Many years ago, I listened to a Tony Robbins tape about “Personal Power.” It was at the exact moment in my life when I needed direction – and what I learned, I have utilized my entire life.

That’s why Tony Robbins was on my “Top 40 under 40” goals list this year. I wanted to meet him in person and thank him for playing such a pivotal role in my life early on.

So I recently hopped on a plane to L.A. to participate in “Unleash the Power Within,” a four-day event to help create lasting impact in people’s lives. As I stood in a very chilled room in Los Angeles Convention Centre, among 4,200 attendees waiting for Robbins to come out, I felt a bit nervous. Despite knowing Robbins’ material very well, I had never attended one of his events. But standing there, in a sea of other nervous faces, I was comforted in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone.

However, right before Robbins took the stage, I heard a small eruption of yells around me. I glanced over to my right and standing there, a few feet away, was Oprah Winfrey. She too was about to partake in his event.

I leaned in, attempting to get closer to her, hoping that I wasn’t too noticeable. That’s when she turned and made eye contact with me, smiled and made a namaste gesture with her hands. I returned the gesture, and knew instantly what she meant by it. The playing field had been leveled; every one of us was there for the same reason, to reaffirm our commitment to never-ending improvement.

My attention was soon drawn back to the dancers on stage, who were encouraging people to dance. The music grew louder and, in an explosion of thunderous clapping, Robbins walked out on stage. His six-foot-seven presence was felt instantly, and the excitement was palpable.

After Robbins greeted the crowd, he wasted no time in getting people to confront what was holding them back from making lasting changes in their lives.

Throughout the event, Robbins discussed breaking bad patterns, identifying our passions and fears – and the root of our core beliefs. Through a range of visualization techniques, repetitive empowering affirmations, Robbins took us through a powerful yet demanding emotional journey to discover what we truly want – and don’t want – in our lives.

Participants were encouraged to find a partner each day who would challenge us, keep us honest and help us through many emotional days. They were also there to pat us on the back when we had a breakthrough (both literally and figuratively).

Music and movement played a big role in the event, and was a way to keep people sharp and engaged.
On stage, Robbins gave people all he had, in both energy and spirit. His meaningful desire to help people make substantial changes in their lives was evident. Leaving the stage only for a quick water break or to confer with one of his assistants, Robbins stayed with the audience for up to 13 hours, never breaking his state and staying both positive and energized.

He doesn’t believe in participants eating very often or sitting for too long, for risk of losing focus during his event.

If he was willing to give it his all then, by God, you had better step up and do the same. He expects nothing less.

During the few breaks we did receive, I met with extraordinary people from all over the world. Each shared with me their reasons for being there, which ranged from personal relationships to work goals to purpose in life.

During an evening dinner, I sat with Rick Carlisle, the 2011 NBA champion coach, who used one of Tony Robbins’ techniques on his Dallas Mavericks team (which was to pack just one change of clothes as they flew into Miami for Game 6 of the NBA Finals, thus eliminating the option of losing and staying for another game).

By far the most memorable experience that happened to me was the fire walk. On the first night, Robbins led us barefoot to an area just outside of the convention centre, where drums were sounding and fires were burning. Each one of us would be walking across hot coals. As I anxiously awaited my turn in line, I watched Oprah move seamlessly across, her head held high. Once she was across, everyone erupted in cheers.

Soon, it was my turn. I could feel my heart pounding. I stood beside Robbins, who put his arms around me and spoke encouraging words in my ear before sending me across the fiery embers.

It happened so fast, but when I reached the other side, Oprah was there to high-five me.

And it went on that way. People united in the experience, yelling encouraging words and congratulating one another as they made their way safely across – until the wee hours of the morning.

The purpose of the fire walk was clear. Those who are successful in life are the ones who take action, and that sometimes what we deem impossible exists only in our mind.

And I did get to thank Robbins on his last day of the event. He was both gracious and sincere and, as I shook his hand, I suddenly realized what makes him so special. Yes, his books and tapes are incredible. And yes, he is known around the world for helping great leaders, celebrities and sports teams.

But what sets him apart is his genuineness to connect and help everyone he encounters who desire to make changes in their life.

There is nothing fake or pomp about Robbins. What you see is what you get.

And what I got was an experience that took me to a whole other realm of possibilities – above and beyond my 40 goals.