As a side effect of my job, I get to watch TV shows, movies, and documentaries so I can stay abreast in this everchanging industry (no complaints here).
Many of the shows and movies are not even worth mentioning, but, every now and then, I find a jewel, either because of the entertainment value or in some cases for the inspiration and lessons learned.
As I shifted through some of the new documentaries available online, looking for a bit of inspiration myself, I came across “I am not your guru,” which features the charismatic, omnipresent, and energizing Tony Robbins during one of his events in Boca Raton, Florida.
To be honest, it took me a while to decide to watch the documentary. In the back of my mind, something was telling that this guy, Mr. Robbins, was not worth my time, maybe even a fraud. I guess I imagined a guru with a huge entourage, a million-dollar smile, and full of wishy-washy one-liners carefully crafted to manipulare the weak-minded people who would pay thousands of dollars to attend one of his events. But listening to Tony talk about the doc changed my mind.
I had heard about this doc a few months ago, in a popular podcast, in which Mr. Robbins explained how the documentary came to exist. He explained how, at the beginning, the producer (who had unwillingly attended one of Robbins’ seminars) was so pleasantly surprised after his own experience, he proposed to make the film. However, Tony refused, arguing that the cameras might be too distracting for the audience. It took two years of convincing for the shooting to finally begin. At that moment of the conversation (maybe I felt for the psychology technique) I became really interested in watching it.
Just after the first few minutes of watching the show, the first shocker for me: his use of foul language. Not because I mind that type of language at all (I welcome it) but because the reality did not match my expectations of that kind of “guru” in the middle of a live audience, so the first time he shared one of his thoughts with several iterations of a popular four-letter word, people from the live audience dropped their jaws, as if they had heard something they were not supposed to. Later on the film, Tony explains how that type of language breaks through the noise in our subconscious and penetrates deeply into our brains, definitely achieving full attention.
In the first “intervention,” a suicidal young German, who looked on the verge of breaking down, bravely shared some of his weaknesses and deepest thoughts with the whole audience. At that point, with a mix of humor and tough parental love, Tony managed to break through the timid European, basically using tons of energy, a sharp stare, and the right combination of words. And it worked. The German ended up being lifted by other joyful members of the audience, like a matador from one of Hemingway’s novels. I will not spoil the rest of the interventions, but, in my opinion, they are worth watching, even if it is just for the simple fact of watch human psychology 101 in action, in front of a live audience. Some of the dialogues are quite dramatic.
Now, this documentary, or this type of psychology, is NOT for everyone. Discussing the doc with several of my colleagues, they quickly pointed out that some of the people who attend those seminars are so gullible that would fall victims for any charismatic person with the right things to say and enough confidence to sway. So, the detractors of the film might find some confirmation when they watch some of the scenes.
However, in my opinion, I don’t see his seminars as a scam, nor do I see the attendees of these events as weak, naive people. In fact, some of them are quite courageous by opening up to the world and desperately looking for some guidance to get out of their personal black holes.
As far as the entertainment value of the documentary, if you are looking for people uncovering their deepest stories or if you are just curious about how a seminar of this magnitude looks from the inside, it’s definitely worth watching.
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