It’s 1:00 AM on Thursday night and I’m standing barefoot in an asphalt parking lot with fresh Midwestern rain under my feet. I look up to the sky to see the clouds promising more, but for the moment there’s a brief pause. My hands hurt from clapping, my feet hurt from dancing, and hours ago I lost my voice from screaming. I’m at a Tony Robbins seminar in Schaumberg, Illinois and for the past twelve hours I’ve listened to Tony speak leading up this moment – I’m about to walk over 1200-degree hot coals which they’ve named “the fire walk.” It's meant to inspire faith in yourself from facing your fear, but the logical part of my brain says there’s no way this is going to hurt me because he would have been sued into poverty by now. Once I step up to the grass fear takes over though, as I see the coals burning an angry orange with steam rising into the night. I make my “power move,” which for me is taking my right fist and pounding it on my heart, and then take a step forward. Before I know it I’m at the end of the coals being hugged by my fan club of complete strangers bonded only by this experience and the lanyards around our necks.
The next three days were very much the same. I’ve never hugged that many strangers and cried so much in my entire life. We experienced the range of emotions and at one point I tore open the top of my boat shoes dancing to Gangham Style in the aisles. Believe what you want about Tony Robbins and his credibility, but if nothing else, it’s beautiful to be able to emotionally connect with 7,000 strangers from 53 different countries all there for the sake of self-improvement and wanting a better life.
By the time Sunday night rolled around we were emotionally exhausted yet full of energy. We got out "early" at 7:00 PM and my Los Angeles friends that I came with, Hector and his wife Missy, decided to make the 30 minute drive to Chicago as we heard there's a Shake Shack on Michigan Ave. Back at my hotel room was one of my oldest friends, Jonathon Lui, who quit his job of 10 years to drive across America. Currently on Day 50 of his trip is here where we crossed paths.
One of the speakers at the conference made a joke that whenever he walked in a supermarket and the double doors would open he would spread his arms out wide and lift his head up like a majestic king greeting his fans. When we exited the parking lot on to the streets of Chicago, Hector and I did the same and the driver of a delivery van started clapping for us. We ran over to Millennium Park and took a few photos next to "the bean" before finally settling down for my first real meal of the day. Jonathon, Hector, Missy, and I sat on the outdoor patio eating burgers, sipping Chicago beers, and watching the Taylor Swift fans stream out of her concert at Soldier Field.
We got back to our motels in Elk Grove around 1:00 AM and I said goodbye to Hector and Missy knowing I would see them at the gym when I get back to LA. Hector, Missy, Will (who had an early flight back to LA), and I just went through four days of deep emotional bonding that can only happen through vulnerability and celebration.
But now, for the next week it’s all about Jonathon and I. We’re taking a road trip through Michigan and then back to Chicago for a good old-fashioned adventure. The unknown awaits and there’s plenty of life out there to experience.
Day 1 starts tomorrow.