CBI: How does your blindness affect, inform, or enhance how you work with your team?
IL: Because I don’t see gestures or facial expressions, I have to insist on a lot more verbal feedback. In essence, my team is forced to tell me what they think.
At first, this was awkward, and I feared that the awkwardness was a result of my blindness—that I was burdening my team and company in some way. Now, I understand that awkwardness is a natural part of meaningful communication.
When we tell people what we think, we become vulnerable, and it’s often uncomfortable, but it’s well worth it—and critical to the success of a team.
Ultimately, my blindness became
a huge asset for my company, and for me as a leader. It led me and the team to communicate at a deeper level, helped us to avoid ambiguities, and made it clear to everyone that what they think truly matters.
CBI: And the turnaround has taken ODC from what, then, to what, today—in terms of the type of business it’s doing, number of employees, revenues, and its prospects for the future?
IL: From 2011 to 2017, we went from a dozen corporate employees to more than 150; from about 80 full-time laborers to more than 400; from one facility in Florida to four; and from losing money on about $15 million in revenue to healthy profit margins on approximately $200 million. We helped to build more than 5,000 homes in 2017, and we’re still growing rapidly ...
CBI: Would you recommend that other business owners—such as club operators—periodically step back, review every aspect of their business, and consider the possibility of implementing wholesale changes?
IL: Not necessarily. I think you have to start with a larger inquiry—that of defining your goals in life. What is it that you truly want to accomplish? Who do you want to be, and how do you want to live your life? Can you commit to your answers, and can you make a sincere, conscious choice to work toward those goals?
In your business and at home, the test
is: What are the differences between
the way you’d like to live your life and
the way you actually live it—the differences in terms of who you are, how
you treat others, how you allow others to treat you, how you spend your time, and what you accomplish?
If those things are different, and you aren’t doing anything about it, then wholesale change is in order. You need to understand your desired result before you begin figuring out how to make it happen.
CBI: What do owners need to do to have that kind of vision?
IL: Clarity of vision demands that you are absolutely honest with yourself and accountable to yourself—for your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and actions. We do ourselves great harm when we lie to ourselves.
It’s even worse, though, when we avoid facing ourselves altogether. I think introspection is a neglected skill that’s critical.
CBI: Health clubs, in many cases, are in the business of helping individuals navigate lifestyle turn-arounds. Any advice about how they can help people to do so?
IL: Our greatest aspirations are often overwhelming at scale. We experience success in the moment, the next best step, in the process of actually striving toward a noble pursuit. When we become fixated on a distant goal, however, we can become discouraged or lost.
With that in mind, I think perspective is key. “I want to work out more because I want to lose 50 pounds” is a daunting prospect. “I want to feel healthier,” or “I deserve to invest time and effort in my well-being,” or “I work out to feel happier and more energetic”—those are more sustainable propositions.
Make the “goal” a byproduct of a lifestyle commitment, not the sole reason for it.
CBI: You once said, “If you’re going to assess your lot in life or your circumstances, it’s only fair to look at the whole picture. And from that perspective, I’m beyond lucky.” Specifically, why do you think you’re beyond lucky?
IL: I won the cosmic lottery at birth— born to a middle-class family in America, to parents who loved and nurtured me, with three wonderful, talented sisters as role models. I’ve never known hunger, and never lacked for shelter, or healthcare, or
a quality education. I’ve been blessed to have numerous, phenomenal experiences in my life. And of course I share that life with a wife I admire and adore, and with our four beautiful children. I’ve absolutely nothing to complain about—blind or not.