It appears that dozens of people were burned, some seriously and having to be hospitalized, while doing the fire walking exercise that is the climax of the motivational seminars run by Tony Robbins that supposedly teach people how to be successful. Clearly being successful at walking on hot coals was not one of the outcomes.
This exercise is apparently to convince people that if they believe in themselves enough, they can overcome their fears and push themselves to do what they thought was impossible. This is not the first time that people have got burned at these events and I wrote about a previous fiasco four years ago.
There is no mystery as to the ability to be able to walk safely over a bed of embers and it has less to do with one’s mental state (though one undoubtedly has to overcome the sensible fear of touching hot things) and a lot more to do with basic physics. The science of the process has been well understood for some time and provided the bed is prepared properly and people walk quickly enough, there should be no problem.
Fire walking occurs commonly at Hindu and Buddhist religious festivals in Sri Lanka and there successfully doing so is used as an indicator of the walker’s physical and spiritual purity and devotion to their god, rather than the Robbins myth that it is a sign of the walkers’ belief in their own abilities. I recall some skeptics in Sri Lanka drinking alcohol just before doing the walk to show that purity and devotion had nothing to do with it.
The fact that some Robbins events but not all of them had large numbers of casualties suggests that at these particular events the beds of embers had not been prepared properly to prevent burns. What surprises me is that the people at the seminar, even after seeing others get burned ahead of them and who must have been in considerable pain, didn’t decide to give their own attempt a miss. They must have been so convinced of Robbins’s promise of the power of mind over matter that they thought that they themselves could prevent the same painful outcomes that others experienced.
So Robbins was successful in motivating them, but not in a good way.