Billionaire Spanx founder Sara Blakely gave her entrepreneur husband a piece of advice she learned as a teenager to get him through his hardest days

  • Spanx founder Sara Blakely is married to Jesse Itzler, who is an entrepreneur, a former rapper, and the author of, most recently, “Living with the Monks.”
  • In the book, Itzler recalls Blakely telling him to stay at the monastery he was visiting “until you have a breakthrough or you’re broken.”
  • It’s something Blakely learned when she was a teenager and her father gave her Wayne Dyer’s motivational cassettes during a particularly difficult time.

Jesse Itzler is a former rapper, an entrepreneur, and the husband of Spanx founder Sara Blakely. He’s known for pushing himself to his limits – both physically and mentally.

In 2015, he published a book titled “Living with a SEAL,” about his experience training with a Navy SEAL. This year, he came out with “Living with the Monks,” which documents his struggles to adjust to life at a monastery (that also happens to train dogs).

Towards the end of the book, Itzler remembers feeling restless and homesick. He thinks back to a conversation he had with Blakely before he left for the monastery.

When Itzler asked Blakely how long he should stay, she told him: “Stay until you have a breakthrough or you’re broken.”

Blakely had already told Itzler about the time she was on the precipice of having a breakthrough and feeling broken. At age 15, Blakely saw her friend get hit by a car while riding her bike. Around the same time, Blakely’s parents got divorced.

As Blakely’s father was leaving the house, he handed her a collection of cassette tapes featuring the late motivational speaker Wayne Dyer. Blakely listened to the tapes constantly – in fact, she credits Dyer for teaching her how to “visualize” her eventual success in founding Spanx.

Blakely told Inc. that she “wasn’t that surprised” when she got a call inviting her to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show “because it had been my mental snapshot for almost 15, 20 years.”

For Blakely, receiving those tapes from her father was the breakthrough she needed when she was on the verge of being broken. In some sense, she had to hit rock bottom before she could skyrocket to success.

Itzler doesn’t identify explicitly his breakthrough/broken moment. But it seems to be the day he left the monastery to record a podcast episode in New York City.

Back in the hustle and bustle, he found himself able to clear his mind and meditate for 15 minutes at a time, and newly appreciative of his personal relationships. After that, he returned to the monastery for his final day there.

Itzler summarizes the lesson Blakely learned from her own experience as a teenager (in bold and italics, so you can’t miss it): “The gap between breakthroughs and being broken is so narrow that sometimes it’s impossible to see.”