We often feel our lives go out of hand, but we just accept it as being the norm, how things are supposed to be. As years go by, we become accustomed to “life” in this modern day and age. We forget to breathe, until we are caught gasping for air.
“… And I Breathed” is a series of anecdotes from Jason Garner’s rise to the top and, then, his journey to find balance. This inspirational book tells the story of a boy growing up working as a flea market attendant to eventually become CEO of Global Music at Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter. Yet, as he reached the top, he longed for more and hence his journey to become the man that he is now.
We asked Jason a few questions. He was very gracious in sharing his thoughts:
Question: Your book shares details about your life and how you learned your life lessons. If you had to relive your life, what would you have done differently?
I close my book with the sentiment that looking back I’ve realized that it was all perfect in its imperfection because it brought me to this moment and to the beauty I’m experiencing in my life. I feel like that’s really the answer. I think, in general, that we spend too much energy looking backward and judging ourselves. One of the biggest learnings for me is to give myself permission to be human, and part of the human experience is that we are always right where we are -- learning and growing. Without that space to be who we are at this moment, we never really allow ourselves to be happy and content.
Question: If there were 3 words someone could remember to stay on track, what would they be?
For me, today, they’re something like: stretch, breathe, and smile.
Question: It is very hard to change one’s lifestyle. How can someone go about it?
It is hard. It’s hard because we are creatures of habit, who, over many, many years have developed habits and programming that govern how we operate in life. For me, the first step is to remember that behind these habits what we’re all searching for is love. So, the process of changing our lifestyles needs to be one that’s gentle, tender and loving to ourselves. We’re all doing our best. We can approach change as simply as – I want to change some habits so I can experience something new. Without judgment, change becomes a lot less dramatic.
What I’ve found really helpful in my life is to develop a daily practice of caring for myself that I do every day, regardless of what new business or learning opportunity I’m engaged with in the moment. This is a really important experience for me because it says that my feelings matter too.
I begin each day by stretching into the day with yoga. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s really just a chance to stretch my body and open myself up to the experience of the day. There are many wonderful yoga teachers whose videos and books you can find. And when all else fails just sit and stretch the way you were taught in sports or PE. Touch your toes, let the blood flow to your head. Reach for the heavens and create space for your internal organs. Move side to side and loosen up the hips and shoulders. It doesn’t have to be complicated – remember this is a time to love yourself.
After stretching I sit quietly in meditation. This is another activity that society tends to make very rigid rules about. But for me that’s not what it’s about. Meditation, for me, is the practice of learning to love myself. That means it’s okay to have thoughts in your head, it’s okay to feel jumpy, and it’s okay to be human and be yourself. Sitting in meditation is simply a time that I dedicate to being present with myself -- it’s an “I love you” to my inner being. Again there are many great teachers in this space –and if you don’t have time for that right now just take a walk, breathe and be present to yourself -- that is as great a meditation as any special posture or technique.
The third part of my daily practice is loving my cells by eating nutrient-dense foods. This means getting a lot of leafy green vegetables into my body, along with Chinese herbs and other supplements. The easiest way I have found to do this is by drinking green juice made from fresh vegetables and fruit. You can make it at home or buy a juice from the many juice bars that are opening around the country. Again though, nutrition is about loving your cells. So make it joyful. Find fresh, organic, foods and supplements you like and each time you consume them send a message of love and care to your body.
By making this routine my daily habit I was able to overcome many of the old habits I’d developed. Habits that were holding me back, making me sick, and causing me to feel unloved. This daily practice reinforces, day in and day out, that I’m healthy, loved and ready for whatever comes my way. That feels like success to me.
Question: You have this talent at making friends. What’s your trick?
I’ve been blessed with great friends and mentors throughout my life. I feel like it’s a two way street. So I don’t believe that I have any trick or strategy. I think it’s really about finding a place of connection with others. We have this tendency to look at other people and see them as fundamentally different from us. This is especially true when it comes to how we perceive successful people. We see what they’ve achieved and we assign super powers to them. This makes it really hard to connect unless you believe you have super powers too! One of the reasons I wrote my book with so many honest, real-life examples of my inner thoughts and feelings was to dispel this notion. I wanted the reader to see that I was going through the same doubt, fears and insecurities that everyone does in their lives. That’s true for even the most successful people. We’re all human. In that recognition of our common humanity, comes a chance to connect as two human who might have different jobs or bank account balances, but deep down share the same hopes, dreams, fears and worries. That’s really what friendship is, right? Two people who have fundamental values in common. A teacher of mine once described this to me as “seeing yourself in others.” It’s easy to make friends when you see them as basically the same as you.
Question: After going through your journey, have you found the answer to the often-asked question, what is the purpose of life?
That question has had many answers for me at different points in my life. So I think the first thing is to remember that the answer is fluid and based on what you’re experiencing now. For me, right now, I feel like the purpose is to experience life with joy. I don’t mean that life is always easy or even always joyful – rather that I try to experience life through a lens of joy. The great teacher Nyoshul Khenpo described this as sublime joy. That feels right to me. That’s how I’d like to experience my life – with unreasonable joy.
Question: You have different kinds of people at work, with their own personality and ambition. How do you navigate office politics and interactions at work while staying true to yourself?
My wife taught me a question that I like to apply to my life. She asks, “What am I building with this?” The truth is that even with the best intentions and tools to stay on track and to be true to ourselves as you say, we often find ourselves lost or swayed by the situations and the people around us. Taking time to pause, to breathe and to ask that question, “What am I building with this?” gives us a chance to recalibrate. Navigating work, and life for that matter, requires that kind of frequent reminder to be present, to evaluate where we are, what we’re doing and how we’re feeling and then, whenever it’s necessary we can shift courses – as many times as necessary until we feel ourselves experiencing peace and joy.
Question: What’s your best parenting advice?
The advice I remind myself of over and over again is that my job is to love my children. It’s the only unique thing I can teach them – that their Dad loves them. Our children are bombarded by information – from teachers, friends, the internet, media, music, etc. The one thing they aren’t often saturated with is love, especially parental love. Over time I’ve learned to surrender my need to be a great father and instead to focus on being a loving Dad. That means letting go of my own agenda to see my children be this or that and to accept them as they are, to be present for them and to help them by insuring that they know that I love them no matter what.
Question: For people who are not avid readers, and for those avid readers that may not see the need in reading yet another book about living a better life, what would you say to convince them to read your book?
I wrote my book to share my experiences with people who are feeling the same way I was. For much of my journey I felt alone, afraid and like no one really understood what I was going through. My hope with my book was that it could be a friend so others didn’t have to feel that way as they walked a similar path. I have faith that my book will find its way into the hands and hearts of the people it’s meant to reach, and for the people who aren’t called to read it that’s really fine. There are a lot of great books and resources. Mine is just my perspective on this journey.