Tony Robbins explains why positive thinking will get you nowhere

Tony robbinsMike Windle/Getty ImagesTony Robbins speaks at the screening of the Netflix documentary ‘I Am Not Your Guru’ at the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival.

Tony Robbins hates the term “motivational speaker,” because he thinks its connotations suggest he just gets people thinking positively and then send them off.

In a Facebook Live Q&A with Business Insider readers, Robbins — who’s worked with clients ranging from champion tennis player Serena Williams to billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones —  clarified that his approach to guiding others isn’t about getting them to put on a smile and repeat happy thoughts.

“It’s not about positive thinking, because I don’t believe in that,” he said. “I don’t believe you should go to your garden and chant, ‘There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds,’ and think that that’s going to solve something. I’m a believer in find the weed and rip it out.”

This approach is clear in the new Netflix documentary “I Am Not Your Guru.” At a six-day “Date with Destiny” seminar in 2014, Tony Robbins had an especially notable “intervention” with one of his 2,500 audience members, a woman from Brazil named Dawn. The shocking conversation Robbins has with Dawn appears to last around 10 minutes, but in reality it went far well past two hours.

In that period, Dawn explained through tears that she was suicidal because she and her brother and mother were victims of severe sexual abuse and she was struggling with remaining the positive, optimistic one in the family.

Smiling and giving words of encouragement every day had left her feeling hollow. By the end of the discussion, Robbins was also in tears and had Dawn commit herself to building new, healthy relationships, including with three particular new friends from the seminar she’d regularly check in with. He told Dawn that at no charge he would enroll her in his coach training program so that she could help others

Backstage, Robbins took some time to collect himself.

Before the end of the week, an attendee would give $50,000 to Dawn, who had sold all of her possessions to pay for airfare and the roughly $5,000 price of admission. A year later, Dawn remained in touch with her friends from the seminar and was helping fellow abuse victims as a life coach.

Tony robbins dawnNetflixTony Robbins speaks to a Date with Destiny attendee named Dawn in the documentary ‘I Am Not Your Guru.’

For Dawn, “finding the weed” meant admitting to herself and her family that she needed support as much as they did, and that she needed to confront a fear of establishing any form of relationship with someone. In another intervention documented in the film, a young woman tells Robbins that her biggest concern is a poor diet, but as the conversation progresses it’s revealed that the source of her anxiety is actually the relationship with her estranged father. Robbins then convinces her to talk to him that night, and as the filmmakers discovered, she regularly kept in touch with him, mending the relationship before his unexpected death six months later.

Neither solution involved pretending everything was actually great and convincing others of that illusion.

“There’s two worlds to master: There’s the external world and there’s the internal world,” Robbins said. “And many people master the external world and they’re miserable. They’re good in business, they do well in their career, and they’re miserable. They’re not happy, they’re not fulfilled, they don’t have great relationships. So I really believe the internal world has to be mastered first,” and that involves creating a new strategy to act on.

You can watch the “I Am Not Your Guru” trailer on YouTube and the full Business Insider Facebook Live session below.

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