Having followed his work since college, I put Tony Robbins almost on par with giants of psychology like Freud, Jung, and Pavlov. That may sound like I’m giving him way too much credit, especially since Tony Robbins didn’t invent the NLP techniques he popularized, but the number of people referring to his work in videos, books, and articles I’ve read over the last few years is staggering. If you’re talking about someone who has influenced the influencers over the last few decades, no one else in his field even comes close. Whatever you want to say about him (wait, you mean the infomercial guy from Shallow Hal? The giant guy with the big teeth?), he is as good as it gets when it comes to self-help, psychology and, oh yeah, sales. There’s a reason he started out with nothing and is now worth 480 million dollars.
In any case, despite all of his success, you don’t hear a lot about Tony Robbins on the news. In fact, usually if you do, it’s because a few overzealous reporters freak out about a handful of people getting blisters doing the fire walk he leads over 1000 degree coals. (P.S.: Yeah, I got one of those at the one Tony Robbins event I attended in Chicago.)
In any case, Tony Robbins is in the news because he didn’t shower the #MeToo movement with praise when he was asked about it at a conference. To the contrary, although he went out of his way to say he wasn’t criticizing the whole movement, he noted some very negative things about it.
Of course, this is unacceptable in our tribal political culture where praise for the #MeToo movement is expected to be uniform and overwhelming… UNLESS YOU HATE WOMEN. However, after countless hours listening to his talks, his videos, and interviews with him, I can tell you that Tony Robbins is not particularly political. On top of that, to the degree that he has political opinions at all, I get the impression that he marginally leans to the left. So, on to the latest controversy.
Tony Robbins was asked about the #MeToo movement by one of his conference attendees who was very much engaged in that tribal political culture mentality that I mentioned earlier. The #MeToo movement must be praised. No criticism of it is allowed. It’s 100 percent good for society. Blah, blah, blah. The controversial answer Tony Robbins gave to the woman was not a political answer. In fact, it was a profoundly different take on the #MeToo movement that’s based on what’s good for people as human beings.
Too often, many of us in politics get so caught up in an “our side, right or wrong” mentality that we forget to ask the most important question about political policies. That is, “How do they actually impact people’s lives in a positive AND negative way?” Incidentally, the second most important question is, “What is the trade-off for the solution being offered?” Neither question gets asked enough and when one of them does, the answers are usually lies pushed by people who want to sell a policy or alternately, who just don’t consider the people negatively impacted by their policies important enough to matter.
Now, back to Tony Robbins.
To begin with, if you listen to his full comments, Robbins goes out of his way, over and over again, to say that he’s not trashing the #MeToo movement. He begins like so:
You could use the #MeToo movement to be such a beautiful thing. I’m not mocking the #MeToo movement, I’m mocking victimhood. I’m not saying you have to agree with me, I’m just suggesting that you consider what its impact is. Look at these people and see what is empowerment. Anger is not empowerment. What you are seeing is people making themselves significant by making someone else wrong and getting certainty. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just won’t make them happy. It won’t make them better and it won’t make you better… (Asked to the audience) Is there any one of us that hasn’t done something that we’d prefer we not, that we’re embarrassed by or was hurtful? Who here has never done anything of that nature? (One person raised their hand) One liar in the room…(later) I think anyone who has been hurt should be able to express it, should be able to go get restitution and I support it. What I am not supportive of is victimhood.
There was a time in America when people HATED the idea of being a victim. A whole movement formed around being an angry victim is not a psychologically healthy idea. If we’re not talking about dealing out justice to a Harvey Weinstein type or some other sexually abusive person, how does it make your life better to participate? How is defining yourself as an angry victim going to make you happy? That’s not the political take on it, but Robbins isn’t a politician. He’s talking about it from a self-improvement viewpoint and he’s right.
Robbins then goes on to note some real life negative consequences that the #MeToo movement has created for women.
When you push someone else, it doesn’t make you safe, it just makes you angry. In Hollywood, where this is most intense – I have so many clients there – I talk to men all the time and it breaks my heart for women, not for men. Because I was just with someone the other day, a very famous man, a very powerful man. He was saying how stressed he is because he interviewed three people that day, one was a woman, two were men, the woman was better qualified, but she was very attractive and he knew, ‘I can’t have her around because it’s too big of a risk’ and he hired someone else. I’ve had a dozen men tell me this.
Upon hearing someone like that, a healthy political movement would probably ask, “What are we doing wrong? How is it that men who don’t intend to harass women are getting so nervous about what we’re doing that they don’t want to hire women? How do we change that?” An unhealthy movement responds to stories like those with comments like this: