Why Lululemon's Billionaire Founder Is Making One-Minute Meditation His Next Big Project
At first glance, whil is perplexing. It's not a business or a product. It isn't really a charity. Best-described, it is a mission.
Billionaire Chip Wilson, founder and chairman of yoga-inspired athletic apparel company Lululemon, and his wife Shannon (formerly Lululemon's lead designer) recently launched the whil initiative and website to convince professionals to meditate a few times a day in increments of just 60 seconds.
In today's digital age, where business leaders are increasingly overwhelmed with work, technology, and social media, they are advocating for a simple way to become more productive: to shut down briefly, figure out what's really important, and make a plan.
"Technology is moving so quickly, and there's so much coming at people that you can be ineffective and overwhelmed by it," Shannon tells Business Insider. "We felt like we needed something for people to work into their lives every day. You can do it in your office or in your car when you're not driving. Everybody's got one minute in their day."
The goal isn't to build another business, but to bring a tool that's worked for them to as many people and businesses as they can to help them become happier and more productive.
To that end, they've created the website whil.com to outline their take on meditation and offer examples of how people have successfully applied the technique.
It's pretty minimalist compared to how people usually think of meditating. You shut your eyes, "power down" your brain, and empty your mind. While taking deep breaths, commit to one or two essential priorities you'll focus on in the next few hours. And all of that happens inside a minute.
This strategy came from the extremely busy lives of its originators. "At Lululemon, I was like a fish who couldn't see the water," Chip tells us. "I couldn't really see how fast the company was growing. It was just unbelievable. There was so much coming at me that there was no time to cool down [and] prioritize the next few hours."
Since it's so easy to get caught up in the daily grind, both Chip and Shannon use "triggers" to remind them to meditate consistently. For Chip, it's going to the bathroom. For Shannon, it's each time she gets into her car.
In part, the decision to spread this message came from seeing the massive amounts of stress people in the business world are now under.
"When we were here in 2007 doing the IPO for Lululemon, we saw all these analysts — these 30 to 40-year-old guys working 24/7 — and they threw their whole lives into it," Chip says. "Combined with how social media and technology is going, the amount of information they're getting is leading to burnout."
The key to convincing people to try meditation is making it more accessible. The biggest misconception the pair runs into, Shannon says, is that meditation can only be done in certain spaces or in a certain way for hours at a time.
"What we're hoping to do with whil is to demystify it," she says, "so people go, 'OK, I can do a minute. I can work that into my life.'"
While meditation hasn't yet become mainstream, if there's one thing Chip's good at, it's spotting a trend. His first business, Westbeach, sold for $15 million after he was one of the first to spot the growing demand for surf, ski, and snowboard apparel. Lululemon was far ahead of the game when it came to yoga. They think meditation's at the same stage.
"If I look back at where yoga started in 1998, it was never in a hotel, never in a workplace, no one ever talked about it," Chip says. "And where it is now, I think we can see the same growth rate for meditation."