Unshakeable Summary: 10 Best Lessons from Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins lives in a castle, rides a private helicopter and employs thousands of people around the world.
He owns a private beach resort on a private island in Fiji. He’s a New York Times bestselling author. And when people like Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, or Olympic Gold Medalist Serena Williams need advice, they go to Tony Robbins.
If Tony isn’t successful, then I don’t know who is.
Yet he wasn’t always like this.
Tony grew up with an abusive mom and several dads who came into and out of his life. (The men his mom dated.) He used to wash his dishes in the bathtub of his apartment. He was scared that he wouldn’t make a big impact with his life.
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Now he gives speeches about how to be successful to packed stadiums. His events look more like rock concerts than speeches.
Tony has an incredible power to communicate with people. That’s how he made his fortune. He understands what people want and what advice they need to hear to move forward.
Most people think of Tony as a “motivational speaker.” I think he goes much deeper than “motivation.” Tony studies successful people like a detective, finding out clues to their success. He uncovers what patterns make people successful. Then he copies the patterns in his own life and teaches them to his students. And many people—a few of my friends included—give Tony credit for changing the direction of their life.
In this book, Tony wants to show you how to achieve financial stability, then financial freedom.
Tony believes that if you want to be wealthy, then you should learn from wealthy people. That’s why he spent 4 years talking to dozens of billionaires and famous investors. People who have spent their whole lives learning the rules of money. And he asked them to share the exact strategies a regular person like you or me needs to feel safe about your financial future and to become financially free, even in our fast-changing world.
Table of Contents:
1. Investing: Not Just For The 1%
Many people are scared of the word “investing.”
- Some people don’t invest because they believe it’s too complicated.
- Other people believe it is impossible for a normal person to succeed at it.
- Other people think putting money in the stock market is the same as gambling. Make one wrong choice and you lose all your money.
And it’s true, for many people investing really is like gambling. They try to guess which stocks will rise in price and which ones will fall. It’s basically like trying to predict the future.
Tony’s strategy for investing in the stock market is totally different. He recommends that you use index funds. This is the same strategy that billionaires like Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, and Ray Dalio recommend to regular people like you and me.
And when you know the right investing strategy, then there’s no reason to feel overwhelmed or worried. In this book Tony Robbins explains the most important rules for safe and profitable investing. He tells you exactly what to do to grow your wealth. He also tells you what traps to watch out for to avoid losing money.
This isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It’s about creating a rock solid unshakeable foundation of financial security underneath you and your family so you can live with peace of mind.
And when you stick to these strategies, then soon your money will start to work for you instead of you working for it. Tony calls it “making money your slave instead of being a slave to money.” And there will come a moment in your life when you don’t ever need to work again. And that’s a beautiful place to reach because it feels like freedom.[key-point]Investing is for everyone, not just the ultra-rich. Investing is not gambling when you follow the right rules. It can be a very safe way to grow your money.[/key-point]
2. Index Funds: The Simple and Safe Path to Wealth
What is a stock? A stock is a small part of a company that anyone can buy and sell. For example, you could buy 1% of Disney in stocks. If Disney became more successful, your stock would also become more valuable. You could sell it for a higher price and become richer.
Usually, people think investing is “stock picking.” They think you need to choose the right stocks and you will either become rich or go bankrupt. But Tony’s strategy is totally different.
Tony Robbins and the billionaires he interviewed recommend you put your money into index funds.
What are index funds?
When you invest in an index fund, you’re not picking just one stock. You’re actually putting a small chunk of money into EVERY stock in a market.
For example, have you ever heard of the S&P 500? It’s a list of the 500 most popular stocks in the US. This includes Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and so on. So an “index fund” of the S&P 500 lets you invest a small amount of money equally into all 500 companies at the same time. Instead of picking one stock, you pick them all.
Why would anyone want to use index funds?
Because it’s incredibly hard to predict the future! As Tony says, “the world is just too complex and fast-changing for anybody to see the future.” And the good news is, you don’t need to!
Just put your money into an index fund and it will grow or shrink along with the overall stock market. If one company goes bankrupt, you won’t lose a lot of money. You don’t have to stress about picking the right stock.[key-point]Forget about stock picking! Put your money into index funds. This means you’re investing a little money into every company in the market! Your money will grow along with the overall market and you don’t need to worry about individual companies going bankrupt.[/key-point]
3. The Magic of Compound Interest
How much will your money grow with index funds? Well, Investopedia says:
According to historical records, the average annual return for the S&P 500 since its inception in 1928 through 2014 is approximately 10%.
That’s right. If you had invested in an S&P 500 index fund in the past, your money would have grown about 10% per year on average. (Which is about 7% after inflation.)
If that sounds too good to be true, keep in mind this is a long-term average. There are years the stock market grows by 20-30%. Other years it stays the same size. And other years your money may actually shrink by 10, 20 or as much as 40%! Ouch!!
So how do you know when is the right time to invest? You don’t. Almost nobody can predict when the market will boom and when it will crash. That’s why Tony recommends you view investing as a long-term project. You put your money in for 10, 20, 30 years or longer. In the short term, you may lose money if there is a recession. But over the long term, the growth will be about 10% per year.
What is interest? That’s what investors call the money you make from investing. If your money grew by 10%, then you can say that you “made 10% interest” this year.
If 10% interest doesn’t sound like much to you, then you don’t understand the power of compound interest yet.
Compound interest is when you earn interest not just from the money you save… but also from the money you made investing in the past. This is when investing really starts to pay off. Over 30 years your interest “stacks” or “compounds” on top of itself and your money grows a lot more than you expect.
Here’s a simple video explaining how compound interest works visually:
Here’s one of Tony’s examples to show how powerful compound interest is:
The S&P 500 returned an average of 10.28% a year from 1985 to 2015. (…)
Let’s say you’d invested $50,000 in 1985. How much would it have been worth by 2015?
The answer: $941,613.61. That’s right. Almost a million bucks!
That’s incredible! In fact, with 10.28% yearly growth, your money would double every seven years thanks to compound interest.
Yet there’s a catch.
There’s always a catch isn’t there? We’ll talk about it in the next idea…[key-point]Compound interest is when you earn interest not just from the money you save… but also from the money you made investing in the past. It can make your money grow a lot faster than you expect.[/key-point]
4. Fees Are Your Biggest Enemy
Here’s the bad news from Tony…
But while the market returned 10.28% per year, Dalbar(a research firm) found that the average investor made only 3.66% a year over those three decades! At that rate, your money doubles only every 20 years. The result? Instead of that million-dollar windfall, you ended up with only $146,996. (Emphasis added.)
Why is the return for average investors so much lower than it could be? One big reason is FEES.
If you went to someone who called themselves a “financial adviser,” you would expect them to give you unbiased advice, right? After all, that’s what they get paid for!
Well, you may be shocked to hear that most people providing financial advice are actually brokers or salespeople. They make big sales commissions when they recommend certain products. And the bad news for you is the products THEY make big money recommending are often not the ones you should be buying.
The Mistake of Mutual Funds
For example, financial advisers often recommend actively managed mutual funds. That’s the opposite of an index fund. In a mutual fund, someone is actively picking stocks for you.
And in a perfect world, having an expert pick stocks for you should make you more money. That’s why mutual funds charge high FEES of around 2% per year.
But the problem is mutual funds don’t perform! In reality, mutual funds do not grow your money faster. They usually perform far worse than the overall market.
One of the most shocking studies I’ve seen on this topic of mutual fund performance was by an industry expert named Robert Arnott, the founder of Research Affiliates. He studied all 203 actively managed mutual funds with at least $100 million in assets, tracking their returns for the 15 years from 1984 through 1998. And you know what he found? Only 8 of these 203 funds actually beat the S&P 500 index. That’s less than 4%! To put it another way, 96% of these actively managed mutual funds failed to add any value at all over 15 years!
It’s shocking that you need to pay 2% fees for mutual funds that usually make your money grow LESS than if you had just put it into an index fund.
Only a tiny percentage of mutual funds beat the overall market. And remember that just because a mutual fund has done well in the past, doesn’t mean it will continue to perform well in the future. As Tony repeated many times in this book, “Today’s winners are often tomorrow’s losers.”
Well, you might be thinking “a 2% fee doesn’t sound like much.”
But when you consider that your average yearly interest may be about 7%, that 2% is a big chunk of your interest. And over 20, 30 and 50 years, the effect of that 2% will compound and steal a large part of your wealth.
When Tony talked to investing legend Jack Bogle, he heard the negative impact of these fees explained clearly:
“Let’s assume the stock market gives a 7% return over 50 years,” he began. At that rate, because of the power of compounding, “each dollar goes up to 30 dollars.”
But the average fund charges you about 2% per year in costs, which drops your average annual return to 5%. At that rate, “you get 10 dollars. So 10 dollars versus 30 dollars. You put up 100% of the capital, you took 100% of the risk, and you got 33% of the return!”
So what can you do? You can listen to the world’s top investors like Warren Buffet, Jack Bogle, and Ray Dalio who all recommend investing in index funds.
Index funds have far lower fees, usually less than 0.5%. Why are index funds so cheap?
- They’re mostly automated. Index funds don’t need to pay anyone high salaries to pick stocks and manage the fund.
- No sales commissions. The low fees aren’t very profitable for banks, so financial advisers don’t make big commissions selling index funds.
- Fewer trading fees. When mutual funds buy or sell a stock, they pay a trading fee. And the more they trade, the more YOU pay. These costs add up, eating into your returns. Index funds buy and hold the same stocks for years and decades, so there are far fewer trading fees.
More and more people are catching on to the benefits of investing in index funds instead of traditional mutual funds. According to the Wall Street Journal, people moved over $400 billion into index funds in 2016, a new record. And I’m sure that will continue to grow.[key-point]Most financial advisors are more like commissioned salespeople, often recommending mutual funds with high fees. But mutual funds usually perform worse than index funds. And their 2% annual fees don’t sound like much, but could cost you a few years of retirement![/key-point]
5. Market Falls Are Normal and Predictable. Don’t Be Afraid.
I want you to imagine that you kept all of your money under your bed. All the money that you have worked years to save is sitting in a big pile of cash, safe inside your room.
Then one day you look under your bed and see that 10% of your money is missing! It might take you a year to save that much money again!
How would you feel in this situation? Probably angry, shocked and upset. You want to find out who took your money!
Here’s a fact: losing 10% of your money overnight is not an unusual event in the investing world. It happens all the time. Here’s a quote from Tony:
When any market falls by at least 10% from its peak, it’s called a correction—a peculiarly bland and neutral term for an experience that most people relish about as much as dental surgery! When a market falls by at least 20% from its peak, it’s called a bear market.
It’s easy for us to sit here and imagine that we will stay calm during the next market correction or crash, but when you wake up one morning and see that you’ve lost a big chunk of your wealth then your emotions start to take over. When the market starts going down, everyone starts feeling a bit worried and anxious about the future. Everyone feels afraid to lose the money they’ve spent years gathering.
When fear takes over, this is when people make bad investing decisions at the wrong time. Decisions that may totally derail their long-term investing goals. If you make an investing decision out of fear, like selling your investments because the market is going down… then you will lose even more money.
So how can someone stay sane and rational? By learning about the reality of the markets. The first reality is:
A market correction has happened about every year since 1900.
Market corrections happen once a year on average. Yet if you turn on the TV during a correction, the talking heads on the news are moaning about how this is the end. During every correction, attention-hungry media professionals start telling us that this is the next Great Depression.
That’s just their job. To scare people so much that their eyes become permanently glued to the news. To spin any news in the most negative way possible. Then they sell your attention to advertisers. That’s their job.
But when you know the REALITY of how the markets work, their brainwashing will not affect you. And their fear-mongering will not change your investing strategy. Here’s another reality of the markets:
Only 1 in 5 corrections turn into a Bear Market. Bear Markets happen every 3-5 years on average.
Remember that a bear market is when the market falls by 20% from its peak. These are like larger “corrections” and they happen every 3-5 years on average. Most corrections DO NOT turn into bear markets.
It’s not a question of IF these falls will happen, it’s a question of WHEN.
We know they will happen.
We know how often they will happen.
We just don’t know exactly when they will happen.
So there’s no sense in changing your investment strategy when the market goes down. Because it has always bounced back after every correction and crash. Always.[key-point]When the market falls by 10%, it is called a market correction. These happen once a year on average. When the market falls by 20%, it is called a Bear Market. These happen every 3 to 5 years on average. These market falls are normal and predictable, don’t let it scare you to sell your investments at the wrong time. [/key-point]
6. The Market Has Always Bounced Back. Always.
Do you remember the big financial crisis in 2008? Big institutions like the Lehman Brothers were going bankrupt, billions of dollars were spent by the government to bail out big banks, people were losing their houses. The stock market took a nosedive. From October 2007 to March 2009, the S&P 500 market lost about 50% of its value.
Yet looked at what happened next.
Starting in March 2009 and over the next 7 years, the economy bounced back. The S&P 500 more than tripled in value, earning back every dollar it lost in the crisis, then shooting to new peaks.
So the worst thing you could have done was sold your investments in March 2009. The best thing you could have done was hold onto your investments until the market recovered. Just like it always has.
Every time the market falls, all the talking heads on TV start persuading everyone that “this time it’s different.” They talk as if the apocalypse has come and the economy will never get better. But Tony says it very clearly:
Bear markets don’t last. On average, they last about a year. (…)
In more than a third of bear markets, the index plunged by more than 40%. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you’re someone who panics, sells everything in the midst of this mayhem, and locks in a loss of more than 40%, you’re going to feel like a grizzly bear mauled you for real.
Obviously, the future isn’t going to be exactly like the past, but when we look at the past you will see familiar patterns repeating for hundreds of years. Bear markets have happened many times before. And when they do happen, the worst thing you could do was sell when stock prices are low. Here’s another reality you need to know:
Despite many short-term drops, the stock market rises over the long-term.
If you do what Tony recommends and stay in the market over the long term—10, 20, 30 years—then market corrections will only be short-term setbacks. The money you lose in market drops will come back if you stay in the market and wait a few years. And over the long-term, you will become richer.
Now here’s what you should REALLY do when there is a market correction or bear market:
7. “Be Greedy When Others Are Fearful” – Warren Buffett
In 2009 when the stock market was falling fast, Warren Buffet was buying billions of dollars of stocks. Think about that. While other people were losing their minds with panic, the richest investor in the world was going on a shopping spree!
It was all part of his strategy. Here’s a quote from Buffett during the 2008 financial crisis:
“A simple rule dictates my buying: be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread.” – Warren Buffet
For example, in 2009 he bought a railroad company called BNSF for $26.5 billion. Most people couldn’t believe he was spending billions of dollars buying companies in the middle of an economic crash.
But now that railroad company has turned into one of his most profitable deals. Revenues have gone up over 58% since he bought it and he’s made almost all of his money back in just a few years. Now people say he basically stole the company because of how cheap he bought it for.
A Nobel prize-winning economist called Harry Markowitz said:
“The biggest mistake that the small investor makes is to buy when the market is going up on the assumption that the market will go up further—and sell when the market is going down on the assumption that it’s going to go down further.”
Most people live in fear of bear markets and crashes, but the wealthiest and smartest investors look forward to them! Why? Because that’s when everything goes on sale! Market drops are an incredible opportunity to buy stocks at a discount price. When everyone is feeling pessimistic about the future and selling their investments at low prices, that’s the time for you to get in![key-point]The best time to buy is during bear markets and crashes because that’s when everything goes on sale. This is the opposite of what most small investors do.[/key-point]
8. Diversification: How to Avoid Losing Money Even During Crashes
Most people believe top investors are obsessed with making money. Tony Robbins says this is not true. After talking to them he found that…
The best investors are obsessed with avoiding losing money.
Warren Buffet even has a famous line about his first two rules of investing. He says: “Rule number one: never lose money. Rule number two: never forget rule number one.”
Here’s an example from Richard Branson. Most people think Branson is a crazy risk-taking entrepreneur. Yet when he started Virgin Airlines, he risked very little money. Branson knew that airlines go bankrupt all the time, so he spent a year negotiating a deal with an airplane company that would let him return the planes if Virgin airlines failed. With this deal, he now had the opportunity to build a huge business, but he wouldn’t lose much money if it didn’t work out.
This is an example of a “No Lose Situation.” And you should try to create these types of situations in your investing. Ask yourself: “How can I avoid losing money even if I’m wrong?” That’s how the most successful investors think.
One way to do this is through…
We’ve all heard the that you “Shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Because you could fall and break all your eggs. And if all your money is in one type of investment, then you could lose it more easily too.
Smart investing means having your money in many different types of investments, so that when the value of one goes down, the value of others remains the same or even grows.
Diversification is an admission that you don’t know which particular asset class, which stock or bond, or which country will do best. So you own a bit of everything!
For example, from the years 2000 to 2009, the US stock market barely grew at all. The S&P 500 brought a return of just 1.4% per year on average. Many people call those years “the lost decade” because if all your money was in US stocks, you would have lost 10 years of growth!
Yet during the same time, international stocks grew 3.9% per year and emerging-market stocks grew 16.2% per year. This means if your money was spread around the world, then it wouldn’t have been a lost decade for you. That’s why diversification is so powerful.
Here are a few ways you can diversify:
- Use index funds. With index funds, you’re not betting your money on one company or one CEO. You’re spreading it across the entire market.
- Choose different types of investments. I’m talking about stocks, bonds, real estate, etc. As the billionaire Ray Dalio warned Tony, “It’s almost certain that whatever asset class you’re going to put your money in, there will come a day when you will lose 50%–70%.”
- Spread your money across many countries and economies. You never know when one country will run into trouble. For example, the Japanese stock market looked unstoppable in the 80s, then it suddenly fell and hasn’t really grown for 30 years. The Japanese investors who kept all their money inside their country are not happy.
- Buy investments over time. Nobody really knows when the best time to buy is, but if you’re purchasing your investments over time, then at least you can avoid buying too much at the worst time. (This is also called dollar cost averaging.)
9. True Wealth is Emotional Wealth
Tony believes this is the most important part of the book.
Yes, we’ve just spent a long time talking about how to achieve financial freedom and material success. But now Tony wants us to see a deeper truth:
What we really want are the emotions we associate with money: for example, the sense of freedom, security, or comfort we believe money will give us, or the joy that comes from sharing our wealth.
Many people get money, but they don’t feel different. Some of the richest people in the world still live in worry and fear they could lose everything. They feel unsatisfied when they wake up in the morning. Is that wealth?
Tony says that to really feel wealthy, you must take care of your emotions. And he gives us a couple ways to do this:
First, Tony says you must keep growing. Everything in life is either growing, or it’s dying. You must keep growing to avoid feeling miserable and unfulfilled.
Phil Knight who created Nike also says that “Life is growth. You grow or you die.” And Phil says that the most meaningful times of his life were when he was struggling to grow Nike, like the years he was selling shoes from the back of his car. I highly recommend you click here to read my summary of Phil Knight’s book.
Second, you have to give. Give your money, your time, your attention to others. Contributing to others is what brings meaning into most people’s lives.[key-point]People don’t really want money, they want the feelings that money can bring them like security and freedom. But many people who are rich still live with fear and anxiety. So the real key to a meaningful life is emotional wealth. You get this by constantly growing, giving to others, and following the next step…[/key-point]
10. How to Stop Suffering and Live in a Beautiful State All the Time
The final step of emotional wealth is the most important one.
You have to choose not to suffer.
I can hear you asking: “Not to suffer? I thought this was a book about investing!” Well, Tony Robbins wants to help us become emotionally wealthy, too.
Tony explains that at any moment in our lives we are either living in a high energy state or a low energy state.
- High energy states could also be called “beautiful states” and it’s when you feel joy, happiness, passion, connection or excitement.
- Low energy states could also be called “suffering states” and it’s when you feel boredom, depression, misery, hopelessness or stress.
Of course, we all want to live in beautiful states, right? Who would choose to feel angry, sad or hopeless? But Tony says this is exactly what we do whenever we slip into a suffering state. Good events don’t put you into a beautiful state. Bad events don’t put you into a suffering state. It’s YOU who chooses to feel the way you do.
You must realize that you are in control of your inner state, not the world. And at this point Tony is sounding a lot like Buddha. Here’s another quote from the book:
What I’ve come to realize is that the single most important decision in life is this: Are you committed to being happy, no matter what happens to you?
Will you commit to enjoying life not only when everything goes your way but also when everything goes against you, when injustice happens, when someone screws you over, when you lose something or someone you love, or when nobody seems to understand or appreciate you? Unless we make this definitive decision to stop suffering and live in a beautiful state, our survival minds will create suffering whenever our desires, expectations, or preferences are not met. What a waste of so much of our lives!
Don’t worry, it’s not your fault!
The human brain is engineered to make you survive, not to make you happy. Our brains are actually wired to look for what’s wrong in our lives. This wiring comes from times when cavemen had to scan their environments for saber-toothed tigers. We don’t live around tigers anymore, but humans are still always scanning for threats, by worrying about what you might lose in the future. You hear bad news about the economy. That’s a threat. And this puts you into a suffering state.
So what can we do instead?
When Tony Robbins feels himself slipping into a suffering state, first he breathes and slows down. This creates some distance between him and the thoughts that are pulling him into suffering, and now he can redirect his focus more easily.
What does he redirect his focus to? Gratitude and appreciation.
The way you overcome your caveman wiring is through appreciation. Rarely do we stop to enjoy all the good things in life. We take them for granted and obsess over problems or what we desire. However, when you do slow down and feel grateful for what you have—shelter, a friend, a lover, a family member, safety, technology—whatever it is, you almost immediately go into a beautiful state.
To overcome fear, the best thing is to be overwhelmingly grateful. —Sir John Templeton
Here’s a video of Tony guiding you through a meditation that will show you how to access a beautiful state whenever you want:[key-point]We are always living in either a suffering state or a beautiful state. Most people believe the outside world causes them to feel good or bad. The truth is that you have to choose not to suffer. Focusing on everything you’re grateful for is the quickest way to end suffering.[/key-point]
That is all for this summary of Tony’s latest book about money. We’ve covered some important truths about investing that will prepare you for a wealthy future.
Not only did we talk about the fundamentals of investing like why you should use index funds and diversify. We also talked about the emotional realities of investing and how fear will sabotage most people’s long-term investing strategy.
Nobody can really predict when the markets will go up or down, so it’s best to invest your money for the long term. This is called a “buy and hold” strategy. Over the years your savings will multiply faster and faster, thanks to the amazing power of compound interest.
We also discovered that the BEST time to buy investments is when everybody is feeling afraid and pessimistic. Because that’s when everything goes on sale! Market crashes are your best opportunity to move up a tax bracket.
Finally, we talked about true wealth, which is not financial but emotional. There are billionaires in the world who are stressed and miserable. What a tragedy! And there are other people who are wealthy on the outside AND the inside because they are committed to living in a beautiful state, no matter what happens. They have chosen to live with gratitude and appreciation for what they have instead of always obsessing about what else they need.
That’s true wealth, and that’s how you become totally unshakeable.