Third Degree Self-Realization: Dozens Injured In Robbins Fire Walking Exercise

Tony Robbins is facing a series of potential lawsuits after at least 21 people were treated for burns after a late-night firewalking event. The fire walking resulted in second- and third-degree burn injuries at the motivational speaker’s event at the San Jose Convention Center. He called the event “Unleash the Power Within” — it was not clear if the burns were caused by the unleashing of the inner power or the superheated coals that they were walking on.

I must confess to be a snarky skeptic over Robbins and this entire industry of self-help and inspirational events. The most inspiring aspect of the industry is its ability to get people to hand over money to hear hallmark card aphorisms coupled with pseudo-psychological cheerleading.

Robbins and his staff set up 12 lanes of hot coals measuring 10 feet long and 2½-feet wide rested on the grass. Witnesses describe dozens of people screaming in pain “like they were being tortured.” Not torture. Self-realization. It just looks the same. At least no one died in this latest controversy from a self-realization program.

Others are quoted as saying that the fire walking was a “breakthrough” and “lifechanging,” like Henry Guasch, 19, who used his mantra of “Cool moss” to get through it.

In the most deadpan delivery for the occasion, San Jose Fire Department Capt. Reggie Williams noted that they gave Robbins an open-pit permit but “We discourage people from walking over hot coals.” He is obviously not fully self-realized.

The question of liability is obvious but that is something that written waivers and assumption of the risk would likely make difficult. There could be a question of whether the event organizers should have waited to allow more ash to form on the surface or committed some other act of alleged negligence. They could still find themselves walking into court. I recommend the Robbins lawyers use the mantra “Cool moss.” I hear it works at such moments.

It does not appear that, when Bill Clinton called Robbins for guidance, he suggested the fire walking avenue to redemption . . . and hospitalization.

Source: Mercury News

53 thoughts on “Third Degree Self-Realization: Dozens Injured In Robbins Fire Walking Exercise”

  1. My heart goes out to anyone injured at his event. Having been at a number the Robbins events both as a participant walking across the coals, and a part of the team that lays down the firewalk paths, burns down the wood, and continually applies the coals to the paths all I can say is that to do the walk is pretty amazing. And to watch it, to watch people overcome their fears (the firewalk is just a metaphor for our bigger issues) and have the courage to step into an unknown is even more amazing. Is it dangerous – heck yes – I am an engineer and understand the risk. You will have to take my word for it that the Robbins team does a great job at trying to keep participants safe during these events. Can it be done – heck yes – and without getting burned. And I get to keep that feeling the rest of my life.

  2. @Bron: why do you say this: “Most people are not rich because it is arithmetically impossible for more than a very small (single digit) percentage of people to be rich.” ?

    Just consider this in today’s dollars, and let me arbitrarily define “being rich” as receiving the annual income of somebody near the top of the societal ladder, say an M.D., without having to actually labor for that. An M.D. earns about $250K a year.

    How much money does it take to earn $250K a year without having to really labor for it? Well, the wealthy can safely earn about 8% on their investments, so this rough definition of “rich” works out to about $3M in assets.

    But the average net worth in the USA is under $500K, and the median is just $77K. (Outliers really skew the average; 90% of people are less than the average; this is some sort of exponentiated distribution; perhaps Weibull or Frechet).

    So consider your agreement that you need employees to get rich. How many employees? This gets us to a human nature question, which is: Why are people even willing to work as employees?

    The answer is that they want more predictability and less responsibility. More predictability of their paycheck, and less responsibility for dealing with the myriad issues of starting their own business. It involves 16 hour days, working every weekend, headaches in bookkeeping, paperwork, and being a jack of all trades in negotiation, advertising, production, etc. (On top of that, for many employees they could not do their job independently without a large investment in equipment and their own employees which they cannot afford.)

    It is easier, with less stress, and less financial risk, to just be an employee. There is less control, you may have to follow rules you dislike and do tasks you dislike, but for most people that is fine.

    The reason this matters is because employees are sacrificing greater income for less hassle, but that is not an absolute willingness, there is a point at which more money would prompt greater entrepreneurship and independence, in which the hassle would become worth it.

    It is hard to say exactly where that divide is, but what it means is employers can only make so much per employee. Especially in small businesses, because if a small group of employees could form a partnership and double their income, they probably would. That is a scenario we might not worry about if big equipment is involved, but five people have a probable net worth of about $400K and that would be enough for most businesses.

    The question becomes, then, how many employees does it take for the employer to get to $250K in profit without working? I think somewhere around 20, at least. Which means only about one in 20 could be an employer like that, the rest have to be employees, so only 5% or so can be “wealthy.”

    Of course businesses vary, margins vary, salaries vary. This is just a framework for thinking about the issue, and there is plenty of room for disagreement or special circumstances.

    But that is the basic question, how many employees would it take? That depends on the differential between what the employee charges you (their pay and benefits) and what you can charge customers, which also has to cover your customer acquisition costs (advertising, sales people, brochures, warranty, etc). I think the general truth is that margins are not very large in most businesses, so the number of employees needed to generate $250K or more in pure profits is high, which dictates that the ratio of employees to wealthy employers is large, so the number of wealthy employers is necessarily a small percentage of the population; somewhere in the single digits.

  3. Tony C:

    why do you say this: “Most people are not rich because it is arithmetically impossible for more than a very small (single digit) percentage of people to be rich.” ?

  4. tONY c:

    I dont think you can get rich on your own in a business, you can make a good living but you need employees to get rich.

  5. @Bron: Tony Robbins steals from his customers, not me.

    Most people are not rich because the economy simply cannot support a lot of people being rich.

    The stats are simple: In the USA, our GDP (market value of all goods and services we produce) is about $48K per person. (World wide GDP is about $11K per person.)

    In economics, the GDP is exactly equal to the GDI (gross domestic income); however between deficit spending and importing profits from foreign countries, our local (meaning USA) GDI can be higher. (ours is about $50K per person, about 4% more than we’d expect on GDP alone).

    That is what we would have if everybody earned the same; $50K per year. Ultimately it is a zero sum game, the only way to increase it is to become more productive. Can we get 20 times more productive so everybody earns a million a year? No. Can we ask everybody to save more than 50% of their income, for their average 40 year career, so they can retire with a million? No.

    Millionaires (in today’s dollars) are an elite set and probably always will be. Most got there by being lucky, genetically or situationally or geographically. That luck is often combined with hard work, but the luck came first (and I recognize that includes my own case).

    It is a fact of arithmetic that not everybody can get there.

    Bron says: They quit working for the man and making someone else rich and they start working for themselves.

    I am going to navigate that statement slowly, so hopefully I will be clear.

    Very, very few people become millionaires without making a profit from employees. Actors, musicians, athletes and other performing artists (e.g. a billiards champion) can. Technically solo investors do not because owning a company or part of one almost always means one is paying employees and earning a profit from their work.

    However, for the sake of argument, suppose everybody in the country was self-employed and worked on contract to make their living. Who is going to pay them for their work, unless the person paying them can make a profit from their work?

    Nobody. I have been a self-employed consultant for about half of my career but the only reason people paid me was that I made them rich (or in a few cases, “not poor”, by saving their projects from disaster).

    As a business owner, I have had contract employees, including accountants, lawyers, graphics artists, programmers, a packaging designer, and on and on. I did not pay them as employees because I needed them temporarily, but I made a profit on their work.

    Most people are not rich because it is arithmetically impossible for more than a very small (single digit) percentage of people to be rich.

  6. A friend of mine is going to write a book:


    She went to motivational speakers who were motivating people to get over whatever they got into. It’s all about the prepositions.

  7. I’ve been to motivational speaking events. I think they’re full of sh**. Maybe Anthony Robbins can go to the Clinton White house again.

  8. Tony C:

    “The truth of the matter is that only a tiny fraction of a percent of people make it to Wimbledon, or become rich rappers, or movie stars, or pro football players, or famous country singers, or make millions in business.

    The truth is that ALL those tiny fractions of a percent, in all the different categories, still add up to a tiny percentage of all people.”

    The truth is that most people dont try, they go to school and they get a job and they deny their dreams. They are programed to be nice little robots working for the man and making him rich. Like you, you probably pay your people OK, but you make millions and they make a few hundred thousand and they are quite happy living in their bubble. They dont know any better.

    Tony Robbins gives them a new perspective and offers them hope, maybe they never make 10 million a year but maybe he gives them the courage to open a hot dog stand or a bed and breakfast or a yarn shop or maybe they love welding and open a fabrication shop. They quit working for the man and making someone else rich and they start working for themselves. If that is all Tony Robbins does, give someone hope and the confidence to quit their job and follow their passion, then I say Tony Robbins is a blessing.

    Maybe you dont like Tony Robbins because he steals all of your good people?

    Most people are not rich because they follow convention, they take the road most traveled through life and it makes all of the difference.

    All Tony Robbins is saying is be unconventional, do what you love so that you will have a passion for it and dream. Seems like a pretty healthy message to me.

  9. BettyKath — Not one kid in 22 years went past my mother’s class as a non-reader! I bet the crawling would be VERY helpful. But depending on the age of the kid you have to “dress up the activity” as something they want to do. How old is the kid? I can give you directions for the “bear walk” contraption — EMDR also can work — clapping exercises, brain gym — lots of stuff has been discovered since my mother (d. 1978) had her class in NJ.

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