Joe Kudla is careful to identify all the things he’s not.
He’s not a “diva.” He is not now nor has he ever been a “‘lax bro.’” He’s not going to judge anyone who chooses to live their life with less intention than he does. Even though he’s the founder and owner of Vuori, a growing men’s activewear brand, he’s not actually stressed out (at least not in a “negative way”).
But for all the things Kudla is not, there’s plenty more that he actually is.
He is passionate about taking ownership over his own well-being: On airplanes, he applies coconut lavender oil to the insides of his nostrils to defend against dryness and he drinks sparkling water to oxygenate his bloodstream (though he does not want to sound “like a total idiot”—the oxygenation is something he heard about in a podcast once, and besides, can’t a man just enjoy a good Perrier at 10,000 feet?). At home in Encinitas, California, he’s a surfer and an outdoorsman. He’s been thoroughly committed to cultivating a steady yoga and meditation practice for over a decade.
Having grown up in Seattle, Kudla always dreamed of a life on a Southern California beach. “It rained everyday of my childhood,” he says earnestly. He attended college in San Diego, where he played lacrosse—hence the ‘lax bro’ question—and never left.
He believes that tending to the mind and spirit is as important as tending to the body. He’s a husband. He’s a dad. He’s a boss, an entrepreneur, and a frequent traveler. He’s many things, but above all else, he is in pursuit of balance. This is how he remains mindful through it all, from what he packs in his suitcase to his time-tested cure for jet lag.
IN HIS BAG
Coconut lavender oil for my nose is critical. My friend Nicole made this one for me—it’s a little DIY but it can be coconut oil or really any kind of oil. I always bring headphones. I like to travel with some food and I really like sparkling water. I sound like a diva, but I once heard that sparkling water is actually better for you when you’re traveling because airplanes are such an oxygen-depleted environment.
I love traveling in our Ripstop Climber pants, and they’re really packable. They have great stretch, two zip pockets so I can keep my wallet secure as well as a passport or a smartphone, and an elastic waist so they mold to your body no matter what you’re doing. They’re a lightweight woven fabric that will pack down really nicely. The pants are really good for moving about the city and exploring, but if I have a business meeting they can dress up well enough. Sometimes I’ll literally bring them in three colors and that’s all I’ll wear for my bottoms when I travel.
WORK & WORK OUT
I’m not a sleeper when I travel, I tend to work on the plane. It’s my sanctuary to have peace and dive into a project and work uninterrupted. The first thing I do when I arrive anywhere is try to find the nearest yoga studio and go to a yoga class. If I can’t find a yoga class that’s convenient, I’ll go to the gym or go for a run right when I land. That’s been a game-changer for helping me arrive physically at a place. When I got to New York for this trip, I went straight to Y7 and I did a yoga class. From that point on, the plane feeling is gone, you kind of wash that off, and you’ve arrived. It helps me with jet lag a tremendous amount.
I’ll go to the gym or go for a run right when I land.
I got into yoga about ten years ago and it changed my life. It started as a physical practice but it really evolved into much more. Yoga is, in a lot of ways, a meditation, just a moving meditation. You’re not talking, you’re just silent with your own breath for an hour. So just that experience alone is going to help you to cultivate a lot of awareness in your life. Yoga is what led me to a lot of friends and a community that really opened my eyes to this possibility of creating a brand that was built around this lifestyle.
For Vuori, the vision has always been to create a brand that is first and foremost built with the best performance products and materials available; but the key differentiator is that versatility is really missing from the men’s market. We want a product that easily transitions into everyday life. In the activewear space, there’s a lot of brands with a lot of resources, but we felt like nobody was building products for us. By continuing to live the life—not getting so bogged down in the details of our day-to-day that we forget to go to that yoga class, or jump in the ocean—that’s how we continue to stay fresh as a brand.
I’ve got a lot on my mind, but I’m really enjoying the ride and the process, and therefore it doesn’t feel like stress.
I want to be able to say in 10 years that we stayed true to who we are; that we continue investing in the values that originally inspired the business. We want to build a world class brand that stands for something more than just making clothes.
2 BLESSED 2 STRESS
Stress has a lot of different meanings. Am I putting a ton of stress on my system that I’m not aware of? Absolutely. But do I feel stressed out in a negative way? No. Because I love what I do. Do I wake up at 3:00 in the morning and open my laptop and work every once in a while? Yeah. I’ve got a lot on my mind, but I’m really enjoying the ride and the process, and therefore it doesn’t feel like stress. In the early days of entrepreneurship, you’re trying to define whether you have something; whether investors feel like you have something. And those days are a lot more stressful in the more negative context. That’s where the yoga and the meditation really come in handy. Nowadays the stress has evolved. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to hire really great people and establish a culture, which makes coming to work really fun.
MINDFULNESS VS. MASCULINITY
When I started practicing yoga about 11 years ago, there was definitely more of a stigma against men with interests that are less classically athletic. I was pretty progressive for my friend group. But what’s interesting now is a lot of those same guys that made fun of me because they worked in environments where there was a little more ‘machismo, those same guys are now into yoga. And it’s just so cool to see. Now more than ever, guys are investing in their own well-being.
Everybody has their own path. I’m not here to judge anybody that chooses to live their life however they want. I guess what I would say is are you happy? Are you truly happy? If you’re qualified to make that decision—if you’re in touch with yourself enough to recognize that you are happy—then keep going. But if you feel like there might be more, if you feel like maybe there’s just something out there that you can feel in your gut but you’re not achieving—strive for clarity and see what happens.