There’s a good chance you’ve caught a glimpse of Tony Robbins in the past 30 years, whether it was in an infomercial, a TED Talk, or a seminar. His books and audio lessons on personal success have all been huge bestsellers, and people happily lay down thousands of dollars to attend his conferences.
He separates himself from other life coaches by having clients and friends like former president Bill Clinton, billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. He’s worked with high-profile actors, athletes, and executives.
In a recent episode of author and investor Tim Ferriss’ podcast, Robbins discusses his upcoming personal finance book “Money: Master the Game” as well as some of the basics behind his coaching philosophy. This includes how he’s able to get elite performers out of slumps by getting them to tap into key habits.
Robbins says that a period of lower-quality output could be indicative of a few things. “The slump shows when people outrun their vision. Or the slump can show when they meet their vision, but it’s not fulfilling. Or the slump shows when people just are developing some patterns that they’re unaware of that cost them.”
He tells Ferriss what it was like working with tennis legend Andre Agassi in 1993 when Agassi fell from the world’s No. 1 spot and then suffered a wrist injury.
When they met, Agassi told Robbins that he’d been spending time working on his swing mechanics, especially in relation to his recovering wrist.
“I sit down with him and I said, ‘Andre … think of a time you hit the tennis ball perfectly,'” Robbins tells Ferriss. “I got him in that state … and I said to him, ‘You feel that?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Listen, are you thinking about your wrist?’ And he says, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘How the hell did you think you’d ever get back to that peak form by focusing on your wrist?'”
Robbins references the science of habit formation, in which the brain creates paths for certain repeated actions. He was getting Agassi to tap into this pattern and ignore distractions, like focusing on how his wrist moved, which is something he had never done when he was playing at his peak.
He also helped Agassi acknowledge that he was no longer getting along with his father as his coach.
The next year, 1994, Agassi made a comeback under a new coach and with renewed confidence. Agassi has credited Robbins with helping him get back on track, calling him the “ultimate life coach.”
Agassi would go through another rise and fall in the ’90s, with the slump once again rooted largely in personal rather than mechanical problems.
The same principle that applied to Agassi applies to any other professional who has fallen off from peak performance. According to Robbins, however, the ability to recover is innate.
“I will find … what specific pattern will hook them back up again to that part of their brain where it’s effortless,” Robbins says. “To that part of the brain where they don’t even think.”
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