I Am Not Your Guru. Netflix Documentary (2016).
There is perhaps nothing as captivating and mysterious as what influences human emotion and behavior. There is also perhaps nothing that attracts more criticism–as reported by this Newsweek article–than those who claim to hold the secrets of that influence. The greater the master, the larger the, well, everything; the crowds, the cost, the criticism. Watching this documentary, therefore, is captivating, intriguing, educational, conflicting, and moving, all at the same time.
From a production standpoint, there is much to be amazed by. The team that has surrounded Robbins (that he has built) are professionals, and they execute with precision. It is, from that standpoint, a glorious thing to watch.
From a consumer standpoint, I find a real tension. Here is the great “change your life” hope that is, once again, only available for the wealthy. Yet, at the same time, I understand the economics of putting on a program such as this, and $5000/person is a “reasonable” price for what one is getting. (That Robbins continues to feed millions of people from his wealth needs honorable consideration when critiquing the economics of the empire he has built.)
From a leadership standpoint, there is much to be admired. For you can get a palpable sense that Robbins takes care of his people, treats them as valuable employees, and has a clear mission and direction. You can get a sense that the people who work around him feel empowered and inspired to continue the work. He even states, “Moving a chair makes a difference,” “Thank you for being my partners,” and “We’ve raised the standard for caring.” Yes!
From a product standpoint, I feel a different tension, one that exists because of my profession–pastoral ministry–in which there are many parallels between what I [attempt to] do and what Robbins is doing. I find a camaraderie in his reasoning, an insatiable appetite to help people’s lives be better. I find in his teaching (at least in the documentary) to be very much in line with the core central teachings of Jesus (that we are all concerned we are not enough, that we are unworthy of love, yet we crave unconditional love and crave to give that unconditional love to others, and in that, we find life’s ultimate calling and fulfillment). The idea of finding a vision or “mission statement” for your life is one that has deep resonance in the Christian tradition (even if some strands of this tradition provide that mission for you). Even the utilization of body awareness (breathing, brain, nervous system, etc.) is concordant with the mystic tradition, rooted in the idea that our entire selves are created in the image of God.
Perhaps the most powerful moment for me was the end, when Robbins relayed the story of a teacher, pulling him aside, and offering him a gift. That gift was this man’s speaking deeply into Robbins’s life, seeing what Robbins could not see in himself (at the time), and valuing and honoring that presence (“I know who you are.”), with the only agenda to pour water, sunlight, and life into that seed already existent in Robbins’s spirit/soul. Robbins says,
I see that moment as a moment of grace. That man in my life, handing me that letter [The Will To Win] and seeing who I was at that moment, that was grace. There’s a lot I’ve done, but that was grace. I didn’t create that. And so, while I’ve done my part to sculpt who I am, and it never ends for me, I also recognize … *sigh* … grace.
It’s a connection to the divine, a connection to know that it’s more than you, and I think that’s a healthy thing.
Certainly sounds like good news, one that has changed the lives of millions of people.