Tony Robbins was in Halifax

Firewalking motivational speaker got 200 bucks a pop from Hali-rubes.

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Motivational speaker Tony Robbins is in the news this week, as nearly two dozen attendees at Robbins' "Unleash the Power Within" event in San Jose, California suffered second- and third-degree burns on their feet while participating in a firewalking exercise.

Back in 2008, Robbins brought his show, which is a sort of camp meeting for urbanized slackjaws, to Halifax. I remember how giddy the local business class was at the time---as I recall, local execs were expense accounting the $200 tickets, and bringing the middle managers along as a group bonding experience. I didn't attend the Metro Centre event myself, but thankfully someone posted a video on the internet.

Some 5,000 locals attended. Here is the Halifax business class, at their finest:

And here's there experience of someone who claimed to be there:

I actually work in the skyboxes at the metro centre as a waiter, and well.. you can imagine the amount of work I was doing that day. Other than coffee and fruit trays to entertain the "executive" guests, I spent most of the time listening to the guy speak.

There was actually one point during the (show?) where one of Tony Robbin's guest speakers said something along the lines of;

"I work for (huge douche-company) and conduct tests all accross the country, and you know what? We found Nova Scotia to be the happiest province in Canada" (*Crowd cheers with pride, then suddenly a large dollar sign appears in the massive screens on either side of the stage*) "But that isn't everything people, that can be a bad thing. It can mean that you're too content living the way you are, and that isn't the most successful."

I was mortified. I actually wanted to raise my hand and ask the guy "Can you define 'success' in any way other than 'power over other people'?" It's hilarious how the idea of "growth" in a business term has actually become a commodity itself with these people. But, I'm only a pawn in their game... serving hot beverages.

When Tony Robbins finally came out (around 2pm, after the event started at 8am), U2's "Beautiful Day" started blasting and the crowd of tie-wearing, overweight, dissatisfied business people started jumping up and cheering, remembering their youthful days when Bono wasn't an absolute dick.

Robbins was making enthusiastic arm gestures similar to Tom Cruise's Scientology enduced rampages. Throughout the show, Robbins would repeatedly ask/tell the crowd to stand up and "shake their bodies". He claimed that when the human body is active, then the ability to succeed is as well. I guess that would explain the out-of-shape burned out 'executives' that filled the building. After the body shaking, he had organized a system of cheering where he would order the crowd to chant "YES, YES, YES" over and over, with each time getting louder. It was sort of like a combination of church and football practice. He pointed out that the sound of the word "Yes" on its own, irrespective of its meaning is a much more positive sounding word than "no". According to Robbins, "no" comes from a lower part of our chest that is less encouraging and inspiring.

Things like this continued for several hours until he started to lecture on "baby step" investment tips. By this point one of the skyboxes I was catering left and went to the liquor store. (I was told to not serve any alcohol during this event to discourage hecklers) My guests returned to their sky box and drank several bottles of wine, and payed me not to say anything about it. How's that for motivation?

Needless to say, the motivation to do anything productive was minimal. During intermission I watched literally thousands of people buying Tony Robbins DVDs, CDs, etc. Some of the DVDs were priced at over $50 a piece, and the average person lined up at one of the merchandise tables must have walked away with at least two of them. So between the $200 ticket, the DVDs, the sports-team like rhetoric, Bono-like-enthusiasm, the only motivation in the building was piety.

I'm fairly certain that many of the people at the convention centre wankfest earlier this month were at the 2008 camp meeting and, conversely, pretty much all of the Robbins disciples are in favour of the convention centre, because it's all about belief.

The New York Times has some interesting comments from some of the people who participated in last week's firewalking event. Change a few of the nouns, and you have pretty much the same attitude expressed here in Halifax about convention centre opponents:

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Madina Kaderi, 18, who walked over burning coals and suffered blisters during a Tony Robbins seminar here, returned to the San Jose Convention Center on Sunday for the fourth and final day of motivational talks.

She called the fire walk a positive experience and blamed herself for her injury. “I got scared,” she said. And with her Vans now safely on her feet, she added, “I’m glad I felt the pain.”

[...]

“It transformed people’s lives in a single night,” said Carolynn Graves, 50, a real estate agent from Toronto, who crossed the coals without injury. “It’s a metaphor for facing your fears and accomplishing your goals.”

Ms. Graves suggested that the people who burned their feet “were out of state,” a term that participants said meant having the proper mental attitude.

All you've got to do is believe, believe, believe. The facts don't matter.

In the end, though, just like the San Jose firewalkers, people in Halifax are gonna get burned.

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