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Jillian Michaels: “I’d like to inspire awareness about all the children that have been misplaced because of the global refugee crisis”

…I would have to say raising awareness on the global refugee crisis and subsequently all the children that have been misplaced because of it. I’ve been working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee agency, to help raise awareness about this cause and educate people on what they can do to be a part of the solution. […]


…I would have to say raising awareness on the global refugee crisis and subsequently all the children that have been misplaced because of it. I’ve been working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee agency, to help raise awareness about this cause and educate people on what they can do to be a part of the solution. And while ideally, all children would be kept with their families, in some cases these kids lose their families. If you have the means, please consider adopting a child — either here through foster care of internationally through an international adoption process. Every child deserves a family and every human deserves a place to call home.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Jillian Michaels is the most prominent health and fitness expert in the world. She’s dominated the health and wellness space with eight New York Times-bestselling books; hit television shows; immensely successful workout DVDs; her My Fitness diet and exercise app, which was voted best of 2017 by both Apple and Google; and her award-winning podcast.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Empowered Media was founded back in 2006. I knew that I had a big opportunity with the global platform NBC provided me, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to use it properly. Fortunately, I met my business partner, Giancarlo Chersich, as a patron of my sports medicine facility. He was a licensing agent for brands and when he would come in to my gym I would pick his brain on brand building. We became fast friends and in no time became business partners. His business acumen coupled with my knowledge and passion for health, nutrition, and fitness made us a winning team.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I can’t say running a business has ever been funny to me. Exhilarating, inspiring, overwhelming, challenging… yes. Funny… not once. That said, I have found the access running a successful company provides to be an incredibly useful tool and the people you meet while doing business are very interesting. So, whether you get to speak at Maria Shriver’s women’s conference or do a motivational event with Suze Orman, the possibilities and opportunities are endless.

What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge to date has been constant legal annoyances. The more successful you are, the more people want to tear you down or take you out and competitors will stop at nothing to do so. Once a competitive company sued me and my company over our supplement line with a class action lawsuit in order to damage my reputation and the product. The lawsuits were dismissed as frivolous, but the other company did in fact succeed in doing the damage they set out to do. The bottom line: be well insured. Prepare for anything and everything. Never, EVER settle because the line to sue you will stretch around the corner. AND, conversely, go after those individuals as aggressively as you possibly can for things like malicious prosecution. In those instances, it’s best to fight fire with fire so anyone who considers pulling a card like that on you will think twice.

What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?

Leadership to me is simple — empathize with your people and set a good example. If you don’t get what they are going through, they can’t really put their trust in you and subsequently can’t take the risks and put in the work you need from them. More importantly, if you aren’t willing to do the work or make the sacrifices you ask them to make, and show them that the results are possible — once again — how could they ever follow your lead / example?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I was incredibly fortunate to have a few angel investors (who were personal training clients) help me raise the money to start my own sports medicine facility and gym. Without their help I never would have been able to open my business and it’s doubtful I would have ever had the credibility or clout to land The Biggest Loser. Luckily, that business was also a success and I was able to pay them back plus interest.

Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?

I practice something I call the 12 hour rule. Essentially, it works as follows: if you sleep 8 hours a night that leaves you with 112 waking hours in a week. If you dedicate 50 to work and 50 to family and running your household that leaves 12 hours of you time weekly — 48 hours a month. With that 12 hours I can squeeze in 4 twenty minute exercise sessions on an app in my living room. I get one major health or hygiene appointment in per week (physical, haircut, dentist, etc.) I have a girl’s night or boozy brunch with friends. I get a special date night. And I have a few hours left over for chill time to engage in hobbies, get a manicure pedicure, read a book, etc. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough to keep the wheels on the bus on all fronts of my life.

Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?

No, I don’t think so. I think the problems just have more zeros at the end of them. Where things got more difficult was when I added kids to the mix. And that’s when you really are forced to completely abandon any notion of perfection (which was impossible anyway, but still). At that point you appreciate that it’s about progress and ANY movement in the right direction is a win, no matter how incremental. In fact, I have learned to celebrate holding my ground. Just the simple act of not going backwards is accomplishment in itself sometimes.

Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?

Prioritize sleep. Get a minimum of 7 hours. If I can do it anyone can do it. If you go to bed at 11 and get up at 6 that’s 7 hours. That is not at all unreasonable and it provides you with the energy and physical stamina to go about your day more effectively.

Engage in a 5 minute mediation daily. Study after study has shown us that the power of transformation is transcendent. It can literally change the chemistry and physiology of your brain setting you up to feel calmer and more at peace. This helps with impulsivity and emotion regulation — incredibly necessary tools in business.

Take your vacations. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard and there won’t be days, weeks, months, or even years filled with long hours and sacrifice — BUT too much is simply too much. And while you might think it’s getting you ahead it is, in fact, burning you out and shortening the overall life span of your career in general as well as the quality of your work.

Limit your screen time — just like you might with your kids. It’s amazing how much time we waste on things like Instagram watching cute animal or kid videos. We all know we could be using this time so much more productively, so put the phone down and engage in life not the internet.

Practice the 12 hour rule I mentioned above!

What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride?

Other than my family, of course, I would have to say when people come up to me on the street and tell me about their journeys. Some have left dead end relationships, some have left dead end jobs, and some half left dozens if not hundreds of pounds in the rear view mirror. To hear that I was a part of their transformation and their process — no matter how big or how small is a true honor that I will always be grateful for and will never take for granted.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me personally, if I am avoiding the obvious answer of helping people live their best lives, I would have to say raising awareness on the global refugee crisis and subsequently all the children that have been misplaced because of it. I’ve been working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee agency, to help raise awareness about this cause and educate people on what they can do to be a part of the solution. And while ideally, all children would be kept with their families, in some cases these kids lose their families. If you have the means, please consider adopting a child — either here through foster care of internationally through an international adoption process. Every child deserves a family and every human deserves a place to call home.

What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/jillianmichaels/
https://www.instagram.com/jillianmichaels/
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