tony is what makes a few people, himself overly wealthy and makes and keeps millions in poverty. Where do you get 5000 dollars to just get inside one of his hootanannys