I’d arrived! 5 hours of driving to Palm Springs after 9 months of anticipation had brought me to “Date with Destiny”, a 6-day conference led by none other than the famed teacher and life-coaching guru, Tony Robbins. The woman at the registration desk handed me a ping pong ball, where I was instructed to write my name and team number with a black sharpie on its side (I added an exclamation point after my team number, because, hey, why not?).
“Take your ball over there and she’ll take care of you.”
The woman ‘over there’ had me stand in the middle of the hallway and visualize Tony picking my particular ball out of the 1800 ping pong balls for a chance at winning some nebulous grand prize. I humored her, and visualized it (why not?), and tossed my ball into the sea of ping pong balls that had already started to accumulate.
The next few days were filled with new people everywhere, loud music, high fives, being introspective, journaling, dancing on chairs, and very enthusiastic “GOOD MORNING’s!” I, of course, felt quite at home. Only three days in, and I had already uncovered huge chasms in my beliefs and patterns that I was excited to breakdown and work on. I had an amazing buddy by my side each day, Vince, a 50-year-old gay man from Canada, whose silliness was equally matched with his perceptive and compassionate heart.
He’d leave the room in the middle of the lecture, only to come back with a chicken wrap for me, since, as he’d say, “you haven’t eaten yet today.” (He’s the giver in his relationships. :)
Each morning, we’d enter the expansive ballroom, starting our day with an 1,800-person dance party to Flo Rida, at 10am. If there was a profession where I could start each day like this, I would like to nominate myself for the CEO. Our dancing continued until we found our teams with each member standing on top of our chairs, and eventually spilling out into the aisles.
It was the kind of dancing that left you chilled a half-hour after settling down, when your sweat-soaked shirt finally picked up on the a/c blasting in the room.
The third morning of the event, we were well acquainted with our daily warm up, and I found my team in the middle section at the back of the room.
High fives all around,
let the dancing commence.
(cue “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” by Rihanna)
Fully warm 20 minutes later, our hailed leader, Tony Robbins finally graced us with his energy and enthusiasm. An infectious spirit unlike I’ve ever seen--1,800 of us went wild with cheers, and arms up in the air. The lights swirled, the music blared and
[I still can’t believe it was only 10:30am at this point in our day. If my addiction to dancing were alcohol, I’d have a serious problem on my hands.]
we ate it up. Tony gave us our cue to settle down, but not before we all had our our thumbs and pointer fingers in a “W” while chanting “the wheel! the wheel!” and not unsurprisingly, Tony obliged us by bringing out the wheel and the clear barrel filled with all our signed ping pong balls.
This particular morning, he started us off with “the first pick... from team 20!” Every other team’s cheering dropped a decibel when we realized it wasn’t our team number that he called out. Team 20, on the other hand, made up for the decibel difference with their rousing shouts of excitement.
Their teammate ran up on stage, correctly answered his two questions taken from yesterday’s course material, and got to spin the wheel. One-hundred-and-fifty dollars might have been his prize, I think. He seemed quite happy about whatever it was, though, and left the stage.
All wheel-ed out, though, Tony and his crew started removing the wheel and its components from the stage.
“Wait!” “Not yet!” “We still want a chance!” we were all thinking to ourselves.
And then it started... slowly and quietly from one team up in the front left of the room...
“one more time!”
“one more time!” until everyone joined in... 1,800 strong:
“ONE MORE TIME! ONE MORE TIME!” Hands in the air in the shape of W’s pulsing along with the rhythm of our chant. It was hard to argue with such an energetic mob, such as we were.
“Alright, fine!” retorted our leader with his grin stretched across his face (I’m sure this is the *first* time he’s heard this request from his constituents). And out came the wheel paraphernalia once again, to our extreme delight.
He fished around in the barrel of ping pong balls and selected one: “This one,” he paused for effect, “is from... team 13!” Again the levels of cheering adjusted as the majority of the room realized he didn’t call our team.
Supportive cheering from the 99% ensued.
“Come on up here, Emma ____!”
The two large screens on either side of the massive stage up front revealed the camera team scanning the crowd for this “Emma.” Standing on our chairs in the back, we stretched our necks to see the excited girl screaming and leaping down the aisle. But to no avail. 30-some-seconds with no Emma left us to believe that she wasn’t in the room.
Where’s Emma? Bathroom break? Sleeping in? A quick phone call outside?
Team 13 came forward and said this “Emma _____” wasn’t even on their team. Fate called, and she wasn’t here to answer.
All eyes back on Tony now. Surely this has never happened before. The one ping pong ball he chose and that person decided that this particular moment was perfect for a ham and cheese breakfast sandwich-- and there’s a glitch in the matrix.
We all looked to Tony, now doubly-projected on the two big screens on either side of the stage, as he bent down and placed her ping pong ball on the stage, slowly lifted his leg, and crushed the ping pong ball with his size 17 foot.
“Gotta show up for life, folks,” he said. And the audible sigh of heavy heartbreak hung heavily in the air for Emma.
Tony’s crew members started removing the barrel and wheel once again.
At this point, you could almost hear the cumulative mental whisperings sifting through the crowd, “wait, it can’t end like that!” “We’re all here! Let’s just give it one more go!” And the same cluster up front started it, but this time it rapidly picked up speed and energy:
“One more time!” “ONE MORE TIME! ONE MORE TIME!” We were relentless. We were on a mission, and we wouldn’t stop until Tony submitted.
“Alright, guys. I’ll only do it again, IF you can raise the level of energy TEN TIMES what it was before!”
Anyone who wasn’t standing on their chair was instantaneously atop theirs. 1,800 pairs of arms in the air, a sea of hands bobbing up and down, as Ricky Martin’s “GO! GO! GO! OLE! OLE! OLE!” blasted from the speakers.
We all wanted a chance to win the Harley, or even the chance to spend a glorious stolen moment up on stage with the giant man, himself.
“ONE MORE TIME! ONE MORE TIME!” we insisted.
His large hand plunged into the barrel once again. Fishing around for the next fated ping pong ball that he plucked from the multitude. “This one... is from... [audible intake of breath from us all] ...TEAM 7!”
My team went absolutely nuts.
I couldn’t believe we had actually been picked! Now I get to cheer full out for our team! Team 7, that’s us! And the small voice in the disbelieving part of my mind thought, “and that means, it could be you.”
Not two seconds later, but I heard my name coming out of Tony Robbins’ mouth: “and the winner is... MOLLY KING!!”
“WHAT? WHAAAATT?? HOLY __[insert expletives here]___!”
Hands patted me on the back as I jumped down off my chair and shuffled to the end of my aisle. The flashing lights in the dark darted all around me as my legs desperately tried sprinting up the aisle, which had since been filled with other attendees. I had to apologize for my body knocking into so many people as I yearned to show that I was, in fact, there in the room, unlike others, who shall remain nameless [*cough* Emma *cough*].
I jump/ran/sprinted to the front of the conference room, knocking into peoples’ backs and squealing “excuse me’s!” my entire way down. At the front center of the stage, I found the steps leading up to Tony. But not before the security guard stopped me to check my badge. Upon inspection that my tag read the correct name, he looked at me with a matching excited smile and said, “You can go see Tony now!”
I looked up the steps to see Mr. 6-foot-7 crouching down, arms wide open, waiting for a hug. Throwing caution to the wind, I sprinted up the steps and leapt into his arms, somewhat surprising him (and myself), though he caught me and picked me up in his hug. His long arms wrapped completely around me as my little legs kicked behind me in my squealing delight. I felt his large head on the side of my face, my disbelief still overwhelming me.
When he lowered me back to Earth, I was too excited to stand still. So naturally, I begin to dance. “Highway to Hell” was playing loudly as I let my body start rocking out to the music, not too unlike the way it does when I’m home alone, dancing in my kitchen. The rocking guitar lead us through the song and the crowd joined in the serenade when it came to the chorus, “we’re on the highway to hell!”
I ran down to the edge of the stage to high five Taunya and Steve and some of my other teammates who had, by that time, rushed the stage. A full blown rock-out song, the sea of 1,799 people sang with me and even humored me as I cued them for a “hey! Oh!”-type dance move, in an effort to get everyone moving their arms to the right, then to the left.*
*Side note: Rewind two years to 2010 at my first Tony Robbins conference I attended. Tony asked for anyone who wanted to dance up on stage, to come on up. I hesitated and ended up missing my chance by just a few people at the cutoff. After that, I spent some good time kicking myself for missing that opportunity. Later, when I signed up for Date with Destiny in March of 2011, and during the 9 months of anticipation that followed--I would picture myself back up on that stage dancing, and it’d make me hit that excitement high each time. I had the moment of realization right then, in front of those 1,799 people, that that dream had come true. And any outcome at that point would have still resulted in the happy-for-life feeling that resides with me still today.
I felt so at ease. So comfortable and uninhibited--like it was a crowd of my closest funniest friends, singing and dancing right along with me. I could have gone home at that moment, with enough happy to fuel me for a decade. But it wasn’t over yet...
...well the song was; so I had to stop dancing.
When cheering subsided, and a crew member handed me a mic, I gathered my wits and Tony remarked, “Well, I think you just raised the level of energy in this entire room, just with your dancing!” The cheering crowd concurred with a happy roar. I don’t think my smile could’ve stretched any wider at that moment.
Now, on to the questions. If I didn’t answer the next two questions correctly, it would be game over for this spring chicken (thankfully, we all know it’s rigged and the answer is always C).
“Question number one,” says Tony in his best Regis Philbin voice. “What are the seven elements of a story? Is it A) Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Happy, Bashful, and Grumpy? Or is it B) Something, something, something, ....[I can’t remember] OR is it C) Desire, Problem/Need, Opponent, Plan, Battle, and Self-Revelation?” Not wanting him to think I was overly confident, I turned to my trusty audience and asked their opinion, “Whaddya think guys?” The resounding screams of “C!!!” confirmed my guess. And Tony replied, “Good idea, way to ask the crowd!” “C is correct!” and the crowd cheered.
“Question number two,” says the slightly taller version of Regis next to me, as the lights drop in true Who Wants to be a Millionaire style. Tony speaks each word slowly and deliberately, “What is, an incantation?”
“Is it A) a stupid positive phrase you tell yourself to make yourself feel better? or is it B) the sound you make during an orgasm? [did he really just say that?] or is it C) affirmations, repeated with emotional energy, intensity, and conviction, such that the meanings and intentions of the words you’re uttering become locked into the nervous system, and sink deeply into the subconscious mind, bringing about lasting and powerful life-changes?”
I start to answer, “I--” and he cuts me off: “OR! is it D) the sound you make during an orgasm AND affirmations, repeated with emotional energy, intensity, and conviction, such that the meanings and intentions of the words you’re uttering become locking into the nervous system, and sink deeply into the subconscious mind, bringing about lasting and powerful life-changes?”
Oh no. One side of me wants to be funny, take the risk, and go with D. But my need for certainty wins out and I answer C, just so there’s no question that I got this in the bag. But to my surprise he responds with a big smile and somewhat-repeats me with a, “She said D!!”
Everyone cheered and Tony’s assuring look told me it would be ok and I could still advance and spin the wheel now. *sigh of relief* I passed the test! Re-commence smiling now. Tony invited me to stage left so I could officially meet “the wheel.”
As we transition, the theme from Mission Impossible began to play. So what do most normal, well-adjusted and mild-mannered people do, but dance their way over to stage left with their hand-made prop gun, pretending to be a spy. You too?! [At this point, Tony’s wide eyes and raised eyebrows made me wonder if he thought I was a bit too comfortable up on stage... though not enough to cause me to abort my “gun dance” as someone later called it.
Hey, if you’re going to call me up on stage out of 1,800 people to hang with TR, please know I can’t be responsible for sudden out bursts of inexplicable excitement or absurdity. But I digress.]
Before I got to spin the wheel, Tony asked me, “Alright, Molly. If you could have any prize on the wheel, what would you want?” “Well, I’ll be happy with anything,” I answered immediately, because I honestly could’ve gone home already and still have been higher than a kite in orbit. But I started trying to read the prizes listed all around the wheel so I could make a selection.
“Ok, well let’s pick one,” and he started to prompt me: “How about a free coaching session with one of our coaches? or a free night’s stay here at the resort? or one of our relationship programs on DVD? or the Harley Davidson? or the Business Mastery course in Fiji--
At “Fiji,” my ears perked up: “Well, yeah! I mean, Fiji would be kinda awesome!” “Great! Well, go ahead then and spin the wheel!” motioning to his right.
So let me pause here. Unlike Price Is Right, there’s no gaming this one. This is no hefty wheel that takes a tippy-toe pull down to get going. This is literally a wheel on a peg, the kind that will spin for days if you flick your wrist quick enough. No strategy available, so we’ll just see how this goes.
So, I flicked, and it spun. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick its flap went with each hit of the pegs. I remember dancing beside the wheel while it spun itself dizzy. Five minutes later, when it finally started slowing down enough for me to read what was coming up, I was almost certain it would land on the tile that read “One more spin” thus giving me another chance at some awesome prize [though, let’s face it, they were all awesome prizes].
But as “One more spin” slowly approached the target area, and passed it by one or two “ticks,” Tony looked at what it had actually landed on, and turned to the audience to announce,
“BUSINESS MASTERY LEVEL 2 IN FIJI!!!!!”
The crowd went absolutely bonkers. My mouth uttered some explatives as I dropped to the ground, meanwhile Tony Robbins, THE Tony Robbins, has gotten down on. his. knees. and is bowing to me repeatedly. When I stood up, he came over to me and scooped me up in a twirling hug, my arms around his neck, and when my legs continued spinning, and he caught my knees with his free arm. (side note: as I looked out over the audience, I could see on the big screens that my white underwear was peaking out from the waist of my jeans. I decided that, given the circumstances, I wouldn’t let it bother me in that moment.)
I had won a trip to Fiji. I’m being held in Tony Robbins’ arms. 6 feet off the ground. One-thousand, seven-hundred and ninety-nine people cheering for me--
If I had been capable of jubilant spontaneous combustion, it would have happened right then.
My smile was stretched to the max. My legs could barely stabilize me, and my eyes clearly showed that I didn’t actually believe any of this had actually happened yet, at all. Once again, Tony lowered me to the ground and directed me to the nice lady who led my still-in-awe self, down the stairs and off the stage. I received hugs from an old man I didn’t know and some others, while one of his crew members gathered my information for the prize.
In my happy daze, I walked down the side aisle and back to my seat with my team. Hugs and pats on the back welcomed me all the way back to my chair until I sat next to my awesome-buddy Vince who gave me a great big hug. And somehow, down the aisle, hand passing to hand, came my little ping pong ball with my name and team number (with the exclamation point!), back to me.
How do you just pick up your journal and turn your attention to listening to Tony in a moment like that? I tried. To no avail.
5 minutes later I had my phone and proceeded to go outside for the next hour and excitedly call family and friends and recount [and most likely very incoherently] this entire story to them.
For the remainder of the conference, people would see me in the hall and shout, ‘FIJI!’ as my new nickname had become, and I would to smile and celebrate that winningest moment all over again.
My buddy Vince and me posing with Tony and his wife, Sage: