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Are Blocks and Fears Great?

Bernard Hiller   |   October 23, 2014    2:44 PM ET

When it comes to blocks and fears, people think, "Wow, those are terrible!" The truth about all blocks and fears is that they are gifts from your soul. They have been placed in your way for Personal Growth. They are the things that you need to overcome to become POWERFUL. Once you overcome your blocks and fears, you will discover your inner powers. Only powerful people can achieve anything great in life. When people say, "I would like to have more confidence" the reply is, "You have to do things that challenge you, in order to become the person you always wanted to be."

You should also know that all fears are questions that need to be answered by you. When you say, "Can I do this?" Of course you can, but will you do it?

Turn every fear into a question. Like "Can I be a performer?" "Will I have enough will power to leave my job?" "Do I have the courage to live my dream?" Well, if you don't answer those questions and take appropriate actions, then all you're left with is the "Fear". You must answer the questions as they arise, because all your fears are just feelings, not facts.

As a child you are born with only two innate fears: the fear of loud noise and the fear of falling. All other fears you have, were given to you and now have been accepted by you. Fear lives in your head, as thoughts that something will not turn out well. The more you live in your head, the more fear you will have.

Blocks are limitations you have put upon yourself. A block, such as, "I'm not good enough" stops so many people. Les Brown, motivational speaker says, "You have greatness inside." You need the courage to find it and then release the blocks that are stopping you.

Blocks and fears are not negative. Only unresolved blocks and fears are negative. They are liberating once you are on the other side of them. The way to live productively is to keep overcoming all the blocks and fears for the rest of your life. Only then will you become the artist and the person that is living at the highest level.
Run towards your blocks and fears; they will unlock your treasure!

Face Your Fears workshops

Tony Robbins Sets the Record Straight About Fire Walk 'Controversy'

Marianne Schnall   |   July 31, 2012    1:35 PM ET

A few months ago, I was introduced to the work of best-selling author and life coach Tony Robbins while writing about Oprah's 5,000-person live "Lifeclass" at Radio City Music Hall for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Robbins was appearing as Oprah's guest teacher. I was immediately taken with his charisma, his power and eloquence as a speaker as well as his big heart and caring to help people develop strategies to improve their lives.

A few weeks after the show, I did a comprehensive interview with Tony Robbins, in which he reflected on his work and impressive career (which has included popular seminars for millions of people around the world and counseling people such as President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa) and his own personal life experiences. He invited me to attend one of his upcoming seminars, something I was looking forward to doing. At the time I joked with my family that I might be expected to walk on fire, which I knew from my research was a very transformative part of his seminars that he uses as an experiential "metaphor" for creating breakthroughs and facing and overcoming our fears.

I loved watching Oprah do it on an episode of Oprah's Next Chapter, which was taped last year when Oprah attended his "Unleash the Power Within" event in Los Angeles. She expected to only stay for two hours but got caught up in the energy and experience and stayed for 12 hours instead, completely surprising herself by being inspired to undertake the fire walk exercise, something Oprah had clearly stated early on there was no way she was going to do. Yet I watched as Oprah triumphantly and jubilantly walked over the coals (you can see video here), declaring afterward: "This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life."

So that is why, when lazily scanning my Twitter feed a week ago, I was surprised by a headline saying two dozen treated for second- and third-degree burns at a Tony Robbins event. I clicked on the story, which painted a horrifying scene at the four-day "Unleash the Power Within" seminar in San Jose, Calif., where it was described that the event ended with participants wailing in pain and agony. I sensed something was wrong with the story. I knew that the fire walk exercise was a practice Tony had been incorporating into his seminars for more than three decades and that it was a very carefully monitored exercise in which attendees voluntarily take part, are well-briefed and prepared for hours beforehand, and appropriate precautions are implemented.

I do remember hearing that a very small percentage of people might experience minor blistering, but usually for the few that do, it is seen as almost a badge of honor and certainly nothing to cause much concern. Such was the case with Arianna Huffington, who wrote in her book The Fourth Instinct that she had done the firewalk and had the blisters to prove it. As she elaborated in an email: "It was a powerful experience of the inner strength we have to create the lives we want, not the lives we settle for -- an inner strength greater than we often give ourselves credit for. And my tiny blisters were a reminder of that!" The stories proliferating on the Internet didn't sound right to me, and I decided to investigate.

When I looked into what three of the medical professionals who were actually on site treating people had to say, they shared their disappointment and frustration with the media reports that they say disregarded the facts for opinions of people who were not directly involved in order to create a sensationalized and inaccurate story. I also reached out to Robbins himself to find out what he had to say about what actually happened at the San Jose event.

It appears the debacle started with a report in a local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, which stated that 21 participants suffered second- or third-degree burns at the event and quoted a young college student who was passing by at 11 p.m. at night and was shocked by the sight of 6,000 people chanting, yelling, and firewalking. He claimed it was a "horrific" scene and he heard "wails of pain, screams of agony."

Those who participated said the young man must not have realized that seminar participants are encouraged to yell and scream to psyche themselves up and they were not all screaming in physical pain. The article in the San Jose Mercury News was taken at face value, and like a bad case of telephone gossip, repeated and embellished across various media outlets around the world with even more severe and shocking titles to grab people's attention. Fox and Friends took the liberty of stretching the truth farther by reporting a "hot coal catastrophe," stating that two dozen people had been hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns, which then became quickly duplicated by others in the media. According to the medical professionals on site, while several participants received minor burns and blistering and received medical attention on site or afterward, these exaggerated reports apparently became the basis of a story then told around the world.

Dr. Bart Rademaker, M.D., a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who was a member of the on site medical team, said he was incredulous about the misleading news coverage.

"I am shocked to hear all the untruths and misrepresentations made in the media and on the Web over the last few days. I was present when 6,000 participants voluntarily did a fire walk, and the claims that people were wailing after sustaining severe burns to the feet is completely untrue, nor were dozens of participants admitted to the hospital!" He added, "Contrary to the media claims, as a medical professional experienced with burns, I can tell you there were no third-degree burns whatsoever as guessed by the fire chief, who was indeed not present personally treating these participants as I was. "

Glen Lechtanski, who is a certified emergency nurse with a masters degree in burn and emergency trauma and Tony Robbins' director of medical operations at live events who was also there on site, confirmed his account.

"I've participated in these events for 11 years, and I can tell you there's never been any third-degree burns. Hot spots and blisters do occur for about 1 percent of the people, and we're there to treat it." He further explained that "contrary to some media reports, the screams that people heard at the event were actually participants building their adrenaline levels to prepare themselves for the walk." He added that the fire walk "is an opportunity for people to face their fears and most find it to be quite profound and positive."

Dr. Rademaker concurred. "Talking to many of the participants I treated a day or two afterward their experience was very positive, transformative and most if not all symptoms had resolved, as the New York Times found when they interviewed people."

Dr. Rob Phelps, a podiatrist, was the third member of medical team at the event. "I not only volunteered to be on the medical team for a second time, but I also brought my wife and two teenage daughters. We had a wonderful experience. In my previous walks I had not burned. I had some small blistering this time (second degree) hotspots, like a sunburn on my feet. They were painful that night but the next day I had absolutely no pain and the blisters were short-lived after that.

"Prior to attending this event a year ago for the first time as a participant, my life was overwhelmed with feelings of stress, and that created an unbearable pattern of insomnia that was debilitating to my life. From the tools I learned I've been able keep the stress level extremely low, and I'm able to sleep well on a very consistent basis. This is worth more than you could ever imagine to me and my family.

"As far as this San Jose event, there were no more hot spots or blistering than usual. The next day I ran into two of the people with the worst blistering that I saw and they both stated that their feet were fine, and I noticed they were walking fine and were smiling. Boy, those news folks know how to tell a 'story.'"

It did appear that most of the misinformation seemed to be coming from people who were not actually present at the event -- in fact, in the articles in which participants at the event were interviewed (an audience that included corporate CEOs, doctors, lawyers, actors, a contingent of Marine and Navy Seals Wounded Warrior veterans and even Olympic hopeful Clarissa Chun), participants spoke only positively about their experience. Attendees like Carolynn Graves, a 50-year-old real estate agent from Toronto, told the New York Times that the seminar and fire walk "transformed people's lives in a single night ... It's a metaphor for facing your fears and accomplishing your goals."

I contacted Tony Robbins to get his take on the situation. He was obviously a bit frustrated by the media's distortion of what transpired:

"For 35 years, I have had more than 4 million people go through my programs from 100 countries, with more than 2 million specifically doing the fire walk seminar itself. Throughout that time we have been conducting these events healthfully and successfully, and we have medical support and attention at every single event for those 3.5 decades. This program in San Jose was no different than any other one that we have ever done. The fact is that the ratio is usually about 1 percent of the people will get some pain, hot spots or blistering, and at this event it was only one-third of 1 percent: 21 people out of 6,000. So while I don't want anyone to feel any pain, and I care immensely... and we make sure that everyone is taken care of, I also know that part of life is facing a fear and there is risk! You take those risks if you choose to, and that's how you reap the rewards." He added, "It's really sad that some in the media chose to turn such a victory for so many people involved with the event into a tragedy."

The whole episode triggered a flashback to my previous interview with Robbins, four months ago when I asked him about what he thought about Oprah creating OWN. He shared with me his respect for Oprah Winfrey's courage in "building a network on all positive content in a world where the famous news room adage has always been 'if it bleeds, it leads.'" He prophetically added, "When you turn on the news, and what's happening? Everything is designed to grab your attention. If you walked by a newspaper in the old days, before you had the news on your phone, you saw the newspaper and it says 'great weather this weekend' and you just kept walking. But if it says, big storm coming, in those days, you put 50 cents in and grabbed that thing as fast as you could, right? So in a world where people like to see their own sense of significance by tearing somebody else down, voting people off the island is much more popular than showing people how to expand their consciousness. "

It wasn't only the conjured-up "disaster" that troubled Robbins, but the way the media framed the fire walking without a context as some kind of brazen stunt. Robbins emphasizes that he prepares people for the fire walk for more than an hour and a half and makes clear all the risks involved, as well as all the theories of how fire walking works, including the "Leidenfrost effect," and the theory that coals are poor transfers of heat. And he adds, "This is really not about fire walking anyway. It never has been. It's been about getting people to break through their fears and limits. If you look at what holds people back from expanding and deepening the quality of their lives, what prevents them from taking the actions that are necessary to transform their body, relationships, career, business or impact their kids? Invariably, its fear! Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of pain, and fear of the unknown. In order to get people to know that the techniques they are learning work, I like to use a physical metaphor that tests them to be able to take action in spite of fear. Originally I used sky diving, but as our groups got bigger it became an impractical metaphor. Firewalking became a useful metaphor.

"We are trained, almost innately, to be scared of fire and to keep away from it. That is why walking through a pathway of fire is a powerful expression of moving beyond one's fears. Walking over any hot surface does encompass some risks, but it has been done safely for centuries, and when administered properly can have enormous value as a reminder of what we are truly capable of. And again, it's not some magical mind-over-matter process. As I tell people in our events... anyone can walk on fire! Anyone can also be up at 5 a.m. excited about their life! Anyone can start their day with a killer workout! Anyone can find a way to master a craft and find meaning in their work! Anyone can have a passionate and loving relationship! Anyone can, but... few people do! What people can do is amazing... what they will do is too often disappointing.

"My role, and the role of these seminars is to teach people for four days the tools and strategies for improving their bodies, relationships, finances, career and their life. The fire walk is just one portion of one evening where they get to apply their tools of overcoming fear and taking the first step."

Actor Steven Weber from the television show Wings, who attended the San Jose event and completed the fire walk himself, described his experience of the UPW seminar this way:

"Being somewhat of a skeptic myself, I didn't know what to expect... every second was worth it. It was an experience like no other I've had, and Tony is, to put it mildly, extraordinary. I've never seen anyone walk the walk like this guy, have never witnessed someone able to match and exceed the energy of an audience of 6,000 inspired, hopeful people."

Many of the Wounded Warrior veterans, who came as Robbins' guests, wrote thank you letters, including Omar Palaciosreal, who said of the fire walk experience:

"When I walked across the coals, I felt as if I was going back in time to the days as a Marine on patrol when I was not afraid of taking chances. After I made it to the other side, I felt as if I had my 'switch' turned back on. I felt a great sense of accomplishment to make such an epic step towards progress and growth in my life... it stands as a true testament of how much impact he has had on not only myself but other wounded warriors. He is a great American and true supporter of our men and in women in uniform who have sacrificed so much for our beloved country."

Staff Sargeant Karlo Salgado, the Wounded Warriors careers and transition counselor, wrote: "In my 32 years of the planet I can be honest when I say that nothing has ever made such a transformational impact in my life as this Tony Robbins event did ... If there were only a way to make this happen on a much bigger scale for wounded, ill and injured marines it would be transformational."

In the end, it is these missing testimonials, of life changes, that Robbins finds "frustrating, to do some of your best work and see it all distorted." Yet he admits, "It comes with the territory. And I can't complain because the media has also helped me in focusing attention on the positive impact of my work at different stages over the years."

And this is the story within the story: the double-edged sword of the media's power and influence and some inherent problems within our current media landscape, in which outlets often race to produce the most shocking headlines in a competitive 24/7 news cycle in a culture as Robbins puts it: "if it bleeds, it leads." This episode also serves as a potent reminder to take it all in with a wary, discerning eye and to make sure we clarify the facts for ourselves. It is also an opportunity to reflect on what it says about our own society if cultivating a horror story about 21 people getting badly burned and wailing in agony is more attractive to the media (and its viewers) than the true story of 6,000 people who came together for four days and created breakthroughs in their lives.

Update (9:42PM EST 8/8/2012): Since the posting of this article Fox and Friends has come forward and offered Mr. Robbins a rare on-air retraction and correction of their original inaccurate report. See statement below.

During a recent segment concerning a Tony Robbins' Fire walk experience in San Jose, California, we reported more than two dozen participants were hospitalized with burns. Well a few of the six-thousand received minor burns akin to a sunburn, they received on-site medical attention and continued to participate in the event.

None were hospitalized and there were no reported third degree burns. We understand news reports to the contrary were inaccurate. Now you know.

Photo Credit: © 2012 Harpo Inc./George Burns

Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose writings and interviews have appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, In Style,,, the Women's Media Center, Psychology Today, and many others. Marianne is a featured blogger at The Huffington Post and a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated NPR radio show, 51% The Women's Perspective. She is also the co-founder and executive director of the women's web site and non-profit organization, as well as the co-founder of the environmental site She is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice based on her interviews with a variety of well-known women. You can visit her website at

Behind-the-Scenes At Oprah's Lifeclass With Tony Robbins And Deepak Chopra

  |   April 8, 2012    5:20 PM ET

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Tony Robbins With Marlo Thomas (WATCH)

Jessy Whitehead   |   March 27, 2012   11:20 AM ET

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Ask Tony Robbins A Question

  |   March 20, 2012    2:31 PM ET

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Giving Back Is The Point Of Power

Peter Baksa   |   May 16, 2011    1:04 PM ET

This post is part of Breakthrough with Tony Robbins. A series featuring the empowering stories of individuals who have triumphed in the face of hardship and crisis.

After an early life of trial-and-error, I have come to a life of blessing in which I want to give back to persons who are hurting or alone, but who deserve blessings. It seems simple now, but I have not always seen how the Universe gives and desires us to share one with another -- to give back.

Two days during my fifth year stand out clearly in my mind. My dad's car arrives, carrying a boat almost as big as the car. Dad places me inside the boat, seating my younger brother, Ron, right behind me. I am teleported into a different world where pirate ships are defeated, and new lands discovered. On a Sunday later that fall, after church and lunch, we take a nap. Mom sleeps with my little brother, while I am sent to my parent's room. Hearing someone coming, I pretend to be sleeping. Dad walks past. Just as I sit up to talk with him ... he clutches his chest. I ask what is wrong. Silence. I shake his body. No movement. I bolt to get mom. She turns his lifeless body over, shouting my dad's name. As his body is carried out, mother sends Ron and me to grandma Toffel's house next door. Mom's demeanor changed. Perhaps like her, I loved dad for the boat, but regretted the life we got when he died.

At age 9, I am a starting pitcher in Little League. Each step poses a struggle as my mother, a widow, scrimps to keep us fed. Then, I lose my baseball mitt. At practice, I tell my coach, who approaches mother. Two hours and an ocean of tears later, she is not finished explaining her troubles. He finds me a left-handed mitt. As I get used to it, I take extra long on the pitcher's mound. I re-kick the dirt, trying to get my mother's voice out of my head. As I look at the hitter, I imagine his bat contains my mother's wails and humiliation. I fight to hold back hot angry tears and throw my first pitch. Strike one! I wipe the sweat on my face and realize that pain, humiliation, and adversity have become my motivation. That old, uncomfortable mitt gave me a way to increase my game: pitching strikes means I didn't need to bother with the mitt.

As an undergraduate, I was a walk-on member of the track team and ran by the same old rickety house. One day I knocked. An elderly man invited me in. The living room had no furniture, except canoe to catch water from a gaping hole in the roof. A WWI veteran, and a new widower, he wanted to move. Maybe because I grew up without a father, I decided to help him. I drew up a contract, found him an apartment, and helped him move there. Then I paid my fellow athletes to fix the place up. Hardly any skills. Yet in 7 weeks, it was completely remodeled and rented to a sorority. Six months afterward, I called the university folks to negotiate a potential sale; my bank account was restocked and school loans paid off. The man had been hounded by the university, he told me; I had approached him "on the right day and in the right way."
Shortly afterward, I was running a City Master Plan project my small firm had won even though I was under 30. This was another blessing -- the opportunity to design and implement a 20-acre parkette, fitness trail, and water feature. I got valuable experience, while the community got an exceptional development. For the first time in such a powerful way, my visualizations became the reality I saw.

My master's degree thesis offered a mathematical model to value real estate, focusing on how the energy permeating a building draws or repels tenants. I asserted a building evokes a feeling much like an oil painting or piece of music and translates into numbers. The committee could not envision this. At an impasse, I debated whether to appease the committee members. I maintained my stance and obtained my masters degree by the narrowest of margins. Here the reality I saw manifested; value is not just the cost of things.

The derision about granting my masters degree caught the attention of the architecture department. The dean invited me to become University of Illinois's first Ph.D. in architecture. Under my professor's tutelage, I designed a HVAC system to circulate air while exploiting natural air currents; this increased heating and cooling efficiency by nearly 68 percent. I worked in my own laboratory; a tuition waiver allowed me to take course sequences in four colleges. I also took ballroom dance classes as a way to meet girls, and this manifested in falling in love with a young violinist.

Unfortunately for graduate work, my business escalated. A prominent real estate developer died. I used to run by an all limestone mansion every day. According to any expert, it was not worth much. Yet, I loved its Gothic cathedral feeling. I phoned my banker to join me in attending the auction. Once there, I spotted all the big name players. So I visualized the building again, its grainy limestone on my hands. This present-experience (what I call the point of power) centered me. The bidding began, and I made my one bid. The banker and I stopped at our building on the way home to feel the limestone again.

My real estate business added staff, and I enjoyed giving back by helping them thrive. One night I was awaked at 3:00 a.m. One of the fifty or so employees, "Sharon" was crying. She needed money to bail out her son. I thought of my own mother -- a struggling single woman raising two boys -- and my heart melted. I comforted Sharon, paid the bail, and drove both of them home. Surely, I was tired, but warmed by a feeling of family.

I have also been able to give back to my community. For example, I was invited to be on the board of directors of the local symphony. Once seated, I discovered that this 125-year-old symphony was on the verge of bankruptcy. Three board women came to my office. Over tea, they asked me to take the position of president. I declined without much hesitation. That night, I felt a deep sadness toward all those who depended on the organization and toward the community. The musicians and the children in the surrounding community who were always invited to our annual free concerts. Some their only exposure to the classics performed live. After I accepted, I initiated fund-raising events and reached out for support. Within eight months, our first concert was sold out. Within 18 months, the company ran at a profit. To this day, this successful volunteer effort is one of my proudest achievements. And I owe it all to the women who visualized a great outcome in the organization and me. Sometimes, we are actors in the visions of others.

Five years ago, I decided to do camera interviews at each port on a sailing trip up the east to Manhattan and then back to Miami Fl. Many persons agreed, but then were unable to say much. I asked questions about their belief systems in religion, politics, and eating. Their practices came from their parents or their long-time associates or meaningful classes taken or media.
One of the inspirations for my book "The Point of Power" came from a chilling moment during these interviews. A family of 5 each member appeared obese walked into a McDonald's. After interviewing the parents, they were not aware that they were handing their bad eating habits over to their teenage children. The parents seemed to love these kids, but could not see that they were marching their children down the plank to super sizing their next meal. Life spans of children ages 9-14, according to the AMA, are getting shorter because of weight and the sharp rise in diabetes due to the diets imposed by us adults. It was in this moment that I felt an urge to cause a bigger ripple; by translating the wisdom I had learned to a larger audience through writing.

Most persons simply seem to swim along in the stream of life until they meet the falls. Had this become my life as well? That led to a decision. Those who know me would be surprised that in my thirties, without any disease or medical condition, I had outsourced the company I had founded. It was posting record profits, and yet I chose to close it down and embark on my semi-retirement. I want to devote my life to helping others explore and benefit from the Law of Attraction. I have also decided to give my attention to the things that feel good. With this elementary logic, I create the best life possible -- one of giving back.

This give-back attitude emerged from a series of transformative events in my life and the lessons that I was able to learn from them. Lacking a father led to a desperate home life, of course. The embarrassment of losing a baseball mitt led to focusing on pitching more strikes (because then the pitcher doesn't need a mitt). Furthermore, these experiences led me to be able to make connections with others in their losses (such as the elderly man).

Notice, I was not so much determined to somehow, at sometime in the future have wealth. It was to see the wealth in the bleak situation or see triumph in the bidding situation when it could have easily ended in failure (like losing the bid on the Grey Stone building). This led to my three-point insight:

  1. Intend by thinking positive thoughts; be gracious, be humble, think love, and intend an outcome (this or better).
  2. Declare a plan of action and a clear desire; feel it, experience it, make clarifications during the sync period, live it.
  3. Trust the Universe to do its bit -- have faith, forget about it, and detach.

Writing this has been my greatest joy because I truly believe that the Universe intends good for us. With such wealth in the present moment, how can we not share with others?

To read more about Peter's story and his inspiring philosophy, check out his book, "The Point of Power", available now on Amazon. He is also the author of "It's None of My Business What You Think of Me!: If You Want to Change Your Life ... Change the Way You Are Looking at It". His website is

Getting Over My Sideways Years

Tim Sanders   |   May 11, 2011   11:25 AM ET

This post is part of Breakthrough with Tony Robbins. A series featuring the empowering stories of individuals who have triumphed in the face of hardship and crisis.

My grandmother Billye, raised me to understand that "success is not a destination, it's a direction -- and that direction is forward." In 1981, my life was jolting forward via my success as a champion debater and former special education student.

Then it all changed with one sentence: "Your father's been murdered."

Even though I only spent one week every summer with him, I loved and admired him. He was a swashbuckling gadabout that saw the world, wrote for television shows and sent me postcards from exotic places -- far away from rural New Mexico where Billye and I lived on a farm. He was brutally murdered only a week before we would finally spend time together, sharing an apartment in Los Angeles while I attended Loyola Marymount University on a full scholarship.

When I got that news, everything I believed in was shattered -- especially my faith in God and my confidence as a person. I stopped being a winner and instantly became a victim. I slumbered my way through college, discovered drugs and rock and roll, and started to live the user-life of a person pursuing passion instead of purpose. Thirteen or so years drifted by as I blew opportunity after opportunity, disappointing Billye as well as my wife, Jacqueline.

Every day, brushing my teeth and connecting with myself in the mirror, I knew I was blowing it. I had chosen resentment and hate instead of forgiveness and understanding and I was paying the price. So was my wife and son.

I still loved Billye, I just didn't believe her teaching anymore, even though they had rescued me from the short bus and delivered me as a champion debater and senior class president. When dad got killed, everything changed, and I believed that I had been successful as a fluke, and that faith had no value in my life. One day in 1996, while driving home to Clovis NM from the Lubbock airport, I stopped to take a picture of the water tower in Sudan TX where Billye took possession of me for good. It wasn't the best time for her to adopt a little boy, but she loved me and wanted me to have a proper home. That picture changed my life -- it was a visualization of the second chance that we all get in life, whether we are five years old or thirty five.

Sitting in bed one night, it snapped in my psyche: You have a second chance in life, but the trick is to seize it, move on from your pain and point the car forward again. I decided that night that my wife and son deserved a champion, not a bitter man that couldn't let go of a random murder in San Francisco that involved my father. I decided at that moment to reacquaint myself with Billye's teachings -- based on the masters of motivation (Peale, Carnegie, Bristol and Maltz). I started to invest in my mind diet, practice gratitude and take control of my self-image. Through this practice, in less than one year, I was the same guy that rose to the top of the pile as an eighteen year old. Just in time for the opportunity of a lifetime: The internet.

In 1997, I interviewed for a job at Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's AudioNet (which would later become I started out as a sales rep, but through a series of personal victories rose to business development manager just as the world wide web took off. I leveraged what Billye taught me: Generosity is a wonder drug and positive thinking is rocket fuel. It helped me make vital connections and propel my career. After Yahoo! bought our company, I was offered a job running the think tank (ValueLab) and moved the family to Nothern California.

Staying in close touch with Billye and her 'masters of motivation,' I soared at the company, fueled by her plan for confident living. I gave my way to the top and in 2001 was awarded the role of Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo! and a year later published the New York Times best seller Love Is The Killer App. When I look back on it now, I realized that my breakthrough was based on three simple steps:

  • Notice the visual icon (the water tower) and let it replace the 'artifact of suffering' (my father's gravestone).
  • Admit to Billye that I was off track, going sideways and ready to make a change.
  • Respond to the single question she asked me in 1996: "What are you not doing today that you were doing during your magical senior year?" Answering that question led me back to the plan that rescued me earlier in life. I realized that I wasn't building, giving, learning, loving and being thankful for life. When I chose a new path -- going back to my Eden, the doors of life swung wide open for me.

If you are moving sideways in life, you can turn it around too, and point yourself back forward. But you'll have to open your eyes, open your heart and go to the only place of recovery available to you. Home.

Tim Sanders is the award-winning author of 'Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence'. You can learn more at

Busted: A Fugitive Fraudster Husband

Abigail Pesta   |   April 3, 2011    5:02 AM ET

What do you do when your husband disappears from your bed one night, leaves you with $6 million in debt, and turns out to be a total fraud? If you're Michelle Kramer, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get a Ph.D. in psychology -- so that you can diagnose your missing husband as a major narcissist.

Michelle was a 29-year-old psychology student based in Chicago when her husband, a wealthy sinus surgeon named Mark Weinberger, vanished during a family vacation in Greece -- on purpose. He knew something that Michelle didn't. He was about to get busted for alleged healthcare fraud and medical malpractice of the worst kind: performing unnecessary surgeries on patients at a clinic he ran in northern Indiana. Michelle's search for him turned up shredded documents, survivalist gear and a mountain of debt.

Five years later, in December of 2009, Weinberger was found -- hiding in a tent atop the highest mountain in the European alps. He'd been living on and off in the tent and in a nearby Italian town, with an apparent plan of writing a survivalist handbook. In the meantime, more than 300 malpractice suits had been filed against him in the States.

Today, Weinberger is back in America, and this week, a judge in Indiana ordered him to pay $13 million in one of those many malpractice suits. Separately, he has pleaded guilty to 22 counts of healthcare fraud and is awaiting a judge's sentencing, due later this month.

Michelle, meanwhile, has refused to be defined by her husband's mind-boggling betrayal. Last spring, she completed her Ph.D. in psychology in Chicago. This spring, she is working on a postdoctoral fellowship in Baltimore. I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle and learning the details of her personal journey. She credits her down-to-earth, blue-collar parents for keeping her grounded, even when she and her husband were flying around the world in private jets or hanging out on their yacht in Europe. "I never lost myself, even when I had all that stuff," she explains. "I just didn't lose who I was."

You can read her full story in Marie Claire this month.


Abigail Pesta is an award-winning journalist who has lived and worked around the world. Currently she is the editor-at-large of Marie Claire magazine in New York. In Hong Kong, she was a news and features editor for The Wall Street Journal. In London, she ran an editing desk for Dow Jones Newswires. She has also worked at Glamour, where she launched Mariane Pearl's popular column about women who change the world. Abby writes short stories for her website, Fine Words Butter No Parsnips.

6 Mindful Strategies To Recover From The Shock Of Loss

Ronald Alexander, Ph.D.   |   March 30, 2011    8:37 AM ET

Today many of us are dealing with devastating losses in our lives, from natural disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to losing our homes, jobs and relationships. After the initial shock of any type of trauma, there are, of course, the various stages of grief that everyone goes through, including denial, rationalization, anger and acceptance. For those who are on this journey, it is important to have faith in yourself and the inner compass that guides you. If you do this, you'll understand that opportunities for growth and happiness lie in the most unexpected places, ready to be seized if you're open to recognizing and embracing them. I don't believe we ever get over a significant loss, but we do learn to move through it, live with it, and perhaps even use it creatively to find our life's purpose and harvest its lessons.

Mark and Selena, a couple I treated a few years ago, are a remarkable example of how you man deal with a devastating loss and transform your life. They came to me shortly after their two young children had been killed in a car crash when they were with their teenage babysitter, who somehow survived. Mark and Selena were overwhelmed with guilt, anger, and feelings of loss. They could barely function and couldn't begin to imagine how they could go on without their children, or why they would want to. I discussed various treatment options, and we agreed upon a method outlined in my book, "Wise Mind, Open Mind," that combines a mindfulness practice with positive psychology and creative thinking to help one let go of the past, tune in to the present, find his or her core creativity and finally move forward with the future. While we were working with the tuning in stage, I was concerned that due to the depth of their sadness, it could take several years before they would be ready to move out of their grief and begin to envision a new life.

I decided to meditate on their situation, and what came to me was the visual image of the subcontinent of India. "That's curious," I thought, but decided to sit with it, and soon, as if a voice had spoken to me, I had an inner knowing that I needed to suggest to Mark and Selena, who had conveyed an openness to the idea of traveling, to take some time off from their jobs and travel to the city of Varanasi in India. Varanasi is known as a holy place where the dying go to prepare for death and where bodies are prepared for the traditional cremation and return to the sacred Ganges River.

My logical, rational mind said, "Ron, that's crazy. Why would you send two grieving and suffering parents who have no spiritual connection to India, and who are Lutherans from the Midwest, to Varanasi, where they know no one and would see death and suffering all around them?"

I discussed it with several of my colleagues, who agreed it was a terrible idea, but every morning when I meditated and connected to my intuition, it kept telling me the same thing. Finally, one of my old teachers and mentors, Ram Dass, told me, "I think you may be on to something. They need to immerse themselves in their grief instead of denying it. Where better to do that than India?" When I mentioned it to Mark and Selena, they weren't sure how they would benefit from a trip to Varanasi, but they meditated on it and told me that taking the trip felt "right" to them.

In India, Mark and Selena connected with their grief as they observed the dead and dying, but at the same time, they started to feel a sense of connection to other people and to a world in which suffering is inevitable. While there, they spent time working with a committed humanitarian in her facility for the poor. She did not try to explain to Mark and Selena how they might handle their loss but instead invited them to join her in her everyday work of attending to the sick and dying.

When they returned to the States, Mark and Selena told me that they had finally begun to heal. The deep compassion that had been awakened in them had eased their grief, and they felt that they'd transformed from suffering parents who had lost their children to people who reached out to other suffering parents. They said they no longer felt quite so alone.

Over the next few months, Mark and Selena continued their mindfulness meditation practice and began to move forward with their lives. Selena, who loved music, returned to school to earn a master's degree and began working with children as a music therapist. Mark went back to his work as an electrician, but he now approached it in a very different way. When he consulted with clients, he suggested bold changes that they hadn't considered and had more patience and compassion with them. In time, Mark and Selena adopted two special-needs children and had another child of their own. They continued to talk about their children who died and kept photographs of them in their home, but they were able to creatively transform their tragedy into a new life with meaning and purpose.

For those of us who are unable to take such radical steps, here are six strategies from my book, "Wise Mind, Open Mind," to help you mindfully recover from a loss:

  1. Reach out for support. Don't try to bear your trauma alone. Ask for assistance from your friends, spiritual leaders, support groups and professionals.
  2. Sit quietly and reflect. No matter the severity of your trauma, sit quietly and ask yourself, "Historically have I experienced other challenges in my life, and how did I navigate through them?" Now use these past experiences to tap into your internal courage and strength and explore whether you can implement the same strategies again.
  3. Trust your inner resources. Once you realize that you survived other traumas before, trust in yourself to know that you have the ability to get through your present challenge.
  4. Learn to keep yourself centered through the unbearable feelings of grief. When the waves of sadness and helplessness wash over you, initially feel the emotion and its depth, but then start to breathe through the grief with slow, deep breaths. This will help you stay grounded and bring you back to the present.
  5. Start imagining a new life. Even though you are experiencing immense grief, start to imagine and invent in your mind's eye a new future for yourself.
  6. Practice mindfulness. While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga or even walks in nature, remember that your loss is cyclical like the seasons. Even when we are in the depths of winter, we know that eventually it will become more manageable with the advent of summer. Learn to tolerate and pace yourself through the most severe times.

Many of us admire people like Al Gore, who found his road to the White House suddenly blocked and chose to focus on educating people about global warming, and Christopher Reeve, who left acting behind after becoming a quadriplegic and went on to become a film director and advocate for those suffering from spinal cord injuries because they were able to let go of the past and transform their lives. You, too, have the ability to tap into your inner courage, move forward with your life and even reinvent yourself.

Why Writing About Grief Makes Me Happy

Allison Gilbert   |   March 26, 2011   12:05 PM ET

Several weeks ago my new book, "Parentless Parents," was published. This is the third book I've written that deals with mourning and loss. And while you might assume I'd be the last person you'd want to meet at a cocktail party, I've been told otherwise. I smile; I laugh. You might even call me "bubbly."

Each book I've written is the result of successfully pushing through an unwanted and unanticipated experience, and using that experience for something more powerful than anger and self-pity. Writing about death and grief has been healing for me.

I wrote my first book, "Covering Catastrophe," after nearly dying on 9/11. I was a producer at WNBC-TV in New York at the time, and when the second tower collapsed I thought I was going to be buried alive. The dust cloud knocked me off my feet, and emergency crews dragged me off the street so I wouldn't be crushed by falling debris. I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Bellevue Hospital. Doctors cut off my clothes to examine my skin, and shoved tubes down my throat so I could breathe.

Physically, I was fine. Emotionally, though, I was in trouble. I had panic attacks for days, and many journalists I'd later speak with were also having traumatic flashbacks. Because of what we experienced, three other radio and television journalists and I decided to write a book documenting what it was like to be a broadcaster that day, both personally and professionally. Creating this book was cathartic for all of us, and what happened after publication was even better. "Covering Catastrophe" was turned into a documentary by the U.S. State Department, has been recognized by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and every penny earned has been donated to 9/11 charities. Giving back is the best emotional Band-Aid I know.

Three days after September 11, my father died of cancer. I was 31 years old. Almost immediately (and because my mother had died several years earlier) I felt compelled to write about my parents' deaths. "Always Too Soon" was hard to write because for the five years it took to complete, my parents' deaths were always with me. I had to deal with how much I missed them with every period and comma I typed. What kept me going was the anticipation of helping others cope with the same pain. My muse was an imaginary group of readers who needed comfort and validation.

And readers responded. Men and women emailed me wanting to talk about being an adult orphan. Many of these emails specifically addressed the challenges of being a parent without parents. To manage the influx of emails, I began sorting them by state and city, and then, when I had two or three from any one area, I started playing matchmaker. It was in putting these strangers together that Parentless Parents, the organization, was formed. It was also how I knew that "Parentless Parents," the book, needed to be written.

In "Parentless Parents," I write not only about how the loss of my parents affects me, but also the myriad ways their absence affects my children, who don't have my mother and father as grandparents. Since the book came out, it's been warmly embraced. Parentless Parents support groups are taking shape all over the country. The Parentless Parents Group Page on Facebook continues to grow. And then there are the new emails I've been receiving from readers, like this one from a mother of two young children: "You tapped right into my life, my heart and my soul. It is comforting to know that at least one other person in the world has gone through similar tragedies and has some understanding of what I deal with on a daily basis."

In truth, I'm happy in the face of what I write because I have an outlet for all my feelings. Conducting interviews, leading focus groups, creating the Parentless Parents Survey (the first of its kind) and writing -- all of it has brought me incredible peace. My upbeat attitude has been shaped by creating a new and different conversation about loss, and the symbiotic relationship I have with my readers. Ultimately, the most important lesson I've learned from writing is that I'm not alone.

Disabled Iraq War Veteran Gets Inspired... And So Can You

Eric Frazier   |   March 9, 2011    9:15 AM ET

I would never walk again.

Though everyone told me to be positive, the cold facts were painful. The news from my doctor was a harsh reality that tore me up inside, leaving me hollow, my mind spinning and my eyes seeing nothing but a vacant future.

Inspired to serve my nation by the tragedy of the September 11 attacks, I proudly served with the United States Marine Corps, returning from my overseas tour healthy and able bodied. With my fiancée Shenette, a Corps gunnery sergeant, my future in 2005 seemed bright -- that is, until the dark day I suffered a severe spinal cord injury that took away my legs and left me learning to live again.

For most people, the road to recovery starts when they enter a rehabilitation hospital. For me, my recovery process started in March 2007, when I left my final rehabilitation hospital and joined a team called World T.E.A.M. Sports. That's when I accepted the challenge of riding the Face of America Ride -- my very first ride -- a ride that changed my life!

Competitive by nature, the idea of riding 110 miles from Gettysburg to our nation's capitol using a handcycle appealed to me. It was a challenge I needed to undertake. I'd always been athletic, having participated in sports in school. But a handcycle was something different -- a challenge that encouraged me to excel.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then when we summon the will, they become inevitable. With support from my family, I began to train and learn how to channel my energy into my arms and hands.

Completing the April 2007 Face of America, I joined Team Semper Fi, a sports program funded by the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. The Team was founded by other wounded Marines and sailors who refused to let their challenges prevent them from competing in athletics. Together, their athletic drive and unwavering spirit on their road to recovery is an inspiration to all they meet.

With Team Semper Fi, I participated in several events nationally, including a marathon in Virginia Beach, triathlons in San Francisco and Washington, and became active in wheelchair basketball, competing in conference tournaments and championships.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I enjoyed snow and ice, so skiing appealed to me. I began participating in biathlon and cross-country skiing in mid-season 2010, and was surprised I could compete at the highest level. It's not that sit skiing is easy, but its difficultly encouraged my competitive nature. I find it to be one of the hardest sports I have ever done, both able-bodied as well as adaptive.

I went to two World Cup events trying to make the Paralympic Team to compete in the Vancouver Paralympic Games. Despite my best efforts, I missed making the team by a very slim margin. To my surprise, the US Olympic/Paralympic Committee, along with US Biathlon, invited me come to Vancouver as part of an Ambassador/Alternate program. Their intent was to get me addicted to Biathlon. It worked. I decided to take Biathlon very serious and train hard. With summer arriving, I accepted an invitation to participate in World T.E.A.M. Sports' 2010 Sea to Shining Sea Cross-Country Ride and use it as my cardio base. During the 3,800 mile ride from San Francisco to Virginia Beach, I rode about 1,000 miles on my Sit-Ski, and that made a difference.

After the ride, I continued to train. It's hard to gauge how well you are doing until you compete, so after a few races, I saw how my training paid off. In the January national championships in Maine, I came in third. Plus, I am top-ranked in my division. At the next Paralympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014, I'm convinced our American team will be a threat to the Russians on their home turf. Looking back to the harsh reality of five years ago knowing I would never walk again, I am extremely humble and grateful the Lord put World T.E.A.M. Sports in my life to give me challenges that would alter my quality of life in the most positive way. Others should be inspired to participate in this April's Face of America Ride with disabled and non-disabled participants, including Marines, soldiers and sailors beginning their own road to recovery. If you're not a rider, sponsor a competing athlete or donate your used cell phones and other equipment to support the ride. As World T.E.A.M. Sports says, the exceptional athlete matters, and you can be exceptional.

World T.E.A.M. Sports is coordinating the Face of America Ride April 15-17, from Washington DC to Gettysburg. This inclusive 110-mile non-competitive bicycle ride includes disabled and non-disabled military active duty and veterans, along with the general public. For more information, visit the Face of America website. World T.E.A.M. Sports is teaming up with the nonprofit UpCycle4Hope to support the 2011 Face of America ride with UpCycle4Hope. This nonprofit is collecting used electronics devices including unused cell phones, video games, digital cameras, notebook computers and other devices for upcycling. Contact UpCycle4Hope by telephone at 941-225-8372 or explore online for further information regarding this innovative program that turns unwanted and obsolete devices into funding for World T.E.A.M. Sports and its many programs.

Vets And Caretakers Speak Up On How To Cope With The Aftermath Of Service (PHOTOS)

Rachel Martin   |   November 11, 2010    1:06 PM ET

According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), 99 percent of Americans have seen some form of combat on television, yet only 1 percent have seen it in Iraq or Afghanistan.

For most of us, we may be touched by the stories we see on TV, or outraged by the violence that goes on overseas. But for those who haven't been in combat, it's impossible to truly know what it's like to be in a war -- or even more difficult, in some cases -- coming home from battle.

Troops face a job market in which civilian employers rarely understand or appreciate military skills and experience. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are already turning up on the streets much faster than other generations of veterans, often within 18 months of coming home, according to IAVA. And over time, the signature wounds of current conflicts -- psychological wounds and traumatic brain injuries -- may contribute to higher rates of homelessness.

Executive Director and Founder of IAVA Paul Reickhoff and Director of Government Affairs for IAVA Todd Bowers spoke to the Huffington Post about their own experiences reintegrating into civilian life -- and shared the insights they've gained listening to the stories of so many others as advocates for young veterans.

"I was amazed by how many people asked me how many people I killed," says Bowers. "That's not how I look at it at all. It's about the people I save."

Reickhoff mentioned that he appreciates being told "thank you for your service," but would love people to take it a step further: "When you see a soldier in uniform ask them where they're going. Engage with them."

We compiled the stories of veterans, military nurses and caretakers who took the time to share their personal experiences. Here's what they had to say.

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