How Tony Robbins rebounded from an abusive childhood to create a billion-dollar empire

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Tony Robbins: The goal is to feel the fear

To say that Tony Robbins' life started off rocky would be an understatement.

But instead of letting these challenges hinder his success, they are a core part of what's fueled him to become a best-selling author, self-made millionaire and coach to the likes of former President Bill Clinton and hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Robbins recalled getting chased out of the house with a knife by his mother when he was 17 and being physically abused by her as a child.

"If my mom had been the mother I thought I wanted, I wouldn't be as driven; I wouldn't be as hungry," he said. "I wouldn't have suffered, so I probably wouldn't have cared about other people's suffering as much as I do. And it made me obsessed with wanting to understand people and help create change."

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, the author of books such as "Money: Master the Game" and "Awaken the Giant Within" turned his early life setbacks into a springboard for growth.

"Our worst challenges, our worst problems, our worst failures — for those who don't give up — they give you insights," he said.

Robbins is a founder of or partner in more than 12 businesses, including a 5-star Fijian island resort and a company that makes custom 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs. Despite some recent negative headlines, these companies generate annual sales of $5 billion, according to Robbins — an impressive figure by any measure, especially considering that Robbins' atypical path to success did not include attending college.

"Early on, I developed this simple belief that there's a difference between schooling and education," he said.

Robbins said he believed that if he worked hard, he could succeed in life.

"I believe the secret to any entrepreneur's life is to add more value: Do more than anyone is doing in the marketplace," he said.

While everyone experiences fear at some point, it's crucial to really feel the fear and break through it.

"If I ever feel afraid (and) that I can't do this, then I tell myself I must and act on it immediately," Robbins said.

"Otherwise, the fear will stop you," he added. "The more you face your fears, the stronger you become."

Failure is also a key part of success, he said: "There's no one who's been successful who hasn't failed massively. The only people who haven't failed are the people who aren't doing anything. You have to realize it's not failure — it's a lesson."

Robbins shared three key pieces of advice for his fellow entrepreneurs:

  • "Don't even start a business unless it is your life and passion and you'd do it even if you didn't get paid," he said.
  • Find a way to understand more about your ideal clients than they know about themselves.
  • Do more for these people than any other business is doing. Add this value, and you'll create raving fans.

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RELATED: See photos of motivational speaker Tony Robbins

13 PHOTOS
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Tony Robbins - Motivational Speaker
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16: Tony Robbins attends Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 26: Motivational Speaker, Tony Robbins attends Game Five of the Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 14: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins attends the screening of 'Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru' during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 14: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins attends the screening of 'Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru' during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 14, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins attends The Samsung Studio at SXSW 2016 on March 15, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Samsung)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins attends The Samsung Studio at SXSW 2016 on March 15, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Samsung)
OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 2: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Golden State Warriors co owner Peter Guber watches a game between the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz on February 2, 2012 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3867 -- Pictured: Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins onstage July 23, 2010 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3867 -- Pictured: (l-r) Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins during an interview with host Jay Leno on July 23, 2010 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3867 -- Pictured: Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins during an interview on July 23, 2010 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 2: Golden State Warriors Peter Guber and motivational speaker Tony Robbins smiles for the camera before a regular season game between the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz on February 2, 2012 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
378049 01: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins accompanies his date, Sage Lynch at the MTV Video Music Awards held at the Radio City Music Hall September 7, 2000 in New York, NY. (Photo by Robin Platzer/Twin Images/Online USA)
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