Tony Robbins has accumulated a fortune with his best-selling books and popular self-help seminars. WealthX estimates that he's worth at least $440 million.
But if you asked the motivational speaker and author to pinpoint when he truly made it, he would tell you about a day when he was living in a 400-square-foot bachelor apartment, deeply in debt, down to his last $21 or $22 dollars, and pondering how he was going to feed himself.
On Farnoosh Torabi's "So Money" podcast, Robbins described the day he became "a wealthy man," which started with him walking three miles to an all-you-can-eat restaurant called El Torito so he could "load up for the winter" off of five dollars.
Here's what he told Torabi:
I'm sitting there stuffing my face ...
And then the door opens, and this very attractive woman walks in. I looked to see who her suitor was, and he was about four feet tall this little boy, probably eight years old. It's obviously her son. He's in a three piece suit, and he opens the door for her and pulls out the chair for her ...
He was so loving so present with his mother. Something about it just touched me.
I went and paid for my meal, and took whatever was left probably $13 or $14 stuck it in my pocket, and walked over to this little boy.
I say to him, "Listen, I just want to tell you, you're a class act. I saw you hold the door for your lady, and how you pulled up the chair." And he goes, "Well she's my Mom!" I say, "That's even more cool! And it's pretty cool you're taking her to lunch like this." And he says, "Well I'm not taking her to lunch, because I'm only eight. I don't have a job." And I say, "Well, you are taking her to lunch," and I reached in my pocket, took every penny I had, and I dropped it on the table in front of him.
The look on his face was worth it. His eyes got as big as garbage can covers ...
And he laughed, and I laughed, and I didn't even look at her; I just walked out the door no car, no money. I don't know where my next meal is going to come from. I should have been freaking out ... but it was the most free I had ever felt in my life.
The next day Robbins received a check in the mail for $1,200 from someone he had previously loaned money to.
It brought him to tears, and then to a revelation. As he was contemplating the why behind this check showing up on his doorstep the day after giving away his last penny, he realized that he had become "a wealthy man" the previous day in El Torito.
Robbins defines wealth as freedom "It's freedom from your fear, it's freedom from money controlling you, it's freedom to do, share, and give" and he achieved complete freedom of fear when he gave away his last nickels and dimes.
"It wasn't cute. It wasn't a strategy," he explained to Torabi of the transaction. "I didn't do it because I thought I should. I gave because it was the right thing to do. I gave because I wanted to. And that's the day I became a wealthy man."
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