Overall, mindful practices have helped me become a more genuine person. I feel I am able to connect more with my family and friends, and think beyond my own ego. In my company mindful practices have allowed me to nurture a supportive environment in which honesty and open communication take place.
Madison Chappell, co-founder and CEO of FitNFlow, an app that provides on-demand yoga instruction.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
I was a ballet dancer all my life, which was where my interest in health began. I feel this may even be where my mindful journey began; as a ballet dancer performing on stage was a rush of enjoying the present moment and connecting with the audience. Later on I became a yoga instructor and wanted to find a way for more people to experience both the physical and mental benefits that yoga can provide. I created FitNFlow so that yoga can be more easily accessible and personalized. The deeper philosophies of yoga aren’t always explored in a western yoga studio, so I wanted to find a way for yoga instructors to connect more with their students and feel empowered to teach a different side of yoga.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
I struggled with severe anxiety in college. I decided to try a restorative yoga class as an extracurricular activity and was blown away by how much if affected my life. The class was very simple- we spent an hour and fifteen minutes practicing 2 or 3 poses with an emphasis on breath work. I was already practicing yoga regularly, but I had never experienced such a pure form of mindfulness and meditation practices. Despite the simple class structure the things I discovered when practicing were profound. I realized how much I was constantly thinking about the future. Most of my thoughts had nothing to do with the present moment I was experiencing, and I feel this changed as I dove deeper into my restorative yoga practice. My anxiety virtually disappeared and I was able to focus more on my studies. Even beyond that I felt a greater sense of clarity and self-confidence that I had never experienced before. I knew if more people could feel that way, it could change the world. I remember a fun day in class when each person presented their own meditation sequence for the class. Mine was centered on imagining yourself as a cloud. I had fellow students image whether they were a dark and stormy cloud, or light and fluffy. Then, I had everyone imagine that the smiles of their loved ones lifted their cloud high into the air. Everyone was laughing at the end from the randomness of the meditation, but I still think of that concept often in my own practice. It was in that class room that I felt I was able to explore sides of myself I was too afraid to explore before.
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
Overall, mindful practices have helped me become a more genuine person. I feel I am able to connect more with my family and friends, and think beyond my own ego. In my company mindful practices have allowed me to nurture a supportive environment in which honesty and open communication take place. Tension and disagreements are inevitable in a workplace, and how FitNFlow navigates this is through being as open as possible in how each team member is feeling in the present moment. My cofounder and CTO who has a tech background wasn’t used to the idea of mindfulness when we first started working together. After learning more about the yoga industry and the importance of mindfulness, meditation and yoga he has introduced some concepts to the company culture based on mindfulness and honesty. We feel it’s important to never be afraid to ask tough questions, but to also never place blame or assumptions on another person. I feel grateful because not only am I able to create a workplace culture centered on mindfulness, but through my company I am able to spread the value of mindfulness to others, including other company leaders and team members who use our service. It has been very rewarding to see others feel more empowered through practicing yoga.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
My company is absolutely, without a doubt, more successful because of the integration of mindfulness. Not only does mindfulness help the individual, but I believe mindfulness is essential in order to foster a supportive workplace culture. In a study done by Donald and Atkins 2016 mindfulness produced less avoidance, and present-moment awareness facilitated adaptive stress-responses. A clear benefit to mindfulness is its stress relieving benefits, but what does this entail? Higher awareness, increased attention, increased sense of clarity and the experience of feeling connected (The Little Book of Mindfulness). All of these components are essential when building a team and company. Mindfulness eliminates the need to “finger-point”, and builds a team that has more open communication and honest conversations. For example, at FitNFlow we enjoy the famous yoga phrase “the highest in me honors and values the highest in you.” This continually reiterates the value of respecting our peers and lifting them up to perform their best in a caring environment. We believe that if our yoga instructors are communicating this value to their clients, we have to be on the same page as them and communicate it with each other as well.
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
Work for something greater than yourself. Once your ego is involved, being mindful and caring for those around you becomes much harder to maintain. Whereas if you are working for a greater purpose, your team will become a part of that greater vision. Something that happened early in my company that brought this principle to life is a gathering we held for our yoga instructors. We only had about 20 yoga instructors at the time who had signed up to be a part of FitNFlow, and only a few of those 20 showed up to the event. After talking to everyone at the gathering I realized that 70% of the yoga instructors that showed up were single mothers. They all shared stories of how they were struggling to find full time work, or had issues with clients that never took them seriously. Their love of yoga inspired me and I realized that FitNFlow was no longer about my dream, but a much greater purpose. I instill that in my team, so we all can remember that we are working toward something greater than ourselves.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
Before I began my journey towards mindfulness, I lacked the confidence needed to start a company. I had experienced a growing problem, and had an idea on how to solve it, but I thought I wasn’t able to do anything about it. One day after a meditation session I thought to myself “if I’m not the person to do it, then who is? What is stopping me from taking action?” I knew yoga teachers were struggling more and more to find full time work, but it wasn’t until I had that realization that I went out and did something about it. Because I was able to connect more with my inner self, I was able to develop the confidence needed to start FitNFlow and get it in motion. By focusing on the present moment, I no longer feared the future. I was no longer picking apart all the reasons why I shouldn’t go for it, what could go wrong, instead I turned my focus to the present and what I can do in the moment to make things go right. I imagine many people with an idea or a dream struggle with the fear of failure. Focusing on the present moment and letting those fears melt away is a liberating feeling.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Lindsay Steinriede, the head of the yoga teacher training course at the college I took my yoga class at, not only taught me most of what I know about yoga and mindfulness, but was also very encouraging and supportive of FitNFlow. When we first launched she handed out fliers to her students and talked about us, and had a long conversation with me about how to uphold integrity with yoga instructors on the platform. She really cared about FitNFlow and her support made me believe more than ever that I could accomplish this.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
- Value your coworker’s health, both physically and mentally.
- Have open and vulnerable conversations. Always be open to viewing the other side.
- Do not finger-point. Too many companies operate with a blame culture! Take responsibility for your own actions before looking at others’ actions. Focus on what you can do first to better a situation.
- Before acting on an intense emotion, take a moment to breathe. Never approach a tense situation until you’ve had a moment of clarity and calm.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would aspire to bring more vulnerability to the workplace. Without vulnerability true growth cannot take place, but I feel often times in the workplace we build a wall around ourselves and don’t let anyone in. What we don’t realize is when we build that wall not only are we not allowing anyone to view the parts of us that make us our greatest selves, but we are not letting those great parts out. If we tore down those walls, not only do I think it would allow people to feel more comfortable in their place of work, but it would allow true creativity and innovation to foster.
How can people follow you and find out more about you?
Find out more: www.fitnflowapp.com
Download the FitNFlow app on any iOS device.
Instagram: @fitnflow Facebook: @fitnflow
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Medium magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live