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Most Creative People

Equinox President's New Venture Will Help Young People Achieve Career Goals

Sarah Robb O’Hagan's startup aims to help young people reach their potential despite all those participation trophies.

[Photo: Erik Voake for Fast Company]

Sarah Robb O'Hagan, the president of Equinox Holdings, is leaving the company to create a curriculum that she hopes will teach other people to be successful. Called ExtremeYou and born from O'Hagan's upcoming book of the same name, the new company will host live workshops, online content, and digital classes focused on what it takes to reach the upper echelons of any industry.

What it takes, O'Hagan believes, is a lot more failure than is typically acknowledged.

"You talk with these [very successful] people across every occupation and you see the themes of how they got there are so different than, as a culture, we’re raising kids today," she told Fast Company.

In interviews with top athletes, business people, television presenters, chefs, artists, and other successful people, she found themes like taking risks and suffering the consequences when they don't work out; taking side steps and backward steps in order to learn; and a "real curiosity and willingness to explore the extremes of experience—to figure out where you are strong and where you are not comfortable and competent."

O'Hagan first became inspired to promote these less glamorous angles of success after public experiences in which she told the story of being fired from Virgin and losing her visa (she is from New Zealand). Younger people were often surprised. They "are not used to seeing executives be vulnerable," she says. "There’s this perception that success is this linear line, and actually it’s far from that."

In a blog post, she explained the problem ExtremeYou hopes to solve like this:


Somewhere along the way, we decided as a society that "everyone’s a winner." We gave medals for just showing up, and tried to shield young people from the pain of defeat or loss. We have been creating expectations that you get promoted just for doing your job, and inadvertently we have created a generation that research tells us is less likely to take risks, and more likely to give up and "job hop" when the going gets tough. In short we are not giving these young minds the right tools, experiences, and drive that it takes to successfully break through and change the game.

HarperCollins will publish O'Hagan's book in early 2017, and, ExtremeYou, which O'Hagan cofounded with former Atari executive Lauren Schechtman, is scheduled to launch in the second half of this year.

"This is not me criticizing on any level the generation and the way they were raised," O'Hagan says. "I’m saying, how do we help them to reach their potential. Because I think there is so much potential."

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