most of my friends are schlepping their 8-year-olds to a weekend birthday party, complete with bouncy houses and cake. well, my baby is turning 8, but instead of bouncy houses, we trek to LA each year to the IDEA fitness expo where i first launched my little flagship product back in 2008. another IDEA has come + gone, and like any good mom i have a serious case of mom-guilt for throwing a last-minute birthday party. sorry fitbook, if you weren't so darn popular momma would have more time on her hands!
and in true frazzled-mom mode, i'm pausing just long enough to reflect on the past 8 years: milestones, memories + musings. but one thing i never realized my business would teach me about when i handmade that first little fitbook just two years shy of a decade ago: life.
bear with me as this sappy ol' momma fitlosopher reflects on the 8 oh-so-valuable lessons my biz has taught me about this thing called life.
1. go with your gut.
during my MBA program at UC Irvine, this the idea for fitbook was the subject of multiple projects, from product design and strategy + ops, to an entrepreneurship course, which resulted in my first business plan. let’s just say “fitnotes” - the original name i wanted which was already trademarked – wasn’t the most tech-forward idea in our program, and input from some of my fellow colleagues was that my idea probably wasn’t viable. i mean: in their defense, other group projects included things like revolutionary semi-conductors...and there i was with my little book.
life lesson #1: accept constructive criticism, and be open to change – but always trust your instincts. they’re there for a reason.
2. find your tribe.
people often ask me, “ how did you know where to even start?” truth: i didn’t. i googled. i researched. i emailed. and no one could make
what i wanted: a little red spiral-bound journal that had to have sweat-resistant poly covers, complete with rounded corners (don’t ask me why this was important – it added 50 cents to the cost!), and a small pen. and if it weren’t for that lovely white-haired man in this pic, fitbook wouldn’t have been born. sure, i probably would’ve figured it out eventually, but he gave me a chance; he believed in me. he would just smile when i had some bizarre request, like, “can all my 4-packs of fitbooks that go out be tied with red grosgrain ribbon?” he would just smirk, nod, and figure it out. the details don’t matter because eight years later, i don’t remember all of them – but i'll never forget that this man gave me a shot - and his daughter, and their employees worked tirelessly with me to make my little idea become a reality. only problem: these little books, originally made in the USA, weren’t cheap. at the time i was running my marketing agency full-time and working on fitlosophy at night. many times, my dear friend and neighbor at the time, had approached me wanting to buy a business and have me run it . i told him, “thanks, but no thanks – i'm making fitbook.
” he wanted a biz and i needed money, so i plopped my business plan down in front of him, and over a glass of wine, we inked the deal. that man was (and is) so much more than my angel investor – he’s undeniably just an angel.
life lesson #2: surround yourself with those who believe in you - and will give you a shot, even if you think you don't think you deserve it. (you do.)
3. be okay with standing out.
when i launched fitbook exactly 8 years ago (july 2008) the IDEA world fitness expo, complete with my investor, my designer, and my mom in tow, we set up our booth and fitlosophy was officially in business! surrounded on all sides by app companies that were bound to revolutionize fitness, there I was with my little journal. just one product, $22.95…”we take cash or credit!”. it was by the grace of God that yahoo had just published an article that exact same day: “new study: food journaling results in double the amount of weight-loss in same amount of time – just by putting pen to paper.” trainers were flocking to our booth, all with the same question (which everyone still asks to this day): “do you have an app??” it wasn’t popular to create a journal during the tech boom (and bust, soon thereafter), but i did. being an entrepreneur and chasing after something you believe in isn’t always popular. there were (and still are) friday nights where i would forgo happy hour to burn the midnight oil. but fitting in isn’t my life goal – doing something that matters, is.
life lesson #3: having the courage to be different, challenging the norm, and going against the grain isn’t easy – but choosing easy will never get you anywhere exceptional.
4. fear is a liar
don’t think for a second that just because i up and quit my 6-figure job (sorry, mom) to start fitlosophy (on the side) that i’ve never been scared. i’ve taken many risks in this business, albeit calculated risks, but risks nonetheless. i have had million-dollar deals fall apart at the last minute, vendors go belly-up, shipments arrive completely damaged – the list goes on. when you have your employees’ (and your own) future dependent on your company’s success, trust me, there are definitely moments when fear creeps in. but this is the truth:
“My faith in what I’m capable of doing is greater than my fear of doing it. I know I will figure it out. Too little fear of failure results in recklessness; too much fear guarantees complacency. But I know that if I operate in a place of fear, I will never, ever get where I’m going. And I’ve got big things to do. I’m grateful for the fear. It’s what drives me.” [entrepreneur magazine, march 2016]
life lesson #4: change is inevitable. outcomes are uncertain. little is actually within our control. embrace it and move forward in faith.
5. fly by the seat of your pants.
when you’re working with mass retailers specifically, very little is in your control. when walgreens says jump, i say “how high? is that good? does that work for you?” when target says go, i go. i've always taken a “say yes and figure it out later” approach to business – and it’s served me well. not that it hasn’t ever come back to bite me. no joke, this podcast aired talking about this very concept, and i kid you not, i was on an insane deadline to finish up a product for walgreen’s that had me sleeping maybe 3-5 hours a night for weeks on end. trust me, i was questioning this blankety-blank concept of always saying yes. “what did i get myself into????” was more like it! but truth is: that’s just how i roll. it wasn’t until i actually put the podcast on in the background while working that i realized that even though it seems like a character flaw (and a curse!) at times, the ability to push yourself beyond what seems possible is a blessing.
"There’s this concept of luck and I don’t believe in it. Luck is just preparation meets opportunity. The truth is, I’m rarely prepared for an opportunity, but I always ALWAYS deliver.” [shopify podcast, june 2017]
life lesson #5: never take no for an answer, overcommit to push things to the next level – and then work like crazy to make it happen. but don't for a second think it's luck.
6. it’s not about you.
if you go into business with the sole purpose of turning a profit – good luck. yes, a business should make money (otherwise it’s just a hobby), but more importantly, it should seek to change lives, innovate products or processes, create things that matter. think about the businesses that are deemed successful, and at the very core, they have improved our lives in some way.
(oh amazon, you’ve given me the gift of time, but dang, you make it way too easy to shop!). yes, admittedly, i created fitbook because of my own personal need, but it was because i knew that if it could help me, it might just help others too. and it has. our mission goes way beyond just pushing products onto shelves. so much thought and time goes into creating products that will literally change lives. yes, seeing fitbook mentioned still brings me joy. or seeing our new fitspiration journal on the glossy pages of SELF magazine (august issue!) – so cool. but those don’t even compare to seeing one of your fab fitbookers featured in good housekeeping magazine in a 2-page spread because she lost 140lbs using fitbook. or another fitbook success-story megan, whose inspiring story of overcoming heart disease + losing 80lbs (and counting) through the process of journaling, being featured in women’s health magazine and the new york post. to name just a few. this is why i do what i do. this is why i stay up ‘til the wee hours of the morning, meticulously creating content and editing like an OCD maniac. because i've seen that it works, and believe with every ounce of my being that my God-given talents aren’t for my own gain, but to be given away.
life lesson #6: find your why. strive to be of value, not a success. impact enough lives, and success will inevitably follow.
7. don’t play small
on a recent roadtrip with a business advisor-slash-friend, with 6 ½ hours to kill, we listened to a recent podcast i'd recorded with shopify. pretty pleased with myself,
anxious to hear her input, i was stunned by her response. she complimented the content and composure, commenting on how well-spoken she thought i was. cue me feeling proud as a little peacock! and then: “you need to stop playing small.” *record stratch* say what?? she went on to (lovingly) lecture me that we have top-selling products in target and walgreens, have grown a million-plus-dollar brand, and graced the pages of national publications...and yet i continue to play the “small” card. scrambling to defend myself, i tried to explain that i always want to err on the side of humility, heaven forbid i ever get “too big for my britches”, as my momma always put it. but her point was this: you can be humble – and still “crush it.” in that moment, i realized that the only thing holding me back is in fact myself. talk about a fire being lit. (watch out world, this girl is on fiyah!)
life lesson #7: shrinking down to be accepted serves no one. instead level up and crush it! that gives others permission to rise up and do the same.
7.5 don’t follow the rules.
oooo….look at me adding a 7.5 in here like nobody’s business. why? because i can. and because last year’s reflection on fitbook’s birthday spawned my 7.5 not-so-glam lessons on being an entrepreneur. in year 5, i shared 5 things you probably don’t know about me. and taking it way back, i shared 3 brilliant IDEAS about my first 3 years in biz. apparently, i only blog about odd-numbered birthdays? hmm, perplexing. but case in point: we’re celebrating 8. because (most) rules were meant to be broken.
8. live in the moment
exactly one year ago, i up and moved my life from california (where fitlosophy is based + where i lived for 14 years). originally from colorado, i chose to move back home to be near family, run the company remotely, and expand the biz to the healthiest state in the nation. since then, i've travelled non-stop, had time to reconnect with family and friends, and still been able to grow this biz. and it’s been incredible. it hasn’t been without struggles, both personally and professionally, but i've never looked back. the entire time i lived in california, i was always wondering if and when i'd ever move back to colorado. then i moved, and i questioned, “did i do the right thing?” just this week, arriving in orange county to be with my team as i do every month, i realized that if we are always wondering where we’re going next, we can never fully embrace right where we are.
life lesson #8: never stop growing. accept that to truly live, we must first just learn to be precisely where we are...in that moment.
look at me over here just being all sappy and deep. i can’t help it, my baby brings it out in me! so while most 8-year-olds are enjoying bouncy houses + birthday parties, mine is teaching me valuable life-lessons. not too shabby! but don't you worry – there will be cake! a healthy (pint-sized) cupcake, to be precise. join us as we celebrate fitbook’s big 0-8 all week long!
now, this momma needs to get to work - and get some sleep.