People Burned at Tony Robbins Publicity Stunt

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate Tony Robbins (and every other motivational speaker — but especially him). Here’s another good reason why, because he pulls stupid stunts like having people walk on hot coals.

San Jose firefighters treated 21 people for burns when they walked across hot coals at an event by motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

The incident occurred Thursday, with some of those suffering second- and third-degree burns. None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening.

Witness Jonathan Correll, 25, described cries of pain when the participants were burned. “I heard wails of pain, screams of agony,” he told the San Jose Mercury News.

And here’s their pointless response:

Robbins’ organization released a statement saying it will look into ways to make the coal-walking event safer if possible. “We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel,” the statement said.

I see lawsuits. But quite frankly, if you take seriously anything that fraud has to say, I can’t feel all that sorry for you. If you really believe that bullshit he’s selling — at a very high price — that you can walk on hot coals without being burned if you just think positively or have the right attitude, being burned should really be a wake up call for you to stop being so gullible.

32 comments on this post.
  1. oranje:

    If you want a good – and quickly over – drinking game, take a shot every time Tony Robbins says the word “serious.”

  2. muadib:

    I laughed at the fact that there is a Anthony Roberts life coach advertisement on the side of the screen.

  3. imrryr:

    Robbins’ organization released a statement saying it will look into ways to make the coal-walking event safer if possible.

    I would suggest not lighting the coals on fire.

  4. theschwa:

    Robbins’ organization released a statement saying it will look into ways to make the coal-walking event safer if possible.

    I would suggest not lighting the coals on fire.

    I was thinking alonmg the same lines, only mine is needlessly more complicated:

    “We will now apply cold water to the coals prior to the walk.”

  5. dean:

    I posted elsewhere that “The physical pain was nothing compared to the shame they felt upon admitting that they had paid to hear Tony Robbins.”

    But on a more depressing note, last night I saw an interview with one of the people who was not burned. He stated that those people have nobody to blame but themselves, because they clearly had not taken Robbins’ lesson to heart and had enough faith. It is one thing to read about people who say such things, it is another to actually hear such stupidity.

  6. Makoto:

    Hm. Science tells me that, under the correct conditions, I could walk on hot coals (with lots of reasoning behind it). Faith says that if I just believe enough, I can do the same. Because god.

    Going to have to side with science on this, as with so many other issues.. and realize that science also means in general, it’s not a good idea to walk on hot coals, even if you technically can so long as everything is set up correctly.

  7. naturalcynic:

    The mind must be prepared to control the walking pace. Adam savage shows how not to do it when the mind is not prepared.

  8. Forrest:

    You can “walk on hot coals without being burned” but it obviously has nothing to do with believing you can. It is all about how long it takes for the heat from the coals to transfer to your body. If you walk slowly and steadily, you will likely be ok. That still doesn’t mean doing so isn’t taking a considerable risk for most people.

  9. d cwilson:

    Maybe they could change it to walking on slightly warmed coals?

  10. Ben P:

    You can “walk on hot coals without being burned” but it obviously has nothing to do with believing you can. It is all about how long it takes for the heat from the coals to transfer to your body. If you walk slowly and steadily, you will likely be ok. That still doesn’t mean doing so isn’t taking a considerable risk for most people.

    In addition to proper technique, in the case of the Indian performers that take it to extremes there’s also an element of physical conditioning. Feet covered by thick hard calluses of dead skin (such as one might have if one lived most of their life in bare feet) will burn less readily than feet with normal skin.

    Mental conditioning might well make someone able to ignore pain, but it obviously can’t stop the actual physical damage.

  11. Didaktylos:

    I would presume the reason why it can be done successfully at a controlled deliberate pace has to do with how much force is exerted when the foot comes down?

  12. Crudely Wrott:

    Hot stuff isn’t injurious if you aren’t in long contact. Think about field stripping a cigarette or tossing errant coals back into the campfire. How about the trick of plunging wet fingers into molten lead?

    Just this morning I knocked the cherry from my smoke and it fell on the carpet. I picked it up tween forefinger and thumb and put it in the ashtray. Total grip time, less than three seconds. At about six seconds my digits felt hot, uncomfortably so but not truly painful. At ten seconds all was well.

    Would I walk across a bed of coals barefooted? Not unless I had to. Still, if I had to I would not need a pep talk. I’d simply walk briskly and keep the time of contact between foot and coals to a minimum. Simple learned behavior.

    Yes, I have played around with heat and have some very functional callouses. Never has anyone told me that such ability was an indicator of my chances for “success”. If they had I would have laughed and given them a hot foot.

  13. stevenbollinger:

    Huffington Post ran a story about this with a headline describing audience members “Screaming in Agony.” I cut and pasted the headline and commented: “I was screaming in agony as soon as I read ‘Tony Robbins.’” HP posted my comment right away, then deleted it about 12 hours later, and in the meantime it had been fave’d over 45 times.

    And, as I right this, there’s an ad over to the right on this page for a video on being a life coach, featuring Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes. (I never heard of her either.)

  14. Crudely Wrott:

    Footnote to my comment at #12:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_foot

  15. Sastra:

    Skeptics have been writing about this “amazing feat (feet)” for a long time. If the coals are properly prepared and the walk is not too long, physics are on your side. Someone (I think it was Richard Weisman)even did a show on this, challenging the mind-over-matter gurus to first do a test run with him under non-challenging conditions — and then lengthening the field for them alone. Slow, impressive march … and then hop, hop, hop.

    So I don’t place much blame on Tony Robbins here. It ought to have been safe … or safe enough (don’t let a little ember get caught in the toes.) Something must have gone wrong. Somebody screwed up. Mind preparation for a firewalk is insignificant: firewalk preparation for a firewalk matters a lot.

    The problem is, if Tony Robbins tries to place blame on some physical aspect — he blows his cover. Problem for him, that is. Amusement opportunity for us. What will he do?

  16. josephmccauley:

    I did this stunt at the behest of my physics students. The father of one of them did this as a sidelight to his psychology practice (for a fee, but for me and one other teacher the fee was waived) I knew that coals covered with a layer of ash were not great heat conductors, that is why you have to shake ‘em to get them hot enough to cook after a while.
    There was a lot of mumbo-jumbo before the actual event (during which I fell asleep) but the real reason was to have the coals properly prepared. As soon as the coals were pronounced ready (with a new-age flourish) I marched across, marched back (not in the same footprints), grabbed my socks and shoes and went home.
    I am not sure my student’s father actually believed there was anything mystical about this stunt. He was very careful about the prep. He also knew he had a bad heart and used the walk as a focus on getting well (I still believe he was as scientific as they come). He passed shortly after this, and we were back at the house for the funeral, standing in the same place the coal pit had been.

  17. Spanish Inquisitor:

    I see lawsuits.

    As a lawyer, I don’t.

    First, if he’s been doing this for 3 decades, as he says, then by now he’s probably figured out the advantages of signed releases prior to the event.

    Second, anyone that takes their shoes off and walks over burning coals assumed the risk, a known risk, BTW, that the coals might burn their feet.

    Third, if any negligence occurred, the contributory negligence of the burnee probably far exceeds the negligence of Tony Robbins and his organization, minimizing, if not completely eradicating, any potential award.

    IOW, lawsuits would be frivolous. That won’t stop some people, but I wouldn’t take the case.

  18. Larry:

    Next time, Robbins, have them walk the comfy cushions line.

    Far fewer lawsuits.

  19. d cwilson:

    naturalcynic@7:

    Check the episode of Mythbuster when they showed you can dip you fingers in molten lead if your dipped them in cold water right before.

    stevenbollinger says:

    Huffington Post ran a story about this with a headline describing audience members “Screaming in Agony.” I cut and pasted the headline and commented: “I was screaming in agony as soon as I read ‘Tony Robbins.’” HP posted my comment right away, then deleted it about 12 hours later, and in the meantime it had been fave’d over 45 times.

    Hence why I gave up posting on Huffpost. Well, that and all the articles promoting woo.

  20. democommie:

    When I was a highschooler I worked as a busboy at a busy restaurant and as a “cook” at a KFC. I handled seriously hot shit at the restaurant on a regular basis and learned that time-on, not timing, is everything.

    At the KFC it was a little different. We cooked chiken in the Colonel’s double++ secret probation recipe (hint: lotsa NaCl) by putting 10# of 375 degree shortening in a 10 qt pressure cooker, then, after bringing the oil to 400 degrees on the 25,000 burner under each pot we put in 5 pounds of pretty cold chicken that was dipped in eggwash and flour.

    At some point in the 2 years or so that I worked there a complaint was received that the skin on the drumsticks was pulling away from the end of the drumstic nearest the thigh. In order to “fix” the problem, from that point on, we would pick up the four drumsticks from the foot end and holding them in our bare hand, lower them about 1 inch into the 400 degree fat. It only took about a week for the ensuing burns to become background noise.

  21. enriquejhc:

    I remember a video a saw a while ago with Michael Shermer about this same topic.

  22. Ace of Sevens:

    Keep in mind these poor saps likely were drug there by their bosses, not volunteers.

  23. Noadi:

    Beyond this being Ton Robbins, what pisses me off is that this can be done safely. The fact that he’s been doing it 30 years without a mishap like this is proof of that. There had to have been some negligence involved for so many people to be hurt, the coals weren’t prepared properly or the people weren’t properly coached in how to do it or something.

    I’ve never done a fire walk but it’s on my list of crazy things I want to do before I die (already ticked off laying on a bed of nails among other things on the list).

  24. democommie:

    My brand new spiffy motto.

    “Shit that’s unbelievable is unbelievable for for a reason–there is no empirical data to back it up.”.

    I have photographed a local dojo’s demonstrations of striking technique a number of times. They do some fairly impressive shit, breaking baseball bats with their instep and the like. When I saw them a few months back I told one of the senseidudes that they should try holding the board so the the blow was delivered across the grain–or use a piece of white oak or hickory the same thickness as the Eastern White Pine they were using. His response indicated that he would not be doing anything of that nature.

  25. Victor:

    Spanish Inquisitor@17:

    IANAL, so I defer to you on the viability of lawsuits.

    HOWEVER – It is well established that the safety of walking on hot coals depends on technique – both that of the walker and the preparation of the coal-bed – not some form of mental mumbo-jumbo (e.g. meditation, or religious belief, or inspirational self-confidence). I suspect that Tony Robbins, as a successful businessman (charlatan?), knows this. But instead he presents it to his clients as a test of mental focus. Certainly misleading. In a non-legal sense, I’d call that fraudulent.

  26. Raging Bee:

    Robbins’ organization released a statement saying it will look into ways to make the coal-walking event safer if possible.

    Sounds like DJ Groethe saying he’d “look into” having some sort of anti-harassment policy thingie or something for TAM, if possible. We all know what came of that.

    How about Robbins’ organization look into ways to make their whole schtick MORE HONEST? Anyone think that’s possible?

  27. Raging Bee:

    Robbins’ ads keep popping up here — so I guess we know how he’s responding to this latest embarrassing controversy: spend more money on advertizing.

  28. ashleymoore:

    Does Robbins claim that there is anything supernatural about the coal walking?

  29. The Lorax:

    Do we really need to force-feed people episodes of Mythbusters? Is that what it’s going to take to make people stop doing stupid things?

    Wait, nevermind… as much as I adore Adam and Jamie, I don’t think any amount of them could cure all the stupid on this planet.

    … wouldn’t hurt to try, though~

  30. arakasi:

    The mystical mumbo-jumbo does serve one purpose (OK 2 – the primary one, of course, is to open wallets). The secret to walking across the coals is to move slowly and steadily, so the mysticism is used to overcome the natural reaction to move as quickly as possible. Running through the the hot coals is the wrong move, since you will break through the insulating layer of ash and risk getting the coals to stick to your feet.

    Firewalking takes no more faith than does getting in an airplane

  31. josephmccauley:

    Now that I am seeing the Robbins ads to “be a Life Coach” I have to admit that I made a business (as a joke) for my three daughters. It revolves around a phrase they heard often growing up.

    CTS, Inc

    Life coaches, consultants

    “When things don’t go the way you planned”

    CTS refers to, of course “Cut the S#^&”

    I pass out the business cards all the time.

  32. kennypo65:

    I could never take Tony Robbins seriously. I just can’t stop staring at his giant head.

Leave a comment

You must be