The Human Choice
There is absolute magic in this being called Black -- splendor and purpose in every single cell. For within us are the genetics of the warrior, who steps boldly into the future, and the connection of family that binds us together with love. There is unlimited power and innate intelligence in the very soul that drives us.
Joseph McClendon III
The conflict is classic: The difference between what we feel in our souls and what we deal with in the real world is all too often like night and day. Inside each and every one of us is a seed of greatness, a deep yearning to grow and contribute, to make a difference. All of us want to believe we deserve the good life -- that we can actually achieve it.
So what prevents us from having our dreams? What keeps us from achieving what we long for in the core of our being? There is no question that racial and cultural differences all too often show up as challenges that could impede our forward motion. But if any of us truly believes those differences determine our destiny, then our future is dim indeed. To allow ourselves to fall into the cultural hypnosis of thinking that the outside world ultimately controls our lives -- instead of realizing that each day is replete with opportunities to become powerful beyond belief -- is to surrender the magic given to us at conception and guaranteed with our very first breath of life.
Deep inside, we all know the real truth: It is in fact our differences -- our points of uniqueness -- that make every human being worthy of greatness, and adversity strengthens our very souls. Muscles only grow with demand. Anything that doesn't kill us makes us stronger if we learn from it, and challenges are God's way of preparing us for what we ask for.
When I look into the eyes and hearts of others who share my beautiful heritage, I feel alive and proud. When I see how much we've grown, contributed, and loved as a culture over the years, I have a sense of connection that is unshakable. I feel extremely privileged and humble to be able to share my thoughts with you, and I deeply thank you for the opportunity to walk this new path together on this enchanted journey we call life.
As I look at my life today, I can't help but feel incredibly grateful. But it wasn't always that way. Like most people, I experienced a time so full of self-doubt and confusion about who I was and what I was capable of that it all but paralyzed me. While I was raised in a family that taught equality and fairness, often the outside world showed me quite a different picture.
We've all had times in our lives when being different was a liability for the moment -- and those moments can seem like an eternity. All too often these "defining" moments can powerfully shape our beliefs about people, opportunities, and the world as a whole, thereby shaping our lives for better or worse. Without warning, something happens. Things change, and we can be thrust into horrific situations. Life turns on a dime, and depending on how we interpret those turns, they can either limit us or accelerate us on our journey to fulfillment.
The Opportunity to Transform
My own life has been full of incidents where being Black was the catalyst for sometimes vicious treatment. Let me tell you about one such event...a long, long time ago.
On a cold, windy November night, out in the middle of nowhere, life as I knew it was about to change. Darkness hung in the air like a thick, black, velvet blanket. And even the thin slice of the moon that shone that evening seemed frozen in place by the emptiness of the desert sky.
It was about 11:30 on a Friday night, and I was riding my motorcycle from Los Angeles to San Jose to visit my father and sister. I was passing through the small town of Oildale near Bakersfield, on the way to Interstate 5. (In those days, to say that Oildale was a "redneck" town was like saying that the Grand Canyon was just a little hole in the ground, or that Adolf Hitler had just a few minor personality glitches he needed to work out!) I had a full tank of gas and only about three more hours to go before I reached my destination. I always traveled late at night to avoid traffic, and I loved the feeling of freedom that being the only one on the road gave me. It was sometimes scary but always exciting. I was blasting down the roadway on my Harley-Davidson at about sixty-five miles per hour, and under normal circumstances I would have been able to pass right by Oildale.
Unfortunately, on this particular evening I had neglected to tighten the rear chain on my bike. With a loud bang it came flying off the sprocket, leaving the bike powerless and out of control. I coasted to a stop, walked back to collect the pieces of chain, then pushed the bike to the nearest freeway off-ramp about a hundred yards away. I pulled into a closed gas station nearby to make the necessary repairs.
I had been there about half an hour when an old Chevy pickup truck appeared with three men in the cab. They pulled into the station and screeched to a stop between me and the pumps. At first I thought they had stopped to help me, but as they stumbled out of the truck I knew I was in trouble. It was obvious they had been drinking, and they seemed so excited over what they had found that they fell all over each other, laughing about who would get to deliver the opening line.
As I stood there, afraid for my life and trying to figure out what to do, I couldn't help thinking that most of us have probably feared this type of situation more than once in our lives. All the stories of vicious mistreatment of Blacks flashed through my mind like some horrible civil rights newsreel from the 1960s on fast-forward. Now it seemed I was about to relive one of those events. For a split second I thought everything was going to be okay, because the large one (the one with the stained overalls and all the teeth missing) stepped to the front and grinned. But my hopes were instantly crushed when he drawled, "Well, niggra, looks lak you picked the wrong place to git broke down at."
After that, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. They all charged me at once, kicking over my bike and trying to pull me out into the open where they could beat me down. "It's time for you to die now, nigger!" one of them shouted as they encircled me. Instinctively I wedged myself between the gas pumps for protection, and I was able to defend myself for a short while, but not before taking some pretty intense hits. Wherever I turned there was another one of them taking a swing at me. In total fear, I realized I did have a weapon: The wrench I had been using to work on the bike was still in my hand. I lashed out with it in hopes of driving them away. It helped for a time, but there were too many of them. I remember being kicked and punched in the head and ribs, actually hearing the impact and knowing the blows were serious. The dull thud of someone's foot in my side or fist in my teeth seemed to be coming out of nowhere, too fast for me to block or dodge. I remember being more angry than scared, feeling like I was going to pass out but fighting to stay conscious. I knew if I lost consciousness, they would rip me to pieces. I don't really know what made them stop, but I do remember running after one of them, yelling at the top of my lungs, ultimately hurling the wrench at him.
Finally, they all piled into the truck and peeled out of there. The rage and hate I felt in those moments was overwhelming. My mind was screaming, You bastards! How dare you do this to me! How dare you! I looked down at my shirt and saw my own blood all over it. I felt my insides on fire, and the bitter taste of blood in my mouth brought a lump to my throat. My face felt like it was tom to shreds, my nose and mouth were bleeding, and I was having difficulty breathing. So scared that I couldn't think what to do, I did know there was something seriously wrong. I figured if I didn't get medical help quickly, I would die.
I made my way over to the pay phone at the far end of the station to call for help, but the receiver had been torn off. I couldn't walk any further, and I was afraid the good ol' boys would return to finish me off, so I spent the rest of the night in the back of the gas station praying they wouldn't find me.
The seconds passed like hours as I sat there freezing in a pile of old tires at the back of the station. Finally, at about 6:30 A.M. when the attendant came to open the station, I crept out from behind the tire pile. The attendant took one look at me and phoned for help. The police arrived and took me to the hospital to deal with my injuries.
About an hour and a half later, I was driven to the sheriff's station in the back of a squad car so I could fill out a police report. The people at the station were cold and unfeeling. With the way they were treating me, you would have thought I was being blamed for what had happened. One of them even asked what the hell I was doing in that part of town anyway, as if I had no business being there. Still shaken and aching from the beating, I was told, "Sit on the bench in front of the desk and wait until we can get to you." As officers came and went, many of them shook their heads in disgust as they walked by. Some even snickered and smirked as if I'd gotten my just deserts. I wanted to cry, but I was so angry and scared that I just sat there and steamed in disbelief. While I felt I couldn't possibly get out of there soon enough, I had to spend several hours at the station -- while they ran a warrant check on me and impounded my bike!
By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was as if I had stumbled back into the dark ages of my not-too-distant ancestors. (To this day, I have serious doubts whether they really ever looked for the men who assaulted me.) I felt violated and, despite an upbringing that stressed fairness and racial harmony, I felt the seeds of prejudice germinating in my own gut. It sickened me to see what I was becoming. For the first time in my life, I found myself reacting to color and culture instead of character. From that point on, anyone who even slightly resembled a redneck was cause for immediate suspicion. Even though intellectually I knew better, another person's race could instantly create rage inside me.
Despite the fact that most of my business and personal interactions included White people, I found myself trusting only the ones I knew, and befriending only those who really went the extra mile to prove their camaraderie. I was leading a double life, and the denial and contradiction were tearing me up inside. I hated who I was becoming with all my heart. I was guilty of the very process that caused those men to attack me viciously without cause, knowing nothing about who I was as a person. The scars on the outside would heal, but I didn't know how to deal with what was eating me alive inside.
The Battle Within
0 For years after that event, I was living a lie. Outside, I was happy and ambitious by most people's standards, but inside, I was completely steeped in the memory of what had happened. I was angry, bitter, extremely sarcastic -- I'm sure you'd agree, rightfully so. But I was wrong to generalize my hatred, and somewhere deep inside I knew it.
The incident was over, but the effect lingered and governed my very being. Not only did I feel rage against White rednecks but perhaps worst of all, I actually began to buy into the idiot idea that the color of my skin made my soul less significant. It made me sad and angry to think how many Black men and women felt like me because they or someone they loved had endured abuse as bad or worse than my own. I didn't want that event to shape the rest of my life. I didn't want to live the rest of my days filled with self-doubt and vengeance. I didn't want to be like those rednecks! Yet I couldn't stop thinking not only about the injustice I had encountered, but the pain my entire race had experienced throughout history -- the oppression, the slavery, the mistreatment, the stereotyping of an entire culture. The words "it's not fair" constantly rang in my head like an embarrassing, subliminal reminder of a hideous legacy binding us to hopelessness. I felt like I was losing the battle within myself.
Time Heals All...Or Does It?
As time passed, I thought it was over. My hatred softened to bitterness. But at the same time, the ghost of that experience continued to haunt me. It became the filter for all my inner actions, not only with whites but with my own people as well. My low self-worth and my self-doubt translated into suspicion and judgment of anyone like me. If I were so insignificant that I could be mistreated so cruelly with no consequence, then anyone who looked like me must be just as worthless -- right?
We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.
Those were the most counterproductive months of my life. But you know what? I didn't feel that way at the time. I had no idea how I was allowing the events of my past to affect me. I'd always been driven, yet something began holding me back. The invisible force of fear and insecurity showed up in little ways I never would have connected to my past. Procrastination, hesitation, failure to follow through, low motivation, and flat-out fear became cancers in my life, draining me of ambition and accomplishment. Even when I was doing well, something always seemed to prevent me from living my dreams. I'm sure there has been a time in your life when you wondered, like I did, what was stopping you from reaching your full potential. I had no idea how my behaviors and feelings of self-worth were skewed by my perceptions of who "we" are and what "we" are capable of in this society. I'd seem to get so far, only to sabotage my own progress.
Always, there was a horrible little voice deep inside me constantly suggesting, They're right! You don't fit in; you're not smart enough. You're Black, and in this world being Black is a liability, not an asset. What's more, you're not only Black but you're also dark, and that's two strikes against you. No matter how hard you try you'll never be good enough.
I'd known for a long time most of the world is conditioned to think of Black as less preferable than White, and Blacks have been suffering from lower self-esteem for centuries. I remembered seeing a study on TV where Black children were given an assortment of dolls and asked which ones were the prettiest and the best. All of the children picked White dolls. When they were asked which were bad and ugly, they all picked Black dolls. These were babies, beautiful Black babies, and they had already begun to prefer something other than themselves. They had learned that Black was wrong, bad, and ugly.
I had also seen a show when I was a kid about what life would be like in the future. There were huge, clean cities with monorails, moving sidewalks, and smiling, happy citizens all enjoying the modern conveniences of the day. Everyone had futuristic bubble-domed cars, and they all lived in modern homes with every gadget you could imagine to make their lives fun, effortless, and happy. But there were no Black people. Not one! I remembered turning off the TV in tears at the age of nine and vowing never to watch it again.
I certainly realize this was not necessarily everyone's view of the world, and that the intention of the producers of the show was not to promote prejudice. But to a nine-year-old child, it was scary as hell. I remember thinking, White people didn't plan on me being around in the future, and wherever we would be, we wouldn't be eligible for the good life to which the White race was entitled. I remember thinking in those days, The only Black faces I see on television seem to be subservient, clownish, or in trouble. I asked my father why I never saw Blacks in the cowboy movies. "Where were we in those days, Dad?" My father had a wonderful sense of humor, and in an effort to soften the blow, he said, "They hadn't invented us yet, son." In reality, until the last two and a half decades, Blacks were effectively omitted from history and denied the same rights others took for granted.
The truth is that my race holds no monopoly on being discriminated against. Around the world, prejudice and discrimination have existed throughout human history on a variety of levels. Every day, persecution rears its ugly head, and unfortunately will probably continue to do so. People are discriminated against because they differ in their religious beliefs or cultural background. In some parts of the world being born female condemns you to a life of subservience and abuse. In some countries you would be hunted and imprisoned for holding different political beliefs. Different groups of people have been randomly selected not only for discrimination but sometimes elimination. Gender, religion, politics, sexual preference -- the list of "reasons" for prejudice goes on and on.
The most important lesson we can learn from the sufferings of our ancestors is that their lives changed only when certain individuals rose above their circumstances and used discrimination and persecution as the ultimate challenge to be and become more. This is exactly what Nelson Mandela has done -- and as a result, he has changed the face of the future for South Africa, if not the entire world. Throughout history, discrimination has either caused people to give up and fail or to become intensely hungry to create change, to produce a greater quality of life not only for themselves but their children as well. They rally against whatever challenges exist and become so focused on their strengths, assets, and power that their positive impact is ultimately felt by everyone.
But understanding that discrimination is a universal force we either allow to destroy us or strengthen us was not something I believed in those days. While I have a different perspective today (having had the privilege of traveling around the world and opening my eyes to its history), in my days of suffering I not only focused on my own pain but also the immeasurable pain my beautiful race had endured for hundreds of years. The consequences of social conditioning and personal experiences constantly had me at odds with myself, my family, and the people around me. My double life caused a constant division in my soul and a gnawing feeling of being torn apart from within. It wasn't until 1985 that I realized the full extent of the damage. All those years of frustration, hurt, anger, and embarrassment, coupled with a lifetime of what it means to be Black in America, had taken their toll, and it all came to a head one night.
I had always seen myself as a strong man. I had worked so hard, I had given my all, but the rewards just weren't there. Even though by most people's standards I had achieved a lot, I felt empty inside. It seemed like nothing could please me. I became such an angry perfectionist that nothing or no one was good enough, least of all myself. I started alienating everyone around me. My girlfriend was miserable, my co-workers avoided me, and I did a sickening dance of denial for anyone who questioned my behavior. I felt like I was living a lie in a world where I just couldn't win and couldn't understand why. By day I'd hold it together, but every night my guts would start twisting with a million threads of chronic stress and depression. My head would start swirling with panic, and I would become overwhelmed by a numbing confusion. Worn out physically, emotionally, and financially, I lost it!
One night I reached a point where I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I looked up and realized I was in the bathroom, clutching the sink with both hands. Sick to my stomach, I was trying to throw up but nothing would come. Overcome with emotion and fear, I saw my own eyes in the mirror welling with tears. "WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH ME?" I screamed. It was as if all my fears, all my inadequacies, all my insecurities were screeching in my head like a thousand little demons hell-bent on driving me insane. I felt stinging anger and hatred toward myself and my inability to get a handle on the situation. I looked at all the things I was trying to do, and it all seemed so hopeless. Society teaches us we must work hard to get the things we want -- well, I had done just that and then some, but it seemed the harder I worked the worse it got. Nothing made me happy. My girlfriend was miserable, and I knew it was just a matter of time before she would leave me, too. Everything I did suffered because I was spread so thin. I felt like a complete failure and less than a man.
What was missing? How could I have let this happen to me? What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I break through and finally succeed? Why did I always get so far, so close to success, and either do something stupid to sabotage myself, or watch helplessly as something horrible happened to rob me of my dream? Why...why...why? Each debilitating question my brain asked, each castrating image that flashed across the screen of my imagination dragged me closer to the ground. I spent the rest of the night on the bathroom floor, hoping I would die and afraid that I really would. I knew I had to go on but my very soul kept shouting, WHY? WHAT FOR?
The next morning I found myself at work, standing there like a shell of a man waiting for the next stiff breeze to b!ow me apart and scatter my paper-thin soul to the four winds. I felt totally defeated, and there was nothing I could do to change it.
Then I heard a voice that broke into my nightmare. It was a co-worker who had been a good friend over the years. He took one look at me and knew that something was wrong. He said, "Hey, man, you look awful. What's up?"
"Nothing," I said, hoping he'd mind his own business and leave me alone.
But he didn't. Instinctively he stayed and said, "Look, I don't have to know what's wrong, but I know something that can help you with whatever that 'nothing' really is. I know this sounds crazy, but I was just coming by to tell you about this seminar in L.A. tonight that you need to attend. I know you don't know anything about it, but you just gotta trust me. The guy that's speaking will blow your mind and help you change your life. Just get there." He wrote down the directions for me and made me promise I'd really show up. At this point I'd have done anything to get him out of my face, so I halfheartedly agreed. But my gut was screaming, No way! After he left I stuffed the directions in my pocket and forgot about it. The last thing I wanted to do was to go where there were a lot of people.
The rest of the day scraped along at an agonizing pace. Everything I did seemed to go wrong and require more energy and effort than I had to give. I felt defeated and weak, and nothing I did could shake me out of the thick funk that encased my soul. When it was time to go home after work, I was afraid to go. What would I do when I got there -- lose it again? Then I remembered the seminar my friend Bill had told me about. I thought, It can't hurt. I'll just go and stick my head in and see what it's all about. I'll just stay for a few minutes. I can't remember what made me do it, but at 5:30 P.M. I found myself headed down the freeway toward a hotel near the Los Angeles airport.
I was standing at the back of a crowded seminar room, wondering what the hell I was doing there. Anger, fear, and confusion coursed through my nervous system like battery acid. And then, as if my pain were not enough, it hit me. I was the only Black person there! The only Black face in a room full of happy, dancing "positive" White people. Some looked professional and successful; others, if they weren't already rednecks, looked like they could very easily grow into them. Looking at these people started to bring up all the resentment, frustration, and sarcastic bitterness inside of me. I felt sickeningly judgmental and painfully angry. The very emotions that were destroying my life were staring me right in the face, dancing all around me, daring me to leave. These people were so caught up in their own joy that all I could see was they didn't give a damn about me. No one even seemed to notice me standing there -- and if they did, I was sure they were all judging me and avoiding me like the plague.
Then, right when I was feeling the most alone, the most angry, the most alienated, just when I thought I was going to bolt for the door, someone touched me on the shoulder. I spun around ready to lash out at whoever it was, expecting to find some goofy, dancing, Pollyanna, White seminar junkie goading me to loosen up and have a good time. But instead, standing in front of me was a man with his hand outstretched in greeting. His voice cut through the music and my own emotional hell. "Are you okay?" he asked. He had singled me out of the crowd and approached me without fear or judgment. He was a White man, but he stood in front of me as just a man. He didn't seem to care what anybody else would think; he had just made his way through the crowd and extended a welcoming hand. It sounds funny, but my anger, suspicion, and judgment became suspended in curiosity for the moment, and I opened up to this inquisitive stranger. By his suit and demeanor it was clear that he worked for the organization hosting the event, but there was something about the guy that made him different. He told me his name (which I forgot as soon as he said it) and asked me if I had a seat. He seemed to sincerely want to know the answer. Out of a sea of people, he had taken the time to help me.
He asked me again, "Are you okay?" I could tell he wasn't going to leave without a response. I guess I was a little bit in shock at that moment.
"I'm fine, man -- thanks," I told him. His warm caring seemed to set me at ease. I remember thinking, Whoever this speaker is, he sure trains his staff well. This guy is good. I felt safe and taken care of. We talked for a few minutes, and then he asked me if I was afraid of the firewalk.
"Firewalk?" I asked. "What firewalk? Nobody told me about a firewalk. What the hell is that?"
He grinned from ear to ear and chuckled a little bit. "No one told you it's part of the seminar?"
"Hell no," I said. "What in God's name are you talking about?"
"Well, that's not what the seminar is all about," he said. "It's about how to overcome your fears and discover what's most important in your life. It's about centering yourself in your real purpose. It's about remembering who you really are." He looked at me and with a slight grin on his face he said half-jokingly, "And by the looks of it, you could use some of that right now."
I remember thinking, How did he know that about me? But I felt such a connection with this person -- as if we had known each other for years and he knew what I was feeling.
Then he said, "It's obvious you've got some pain, but I just want you to know that you don't have to keep it. I want you to know I'll be a friend for you if you want to talk. And don't worry about the firewalk. It's just a simple exercise to demonstrate what you are capable of. You'll be fine."
A firewalk, I thought. Not only had my friend at work not told me what the seminar was all about, but it seems he had left out one little important detail. At the end of the program, all the participants were going to walk across a bed of burning hot coals. Barefoot!
I'm sure the look on my face said, "I'M OUTTA HERE!" but something made me stay.
"NOW I'm scared," I told him. "Aren't you?"
His face broke into another huge smile and he laughed out loud. "Nah! I do this all the time. You'll be just fine. Besides, remember what I said: That's not what the seminar is all about anyway. It's about how to get the best out of yourself. It's about how to turn the very fear that stops you into the courage that drives you. It's about how to get leverage on yourself so you really follow through. It's about how to collapse the negative experiences and emotional challenges from your past and use them instead as building blocks to create the future you deserve.
"At the end of the evening, if you choose to, you'll have the opportunity to do the firewalk. You'll see there is nothing to be afraid of. It has nothing to do with religion or 'mind over matter' or any of that stuff. It'll just be a celebration of the changes that you've made."
He explained that the firewalk is just a metaphor for turning our fears into power. There are lots of things you can do in your life that you didn't think were possible. He said, "You need two things in life to succeed. You need the skills and the emotional states of mind -- confidence, conviction, passion. And those things are already inside of you, but maybe they're not being employed as much as your fear or worry. You'll learn that the only two things that usually stop us are fear and not having the skills.
"At the end of this evening you will have the emotional states -- the courage and confidence -- and the skills you need to change your life for good. Tonight's really about having some new choices and learning some tools to make it happen for you. We all can have extraordinary lives. Anyone can wake up every day with passion -- but few people do." He said this with such certainty, congruence, and warmth that it made me feel maybe I really could be free from the emotional hell that was costing me so much in my life.
There was something about this man that made me trust him and believe he really did care. For some strange reason, I felt a strong connection with this stranger whom I hadn't even known ten minutes earlier. I didn't want the conversation to end. I thought, To hell with the speaker! This guy has his stuff together. He really wants to help me -- and I believe he can.
After a few minutes, the music got louder and people started taking their seats. My new friend said he had to go and take care of a few things. He shook my hand and told me to have a great time, then he turned to walk away. He took about four steps, turned around and said, "Hey! I'd like to follow up with you and see how you're doing after the seminar. Do me a favor and let's hook up later and exchange numbers." I thought, Wow, what service! I felt I had really made a new friend and connected with a special soul. But after he walked away, I felt a little of the enthusiasm drain out of me. I still felt hopeful but I also thought, No way in hell am I going to walk on those coals.
The music stopped and everybody started clapping and cheering. A beautiful woman stepped onto the stage to address the crowd. She told us that just a few years ago she, too, was standing right where we were tonight, scared and doubtful and ready to leave. But she stayed, faced her fears, and transformed her life forever. After she finished her story she announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, my husband...Tony Robbins!"
It was the guy who had been talking to me! He wasn't a staff member at all -- he was the star of the show. I should have known this unique man who was standing onstage with an incredible presence and approachable demeanor, who had taken the time to connect with me personally even before the program started, was special indeed. And the friendship we had kindled in that moment was more than just polite concern. He wasn't just being nice, he was genuinely reaching out to my soul. And as he looked at me from the front of the room, he knew I got it. Our meeting was predestined, and both of our lives were about to change.
From that point on, I was totally fascinated. I watched as I and the rest of the room transformed. From those with skepticism to those with high hopes, all of us gradually realized our real strength and power -- not by positive thinking or persuasion from Tony, but instead by discovering how we function as human beings and engaging the driving force that is in each and every one of us. In minutes we turned decades of sour beliefs and destructive conditioning into confidence and internal pride. Tony's understanding of how the human brain works and his entertaining ability to communicate it made it easy for us all to see the true God-given greatness in our souls. We laughed; some of us cried. We connected, danced, and learned more about ourselves in those few hours than most of us had learned in our entire lives.
Tony helped us think in terms of possibility, and then to turn that possibility into certainty and courage to take on whatever was laid in front of us. It all made such simple sense. I felt as if he were talking directly to me, as if I could relate to everything he was saying. He wasn't some saint or some guru granting us these powers. Instead, he was just a man -- a very special man -- with a huge heart and an incredible ability to teach us how to do it for ourselves, how to access our own power and specialness not by affirmation, not by enthusiasm, but by having a solid plan and strategies for success. It wasn't him telling everybody what his plan was for us; it was each of us discovering and creating our own plan for our future. He honored the uniqueness of each and every human being in the room. I think most of all that's why it was so easy for me to relate to him. He wasn't about changing people to fit his vision, but about helping them discover their own.
Tony was truly amazing. He was funny, he was sincere, and he was right on the money with his insights about our lives. Though I barely knew him at this point, I felt proud of and for him. He didn't pump us up or hype us. Instead, he educated and inspired us to expect and demand more from ourselves. This remarkable young man, wise beyond his years, masterfully wove his wealth of information and knowledge into the fabric of our souls. And perhaps the best part was he didn't expect, assume, or require that we agree or even accept his thoughts. Rather, he laid it out in front of us all to inspect it using our own beliefs.
All of this he backed up with a solid technology. I watched him take people who had been struggling with emotional challenges like fears and phobias for years and wipe them out in a matter of moments. He showed us how to change our hesitations and doubts instantly into total congruency and faith. In those moments I saw, heard, and felt the passion for living I had been struggling to find all those years. I felt an insatiable yearning to learn, a deep hunger for more of what would ultimately be my calling as well.
There were three very distinct things that happened to me that night. One, I made an incredible friend for life. Two, I saw the solution for my own challenges and the transformation of my own beliefs about myself and my world. And three, I thought of all the people with similar experiences -- inhibitions and fears like mine -- who could benefit from this knowledge. I thought, God, I want my brothers and sisters to know their power as well. I want everyone to know about this, to know about themselves.
By the end of the evening, I had experienced so many changes I couldn't wait to get back to my life. Tony and I connected again and exchanged numbers. And of course I walked on the coals. The firewalk was just like he said: a metaphor for what is possible, a simple demonstration of our true capability. But most important, the seminar gave all of us the skills and tools to master our own lives.
In the days and weeks following the seminar I immediately, almost effortlessly, started using the tools I had learned -- the same tools you will learn in this book -- to dramatically change the quality of my life for the better. I had always wanted to play music for a living, but I'd been afraid of failing or losing the security of my job. After the seminar I quit my limiting job of fifteen years, pursued my dream of playing professionally, and in 1991 landed a recording contract with CBS Records. All of my judgment, fears of failure, and inadequacy dropped off like unwanted ballast, and opportunities and possibilities the likes of which I had previously not even dared to dream of appeared. I finally began to live a life rich with love, joy, pride, happiness, possibility, and healthy relationships with others.
And you know what? I wanted even more. All my life I've loved people and have wanted to give back and contribute. That's one of the things Tony and I share a passion for. Physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually, my life spiraled to new levels, and with it grew my desire to share my passion with my own race. I hungered for more knowledge about these incredible tools for changing lives. In the past, I had read all the "positive thinking" books, listened to all the tapes, and heard so many motivational speakers it was a joke, but nothing delivered like this technology. This wasn't motivation or pump-up fanfare -- it was solid tangible skill sets that produced measurable results. In college, my major was psychology. I thought I knew it all, but in reality, I didn't have a clue. I had never experienced anything like this. I wanted so much more, and now I knew it was here for the taking. So I decided I was going to master this technology.
I began to immerse myself in the strategies Tony was teaching. Since then, I've sat in rooms full of CEOs of major companies, children, businessmen and women, psychiatrists and psychologists, people of every culture from all around the world, souls from forty-two different nations. I've discovered we all have at least two things in common:
First, we all have a willingness to make ourselves and the world we live in a better place. Some have that willingness because they've already succeeded and want to give back. Some have it because they've tried everything and nothing else worked. But we all have that hunger, that insatiable yearning to do and give more than we are currently giving. Tony created an environment in which all the discriminatory rules of society were suspended so people could see the power and essence of who we are as humans, then use what we discover for the betterment of all.
Second, we've all made the choice to be, do, and have what we want based upon our willingness to access those states of mind that produce the best results. Race, religion, gender, culture didn't matter -- the choice was ours alone. It's not a Black thing or a White thing, it's a human thing. It's the human choice that matters the most -- and we all have that choice at any moment in time. As long as we keep ourselves in a place of caring, loving, and giving...not focusing on ourselves as much as focusing on how to make a difference...in a place where we have compassion instead of judgment, curiosity instead of sarcasm, humor instead of hate, and centeredness instead of frustration...those choices are always at our disposal -- and the tools are here to access those choices.
As my friendship with Tony continues to grow after ten years, I think what brings us together the most is our absolute caring and our passion for sharing what works with as many people as possible. To this day we feel like brothers on the path of making a difference. The words you are reading now come from both of our hearts, to share with you the same tools that have already helped millions create the lives they desire.
Over the past ten years, I have become certified in Tony's technology, eventually becoming Head Trainer for Robbins Research International, Inc. In addition, I started my own peak performance company, Succeleration, offering workshops and seminars to assist groups and individuals get the very best out of themselves. I began teaching postgraduate extension courses at the University of California at Los Angeles. I became proficient in handling fears and phobias in a very short period of time -- sometimes a few minutes, sometimes an hour or so.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I have received from this technology is that no matter what is put in front of me, I don't have to accept it as being permanent or defeating. Yes, there will be color obstacles. Yes, people will judge me and try to oppress me and my race. But ultimately we can and will climb over those obstacles, or go around them, or even storm right through them to get to the other side. That first night at the seminar, one of the beliefs I adopted was: There's always a way if you're committed. Too many people have succeeded for us to deny that each of us already has everything it takes to succeed. It's this sense of certainty that will take us further and faster and make us healthier and happier. If things don't work out, we need never regress to the old beliefs that have held us down for far too long.
By now, you may be asking, "What does all this have to do with me? How will this help me get from where I am now to where I want to go? And what does this have to do with Unlimited Power: A Black Choice?" Well, while I said earlier that Tony's environment was multicultural, I still have a hunger to reach more of my own people. Tony and I have traveled around the world in the last few years, and we have noticed consistently that only a very small fraction of this valuable, life-changing information has found its way into the Black community. I felt most of our race was missing some essential tools that would change the quality of our lives for the better: how to transform our lives mentally, physically, and emotionally; how to become truly free; how to sever the ties of weakness binding us to the stories of the past but still preserve the pride and strength we need; how to reprogram the negative emotions we allow to affect us daily even though we realize they don't serve us; how to create a plan for the future that not only improves our own lives but those of our children as well. This we can all use. I see so many of us struggling to find our way and missing the boat by doing the same things over and over again. Life is much simpler than we've been led to believe, and these tools are the keys to open some of the doors that previously seemed closed to us.
Too few of us are taking advantage of what is at our fingertips. As a group, we may very well be in our infancy in the areas of success conditioning and personal development. In researching and asking why more of us don't seek this knowledge, I found a wide variety of reasons. Some people said they wanted to hear it from one of our own kind, or that they can't relate to a White man, or that this is something Blacks just don't do. But beliefs like those keep us from having, being, and doing what we want in our lives. We need to take full advantage of any resources, whether they be white, black, red, brown, yellow, whatever.
Regardless of those beliefs, we now have no excuses. This, my dear friend, is your opportunity to take advantage of what works and use it to benefit your future. These are the same tools and techniques that have and will continue to make the great greater, the strong stronger, the happy happier, and the successful more successful. These techniques do not discriminate. They play no favorites and show no regard for race, creed, or cultural background. They are natural law, and it is your birthright to use them to the fullest.
Many years ago, Anthony Robbins produced a masterwork for creating change. Since 1985, Unlimited Power has been a bestseller, translated into seventeen languages and published around the world. This book has brought to millions of people the strategies and systems that produce lasting change and success. It's an owner's manual for the human brain. These skills and tools are now laid in front of you for your inspection and use in shaping your own life.
Unlimited Power: A Black Choice came out of a discussion Tony and I had about the need for more choices and role models of success within the Black community. There is definitely a need for more information about technologies of positive change within communities other than those that have traditionally received them. Tony and I have worked together to create this book so you will have this message directed to you through the eyes of someone who perhaps has lived part of what you may have lived -- someone who has experienced the reality of being Black in today's world.
In writing this book, our wish is that you will find the technologies, strategies, skills, and philosophies taught within these pages to be as empowering for you as they have been for me. The power to magically transform our lives into our greatest dreams lies waiting within us all. It's time to unleash it, so get ready! And by the way, if you're willing to really commit and focus -- not just read this book but act upon what you read -- then this will be worth so much more than you ever imagined.
This book is the sum total of Tony's and my collaboration, synergistically working together in order to convey this information in a form you and I can personally relate to and prosper from. It uses rich metaphors, examples, and stories that tap into our beautiful Black history, both recent and ancient. It provides more role models, more possibilities, more real-life accomplishments to illustrate these strategies at work.
We genuinely applaud you and your quest to move "we the people" to higher levels of greatness. It is because of you and others like you that we have come so far. We praise your continued success and encourage the open-mindedness of all who are willing to grow. We humbly offer ourselves, our services, and our beliefs as high-octane jet fuel to the human vehicle so that we may all go farther, faster, now! So let's get to it. Let's make it happen. And by the way, keep this in mind: There has never been a better time in history for us to be alive. We live in an age where anything is possible -- if we are willing to go for it.
Black Power Today
Utopia is what the imagination of man has to say about the possibilities of the human spirit.
Today the pace at which people are able to turn their dreams into realities is truly amazing. We live in an age when, regardless of our skin color or gender, we are capable of achieving some pretty incredible things in very short periods of time -- success that would have been unimaginable in earlier times. Looking at the world today, I wonder who could have foretold the rising political stars of such Black leaders as Bobby Rush, Carol Moseley-Braun, Marian Wright Edelman, Thurgood Marshall, Maxine Waters, David Dinkins, or Nelson Mandela. Who could have imagined the immense popularity of entertainment figures like Quincy Jones, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, Spike Lee, or the artist formerly known as Prince? Who would have dreamed of the scientific prowess of Muriel Petioni or the astonishing adventures of astronaut Mae Jemison? Who could have expected the literary masterpieces of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Walter Mosley, or Cornel West? These are just a few of the many outstanding Black men and women who surround us today.
Look at Robert L. Johnson, president and founder of the Black Entertainment Network (BET). He took a medium that barely existed in the 1980s, cable TV, and created an empire. He too started with just a dream. He created a weekly two-hour show, and now his network broadcasts twenty-four hours a day -- the first and only Black cable network, servicing more than 2,500 different markets and forty million homes. BET was the first Black-owned company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
What does Robert L. Johnson share with all these other masters, aside from prodigious success? The answer, of course, is...
Copyright © 1997 by Anthony Robbins