A decade ago, we commemorated the 10-year anniversary of Experience Life. At the time, that seemed like a pretty big deal.
Why? Because back in 2001, when we were putting together the very first issue of this magazine, a lot of experts in the publishing biz told me that this idea would never fly. This dream I had for a whole-person, whole-life publication was just that, they said — a dream.
They had good reasons for discouraging me. All these natural and integrative health angles were too impractical and “out there” to take hold, they said. Most people just weren’t interested in them yet. Plus, they explained, a health magazine aimed at all ages and genders was way too loose a demographic. It wouldn’t appeal to advertisers, they said, and thus the magazine could not possibly stay in print for long.
So, when 10 years passed and Experience Life was still going strong — reaching millions of people, changing a lot of lives, and winning a lot of awards — we were thrilled. In the months leading up to our 10-year anniversary, the magazine team had fun imagining the huge celebration we’d have to mark the occasion.
As it worked out, we were all way too busy making the magazine to stop and throw a big bash. I think we wound up having a picnic or something.
Fast forward 10 years. I’m guessing that EL’s hardworking team is still too busy to throw a massive party. But I do hope they’ll at least make space for a picnic and some well-deserved pats on the back, because they — and Life Time, Experience Life’s visionary parent company — deserve to celebrate this important milestone.
Beyond simply staying in print for 20 years (which very few new, independent magazines ever do), Experience Life has done something else that is truly extraordinary: It has set a whole new standard for what a reader-centered magazine can become.
In a media world that runs on clickbait and sensationalism, and that too often puts the goals of its advertisers above the most essential needs of its audience, Experience Life has always been — and continues to be — an admirable outlier.
There’s a reason EL has few peers: Doing the deep research, compassionate contemplation, and courageous reporting that make this magazine so trusted and valued by its readers is not easy. It’s not “normal.” And because most other health magazines have never done it, it would be easy to believe that it cannot be done.
We now know that with the right mix of vision, support, and determination, it can be done. And I hope that more publications will find a way to do it, even if it requires flying in the face of resistance and doubt.
Back in the early 1900s, Orville and Wilbur Wright were told that their flying contraptions were doomed to failure. At various low points, they even told themselves that.
While the oft-quoted phrase “It’ll never fly, Orville” may be apocryphal, the sentiment certainly was not. In his 1908 gold-medal acceptance speech to the Aero Club of France, Wilbur Wright confessed that in 1901, just two years before their first successful powered-glider flights, he had predicted to his own brother that “man would not fly for another 50 years.”
So much for predictions! I’m glad Orville didn’t let Wilbur talk him out of their visionary experiments back in 1901. And I’m very glad indeed that we didn’t let all those naysayers talk us out of our vision for a then-very-experimental Experience Life back in 2001.
For two decades now — more than a third of my entire existence — Experience Life has stayed true to its reader-focused mission and standards. It has also stayed well ahead of the curve, exploring emerging topics and territories years before other similar magazines have dreamed or dared to follow suit.
As the magazine’s birth mom, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see what it accomplished, and what it has become. Happy 20th birthday, Experience Life, and I hope the next 20 years bring you many new opportunities to soar.