Lilly Scott of ‘Electric Collective Fitness’: “Kindness”

I started teaching free zoom workout classes at the encouragement of my Equinox regional manager at the start of the pandemic lockdown. The fitness classes I teach are unique in that I create a mental reason in addition to the physical reason for students to work hard in class. When they get physically tired, I […]

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I started teaching free zoom workout classes at the encouragement of my Equinox regional manager at the start of the pandemic lockdown. The fitness classes I teach are unique in that I create a mental reason in addition to the physical reason for students to work hard in class. When they get physically tired, I redirect them to their mental purpose, whether that is to build resilience or fight past fear, and then at the end of class, we end on a mental high note, tying up the intention in a bow. This unique approach becomes therapeutic and many students rely on the classes for their mental wellness. If there was ever a time for mental health support, it was the lockdown. After very little time in quarantine, my classes went from having 40 students in them to over 300 per class. Soon enough, I was teaching and promoting the class so much it began to be a part-time job essentially, on top of my law job. At the time I was working in policy, so I was keeping track of all of the Covid-19 relief packages coming out of Congress (some were close to 1000 pages). My candles were being burnt on both ends.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lilly Scott.

Lilly Scott started her career as a lawyer-lobbyist, representing some of the largest companies in the country including CVS, 7Eleven, Comcast, and many more. While she worked full time she always made time for her passion for teaching fitness at Equinox and Corepower Yoga, keeping her dream of fitness full time in her back pocket. When coronavirus hit, Lilly started teaching fitness classes for free in her living room; when they got popular, she realized this was her big chance to rewrite the fitness conversation, so she hung up her blazer for burpees and hasn’t looked back since. With over 500 members of her virtual fitness community, Electric Collective Fitness, Lilly’s mission is to spread a unique approach to fitness for mental health and happiness with the world. Now she has an app, over 500 members, and is partnering with global companies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up an hour outside Boston, Massachusetts in Leominster, with two parents who loved to exercise, but who were also constantly on diets. I was chubby and my parents taught me that if you don’t like the way you look, do something about it. I went on my first diet at 10 years old, only allowing myself to eat 16g carbohydrates a day (yes, I was reading nutrition labels at 10 years old).

In the process of “doing something about it” I fell in love with being active, not because of the way it changed my body but because it was FUN to move. From playing basketball, lacrosse, and soccer, to playing outside with my friends, so long as I was moving, I was happy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Wow, this one is hard because part of my job is using inspiring life quotes to help people discover their power. My first ever favorite quote is one I discovered in middle school. It is “kites rise highest against the wind, not with it” by Winston Churchill. Over the years, the quote has taken different forms for me. As a young lawyer, the quote reminded me not to give up, that the hard days crying on my way to the office, feeling trapped and mad, were making me stronger.

This past year, going against the wind meant doing something so far from the norm. I knew people would judge me and think I am crazy but I did it anyway. Look, muscles don’t grow unless we rip them apart so they can build back up. We NEED to be uncomfortable and we have to remember that the space right behind discomfort is where greatness lies. I never take the easy way, I never settle for good, I stand face to the wind knowing even though it’s hard, it’s the only way to fly.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Resilience: In my career, nothing has been handed to me, and I take setbacks hard, but I never give up. Maybe one of the most important moments that defined my resilience was when I was in law school and my professor told me “you don’t look like you belong in law school” and told the class that I should drop out. I went to a top 20 law school and felt pretty proud about that, but my first year was not easy for me. My anxiety got the best of me during my first semester exams. It was embarrassing and disappointing, but I decided that the real person who comes in last is the person who quits. The next year, I got a dog and trained to be a fitness instructor. That year I came to the top of my class for that year. That failure taught me so much more than an A+ in torts ever would.

Passion: While I worked at my office job I was so inspired by my colleagues who LOVED law and policy. I felt inferior to them, like I wasn’t serious enough, or masculine enough, or smart enough to be good at the job like them. My clients loved me, but I always felt like an imposter. With hindsight, I know that the only thing I lacked that my colleagues had was passion. They were so passionate about their work. While they were reading about politics in their free time, I was looking up different ways to do squats. If you are not sure what you are passionate about, pay attention to what you’re looking at on your phone during your free time. That is what you are passionate about when you have no one to impress.

Kindness: I don’t think a lot of people would list this one, but it is what got me to where I am today. From the start when I was just a once-a-week instructor at Equinox, I wanted to get to know my students. I listened when they spoke about their struggles, I remembered their names the next week. In a cutthroat city like DC where everyone sees each other as competition no matter what profession they are in, I choose to be kind anyway. That kindness built the genuine connections that I have today and without those people supporting my business I would never have been able to grow as I did.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I was a lawyer-lobbyist working at bipartisan firms in Washington, DC. I met with congressional members and staff, represented prominent clients, and ran around DC working mostly in the health, and then the energy and environmental space.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I started teaching free zoom workout classes at the encouragement of my Equinox regional manager at the start of the pandemic lockdown. The fitness classes I teach are unique in that I create a mental reason in addition to the physical reason for students to work hard in class. When they get physically tired, I redirect them to their mental purpose, whether that is to build resilience or fight past fear, and then at the end of class, we end on a mental high note, tying up the intention in a bow. This unique approach becomes therapeutic and many students rely on the classes for their mental wellness. If there was ever a time for mental health support, it was the lockdown. After very little time in quarantine, my classes went from having 40 students in them to over 300 per class. Soon enough, I was teaching and promoting the class so much it began to be a part-time job essentially, on top of my law job. At the time I was working in policy, so I was keeping track of all of the Covid-19 relief packages coming out of Congress (some were close to 1000 pages). My candles were being burnt on both ends.

Simultaneously, I saw so many other instructors out there making money off of what I was giving away for free. Many people in my journey told me to start charging for class, but it wasn’t until my best friend called me up and told me I had to do it that I got the courage. It was HARD for me, but it was a huge growth moment for me in understanding my worth. So I made a website, figured out a paid platform, and got everything set up within about two weeks. The first month into the business being open, I realized my earning potential was far greater in this virtual fitness arena than working my tail off at a firm doing something I wasn’t passionate about. I had this moment where I had to sit and decide if I wanted to try to do it all, or do I take a chance on myself and commit to my dream? It was absolutely scary and I cried a little, but knew what I had to do. So I called my boss the next day and gave my notice.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

The trigger was less of a moment and more of a steady drip. I felt constant imposter syndrome while working at an office. It was entirely against every grain in my body to sit alone all day, talk to no one for hours, and live in a competitive environment. I also knew deep down that I was passionate about something else. I imagine this is how it must feel to date a terrific guy but deep down be in love with someone else. On the outside, I am sure I looked engaged and excited to be at work. On the inside, I felt trapped, and my anxiety was mounting over time.

The day before I quit, I had a huge panic attack about work. As I was having this last panic attack I thought to myself, “this is utterly ridiculous.” The only person who was suffering from me trying to maintain the status quo was me. That was the last panic attack that I’ve had in my life. No drugs, no therapy, just me listening to my body and being brave enough to act on my intuition.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

One skillset I learned and one I was born with.

A skillset that we develop in law school is getting comfortable with doing things you don’t know how to do. I knew that I could teach a great, engaging, impactful fitness class. I knew that I could interact with people from a genuine place that would leave a lasting impression. I had no idea, however, how to run a business. A skill set that helped me a lot was the comfort and trust I developed with myself through law school because I proved to myself that I can learn things that I do not know and that eventually what seems hard will be easy.

When I started teaching for free though and saw myself get popular quickly while people in DC with much more experience teaching than me stayed stagnant, I realized that I have an innate ability to think like a business owner and market myself. At first it was fun, the commodity was to get more followers and people in the class. I was using catchy graphics, coming up with themes, messaging with current students, and engaging with them. I doubled my Instagram followers seemingly overnight and more than tripled the number of students coming to my classes. But soon I realized that there was boss energy inside me that was being tapped into at the firm. I liked exciting people and changing their minds about their bodies. I think especially as women, we feel like we need a degree to prove we can do something and I for sure felt like that at the start of my new chapter. But you know what? SCREW THAT! I made a 6-figure business overnight just based on being resilient, passionate, and kind!

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

It is going great (I say as I sip my third cup of coffee this morning). What started as a free business now is a 500+ member fitness community. I now teach live classes and have an app. I teach 8 unique fitness classes a week for my platform and I have four instructors who teach on my schedule too. We are also successfully partnering with corporations. We’ve recently partnered with an international recruitment firm, for example, to provide memberships to their entire recruitment staff. I am hoping to expand into offices like this more so we can help busy working professionals fit movement into their schedules. While we sweat and work, Electric Collective instructors also bring the mental aspect into our classes. This technique makes for an addicting class that does lead to physical changes, but it also leads to professional success; whether that is the bravery to ask for a raise, or permitting yourself to go after a huge client, or just the mental capacity to keep at a tough project, we are training people through fitness to step into their professional power.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I feel like I am at the Oscars and do not want to leave anyone out! One person who was monumental in the success and creation of this business is my best friend, maid of honor, sorority-sister, and partner in crime, Jackie. She is the friend who called me back when I was teaching for free and told me that I have to buck up and make the free classes into a business. She gave me the kick in the butt and the permission I needed to go after this dream. When I called her about making an app, she was really supportive, and I’ve run so many of my decisions by her since. As someone who supports others all day, every day, Jackie has been the constant rock who I can turn to who will cheer me on when I am getting tired. Not only that, She comes to class almost every day and loves the workouts too!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

The story that comes to mind was my experience making the transition from free to paid classes. I was very nervous to tell my students that I would switch over from free to paid classes because I was scared they would all stop coming. Instead of announcing it apologetically though, I told them with excitement about what this change meant for them: better sound quality (because would buy a nice microphone), more classes, and an overall improved experience for them. I shared that they helped me discover my worth and that this is just the beginning!

The response was overwhelmingly positive. I had students sharing about how proud they were of me, of US really, because we built this business together. That was a big moment for me in learning that you can ask for what you are worth and that people will respect you more for it.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

I still struggle with it, who doesn’t? When I looked at the people who’ve made it in the virtual fitness space, they are all really low body fat, stunning to look at, and kind of intimidating. A belief I had for a long time was thinking I didn’t LOOK the part. I would see fitness-model-looking best-selling women and think to myself, I am not THAT so I cannot get big in the fitness industry.

Through teaching for free I learned a lot. First, I learned that the internet is huge and you only need a tiny fraction of the world to like what you are doing to make more than you would at a soul-crushing desk doing things you don’t like. I learned that there are some people out there who need to see someone with a highly idealistic body to validate that they are good fitness trainers, but there are some people out there who want a relatable, inspiring instructor and they don’t care if she binge eats Trader Joes dried mangoes while watching Netflix crime documentaries at night.

I thought I had to look a certain way to make it in this industry, but the real important thing is helping people FEEL a certain way. I do not want to starve myself so I can attract people who want to work out to look like me! I want to attract people who are looking to step into their power as I did! Once I let go of the limiting belief that I didn’t look the part, I freed up a lot of mental space to create a niche where I belong in the fitness conversation, and where I can just be myself.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

It was not really a matter of creating a support system for me. I have always been a supportive person to my friends and family, so when I decided to step into this new job they were ready to have my back. My husband helps me with some administrative work so before I quit my job we had a sit-down where I told him that I cannot do this alone and will need his support along the way. He was supportive, no questions asked! As I have been working I have accumulated a team of people who help me by answering questions and encouraging me along the way, and I have a group of instructors who are just starting up who I support, too!

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

Quitting my job was a huge step out of my comfort zone. Law degrees take time and they are expensive. Not only that, working at a firm is a legitimate job that people respect. Not a lot of people understood at first what I was doing or what I was trying to create, so to step outside the norm and to do something off-beat was a big leap out of my comfort zone. Jumping outside really started with charging my students for class. It was scary but it was absolutely worth it because I got the opportunity to reinvest in the company to make the visual and audio experience better for my students!

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1.) It will feel like falling in love — I tell people that starting a business is like falling in love. At first, it is cute and lustful and fun. It’s new and you play around with it, not knowing exactly how you fit in with that person you are falling in love with, not exactly sure how it all will work out. But once you are a few months in, and you know for sure you love it, you will become obsessive. You know, the “can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, world series kind of stuff” (if you know where that quote is coming from… you and I just became best friends.) You are going to wake up and want to work. You are going to want to talk about it with anyone who will want to listen. You will see yourself differently from it, and you will see the entire world differently, too.

Just like falling in love, this is going to be one of the most magnificent experiences of your entire life. Like love, you might fall out of it, despite you trying to make it work. And just like love, it will always be worth it. Always, even after the heartbreak, because just like being in love, starting your own organization will make you feel really alive. I wish someone had told me that, because a lot of people told me the risks but they never told me about all of the beauty. Maybe it was because most of them never started their own business.

2.) You’ll only ever know what you know until you know more — Confusing, but hear me out. Before starting my business, I thought I at least had to read a few books, at least religiously listen to a few articles, talk to some experts, buy all the equipment and be perfect, then I could start. HA! Look, some of the most successful people in human history started their businesses without any of the qualifications or education that we think we need. The hardest part is starting, knowing you don’t know everything, but the only way for you to truly know what it takes to run an organization is to run it, so it’s a Catch-22. You’re only ever going to know what you know until you have the guts to start, to fail and fumble, keep trying, and learn more from it. Let’s remember that we can learn so much more from things going wrong than when they go right.

3.) Learn from the greats, but don’t compare yourself to them — It is easy to see other people succeeding and think: I can never get there. It is kind of like climbing up a big mountain, and you are at the base but you can see tiny blobs of color in the distance way higher than you. It is easy and human to see those people ahead of you and think to yourself that you’ll never get there. Or feel overwhelmed by their success in comparison to yours. SCREW THAT!

Instead of looking at those people and letting yourself feel small and insignificant, focus on figuring out how they got there, not how far away “there” is! I am constantly watching what the people who are more successful than me are doing. Whenever I start to catch myself in comparison, I remind myself that they were once where I am, and the only difference is they have been climbing longer. Let’s use their path to help us to get to the top. Let’s celebrate them and cheer them on so when we reach them at the summit we can look for new peaks together.

4. The hardest boss to blame is yourself — When I was in a mood before, feeling unhappy about my career, feeling overworked and underpaid, I could always blame my boss or my firm. But now I am my boss. I am the one person to blame. I am the person from who I can ask for vacation time off, and I am simultaneously the person who pulls myself into meetings on Sundays! I have read that some people who start a business have a great balance, I am not one of them. Right now I am trying to learn that I am my own boss so it is my responsibility to create the work environment I want for myself. Feeling too much pressure? You are the only one to blame. It is a very raw and isolated place to be because I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings, faults, and flaws. That said, I’m learning how invaluable a mindset is to personal growth and career success.

5.) You will feel alone, but you aren’t — At the start of this journey, things that I thought wouldn’t take me too long would take hours! In the pursuit of your dreams, you are going to want to grow fast and swiftly, but there is a learning curve. When there aren’t mentors in your office to tell you how to make your dream into reality, there are going to be moments where you feel utterly alone. Like Tom Hanks, hand-print on a volleyball your best friend is Wilson kind of alone. Everyone else is busy at their jobs, so you are not going to want to bug them. Take a BIG BREATH in those moments.

All you can ever do is your absolute best, and remember that your best is enough. My advice is to ask for encouragement from some trusted friends at the beginning. You are starting this company alone, but you are not a castaway. There are people around who will at the very least encourage you while you try to find the answers. And don’t be afraid to ask the people who are doing it right, how they are doing it.

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?

Well, I would like to think that is what I am doing already, trying to be a leader in the movement movement, creating a space for people to normalize exercise as a way to foster sustainable mental health. The number one longest relationship we all will ever have is with ourselves and the bodies we are in. That relationship should be one of love. Yet, the fitness industry uses people’s insecurities, perceived flaws, and shortcomings to incite action and encourage people to work out. I HATE THAT! I refuse to market my business by using before and after weight loss pictures. Even though the physical transformations my students have are truly amazing, they achieved those results because they consistently showed up for themselves out of self-love. I think my impact on the world will be using my power of persuasion that I developed in my legal career to transform the fitness conversation. I truly believe that physical activity and self-love can lead to success in every other aspect of your life. That is the movement I want to be a part of.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Wow, that is such an amazing question. The woman who I admire the most in this field is Whitney Simmons. I think of her as the famous version of me! She is absolutely stunning, but she defines herself by how she makes people feel. She is authentic and shares her insecurities, trying always to present her true self to her followers and inspire them to love themselves too. Before I do anything, I check to see how Whitney would do it. One day when I make it big, I hope she and I will look at this little paragraph and laugh, on a trip somewhere beautiful with our husbands (she is engaged right now) as good friends and partners in the pursuit of helping every person see that fitness can be more than changing what you look like.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me and my business on Instagram:

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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