When I moved to Seattle in 2008, I was a self-employed writer, struggling to finish my next book. I had no friends, I worked long hours in a basement prone to flooding, and I quickly learned that Seattle summers are beautiful but short, that running in the rain gets old fast. So I made a new friend, Tony Horton, whose infomercials for his P90X workout DVDs were late-night TV staples. Those DVDs--some weightlifting, some yoga, some goofy banter--became my constant companions, the most "human" interaction I'd have all week. (My kids: "Where's dad?" My wife: "Downstairs with Tony.") With Tony's help, I beat the dreary Seattle winter blues. I learned the power of the pushup and the pullup, and how a good workout and a good night's sleep could help me finish a book.
Now, Tony's got a book of his own (that's him on the left, not me), which I was thrilled to find inside recent mailing from Harper Collins. It's the first time he's written about the broader philosophy behind his popular fitness workouts. And it's one of our Best Books of the Month in business & leadership. Now 55, and looking as buff as ever, he spoke to us via email about The Big Picture.
In a nutshell, describe your goal for writing this book... Who did you write this for? Who’s your target audience?
I wrote this book for that massive demographic of people who are doing nothing and wasting their time with things that don't work. I'm providing simple rules that inspire you to stay accountable. At the same time, I wrote it for the people who might already be well on their way in some ways, but need a little fine-tuning in others. This demographic includes a lot the folks who’ve discovered fitness using my programs, like P90X, P90X2, P90X3, and TMT. Are the physical aspects of your life working? Great! Let’s work on the mental and emotional—and while we’re at it, let’s put some thought into your bigger role on this spinning blue marble called Earth. So, to paraphrase John Fogerty, I wrote a book for everyone--except maybe the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai and a few other enlightened souls. They don’t really need my help.
I think it’ll be reassuring for readers to learn that you’ve had your share of challenges and setbacks. Was this difficult to share, or are you comfortable discussing your personal journey?
Absolutely! This is the book I've wanted to write for ten years. Anybody and everybody these days can write a diet book or an exercise book. If those books comprehensively changed lives then I wouldn't have had to write this one. The problem is, they just provide one, maybe two keys for a door with many, many locks. I wanted to write something that bridged the gap between fitness and self-help. If I had to dig deep and use my own story to illustrate that, so be it. Lead by example, I say!
Your success seems to be a perfect example of perseverance. Have you always had confidence that you’d find your way? Or, like most folks, did you have your periods of wallowing? Sadness?
Sure. Like any life, there was some sadness. I wouldn't say I was wallowing in it but I had my ups and downs well into my early 40s. But the formula came together about that time I began to follow my own rules. When that happened, everything got better. In a way, this goes back to your previous question. I’m not afraid to share the darker aspects of my past with other people who are sad. Hopefully, it’ll help them cut back on the wallowing. The Big Picture is a wallow-free zone!
Was there an “aha” moment when you learned that having a plan could make all the difference?
Probably around the time my first big workout program Power90 hit, but it wasn’t an “aha” moment as much as a slow lifting of the fog. Things came into focus, the bits and pieces of the plan were solidified, the struggle diminished, and the confidence and success were realized. It was as though the plan had been there all along, but it went from an intuitive thing to a tangible set of rules.
This is your first non-workout book – can you describe the difference between being a fitness coach to, sort of, a life coach?
Being a fitness coach comes relatively easy to me. It always has. But with the increased responsibility of becoming a life coach there's a lot more pressure to get it right! That said, I’ve discovered that a lot of what I teach people about fitness can apply across the board, so that’s a big help. For example, finding balance (law 9) is crucial for fitness. I’m talking muscle balance, aerobic/anaerobic balance, core balance, the usual deal. But how’s the balance in the rest of your life? Are you balancing relationships with personal time? Work with play? Pushing your self with taking it easy? You need to find balance in every aspect of your life.
You strongly believe that eating well and exercising are the keys to a happy life. Can you briefly sum up your personal philosophy on the link between health and happiness?
It's very rare that people who don't move and eat garbage are as happy as they pretend to be. Yet, a vast majority of people who exercise, have a sense of adventure, use their body in interesting ways, and consume the right foods to feed the organs and the brain, they're living authentic, interesting, productive, altruistic lives.
Do you think habits and healthy routines are keys to achieving success with your 11 laws? Why do you think many Americans seem more addicted to bad habits than good ones?
For part one, the answer is yes, absolutely, but it’s hard to achieve for a vast majority of people. As for part two, bad habits are easy and discipline is hard—and “easy” is where people gravitate. A good work ethic requires a painstaking daily effort. Easy typically leads to a life long list of problems but the discipline of having a plan leads to an extraordinary rewarding life. In the long run, the easy way makes life harder and the harder way makes life easier.
How many times a day would you estimate you say (out loud or in your head) “do your best, forget the rest”?
That’s my number one rule! I would say it depends on the day. If I'm with a large group of people who've done one of my programs, I’d say 20 times, at least. But typically, if I'm not shooting a workout or speaking to a large group, once or twice a day.