A&E Biography - Tony Robbins
Robbins was born Anthony J. Mahavorick in North Hollywood, California. He was raised in Azusa, California, and he attended Glendora High School. His parents divorced when he was seven years old, and his mother later remarried twice. Tony took on the surname of Jim Robbins, his second stepfather. Inspired by motivational speaker Jim Rohn, Robbins began selling his own seminars. He then went on to study neurolinguistic programming and to establish his career. In 1989, Robbins saw success using infomercials to promote his products.
In 1994, a routine medical check revealed a tumor in Robbins' pituitary gland. According to his recounting in Personal Power the tumor was actually an adenoma that had infarcted several years prior. Due to the pressure of the adenoma on his pituitary gland, he had circulating levels of growth hormone several times higher than what would be normal for an adult his age. This had resulted in a subclinical manifestation of the disease known as acromegaly, which doctors told Robbins was responsible for his remarkable growth spurts as a teenager, as well as his large hands and feet (He is 6 feet 7 inches tall, or 201 cm). After consultation with a number of different physicians, Tony eventually decided not to have the adenoma resected, as it was not causing any clinical manifestations, such as organomegaly or heart valve defects.
In a CNN interview in 2001, Robbins said it was difficult to end his 15-year marriage to Becky Robbins, saying it was the toughest decision of his life. He said that he also knew if he stayed with her, he'd be ruining her life and his. Robbins reiterates similar comments about his previous relationship in his recent Ultimate Relationship Program (recorded with family therapist Dr. Cloe Mandanes and also Sage Robbins).
In the same year he married Bonnie Humphrey (now Sage Robbins).
Anthony Robbins calls himself a peak performance coach as opposed to a motivational speaker. Robbins says that he attempts to find out what people do when they are at their peak, and then help them access that peak state whenever necessary, and he believes what he does is more effective than providing a rousing half-time speech and temporary motivation.
Robbins started his career promoting seminars for Jim Rohn, and then started teaching neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) after learning it from NLP co-founder John Grinder, who encouraged him to look into the firewalking experience. In 1983, Robbins located Tolly Burkan and learned how to firewalk from him. Robbins then added firewalking to his seminars, which enabled him to gain media coverage and launch his celebrity status. Robbins later began to teach what he referred to as Neuro-Associative Conditioning (NAC), and recently collaborated with Dr. Cloe Madanes on what they call Human Needs Psychology.
In his Personal Power program, he says that the difference between NAC and NLP, lies in the use of the word 'conditioning' as opposed to 'programming'. Robbins says his use of the word 'conditioning' implies that the subject has greater responsibility for his or her own change, as opposed to being programmed by someone else. Some free products by Tony Robbins can be found here.
Robbins' techniques, theories, and business practices have been the subject of criticism.
In a 2002 newsletter for the James Randi Educational Foundation, Randi comments on some experiences recounted by a participant at a 2002 "Unleash the Power Within" seminar. The participant recalled some experiences that had him question the credibility of Robbins. For instance, the participant questions the basis for some of the assertions made about Robbins' healthy diet system. There was also a demonstration at the seminar by one of Robbins' associates that was intended to show that the EMF from a mobile phone can weaken an arm as part of the marketing of an EMF reduction device. James Randi calls the applied kinesiology used in the EMF demonstration as "scam."
Roes also relates that some participants arriving with their partners or spouses found themselves separated and paired with strangers, and then were directed to repeatedly massage and confide in these strangers. Some participants were surprised and uncomfortable with this.
The participant was also strongly encouraged to sign up for the next seminar, and then found that, for him, the time span in which he had the opportunity to cancel and obtain a refund was too short.
Freelance writer Steve Salerno in his book Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, states "NLP has shown up in many settings inside and outside SHAM" (his acronym for the Self-Help and Actualization Movement) but he particularly criticizes Anthony (Tony) Robbins, who he claims "made NLP his own, refining it and personalizing it into what he christened "neuroassociative conditioning" (a claim with which other proponents of NLP would disagree; see history section in NLP article). Salerno criticizes proponents of self-help, including Tony Robbins, stating it "actually fans the fires of discontent, making people feel impaired or somehow deficient as a prelude to (supposedly) curing them." Salerno opines that there are contradictions in Richard Bandler and John Grinder (the co-founders of NLP) ending up in court over who owned the rights to NLP given NLP's promotion in business for negotiations and conflict resolution and also in Tony Robbins having become divorced while marketing products for the "perfect marriage".
William T. Jarvis identifies what he believes are several flaws and misconceptions in the ideas, in particular about health and diet, in Robbins US national best seller, Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement. Robbins believes that deep breathing activates the lymphatic system, and likens the lymphatic system to the sewerage system of the body. Jarvis states that there is no evidence that different breathing makes long-lasting changes in the lymphatic system, but that any effects are temporary. Jarvis agrees with Robbins' encouraging participants to eat more fruit, but criticizes the way it is presented. According to Jarvis, Robbins incorrectly argues that fruit is the perfect food. In contrast Jarvis argues that milk is the closest to being the most complete food. Jarvis states that some of the information about drinking distilled water gives an inaccurate view of how the body metabolic wastes system functions. Jarvis believes that there are misconceptions about health benefits of food combining, which are supposedly based on Herbert Shelton's ideas, and that Robbins' evidence of a positive effect of undereating is flawed. Jarvis also writes that Robbins makes inaccurate claims about dietary protein requirements.
Robbins also recycles an oft-cited but unsubstantiated reference to the "Yale Study of Goals" in Unlimited Power as scientific evidence of the power of positive thought. The anecdote claims that a survey was taken of the 1953 graduating class at Yale, and only 3% of the class had written goals regarding their financial situations. Twenty years later the class was interviewed again, and the 3% of the class who had written goals were worth more than the other 97% of the students combined. This would have been strong evidence of the power of written goal setting, but the alleged Yale study appears to be an urban legend.
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