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The Mentors Who Coached Me

How to tap into the power of multiple models and guides to become your best self

I’ve coached 50 million people around the world, but I grew up in a really tough environment. My father left when I was very young, and my mom battled substance challenges. When I was a young boy, my only escape from the darkness at home was reading. I had no mentors in the beginning, so I turned to books.

When I was a teenager, I took a speed-reading course and in seven years, I read more than 700 books. I pored over human development, psychology and physiology. I gravitated also toward biographies; I realized that some of the greatest human beings that ever lived have also endured some of the greatest challenges. That realization, and those “mentors” to model started to change me.

Biographies of “The Great Ones” turned me on to new strategies and tools capable of turning suffering into success. It created a hunger in me to find new ways of looking at the world. But things really took off when I started to attend seminars in-person because then I was able to get direct coaching.

Jim Rohn and the power of change

My original teacher was a man named Jim Rohn, an Idaho farm boy and Sears clerk who made it big as a motivational speaker and author. He held seminars all across the country for 40 years. He was a millionaire by the age of 31, and authored 17 books.

I first saw Jim speak when I was 17, and he introduced me to a new way of thinking. He taught me that if you want anything to change, you must change. If you want things to get better, you’ve got to get better. And that the secret of life is working harder on myself than on the job, or a specific skill, or anything else. Jim taught me that as soon as I committed myself to excellence, I would really have something to give others. And that’s a big part of what makes life meaningful for me.

Jim also taught me that every day, you have to “stand guard at the door of your mind.” He taught me that you have to continually feed your mind with knowledge and thoughts that empower you. Gratitude, courage, faith, determination, compassion and love — these are the emotions that we must nurture. Because weeds in are garden are automatic, they’re inevitable. It’s our job to keep an eye out and uproot them before they take over.

Jim passed away in 2009. I spoke at his funeral and his spirit and mentorship continues to live on in me and through so many others shaped by his wisdom.

Why more than one mentor is key

I came by other key mentors as my life went on and my world began to open up. I tell people – especially today with the constant influence of social media – it’s so easy to obsess about one hero, or one specific person to idolize, but what we all really need is a few people to learn from. Everybody has different gifts and each role model will teach you something different. So maybe you have one financial expert you model with your money, and somebody else who inspires your physical body, strength and wellness, and then another role model for being the best husband, father and family man you can be. Whatever it is for you, the point is that it’s really important to have several personalities to model and mentor you so that you can become the most comprehensive and complete version of yourself. Read this article to learn how to get a mentor now.

John Grinder and the power of physiology

The second most influential mentor in my life came to me when I was in my 20s. I met a man named John Grinder, who was the founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) — a communication approach that focuses on adapting a person’s neurological processes and behavioral patterns to achieve specific goals. John introduced me to the concept of modeling. He taught me that if you want to accelerate the tempo of mastery of any subject, you must find someone who is getting the results you want, study them, and do the same thing. Because “success leaves clues.” This has become the No. 1 secret in my life for anything. This is what I do, the curating of success and results, and it’s really the magic behind any great mentorship.

John Grinder was also the first person to turn me onto the idea that by changing your body’s physiology, you can improve your quality of life and how you see the world. If you’re feeling stressed or helpless, change your body’s state — get outside and take a walk, or jump in the pool (better yet, the ocean) — because every emotion and symptom you feel is directly correlated with what you do with your body. And on top of that, John showed me that you can only go as far as your physiology permits. A weak physiology will stand as a roadblock on your way to creating lasting results, while a strong, healthy, powerful physiology is the gateway to making real personal change. This is the reason why I continually push the participants in my seminars to find their physical edge.

Peter Guber and the power of storytelling

The third mentor that has made a world of difference is also one of my favorite men on earth. I’ve known Peter Guber for decades. He’s been there during some of the greatest moments of my life, and through some of my most challenging times, too. I consider him a dear friend and he is also truly one of the most impactful mentors I’ve ever had.

The man is a force of nature — Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment with over 50 Academy Award nominations under his belt, longtime professor at UCLA, owner of the Dodgers and the Golden State Warriors, Chairman of Dick Clark Productions, New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, husband and father. And the list goes on. But it’s not his accomplishments that have inspired or moved me most: it’s his vision. There is literally not a more creative human being I know.

One of the most remarkable insights Peter has shared with me is how you can bring out the very best story in others. First, you must be authentic; nobody is going to listen to someone whose intentions are in question. Next, you’ve got to stop focusing on being interesting, and start focus on being genuinely interested! This goes back to being sincerely concerned about who you’re speaking to. You have to generous – and I’m not just talking about just doling out opinions and advice. You have to sincerely want to shine light on something special somebody has, and you’ve got to give them the tools to extract it and use it for their own success.

Peter showed me the importance of an interactive engagement. Because a story is not a monologue, it’s a dialogue. And once you’ve got a dialogue and you’ve figured out the best story, you can’t make somebody else own it. Your job is to give someone proprietorship over the story, and when that happens, they become an advocate and an apostle. They own it as themselves, in themselves (because it is who they really are).

Peter is such a clever innovator and an extremely sharp businessman. Our relationship has been a symbiotic one. We’ve coached and supported each other. He’s pushed me, he’s asked me the tough questions that have lead me to my own answers, and he’s taught me how to draw upon my own resources. We’ve developed a dialogue ourselves, we pitch and catch with each other. He’s helped me understand that what makes someone a great leader is being a servant to something bigger than one’s self. He’s helped bolster my belief that a key part of personal growth is contribution and giving back to others. And most of all, he’s helped accelerate my own personal, emotional, and mental growth.

How to find your own great mentors and models

I’ve had the privilege of coaching nearly 50 million people in a hundred countries throughout the world. But I still place immeasurable value on being coached myself. The learning and training never stops. The secret to massively accelerating the quality of your life is to learn from the people that you find to be the teachers and more importantly, the doers in the world. Many people talk: my advice is model the few who don’t just talk, but actually do. It’s an open opportunity to benefit from their successes and their failures.

Today, there is more opportunity out there to learn things, create things and experience things than any other time in history. Mentorship can take you beyond any formal education. It is the ultimate course in life, coming straight from the trenches.

What you can learn from a mentor, you cannot learn from a book, and you cannot learn from the internet.

What I have learned from Jim Rohn, John Grinder and Peter Guber has excited me, shocked me, made me laugh and moved me to tears. But most of all it has led me to massive growth and change. For that I could not be more grateful.

Header image © Anurag Chaubey/shutterstock

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, philanthropist and the nation’s #1 Life and Business Strategist. Author of five internationally bestselling books, including the recent New York Times #1 best-seller UNSHAKEABLE, Mr. Robbins has empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries through his audio, video and life training programs. He created the #1 personal and professional development program of all time, and more than 4 million people have attended his live seminars.

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