Tony Robbins explains why positive thinking will get you nowhere

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Tony Robbins & Joe Berlinger On "I Am Not Your Guru"

Tony Robbins hates the term "motivational speaker," because he thinks its connotations suggest he just gets people thinking positively and then send them off.

In a Facebook Live Q&A with Business Insider readers, Robbins — who's worked with clients ranging from champion tennis player Serena Williams to billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones — clarified that his approach to guiding others isn't about getting them to put on a smile and repeat happy thoughts.

"It's not about positive thinking, because I don't believe in that," he said. "I don't believe you should go to your garden and chant, 'There's no weeds, there's no weeds, there's no weeds,' and think that that's going to solve something. I'm a believer in find the weed and rip it out."

This approach is clear in the new Netflix documentary "I Am Not Your Guru." At a six-day "Date with Destiny" seminar in 2014, Tony Robbins had an especially notable "intervention" with one of his 2,500 audience members, a woman from Brazil named Dawn. The shocking conversation Robbins has with Dawn appears to last around 10 minutes, but in reality it went far well past two hours.

In that period, Dawn explained through tears that she was suicidal because she and her brother and mother were victims of severe sexual abuse and she was struggling with remaining the positive, optimistic one in the family.

Smiling and giving words of encouragement every day had left her feeling hollow. By the end of the discussion, Robbins was also in tears and had Dawn commit herself to building new, healthy relationships, including with three particular new friends from the seminar she'd regularly check in with. He told Dawn that at no charge he would enroll her in his coach training program so that she could help others

Backstage, Robbins took some time to collect himself.

Before the end of the week, an attendee would give $50,000 to Dawn, who had sold all of her possessions to pay for airfare and the roughly $5,000 price of admission. A year later, Dawn remained in touch with her friends from the seminar and was helping fellow abuse victims as a life coach.

For Dawn, "finding the weed" meant admitting to herself and her family that she needed support as much as they did, and that she needed to confront a fear of establishing any form of relationship with someone. In another intervention documented in the film, a young woman tells Robbins that her biggest concern is a poor diet, but as the conversation progresses it's revealed that the source of her anxiety is actually the relationship with her estranged father. Robbins then convinces her to talk to him that night, and as the filmmakers discovered, she regularly kept in touch with him, mending the relationship before his unexpected death six months later.

Neither solution involved pretending everything was actually great and convincing others of that illusion.

"There's two worlds to master: There's the external world and there's the internal world," Robbins said. "And many people master the external world and they're miserable. They're good in business, they do well in their career, and they're miserable. They're not happy, they're not fulfilled, they don't have great relationships. So I really believe the internal world has to be mastered first," and that involves creating a new strategy to act on.

You can watch the "I Am Not Your Guru" trailer on YouTube and the full Business Insider Facebook Live session below.

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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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