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Exclusive: Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan Is Leaving—Here’s What She Plans to Do Next

Sarah Robb O'Hagan, former president of Equinox Holdings.Sarah Robb O'Hagan, former president of Equinox Holdings.
Sarah Robb O'Hagan, former president of Equinox Holdings.Courtesy of Sarah Robb O'Hagan

Sarah Robb O’Hagan is walking the walk.

As president of Equinox Holdings, the parent company of fitness chains Equinox, Pure Yoga, and Soul Cycle, O’Hagan is bombarded on a daily basis with inspirational quotes about pushing oneself, working harder, committing to something.

Now, it is Robb O’Hagan who is committing herself to pursuing her passion—even though that means leaving her “dream job” running the fitness company.

Friday, Feb. 12 was Robb O’Hagan’s last day at Equinox. Starting today, she is devoting herself to a new project, which she describes in a blog post as “a content platform of inspirational and educational articles, as well as programs, tools, workshops and experiences for ALL Extremers of ALL levels who have the guts and drive to achieve their potential and want to learn how to get it done.” (An “Extremer,” according to Robb O’Hagan, is someone who is driven to succeed.)

The inspiration for this content platform—which will be called ExtremeYOU—came to Robb O’Hagan while she was working on her forthcoming book of the same name. In doing research for the book, which is all about success and how to achieve it, she interviewed dozens of high-profile, high-achieving individuals, including top executives, chefs, and athletes (she declines to name names). During the course of her research, it dawned on her that many of the insights they shared would be especially useful to young people just getting started in their careers.

“We have an incredible [millennial] generation with an innovation mindset and a desire to make the world better. But I’m concerned that they’re not driving change because they come into the world with expectations of getting promotions, of thinking they deserve everything without truly striving,” she says.

The issue, she says, is that millennials don’t understand that there is no success without failure—and lots of it. That’s not necessarily their fault: Many young people don’t know how to lose because they were never taught the value of winning.

Robb O’Hagan gives the example of one of her three daughters’ soccer teams—which doesn’t give out MVP awards because other parents don’t think it’s “fair” to single out one player for her accomplishments. “What isn’t fair is that these kids aren’t learning that there is such a thing as being the best,” she says. As a result, these children grow into young professionals who expect to be treated like MVPs.

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And it’s not just the old “millennials are lazy” argument, she insists. The young people she has spoken to while developing her ExtremeYOU platform are lost and are searching for answers. “These people are job-hopping, or they’re mid-career and stuck in a rut” as a result of not having true direction, she says. Her aim is to help them make decisions that will enable them to be high-achievers in whatever field they choose.

Robb O’Hagan plans to blog about her experience launching the new business in real time, hopefully setting an example of what an “Extremer” looks like. “I know that now is one of those times when I need to walk my own talk because I believe I am walking towards the most exciting and valuable work of my life,” she wrote in the blog post. She hopes that by sharing everything it takes to launch a successful business (“warts and all”), she can show the younger generation what it takes to win.

The platform, which she co-founded along with close friend and former Atari executive Lauren Schechtman, is set to launch in the second half of 2016; the ExtremeYOU book will be published in early 2017 by HarperCollins. Both include significant input from Columbia professor and writer Greg Lichtenberg and Wharton professor Adam Grant, who is well-known for co-authoring a series of New York Times articles with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.