Bethany Qualls is a writer and researcher with a background in journalism and editing. She’s written on everything from handmade ceramics to translation localization, taxidermy to finance, though frequently not under her own name. Her passion is to help people harness the power of words, no matter the context.
Teens take on UPW
How to unleash your power – at any age
Ever thought about taking someone under 18 to a Tony Robbins event, but worried it would go over their heads? Or are you a teen yourself and dread going with your family/mentor/community group to this strange four-day seminar where you’re supposed to unleash (whatever that means)?
Tony, of course, has a lot to say about the power of questions, and I was curious. What’s it like to be in middle or high school and in a room full of mostly adults trying to change their lives? Time to call in some experts. So I sat down with the Harris siblings, sister Payton (14) and brother Sabian (11), from Arlington, TX at the recent Dallas Unleash the Power Within event to get their view on the seminar experience.
The initial expectations
Payton and Sabian didn’t find out they were attending until the day before UPW started, but they still had some ideas about UPW would be like. Payton had heard from her dad “about the videos and jumping. But I didn’t expect to get so much content. It will expand your mind. It’s a big learning experience. At our age, there’s a negative energy with school work and stress that only goes up. When you’re in school it’s survival mode. You don’t get to use much of your actual mind that lets you live, not just survive.”
“I had expectations I wanted to meet,” Sabian said. “I wanted to connect more and get excuses out of the way. Like I can’t make money because I’m just a kid.”
Both agreed that the pace is intense. Sabian’s advice? “At first, don’t set your standards too high, like expecting the first day to be completely life-changing. Nope, it’s more like the second to third day, then the fourth you’re accelerating, you get in state. Expect less at the start, then expect more.”
Some surprise takeaways
“You can learn things from an older person,” Payton acknowledged. “Lots of older people think they’re all that, but Tony is all that. He reads a lot. He’s very open, helps you to learn and experience things, but also gets you to laugh. He’s the one fun teacher. People get up and are jumping around, yelling and screaming. I never thought I could learn something like all this from an older person, but he’s awesome.”
Even though there was so much to take in, both Payton and Sabian agreed that there was never a truly dull moment. “You have to be serious. But you need to have fun sometimes, do things to wake yourself up,” explained Sabian. “Although on the first day, I was like ‘Sure, we’re going to walk across coals.’ And about halfway through [the day] I realized ‘Oh crap, he means it!’”
How to handle the Firewalk:
Both Sabian and Payton walked across a bed of coals at the end of their first day. “You have to get in state, otherwise you surrender to the fear and that will conquer other parts of your life,” Sabian said. “I thought it was going to be super cool. You have to remember everything, but then you’re there and doing it. I felt like Superman to walk across fire and not get burnt. It had nothing to do with my feet but was about following through on a promise.”
For Payton, it was her first conscious time walking; “My mom was pregnant with me when she did her first firewalk,” Payton explained. But doing it on her own didn’t happen on the first try. Jarred by an unexpected shift in focus, instead of taking her turn right away, Payton stood aside and watched other people walk across the coals. “I’d seen a 60 year old, my brother do it. I knew I could do all these things.” And then it was the moment of triumph: “You don’t think, you just go.” Even a little pinch on her foot at the end — quickly doused with a hose and wet grass — couldn’t squelch her excitement. “I walked on coals!”
How young is too young?
People as young as 6 have attended Tony’s seminars, but Payton and Sabian recommend the experience for those 8 or 9 and older because of how much there is to take in.
The family that unleashes together…
“I liked the idea we were going as a family, that we got to do it together, work together and understand each other,” Sabian said. Besides the water fights and jumping, now everyone “can all work on our goals together. We can all pull forward, we all speak the same language.”
Payton agreed, adding that UPW was “the best serious four days of my life. It’s amazing how quickly it changed from a boring seminar to something incredible just by changing my state.” She added, “I haven’t looked at my phone at all, haven’t connected with anyone who stresses me out. It opens up a whole new world.”
UPW Quick Guide for Teens
- A big learning experience
- Fast pace
- Moving around a lot
- Lots of people
- Blankets, it can get really cold
- Food. Sabian recommends “vegetables and stuff like that. Not doughnuts and sugar or things like pizza that won’t keep you going. Bring things like hummus, cucumbers, broccoli.”
- Lots of water and/ a water bottle
- A notebook and pens or pencils
- A book for the breaks (but there aren’t many!)
- Clothes and shoes you can jump in
- Layers, no matter what it’s like outside