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At one time Richard Robbins was a top real estate agent, now he helps make top real estate agents.

Robbins survived the crash of 1989 to emerge as Canada's foremost real estate coach and inspirational speaker after recognizing his innate ability to inspire others. He and his wife Sue have run Richard Robbins International ever since.

The company's annual Sales and Training Conferences in Vancouver and Toronto regularly break attendance records, attracting upwards of 250,000 agents to date.

Toronto Storeys sat down with this motivational master to find out if he and that other Robbins were separated at birth, how coaching became his calling and what he provides to real estate agents that they can't get themselves.

Okay, let's get this one out of the way right off the bat ... Obviously, you're not the only Robbins motivating people. You kind of look like him and your companies even use the same acronym: RRI. What's your connection to Tony Robbins?

Tony Robbins has been a key influence in my life. About 20 years ago, I started following his work. I have been to a few of his events, and have always been a fan. Nobody holds the stage and commands the audience better than Tony.

Personally, Tony taught me the importance of controlling your thoughts. He calls it “controlling your state.”

It’s perhaps the single most powerful thing he teaches, as it’s so tough for so many people to be intentional about their thoughts.

So what do you think about most?

I start every day with my journal.

I reflect on the day before and I believe every day is worth journalling about. As soon as I start writing about the three things I am grateful for from the day before, I feel good. It’s a simple yet powerful concept. And the things I am grateful for are simple, like my morning coffee.

I plan to turn my journal over to my kids one day.

This review and reflection time in the morning prepares my mindset for the day.

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Most people spend a lot of time getting physically ready, which is important as how you look impacts how you feel and behave. I am suggesting that you need to power up your mind in the morning to prepare it and to choose your thoughts. I learned this from Tony 25 years ago.

I don’t think Tony and I look alike. But I do get asked if we are related all the time.

Fun fact: My assistant used to be his assistant.

Our companies’ having the same acronym. We struggled with that. But we did it, as that is my name. 

During the crash of 1989, you were a highly successful agent, even under extremely trying conditions. So what made you go from being a real estate agent to motivating real estate agents?

In 1989, I was still in real estate. I had just moved to Markham in 1988. I was a team leader and the market crashed. Very quickly my job became coaching and teaching the agents.

I was struggling. I was broke and didn’t know how to get ahead. I was desperately looking for a solution. So I decided to attend a Jim Rohn seminar. And I remember that I was so broke, I could not even afford to stay at the Marriott Hotel where it was being held. I had to stay at some cheap hotel down the street.

I learned something at that seminar that changed my life and my belief about money.

Jim said, "Money is an exchange for value.” I will never forget that.

Then he went further into it, "If you wake up every morning imagining how to add value to your clients and not worrying about making money. Everything would change."

Hearing this concept changed my mindset. We started training and coaching our agents weekly on adding value and bringing more value to our clients than anyone else.

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It was a bit of a paradigm shift. All change starts with a shift in how you see things. And with this shift, everything changed.

There was an agent on my team named Nancy Either. I believe she is still in real estate. She said to me, "Rich, you work so hard at helping us become better agents. Why don’t you do this with other people?”

And soon thereafter RRI was born.

I truly believe that everything happens in my life for a reason. The questions are: Am I listening? Am I watching?

It took a few years, but I did it. I believed I could bring a lot of value to a lot more people.

How would you describe what it is you do?

The most important thing we do is we get people future focused. We get people to visualize a bigger future so they can see the possibilities for themselves.

We believe that hope is the most powerful force in the world.

Sometimes I am described as a motivational speaker. Our work is more about inspiration. It comes from the inside, whereas motivation is external.

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When people are inspired from the inside, they can start to imagine a bigger future. The second thing that we are about is the strategy, the ideas and the behaviours that they need to implement to create that future.

RRI is about moving people to action. You have heard Tony Robbins talk a lot about massive action. It’s the same idea.

People are always trying to control the result, but you need to control your behaviours. Control what you can control. We teach you to dream big and then the behaviours to achieve those dreams.

As a company, we are committed to teaching and empowering others. Our industry (real estate) has a lack of accountability, lack of training, lack of success. We are here to elevate.

We have people who go to more than 20 of our events. It's a behaviour that is consistent. Learning is not an event, its a process. Success is not an event, its a process.

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We only retain about 10 per cent of what we hear. You only get what you are ready for.

If you’re ready to make 100K in your business, then that's the level that you will hear and get those answers. That’s the power of learning.

You can grow each time ... $100,000, $200,000, $1 million. The sky is the limit.

What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?

People think coaching is for the weak and not the strong. And the truth is, it's actually the opposite.

When I first started selling tickets to our events, the agents who would buy them first were the most successful. Then the unsuccessful ones would come up and ask a million questions. They were always trying to avoid making a decision, which is what kept them at that level.

It's a strength to know that you need help and to go and get it. Resistance causes lack of success.

What are the most common challenges real estate agents face that makes someone like you a necessary asset?

Lack of accountability. They just want to avoid accountability. They got into real estate because they wanted to avoid accountability.

They want freedom, but are not disciplined.

For example, I have had the same personal trainer for years. He has taught me everything I need to know about my workouts. I love cardio, but I hate lifting weights. So my personal trainer is there to make me do it.

Even though I know the routine, I pay him to be there to ensure I do it.

The juice of life is what we do on a Friday, not on a Monday. It’s in how hard you’re willing to work on a Friday to accomplish your goals and not take the Friday off.