Tony Robbins, the “peak-performance coach,” has it all down to a science. He maintains a diet of 70 percent water-rich foods in order to allow his body to continually cleanse itself. Every morning he does a deep-breathing exercise in order to allow his cells to be properly oxygenated and to stimulate lymph flow.
Over lunch (Fiji water with lemon, but no ice, and a grilled-shrimp Caesar) near a very large fake waterfall at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, the six-foot-seven 50-year-old tells me how he’s going to gear himself up before he takes the stage at the Meadowlands Exposition Center on November 4. He’ll say an incantation that he made up when he was 17: “ ‘I now command my subconscious mind to direct me in helping as many people as possible today by giving me the strength, the emotional persuasion, the humor, the brevity, whatever it takes to get them to change their lives now!’ Then I do this massive shift in my physiology. It’s like Superman looking for his phone booth, and then I close my eyes and say, ‘Use me, Lord!’ I create this incredible well of energy. It’s like opening up my entire nervous system physically, mentally, emotionally, and then you can feel the tip of the iceberg, but when it’s ready, I can explode through anything.” He pounds his massive fist into his massive palm. “That shows up there, because every part of me is turned on and ready to go.”
NBC, however, turned him off. In August, it canceled Breakthrough With Tony Robbins, his reality-TV show, after only two episodes. In it, he sought out people who had hit rock bottom—for instance, a man paralyzed during an accident at his wedding reception—and helped them change their lives. “Sixty-three percent of the U.S. population thinks the future is going to be worse than the past. It’s 80 percent of French people, 70 percent in Germany,” he says, citing numbers he read somewhere. “All over the world, people are saying, ‘The future’s gonna suck.’ So I thought, if I can take people in the worst possible scenario and turn them around, it will plant the seed and start making people realize, ‘God, if that guy can do this, I can fix my problems.’ ”
There was trouble from the beginning. After one exec objected to the show where he had the paraplegic skydive, Robbins had to go over his head to Ben Silverman, then-chairman of NBC, who’d first expressed interest in the show. In the end, NBC “did no marketing; the only thing they did was spots on their own network. Their whole thing was, ‘Let’s save money because we’re being bought.’ ” The first episode of Breakthrough posted some of the lowest premiere numbers in NBC history. The numbers in week two were worse. “They said, ‘Tony, we’re really sorry. I know we didn’t promote the show, but if you’re under 3 million, you’re not on network.’ So now they’re looking at MSNBC or Bravo. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.” (NBC says it has no further plans to air the show.)
Robbins says that 4 million people have attended his seminars, and 50 million have bought his books, tapes, and DVDs. He charges big shots $1 million a year for private coaching. Bill Clinton refers to him as an “old pal.” He claims that, with his method of “strategic/therapeutic” intervention, “in 33 years, I’ve never lost a suicide.”
So he’s not letting NBC get to him. “I’ve had a tumor in my brain. One of my boys went off to school in Switzerland. He got involved with the wrong crowd. He gained 100 pounds. He was doing drugs. I had to do an intervention on him. It would make your hair stand on end ... I’ve been near bankruptcy several times. Disappointment is part of life! You gotta discipline your disappointments. Turn it into drive! You pick yourself up.”