While working as a part-time janitor at 17 years old, Tony Robbins was broke, barely making $40 a week. Looking to change his life, he splurged on a $35 three-hour seminar with personal development coach Jim Rohn. “It turned out to be one of the most important investments of my life,” Robbins said in his 2014 book “Money: Master the Game.”
“He gave me a way of looking at life that allowed me to not ask [that] life would be easier, but to ask that I’d be better,” Robbins said in a tribute after Rohn passed away in 2009. “He got me to realize that the secret to life was to work harder on myself than my job or anything else because then I’d have something to give people and he really shaped me."
Rohn grew up on a farm in Idaho in the 1930s and 40s and got into the personal development industry thanks to a mentor of his named Earl Shoaff. Rohn went from working as a store clerk to speaking for money at high schools and colleges. He eventually made between $3,000 to $8,000 per lecture, in addition to profits from the videos, cassettes and books he sold. He became a millionaire at age 31, helped others create fortunes of their own along the way, and met Robbins nearly 16 years later when the struggling teenager showed up to a seminar.
“That man, that seminar, that day — what Jim Rohn did was put me back in control of my own future,” Robbins writes in his book. “I took [his] message to heart and became obsessed — I would never stop growing, never stop giving, never stop trying to expand my influence or my capacity to give and do good.”
Here are three lasting lessons Robbins took away from his mentor.
One of the best pieces of advice Robbins says he has ever received came from Rohn, who told him that “the secret to life is to find a way to do more for others than anyone else is doing.”
"If you want to be extraordinary as a friend or business person, as a father or a lover, find a way to add more value, especially to those you love the most,” Robbins said in a 2015 Q&A.
Robbins wanted to immediately turn his life around after attending Rohn's seminar, but Rohn recommended that Robbins instead shift his focus from "expecting things to happen so fast" to building his skills.
“Your worth in the marketplace is based on your ability to add more value than anyone else,” Rohn said, Robbins recalled in a 2016 Q&A. “If you can find a way to do more for others in your company, more for the employees, more for the clients, than anybody else, your gifts will make room for you. But in order to do that, you've got to build skills."
Rohn taught Robbins that it’s fine to miss a meal “but don’t miss your reading,” Robbins recalls in a Facebook post. "Reading something of substance, something of value, something that was nourishing, something that taught you distinctions, was more important than eating."
Thanks to that lesson, “I got hooked on a habit that turned out to be one of the most valuable of my life: reading at least 30 minutes a day,” Robbins adds.
He has since adapted the advice slightly to include audio books, advice and lessons. Still, "I try to make sure I don't miss a day without 30 minutes of something that's going to give me a new skill, a new insight, a new strategy or something to inspire me," Robbins told CNBC Make It during the 2017 Iconic Tour.
Rohn also underscored the value of building good habits.
“I always say something that my original teacher taught me, I always remind people: there's always two pains in life, there's the pain of discipline or there's the pain of regret,” Robbins says. “Discipline weighs ounces, as my friend Jim Rohn taught me, regret weighs tons.”
Given that “you don’t want to have regret,” Robbins explains that it’s crucial to establish small rituals to help you get to your goal. “Let me tell you something: Willpower doesn't last. But rituals can last a lifetime,” Robbins adds.
By setting rituals, “you’ll get momentum, because once you discipline yourself in one area of your life, you feel yourself doing it in others as well,” he says.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!