Episode 80: Chalene Johnson on The Business of Fitness

“Be a Sherpa and Guide Those Behind You”

About Todays Guest

New York Times Best Selling Author of Push, Chalene Johnson is a lifestyle and business expert, motivational speaker, and podcast host. She and Bret, her husband of over twenty years, are the founders of the SmartLife movement. Today, with her husband, Chalene runs a fun loving, collaborative team focused on helping others live a healthier, more simplified life through their online academies, membership sites, and live, sold-out seminars.

Chalene, with the help of top dietitians, doctors, researchers, and experts, she founded the 131 Method – a nutritional coaching program that’s turning the diet industry upside down. She hosts two top-ranked podcasts, The Chalene Show and Build Your Tribe, Huffington Post recognized Chalene as one of the “Top 50 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch.”

Stay in Touch with Chalene:





Mentioned in the Show

1-3-1 Method by Chalene Johnson

Build Your Tribe Podcast

The Chalene Show Podcast

Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn

Show Notes

So I want to give you a little backstory about today’s guest. I had scheduled all the incredible thought leaders and change agents, but I wanted to include one more person who had truly made the leap out of fitness and into the world of entrepreneurship. Someone who had pivoted 180 degrees to include non-fitness related programming within their brand.

I had just finished listening to one of Chalene’s podcasts and thought to myself, wow, she would be the perfect fit, but with two podcasts of her own, a live event coming up and the launch of her new book, I thought to myself, there is no way she would have the time, but I reached out anyway and within five minutes I heard back from her and she said, “of course, I would love to be a part of your show.” I felt it important for you to know how generous Chalene is off stage and outside of social media.

Chalene’s mom was a Jazzercise instructor. Both sides of her family struggled with their weight and dieting, and so at an early age through both a positive and negative influence, she was introduced to the world of fitness.

At the age of seventeen, after watching her mom instruct for many years Chalene began teaching at women’s facility. Fast forward a few years and Chalene moved to Southern California. Moving from a small town to a big city was a bit of a culture shock and there were many rejections and a lot of practice before Chalene was hired.  But eventually, she found a position teaching at a high profile club and began her 10,000 hours toward building her phenomenal success in the world of fitness.

In our conversation, Chalene talks about the importance of constructive feedback. She learned that it’s a gift and so decided to embrace it and utilize the feedback. By using feedback to empower her, it allows her to make work and voice even more impactful. Chalene shares, that her company wouldn’t be where it is today if she didn’t listen to her customers and their feedback. All of which she views as a gift, and believes these are the little whispers in her ear to help her be better.

Chalene shares that the biggest mistake she made was when she tried to create something almost privately in a test tube. When she tried to guess what problem it was that people wanted to be solved and also guessed how they would want to receive the information. This mindset did not lead to a successful program but once again she learned the lessons that she needed to take into iteration 2.0. Chalene believes that “success leaves clues” and so she tries to do a really good job of inventorying. This is where she looks at what she is doing right, what she is doing wrong, and then uses all of the information to move forward and improve.

We fast track forward and talk about the process that happened before Chalene had her first fitness program purchased by Beachbody. It began long before her television success and once again it was hard work, feedback, and iteration after iteration, that took her to her first infomercial.

Chalene had been teaching a unique workout that combined kickboxing, hit intervals and hip hop, but the secret sauce was the music.  Chalene created soundtracks that matched the routines in intensity and added also sound effects into the music that enhanced the customer’s experience. This was when no-one was matching music to the moves, outside of the cheerleading industry.

There was such a demand for this workout that she created a specialty certification which then allowed her customized program to spread to hundreds and hundreds of gyms in over 60 different countries. During this time participants would send her success stories and she was so inspired by them that she saved them, printed them out, and them into a folder.

A few years later, the combination of these stories along with Chalene’s personality, talents and programming had several infomercial companies fighting for her attention. After a lot of discussions, and the fact that the company she eventually partnered with did not want to change her concept, she signed on with Beachbody.

Even though fitness was a big part of Chalene’s success she believes fitness is just a gateway drug to personal development. In her programs, in addition to the usual cues about movement and alignment, she talks about life, priorities, goal setting, along with the need to believe in yourself. She believed if she could teach people that if they had enough love for themselves to change their physique, they could change every single part of their life.

During our interview, we also talk about one of her biggest failures in the industry and how it almost took her and her family into bankruptcy. It was another program, that while solid in the structure was not appealing to her audience. For nine months Chalene had put everything into building this new format and there had been a lot of money, people and energy being directed into this one project. When it flopped, Beachbody had to let a lot of people go and Chalene shares that she had an unbelievable amount of guilt and shame about this, and began questioning her self-worth. At the same time, she and her husband were trying to repair things in their marriage and while this was a moment that she would not want to repeat, she also looks back with gratitude for the lessons learned during that time. Eventually, with the help of a therapist, her faith and with a commitment to each other, she and her husband got to the other side. Today, both their relationship and businesses are thriving.

We talk about the different ways to inspire people and Chalene wisely reminds us that not everyone is cut out for an entrepreneurial style business or even cut out for leadership. But if you are driven to go out and create your own path, she suggests that you need to become comfortable experimenting – throw some things against the wall and see what sticks. She encourages us to continue our own personal development journey, while at the same time teaching what we’ve just mastered and learned to others.

Chalene says, “Look back like a Sherpa and guide the people who are on the journey just behind you, not like 20 steps behind you, but turn over your shoulder and help the people right behind you, reach out and extend a hand and show the safest path to the people who are on the journey with you”

When it comes to next steps Chalene encourages us to put pen to paper. Give yourself about an hour with no distractions, no phone, no music, no people and no TV in the background. Just take a pen and a piece of paper and write down absolutely everything that pops into your head, big or small, regardless of the order, regardless of the likelihood or the possibility of this happening, but just absolutely anything that comes in your mind that feels like it could or should be the next right step.

She then encourages us to look at that page and identify what’s the smallest thing you need to do next?

When you’re just inching your feet forward, that’s movement and you’re not going to worry about making a mistake if you’re just inching forward versus sprinting.

In building confidence Chalene invites us to take continual inventory of our successes, even if they’re really, really small. She invites us to keep an evidence folder. Then with those positive experiences, we build.

Lastly, Chalene believes it’s really important to learn the science around building positive habits, as it is when we master our habits we can put our attention, time and energy to creating and making a positive impact in the world.