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James Altucher: Ten things I learned while interviewing Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is one of the best-known self-help gurus in the world.

He is the author of three No. 1 bestselling books: Unlimited Power, Unleash the Power Within, and Awaken the Giant Within. Through his books and seminars, Robbins promotes various techniques to improve your life.

Last fall, our friend and colleague James Altucher – host of The James Altucher Show on Stansberry Radio – secured a 60-minute interview with Robbins. 

In this essay– originally published on – James shares the 10 most important things he learned during his conversation…

Ten Things I Learned While Interviewing Tony Robbins

By James Altucher, editor, The James Altucher Report:

1. Ask lousy questions, get lousy answers.

Many people ask, “Why did this have to happen to me?” or “Why did I lose that job when I was good?”

These are lousy questions. You will never get an answer that makes your life better. I get bitter, resentful, and angry. And anger is a form of fear. I’m usually afraid that I’m going to go broke. And if I go broke, I’m afraid I’ll die.

You have to ask good questions: “What can I do to improve?” or “How can I find a better job?” or “How can I be grateful that I lost this job?”

Because inside of every problem are the seeds of a “difficult gratitude problem,” and it always improves your life to solve those problems.

2. To master anything, talk to the experts.

Tony told me about when he was 24 years old and wanted to train members of the military to shoot better.

“I had never shot a gun in my life,” he said. He was scared that he wouldn’t do a good job.

So how did he solve this problem? He spoke to five excellent sharpshooters, figured out what they all had in common, and then used that to increase the results of the students in the school by 50%.

3. Bring the target closer.

Specifically, he had every student move the target to only a few feet away. Everyone shot bull’s-eyes. Then, he moved the target back a foot. Bull’s-eyes. Then another foot, and so on.

This is true for everything in life. I look at an example Mark Cuban shared with me. He didn’t just start and make $1 billion. First, he started a bar… then he started a computer business… then a hedge fund.

He brought the target very close and then moved it farther and farther away as he succeeded at hitting each goal.

I thought about teaching my 12-year-old daughter how to serve in tennis. First, I had her serve from the net. “All you have to do is hit the ball into this huge box,” I said. Then, when she got 10 in a row, I had her move back a few feet until she hit the baseline. Now, she has the most consistent serve on her team.

4. Look at goals differently.

Tony told us of one time when he asked people what their goals were. One guy said, “I want to make $1 billion!” At first, this would seem like an admirable goal – set it high! There’s that horrible saying, “Aim for the moon, because even if you miss it, you’ll find yourself among the stars.”

But Tony said this guy didn’t really understand his goal.

He broke it down. “Why do you want $1 billion?” And the guy’s first answer was, “I want my own plane.” Tony told him, “Well, a plane costs $100 million and you might only be flying 12 times a year. If you charter a jet for $30,000 an hour, it will take you forever to spend $100 million.” Suddenly, the guy didn’t need $1 billion anymore.

“By the end of that session,” Tony said, “it turns out to achieve the exact lifestyle he thought he needed a billion for, he needed $10 million.” This is still a lot of money. But this was Tony’s way of bringing the target closer.

When I read that in Tony’s book, I did the exercise with my wife, Claudia. Her numbers went down by 90% when we really went through it. What happens then? You feel relief. You don’t have to be on the hamster wheel of money for your whole life. What you want is freedom, not money.

5. Experts know they know nothing.

I get financial newsletters all the time that say, “The markets are going to zero!” or “This stock is going to go up 1,000%!” The reality is the experts know nothing. With every investment expert who Tony interviewed, they not only had a plan B, they also had a plan C, D, and E.

The best professionals in the business admit they know nothing.

Nobody can predict the future. Anything can happen. When I got out of the “future” business, I was much happier. I got into the possibility business.

This made me a lot more successful. Leave the future business for the possibility business, and the world will get infinitely larger.

6. Tony’s energy is infectious.

Someone once told me that Tony Robbins jumps up and down on a trampoline before speaking in front of 10,000 people. He wants his energy at its peak.

I thought about doing that before my most recent TED talk, but there was no trampoline available. But it’s true. When Tony came downstairs to talk to us, he was excited about the potential for his book to help people. It almost made me want to write about financial stuff again.

7. The Tony Robbins method.

In the interview, I said, “I figured it out. You use ‘the Tony Robbins method,'” which I defined as: at first you don’t know anything… you find five people who are the experts in the world… you extensively interview them… you figure out the simplest things they have in common with each other… you do that simple thing over and over.

And that’s how you succeed.

8. People need certainty. People need variety.

Everyone needs to know where his next meal is coming from. And maybe his next kiss. And maybe a bunch of things. We crave stability, which was the appeal of corporate jobs for the past 100 years (although that period is now slowly coming to an end).

But most of that stability is a lie. You have to find stability inside yourself first.

For me, it’s stable to make money from multiple sources. I know that if I have ideas every day, life will be more stable than if I don’t.

But we also need variety. A marriage will die if you stick to the same routine year after year (“the seven-year itch”). A job will get boring. We only have one life. It doesn’t mean you quit your marriage or quit your job, but always look for new things to learn. Always look for new ways to surprise. Always look for new ways to break out of your comfort zone.

It’s this dance of certainty and uncertainty that makes us human, and we often lean too much in one way or the other. Tony describes this in the book in a financial sense. His goal is to expose the lies in the financial community and get you thinking about how to provide stability there, so you can find variety in other parts of your life.

9. Show people you are grateful.

When we are young, we build strong neural circuits across our brains so electricity can pass quickly between certain neurons. This is why it’s easier to learn when we are young than when we are older.

After age 20, we lose the ability to “insulate” these neural circuits with myelin, the substance that cements these circuits for life. This is where our basic intelligence comes from: building as many circuits as possible with myelin protecting them.

The same thing happens with relationships… business, personal, family, etc. They start off young. That’s when you can build a “relationship myelin” around them. You do that by being honest with people, by showing gratitude, by not overusing the connection, by treating it just right so it develops into something that can last a lifetime.

If someone does something for you, show you are grateful.

10. Be the servant of many.

Tony said in the interview exactly how much he saved in taxes by moving from California to Florida. It was a big number. He had a big house. He has spoken in front of 3 million people. This is a process that took him 30 years.

The way he did it was by being the servant of many. By constantly adding value to others, you get value that comes back to you. It becomes natural.

Crux note: If you’re interested in even more tips on a living a more productive and wealthier life, James’ brand-new book, The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, is a must-read. In it, he shares his best ideas, like an innovative way to get a new job… how to make $40,000 a month on… a controversial way to eliminate your debts immediately… how to take all of the stress out of your money decisions, and much more.

Right now, we’ll send you a limited-edition hardback copy of The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth right to your front door. We’ll also throw in an electronic copy of the book to your e-mail inbox, a free copy of James’ previous bestseller, Choose Yourself, AND a risk-free trial subscription to his brand-new monthly newsletter, The James Altucher Report. For more details on how to take advantage of this incredible offer, click here.

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