In April I had the privilege of attending one of Tony Robbins’ famous events, “Unleash The Power Within”.

Apparently, this one was one of the biggest, with 13,000 people from all corners of the world congregating at London’s Excel Centre for 4 days of fueled self-empowerment.

In the run-up to the event itself, I was curious, concerned and insecure. On the first day of this 4-day extravaganza, we are invited to take part in the “Firewalk” a ritual dating back millennia. Firewalking has been by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BC. According to Wikipedia, it is used as a “rite of passage, as a test of an individual’s strength and courage, or in religion as a test of one’s faith.

Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive. How does it work, is there a trick? Are you really walking on hot coals?

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. – Tony Robbins

But now, having been through the process of tuning and settling the mind, I see now that this was more an exercise of self-control rather than the physical act of walking on hot coal. The fact is, it can be done. But the barrier to achieving this rests solely in the mind, or rather in one’s beliefs. And that is the power of Tony Robbins’ practice. He helps people understand that achieving your goals in life and realizing your dreams comes, first an foremost from within – from how you believe about yourself, and your ability control your thoughts, as opposed to letting your thoughts control you.

After a couple of hours of meditation, “priming” and reinforcing positive believe and thinking through visualization and music, 13,000 people marched outside barefoot, to the sound of beating drums. The atmosphere was enthralling, thrilling and empowering. The collective energy was infectious as I now felt unstoppable and ready to accomplish this activity for which at first I was skeptical and nervous.

We marched outside to the parking lot and low and behold, 40 firepits, complete with helpers shoveling piping hot coals. This was real. You could feel the intensity of the heat. As we waited our turn, there was a collective feeling of ecstasy. My turn then cam, Tony’s helper cheering me on “You can do this”, the chants of “Yes!” all around me.

Then I was off. I walked with determination. I could feel the hot coals under my feet. And then after about 10 seconds, it was over. I had done it. I walked on hot coals. I celebrated. If I could do this, what else could I do? How many other things in life have I missed due to my own limiting beliefs?

So that is the story of the Firewalk, and why it’s absolutely necessary on the first day of this event. You have to give people something tangible, an achievement so undeniably real that they give in to the rest of the 3 days – where there are more “breakthrough” moments in terms of throwing away bad habits, limiting beliefs and barriers that have contributed to being where you are today.

Tony said that the very fact we were in the room made us exceptional. You can say that’s a marketing ploy but think about it. Most people in life are not spending their time and money in the pursuit of self-betterment. So many of us are passengers in life, getting carried to old age, reacting to the world around them. I used to be one of them.

I’m not saying Tony Robbins is the only “guru” that will change your life – but what he is is a “conduit” to release the inner spirit. It doesn’t matter how you awaken – it could be through a book, your religion, a teacher, a training course – anything. What Tony Robbins does is package tried and tested thinking about the practices, tools, and activities that happy, successful, fulfilled and rich (not just financially rich, but emotionally rich) people employ int heir life. Like a recipe – if you put the ingredients together in the right way you will get the right result.

Our upbringing, the media, education, and culture have all contributed to a significant part in what makes us “us”. Do we ever stop to question what we’ve been taught or how we’ve been conditioned to think a certain way – particularly in business? TV shows lead us to believe that ultimately we’ll get the girl, or that through “hard work” you will be successful and able to look after yourself and your family during your retirement years. Or the friends in the TV show “Friends” could really afford that million dollar apartment in New York City.

Sometimes it takes an awakening to be your own person. And whatever helps to open your eyes is a great thing.

Tony Robbins has made billions selling personal growth. But he’s also helped a lot of people, so is that really bad thing? There was a bit of upselling here in there – I didn’t appreciate it at one point when they tried to push the Business Mastery course on people (at the tune of $6k or so) as the “next step” in the learning journey.

But as with all things in life, you need to pick and chose what content is right for you.

Personally, I got a lot from Unleash the Power within. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but just another great source of content, advice and learning from one of the greatest coaches around.