One morning, I woke up and realized I was invisible. I was the same person I’d been the day before, and the day before that. But I’d reached an age where employers look at a résumé and shake their heads. “Too old.” An age in which I could no longer deny senior-citizen discounts. And in which young people held conversations above my head, assuming I’d nothing to say. In effect, I’d been kicked off the island.
I’m lucky to have lived long enough to reach this stage. But it crept up on me; sprang sooner than expected. I knew what I was experiencing was normal; nevertheless it sent me into a downward spiral.
I stood in the doorframe for months – one foot in the old life and one in the new. Trying to hold the door open, while forces beyond my control were shouldering it shut. Hoping the old life would realize its mistake and allow me back into the room.
During this period of indecision, I drifted into a state of depression. I knew I needed help, and one night had a dream. I sat down next to Tony Robbins and suddenly felt safe and calm. I began talking with the people around us and found myself laughing again.
Three days later, I stumbled across an ad for Tony Robbin’s Breakthrough 2022, a free 5-day seminar (Jan 25-29). It started in one week, and it was free. I had nothing to lose. I took my dream as a sign that this was something I should do.
I registered and received an email, which provided a link to a Facebook group. It said that joining the Facebook group was required, and that I should explore the various tabs on the Facebook page. There was also a link advertising a VIP package for just under $200, which included Zoom access to all live sessions (Tony would be able to see you on a monitor), lifetime access to the videos, 30-minute per session Q&E extensions, and Tony’s latest book, Life Force. In addition, Tony would donate 100 meals to Feeding America on the attendee’s behalf.
The VIP package was tempting, and in the past it would have been difficult for me to say no – to receive something of value without payment. But now that I’m unemployed, I thought it prudent to take a conservative approach.
At first, the Facebook page was confusing. There were random posts, and nothing seemed to relate to anything else. As this preliminary week progressed, the message board took on greater form. Many posts were in response to daily “challenges”, such as make a live video introducing yourself and hashtag it. The hashtags allowed the Robbins’ Team to locate the respondents to each challenge and select a few winners, which would be awarded various prizes (most of which I wouldn’t have used). I made two live videos, but there were always technical issues with the Facebook-live connection, and so I quickly stopped participating in the challenges.
What impressed me initially about the Facebook group was how open people were in talking about their problems, and how supportive people were in their responses. I won’t say that there were never argumentative or hurtful posts, but here it was a rarity. The tone of posts was overwhelmingly loving and helpful. People were there for each other.
Gradually, however, as more people discovered Breakthrough 2022, questions appeared in colorful, bold print. At first, I thought these were posted by the Robbins’ Team to promote thoughtful exploration of our moods and goals. I believe the initial “questions” were just that, but gradually scammers and would-be life-coaches did the same, hoping to glean usable information. I began to get “friend requests” from scam artists and people wishing to make a sale. I received six friend requests, and accepted one, from a gentleman who I’d spoken with repeatedly through various posts.
Those who paid for the VIP option could watch the seminar via Zoom. Those taking the free option could watch it live on Facebook or through a YouTube link, which was sent to participants during the first few minutes of each live session. The Facebook option proved useless, since the picture buffered every few minutes. The stream continually needed to be stopped and restarted. However, YouTube streamed the sessions flawlessly.
Each session was scheduled to last from 2:00-3:30 PM Eastern Time.
The first twenty-five minutes of Session 1 was dedicated to name-dropping of famous people coached by Robbins, recorded testimonials by famous people, advertising the $200 VIP option, and plugging the Igoscue Method of physical therapy. By the time Robbins arrived, I was feeling skeptical.
But that feeling was soon overcome by Tony’s energetic and seemingly sincere love of people. Even though he could not see me, I felt as though he could. I felt as though I was actively participating and, in fact, I was able to participate somewhat through the chat box, which rolled and flicked with remarks and icons.
The time lost on advertisements was made up – exceeded even – when the session ran long by 40 minutes.
After Tony left the session, there were more ads and a Facebook challenge, after which the free option ended and the Q&A session for VIP participants began.
I tried to do a rough count of VIP participants, since there were shots of Tony sitting in front of monitors. It looked as though there were around 240 people who had taken the free option. Some people were joined onscreen by spouses or children.
In total, eight-hundred thousand registered for Breakthrough 2022 and, during the live sessions, around 42,000 joined the live YouTube sessions. The videos were made available afterwards, for those who could not attend the live meetings.
We were encouraged to keep notes, if only to help us remember the points made. I kept a Word document open next to the YouTube stream. At the end of five days, I had 17 pages of notes.
On days four and five, we were urged to sign up for an Unleashing the Power Within (UPW) conference, to be held roughly a month later. The starting “discounted” price for this stream was around $400, and I believe the upper level option ran around $1,200. At this point, each live session was followed by a half-hour infomercial about UPW.
The tone of the Facebook posts suddenly changed. There was now a frantic tone to the messages. People were upset because they couldn’t afford to attend, but felt that it was crucial. Some implied that others should pay the fee for them. A handful of others generously offered a free ticket, asking potential recipients to plead their cases.
A distinct attitude of sibling rivalry overtook the message boards. Each participant had been made to feel special, but now Daddy Robbins was threatening to turn away from children unable or unwilling to do as told. Children financially blessed bragged about the upper level tickets they had just purchased, while others begged and groveled to be included in the family trip to Disney World.
In fairness to Robbins, I do not think this was his intent. I got the impression that he wants the best for everyone. But marketing is created to make people feel a sense of desire and urgency, and Robbins’ marketing team succeeded in generating the necessary anxiety. Ironic since most people had attended hoping to reduce feelings of distress.
Robbins himself always gave more than expected, and I feel I got a lot out of the experience. He deserves his accolades, and I ended the five days feeling renewed and excited to start my new life.
At the end of the seminar, Robbins suddenly offered an extra free session. It would take place at the same time, same place, two days later. I truly believe the decision to add a free day was spontaneous and unscripted. The content of the extra day, however, reflected the lack of preparation. There was a guest speaker who talked about the importance of nutrition. And the session was wrapped up by Tony’s wife, Sage (the couple has been married for over 20 years).
While Tony implies he is Catholic, Sage appears to lean towards Buddhism. For this event, Sage brought her own spiritual guide, and together they led a meditation on love, reciting the St. Francis Prayer. Although the prayer is Christian and asks only for us to love one another, panicked Christians typed urgently into the chat box: Christ is my savior; Jesus is the only path toward salvation, Hinduism!
Afterwards, Tony looked at his wife with concern. I’m not sure whether it was for the breakdown of the session or concern for the attacks upon his loving and well-meaning wife, or a combination of both.
So, would I participate in Breakthrough 2023 if it’s offered? Yes. I felt that both Tony and his wife are sincere people, who want only the best for others. I left the seminar feeling complete once again, and regained forward momentum. And it was interesting to observe human nature in its raw form – sometimes humbling; sometimes frightening.
Breakthrough 2022 was a unique and helpful experience and Robbins is a powerful speaker – a joy to listen to. The seminar was well worth the time (and money if a paid option is within your budget).