Make It

Tony Robbins describes the breakthrough moment that changed his life

Author and speaker Tony Robbins.
Carlo Allegri | Washington Post | Getty Images
Author and speaker Tony Robbins.

It's rare to see Tony Robbins, an entrepreneur and coach who hears people's darkest confessions for a living, be completely vulnerable himself.

But the newly released Netflix documentary "Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru" offers a glimpse into his own backstory.

The self-made millionaire, speaker and best-selling author said while there wasn't just one moment that made him who he is, he did have a breakthrough early on that changed his life.

He was a sophomore in high school trying to impress a girl in his debate class.

"I could make her laugh. I'd get a lot of attention," Robbins said. "And I'd do this to where I would take over the whole class."

One day his professor pulled him aside after class.

"I'll never forget it, I'm like 'Oh, my God, I am so busted,'" Robbins recalled.

But the professor wasn't going to scold him.

"He said, 'I have never seen anybody who could just stand up and speak with no notes, look around at kids who won't listen and mesmerize them with just raw communication,'" Robbins said.

"He said, 'I know who you are. You're not a speaker; you're a communicator.'"

"I began to realize I had a way I could reach people." -Tony Robbins, entrepreneur, best-selling author and speaker

The professor handed him a speech called "The Will to Win" and made him a deal: If Robbins didn't think the speech spoke to him, he could give it back and forget about the whole exchange. But if the speech did touch him, Robbins had to compete in a persuasive speaking competition.

"I read the speech, and I cried my eyes out," Robbins said. "It was all about just never, ever, ever giving up."

He went on to win the speaking competition, as well as the next one and the one after that.

Describing the moment, Robbins had tears in his eyes.

"It was a breakthrough because I began to realize I had a way I could reach people," he said.

"That man in my life, handing me that letter and seeing who I was at that moment, that was grace."