Jack LaLanne’s Story: Would You Be Willing to Change if It Saved Your Life?

Failing an attempt at suicide at age 15, Jack LaLanne dropped out of school. He had suffered a never-ending rollercoaster of depression and illness that left him secretly hoping that his life would end. There were no antidepressants, no magic prescriptions for Jack’s condition. Suffocating migraines would send him into a panic in which he would lash out helplessly at everyone and everything. He once tried to set the family home on fire and, during another episode, he chased his older brother with a butcher knife determined to kill him.

His family did their best to help. They had moved twice at the advice of doctors first to drier, then to wetter climates, in search of an environment where the sickly teen could recover and grow.

Upon the advice of a friend, his mother took young Jack down to her ladies club for a lecture on improving one’s health naturally. Embarrassed, he dragged his feet. By the time they arrived, though, the meeting hall was full.  Jack felt relieved until the lecturer, nutritionist Paul Bragg, set two chairs out on the stage and said, “We don’t turn anyone away.”

Bragg focused on the trembling teen. “Do you want people to stop bullying you?  Do you want women to admire you?” Jack was captivated, and that message would become his life’s mission.

But Bragg recommended something that medical doctors at the time warned would cause heart attacks, hemorrhoids and even impotence: it was called daily exercise.

This was 1929, and the teen chose to change his life despite the warnings.  As America’s Great Depression deepened, it was perhaps reckless to start a business that conventional wisdom cautioned against. He would have to invent news ways of eating and new types of equipment that would make his exercise regimen possible. It was the beginning of a seven-decade career that, regardless of Jack’s passing last year, is still going strong today. Jack LaLanne became the father of a revolution in health.

Yet when I met him, LaLanne still claimed to hate exercise! He said he couldn’t “wait until it [was] over every day,” but knew that he’d be “miserable if [he] didn’t do it,” he said.  So why did he?

“Would you be willing to change,” the feisty 92-year-old shouted back, “if it saved your life?”

LaLanne pursued a path that ultimately revolutionized the health care and fitness world, but it didn’t start out as a revolution: it was all birthed from one, small lecture at his mother’s ladies club. Yet, he followed the advice and regimen and doubled not only his personal value–losing weight, feeling empowered and saving himself from suicide and depression–but he eventually improved the lives of millions of others.

Jack LaLanne decided to take something that increased his value and relentlessly encourage and show others the way to make it happen.

Listen to my interview with him here: