Tony Robbins is… an interesting guy. To say the self-help guru is successful would, by most common standards, be an understatement. He makes oodles and oodles of money (which is not surprising considering how much his products and seminars cost). Very famous and successful folks attribute at least some of their success to his coaching. He seems pretty happy. And though it’s incredibly easy to get incredibly turned off by his in-your-face, over-enthusiastic, mega-extrovert, never-shuts-the-hell-up style, it’s clear that at least some of his ideas work some of the time.

The keyword there is “some.” A lot of his techniques are based on neuro-linguistic programming (or NLP) (a therapy technique that has been all-but-proven to be bullshit), which Robbins has spun into neuro-associative conditioning (NAC). The conditioning part of that buzzword salad basically means that you can’t just “program” drastic changes and then be done with it; you have to condition it so that it stays in shape like a muscle. And wouldn’t you know, this is great news for Tony and his empire of expensive life coaches!

I don’t believe that Tony Robbins is a charlatan. I think he actually has some decent ideas, and I think he believes what he says. I just think his focus is on himself, on making money and making himself look as good as possible. Over the past couple of years, I’ve read many of his books, listened to many of his tapes audio programs, and watched an exteded infomercial documentary about his “Date With Destiny” event, ironically titled I Am Not Your Guru (it’s available on Netflix if you want to see it for yourself), wherein he periodically roams the crowd in search of someone he can fix in front of hundreds of people and then have his staff turn on inspiring music at the climax of their breakthrough realization that the conditioning of their father’s expectations made them who they are now, but now it’s their choice what to do with their life! Their lives are made into a series of Lifetime original movies.

I don’t want to make light of the serious and real issues that many people face and need to seek help for. But there are better, cheaper, and more thoroughly scientifically-tested ways to get through the troubles that we face in life, like by reading the more highly-rated books on personal development and psychology. Even the lower-quality ones have some good that can be gleaned from them if they are approached with a critical eye. It will take time, but most things do. And if it’s needed (and if one has the resources), it can definitely help to see a real therapist.

Tony Robbins is, by his own account, not your guru. He charges thousands of dollars for information and experiences can can be had for much cheaper if you really want it, make the time for it, and push yourself to just do it. When people put that much money on the line, though, it tends to make them shapen up and make the best of their experience, especially when said experience involves a 7-foot-tall gravel-voiced hype-man. And that’s what’s kept said hype-man in business for decades.