Real Leaders

Tony Robbins: Why a Crisis Is Your Greatest Opportunity

Turn the eight triggers of a business challenge to your benefit.


By Tony Robbins



If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from operating dozens of companies, it’s this: Leaders anticipate change while the losers are left reacting to it.

Businesses today feel the pressure of the narrowing window between seismic changes in any industry and across cultures. That’s because the lifecycle of ideas and products has shrunk — as the timespan between the moment you come up with a breakthrough concept and the instant somebody else comes up with a better one has gone from decades to years, down to months. Artificial intelligence tools are only expected to speed this cycle even more. 

How do you gain control and turn crises into opportunities? You must discover the power of anticipation and how to master it, so you and your business are prepared for anything. And that begins by understanding that there are known triggers of crises. Eight to be exact.


Business Trigger #1: A Change in Technology


Remember when nobody took Amazon seriously? In business, the psychology of a leader who resists a coming trend in technology can destroy a $4-billion company — or in the case of Amazon, multiple ones. Conversely, if you become a leader who figures out how to use technology to fulfill needs and add value, you become the disrupter, not the disrupted.

AI represents both a crisis and an opportunity for businesses, depending on how leaders approach it. As a crisis, AI can disrupt traditional business models, leading to job displacement and ethical concerns regarding privacy, bias, and control. Those who fail to adapt to AI advancements may find themselves struggling to compete or even facing obsolescence.

At the same time, AI presents significant opportunities for businesses that embrace it. It can enhance efficiency, productivity, and decision-making processes, leading to cost savings and improved customer experiences. AI-powered technologies may unlock new revenue streams and facilitate innovation across various sectors.

Take a moment now to think: Are you stuck in your head and making yourself a potential target to the emerging competition relying on new AI and other cutting-edge technology? Ask yourself: How can AI change my business? What technology can we be the first in our industry to employ? How can I be the creator of change? 

Business Trigger #2: A Change in Your Competition


The next business trigger to be on the lookout for is competition by a would-be challenger who seeks to provide customers more value than you do. No one wants to become the Blockbuster video of their industry. What many people fail to remember is that Blockbuster thought they had the video rental market cornered. 

In 2023, Netflix brought in over $33.7 billion in global revenue. It’s easily one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world and paved the way for dozens of others. But in 2000, the young Netflix tried to sell itself to Blockbuster for a mere $50 million when the video rental company’s revenues were $4 billion annually. Netflix practically begged to become Blockbuster’s streaming service, but the company effectively scoffed and said, “What do we need this for?” They failed to recognize their competition as a business trigger and paid the price.

Blockbuster launched its streaming subscription service four years later, but it was too late, as Netflix already had 4.2 million subscribers. Sure, the stubborn storefront boasted 50 million members in its 2007 heyday, but Netflix announced its billionth DVD delivery that year. In 2010 when Blockbuster finally filed for bankruptcy, Netflix had achieved a worth of around $13 billion.

So note this lesson: Whether you’re a leader of a small business or a part of a billion-dollar behemoth, competition will create a crisis.

Business Trigger #3: A Change in the Economy


Were you in business in 2008–09? How did that economy during the global financial crisis affect your company? Did you anticipate or react to that crisis? Would you have done better, perhaps even thrived, if you anticipated how this financial crisis economy would impact your business and its operations?

How are you applying it to future economic winters? Now is the time to anticipate and implement what you need to be more efficient and effective and to get yourself ahead of the ever-ebbing and flowing economic tide. Winter is always around the corner. This means you need to be prepared.

Business Trigger #4: A Change in Government/Regulations


Your business could be out of business with one new law or regulation — literally overnight. Go back to early March 2020. At that time, most of the world, including business leaders, were trying to understand what COVID-19 was and how it was going to impact them. Boy, did we all learn. Arena events I planned for months were suddenly a no-go when federal, state, and local governments passed regulations that prohibited large gatherings.

If not arenas, why not smaller gatherings in movie theaters? Then the movie theaters were closed by regulation. Then why not use church spaces? Then the churches closed. I sensed a level of growing frustration in people who were on constant lockdown. I wanted to give people some answers, but how? I ate my own cooking and focused hard to find an innovative solution to this crisis.

Weeks after COVID-19 upended life as we knew it, I spoke with some of the brightest communications minds in the world, including Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan, the man behind the pandemic-era Zoom revolution. I needed to figure out how to get more than the allowed 1,000 people on Zoom all at once and make it have the emotion, energy, and real-time feedback of my live events.

By June 2020, my team and I were ready for a live virtual event with hundreds of thousands of participants from around the world. They were the first to experience a virtual 360-degree interactive experience in a new Florida studio, complete with 30-foot-high ceilings and 16-foot-high retina screens stretching 50 feet wide and wrapping around the room 180 degrees in front and back.

We continue to use the live virtual experience. Often more than 1 million people sign up and log in for these virtual events — that’s multiple times the number of attendees who got into our in-person arena events. 

Business Trigger #5: A Change in Your Customers’ Lives


The global pandemic changed the way we carried out our day-to-day lives. Circumstances and time play a part in triggering widespread customer behavioral change. Since the dawn of time, as people change, have children, and age, they make decisions differently, which applies to you, your customers, and your employees.

When large swaths of the economy are controlled by one or two demographic groups like Baby Boomers or Millennials — and they go into a different stage of life — it can affect your business, particularly if you have a targeted ideal customer base.

Always remember, the lives and needs of people are in constant motion depending on the moment. Are you prepared for this business crisis trigger? Have you anticipated what may happen, and how you will respond as a leader?

Business Trigger #6: A Change in Your Life Stage


There is no doubt that your own life looks drastically different today than it did 10 or 15 years ago. Don’t forget to look in the mirror and consider also what might trigger a business crisis: you. 

I’ve realized that many of the life changes we all go through are more predictable than we think. Maybe you need to be more present for your family. Perhaps you realize you’re a business operator, not a true owner. Or you hit a threshold and just had to do something that made you happy. Maybe there was a period when you burned out, fell in love, beat cancer, got married, had a baby, or went through some other event that upended your business. Many people also experienced a big life-stage shift during the pandemic when they reevaluated their priorities.

Business Trigger #7: A Change in Culture


How many people still visit a record store on a regular basis anymore? Not many. In 1999, the brick-and-mortar music business made $38.6 billion in sales. That same year, the illegal music file-sharing platform Napster arrived. From the peak of about $40 billion in 1999, the music industry plummeted 58% to $16 billion the following year. Think about that. That’s nearly a 60% drop in revenue practically overnight. 

All it took was a shift in consumer culture. However, as with any business trigger, you can make this one work for you instead of against you. 

Consider how Apple harnessed that changed culture. Apple founder Steve Jobs reasoned that while our culture balks at paying $15 for a new CD, people also don’t want to poke around the internet for hours and steal entire libraries on Napster. He had a crazy idea: Short attention spans might appreciate the simplicity of 99 cents per song. By 2007, the sale of those cheap little digital singles overtook CDs in a landslide, generating $819 million in sales.

When the culture demanded a cheap, easy, fast way to get music, Apple had the ingenuity to address this business trigger and become the No. 1 music retailer in the world — all because it monitored critical shifts in cultural behavior and added more value faster than anyone else.

Less than 10 years after Apple deployed its iTunes Music Store, it surpassed 25 billion songs sold. Apple triggered an industry crisis and changed how the world consumes music, books, and in-pocket entertainment. 

To stay ahead of this business crisis trigger, ask yourself: What behaviors are trending? What cultural shifts are afoot? What belief systems apply to those trends, and how can they affect our business? What cultural shifts can we use to our advantage today?

Business Trigger #8: A Change in Employees’ Lives


Many business owners have experienced a top employee or salesperson going through a life stage like the birth of a child or a divorce, and they ask for some time away. Suddenly, they aren’t around as much, and if they are, they’re less productive, which can be a real hit on your business.

Business Leaders Embrace Crises and Change


After more than four decades of studying the highest achievers in business and life, I know one thing for certain: People who succeed at the highest level are not lucky — they’re doing something differently than everyone else.

Don’t wait to react to a business crisis. You don’t need to operate in fear if you anticipate change and embrace the opportunity it brings. Analyze the landscape. Ask questions. Challenge yourself to anticipate how a business crisis might emerge. Examine how you and your team can attack potential challenges. Create a pre-crisis plan that takes advantage of crisis opportunities when they open up to you.

There is no time better than the present to be a leader, my friends.

Additional Resources


Subscribe to Robbins’ newsletter at core.tonyrobbins.com/event-calendar, and check out his new book in his financial freedom series: The Holy Grail of Investing: The World’s Greatest Investors Reveal Their Ultimate Strategies for Financial Freedom. The Tony Robbins 

Business Accelerator Program’s next virtual Business Mastery event is Aug. 14–18, 2024. Learn more at tonyrobbins.com.

More like this

Most Recent Articles