Tony’s Life Quote
In one interview, Tony is quoted as saying, "I'm no more special than anybody else. I just—I love life." That’s his key to success: he loves life. Therefore, all he speaks of is how we can live this short life to the fullest. By unleashing our tremendous capacity for all we are passionate about, we will definitely excel. Luck has nothing to do with it. We will be successful because we will ourselves to work hard to make something out of our lives.
A Legendary Motivational Speaker
Obviously, Tony’s gift is in speaking - he knows what to say and how to say it. He need not earn a degree in theology or philosophy to know what he knows. All he did was learn from his past mistakes and show people how he overcame depression. If you really think about it, Tony Robbins does not tell us anything novel. He tells us pragmatic truths in a very compelling way.
Tony Robbins made a living out of every failure he encountered. He regales people with his stories and motivates them to walk on fire, and that is something no motivational speaker has yet done. It only goes to show how Tony can influence people to act and do things they previously thought impossible. The convincing power of this man is legendary.
Some people use their gift of gab to incite war. Most tyrants we know, like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, had something in common with Tony Robbins. Hitler and Hussein were both very powerful political figures not because of their achievements, but because of the way they speak to the multitude. They pronounced death; Tony speaks of life. For someone who endured a difficult childhood, inspiring others seems an unusual career path.
What shaped Tony Robbins’s ideals? Who, and what, taught him the greatest lessons in life he valiantly expresses to others? Let’s take a peek at his life to see how he has turned hurdles into stepping stones. Be inspired and propelled into action by Tony Robbins’s story—the making of an inspiration.
Tony Robbins was actually named Anthony John Mahavorick when he was born on a leap year, 29 February 1960. He is the eldest son of John Mahavorick, a B-movie actor in the 50s and 60s, and Nikki, the daughter of a Walt Disney animator. His father’s career had not gained traction by the time he was born and so, in order to earn money, he accepted odd jobs like overseeing the Hollywood parking lot. The Mahavoricks lived where the famous and the fame-seekers meet—Los Angeles, California.
As it was her first child, Nikki put all her energy into taking caring for “God’s greatest gift” to their family. She would always whisper loving words in her firstborn’s ears, telling him that he would grow up “to do great things.” As an infant, Tony was already receiving plenty of motivation from his doting mother.
Tony was a curious kid; he never ran out of questions. He always asked his mother about many different things, and Nikki tried her best to answer his queries. She would devote some of her time to reading encyclopaedias to search further for answers to his questions. Tony’s mother was his first teacher. The question-and-answer became a daily part of their lives and strengthened the bond between them. Although Tony adored his father, it was his mother to whom he grew much closer. John was a brooding man who, despite being kind, was a man of few words. After the birth of his brother, Marcus, and sister, Tara, the family moved to Azusa, California.
Caught Between His Parents’ Divorce
When Tony was seven years old, Nikki and John delivered the news of their divorce, which stumped Tony to silence. He broke apart inside. What made matters even worse was he needed to decide who he would go with—his mother or father. He was unable to give an answer. The seven-year-old Tony had nothing to say, and broke into tears instead.
His mother took it as his response. She assumed that Tony wanted to be with John. So, When it was time to leave, Nikki brought Marcus and Tara with her and left Tony to the care of her ex-husband. Unbeknownst to her, Tony did not want to be with his father. He wanted to go with Nikki and his siblings.
Tony lived with John for the next three years, living travelling lives. John brought Tony wherever he went and the boy enjoyed being on the set of John’s movies. Because he had no regular playmates, Tony spend a great deal of time reading books.
Meanwhile, Nikki moved on with her life and got remarried to a cabinet maker named Art Williams. After her marriage, she returned to see John and discuss Tony’s custody in the hopes of bringing him back to his family. John agreed without hesitation.
She brought Tony to Glendora where she lived with Marcus, Tara, and Art. Tony knew that he needed to do well in school in order to please his mother, so he studied hard to get good grades. Tony truly wanted Nikki to be proud of him and to make her happy.
Jim Robbins becomes Tony’s Father
Nikki’s marriage to Art only lasted a couple of years, and Tony and his siblings were again left fatherless. Nikki remarried for the third time in 1973. Her third husband, Jim Robbins, was a former minor league baseball player. When Jim and Nikki married, he was no longer playing and instead trying his hand at sales. He was a remarkable man, and became a responsible father to Nikki’s children. They all soon changed their last name to Robbins.
Tony considers Jim Robbins his real father. He had a strong influence on Tony’s moral values, as well as his love for sports. Inspired by Jim, Tony even dreamt of becoming a professional baseball player. It was because of Jim’s unrelenting support that Tony’s “physical confidence” was built, practice after practice.
As a teen, Tony was mischievous. He loved playing pranks on his only sister, Tara. The siblings grew up very close to one another and joked around endlessly.
Although they lived happy lives, the Robbins family struggled to make ends meet; Jim’s meagre income was not enough to support a family of five. So poor were they at one time that they could not afford a Thanksgiving meal. That day, a stranger knocked on their door and gave them something to thank for - a Thanksgiving basket. That single act of kindness stayed with Tony for the rest of his life. He promised himself that he would help other people when he became successful.
Tony’s Article Gets Published in TIME
It was during ninth grade when Tony realized baseball was not for him. With the idea of pursuing other hobbies, he approached the teacher in charge of their school’s publication to ask if he could contribute to their sports column. Willis Osborne, the teacher he asked, did not have the heart to say no to the wide-eyed pupil who, deep down, was dead-set on becoming a journalist.
Even as a young boy, Tony knew how to get what he wanted. Willis was taken by surprise when Tony began writing about the big leagues. In order to get interview appointments, he commissioned his mother to talk to the “who’s who” in baseball. Nikki’s charm always worked, and Tony was allowed many interviews.
Little did he know that his young journalism career would spark TIME’s interest. In December 1974, his interview with a famous baseball figure was mentioned in the magazine, and this led to Tony being noticed by the Local Glendora Press. At 14 years old, Tony had already secured a job. A few more months and another offer came in: a job at a local TV station.
Initially, instead of being happy for her son, Nikki was alarmed by Tony’s early career. She did not want Tony out of their house so often because she depended on him to do most of the chores at home. Tony’s career, so it seemed, was finished before it even began. He then had all the time he needed to do nearly everything at home.
Feeling threatened that her son might leave, Nikki subjected him to strict discipline. Whenever he displeased her, Nikki would threaten Tony with preventing him from attending school. And if there was anything Tony truly loved, it was school. The punishment terrified him, and he did everything to avoid displeasing her.
Standing Tall… Literally
Tony attended Glendora High School. When he was sixteen, he started growing rapidly, and only one year later, Tony stood six feet and seven inches. He recalled waking up in terrible pain; growing so tall, so fast gave him muscle pains and caused excruciating spasms.
His classmates soon took notice of the change in him. He started attracting girls, too. At first, he was embarrassed to be the tallest guy in class, but it did not take long for him to see the upside. People literally looked up to him. Standing six feet, seven inches at 16 years old, Tony became the talk of the campus, not to mention that his natural talent for speaking was starting to show.
With renewed confidence, Tony decided to make use of his growing popularity and ran for student body president. He was then referred to in school as “Mr. Solution.” He was doing well academically, but his contenders seemed more brilliant and [more popular] Glendale students.
His grand rally speech made all the difference. With his baritone voice, he spoke to the crowd about his life. He spoke about his family’s condition. Not a single viewer was unmoved by his touching speech; it gave his schoolmates all the reason they needed to vote for Tony Robbins.
Tony Leaves Home
He became Glendale’s Student Body president and proved to be a responsible leader - perhaps too responsible for his own good. Studies and responsibilities at school soon consumed most of his time. This angered his mother, and for the second time, she asked him to stop.
But Tony would not absorb Nikki’s paranoia. He began to talk back at her and yelling matches often ensued. Their arguments grew worse and put a strain on their relationship at home. What was once a happy home became quite loud and hectic for Tony and his siblings.
In an A&E interview with Tara Robbins, Nikki recalled that as her and Tony’s fights escalated, it became more and more evident that Tony had to leave.
Nikki herself caused her worst fear to materialize. On Christmas Eve of 1977, a fed-up Tony left his home with nothing but the clothes he was wearing. With nowhere to go, Tony took shelter in a friend’s home and contacted his Uncle, who owned a cleaning agency. Tony asked him for a job with no plans of returning home.
He was given a janitorial job at a bank, but did not give up school; he endured the long trip from his job to Glendale High. It soon took a toll, however, on Tony’s scholastic attendance. He often missed school because of the long trip and often being too tired to wake up on time.
Glendale High School’s Guidance Counsellor summoned him to his office and advised him to give up school entirely. But Tony was adamant about graduating with his class, and so he was given due consideration and allowed to graduate despite his poor attendance.
Discovering the Unlimited Power of Words through Jim Rohn
With his 50-dollar weekly earnings, Tony was able to survive living away from home - until Nikki intervened once more upon learning about Tony’s employment in his Uncle’s business. Wanting to teach Tony a lesson, she asked the benevolent Uncle to get rid of Tony so he could “prove to himself” that he could make it on his own without any relative’s assistance. Tony need not be fired; he left his job and searched for employment elsewhere.
While scouring a newspaper for a new job, he saw an ad for a salesman post which promised a weekly salary of 500 dollars. It was more than what he needed to survive. They were not looking for someone with experience, per se, and so Tony was hired. He began selling Music Club Subscriptions door-to-door and proved to be a natural salesman.
Eventually, Tony saved enough money to move out of his friend’s home and rent a decent apartment. It was also around that time when he met Liz Acosta, with whom he became romantically involved. The relationship certainly was not Tony’s priority, however, and his job became a constant bone of contention between them.
One of his customers was so impressed by his selling skills that he invited Tony to be his guest in one of Jim Rohn’s talks. Incidentally, motivational talks and seminars were quickly gaining popularity in the 1970s. The experience changed Tony forever. He later approached Jim Rohn without hesitation and asked him for a job. Jim was amazed by the 17-year-old’s nerve – and knew he had found a keeper.
Jim tasked Tony with promoting his talks, who immediately relocated to Los Angeles to sell Jim Rohn’s books and tapes. Once again, Tony proved to be an irresistible salesman, and his performance did not go unnoticed by Jim. He was generously compensated for his hard work and dedication. Tony was not even in his twenties and already earning 3,000 dollars per month.
In 1978, Nikki attended Tony’s high school graduation in Glendale, and the two reconciled after six months of indifference.
The future was looking bright for the 18-year-old graduate. His girlfriend saw, however, that Tony was not ready for a serious relationship, and they broke up due to Tony’s lack of time for Liz. Single again, Tony was far from heartbroken. If anything, it allowed him more time to focus on his career as a young salesman. Tony’s height and earnestness were potent capital in closing deals.
Despite Tony’s success, Jim had no plans of keeping him a salesman forever. Seeing his true potential, Jim helped him set up his own office. In 1979, Tony started operating his own business and began earning 10,000 dollars a month at 19 years old.
Battling Depression and Hopelessness
Having experienced a hard life, Tony was stuck with the notion that money was all he needed to be happy. He was earning quite a lot of money, yet he felt alone. The vivacious salesman-turned-motivational speaker mentee was suffering from bouts of depression.
Tony “succumbed” to depression in 1981, leading to the foreclosure of his office. Loneliness made him an emotional eater and, in two and a half months, he gained 38 pounds. For the first time in his life, Tony was overweight, lonely, and hopeless.
It certainly affected his stepfather, Jim. He talked to Tony and told him bluntly that the obese man he was seeing was not the stepson he once knew. Tony had become somebody else. As his business floundered, he lost his apartment and slipped into poverty for quite some time.
Getting Help from Neuro–Linguistic Programming
The depression kept him away from friends and family until one day, in 1982, when he decided to go for a run along the beach. As he was running, he started to assess his life. He assessed what led to his unemployment and obesity. He believed it was unhappiness, and that unhappiness was nothing but a state of mind. He saw a ray of hope and decided he would change his thought-process and look at life from a more positive perspective.
This commenced Tony’s second chance at success. He rebuilt his shattered career and, at 22 years old, vowed he would never again submit to depression. He would later credit neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) for his recovery. According to Wikipedia, NLP “is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy.” NLP is based on the works of Richard Bandler and John Grinder, who developed the technique in the 1970s.
Tony Introduces Fire-walking
It was also in 1982 when he first saw fire-walking. The following year, with the help of Tolly Burkan, he learned to fire-walk himself and packaged it into a seminar. He realized that, by controlling his breathing and the way he walked, he would not be scalded by the hot coals, and related it to the way we view adversities in life. In his seminars, he often discusses how the mind can be a powerful tool to face challenges and change one’s circumstances.
A friend in Vancouver, Canada, offered his backyard as a venue for Tony to conduct his seminars. He officially took on motivational speaking as an occupation in 1983 and called his seminar “Fear in the Power.” It even included a segment of Tony walking on hot coals with guests being asked to do the same.
It was a seminar like no other. Aside from convincing people that they can do anything by overcoming fear, Tony certainly created a buzz with his fire-walking. When he first began, a three-hour seminar cost 60 dollars, while a three-day workshop was offered for 300 dollars.
Becoming a Father and Marrying Becky Jenkins
At 23 years old, Tony had become of the country’s most promising motivational speakers. He and Liz also got back together that year, but broke up for good in August. He would soon be informed about her pregnancy.
Liz gave birth to a son, Jairek, by Caesarean operation on 26 May 1984. Jaireck’s birth failed to reunite the couple, but it did help them to deal more kindly with one another for the sake of their child. Tony had become a father at 24 years old.
It was also during that month when he first appeared on TV to promote his seminars. Tony became an instant celebrity, even landing him a feature in Life Magazine. Nothing was going wrong in Tony’s life, and his heart was in its best condition. He was in love with 34-year-old Becky Jenkins, a divorcee with three kids between the ages of six and seventeen years old.
For a while, success blinded him. Once, in a fit of total madness and arrogance, he bought Del Mar Castle on a mortgage of 40,000 dollars a month. Tony lived with Becky in the castle, which was hardly furnished because the couple lacked the money to buy decent furniture. His monthly dues quickly overwhelmed him.
With his speaking career [somehow] keeping them afloat, Tony and Becky wed in their castle on 15 November 1985. Later on, Tony adopted Becky’s three children.
Tony Releases His First Book: Unlimited Power
It was a literary agent who rescued the couple from the verge bankruptcy. Tony’s first book, “Unlimited Power,” was published in 1987. It quickly became a bestseller and was eventually translated into 13 different languages.
Infomercials soon invaded the television scene, and Tony saw further opportunities to market his seminars. As Tony’s business grew more lucrative over time, “Awaken the Giant Within” was published in 1989. It, too, became a bestseller, catapulting the author to fame and bringing him “self-help guru” status.
Launching the Anthony Robbins Foundation, Leadership Academy
By the mid-1990s, Tony was a multi-millionaire. He had sold his castle in 1988, followed by the purchase of an island in Fiji. In 1991, Tony created the “Anthony Robbins Foundation.”
The “Unleash the Power Within,” or UPW Seminar, was attended by thousands of people, and is included in his Mastery University and Business Mastery talks. Mastery University tackles three principles: Life Mastery, Wealth Mastery, and Date with Destiny. They all aim to inspire people to take action in order to achieve great things.
In 1997, he launched the Leadership Academy seminar, which helps people become better agents of help to themselves. Two years later, the Business Mastery program was underway, targeting business leaders who want to learn how to nurture a stable business.
His foundation “Basket Brigades” was the fulfilment of his promise to pay forward the kindness his family received from the stranger on Thanksgiving Day. Basket Brigades has been giving away baskets of food on Thanksgiving since 1998.
It is no surprise, either, for such an accomplished and esteemed speaker to strike friendships with celebrities; Sylvester Stallone is one of Tony’s many friends in show business. He even began appearing in movies in 2001, the first one being “Shallow Hal.”
Tony’s Divorce and Re-marriage
His marriage to Becky fell apart in 2001, and he remarried Bonnie Humphrey (a.k.a. Sage Robbins) a few months after the divorce was finalized.
He hosted “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins” from 2010 to 2011, and is now co-hosting “Oprah’s Lifeclass” with Oprah Winfrey.
Tony has accumulated a number of awards; among them, he was included in Harvard University’s list of Top 200 Business Gurus in 2003 and the Accenture’s Institute for Strategic Change’s Top 50 Business Intellectuals in the World.
Tony Robbins never gave up his dreams. Now, he is living a purposeful life by sharing the valuable lessons he learned so other people may learn from them. He hopes to save people from making bad decisions. Tony is far from perfect, but what makes him extraordinary is how leveraged his mistakes to make something of his life which, at first glance, looked bleak.
Organisations and Campaigns Supported
- Anthony Robbins Foundation
- Leadership Academy seminar
- Robbins-Madanes Center for Strategic Intervention
- Unleash the Power Within (UPW)
- Mastery University
- Business Mastery Program
- Basket Brigades
- Robbins Research International
- 1987: Published “Unlimited Power”
- 1991: Founded Anthony Robbins Foundation
- 1992: Published “Awaken the Giant Within”
- 1994: Appeared in “Reality Bites” and other TV shows
- 1997: Launched the Leadership Academy seminar
- 2001: Appeared in the film “Shallow Hal”
- 2003: Named one of the “Top 200 Business Gurus” by Harvard University
- 2007: Included in Forbes' Celebrity 100
- 2007: Earned 30 million US dollars from books and speaking engagements
- 2007: Appeared in Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference
- 2008: His online TED talk was included in the “Top 10 Most Viewed”
- 2009: Launched Business Mastery Program
- 2010: NBC launched “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins”
- 2012: OWN Network aired “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins”
- 2012: Started co-hosting Oprah's “Lifeclass”
- Featured in 15 movies
- Named one of the “Top 50 Business Intellectuals in the World” by Accenture’s Institute for Strategic Change