Last seen cheerleading for Barack Obama, NBC's Lee Cowan was in a less cheerful mood when he talked about the economy on Thursday's "Today" show. Before co-host Matt Lauer turned to self-help guru Tony Robbins to help viewers get through the "tough times," Cowan delivered a particularly depressing set-up piece that featured mostly pessimistic talking heads, including one that claimed: "The American dream is, is dying on the vine."
Opening the "Today" show Lauer did point out there was some "sweet relief" in the form of declining oil prices and a rising stock market but didn't let that bit of breaking good economic news get in the way of the pre-planned line of the day of, as Ann Curry put it, "doom and gloom."
The following are the anchor teasers followed by the full Cowan set-up piece and then Tony Robbins interview as they occurred on the July 17, "Today" show:
MATT LAUER: Good morning, sweet relief. Oil prices down, the stock market up a welcome pause from the pain, but overall tough times for many Americans. This morning advice for riding out the storm from a man who's inspired millions.
ANN CURRY: A lot of people are very scared about the economy, a lot of doom and gloom in the news as of late and while we're not out of the woods yet there is some good news to report.
MATT LAUER: At least a little good news. Oil prices have fallen over $10 a barrel, that's in the past couple of days and that helped the Dow jump 276 points on Wednesday. But still there is a lot of pain out there, with big job cuts, inflation, falling home prices. So this morning we're gonna get some advice from a man most people pay a lot of money to hear from. He's motivational speaker Tony Robbins. He's coached everyone from President Clinton to Princess Diana. Now he'll tell you how to cope in these very difficult times.
MATT LAUER: One writer put it best, "misery hasn't had this much company in 15 years." The so-called misery index, that's a combination of unemployment and inflation is now at its highest point since Bill Clinton first took office. Rising prices, big job cuts, failing banks, it's no wonder that people are upset and worried. NBC's Lee Cowan set out to capture the mood of America and to see what get[s] people out of bed every morning.
[On screen headline: "Turbulent Times, America's Crisis of Confidence"]
LEE COWAN: It used to be bad news was delivered almost in theatrical fashion.
[Begin clip from old newsreel]
ANNOUNCER: It is with deep regret that we bring you these graphic, appalling scenes of--
COWAN: Maybe it was easier to take that way. These days though bad news seems almost ordinary.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Several missiles had been launched by Iran.
CHARLIE GIBSON: To the wildfires in California.
KATIE COURIC: The stock price of some of the biggest banks tumbled.
COWAN: And it is all taking a toll. In fact a recent Gallup poll showed that the general mood of this country has been getting worse all year long. Last month only 14 percent said they were satisfied with the way things were going. Some of the top concerns?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#1: The gas prices.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The housing market.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN#2: The economy
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#2: The elections.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#3: The war is huge.
COWAN: No matter where we asked from Mama's Daughters' Diner in Dallas-
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#4: It's just, it's just ridiculous right now.
COWAN: -to Katz's Deli in Manhattan.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN#3: The American dream is, is dying on the vine.
COWAN: The national conversation these days is hardly uplifting.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#5: I make $10 an hour so that's pretty much my gas money there.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN#4: Your house is no longer worth what it was like four years ago. It's sad.
COWAN OVER VIDEO OF MISS USA FALLING: Even our comparatively frivolous traditions can't seem to catch a break.
JAY LENO: For the second in a row Miss USA tripped and fell down! You know it's bad enough when we can't compete with other countries in math and science but walking around in high heels and waving? We can't do that any more!
COWAN: But as troubled as we may be, financially and otherwise-
UNIDENTIFIED MAN#5: I think it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
COWAN: -our spirits are hardly bankrupt.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#6: Hope for the best but you prepare for the worst.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN#7: I mean I woke up so you know that's a good thing.
COWAN: A wind at your back approach during some stormy times. For "Today," Lee Cowan, NBC News, Chicago.
LAUER: Whether your glass is half full or half empty we have help. Anthony Robbins is a peak performance coach and motivational speaker who has helped millions of people get through their own personal tough times. Tony it's good to have you here, good morning.
ANTHONY ROBBINS: Thank you, Matt.
LAUER: Let me talk about fear, right off the bat.
LAUER: Fear of not being able to make ends meet, provide for your family, fear that you're gonna lose your job or your home or a combination of the two. How do you tell people to deal with the emotion of fear?
ROBBINS: I think people have to educate themselves to what's really happening right now. We are going through a transition. It's a season. And every generation has faced some pretty tough seasons at some stage. Some do it at a very young age, some do it at an older age. And we talk about the great generation. If you were born in 1910, you know by the time your 20-years-old you were in The Great Depression. When you were 30, you were into World War II. So our generation has had it fairly easy. You know we've all experienced pain. I'm sure you've experienced it in your family I have in mine. But we haven't experienced it a cultural level to the extreme we're starting to experience right now?
LAUER: So, so you're saying we haven't been adversity tested. We, we, we lived through a period where mortgages seemed too good to be true, so we bought bigger houses.
LAUER: Where gas seemed relatively cheap so we bought more and bigger cars. Where the stock market was booming so we invested and invested. Now we're finally seeing adversity?
ROBBINS: We're seeing it at a much deeper level and we're gonna see more of it. I mean we have $9.5 trillion worth of debt against the GDP, that's, you know $13.5 trillion. So there are real challenges. They're not gonna go away tomorrow. But here's what we have to be able to do. With every season there are challenges. Just like nature's seasons and they're opportunities. And right now, while you're seeing, you know, huge, deflation that we're seeing right now. And prices of real estate, we're seeing people losing their homes at 250,000 people a month. We're putting ourselves in a position, we see this tremendous volatility in the stock market. But at the same time, right now, commodities: oil, gold, food stuffs are exploding! They're in a bull market. Right now if you try to use the U.S. dollar over in Europe you get to see, you know it's dropped by 40 percent. But if you took that same money and you're investing in Vietnam, even if you're just a little investor that's getting going, your money is going a long way and you're in an economy that is growing at a different rate.
LAUER: I like your concept of looking for the bright side, the opportunity as you put it. But if the guy is calling you at night as you're sitting down to have dinner and he's trying to collect on the bills and, and you're worried about losing your benefits at work, it's tough to look outside your immediate misery and see opportunities. So how do you coach people to do that? How do they get over that hump?
ROBBINS: You have to train yourself emotionally and mentally. It's like anything else. People have a habit. When 9/11 happened I was together with about 2500 people from 45 countries. It hit, we got the phone call at 3am in the morning. We were actually in Hawaii and I had about 110 different people from the financial district here. Many people live there. So 65 people plus had lost their entire business, all their friends, all their family. What happened that day is you saw people's emotional fitness. People that are angry, got angry. They always get angry. People that are fearful got even more fearful. It was the end times. There were individuals there that were caretakers and they were out there finding it. So it's a habit to find your emotion. So what I say to people is you have to discover what your emotional pattern is and then you condition the emotion you do need. In those situations, what you need more than anything else is creativity, determination. You have to have some emotions that'll get you over it. Because the force that shapes the marketplace up and down is the force that shapes your life. It's emotion.
LAUER: Two, two quick things. Phil Gramm, former senator, got in some trouble last week when said he said we had become "a nation of whiners," when dealing with this economy. Is there some truth to it, in your opinion?
ROBBINS: Well I, I think we're emotionally unfit as we much as we could be. I mean there's no question that many people, I mean I've had a doctor come to me and say, "You have a tumor in your brain. I want to operate." So has Lance Armstrong. The question is, when those things happen what are you focused on, what does it mean, what do you do? Do you focus on you know, why did this happen to me? Or what does it mean? Is it over or are you just beginning? Is this, is this a gift? In Lance's case he's found a way to take enough action. You know after you cancer, deal with cancer, you look over, you know somebody on a bicycle, and it's pretty easy. He wins seven of these in row.
LAUER: So if we're supposed to get in this emotional good shape earlier on in our lives, is there an opportunity here, Tony, for parents, you know families are going through a hard time. Parents of kids and I'm talking about 10, 12, 14-year-olds, not three, four-year-olds, to be honest and open with their kids and talk to them openly about what the family is facing and what people in this country are facing, so that they don't go by, go on thinking money grows on trees?
ROBBINS: Well I think here's what's really great. We're gonna become emotionally fit because we have to. Necessity is there. But the thing that people hope, it's not positive thinking. It's role models. Sir John Templeton is one of my heroes. I interviewed him not long ago and he just passed away as you probably know, about a week ago. And here's a man who started with nothing in 1939. You know Hitler is invading and he went out at that time and said, "Maximum pessimism is when you can do the best. This is when you can grow." He went out and he took stocks here in the U.S., that were on the floor, and got them for a dollar each. Borrowed $10,000 and built the basis of a multi-billion dollar empire. Today, even though he's passed, he has this foundation that, about a billion dollar-and-a-half endowment and gives away $70 million a year. And it's all because this man, when Japan after the war went-, that's where he went.
LAUER: So then-
ROBBINS: When Brazil and when South America's inflation was going crazy, that's where he went. No one went to China, that's where he went. If you go to a maximum pessimism is, you can shift it. But with your kids, they're going to have to change. They don't have a choice. And that's what's gonna make us stronger. Necessity is gonna make it happen. We can step up though by modeling. And one last thing.
LAUER: Quickly if you can.
ROBBINS: Finding a way to get outside yourself. When things are the worst for your there's always somebody doing worse. Two-thirds or almost a little more than half this planet lives on $2.00 a day. We're stronger than we think we are and we can train ourselves to be able to take advantage of the tough times.
LAUER: So it's tough for us but there, but there, but for the grace of God, there's someone else in a worse situation.
ROBBINS: And if you help them it changes you too.
LAUER: Tony Robbins, Tony thanks good to have you here.
ROBBINS: Thank you, Matt.
LAUER: For more tips from Tony you can visit our Web site at todayshow.com.