Tips From The Top: One On One With Jillian Michaels

I spoke to Jillian Michaels, the leading health and fitness expert, renowned nutritionist and wellness entrepreneur, about her best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Jillian: Wow. how much time do you have? Um, I can sing the alphabet backwards. I’m an animal lover and have around 50+ rescue animals. It’s possible I have the worst singing voice in the world. Like it’s so bad that it’s an accomplishment to be this bad. I am actually an expert in fitness and nutrition – crazy I know. I have multiple certifications in fitness and nutrition and I do continuing education programs for other trainers. I speak 5 languages (this is totally untrue, but I’ve always wanted to say that). And I’m in Mensa. Also untrue, but I’ve never applied so maybe I could be.

Adam: How did you get here? ​What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Jillian: There have been so many it would be impossible to list them all. I’d simply say that ultimately rejection is protection if you handle it appropriately. All of the people that didn’t date you, all of the jobs you didn’t get, etc. If you stop and look at why you didn’t get the gig – what happened that made the relationship fall apart – or even ask for feedback on what you could have done better or differently, etc. then you take responsibility for the part of the failure you own. You learn from the mistake and approach more intelligently for another go at it. Ultimately, success in large part is about patience, fortitude, resilience, and humility. Learn from your screw ups. Don’t quit. And you will see that these setbacks are simply getting you ready (wiser, smarter, stronger, more emotionally available, etc.) for the right person, place, or thing in life that is waiting just around the corner.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?


1. Humility – Check your ego. I have seen so many companies based on great concepts go under because of poor leadership. If you’re wrong admit it and fix the mistake. If you don’t know hire somebody who does and don’t be intimidated if they know more than you. Strong people know where they are weak and understand that success takes a village. And ask for feedback from your team on what they think you could be doing better to help them do their job.

2. Fairness – Be fair and lead by example. Life is not fair, that’s true, but the more fair you can be to people you work with the better. Don’t hold yourself to different standards than you hold them to just because you’re the boss. Treat people equally. Pay them equally.

3. Thoughtful and sensible – a leader isn’t emotional or impulsive. They know that cooler calmer heads prevail and can temper a stressful environment with rationale and calm and then analyze the best path forward. (While I have gotten better at this one over the years it certainly isn’t my strength. Hence the reason I have a business partner. See tip 1 above.)

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?


1. Don’t be an optimist. Optimism is for fools. I’m not saying you should be a pessimist either, but in life things don’t just “work themselves out”. Positive thinking keeps you from a proactive mindset. Be a realist and handle the situation accordingly.

2. Work Ethic. I get that everything is about work life balance these days, but that’s bullshit. When you are building a company you need to be all in. Once the company is stable and successful you can take more time off.

3. Take calculated risks. Nothing ventured nothing gained, but do your homework. Uninformed action is often disastrous. Dot all the i’s cross all the t’s and really research what the smartest way to proceed is. This mitigates failure so should you fail the mistakes aren’t catastrophic. You learn from them and re-approach more intelligently.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Jillian: Trust your gut. And sure enough. Every time I didn’t I paid the price. So often we doubt ourselves – thinking we are’t experts and the other person is. Or we are afraid to be difficult and rock the boat, even though we know something is a mistake. Ultimately, if you don’t follow your gut, for whatever reason, the thing you fear will happen by the mere fact that you avoided dealing with it.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Jillian: I really think this depends on the person. I think we need to be charitable for causes that move us. That said, what we can all do is not contribute to problems. Don’t use plastics if you can help it. Use green products that are better for your health and the environment. Don’t hurt people to get ahead. Business is not justification for being an asshole.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Jillian: I love animals, martial arts, and talking with people. And I think this has given me an empathy that allows me to push people to be their best selves, but not a sympathy that can validate their fears about their own capability.

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