BTC Exclusive Interview! Jillian Michaels Shares Her Truths
When he introduced celebrity trainer and “The Biggest Loser” star Jillian Michaels before her keynote at the Mindbody BOLD Conference in Hollywood, Mindbody CEO Rick Stollmeyer shared this. “I asked Jillian to tell me one thing about her that nobody may know,” Rick told the audience. “And she told me, ‘Tell them I am not a bitch!’”
Indeed she is not. In real life, the television personality, The New York Times bestseller author and social media star with millions of followers is warm, whip smart, insanely funny, soulful and insightful.
Defining your passion.
During her speech, she shared nutrition and fitness tips and stories from her run with “The Biggest Loser,” and she also dug deeper into how people in the helping professions can better serve their clients, care for themselves, achieve their goals and become more effective and inspiring to the people around them. From the common sense: “Want to lose weight? It’s simple. Doesn’t matter if you’re paleo, gluten-free, whatever. You need to eat less, use common sense with your food choices and move more,” to the thought-provoking: “Anything worth having requires work and sacrifice. But work without passion is torture. Work with passion becomes purpose. Find the ‘why’ in what you’re doing. Find your purpose.’”
Motivation vs. inspiration
After her talk, she agreed to a little one-on-one with us to talk motivation, practical life lessons and things that make hairdressers hurt.
BTC’s Jackie and Jillian.
BTC: What led you to become a personal trainer?
Jillian: I was an overweight kid. I was bullied. My parents were getting divorced and I was overwhelmed. So my mother put me in martial arts. It took a couple of years, but my martial arts instructor ended up really reaching me. There was this pivotal moment. I had just gotten a white belt, and after being bullied for so long, I went to school the next day and I was like, “Ok, I’m ready. Let’s go. Bring your worst.” And guess what. No one did. All day long I was looking at people and no one did. And I realized. It was the way I was carrying myself, the way I felt about myself that made all the difference. And I began to appreciate fitness as a mechanism.
Later, I got a desk job and tried doing that for a few years. But I was miserable, so I got out of that and back into fitness. It made me happy, and from that point on I was committed to that line of work and it became my journey.
Believing in yourself.
BTC: What are some of your biggest challenges today that hairdressers might relate to?
Jillian: We’ve branched out into various businesses, and executing them all requires a lot of trust. You have to work hard to find the right people. When you do find those people, hold on tight, reward them, make it worth their while, let them know how much you appreciate them. I would never be where I am today without all the people who hold me up. That put in the extra hours to make something happen, get the deal done. You have to give them their due.
BTC: Our members strain themselves physically in specific ways—they hurt their shoulders, wrists, backs, hips, feet. Any advice to help them avoid injury and be able to work as long as possible?
Jillian: I would recommend each person, whether they have insurance or have to pay out of pocket, invest in two or three sessions with a physical therapist. The therapist can best assess the repetitive motions you’re engaging in, and how to balance them out. What creates injury are imbalances in the body. A physical therapist will allow you to do rehabilitative and preventative work, so you’re learning the stretches, what to strengthen. You might need more breaks, or to get an assistant or limit your hours per week. Investing in a physical therapist will pay off massively with dividends in the long run with regards to the longevity of your profession.
BTC: We all have the best intentions to be more fit, but work, family, life get in the way. How do we get unstuck?
Jillian: There are two motivators. One is the rock bottom moment. When you hit that place of, ‘Alright, I’ve got nothing left to lose.’ There’s a lot of power in that. J.K. Rowling said rock bottom is a great foundation to build your life on. But you mostly hope people don’t need to hit that pain. Conversely, you could motivate yourself with the promise of a better life. Will you go to the gym for 30 minutes vs. sitting on your couch with a glass of wine and a bag of chips? One might be more pleasurable in the moment, but which will be more pleasurable in the long term? If you can stop, play out the scenario and manage the impulsivity…find that motivation of, ‘OK if I stay on the couch, I’ll be here. If I go to the gym I’ll drop 10 pounds, I’ll feel more energetic and confident, I’ll get into my skinny jeans.’ That’s what you need to weigh.
BTC: Is there a particular lesson that you live by?
Jillian: That a bad day for your ego is a good day for the soul. Your failures in life are not a reflection or a validation of your incompetence or your inability. They’re a sign of courage and an entry point for learning. There will be tremendous setbacks and failures where you can really only see the benefit in hindsight, but I do believe that when you act upon improving the stakes you made and you can take responsibility, you will find that rejection was ultimately a protection for the right person, place, opportunity or thing. You have to look at it and ask, “Where did I contribute here? “How can I improve and what can I take from this? What can I learn and how can I incorporate it?” That’s the key.
BTC: Our members work hard and care for so many people. Do you have a message for them?
Jillian: I’ve found that to be the very best at what you do you have to be selfish. I don’t mean in the sense you only care about yourself. I mean you take responsibility for yourself. To quote Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the world. The most powerful thing you can do is lead by example and show people what’s possible.