01/11/2012 06:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Life Out Loud: Chip Conley's Emotional Equations

Have you ever met someone for the first time and -- not in a romantic or sexual way -- inexplicably tumbled into a space-time vortex of pure human-to-human connection? As you talk with this stranger, a sense of urgency emerges, while simultaneously you lose track of how many minutes have passed. There's so much to share! Your speech hastens, your gestures grow larger, your facial expressions more elaborate. Then you find you're interrupting each other with gasps of, "Me, too!" and "You had a similar experience?" and "Wow." You feel certain, even if you don't really believe in reincarnation, that you met this individual in a previous life.

Suddenly, the spell breaks. Sounds and sights from your current reality come flooding back into your awareness. Your partner taps you on the shoulder. "Can we go now, please?" he groans, eyes rolling. Or you get to the front of the line at your favorite local café and the barista asks, "What would you like to order?" Or a siren wails down the street whose corner you've been occupying, startling you. You gaze about yourself in a daze. Fifteen minutes have passed, or three, or 60 -- it doesn't matter. You have discovered a soulmate.


This was my experience when I first met Chip Conley at a mutual friend's birthday party in San Francisco in 2006. Psychology, Joseph Campbell and archetypes, personal transformation, Abraham Maslow and self-actualization, spirituality, yoga, Stanford--we zinged through topics like kids on Christmas morning, delighting as we opened one gift after another to find a cosmic meeting of the minds.

Ever since, Chip Conley has been a dear friend and one of my greatest inspirations in living the Life out Loud: Legendary founder and CEO for two decades of Joie de Vivre, which he grew to be America's second-largest boutique hotel chain. Bestselling author of PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. TED speaker on Bhutan's Gross Happiness Index and measuring what makes life worthwhile. All-around "super human," to borrow from Chip's own lexicon.

I'm thrilled about Chip Conley's latest book, which hits the shelves on January 10: Emotional Equations (watch the whimsical illustrated book promo video here). Chip magically reduces complex conundrums and universal truths into simple equations that help us both understand ourselves and others, and escape from emotional traps that we unconsciously create.

My personal favorite from Emotional Equations is, not surprisingly:

Joy = Love - Fear

My mantra as a Champion Joy-Giver for the past few years has been, "Fear Less, Love More," so I feel Chip hits the target with this formula.

I'm also a fan of Chip's Happiness Equation: Wanting What You Have Divided By Having What You Want. Wanting what you have, for me, involves a daily practice of gratitude. Or as Tony, a homeless man I bought dinner for in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve, put it: "Count your blessings."

Chip lives and breathes the Life Out Loud more than anyone I have the privilege to call a friend. A few years back, he went through a difficult period: the economy collapsed and his hotel business was struggling; he broke up with a long-time life partner; and a dear friend committed suicide.

Yet unlike many other CEOs and public figures, Chip did not shy away from speaking the truth about how he came to overcome his despair by finding greater meaning in his life (hence his emotional equation: Despair = Suffering - Meaning). On the contrary, he shares his battles openly during his frequent public speaking engagements, and also tells the tale in Emotional Equations. I've seen the way audience members respond to this genuine expression of vulnerability, finding inspiration from Chip to confront their own demons.

I wondered why Chip had chosen to share his struggles with such courage and transparency. He said:

I have a mantra, too: 'As I surrender, more love comes to me.' For someone who is a Type A CEO like me, the idea of surrender sounds like something Dorothy is supposed to do with the Wicked Witch of the West--something you do when you're weak, whereas I always felt that I needed to be strong. And yet I've seen in myself and others that the most powerful times in your life are when you're most vulnerable. Realizing how profound vulnerability can be gave me the confidence to expose myself.

Chip explained further:

When you're armored, positive energy may come toward you, but it can't get to you. It requires a certain level of trust in others to open yourself up, but if you do, you'll see rewards. We don't have control over much in life, but we do have control over how we show up and what we respond to. To show up authentically, as who you really are, creates an environment in which you're attracting other authentic, courageous people to you. Whereas, if you show up as someone you're not or don't show up at all, you become invisible.

"Do you have an emotional equation for living the Life Out Loud?" I asked Chip, in preparation for this blog post.

"I do," he replied with one of his signature impish grins.

Authenticity = Self-awareness x Courage

"To live the Life Out Loud, you have to be self-aware enough to know who you are, and confident enough to put it out there in the world. The 'x' sign is in the equation because self-awareness and confidence are combustible: the two together have a multiplying effect rather than an additive affect. They're most powerful as combined forces."

"Any advice for people struggling to live the Life Out Loud?" I asked.

Chip answered:

If you look at the two ingredients of authenticity -- this is what is so great about emotional equations -- you can see how they influence each other. Personally, I can undermine my authenticity in one of two ways. One, I can be lacking in self-awareness because I tend to be too focused on what others want for me and satisfying their wishes. Two, if I'm not bold and courageous, then I'll shrink in terms of my willingness to live out loud. So focus on building strength in both of these areas, and you'll be on your way!

Do you have any emotional equations that guide you in your life? If so, please share in the Comments section of this post and I'll be sure to pass them along, or visit the Emotional Equations website and post your responses there.

Photo credit: Lisa Keating