I don’t usually do this sort of thing but since I am absolutely over the moon about this interview I want to share my joy with everyone.
A while back I got a message from a lovely man called Hugh Lee asking if I’d be interested in interviewing him. Naturally I said yes because, well, he’s gorgeous isn’t he?
In the interview I would learn more about the man behind the gorgeousness and to my pleasant surprise he wasn’t as perfect as I’d thought…at least not entirely. He had a few quirks that I had to get used to but, overall, he was a lovely man and someone I’m sure everyone would love to meet. Especially as he’s absolutely stunning and, let’s face it, rare.
Hugh is the founder of the Lee Institute, a personal development company he started back in 2000. He’s also the author of numerous books, including The Traveler’s Gift, Millionaires’ Midlife Crisis, and The Truth About Beauty.
Hugh is one of the most charming men I’ve ever met. He has an amazing laugh and is clearly a man of genuine kindness. He also has an incredible sense of humor, which comes through in spades in the interview. You’re going to love it.
How Did You Come Up With The Idea For The Institute?
Well, I suppose it all started with a joke. Back in 2000 I was in New York City on a business trip and since none of my friends were around I decided to pay for an escort. (I didn’t have to—I could’ve visited a strip club and gotten lap dances all night long for free.) The experience turned out to be strangely therapeutic and, as I walked down Broadway, I began to wonder: What would my life be like if I didn’t have to work so hard?
I knew that my life had its perks but on the whole I felt like I was struggling. (I was still in school and didn’t yet have any real job experience.) So, I started thinking about what I would do if I could live a life free from responsibility and what that might look like. I imagined a life where I woke up, did my yoga, and then went to my office to work. (In my head, working at an office was something like being a high school or college teacher.)
When I got to my hotel that night, I sat down at the desk and wrote out a long list of everything I would need in order to live my dream. My first item on the list was a pool—I figured swimming would be a good way to release some energy after a long day at work. My second item was a tennis coach, a third was a fitness trainer, and so on.
The next morning I picked up the phone and called the first person on my list. Let’s just say that my idea of a dream job didn’t exactly match the reality of being a personal trainer. (I mean, I didn’t exactly match the reality of being a high school or college teacher either but at least I got a taste of what those jobs were like.)
Why Are You Most Recognized For Your Work In Personal Development?
I suppose people know me mostly because of my work as a personal assistant to Elizabeth Taylor. (That’s what my business card reads.) I worked with Mrs. Taylor for almost 10 years and became somewhat of a fixture in her life. (She once called me “her good fairy.”)
People saw me as a positive influence in Mrs. Taylor’s life. (In fact, they called me “the glue that held Liz’s life together.”) I would often joke that I was there just in case she needed somebody to hold her hands while she went to the bathroom.
Besides my work with Mrs. Taylor, people also know me as the author of the Self-Therapy series, which is a collection of guided visualization exercises for self-recovery. (I’m also the creator of the “I’m a Kinda Shitty Person” quiz, which is now available on my website.)
As I’ve grown as a person developer, I’ve realized that there’s more than one way to be helpful. (In fact, there are probably a zillion ways to be helpful. But that’s a topic for another day.)
How Has Your Life Changed Since You Started The Institute?
In general, my life has gotten easier. (And by “easier” I mean “more enjoyable.”) When I started the Institute, I didn’t know much about marketing or running a business. (At least not beyond the basics.) So, it was a steep learning curve. (I’m still a fast learner but it took me a while to figure out what works best for me.)
Part of what makes the Institute unique is that it’s not your typical personal development company. (Most “personal development companies” are either very traditional or very specialized. We’re a mixture of both.) For example, I work with entrepreneurs who are just starting out but I also work with clients who are already very wealthy. (I also work with many Hollywood celebrities and power players. (If you ever want to get together with a celebrity, just give me a call.))
The combination is unique. (And it takes a particular brand of genius to mastermind something like this.) What’s also unique is that the clients and the people I work with aren’t looking for some easy fix. (They know that if anything, psychology is a very complicated subject.)
Instead, my clients come to me because they want guidance on how to live a better life. (Or, as one of my favorites says: “I want to be able to sleep at night.”)
So, in general, my life is better than it was. (There are still challenges—like finding time to fit my work out while working remotely for a few days this summer. (But, for the most part, things feel better.)
What Would You Say Is The Most Important Thing To Know If You’re Visiting Prague?
I would say: “Wear sunscreen.” (It’s the same as anywhere else—the sun’s ultraviolet rays can seriously damage your skin. (And, let’s face it, the Czech Republic isn’t exactly known for its sunny weather.))
It gets really hot and dry there which means that you’ll be going through a lot of sunscreen. (Some men have even been known to wear sunscreen while on an underwater watch.) This seems slightly excessive to me but I guess there’s no harm in being safe.
If you want to avoid getting sick or injured, it’s best to take precautions. (Besides, the air quality’s not great there either. So you might as well be safe as drinking that glass of wine you’ve got sitting in the fridge.
Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?
In general, I don’t follow trends. (Unless they’re related to personal development. (In which case, I follow them wholeheartedly. (And sometimes I even introduce the trend to clients who weren’t looking for it.))
I see myself in five years doing the same thing I’m doing now. (Just with more experience. (Which, let’s face it, is something we all need.)
I have a clear vision of what I’m aiming for and I know that it’s not going to be easy but I also know that it’s what I want. (And that’s a rare thing these days. Especially since the world’s become so damn accessible.)
I’m not interested in shortcuts. (At least not not any more. I used to be but I’ve learned my lesson. (I’m really good at what I do and I like to think that’s why I’m able to connect with so many people. (It’s not just the handsome face. (Although that certainly doesn’t hurt.))
In five years, I hope to be traveling the world and helping people live their best lives. (Well, as best as they can, which is what we all do when we’re sleeping.) And perhaps even inspiring a few people along the way.
Doing what I do for a living is a privilege and it makes me proud to be able to help people. (Especially since I know how hard it can be to find the right people to help.)
So, in five years, I’ll still be helping people. Just maybe not in the same way that I am now. (Although, as things stand, I don’t seem to be doing much…)