Travelblogue: November 2011

Oh no, not another blog category!

Yeah, it seems I just can’t confine myself to general Rants.  I have been breaking all of them down lately and it simply makes it easier to keep track of where my mind goes.  For Travelblogue, I’ll be talking about my adventures.

One of my many enjoyments is traveling, whether it means seeing a new place or visiting somewhere I’ve been many times.  More often than not, these experiences are memorable and, therefore, worth documenting.  I will do lots of traveling in my lifetime so I will gladly share my misadventures here. 

About two weeks ago, I headed back to Los Angeles to attend my first Tony Robbins seminar, Unleash The Power Within.  I’ve been a fan of his for the last two years, having read both of his books and gone through his Ultimate Edge audio program twice.  I wasn’t able to attend his seminar in New Jersey last year so when I heard he was going to be in Los Angeles, I promised myself I would go.  Having just been to California for vacation in August, my plan was to head out solely for the seminar.

At this point, some readers are wondering why I’m even attending this event.  My logic has always been that of a student, meaning I find a professional to work with when I want to become better in a given area.  When I wanted to take my musicianship to the next level, I studied one-on-one with a working guitarist.  When I was ready to get back into shape, I hired a personal trainer.  When I decided to become more mentally and emotionally fit, I turned to one of the best in the field of personal development, if not the best.  Tony Robbins is not some passing frenzy like “The Secret.”  He has been coaching for over 30 years and considering the impressive list of testimonials many have given regarding his skill, his was clearly the direction for me to move in.

Okay, after all that exposition, here is a journal-style documentation of my trip.

WEDNESDAY. NOVEMBER 2: Having taken the New Jersey/California trip so many times over the last seven years, I’m confident when it comes to assembling what I need as well as my timeline.  In fact, I began my normal routine earlier than usual and broke my habit of never sleeping before flying East to West!  Somehow, I squeezed in an hour and a half of napping before heading to Newark International Airport for my flight at 10 AM.  Traffic was light, security was a breeze, my flight left on time and landed early.  Despite my best efforts, I ended up sleeping on the plane, even though on demand movies were beckoning for my time.  I caught a shuttle to Avis mere minutes after walking out into the radiance of the LA sunshine.  I was in the driver’s seat of my rental car within five minutes of arriving at the office and off to Glendale to grab some fine eats at Whole Foods.  Yes, I know there are locations closer to LAX but I have a certain affection for that particular location for some reason.  Afterward, I headed over to the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank where I was meeting my sister, Carol, for a studio screening of “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.”  Even though the other films in the series never appealed to me, I figured it would be cool to go to a studio screening and see a movie a few days before the rest of the country could.  It was a fun watch, and I especially enjoyed the intentional gimmicky nature of the 3D effects since they normally annoy me.  From there, it was over to one of my favorite restaurants, El Torito, to stuff myself with fine Mexican food.  After a very satisfying day, it was time to head back to Carol’s apartment to get some sleep.  After all, I didn’t know exactly what I was in for that following day.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3: Feeling well rested and joyously anxious, I grabbed an overpriced coffee from Starbucks along with a Subway breakfast sandwich and headed to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the first time.  I never spent much time in the downtown area of LA so it was exciting to see a new pocket of the city, one which I’d never seen despite living there for two years.  I had about two hours to kill after completing my registration and snagging my materials so I stopped by the Yard House for lunch.  Back at the Convention Center, I joined a crowd awaiting admittance in my seating section, where we chatted about the experiences which brought us to the event.  Finally, around two o’clock, the room was full of 4200 people from 36 countries who were all enamored as Tony took the stage with his unparalleled energy and enthusiasm.  Obviously, it would be impossible for me to recount and document everything which took place for the next ten hours, but it was as eye-opening as it was emotional and inspiring.  Around midnight, my boots came off and a crowd of over 4000 walked shoeless through the neighborhood known as LA Live to walk across red hot burning coals.  Clearly, walking across the coals is a metaphor for getting over your fears and stepping out as a stronger version of yourself.  That part isn’t lost on me.  Still, it feels damn good to know you just walked across coals burning at 2000°.  In fact, Oprah was in attendance on the first day.  Tony asked us to be respectful of the experience his special guest was having at the seminar just like the rest of us, so no one bothered her.  The interesting part is she was only supposed to be there for the first two hours and ended up staying the entire day.  Plus, she participated in the Firewalk as well, which is documented on her Facebook page.  Besides, if someone as busy as Oprah can clear the rest of her day to work on furthering herself, it seems the rest of us can easily do the same.  Exhilarated and ready for more throughout the weekend, I headed back to Burbank to get some rest.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4:I was up before the sun rose and ready to throw myself into Day 2.  It took me an hour to travel 15 miles, but that’s early morning LA traffic for you.  I often drive on the Garden State Parkway which charges for the luxury of stop-and-go traffic so this was no big deal to me.  Day 2 was run by Tony’s long time peer Joseph McClendon III, another excellent and inspirational coach.  After 30 years of 50 hour weekend seminars, Tony needs to rest his voice after a full day of speaking, but Joseph was a perfect proxy as we went through the work of the day.  It was another exciting experience, clocking in at around 14 hours, after which I was still very inspired and very excited for Tony’s return on Day 3.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5: If I had to describe Day 3 in one word, it would be: HEAVY.  Since this day gets rather personal for everyone in attendance, I couldn’t possibly explain all we did, but it was a day where I became incredibly focused on what is most important to me and what I need to do to get where I’m going.  The intensity of the day was balanced with the levity of a 4200 person water fight following a sing-along of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”  All I can say is it was all Tony’s fault, but I have a newfound affection for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because of it.  The seminar was about 16 hours and there was not one moment when I didn’t want to be a part of it.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6: Joseph was back for the final day where we put all we learned into focus.  Clocking in at about nine hours, it was an incredibly informative day.  Frankly, at the end of it, I was hoping this seminar would carry on for four more days, but, alas, that was not the nature of this event.  After many goodbyes and photo ops, I headed back to Burbank to have dinner with Carol.  We ate at the Granville in Burbank and ventured over to Hollywood to see “Tower Heist” at the ArcLight Cinemas.  I always approach every Ben Stiller movie with a heavy dose of hesitance, and this was no exception.  Granted, it was great to hear Eddie Murphy curse and be funny again but the movie was unsurprisingly mediocre.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 7: This visit was so oddly blessed with smooth travel that it’s a joke.  With the exception of trouble finding a gas station near LAX which would read my well-worn debit card, returning to the airport and flying home was an absolute breeze.  I looked through my notes and work from the weekend and settled into some on demand entertainment via “Larry Crowne” and “Horrible Bosses.”  As clichéd and cheesy as it sounds, as the plane descended toward Newark airport, the lights of New York and New Jersey seemed to shine brighter than I have ever seen.  If it was my projection of the enthusiasm I feel for my life manifesting itself through my vision, so be it.  I can live with that.

Those who know me are well aware of how I am always looking for more and better.  Attending this seminar was right in line with my desire to only get better as I get older.  I have begun adopting many of the principles I learned over that dynamic weekend and, having been home for a week, I can see a massive shift in my ability to take on whatever comes my way.   One example of this includes my dietary habits.  As part of the voluntary 10 Day Challenge upon completion of the seminar, as of this posting, I have gone eight days without eating meat or dairy, as well as drastically reducing my intake of both sugar and caffeine.  The decision to try this was completely my choice for the sake of giving my body the right foods, something I have been pretty bent on during the last three years of my life.  At this point, I can’t say this will be a permanent dietary change, but having given up several foods I used to consume daily has given me more strength to keep a balanced diet.  After all, you can’t put a price on your health.

In the end, the seminar was easily worth ten times what I paid to attend it.  Clearly I wouldn’t have traveled across the country if I didn’t believe in the program.  I have openly recommended the seminar to many since my return home.  In fact, the Unleash The Power Within seminar will be in the New York area in March, so I encourage everyone to attend.  At minimum, check out the Ultimate Edge audio program for yourself, as well as Tony’s website.  You can even download the first session of Ultimate Edge on the homepage and listen for yourself.  Plus, all his products have a money back guarantee.  If programs which take less than two weeks to complete come with a 30 day money back guarantee, you know you can expect immediate results if you put the time in.  While the seminar itself has a price tag much higher than programs, I can’t put a price on the experience I had figuring more of myself out, as well as meeting loads of great people.  Lisa, Travis, Jacob, Babak, and Vincente: it was a pleasure getting to know each of you.

Please check back every Monday for more of my Rants and tune in every Friday for a brand new episode of The Only Podcast That Matters, our weekly one hour show.  Until next week, take care and have fun!

11-18-11 UPDATE: Tony posted a blog about what this particular event meant to him here.  Check it out!