Tony Robbins on education: Here’s what he really believes in

“You can’t have a standard education and expect to have an extraordinary life. It’s not going to happen.”

— Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is a world-famous American self-help guru and author.

He grew up in an abusive and unstable environment, leaving home at 17 and becoming a janitor.

Since that time, Robbins has risen up to become world-renowned – and court controversy – for his in-your-face style and intense workshops and conferences.

His teachings challenge and inspire people because they go against the grain of much of what we’re taught in mainstream, consumer society.

What does Robbins teach?

One of the cornerstones of Robbins’ message is that we fail because we sell ourselves short.

It’s not just that we don’t “believe in ourselves” enough, it’s that we’re too willing to bend with the wind and abandon our goals and core values.

According to Robbins, we tend to let ourselves down in many ways, especially:

  • Setting standards we don’t actually intend to stick to
  • Pursuing goals while always leaving fallback options
  • Having excuses and a victim mentality when things go wrong

Robbins teaches that we have to take radical responsibility for our lives, even those things that are not our fault.

Because it’s ultimately up to us to turn things around, not anyone else.

It sounds simple, but it’s a powerful message. And it also connects with what Robbins believes about the modern education system.

Spoiler: he’s not a fan. Not at all.

In fact, Robbins believes that the kind of victim mindset and entitlement that affects many of us comes directly out of how we are taught starting in early childhood.

What does Robbins believe about education and success?

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Robbins considers the modern education system to be a scam that pushes people down into mediocrity and listless passivity.

Robbins didn’t get hand-outs or special favors: he built himself from the ground up to become somebody that millions look up to and turn to for advice.

He wants others to absorb a similar message of self-reliance and not trying to find happiness or help from outside. Education, unfortunately, teaches people the opposite according to Robbins.

He believes our modern education systems turn us weak.

This excerpt from a workshop is a great example of what Robbins believes about education.

In it, Robbins talks about his view of why the mainstream education system is a joke.

“Why would smart people spend their time, their energy, their money and then not get any action, any result?

“And the reason is not because we’re not smart. It’s because most of us in this room, including myself, went to a 20th Century school. And a 20th Century school conditioned you on how to learn in a passive way.”

As Robbins says, starting right in elementary school we learn that we should not talk, act or behave out of our own motivation but “wait until we tell you what to do.”

This conditioning turns us into mental slaves who conform to what’s expected of us and think that success and fulfillment will “come to us.”

As Robbins notes, this mindset and style “was perfect for a 20th Century job” like being an office worker, assembly line worker, or corporate drone.

If your job is just to do what you’re told, not complain and stick around for 30 years behind the same desk, what good does it do for you to ask questions or think for yourself?

The education system was designed to create people who will comply with the conditions that exist, not to create better conditions.

Here’s the problem…

The first problem is obvious:

Many of us don’t want to work in jobs where we’re only told what to do or treated like cyborgs.

Many of us hope for something more than a small paycheck at the end of the month, a single-room apartment, and a depressing, monotonous job that slowly crushes our soul.

Many of us aspire to live our dreams rather than living out someone else’s.

But the education system doesn’t prepare us for that:

It teaches us that memorization, repetition, and shutting down your own intuition and questioning will ultimately pay off.

It teaches you that if you follow your “superiors” and do what they say you will be:

  • Accepted
  • Safe
  • Wealthy

Like Robbins says: these are all lies.

They’re false promises designed to turn you into a compliant cog in the system.

The educational system taught you that if you follow what you’re told life will more or less work out.

It’s not true.

In fact, blind conformity often leads to misery, self-limitation, depression and a life unlived.

It also leads to us blindly following political leaders and corporate stooges who manipulate our need to believe someone “above” us and use us for their own twisted, cynical agendas.

On the career side, it often leads to getting paid much less than you’re actually worth. You take what you’re given, because you were taught from a young age to sit down and shut up.

As Robbins says:

“Today, if you wait for someone to tell you what to do in your own business you’re completely screwed. And yet we’re still learning this way.”

In addition, what we learn in a passive, receptive state is only absorbed around 15%, whereas what we learn when our nervous system and conscious mind is activated is much higher around 85%.

If you don’t retain much of what you learn sitting behind a desk and it only prepares you for a life of drudgery, then clearly we should be aiming higher.

Let’s take a look at what Robbins suggests.

What education system does Robbins want instead?

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Robbins would like to see a focus on self-education and pursuing the passions you care about most on your own.

“Standard education will give you standard results, self-education is where you find out what matters most and you get incredibly good at something – that’s when you can be more valuable,” Robbins says.

In addition, Robbins would like to see educational systems become more about student involvement, networking and active participation – literally.

“Learning how to turn that energy on physically, and not just mentally, is what will give people the ability to perform at a higher level; peak performance comes with being in a peak state,” he says.

In other words, when your body is moving around and you’re “pumped up” you learn better.

Robbins is famous for jumping up and down at conferences and encouraging participants to “get in their body.”

He’s also well-known for his exercises in walking across burning coals, although that’s much more controversial and some say these practices often led to serious feet burns at his conferences.

But still…

Robbins understands that living too much in your head is a recipe for failure. It’s a simple issue but it affects so much of us, especially these days with our jobs that are so focused on staring at screens.

Robbins wants students to get into their lessons, not just sit as passive doormats at their desks waiting to have their head filled like an empty jar.

Robbins on success

Robbins believes that true success is a dynamic process.

He also believes that outer success is only a side-effect of inner success.

By emotional mastery and learning who we are and what motivates us, we can rise to true stability and determination that will see us through life’s ups and downs and save us reams of existential heartache.

True success isn’t just becoming CEO or getting outer recognition. It’s achieving the emotional stability and patience that you always thought was impossible.

It’s becoming a caring friend who still knows how to look after yourself.

Success is within reach for those who strive for it.


If you want to truly succeed in the way Robbins teaches then you need to leave the educational conditioning behind for good.

You need to leave behind the idea that improvement will just happen or that hard work alone is enough to break through and triumph.

It’s not.

Robbins is clear about this:

“The one breakthrough for all leaders is constant, never-ending improvement, and that means educating yourself and continuing to develop even greater emotional mastery.

Because that’s what affects whether you execute or not.”

If you continually strive to improve yourself and don’t look for gold stars and validation from the outside, you’ll continue to move forward.

If you get your mindset right you can achieve almost anything, and even failure will just be a motivation to learn and do even better next time.

On the more personal side, the more you seek to improve yourself because you can, the more you will discover your inner power and move toward finding true love and intimacy.

“The opportunity for self-education is there. We have to change our mindset from ‘I’m going to do what everybody else does and I’m mad because it doesn’t work anymore,’ to the reality:

“This is the greatest time to be alive if you’re growing, if you’re learning, you’re educating and you’re developing valuable skills.”

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Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on and visit his website at

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