- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

For anyone who has taken his or her share of lumps, Anthony Robbins is there for you.
Your boss, your client even your spouse might not see your potential, but Mr. Robbins does. He knows you can be more than good, far better than merely excellent. He sees you as outstanding. And he's willing to talk to you all day if necessary to make you realize just how right he is.
As he puts it, good isn't good enough anymore.
"If good is your standard, you're in for a lifetime of pain," Mr. Robbins promised during his appearance last Thursday at DAR Constitution Hall.
Part aerobics class, part stern lecture, the all-day affair was packed with the unbridled fervor of an ol' time church revival. But Mr. Robbins insisted you plunk $229 and up, depending upon the package chosen, into the collection plate.
Continually thumping his chest like an NBA bad boy after a slam dunk, the self-help guru instructed his students to sing, dance and jump in place to rev up their personal engines.
His minions, a veritable cross section of the population 3,300-plus strong, eagerly did as told.
Those assembled weren't alone in being under the 6-foot-7-inch speaker's spell. Mr. Robbins has sold 5 million books and 30 million self-help tapes, to the tune of $15 million a year into his coffers. His tanned mug can be found on QVC, talk shows and the infomercial circuit.
"Everything we do is to avoid pain or get pleasure," he says in his impossibly deep timbre. "What I link pain to and what I link pleasure to shapes my destiny."
That's easy for him to say, with his superhero chin and Crest-worthy choppers. Even his hair obeyed his iron will throughout the show.
Mr. Robbins sprinkled his seminar with unconventional success stories, such as the tale of the 13-year-old rape victim who grew up to become media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
"We have a society that wants you to believe who you are is the past," says Mr. Robbins, the son of a parking lot attendant.
"Blame them, then sue them," he snarls, spitting out pop-culture touchstones such as the Menendez brothers and Lorena Bobbitt as exclamation points to his message that whatever harm done to them earlier in their lives didn't excuse their actions.
The bon mots spill forth from Mr. Robbins like water from a broken faucet:
"Turn your shoulds into musts."
"The road to success is always under construction."
"The common denominator between success and failure … is standards."
From a performance perspective, even the most jaded observer must give Mr. Robbins his due. The man doesn't just punch the clock, he struts, cajoles and stretches his rubbery face into as many broad comic grins as needed to hammer his message home. And he does it for hour upon hour without pausing for an extra gulp of air.
"Peak performance," a term he routinely retrieved from his grab bag of catch phrases, will allow none of that.
During a lunch break, Mr. Robbins, 40, talked to The Washington Times about the effect our national blame game is having on the country.
"I think it destroys the fabric of people's sense of honor," he said simply.
Perhaps his most controversial stand, though, is against modern modes of therapy.
"Continually living [past traumas] is not part of the solution," insists Mr. Robbins, who once seemingly cured a patient with multiple personalities with an ABC news crew on hand. Reporters followed the woman for a full year, thinking Mr. Robbins merely had slapped a bandage on her psychological wound. The network reported that she never regressed to her earlier state.
"I built my career by challenging traditional psychology," he says.
Current methods of therapy, in use for 100 years, have become so entrenched that few question their results, he contends.
Curiosity seekers can learn more about the man, who has hobnobbed with presidents, Wimbledon winners and Mother Teresa, at http://www.dreamlife.com
"It eliminates the obstacles of time, travel and convenience," he says of his on-line presence, which gathers experts from various walks of life. "It creates an international community."
Mr. Robbins brings the vitality and showmanship of a rock concert to his performances, with pop anthems accentuating his themes.
He says his message doesn't end with the goal of making people more successful, however.
"There's a hunger in people for more, a sense of meaning," he says.
"At the end of the day, I appeal to them let's talk about your moral needs," he says. "You can meet all your [material] needs, and you'll still have an empty place in your life."
Most of those in attendance at Constitution Hall, however, seemed more interested in their savings accounts than spiritual salvation.
Darnell Self, a network marketer from Upper Marlboro, Md., dropped by to share Mr. Robbins' message with others.
"Personal development got me to six figures. I want the folks I'm working with to do the same," Mr. Self says. "This will be a life-changing event for a lot of people."
That's not to say that Mr. Robbins' message isn't, to some degree, a variation on themes we all have heard before.
"Sometimes common sense isn't too common until someone tells you it," Mr. Self says.
Government employee John Nash of Arlington liked what he heard in his first exposure to Mr. Robbins' brand of motivation.
"It's common sense, but done in an upbeat mood. It emphasizes some basic points of human behavior," Mr. Nash says.
"He's there to make money, but he does it in an entertaining way," he adds.
Woodbridge, Va., resident Amy Caldwell, a veteran observer of motivational speakers, also came away impressed.
"I wasn't sure how sleepy I would get, but I'm not tired at all," says Miss Caldwell, who works in real estate.
Salesman Alan Schulman of Olney, found the price tag a bit steep, but he agrees that Mr. Robbins' sales pitch could be just what many attendees needed to hear.
Miss Caldwell, in contrast, didn't mind forking over the entrance fee.
"The cost is worth it. It's an investment in changing your lifestyle and thoughts," she says. "I'm hoping the changes are more lasting for me" than changes wrought by other presentations she has attended.

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