SKEPTIC’s REVIEW: “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” (2016) | NETFLIX Documentary | Movie Analysis

The Premise

Over the years, I have heard Tony Robbins’s name but knew very little about his activity. I knew he is some sort of motivational speaker or life coach, but the only specific information I had on him until two days ago was the fact that he encountered some legal issues after participants at one of his events had a bad fire-walking experience under his guidance.

With only these elements in mind, I decided to see what he is all about – professional activity-wise, by watching the “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” (2016) documentary on Netflix. Reluctantly, I hit “Play.”

Note: This analysis is not meant as a personal attack on the individuals whose content or craft makes the subject of the series. By no means do I intend to trigger through my content any type of aggressive (re)actions toward them, their collaborators, or supporters. We are all entitled to our own beliefs, however foolish they may be considered by others, and we are also entitled to practice them, the only limit being, in my opinion, causing any type of harm to another being or to our common environment. I believe all of our activities could, in theory, be deconstructed and less-than-perfect characteristics may be revealed in the process, so nitpicking is not my aim. Some of these people and organizations may have good intentions, but may also deliver messages and provide services that can do more harm than good to individuals or social environments. This is what I want to reveal.




About Tony Robbins and “I Am Not Your Guru”

According to his website, Tony Robbins is “an entrepreneur, #1 NY Times bestselling author, philanthropist, and the nation’s #1 life & business strategist”. The bio also states that his audio programs, educational videos, and live seminars “empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries around the world”.

What I get right away is that he has no formal training whatsoever in any of the fields that would allow him to run personal development workshops with any type of specific interventions that imply psychological analysis for the participants. He’s just a guy who thinks he knows how the mind works and how personal and social dynamics happen. Maybe he does… we’ll see.

Also, a thing that we can observe in many marketing strategies, the use of big numbers is meant to act as social proof and instill trust regarding Robbins. My assertive communication courses have reached people in over 135 countries… It’s just a number. A cool one nonetheless, but it says nothing about the quality of the course or content, nor about the results the participants obtained by completing the program. Same with Robbins’s 50 million people and 100 countries stats.

I Am Not Your Guru is a 2016 documentary that follows Robbins over the six days in which he is hosting “Date With Destiny”, one of his annual personal development seminars. The event took place in 2014 and over 2000 people attended.

As I have never seen him work before, I did not know what to expect from the two hours of content. I decided to keep a record of my reactions and thoughts throughout the viewing session and transform them into the analysis that you can find below.



  • The material used for this analysis is Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru Documentary.
  • The review applies exclusively to the content that was live on the website and on the connected online platforms at the date of writing this article.
  • I will not post screenshots from behind the paywall since the last kind of discussion I would be willing to have regarding this type of content is copyright-related. Commentary and criticism would most likely constitute fair use, but that can only be established after you go to court and win. I’ll spend my time in other ways.
  • The comments refer to the social/professional persona and not the private individual (I do not hold information to make such comments, nor would they be fit for the present task).
  • This review is an opinion. Mostly grounded in critical thinking techniques and abilities (hopefully), but an opinion.


The Intro

The documentary starts strong, with one of Robbins’s so-called interventions. He is addressing a young man who says he has suicidal tendencies. From the get-go, they try to portray Robbins as someone who can handle even the most difficult struggles that his clients may face. But can he?

I’m going to show you how to reshape yourself. And we’re gonna make it so you could enjoy yourself“, he tells the young man. The continues… “Not just when you’re jerking off, other times, too.

And that right there was the moment I realized the next two hours will be really tough for me.

So many things wrong – not a matter of perception, just wrong, from the very beginning. And it’s not because I have anything against a dirty joke. Irreverent is fine, shock value is questionable but still fine, dirty is fine in the right context, but his intervention was, above all things, inappropriate.

First of all, he is reducing this man who is in need of help to an individual whose only pleasant activities would involve sex – projection much, Tony? – and then mocks even more by implying that he would also have no partner for the activity. Bad joke, we might say simply, but the even bigger problem is that he acts as if a silly joke can pull someone out of deep depression. It’s like telling a person who is severely depressed – and suicidal on top of that – that life is beautiful and that they should just enjoy it more and maybe smile more often or something like that. That is not what these people need to start seeing the way out.

He is also putting the man in a very uncomfortable situation – This young man looks up to Robbins and very likely won’t say that he is bothered by any of the things happening and will just go with the whole sequence guided by the non-guru.

Then, it gets worse… “And what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna remember as long as you live that I don’t fucking bullshit“, Robbins says. He is making this moment about himself and the alleged power he may have over the fate of the individual in front of him. He is trying to use authority bias to his advantage, on someone who is already vulnerable and rather passive.

This is predatory, not motivational. Also, likely scripted.

Some of the God references included in his initial speech made me feel like I was watching a Joel Osteen sermon.

The message itself is the same old motivational stuff but I don’t necessarily blame it for it. There’s a certain lingo used in the personal development world, and many trainers and speakers, myself included, use some of the clichés, metaphors, or other segments of discourse simply because they reach the audience faster and have more initial impact. It is what it is.

Then they introduce the “Date With Destiny” event, big promo style, telling us even the price – $4995, and that each day consists of about 12 hours of activities.

A last thing that bothered me in this introductory segment is that when the producers asked him whether he experiences any stage fright before these events, Robbins replied “No, no, no stage fright“. I personally dislike hearing that. There is a level of healthy, or positive anxiety that shows up even during our best moments. It is not a matter of experience, it is independent of the fact that he’s been doing this for decades. To me, what I call a healthy dose of anxiety may signal that the individual cares about this particular event, that he is anxious to see it unfold in the best possible way. Robbins doesn’t seem to care about anything but himself.


Day 1 – Preparation Day

The producers try to show us a Tony Robbins who is very involved in the backstage process regarding his event. His preparation also seems to involve some very awkward elements – he jumps on a trampoline for a while – fine – and he is also shown shirtless, immersing himself in cold water.

Once again, I find this inappropriate. What am I, the viewer, supposed to get from this? That Robbins is a good-looking, hot guy who keeps in shape by doing all this stuff? I just found the moment irrelevant and gross.

Asked who the event is for, he says “Anybody who is looking for more. If you’re not hungry, it’s the absolute wrong program for you. Don’t even think about coming. You get eaten alive in this environment“. He is trying to present his seminar as some sort of tool that would separate the weak from the fit, so to speak, the ones who have what it takes to make it in life, from those who do not. I don’t buy that. What I do understand from his statement though is that he somehow confirms the fact that his event is predatory in nature – “You get eaten alive“.

He keeps referring to his interactions with the participants as “interventions”. I have an issue with that. He has no credential that would allow him to intervene in any way.

About his methods, he also says that they are “crazy tools“, “off the chart“. “I’ll be weird. I’ll be bizarre. I’ll seem gross“. Mission accomplished!

I’ll use the science of taboo language” – whatever that means – “because words have the power to pierce the conscious mind”. Wow, he sounds really smart… Thing is, these are just sciencey words with zero meaning when put together in the context of psychological analysis and transformation.

“I’ll do whatever the eff it takes to break the pattern, so you can reclaim who you really are”, he says. Here’s the thing, Tony. The thing that separates professionals in this field from entertainers who perform tricks on their shows. We understand that any and all transformations that occur after our interaction with a client or patient are the achievements of the client or patient. Although we guide a person’s process to self-discovery, we understand that the power is entirely theirs. We are not the ones who allow them to grow, but only those who show them the options. We don’t heal, we witness healing. We show a map, but the person is taking the steps toward their goals. We don’t take the driver’s seat. It’s not our car, not our destination.

To put it simply, personal development and psychotherapy professionals do not put themselves at the center of a person’s life achievements.

The hypocrisy of his statement – that he breaks the pattern so that the person can reclaim who they really are – is that it doesn’t align with the whole freaking “I am not your guru” thing. He only seems to use the idea when he wants to shift responsibility. Otherwise, he seems glad to assume all the credit.

Back to the event. There’s a scene with people running to their seats after the registration process. Why? You pay 4000 dollars and you’re not assigned a seat? Are you that narcissistic that you want to create the illusion of people actually fighting over a seat at your event? A seat that they’ve already paid for…? That’s disrespectful toward his paying audience and sets the tone for an abusive, humiliating environment… that eats you alive.

It all makes me think of an MLM event. The crowds, the room, the secondary trainers who do some warm-up exercises with the participants before Robbins shows up. At this point I expect him to walk out on stage and present a protein shake or something.

But I wasn’t going to have my fantasy, ’cause when he got on stage he started… singing? Dance moves and all… lip-synced, I guess. Very N’sync of him.

Then, more MLM-like stuff happens. His team in the crowd animates the audience as best they can – tough job, considering the boring stuff that’s happening on stage. Some men seem to fangirl over Robbins a little too much. Cringe upon cringe upon cringe. It’s almost like he’s emceeing a wedding or something and he’s clapping in a weird way, but let’s skip that.

People introduce themselves to their neighbors in the room, “Victory is near” banners can be seen hanging from above, huge monitors show the audience… back to the audience. This last thing is actually a great way to manipulate people into displaying a certain reaction or behavior. They either see themselves on the screen and become self-conscious or they see others and will mimic their behavior to create the impression of a room full of people who are energetic and enjoy themselves. It’s good for the videos they’ll sell or use to market future events.

It begins. I’m sick of it all already.

This is not some bullshit positive-thinking seminar”, he says. And I laugh and laugh… because it fucking is! It’s worse than that even. You’ll see why…

He has this weird way of treating his audience as puppies who need to be trained and makes them verbally validate what he says and comply with his version of things, as a group, by saying or doing different things. It’s strange, demeaning… and almost cult-like. These things are also part of those really annoying sales techniques – getting the person to agree with you before you make your pitch, etc. They’re bad, but they still work. So Robbins is using them every 3 seconds.

He doesn’t really say anything meaningful. The only things that trigger reactions from his audience are the swear words and the dirty jokes. That’s his main set of methods.

People have notebooks and I wonder what exactly would they write in them because this non-guru is not saying anything worth remembering.

Anyway, it is time for the first intervention. Which was brutal for me to watch.

It is a young woman who says she has a problem maintaining her diet. Robbins starts writing stuff on a flipchart and conducts the “intervention” in a manner weirdly similar to that of a psychotherapy workshop, with the only difference that he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. He’s watched some movies, that’s for sure.

He moves the subject from the woman’s diet plan to full Freudian stuff – or so he thinks. “Whose love did you crave more? Your mother’s or your father’s?“, the therapist-wannabe stupidly asks. Then he proceeds to also answer for the woman because why not. He suggests the direction of the “breakthrough” – the woman needs to thank her abusive, substance-addicted dad, for the tough love that shaped her -, he’s predicting the future – If the client won’t deal with X issue, then she will have problems with men in the future-, he tells her what to do – talk to her dad and say this and that. That is not assistance. That’s controlling, manipulative behavior, that helps no one.

To exemplify how tough love creates great people and destinies, he says – “My mother beat the shit out of me. She loved me“. Please don’t jump to feeling sorry for him – I made that mistake as well since he was definitely a victim in the context he mentioned, but let’s look at the actual message he is putting forward now: abuse is love. This is how predators groom their victims – “You have to take this abuse because it is my way of showing my love to you”. There’s one thing to acknowledge the role of adversity in one’s life and a whole other thing to glorify it and to make it look like that’s the only way that can get one to become a great person. Adversity is not the only medium for lessons and growth opportunities.

This woman started with an issue regarding her diet, ended up with a pseudo-therapy session. And a bad one, too.

Later in the documentary, we come to know that this woman’s relationship with her dad improved right after Robbins’s intervention, with a phone call and a text message. He must truly perform miracles, right?

At the end of this segment we see Robbins and his team selecting the individuals for potential future interventions because yes, they have files on them, from the various exercises they do with the secondary trainers. He says he selects them via intuition and by being in the moment… yet… they have files on these people and he ends up contradicting himself about this selection process, again, minutes later.


Day 2 – Evaluation Day

The day starts with feedback sessions. The participants, now divided into several teams, work with a designated secondary trainer. In fact, most of this six-day seminar seems to be guided by other trainers and the time with Robbins seems to be rather limited.

For $4,000+, I would expect he would show up more during the day to do the work. Anyway, these team exercises may account for a good part of the event’s success – people get to connect with others, and listening to various testimonials reinforces one’s trust in Robbins’s methods and results. Social proof is a powerful validator.

Just in case we didn’t get the fact that this is a big, international event, producers show us the simultaneous translation booths where interpreters repeat in different languages the few words Robbins uses during his interventions. Anyway, the element is once again, not relevant for proving the quality of his methods.

The cuts to his trampoline jumping annoy me more and more.

Another “intervention”. A woman describes relationship problems. He goes into pseudo-therapy again. Father issues are the cause, he thinks.

He keeps saying variants of “fuck” every 3 seconds. Apparently, he’s both intelligent and cool, but I get no valid evidence for any of those things. He says that this is him using direct language, he’s being straightforward. That would be great but since his message is null, the expletives do not add anything to the style. There’s just a big guy on the stage using foul language to absolutely no benefit for those who paid $4,000 to see him. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t pay $4,000 to hear anyone swear for six days straight and then also imagine I have gotten great value out of that time.

Back to the intervention, Robbins seems to only know one or two tricks from rather invalid psychotherapy methods. If the client’s dad was a bad guy, then adversity made you strong. If the client’s father was a good guy, then you grew up to be entitled and don’t know how to handle adversity.

To top this cheap, reductionist view, he adds some sexist remarks, claiming that men don’t usually like to talk about their feelings or in general and that those men who actually talk must be “feminine men”. This happens mainly because I think he sees himself as an alpha male, a label which in itself supports some criticism when it comes to describing personality traits, while considering all other men beta. I see him as a faux-alpha, or alpha-wannabe because the only contexts in which he can assume that position are those that he himself creates and where he can bully his way to social recognition.

Atrocious intervention moment: He seemingly makes the woman call her boyfriend during the event to break up with him. Why? Because Robbins is a jerk who thinks that their relationship is meant for failure and he encourages the client to agree to his view – that she indeed is not happy in this relationship, even though she stated a different thing just moments before – and make the call right then and there.

Now, I personally believe this moment was staged – just like the other key interventions presented in the documentary. However, the message this seminar segment conveys to the public is the true damage. He is manipulating his client in the worst way possible – making her think that this is indeed her choice and not his direction – “I am not forcing you to do this”, he says. Actually, he is. He is putting her on the spot, in front of a big and now over-hyped crowd, while he claims the guru position. Yes, guru, know-it-all.

Because this faux-alpha male is actually a coward at heart, he shifts responsibility from him to the client. Should anything go wrong, he did not make her do it. Right?

The show made no mention of whether the guy on the phone was asked for permission to become part of the seminar or whether he was even informed that he is on speaker.

But it doesn’t matter, because this is not about him, nor about the woman. This is about Robbins and his image of a mentor so powerful that he can see the solutions in a second and may trigger change into one’s life in a moment. I think this is a douchebag move. Staged or not, even suggesting that this kind of method would be an OK approach during a personal development event is a horrible message to convey to an audience.

Netflix presents Robbins’s methods as “unorthodox”. No, they are just crap. This is abusive behavior from a guy who has absolutely no understanding or knowledge regarding the human mind and social interactions. He promotes a thug mentality while capitalizing on those whom he can victimize in various ways.

His explanation for his methods is laughable – or at least it would be just laughable, were it not for the incredibly negative effects of his “coaching”. “I watch what their body tells me is right” – WTF does that even mean? – “You know it’s true because when it’s true, their whole nervous system responds”. So now Robbins is a walking, talking CT scanner or something similar.

Work done for the day. *insert clapping*, so the non-guru guru goes back to the house where he engages in… vocal training of some sort. Mega, mega-cringe moment. Guy’s tone-deaf AF. To distract myself from the noise, I contemplate on how many guys and gals must’ve bought a trampoline just to emulate the non-guru guru’s behavior.

Fast-forward a bit. Later in the show, the woman featured in this segment said she actually was not happy with the way Robbins treated her. She said that even though she understood why that happened, Robbins treated others in a nice manner while toward her he displayed “dickhead’ behavior. Her label. I agree.


Day 3 – Discovery Day

Once again, we see Robbins and his team sifting through the clients’ files and choosing the ones they’ll work with later in the seminar. I suppose this is how they ensure high-impact issues are being addressed during the event. Also, this process allows him to come up with a method and solution before he even starts the interventions. Then he forces that solution onto the person he’s working with. Told you the guy’s a coward.

What worries me, even more, is that from what they show in the film, people approach him with issues worthy of actual psychotherapy or even psychiatric interventions – addictions, suicidal tendencies, even pain caused by autoimmune diseases – and he is not denying that role. I never heard him refer someone to a mental health professional or medical doctor. He simply acts as THE ANSWER. Even though he has 0 [zero] credentials and training, and he even lacks the common sense to guide him in a decent manner through it all.

He actually cannot help anyone, regardless of their issue. He’s a one-trick pony in his events – and I mean the trampoline thingie, not the methods. Those are 0 [zero].

Also, given the editing of the documentary, or maybe this is the actual case with Tony Robbins events, the participants seem to spend most of their time doing irrelevant stuff such as writing in some workbooks – things that they could’ve done on their own, at home, for way less than $4,000.

While they’re getting ready for a new intervention, Robbins talks to his team and says, about a participant – “I wanna know what she looks like ’cause I’m not gonna waste time on her”. He also did this thing where he asked the audience who’s “really fucked up” [from memory] and said that those individuals are attention grabbers, so now he knows not to engage with them. Maybe he could’ve asked that before they’ve paid for the tickets? Since he thinks they’re not worth his time… Just saying.

Anyway, this phony selection segment is meant to make his audience members feel really special if he were to choose them for individual work. Once again, manipulation technique. In fact, this is all there seems to be to him and his brand.

The show revisits the subject of Robbins’s relationship with his abusive mom. If true, I feel for him since he is a victim. However, his past is not a ticket toward abusing others. He said that his family context made him become “a practical psychologist”. Uhm… yeah… about that…

Back to the event. For his next trick, I mean intervention, he wants someone who is suicidal. Yes, you’ve read that one right. He asked in the big group for those who are suicidal to come forward. His work ethic is killing me. Can things become more abusive than that? Can there be a more transparent way to show that he is preying on the most vulnerable? To boost his image. Would you ask for all the suicidal people in a room to stand up or show hands or something? No, because doing that is not only beyond stupid but it is completely disrespectful toward that person’s private struggle.

He chooses a young woman. Shocker. [This moment has a secondary story of its own, bare with me.] She says she’s been raised in a religious cult where children and others were sexually abused. This, together with the fact that she was the main pillar in the family, made her consider suicide. Robbins feigns empathy and tries but fails to produce some tears while listening to her story and while conveying some banal comforting message, the value of which was equivalent to “there, there”.

And then… how does he continue acting toward a woman who just disclosed a history of sexual abuse? He hugs her, of course. Mr. non-guru guru, here’s another thing: mental health professionals or personal development trainers DO NOT touch their clients. If, extremely rare, a method would require us to do so, we make sure we ask for permission first, even for the slightest touch, and then we keep things professional, not comfy.

Then, in an attempt to show this woman that men can have innocent, honorable intentions toward her, he says “I love you. I don’t want you. I love you”. Mega-awkward. Why? Because he used a negative formulation to deny his actual projection. To deny something, you need to create it first. “Wanting her” is the thing he denied. The same message could’ve been conveyed without any mention of physical attraction. Here: “I appreciate you. I see you. I love you, I feel you are like family to me”, etc. No mention of attraction. What he did, that’s what grooming is made of – “What we do is not wrong, it’s love”. He also denied her physical pain and only validated the spiritual pain attached to the abuse.

And then, a moment that I would think producers or Robbins’s team would be careful enough to at least edit out of the documentary: Robbins asks the woman to step up on a chair to see the cheering, supporting crowd better. And what does he do? He touches her behind while “helping” her to step up. Check the segment for yourself. His hand is on her behind. Not her lower back, not hovering, he is touching her. In a room full of people. With cameras everywhere. I have no idea how this made it into the show and how others did not seem to notice.

Like that wasn’t enough, he asks this woman to choose three men from the crowd, those whom she feels are sending her only love, to become her… uncles. Kid you not. Like abused children need more “uncles”. Anyway, these new uncles are supposed to call this woman once a month or something, for about six months, if I remember correctly, to check in on her and make sure she gets the support she needs.

Sure, make someone’s wellbeing a complete stranger’s responsibility. Well done, Tony! Also, he says that great uncles are supposed to anticipate what she needs and provide that to her before she even asks. One of the reasons I placed a strong language warning at the beginning of this post is that Robbins swears a lot and I wanted to quote him. Another one is that I knew moments like the following will also occur quite often…. So… WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT??? That “intervention”. He singles out a suicidal person from the crowd, makes her share her abuse story, proceeds to hug and touch her, and then brings in more men into the story and her life.

He also gives her some sort of scholarship to one of the coaching programs so that she can become a trainer I think… That’s just “great”. That allows him to maintain contact, to make her dependent on him, and grateful that he gave her a career. This is really bad.

Now, I also promised you a back story for this participant. Well, this woman’s story is not like the others. This is a super background story and Robbins and his team seem to have an agenda. In my opinion, even if all the other stories of the participants included in the interventions are somewhat real, this one is definitely not. Allegedly, this woman has sold everything she owned, like furniture and stuff, only to buy a ticket to this guy’s event. Yeah, sure. Then, all of a sudden, a benefactor is announced – someone donates about $50,000 to this woman, to help her start her life. Robbins later says that she must’ve gotten over $100,000 in donations during the event. She also got a career, and, as we find out at the end of the documentary, she’s writing a book about this whole experience. You draw conclusions regarding her connection to Robbins, but I will also make this mention here: more often than not, people with an unresolved trauma regarding abuse will not just spontaneously be OK with sharing that story with 2500 people, their account would not be as fluid, and they wouldn’t snap out of their trauma-induced mental state and jump into full bliss simply because a random dude said a few nice, comforting things to them. *cough* Fake *end cough*.

We then move into another social proof segment, when we see actress Julianne Hough and TV host Maria Menounos engaging with the woman from the previous intervention, backstage. Menounos even seems quite involved in the team exercises Robbins suggests, we see later in the documentary.


Day 4 – Relationship Day

Oh, how I wish this will soon end.

At this point, I truly do not understand how anyone could think that anything this guy says or does is even remotely relevant, helpful, or smart.

In this segment, his focus is on a couple. First, the woman, an attractive person, shares her vision about her ideal relationship – an exercise prompted by the trainers prior to this part of the event. Then the man does the same, only that the words he’s using to describe his vision are not as poem-worthy as the ones used by the woman.

Robbins is not happy. He calls the moment painful to watch and steps off of the stage and into the crowd, getting uncomfortably close to the man. In fact, this is something he does a lot and it bothered me constantly: he stands way too close to people, towering over them. A stance worthy of a real bully.

Then, another incredibly aggressive “intervention” occurs. He disrespects the woman’s partner and humiliates him in front of his wife and in front of the crowd. “I cannot believe this is the chest she’s talking about putting her head on”, he says. Then he asks them how often they make love. Highly, highly inappropriate, and not relevant for this type of workshop. Not to mention that this bully is not a relationship therapist. In fact, he’s not any sort of therapist. He’s only a bully.

When the couple answers, Robbins makes a comment about the woman finding making love to her husband unpleasant, or something similar.

Then he moves on to once again perform his only therapy-like trick: asks the man about his father. What else??? But he takes stupidity to a whole new level and asks if this man’s father was a “feminine guy”, who “always pleased his mom”. To Robbins, a guy who is nice to his partner is feminine… But not just that. To him, those men are sheep! Once again, you’ve read that right, sheep.

He calls the man weak and then proceeds to tell a story about a lion cub who, being raised by sheep when his parents died, started acting like sheep. And then the most appalling moment of this segment occurs: he grabs the man by his hair and drags him through the room, allegedly trying to convey the idea of a lion cub that turned into a sheep… And then tells the man that blah, blah, blah, the lion is still in there and he asks him to roar to show his inner lion and regain that manly position. What an abusive, disgusting human being Tony Robbins is!

He humiliated this man in front of a crowd, in front of his wife, and in front of millions who watched this idiotic documentary. This behavior is misleading, abusive, and predatory in nature. It is all done for his narcissistic, sadistic pleasure. Only a small man can take pleasure in humiliating others. And Tony Robbins is, in my opinion, one of the smallest men there are!

And then, because aggressive individuals surround themselves with passive individuals who are always ready to validate and boost their ego and never question the aggressive person’s behavior or decisions, Tony Robbins’s team – that consists mainly of women – tell him, as feedback for the previous day – that “people got amazing value out of that”. I do not see any value. In fact, I can only see destruction in what he does.

Oh, and he actually called his interventions “therapy” at some point. Let’s just say that if psychotherapy looked like that, the world would be in a whole lot of trouble.

Then we’re meeting Robbins’s wife because with all this madness unfolding, it is time for someone to testify about his amazing character. She serves that purpose. But it was not what she said that caught my attention, but the way I saw him treating her… like an accessory to his good man image. Even though they are present on stage together at times, the non-guru guru seems to completely ignore his wife’s presence unless it’s scripted into the program to acknowledge her. They stand close to one another and then, when they leave a room, for example, he just turns around and walks away without her, she needs to follow. Even the way he holds her hand at times looks painful to me. But that’s for them to assess and figure out.

What I want to add here though is the fact that I find the way they treat the audience quite inappropriate… I understand being close to the participants and making them feel appreciated and welcome… but these people continuously hug and kiss participants. Watching this makes me very uncomfortable.

The couple from the previous intervention also offered an update about their relationship after the previous day. They let everyone know that they’ve made love and it was fantastic and now they’re considering having children. I wonder if they’ll name them after Tony…


Day 5 – Transformation Day

Not much happened during “Transformation Day”. The only thing worth noting is the damage control segment. Meaning, Robbins asked those present to say whether in the past 4 days they haven’t had a single breakthrough from participating in the program. I cannot remember and I took no notes on the explanation he gave, but I know that responsibility was once again placed with the participant.

Worksheets seem to be ever-present in this seminar. He could just sell those online and be over with.

I keep getting this feeling that he’s treating the audience as if they’re kids or sees them as being way too passive and “weak” to figure any of the bullshit out or call him out for anything.

And in a sense, he is correct. These people seem mesmerized by him… or are simply too embarrassed to admit that they’ve been scammed.


Day 6 – Integration Day

More worksheets and the teams seem to make some posters… It’s so school-like… in the bad sense.

From the facial expressions of many of the participants, not everyone’s buying the success story about Robbins’s event. Having reached the end of a $4,000 journey and seeing no effect may trigger that opinion in a person.

More group exercises. People are supposed to exercise being assertive… I guess… but they’re all yelling and… well, they’re emulating the non-guru guru and it’s painful to see tens, hundreds of him.

Then we see clips of him giving himself praise by telling a story about one of his teachers who saw just how incredible he is, and segments where they’re shooting participants’ testimonials.

It’s gross how they’re using these people, as marketing assets. All of them.

And his false humility, despicable.

It ended. Finally.


This was the most disturbing performance from a life coach that I’ve ever seen. I did not find anything he said or did even remotely motivational or inspiring.

Instead, I found his methods to be 100% bullshit and his behavior extremely abusive and predatory in nature. His success feeds on vulnerabilities and thrives on cheap entertainment. His work doesn’t transform people for the better.

I understand some people may have found some meaning in interacting with Robbins, but I think that’s the meaning they’ve constructed themselves, it’s what they wanted and needed to see, not what Robbins had to offer.

18 thoughts on “SKEPTIC’s REVIEW: “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” (2016) | NETFLIX Documentary | Movie Analysis”

  1. Etienne van Achterbergh

    Yet tens of thousands of people attest to the fact that he facilitated massive change in their lives, clearly something is working and working well on a massive scale that no psychologist can replicate.
    If it works it works …..

    1. Yeah… well, thousands of people claim to have been abducted by aliens or that homeopathy really worked for them, and that psychics really connected them with their dead loved ones. And then some are paid to say stuff, and others are easily tricked into believing this or that. And you’re right, no psychologist can replicate what he does, because he is bullying his audience and completely makes stuff up. Psychologists would lose their license over that. If it’s a scam, it’s a scam.

  2. I cannot agree more that TB is total BS – smooth talker without any takeaway. If it helps anybody – good for them. I’ve stumbled on his BS occasinally over years – the marketing is so good one cannot avoid it – but have not found a single bit of value from minutes or hours paying attention to that BS.

  3. Excellent analysis. I do believe Robbins does some good but way too much manipulative, disrespectful, creepy and cult like behavior to keep me from ever attending. It really is a close to 2 hour infomercial for Robbins.

    1. Thank you for the visit and feedback. Sorry for replying with such a delay. For some reason, I only now noticed the comment. And yes, it does feel like a neverending infomercial.

  4. Hi. I just watched Tonny Robbins’s show and looked for someone else’s review. Thanks for that.

    Can you please review “Stutz” (available on Netflix)?

  5. I just watched the documentary last night and googled a review to see if anyone else thought what I thought. I thought of exactly all the same things you mentioned. Completely inappropriate and dangerous.
    It also came to my mind how staged it had have to be the situation with the girl that survived the cult. For the same reasons that you mentioned but also because I read that apparently in the cult children had to call the adults who abused them “uncles”, I don’t recall her mentioning this in the show, so him asking her to choose man and calling them “uncles” adds a much darker side to it.
    I understand that the power of a charismatic personality and that an experience like that, so high in energy, where people are bullied in front of a crowd, would make vulnerable people feel very raw and susceptible of being manipulated. Also when these people came to this event they had their minds set on overcoming a certain problem, so that plus the fact that they paid $5000, certainly would make them interpret any experience, as uncomfortable as it may have been, as a revelation and maybe for some of them they decided that it was life changing. It’s all a placebo effect. I doubt that any change in someone’s personality due to this type of “interventions” lasts, because therapy doesn’t work like that. But who knows, people can convince themselves of incredible things, and as long as it works for them I don’t condemn any practice that’s unorthodox if it doesn’t create harm and makes people feel good or gives people hope. Like religion. However, in this particular case, I think it’s quite dangerous.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic, Victoria.

      I am glad that the article resonated with you. More and more people are starting to see the problem with entire guru-led industries. Hopefully, things will change and quality will return to an otherwise fascinating and helpful field.

  6. Thanks for this review – I read “Unleash the power within” many years ago and must admit I was taken in by some of the ideas. But I was only 18! Having since undertaken a coaching qualification I would wholeheartedly agree that his methods go against the grain. The Netflix show was a difficult watch. Great coaches ask good questions and never direct… his questions were poor and he was thoroughly disempowering – he was constantly telling people what to do. Some of the interventions felt stage managed. Not a believer.

    1. Totally agree. I just turned off half way through my last day of virtual UPW I could take it anymore. The first day was interesting I didn’t know what to expect. He was missing day 2 and had other speakers he came back for day 3 and created some sort of mass hype pretending to fix everyone and if they didn’t its their own dedication that caused it. He singled out a pretty blonde women who had left her abusive ex partner and mentioned she wanted to do sex therapy coaching. Tony seemed oh so interested in this offering her tickets and offers for future events. Not one other person in the days got that offer. He mentioned her everything she popped up on the screen. By the end of this day the selling and marketing really began that’s when something switched inside me and didn’t feel right. I lost interest but continued to try and participate but I had no interest anymore felt deflated started to see it for what it was. Day 4…OK I thought I would try again, no interest all day Tony gone by that stage, more guest speakers and now they give the people left crumbs while they start another private group with only those who signed up for more. I turned it off went back to bed highly disappointed and embarrassed I let myself get taken in by this.

        1. Thank you for this review. I found this page after a friend recommend I watch the documentary which would answer my question, “What is one of his events like in-person?” I have had two other friends suggest I go to one of his in-person events, as they both said it helped them grow as business people.

          The friend who suggested I watch the documentary, said she experienced a high state of anxiety at one of his events (she was offered a ticket, I guess she didn’t seek it out, so I would think people attracted to his events may be more likely to sit through it if he or she personally paid for it). My friend said she left and returned home as soon as she could get out of there. One of the things she said they did was to turn off all the lights and then turn up mucus or something discordantly blarring for 45 minutes straight, which of course, triggered a lot of trauma for her and was overwhelming.

          Back around 2006, my partner and I were reading and listening to anything we could get our hands on for “self-help” and of course, at that time, amongst the various Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, there was Tony Robbins. At that time, Tony’s work was considered the perfect combination for someone who wanted to succeed in an industry such as sales and my partner saw his information as valuable and desired to work for Tony one day (we were in our young 30’s).

          My partner got his wish when Tony’s company was opening a new market in our area and was hiring sales people. Well, that was the beginning of my partner losing all respect he had for Tony, someone who seems on the surface, to have a lucrative business model…behind the scenes was highly disorganized (the company didn’t even conduct market research prior to opening in our area, an area that would not be able to support Tony’s products due to lack of interest).

          My partner also was questioning the training he was receiving, the subtext he was receiving through his coach’s body language (something he told me that when working for Tony, body language is obviously one of the first things being taught). My partner was disturbed and the more he was involved, the more he saw the facade of wealth. At that time, Tony was in jeopardy if losing the Fiji house or center (whatever it is he is always bragging about) so I am surprised he still owns it. My partner observed a company that spends as much as it can to support the facade of wealth, when in fact, it is perpetually limping along.

          My partner worked with Tony’s company only about four months, as it was enough for him to get a good taste of what his company is really about. It forever changed my perspective and had no desire to pay Tony anymore of my energy.

          Tony, obviously, is a master at what he does as a salesman or he would not still be going. My perspective is that, so many people don’t know how to be in relationship that is loving without abuse (our entire Western culture is based on abuse from school-age on up, so many companies are institutions of abuse) so his way of communicating probably doesn’t set off any alarms…if an individual is taught self-abusive from a young age, all relationships will reflect that in the experience.

          As we move into being more aware and consciousness of ourselves as humans, we get to make choices that are loving, supportive and kind rather than seeking others to tell us what to do in ways that are militaristic, demanding and abusive. I now see it as an old paradigm that some still wish to cling but the more we heal as a collective, the more abusive ways are unnecessary and will simply fall away because there is no value to the whole.

          1. This is such a beautiful, insightful, constructive analysis, Tiana. Thank you for sharing your experience.

            And you mentioned something incredibly relevant and powerful – many modern humans can no longer separate love from abuse. Discovering that one can have healthy relationships, based on elements that help both relationship and individuals thrive, is a key element in self-development. The lense is then modified and we can see the world, ourselves, and our goals, more clearly.

            Again, thank you for your comment. I find it incredibly helpful.

  7. Thanks for your analysis. I just watched about 1hour of a free 3 segment 2 1/2 hour/day online seminar by this guy. I was very impressed with his smooth talking, but very unimpressed with his b.s. He started out in his supposed basement, which I suspect was actually a studio with a green screen, and proceeded to show his “millions” of online zoom viewers on an 80″ screen with numerous thumbnails all of which were showing their extreme appreciation for this seminar. It seemed odd once into the spiel, everytime the camera panned to the screen showing all the supporters, it was about the same dozen or so individuals. Didn’t make a lot of sense with that big of an audience to only have 150,000 you tube viewers. So, being the skeptic that I am, I googled “Tony Robbins critics” and came across this blog, thankfully. Much appreciated.

    1. Thank you for your visit and comment. Social proof, often coming from manipulated data, is one of the tactics that keep individuals like him in the game. That’s the role of the thumbnail-filled screen.

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