Breaking Down Barriers to Success: An Interview with Sam Quilici

Breaking Down Barriers to Success: An Interview with Sam Quilici


Sam Quilici is a Senior Results Coaching Strategist for Tony Robbins Results Coaching.  He has a passion for helping people unleash their potential and get the most out of life.  In this conversation, Sam and I discuss what a results coach does and how teachers can help their students be more successful.

  1. Tell me about your journey. How did you get to where you are today?  1:32

Sam’s journey begins with the desire to be a professional athlete.  He was a little bit of a troublemaker though, so he lost some opportunities to go to some of the better schools to play sports.  He ended up going to junior college, enjoying it, but not really feeling fulfilled.  At 19, he moved to the Virgin Islands with his friend where he was a tour guide during the day and a bartender at night.  Sam believes this move shaped him dramatically.  He encourages people to get out of their comfort zone because many people don’t realize how much your environment influences you and your decisions.  From there he met a girl from Florida, moved there with her (he was embarrassed about this, but I’ve literally done the same thing with a girl and Kansas City…silly decisions) and got the opportunity to run an office for a corporation.  He was very successful, helping his office branch out to other states, even working with Elon Musk’s company.  One of his employees left to become a results coach under Tony Robbins, convinced Sam to do the same, and here we are.  Sam adds that the move to a results coach was an awesome choice because he gets to have a greater impact on people every day.

  1. What does a Senior Results Coaching Strategist do? 9:14

Put simply, Sam helps people unleash their inner potential and, in some cases, regain control of their lives.  Sam helps his clients identify their fears and/or limiting beliefs about themselves and works to help them establish successful patterns of behavior.  He first wants to redefine two things: Why you do what you do and how you do what you do.  Some people have goals but they have forgotten why they made the goal in the first place.  Or they haven’t evaluated the path they have taken to meet that goal.  So much of what Sam does is about redefining someone’s mindset.  He states that anything we do in life is 20% mechanics and 80% psychology.  If you think about going to the gym this makes sense.  The mechanics of the gym are easy: go there, work out, get results.  But the psychology of getting off the couch and going to the gym is much more difficult.   Sam’s job is to help his clients wrap their heads around their goals so they are much easier to work toward.

The goals of Tony Robbins Results Coaching are to create change and end suffering.  Sam believes that everyone needs coaching, but that not everyone is ready for coaching.  Part of Sam’s job is to identify if people are ready for coaching, then help those people who are not yet ready establish a course to coaching.  If someone is working an average job but their goal is to have a million dollars, Sam is going to help them figure out a better vehicle to reach their goal.  On the flip side, if their goals are not clearly defined, Sam helps them figure out what they want out of life.  He helps people find success, so that when they have it, a different coach can help them increase their success exponentially.  The beauty of having a results coach is that you have someone to hold you accountable to your goals.  Sam himself has a results coach!  If that isn’t the proof that he believes in it, I don’t know what is.  One of Sam’s old coaches once said, “I believe so much more in people’s greatness, than they believe in their [excuses].”

  1. What are the most important things that help people be successful? 28:38

Being successful boils down to two things according to Sam: your individual habits and patterns.  If you think of your mind like a garden, seeds of ideas are planted, then certain ideas are fostered, and other ideas die.  So much of what determines a person’s success and happiness boils down to the ideas they have fostered in their own head.  If you think about where you want to be and work toward it, you’re more likely to get there.  If you think about where you don’t want to be, and only focus on that, you’re more likely to end up there.  Everyone has a default mode: what do you do in your spare time?   Even that defines your success.  Do you waste your spare time with video games or television?  Or do you use it to move toward your goal?

Sam is a breaker of bad habits.  The longer habits have been forming, the harder they are to break.  These bad habits form negative looping patterns that always bring people down and keep them from success.  Sam wants to interrupt those patterns.  If you have a certain bad habit, he wants to make it so your habit will never feel the same again.  He uses the analogy of an old record.  If you take that record that represents your bad habit, Sam wants to scratch it up so bad that it will never play the same again.  It sounds a little mean and diabolical when taken out of context, but the reality is that Sam is trying to destroy the habits that keep his clients from success and, more broadly, from happiness.

After Sam breaks the bad habits, he wants to create a repeatable system of success with his clients.  When Sam’s clients achieve success or failure at something, he has them reflect on the specific things they felt or experienced during the task.  What caused you to be successful?  What caused you to fail?  How did you feel?  All of these questions help conditions Sam’s clients into finding ways to eliminate the failures and repeat the successes.  I mention here that what Sam does sounds like it is difficult and could be painful for some of his clients.  He said that as long as you come from a genuine place, one of wanting to help rather than deter, you are much more likely to have success with that client.  It would definitely be painful to have all of your flaws and faults thrown in your face, but Sam is not showing his clients those negatives to punish them or use against them.  He wants to help his clients destroy the negative habits that keep them from succeeding.

The last part of Sam’s answer to this question really blew my mind.  Sam said that if you want to create success, you have to have leverage.  For example, if you think you can’t climb a rope in gym class, then someone lights the bottom end on fire, you’re probably going to be climbing that rope really fast.  Sam shares a story of a successful personal trainer who asked his clients what their goals were, took pictures his clients, then went into Photoshop and altered their pictures with the opposite of their goals.  If a client wanted to lose thirty pounds, he would add thirty pounds to their picture.   That way, whenever they didn’t show up for a session or weren’t working hard during a session, he would show them the picture he created and say, “This is where you’re heading.”  I think the gym is a perfect example because, as Sam says, most people don’t go to the gym until they see themselves getting fat.  They have created the leverage through their habits and patterns, then they start to work toward breaking those habits and patterns.

I think the idea of leverage is remarkable.  But how do we make it work for students?  Sam believes the only way is to tailor education to each individual student.  We as teachers must get to know each of our kids at a profound level.  We need to find what motivates them, what their goals are, what scares them, and then work to help them achieve those goals.   It sounds like a Herculean task, but we know that the one size fits all approach doesn’t work for most kids.  If we can create a custom tailored experience for our students that we know at a deep level, we’ll be doing a lot more good than trying to fit all students through the current system.  On the other hand, maybe I’m making it too complicated.  Perhaps if we just find what each students’ goal is, we can help them work toward it, and redirect them if they veer off course.

  1. How do you motivate your unmotivated clients? 44:29

I asked this question, because I knew that I will have kids that don’t buy into what I’m trying to do as a teacher.  Teachers don’t have the luxury of referring students to other teachers or not working with unmotivated students.  I think the best answer to the question is the most obvious one, and Sam provided the same answer: do your best to impact every kid that comes through your door.  That is how most teachers are fulfilled, and the same goes for Sam.  If we can have an impact on as many of our students as possible, we will be successful.  Sam adds, there has to be a hunger or a drive to succeed in that student.  A teacher or a coach can’t create that for someone.  So if there are students that are unmotivated, you need to do your best to help that student on their journey to success.  Don’t get mad or frustrated if you failed; that student probably isn’t ready to succeed yet.  But, if you planted enough ideas and plans for how to be successful, when that student is ready, he or she will be off to the races.  If you always give value to your students, they will pick it up when they are ready.

  1. What challenges do you face when trying to help people succeed? 49:43

Sam’s biggest struggle is to bring out the survival mode in his clients.  There are many people who procrastinate on certain tasks until it is absolutely necessary that the tasks get done.  For example, Sam is a last minute packer for trips.  He is never more efficient than the day before a trip because everything has to get done that day.  What he wants to do with his clients is to find out what people do when their backs are against the wall, then try to harness that mode in their daily lives.  Sam wants to find the gap or disconnect that doesn’t allow people to be their efficient selves and help simplify the process of getting there.  He also wants to make sure that this process is repeatable in the future, so as different situations arise, his clients can adapt their success systems to new challenges.

  1. Knowing what you know now, what problems do you see in the American education system? 1:00:02

Sam was not the best student.  He was extremely efficient.  In classes where he didn’t have a connection with a teacher, he saw a task that needed to be done (homework) and he got it done in the most efficient way possible (cheating in some cases).  Sam said that this efficiency helped him be successful in school and business, but it hurt him in the long run because he wasn’t able to apply the things he knew very well.  He does add that when he had a connection with a teacher, or a teacher worked hard for him, he responded by putting in his best effort.

Sam provides a very famous Tony Robbins quote here, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”  He doesn’t necessarily think that there are underlying problems in our education system, but he does believe there are gaps that can be closed.  We have created a monotonous “plug and play” methodology that many people believe works for most students and that simply isn’t true.  Rather than focusing on evolution and innovation, Sam believes our current system is focused on copying and pasting what worked for previous generations.  Sam would like to see schools that encourage the creative spirit in students rather than on regurgitating content.

  1. What do you think teachers can do to help students be more successful? 1:03:35

Sam answered this question as follows, “If teachers want [students] to be more successful, then never stop being a student.”  I think that this idea is really powerful.  When teachers go through the motions year after year, students can tell.  I’m not saying you need to change everything you do every single year, but you have to remember that you have a different set of kids every year.  Customizing and tailoring the classroom experience for them by finding what motivates them, what their goals are, what scares them, is going to put any teacher on the path to success.  I’m not suggesting that you teach your students in 130 different ways, but getting to know your kids and then looking for patterns among them is going to help you and your students be successful throughout the year.  The other thing that Sam mentions here is to never be afraid to hold students accountable.  Literally everyone in the world needs to be held accountable to their goals, but with students, it only works if you have built a solid relationship with them first.

  1. What can teachers do to help themselves be more successful? 1:08:58

Sam says there are three main ways that teachers can be more successful.  First, teachers should always be looking for new challenges, and learning and trying new things.  If a teacher’s focus is not on growth, then stagnation starts to creep in.  If a teacher is always challenging themselves to be better, it will lead to much higher job satisfaction and happiness in general.  The second thing is to find balance in your life.  If you wake up, go to work, go home, work at home, go to sleep, then repeat every day, that isn’t a life.  Teachers need to make sure they are leaving time for themselves and their families.  If you think you’re doing too much for your classroom, you probably are.  Find ways to put more responsibility on the students and leave time to rest and recharge throughout the week.  Lastly, Sam wants teachers to “remember their why.”  Why did you become a teacher?  If you remember your initial goal as a teacher and can evaluate your progress toward it, you are much more likely to achieve that goal.  If you are having trouble remembering why you got into the profession, ask yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?”  If the old goal doesn’t work anymore, set a new one that will challenge you and start working toward that.

  1. What is your number one tip for shawesome educators? 1:11:32

“Don’t be afraid to change the game.”  Empower yourself and equip yourself to succeed.  If you make yourself better, you’ll make the people around you better.  Instead of trying to fit the mold, leave a legacy.

My Top Takeaways

  1. Create leverage by building relationships

On the last day of school last year a student in one of my classes had a vape pen.  I knew that the student had a particular talent for singing, so I discussed the negative effects of smoking on the lungs and a singer’s vocal range.  I have no idea if I was able to have an impact on the student yet, but in that instance, I had leverage I needed in order to help redirect that student toward their goal.  I think one of the main reasons I’ve had problems in the classroom is that I haven’t gotten to know my students well enough.  I had no idea how to motivate them, what their goals were, or what scared them so I couldn’t be an effective teacher or coach for them.  The relationships we build with students are the most important thing we can do in the classroom.  It’s a daunting task.  But the only way to create the leverage to help our students achieve their goals is to get to know them so well that we can help them when they are veering off course.

  1. Customize the experience

I’m not a master teacher.  To be honest, I don’t think that I will ever be a master teacher in my own eyes.  Every year, even if I teach the same classes, my experience is totally different.   I’m always trying to learn new skills and techniques that will make me a better teacher.  Maybe the path to being a master teacher is much simpler.  Perhaps if we get to know our students on a deep level, then customize the experience specifically for them, we’ll be as close to mastery as possible.  It sounds hard, but to be honest, so much changes from year to year, it isn’t much different if a few lessons change here and there.  You don’t have to revamp your entire curriculum, but if you find out that a large portion of your students are kinesthetic learners, wouldn’t it be a good idea to throw in some lessons designed specifically for them?  Customizing your students’ experiences is going to help you be more successful.  Your students will appreciate it and it will help you grow as you face new challenges year after year.

What do you think?  Is there room for results coaching in the classroom?  How do you help your students work toward success?  Let me know in the comments below!


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