Where are they now? Phillip Moffitt

I’ve never met Moffitt, but I recall that in the mid-80s, he wrote an Esquire essay — I believe it was around the time he turned 40 — that was a penetrating, self-reflective piece that pretty much confessed that he believed there was way more to life than what he was experiencing — so much for fame and success and trail-blazing. I would have dismissed the essay as new-age babbling or mid-life crises had Moffitt not soon-there-after cashed-out his holdings and, well, here’s an article from today’s San Francisco Chronicle, that picks up his story there.

I believe I’ve mentioned on this blog before my fascination with Phillip Moffitt. Moffitt, along with Chris Whittle, started a company in the mid-1970s that is no longer around, but the alumni of that company are all over the magazine publishing world — some in very senior business and editorial roles. (Some even read this blog from time-to-time.) When they were business partners, Moffitt and Whittle were perhaps best known for their purchase of Esquire magazine in 1979. In addition to being its CEO, Moffitt served as editor of Esquire for the next few years. I read the magazine fairly closely during his years as editor. Certainly, no one (except, perhaps ad sales people) would call that era the golden age of Esquire (far from it). But for me, it could not have been more compelling. I was around the magazine’s target age and demographic. I was intrigued by Moffitt (and to a lesser degree, Whittle, who I once described on this blog as being to publishing what Tucker was to the automobile) who were six-or-seven years older than me and from Tennessee and were trail-blazing some publishing and marketing trends I thought were both radical and smart — and, indeed they were. Today, those ideas have played-out in all sorts of amazing ways — including some side paths that I have journeyed down myself.

I’ve never met Moffitt, but I recall that in the mid-80s, he wrote an Esquire essay — I believe it was around the time he turned 40 — that was a penetrating, self-reflective piece that pretty much confessed that he believed there was way more to life than what he was experiencing — so much for fame and success and trail-blazing. I would have dismissed the essay as new-age babbling or mid-life crisis (or both) had Moffitt not soon-there-after cashed-out his holdings and, well, here’s an article from today’s San Francisco Chronicle, that picks up his story there.

Quote:

“At the pinnacle of his success as chief executive and editor in chief of Esquire magazine, Phillip Moffitt walked away from it all – the glamour, the accolades, the punishing schedule – and chose instead to wake up each morning and breathe, to explore the mysteries he had always intuited. “I was drawn to a sense that there was a greater meaning to life than getting ahead. It felt intuitively, intrinsically to me as is true for most people, that in the midst of all we know – science – there is a relatedness that’s possible, a mystery; it’s always drawn me.” It was 1987, and Moffitt had no real plan. Married for part of this time, he spent the next several years living in various meditation centers “in rooms so small that [he] could often reach out and touch both walls,” according to his new book.

Over the years, I’ve spoken with many people in the magazine publishing world who worked with Moffitt, some who’ve stayed in contact with him. (They always tell me that most people ask them about Whittle.) They’ve shared with me glimpses of what he’s been doing over the past 20 or so years. Now, he’s written a book on that topic. It comes out in a week or so, and while the topic is outside my typical reading box — "Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering" — I’ve ordered a copy. If it brings me joy and meaning — or some insights into Moffitt — I’ll review it here.