Tony Robbins says every entrepreneur needs to be able to overcome their “threshold of control.”
By Richard Feloni
While all of Tony Robbins’ one-on-one coaching sessions are personalized, they’re drawn from more than 30 years of experience in coaching — and for his business clients, what he’s learned from running his own portfolio of companies.
In September, the winners of Shopify’s Build a Bigger Business competition won the chance to be personally mentored by Robbins at his Fiji resort, Namale. The winners are the founders of profitable online retailers bringing in millions of dollars in sales who are in the midst of scaled growth. While that’s a mark of success by most measures, each of the entrepreneurs are in fragile positions that will determine the fate of their business.
We went to Fiji to spend time with Robbins and the winners, and in a podcast interview — which you can listen to below — he told us that there were two fundamental insights that guided each of his mentorship sessions.
Prioritize your customers, not your product ideas. “I’d say there’s only one way to really succeed long term — and it’s simplistic but it’s true,” Robbins said. “It’s add more value than anybody else.” And the way to do that, he said, is by falling in love with your customer, not your product.
“If you fall in love with your product, you’re screwed,” he said. A common mistake new entrepreneurs make, he explained, is failing to notice changes in demand from their customer base because they’ve wrapped their identity in their company’s first offering. Expanding the brand or pivoting to a new approach will be just as fruitless if the decision is catered to vague market developments rather than a relationship with a specific customer base. “You’ve got to figure out how to know more about them than anybody else does,” he said. “Maybe they know about themselves in some areas.”
Pinpoint your ‘threshold of control’ and learn to overcome it. Throughout Robbins’ week with the Shopify winners on Fiji, he repeatedly had them pinpoint their “threshold of control,” to help them learn to overcome it.
Robbins used an example from skiing: You’re an intermediate skier who skis blue square (intermediate) slopes, but one trip up the mountain you realize you’ve accidentally begun going down a black diamond (expert) slope. Skiing is dangerous, and potentially fatal if you don’t know what you’re doing.
You then have the option to either intensely focus and figure out a way to make it through the trail, or else slide or walk down the rest of trail. If you choose the former and make it down on your skis, even if sloppily, you’ve passed a threshold of control.
This same fear is common among entrepreneurs who suddenly find themselves in charge of both a rapidly growing team and millions of dollars. Running a scaling company can seem like the black diamond slope for a founder who feels comfortable running a successful small startup.
There are many factors, including luck, that determine whether a company can achieve long-term sustainability, but a crucial factor for success is the founder’s ability to determine their threshold and push past it. “Courage isn’t that you’re not afraid, it’s you’re scared sh–less but you decide that you’re going to focus on what you’re here to do versus on what you fear, and you push yourself,” Robbins said.