Phillip Moffitt: A life in balance

Publisher Phillip Moffitt left the business world for a spiritual path

(Knoxville News Sentinel, 2006)

By Ronda Robinson

As a young man, Phillip Moffitt reached for high-flung goals and achieved them. He tasted success as University of Tennessee student-body president. He co-founded 13-30 Corp., a Knoxville publishing company that at its height employed hundreds and pumped millions into the local economy.
He and others from 13-30 rescued Esquire magazine from the brink and transformed it into what the New Yorker called "a bible for the new American man of the eighties."

All the while Moffitt yearned to pursue more the inner than the outer life.

Now 59, he devotes his time and resources to just that.

The former editor-in-chief and CEO of 13-30 and Esquire has lived in the San Francisco area since the late 1980s. He teaches meditation retreats around the country as a service and donates any income to nonprofit causes. He also runs the Life Balance Institute from his home office and writes a column for Yoga Journal called "Dharma Wisdom."

"I had a very short horizon. I did not see myself as a businessperson long term. But I wanted to see how I could do in that world and bankroll myself to pursue other interests," Moffitt said in a telephone interview from his Marin County, Calif., office.

As UT students, he, Brient Mayfield, David White and Chris Whittle launched Collegiate Enterprises in 1968. The next year they introduced Knoxville in a Nutshell, a free guide to the city for incoming freshmen. The publication grew into a national multi-edition college magazine - and their springboard for Approach 13-30, incorporated Dec. 7, 1970.

"We called it 13-30 because that was the age group we could imagine publishing for," Moffitt said.

The company's early logo was modeled on the yin-yang symbol. It foreshadowed Moffitt's path.

He began studying raja (the royal path) yoga meditation in 1972 and Buddhist vipassana (insight) meditation in 1983.

"The business world was more like a detour from my original interests. I had always had a spiritual life," Moffitt reflected. When he hit 30, a Canadian company was on track to buy 13-30. "I was going to do what I ended up doing 10 years later - pursue the inner life."

Instead, in 1979, 13-30 purchased Esquire, which was losing $500,000 a month. By 1984, the magazine's revenue had jumped 500 percent. Moffitt was commuting between Knoxville and New York.

He and Whittle parted company in 1986, and Moffitt took over operations at Esquire, later selling it to Hearst Corp.

Moffitt soon founded the Life Balance Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and practice of spiritual values in daily life.

He gives public and private workshops to help people find balance.

"The majority of people who have been sitting here on the couch in my office talking about their lives have been entrepreneurs," Moffitt said. The former CEO helps in pinpointing their values and developing a plan to come into alignment with them.

Some clients may want to spend more time with family. Others may decide to leave business and pursue a creative field.

"I'm not helping people be more successful," Moffitt explained. "I'm helping them discover and articulate their goals and ultimately bring their life into better balance."

Ronda Robinson is a freelance writer in Knoxville.