Tolly Burkan began teaching in 1973. At that time, he presented "The Science of Happiness" invented by Ken Keyes. Tolly and Ken taught together and co-authored the bestselling book How to Make Your Life Work or Why Aren't You Happy? published by Simon & Schuster in 1976.
Tolly is most renowned, however, as the founder of the international firewalking movement. Tolly’s approach to firewalking resulted in a global phenomenon of over six million people attending firewalking classes. Due to his pioneering strategies, firewalking seminars are now regularly offered on six continents.
Tolly built his reputation by consistently creating innovative, cutting-edge methods for developing human potential. In 1977 he created the world’s first firewalking class and began teaching firewalking to the general public. In the 1980s, he started working with large corporations and began training instructors. The '90s transformed his work into a mushrooming corporate trend. Even mainstream companies such as Microsoft, American Express and Met-Life began including firewalking in their executive empowerment seminars.
Tolly has taught firewalking to many celebrities, including Andrew Weil, M.D., Regis Philbin, and Anthony Robbins. Tolly also demonstrated mind over matter on national television by influencing slot machines in Nevada casinos during one of his peak performance trainings covered by Inside Edition.
In addition to being the first person to offer firewalking in public seminars, Tolly was the first to offer public seminars teaching ordinary people to walk barefooted, unharmed, on shards of broken glass; the first to teach public classes that included metal bar bending; barehanded brick breaking; arrow snapping; and many other esoteric practices of heightened awareness and empowerment, usually reserved for a select few.
Tolly retired in 2017, although he is still available for interviews. He has authored eight books that are available in 16 languages, and has been featured in over 70 books, hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Since 1984, Tolly regularly appeared on all major television networks and was a guest on Donahue, Regis, Geraldo and MythBusters.