Courage, Faith and Will: A Breakthrough With Tony Robbins

There are times in life when the bottom falls out –and absolutely everything goes wrong.

Unexpectedly, fate throws us a curve ball–and our safe and settled existence, as we had known it, falls apart.

We may sink into despair or depression; or get angry and lash out at others. Some fall into addiction. Many feel they’ve been victimized, that their luck has run out, and that their lives are over. Some may even contemplate suicide. (And 30,000 people do commit suicide in the U.S. every year.)

In my own life, I’ve been grateful to experience many peaks. But there have been some valleys too–times of extreme emotional pain when I’ve known the sting of rejection, reversals of fortune, disappointments in relationships, and health challenges too.

It’s at times like these that we all need a breakthrough–which is exactly what we’re going to get beginning this Tuesday, when NBC debuts a six-part reality series titled BREAKTHROUGH WITH TONY ROBBINS. I’ve seen a preview disc of the show and I can tell you that it is riveting.

As the world’s greatest peak performance coach, Tony has, over three decades, worked with three million people in 80 countries (including heads of state, professional athletes, corporate executives, film stars, and royalty). But for those who haven’t attended his seminars, read his books, listened to his tapes, or watched his videos, at last, he’s finally bringing his magic to television.

I can tell you that I’ve known Tony personally for many years–and have seen him in action at his signature seminars–Unleash The Power Within, Date With Destiny, and Life Mastery–and there are few people in this world who can give people the practical tools to transform misery to joy, the follow through to turn apathy to resourcefulness. But he can do it.

In this show, you’re going to meet people who have experienced deep pain and loss, those who are desperate for a new beginning, many of whom who have lost hope. This isn’t entertainment. Anyone with a problem is going to be inspired by the people Tony meets on this journey, and you’re going to apply the lessons learned to your own life.

Much of Breakthrough With Tony Robbins was filmed in Fiji


Tony will show us how to turn trauma around, finding inner strength where we didn’t think we had it. He’ll demonstrate that there’s always something we value greater than our pain. He’ll give us the faith and confidence to prevail over a disability, restoring emotional fitness and giving us the compelling future we all deserve.

A few months ago, I wrote here about a great lesson that I learned from Tony, one that is intimately connected to the theme of my new book.  As we travel through life, much as we want things to be safe and predictable, they rarely are. I sometimes wonder why things unfold in life exactly as they do. Can what happens to us be controlled and planned, or is much of it mere accident, fate, destiny–or perhaps another greater force at work as well?

In my own life, especially with Katie Up and Down The Hall being soon published,  I often reflect on why I became so intensely close to my neighbors down the hall.

What power was there in that red-carpeted 120-foot hallway that took me to places I never imagined, much like a magic carpet.

Do you ever play this game: “If I hadn’t just accidentally found myself in that elevator (or in that classroom, gym class, subway car, or party) at that exact moment in time, how would my entire life have been different? Maybe I never would have met my mate, or a key business connection, or a lifelong friend. Right!

Sometimes I just can’t believe the coincidence, things that happen at exactly the right moment. Sure this seems accidental–but as I’ve learned from Tony Robbins, what happens to us is greatly a product of what he has insightfully described as THE POWER OF PROXIMITY.

Simply put, it’s so often the people in our physical orbits–those in closest proximity–who will become the people most important to us. When you’re around someone in your environment, day after day, you notice their insight, humor, and unique talents–and the needs in them that call out to you for fulfillment. When we look to each other for companionship, love, and connection–we often get what we need.

That’s one key reason why my dog Katie and I became so close to our octogenarian friend, Pearl, and her husband Arthur, and the little boy Ryan, and his Dad, John. Katie and I needed connection–and we so fortuitously found it–just down the hall.

So as Tony often says to seminar participants: “Who, in your environment is nearby? Who’s literally in your field of vision? Who do you keep bumping into, over and over again?”

In this way, as he wisely concludes: “For most of us, proximity is the messenger of fate.”

I can tell you that it’s this principle that changed my life, and the life of my dog forever–and I bet it’s changing yours as well.

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Straight From The Heart: Recording the KATIE Audio Book

Posted June 28th, 2010 in Audio Books, Coping With Grief, Digital Book Publishing, Friendship by Glenn Plaskin

In the days when my first book about Vladimir Horowitz was published, there wasn’t much variety in the final product offered to the public. First you had your hardcover edition, a year later a trade paperback, and that was that.

But when my upcoming book KATIE: Up And Down The Hall is published this September, it will not only be released in a hardcover edition (including 8 pages of color photographs), but also  in digital form, available as a Kindle edition and as an unabridged audiobook.

When I was asked to record the audiobook I had my reservations. After all, not being a professional voiceover artist, I questioned whether or not I’d be able to do an effective job of it. But in the end, I couldn’t imagine somebody else being “me”–so I ultimately decided to tackle a new learning curve and do it myself.

A day before the session, I suddenly (maybe it was nerves) began losing my voice, which was kind of raspy and sore. I worriedly thought, the publisher is on deadline, the studio time is booked, but how am I going to be able to speak for hours on end? But never underestimate the therapeutic power of hot tea, honey, and lemon (plus Sudafed and Mucinex thrown in to relieve congestion–which really works.)

In short, the show must go on, and so it did during a three-day recording marathon at Hachette Book Group which lasted a combined total of 24 hours. I have to say that I wound up having the most fantastic–and cathartic–experience, reading (or performing as the producer would say) the entire manuscript of KATIE.

As you’ll soon see, the book is an emotional roller coaster–with many entertaining ups and some difficult-to-read downs–due to the nature of the story, which includes everything from Hollywood high times to the terrors of 9/11.

New Friends Suzanne and Tommy

While writing can be an isolating, somewhat lonely profession, recording this audio book sure wasn’t. It was a team effort all the way and really fun–the technical process of it made so effortless thanks to the highly skilled team assembled–the congenial Hachette producer Jon Klemm, director Suzanne Toren (who was sensitively meticulous in everything she suggested) and the incredibly efficient sound engineer Tommy Harron.

By the time I read one of the most amusing chapters of the book, Prancing With The Stars–we were all having a great time. In this part of the book, I recount how my dog Katie interacted with the great Katharine Hepburn, Bette Midler, Farrah Fawcett, Ivana Trump, and the infamous Leona Helmsley. (You’ll hear my Kate Hepburn voiceover!)

As we pushed past this chapter and moved into more serious ones, I think we all began to feel closer to one another. Being in a recording studio for so many hours–you become friendly pretty quickly–and I can’t tell you how emotionally supportive both Suzanne and Tommy were during our long hours together.

Why would I mention this? Because reading this book was, at times, harrowing for me. There was one chapter in particular when one of the main characters of my book dies–and I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to read it. I tried it out at home and I simply couldn’t get through it. Every time I read, I choked up, and was hoping that the same thing wouldn’t happen in the studio.

The Star Of The Book Lounging At Home, what a face!

But it did. After a paragraph or so, I couldn’t read the narrative fluently, my voice all choked up. “Take your time,” Tommy said softly. “And take some deep breaths.” Suzanne was equally kind and patient:  “We have as much time as you need. Even if we record this a few sentences at a time, we can do it.”

And so we did. They both got me through it. At times, though, we had to stop completely. The nature of what I was describing was painful to me and I couldn’t stop the tears. At first, I felt embarrassed at this flood of emotion happening in front of relative strangers–but Suzanne and Tommy are strangers no longer. . It’s amazing how quickly people bond when they’re engaged in a joint effort, much less an emotionally-charged one, all of us brought together, most intimately, as a team.

I already miss my new friends!–and wish our recording could have gone on for longer. I guess I”ll have to write another book.

In the end, I have to admit that I surprised myself. I read all 72,000 words from start to finish. One thing is for sure–I’m telling you the story in my own voice, in my own way, and it’s straight from the heart.

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How Can We Recover From The Death Of Our Dog?

Posted June 16th, 2010 in Coping With Grief, Dogs, Friendship, Losing Your Pet by Glenn Plaskin

In our neighborhood, brimming with more than 800 dogs, my cocker spaniel, Lucy and I, bump into our regulars daily–from Herman the Great Dane and Stanley the Dachshund to Sammy the Bulldog, Berta the Standard Poodle, and Captain the Fox Terrier, among numerous wagging tails.

In recent days, three of our canine neighbors have suddenly disappeared from the Esplanade of Battery Park City, which runs alongside the Hudson. One day they were out walking, the next they were gone.

Their owners are devastated. To them, their pet was more child than dog.

Sammy’s owner, Ben, has lost 15 pounds. He stopping shaving and has hardly left the house, in avoidance mode, uncomfortable at receiving condolences. His dog Sammy, at age 17, had survived far longer than most dogs ever do, but it’s never enough, the heartbreak no less when a dog dies at such a grand age.

The vacuum left behind is profound. What could be sadder than putting away your dog’s leftover toys, their food and water bowls, or their collar and chain? And what could be emptier than a bed that’s suddenly bigger than it should be, only the ghost of their spirit lingering in the room. Little wonder that Ben feels despondent and depressed. All in all, losing a dog is simply heartbreaking. Many say they’d almost rather lose an unwanted relative!–than their canine companion.

I’m sure there are many of you who have experienced the death of  your family pet. The bond between owner and dog is a profoundly close one. When a dog looks up at you with adoring eyes, tail wagging, or falls asleep in your arms—there’s nothing more blissful. Our canine companions are like little kids that never grow up. . They need our protection and love—and give it back in spades.

Some nights, my dog, Lucy, is propped up against the pillows, staring into my eyes with wonder as I massage her stomach and stroke her ears. The feeling of total contentment is mutual. In fact, it’s been proven that dogs reduce stress and lower your blood pressure, creating a sensation of total well-being and peace .

And when that bond is broken by the inevitability of death, nothing hurts more.

I can tell you that losing my dog KATIE was one of the saddest moments of my life. Just pick up my book, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL, and read the chapter titled Nocturne, the final good-bye.

On the last day of Katie’s life—though she was blind and deaf and barely able to walk, very much in pain—she still had the strength to let me know she loved me, licking my face one last time. And then, cradled in my arms at the Vet and breathing peacefully…she was sent to heaven. I bent over her, in tears, and nearly choking as I stroked her beautiful head for one last time, barely able to pull myself away.

The devastating pain of that moment, even years later, never completely goes away, just as our 15-year bond never ends.

But I’ve learned to concentrate less on the loss and more on the gift that was given to me. I always remind myself: Our dogs want us to be happy. They live for it. And it would be painful for them to sense, even in death, that they were causing us pain. Knowing this, more than anything, was one secret to recovering.

For those who may be experiencing the emptiness and loss I did, I want to share with you some secrets to feeling the grief and recovering from it.

Go Ahead and Cry: Being stoic in the face of profound loss never helps.  So acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it. Instead of bottling up feelings of sadness, let them out—and let them go. No matter how old you are, man or woman, young or old, crying is cathartic. It reduces stress and eases the loss. It did for me.

Tap Into Your Memories: I’d rather celebrate the memory of my dog than avoid it. So I keep a photo of her in my wallet and carry her engraved name tag on my key chain. Find your own way to remember. Write a tribute. Frame a photo. Compose a song. Take out your scrapbooks or watch videos, reliving the indelible moments that defined your life together. And talk about your dog with sympathetic friends and family who understand your loss, telling funny stories and recounting adventures. You’ll find yourself smiling.

Plan A Memorial: Create an event—a funeral, a ceremony, a party–something that celebrates your dog. Inviting all your friends and family, make it a personalized memorial related to who your dog loved, and what he or she liked to do. When Katie passed away, because of my classical music background, and because she was well-known in the neighborhood, I planned  two memorial piano recitals in my home, inviting 30 friends (and their DOGS!) to attend. I had a big carrot cake (my dog’s favorite) with her picture on it, candlelight, and photos of her around the room. Our local Pastor even came over and said a prayer. It was beautiful and fun—a fitting tribute to Katie’s spirit. Others choose to memorialize their dogs with a headstone or urn or a donation to a dog-related charity. Do whatever feels right to you—but do something special.

Reach Out To The Experts If You Need To: Don’t be embarrassed or too proud to get help. The loss of an animal, whether due to death, or being lost or stolen, is devastating and traumatic. For kids, losing a pet may be their first experience with death. A child may blame himself, his parents, or the Vet for not saving the pet. He may feel guilty, depressed, or frightened. Expressing your own grief reassures the child that sadness is OK. A therapist is another option, one that helped me. You can also ask your veterinarian, local humane society, the Delta Society, or your local animal shelter about pet loss hotlines or online chat groups. Not least important, give surviving pets lots of TLC, as they may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, or suffer lethargy. Maintain a normal routine. It’s good for them and for you.

Welcome Recovery: Much as we think it never will, the pain eventually passes and you’re going to feel better. The shock, depression, and emptiness are going to fade. But in the days following the loss of your pet, look after yourself—exercise, eat well, see your friends, keep active, take up a new interest, and indulge in small pleasures. One little thing that helped me was re-arranging my home, moving the furniture, changing the colors, adding plants, creating a new environment for a different life. Shift things around. Craft your recovery your way, but carve out a new path that fosters increased energy and optimism, without ever forgetting the joyful spirit of your dog. Doing this will pave the way for the next stage—getting a NEW dog.

Don’t Try To Replace Your Dog: Some people are ready for a new dog after days or months, while others, like me, take years. In any case, just as you could never replace a family member, it’s impossible to replace a dog. Give yourself time to recover from the loss before rushing out to get a new one. Consider a different breed, or a female if you had a male, or at least a different color. You can’t replicate what you had. And if you attempt to replace a day, you maybe be setting yourself up for disappointment, for every soul and spirit is different. Don’t be rushed. Take it easy. Take your time.

Do any of you have any other ideas or tips for recovering from the loss of a dog? I’d love to hear from you.

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