Awaken The Giant Within
Anthony Robbins is the embodiment of the personal transformation guru. In the US at least, where it would be difficult not to have seen one of his TV infomercials, he is a household name. He has personally coached presidents, royalty, top sports stars and corporate leaders, and has reached huge new audiences through a combination of legendary personal energy and marketing prowess. Other self-help titans like Chopra and Dyer are low-key in comparison. Lots of people are willing to pay over $1000 to attend a Robbins weekend seminar, which feature walks across hot coals and hysteria normally seen at rock concerts.
Awaken the Giant begins with Robbins in a jet helicopter on his way to a sell-out seminar. Below he spots the building where, a decade before, he was working as a janitor, and remembers the Robbins of that period: overweight, broke and lonely. Now svelte, happily married, and a millionaire with a mansion by the sea, this is the moment Robbins realizes he is living his dream.
Robbins and NLP
Robbins' first book, written while still in his mid-twenties, was Unlimited Power. Itself a bestseller, Unlimited Power laid the groundwork for its successor, revealing the source of many of Robbins' methods: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
NLP was pioneered by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, and arose out of the study of how language, verbal and non-verbal, can affect the nervous system. Its premise is that we can control our nervous system so that our responses and actions, though seeming to be 'natural', are in fact programmed. The genius of Robbins has been to refine and market NLP to a general audience. The Robbins catchphrase 'Change happens in an instant', for instance, comes directly from NLP.
Awaken The Giant gets the reader's imagination going by the questions it asks, the possibilities it creates in your mind. Robbins is the master of unlimitedness, yet the book is careful to provide the practical steps and details for goal-achievement. The following list covers some of the themes, all are of which are backed up by copious references, stories and facts:
Pain and pleasure. These are the key shaping forces in life. We can either let them control us, or understand them to suit ourselves. Be careful what you link pleasure to: some people equate pleasure with heroin, others with helping people. Do you want to be like Jimi Hendrix, minus the talent, or Mother Theresa? By linking massive pain or massive pleasure with an activity or thought, we change who we are.
The power of belief. Two men are chained to a wall in a prison. One commits suicide, the other goes on to tell people about the power of the human spirit. Rather than the events of our lives shaping us, it is our beliefs about what those events mean. Global beliefs (how we see the world and people in general), if changed, can alter virtually everything about the rest of our lives. All great leaders create a sense of certainty, never believing their problems are permanent. The CIA has techniques to change a person's core beliefs in a very short period. You can apply the same techniques to your limiting beliefs.
The power of questions. All human progress occurs through the questioning of current limitation. We don't need to have an answer prepared; ask the quality question, and you will get a quality answer.
The power of words. Use the power of words and enlarged vocabulary to transform thinking and action. Appreciate also that 'leaders are readers'; reading allows us to make crucial distinctions based on others' experience.
Clarity is power. Determine exactly what you want to achieve and write it down, creating a future so amazing that you are compelled to realize it. You must 'focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear'. Create a ten-year plan, then work backwards; most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in a decade.
Raise your standards, change your rules. Make decisions rather than wishes about what you are and take action. Figure out the hidden personal rules you currently live by and create new ones that will drive you to live out your destiny.
A closer look...
Awaken the Giant is the popular bible of psycho-technology. Converts will feel that if everyone read and applied Robbins, the world would be a vastly more empowered, fulfilled and happy place. For some readers though, Robbins' world may seem too black and white. It shows you how to get out of any sort of negative state, hygienically removing the bad mood, depression etc. Other self-help writers like Thomas Moore and Robert Bly see great value in depression and even grief. It teaches us about ourselves, they say, and is part of a soulful existence. Awaken The Giant Within is subtitled 'How to take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny!' Can we really control our destiny? Are the goals that Robbins inspires people to dream up really unique to them? His own life might appear to be living fantasy, but does this mean that all our desires should be fulfilled too? The tools he provides to achieve anything we want are indeed impressive, but there is no caveat about the reasons for wanting them.
In Robbins' defence
People can be turned off by the superman aura around the book and its conviction that the fantasy we might have about ourselves can be realised. To a critic, everything is about 'achieving your goals'. True, some people may use Robbins' mental technology to achieve banal materialistic ends, but what he actually says challenges the very hold of materialism in our lives. The core of his philosophy is defying the culture that surrounds us by refusing to be just another mole, burrowing away at our job so we can keep in step. In his world, everyone should be amazing. To pursue a dream is the only way of keeping ourselves truly alive, and money is always secondary to that.
The Robbins message has mass appeal because we all believe there is a lot more to us than others recognize. The world is fond of putting our ideas in the 'unreasonable, unrealistic' category. We are taught that we can't do what our heart desires, and after a while accept it as fact. But Robbins's truly successful person is he or she who refuses to be reasonable.
Awaken The Giant has been called 'plastic surgery for the mind', meaning if you're not happy with your identity, change it. Though that idea will sound far-fetched or even distasteful to one person, the reassurance that it is possible can be a lifeline for another. Re-invention is a basis of American culture, and Awaken the Giant could not have surfaced in any other place. This is the Statue of Liberty in words.
Source: 50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books To Transform Your Life by Tom Butler-Bowdon (London & Boston: Nicholas Brealey).
"Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear."
Born Anthony Mahavick in 1960, Robbins grew up in a low-rent suburb of Los Angeles, and took the last name of his first stepfather. He was thrown out of home by his mother at age 17 for being 'too intense'. He obtained a reputation as a super-salesman, selling tickets to other motivational speaker's events. Claiming to have read over 700 personal growth books, he came across NLP in 1983 and went on the road to promote his brand of it, promising to heal people of phobias in fifteen minutes. He was a millionaire by age 24.
These incidents and others are related in The Life Story of Anthony Robbins, by former Robbins associate Michael Bolduc. Robbins is now America's most well known 'peak performance consultant' and has worked with IBM, AT&T, American Express and the US Army, as well as professional sports teams and Olympic athletes. He has been a private coach to Bill Clinton (who apparently relied on Robbins for support during the Monica Lewinsky crisis), Andre Agassi, Mikhail Gorbachev and even had some sessions with Princess Diana.
The Anthony Robbins companies (tonyrobbins.com) runs seminars and events around the world, including a 'Mastery University'. His Foundation runs programs to help youth, the elderly, the homeless and people in prison. Robbins lives in Del Mar, California, with his second wife Sage Robbins.