Iconic Tour

Self-made millionaire Tony Robbins shares the advice he would give his 21-year-old self

Tony Robbins
Photo by Noam Galai

Self-made millionaire and bestselling author Tony Robbins is known for being a motivational speaker and coach to a long list of high-profile clients.

At the recent Iconic Tour in Los Angeles, Robbins told CNBC that if he had the opportunity to give his 21-year-old self some advice, he would say, "Allow yourself to think in terms of decades."

Although you think your plans will unfold in the timeline you hope, "you're going to over estimate what you could do in a year and you're going to underestimate what you could do in a decade," Robbins says, "or in two, three, or in my case now four [decades]."

Tony Robbins: It's crucial that you 'bust tail' early in your career
Tony Robbins: It's crucial that you 'bust tail' early in your career

Robbins, now 57, made his first million dollars by the age of 24, but it was not without hard work or making sure to "bust tail," as he says.

"When I was 14 years old, I said, 'In my 20s, I'm going to learn to help anyone change their lives'. If they are committed, I'm committed, I should be able to do it and have the skill," Robbins says.

He adds that he's always lived this way.

At 17, his entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to pursue jobs that would allow him to be his own boss. At the time, that specifically meant working as a part-time janitor, earning a mere $40 a week. But Robbins stretched those dollars to help him make what he calls the best investment he ever made.

For $35, Robbins attended a three-hour Jim Rohn seminar, which provided lessons that shape him to this day.

"[Jim Rohn] made me stop focusing on what was outside of my control … and taught me to focus instead on what I could control. I could improve myself; I could find a way to serve, a way to do more, a way to become better, a way to add value," Robbins writes in "Money: Master the Game."

But this did not keep Robbins from thinking about how he could scale his talents.

"You're going to wake up, you're going to blink your eyes and 10 years are going to go by," he says. "It doesn't feel that way when you're 25," but it does once you hit 35 and 40, he adds.

Still, Robbins notes that he's "been kind of ahead of that schedule" most of his life, setting goals a decade in advance. He adds that this form of planning ahead helps him avoid brash decisions.

In his 20s, he told himself he would spend the next decade helping people change their lives. In his 30s and 40s, his goal became to help bigger groups of people and companies. Now nearing 60 years old, Robbins says his next goal is may be to help people through working with the government or "in a religious nature."

Robbins compares his self-assessments to how people invest in stocks, similar to "looking at how they've done in a quarter versus really looking at that the value of this company is long term."

"Your gifts will make room for you," Robbins says he would also tell his younger self. "If you work your tail off, you don't have to have the uncertainty of whether it's going to work or not."

"You've got to have that belief and bust tail," he says, "but it's really good to remember, a decade will happen that fast."

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The life-changing lesson Tony Robbins says he learned from working as a janitor
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