We’ve spoken with Gabby Reece a few times over the years. In fact, this interview on her marriage to surf god, Laird Hamilton is one of our best relationship stories of all time. As a legendary figure in sports, Gabby has been a wellness influencer long before the term was coined. As a very visible female athlete, Gabby has spoken up about beauty standards and ideas about body image since the 90’s, serving as a powerful voice to defend women’s ability to be all the things — and to defy the narrow standards of the age. Whether a Vogue cover or a Nike collaboration, Gabby’s very presence models the kind of feminine strength that so many young women have needed to see over the years. Her NYT best-seller, My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper sums up her important perspective so well.
As a wellness devotee, you may know of Gabby from her podcast The Gabby Reece Show or from biohacking circles, in which she’s famous for hosting cold plunge and endurance workouts at her home in Malibu.
Regardless of why Gabby’s face is so familiar to you, we’ve asked the icon to join our series, What I’ve Learned So Far and, from business to her personal wellness practices, this is what she had to say…
What I’ve Learned So Far with Gabby Reece
What has been your mantra lately? Well, that’s an interesting question. I think it’s a mantra that I probably have—it just feels more turned up—which is that I’m trying to really focus on staying in a very positive tone. And I don’t mean that in a Pollyanna way. It feels important if you have the bandwidth because the world is going through so much. As a member of the world, the least I could do is try to be not only positive. I’m trying to be kinder and lighter because it feels like there’s enough other stuff happening. Instead of leaning in, which I usually do, I’m like, “How soft can you be? How kind can you be?”
How would you describe your work? I’m an entrepreneur who is involved in owning three different companies. I consider myself somebody who moves within the health and wellness space, and certainly my most important jobs are parent and wife. People love “ex-professional athlete” and I do spend a lot of time doing my podcast, so I actually don’t consider that even though I love that it is one of my jobs.
How did you start your career? I started my career through sports. I was a college athlete who kind of fell into professional beach volleyball. Having access to really helpful and smart people, it sort of was an organic stumble into trying to be a part of health and wellness. Being an entrepreneur was almost just a natural extension of playing. Being on a really small platform as an athlete, you kind of realize you have more control or more say in what you’re doing.
How is your career going? Well, it’s going so that’s a good sign. Like all careers, at times you feel like you’re really lifting a heavy boulder uphill. It always takes a level of real work and I’d say for me it’s going well because I am solving problems that I believe in, things that I really care about. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but none of it is for anybody.
What is your most popular book or tool? And your guess as to why? As far as a book that impacted me. There is a book called Loving What Is by Byron Katie. That works for me. If I do it from a philosophical [place], it gives me the tools of self inquiry. And as an actual tool, I use Laird Superfood Instant Latte, because if I’m traveling or on the road, or on the go, it’s just really easy to use and I trust the ingredients.
What have you learned about yourself? I learned that there’s parts of me that are very linear in a certain way. But I’m also simultaneously open minded. I’ve never been really compelled to get people to see it my way or do it my way—that’s not my thing. Even though I’m pretty [solid] in my own convictions, if that makes sense.
What do you wish you could tell everybody in 2023? I would say that sometimes it feels like it’s a very defined black and white world. Everybody feels like all or nothing in their beliefs. I feel that life has so much nuance and we don’t have the ability to have civil discord and discussion and exchange of ideas. And I really hope that that’s something we don’t lose, because it feels really important. Yelling at each other is probably not going to solve the problems. If we can have these discussions but also face to face. I feel like we don’t do things in person so we really see each other and feel each other. We’re doing all this stuff online and I think it’s dangerous because it creates maybe more problems, not understanding some type of resolution.
What have you learned about business? That you definitely will have failure as much as you will have success. Also, not only be based in your conviction and authenticity with whatever you’re doing, but with who you surround yourself with. You can have the best idea and it’s genuine, but if you don’t have the right people and the right information… I also remind people, there’s always a little bit of luck involved with things, timing. That is all part of it.
What have you learned about people? I feel like people are all pretty similar and even when we don’t agree with somebody, if we can connect with them. Mostly I feel that we’re better than we are not, but we just don’t know that, especially in the world that we live in. Something else I’ve learned about people: they’re really scared. And so that’s oftentimes why they act however they act.
What have you learned about this industry? One thing I’ve learned is that in whatever industry you’re in, whether it’s sports, or fitness, or business, you really will have to give it all that you have. It will be important to seek mentors and people who can share their knowledge. It will be important to learn to say you were wrong, or you’re sorry, or you’re going to pivot.
Something else I think is important is we’re allowed to have our own definition of success. I interviewed Rebecca Minkoff, she makes bags and apparel. She said when she came into this space, it was during the time of everybody being like, you have to be a $100 million brand. And she said, “What if I had a smaller brand with less employees who are paid well, we did good work, and people felt good about working at the company. Isn’t that a success?” And so I think it’s also really important for people, whatever industry they’re in, to decide what success is for themselves.
Who has been a good advisor, or book or resource that was a game changer for your life? On a personal level there’s a book by a philosopher named Alfred Adler. He was during the time of Freud and he wrote this kind of a silly little book called The Courage to be Disliked. But basically, the summation of the whole book was, ultimately, if we’re really actually going to have feelings, am I getting happiness. Because in the end whatever you’re trying to drive towards, it’s that you do have to be of service. And it doesn’t mean to the world necessarily, or even your neighborhood. It could be your neighbor or their family. But service is such an important part of us. Also Atomic Habits is a great book and I like Naval Ravikant, some of his ideas are very simple and great around business.
What have you learned about wellness? That it can’t be a separate bucket from your life. You can’t do wellness. It just has to be part of your life and your practice. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat ice cream, it just means that it can’t be so separate. Everybody makes it a separate practice. But it’s like loving a family member or yourself, it’s just something that you do as well. And the more people can find practices that are an authentic reflection of them in their likes, not only will you do it more, but it will have a richer role in your life and not be separate. I think people make [wellness] this thing over there that they do. That makes it harder.
What have you learned about adaptability and resilience during the last few years? Adaptability and resilience: if you talk about wellness or performance that is the pinnacle. It just isn’t, I can lift a million pounds or run 100 miles. It’s I have an adaptable system and a resilient spirit. And that has everything to do with how and where we go and I think I’ve trained in those two things a very long time, even long before COVID. And for me, what showed up is [that] I was really grateful to have that tool to give me space to make decisions during a pretty stressful time—that were not generated from fear. So through training and through sports, through failure and through business, I have learned to be more resilient and to train and eat in a way that my system is hopefully adaptable.
What are you most excited about currently? I am very excited about my podcast because I’m learning so much and I like the idea of being in charge of something a little bit. I can choose the guests, I can choose how many shows I want to do, I really like that. I’m very excited and have been excited about Laird Superfood because it’s something that a wide variety of people can utilize in their day-to-day life. And it makes that project fun and it’s something that we use in our family. I wouldn’t say excited, but I’m grateful that I have three daughters and they’re all figuring it out. They’re healthy and they’re growing and that’s something I’m really grateful for, to be a part of that process.
And, you know, I say all of this, and I don’t want it to be in a romantic tone. It’s like all the learning is happening. I’m getting my ass kicked on a daily basis, but I’m still aware of how great it is.