40,000 DAYS AND THEN YOU’RE DEAD
My name is Chip Wilson. I’m 57 years old, the father of five great boys, the husband of one amazing woman and the founder of lululemon athletica.
In 1998, I started making yoga-inspired clothing in my garage in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood. I was able to harness the belief, talent, hard work and integrity of a few friends, of a handful of neighbors and of the woman who would become my wife. Together we grew lululemon from a tiny store in an inconspicuous second story location to an internationally known brand that’s managed to remain true to its guiding principles. It has been the proudest achievement of my professional life so far.
Growing a business from a mere idea into a brand that’s become synonymous with yoga has been immensely satisfying, and helping the people we employ realize their potential, profoundly meaningful. Since lululemon took on private equity partners in 2005, however, it has been a gradual process of handing over the reins for me. See, I’m an entrepreneur. If I have any special skillset it’s seeing what’s beginning to excite people and creating a product that builds on and enhances that passion. Those attributes enabled me to take lululemon athletica from the conceptual stage to a point where just seven incredible years later it was valued at $225million. But I realized that taking the little company I was so passionate about to the next level was beyond both my experience and my abilities.
Accepting that other people are better qualified to take the brand I imagined into the future has been both challenging and fun in ways I could never have anticipated. Even when someone else was calling the shots, the expansion of lululemon was always exciting. It still is – not least because I remain the Chairman of the Board of Directors. The most exhilarating stage for me personally, however, was at the beginning. I thrived on the fresh, new ideas that the small group of people I surrounded myself with were generating. Back then, our little crew was on a roll creatively, making and breaking the rules on the fly, inventing possibilities and being rambunctiously, optimistically unreasonable and unrestrained.
I’m thrilled to say that with our new brand Whil, I’m excited all over again. Whil’s future is unknown and the possibilities seem infinite. What I’m most excited about is that I get to embark on this new adventure with my wife, Shannon.
I hired a talented and intuitive young woman named Shannon Gray as head designer very early on in the life of lululemon. Whil, however, is emphatically ours right from the get-go. Shannon and I have created the Whil brand around a powerful tool for living in the most data-intensive era in the history of humankind: a meditation technique that not only conveniently fits into our busy, hyper-connected lives but enables us to live those lives with more control, more productivity, more creativity, more serenity and more joy than most of us had thought possible.
Meditation – specifically the 60-second meditation we prescribe with Whil – is about avoiding technological burnout by “getting present,” being mindful and living in the moment. Since I was a kid, I’ve always strived to live in the moment. Its importance was something my dad, a very forward-thinking and open-minded guy, impressed upon me. It has been an invaluable tool in all my life’s successes. I feel that it has given me foresight, enabled me to set and realize goals, and helped me try to be a better man. It has also helped me unlock creative thought, which was particularly crucial when developing the concept – and the first prototypical designs – of the lululemon athletica brand.
As Shannon and I begin the exciting work of introducing Whil to the world, I think it’s a good time to describe how my commitment to living in the present enabled the most wonderful things to happen in my life and, thanks to lululemon’s popularity, the lives of very many others. By telling my story, I aim to show how a commitment to self-improvement enabled me to grow and sell my first company – Westbeach – and then build on what I call my 20-year MBA at Westbeach to create lululemon – a yoga-inspired athletic apparel brand with a company culture built on helping people realize new possibilities. For me and Shannon, one of those possibilities is Whil.
In a sense, Whil is a brand about nothing. But in that nothingness exists infinite possibility. I hope that, through getting to know me by reading this book, you’ll see how committing to powering down, “getting present” and powering back up again will help turn dreams into reality.
For me, that’s what lululemon has been all about. With Whil, Shannon and I want to empower people with that idea. We promise nothing,
you create everything.