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Jay Worthy

It is with immense pride and a sense of genuine honour that I bring to you an interview with a truly extraordinary man – Jay Worthy. 

 

A person’s achievements can so often overshadow the essence of who they really are, but in Jay you’ll find a man who stands with true authenticity and approachability. 

 

From the moment I began speaking with Jay, I was struck by his remarkable human touch. Despite his towering achievements and status, he has a natural ability to put you completely at ease - a rarity in individuals of his stature. His journey, from the gym floors of LA Fitness to the executive suite of Life Fitness and beyond, is not just a testament to his professional prowess but also to his profound depth as a man. 

 

What sets Jay apart is not just his remarkable leadership skills or his extraordinary professional journey, but his beautiful ability to truly listen and connect. In every interaction, he focuses intently on the subject, demonstrating an ability to empower and inspire. This quality, this remarkable ability to engage and understand, makes him more than just a leader; it makes him a visionary, someone who can see and bring out the best in others.

 

Representing Jay at 360 Speakers is not just a professional achievement for me; it is a personal pleasure. His story, his insights, and his approach to life and leadership are a breath of fresh air. Jay brings a wealth of experience, wisdom, and humanity to our platform, qualities that are invaluable and all too rare.

 

To Jay, I say this: It is an absolute honour to have you with us. Your journey, your achievements, and most importantly, your character, add immense value to what we stand for at 360. You are a source of inspiration, a leader who will undoubtedly contribute significantly to the essence of what 360 represents.

 

I invite our readers to delve into this interview with Jay, to discover not just the story of a successful corporate leader, but the narrative of a man who embodies resilience, empathy, and genuine leadership.

Stay inspired. Stay curious. 

 

Tracey

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It was in the heart of London’s vibrant Golders Green, at LA Fitness, that Jay Worthy began his rise to the pinnacle of Corporate America. 

 

A young PT, armed with little more than a Bachelor's degree in Sport and Exercise Science, it was there that he unknowingly laid the cornerstones of a remarkable journey that would lead to becoming the CEO of Life Fitness, the billion dollar company that made the very equipment he was training his clients on. 

 

I was fresh out of Uni, working for free for a gym membership” he tells me. “Sleeping on your mate’s couch, with little sign of that changing anytime soon, tends to call for thinking outside of the box. For my own mental health, if nothing else, I needed the routine of the gym”.

 

Jay's ascent from the gym floor to the corporate suite is a testament to his tenacity and vision. He reflects, “There was a drive, a need for purpose, that I couldn’t shift and I raced up that career ladder in the fast lane”. 

 

It was a race that led him to the helm of an American titan in the fitness equipment industry.

“The funny thing, was that it wasn’t long after reaching the top of the ladder, that I realised I’d probably been climbing the side of the wrong building.”

At just 41 years old, he reached the corner office of the top floor suite of Life Fitness, becoming the first non-American CEO in the company’s history to do so. “Life was fast paced” he recalls. “I was simultaneously given the job of fixing the company, because it was in unprecedented waters from a performance perspective, and selling it at the same time”.

 

But fix things he did. 100% invested and committed to the task at hand, Jay's sharp business acumen helped to turnaround Life Fitness fortunes from a billion dollar business in freefall to a desirable acquisition target by the world’s most exclusive private equity firms – utltimately selling the business for 6X the bankers valuation just 18 months earlier.

 

But this meteoric rise was not without its costs.

 

The sale of Life Fitness marked a dramatic turn in Jay’s story with the swift and brutal reality of corporate displacement. Despite promises to the contrary, Jay was let go with a handsome severance payout and given 60 days to leave the country with his young family. “I made a quick call to my attorney who told me we had 60 days to leave ‘maybe 30, depending on who interprets the rules’”.  Four years later, the pain is still evident in his voice. 

 

“I very quickly went into  triage mode. I didn't deal with the trauma, I just suppressed it. I had a postnatal, depressed wife. 4 young children that needed to be moved schools. A property to move and cars to sell. I had tenants in our house in the UK. My father wasn't very well. And we had a three week old baby”.

 

This was June 2019. By July they were back in the UK. By October, the children were settled in school, there was a new extension on the house for his wife’s buisness and he’d accomplished everything that had needed to be done.

 

And that’s when he hit the wall. 

 

Without purpose and identity, he was thrown into a spiral of despair, coming face to face with his deepest vulnerabilities and fears.

 

“Looking back, from where I now stand, & reflecting on my journey, it’s clear. I’d had a lot of leadership training, leadership development and mentoring over the years. What I didn’t have, was time focused on emotional and spiritual well-being. The focus was on financial performance and stakeholder value.

 

My entire identity was tied to be to being a CEO.  In the time it took to sign on the dotted line, it was gone. 

 

And then of course the imposter syndrome eventually kicks in and you start questioning your worth.  My ego took a hell of a hit and I spiralled. 

 

The biggest challenge was that I hated myself. This isn’t easy to talk about, even now, but the reality is that I despised myself because I was very aware that despite it all, I was incredibly fortunate. I'd had a very successful job. Financially the separation agreement had left us secure. And there were lots of people far worse off than me. So how dare I be depressed? And yet I was. And I couldn’t talk to anyone about it”.

 

It was this period that led to his dramatic downfall. And, ultimately, to his rise once again. 

 

“I woke up one morning, with this need to get outside. I told my wife that I was going off for a couple of hours. I got in the car. I drove around the corner. And I burst into tears. Probably for the first time in 20 years. I drove with tears streaming down my face. I pulled over next to a forest, left the car at the side of the road, and walked into the woods. I walked and I walked and eventually, the tears stopped. And I started to feel just a little bit better. Although I wasn’t entirely sure why. 

Eventually I went home and started reading and researching and I discovered this concept called Nature Connectedness. I became utterly fixated with it. Fanatical almost. I had desperately needed a purpose. And this became it”.

 

This pivotal moment marked the beginning of his next phase as he delved into a master's degree in Outdoor Well-being. "Research tells us that looking at nature restores cognitive function. This key understanding was my turning point.” It marked his shift from a life focused purely on financial success, to one enriched by emotional and spiritual fulfilment.

 

Today, Jay speaks openly about his experiences, advocating for vulnerability in leadership, particularly among men. “It’s vital that leaders realise that vulnerability is an important aspect of leadership,” he asserts. “We have fundamentally conflated two concepts. One is vulnerability and the other is weakness. Whether we mean to or not, we see them as the same thing. If we see somebody being vulnerable, we equate that to being weak. But this is so far removed from the truth. You can be vulnerable and strong at the same time. Being vulnerable is, in-fact, a demonstration of strength. We need to get this concept across if we are to make any progress”. 

 

Jay’s journey is a story of professional success and personal transformation, of resilience, and the human spirit's capacity to overcome adversity.

 

In his coaching and consulting work, Jay now combines his corporate experiences with his insights into well-being, guiding individuals and organisations towards achieving a harmonious balance between success and personal fulfilment. “Self-care is not selfish. If you're not looking after yourself, you can't possibly look after others."

 

Jay’s story, from the gym floor of LA Fitness to the boardroom of Life Fitness, and beyond, is a profound exploration of the human spirit’s capacity to rebuild and thrive amidst life’s unforeseen challenges. In his story we find inspiration and a roadmap for navigating our paths with resilience, purpose, and authenticity. 

 

He leaves us with a thought I’ve been mulling over since our conversation. “Life is a roller coaster. When I have tough days, I can see the signs and I know what I need to do to re-ground myself. What you must never do, is trade out today’s happiness for a future you may never see... get it right and they can coexist beautifully together”.

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