Why We Do What We Do by Tony Robbins (Transcript)

Tony Robbins at TED Talks

Full text of life coach Tony Robbins’ talk: Why We Do What We Do at TED Talks conference.

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Tony Robbins – Life success coach

Thank you. I have to tell you I’m both challenged and excited.

My excitement is: I get a chance to give something back. My challenge is: the shortest seminar I usually do is 50 hours. I’m not exaggerating. I do weekends, and what I do — I do even more than that, obviously, coach people — but I’m into immersion.

Because how did you learn language? You didn’t learn it by just learning principles, you got in it and you did it so often that it became real.

And the bottom line of why I’m here, besides being a crazy mofo, is that I’m really in a position — I’m not here to motivate you, obviously; you don’t need that. And a lot of times that’s what people think I do, and it’s the furthest thing from it.

What happens, though, is people say to me, “I don’t need any motivation.” And I say, “Well, that’s interesting. That’s not what I do.” I’m the “Why” guy. I want to know why you do what you do.

What is your motive for action? What is it that drives you in your life today? Not 10 years ago. Or are you running the same pattern? Because I believe that the invisible force of internal drive, activated, is the most important thing in the world.

I’m here because I believe emotion is the force of life. All of us here have great minds. You know? Most of us here have great minds, right? I don’t know about another category, but we all know how to think. And with our minds we can rationalize anything. We can make anything happen. We can — I agree with what was described a few days ago, about this idea that people work in their self-interest.

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But we all know that that’s bullshit at times. You don’t work in your self-interest all the time, because when emotion comes into it, the wiring changes in the way it functions. And so it’s wonderful for us to think intellectually about how the life of the world is, and especially those who are very smart — we can play this game in our head. But I really want to know what’s driving you.

And what I would like to maybe invite you to do by the end of this talk is explore where you are today, for two reasons. One: so that you can contribute more. And two: so that hopefully we cannot just understand other people more, but maybe appreciate them more, and create the kinds of connections that can stop some of the challenges that we face in our society today. They’re only going to get magnified by the very technology that’s connecting us, because it’s making us intersect. And that intersection doesn’t always create the view of “everybody now understands everybody, and everybody appreciates everybody.”

So, I’ve had an obsession basically for 30 years, and that obsession has been, “What makes the difference in the quality of people’s lives? What makes the difference in their performance?” Because that’s what I got hired to do. I’ve got to produce the result now. That’s what I’ve done for 30 years.

I get the phone call when the athlete is burning down on national television, and they were ahead by five strokes and now they can’t get back on the course. And I’ve got to do something right now to get the result or nothing matters.

I get the phone call when the child is going to commit suicide, and I’ve got to do something right now. And in 29 years — I’m very grateful to tell you I’ve never lost one in 29 years. It doesn’t mean I won’t some day. But I haven’t done it, and the reason is an understanding of these human needs that I want to talk to you about.

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So, when I get those calls about performance, that’s one thing. How do you make a change? But also, I’m looking to see what is it that’s shaping that person’s ability to contribute, to do something beyond themselves.

So maybe the real question is, you know, I look at life and say, there’s two master lessons. One is: there’s the science of achievement, which almost everything that’s run is mastered to an amazing extent. That’s “How do you take the invisible and make it visible,” right? How do you take what you’re dreaming of and make it happen? Whether it be your business, your contribution to society, money — whatever it is for you — your body, your family.

But the other lesson of life that is rarely mastered is the art of fulfillment. Because science is easy, right? We know the rules. You write the code. You follow the — and you get the results. Once you know the game you just, you know, you up the ante, don’t you? But when it comes to fulfillment — that’s an art. And the reason is, it’s about appreciation and it’s about contribution. You can only feel so much by yourself.

So, I’ve had an interesting laboratory to try to answer the question of the real question, which is what’s the difference in somebody’s life if you look at somebody like those people that you’ve given everything to? Like all the resources they say they need. You gave them not a 100-dollar computer; you gave them the best computer. You gave them love; you gave them joy. You were there to comfort them.

And those people very often — and you know some of them, I’m sure — end up the rest of their life with all this love, education, money and background, spending their life going in and out of rehab. And then you meet people that have been through ultimate pain — psychologically, sexually, spiritually, emotionally abused — and not always, but often, they become some of the people that contribute the most to society.

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So, the question we’ve got to ask ourselves really is, what is it? What is it that shapes us? And we live in a therapy culture. Most of us don’t do that, but the culture’s a therapy culture. And what I mean by that is the mindset that we are our past. And everybody in this room — you wouldn’t be in this room if you bought that theory — but the — most of society thinks biography is destiny. The past equals the future. And of course it does if you live there.

But what people in this room know, and what we have to remind ourselves, though — because you can know something intellectually, you can know what to do and then not use it, not apply it.

So really, we’re going to remind ourselves that decision is the ultimate power. That’s what it really is. Now, when you ask people, you know, have you failed to achieve something? How many have ever failed to achieve something significant in your life? Say, “Aye.”

Audience: Aye.

Tony Robbins: Thanks for the interaction on a high level there. But if you ask people, why didn’t you achieve something? Somebody who’s working for you, you know, or a partner, or even yourself. When you fail to achieve a goal, what’s the reason people say they fail to achieve? What do they tell you? Don’t have the — didn’t know enough, didn’t have the — knowledge. Didn’t have the — money. Didn’t have the — time. Didn’t have the — technology. You know, I didn’t have the right manager. Didn’t have the …

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