Learning How to Breathe
From CEO to spiritual traveller, Jason Garner challenges the contemporary notion of success

COURTESY MO GHONEIM Jason Garner gave up his career in the corporate world to embark on a spiritual journey that would changes his lifestyle completely.

Jason Garner gave up his career in the corporate world to embark on a spiritual journey that would changes his lifestyle completely.

Jason Garner spent the first 37 years of his life climbing the corporate ranks. He quickly went from being a flea market parking attendant to being CEO of Global Music at Live Nation. After the death of his mother to cancer, Garner realized that he was not leading the life he had wanted to lead. He went from working with rockstars to learning from monks at the Shaolin Temple in China and spending thousands of hours sitting cross-legged at the feet of timeless masters of mind. In light of his new book, “And I Breathed,” Garner shares the lessons he learned on his spiritual journey.

You went from running a flea market to being CEO of Global Music at Live Nation fairly quickly. Did you ever feel that your road to success was too fast, or that your fast-paced success made you miss out on vital life experiences?
In retrospect that was definitely the case. At the time, like all of us when we are caught up in the midst of climbing the mountain we are just going and going, and certainly I was just going and going. I was trying really hard to change my family’s situation. I grew up poor and I was raised by a single mom. I was intent on making money and changing that story. Now having the opportunity to look back, I look back and say that I was so busy caring for the health of the business, or my financial health that I neglected my physical health, my emotional health and my spiritual health.

What was your main reason for writing “And I Breathed?”
As I was going through the shift in my life that occurred after my mom died, I really felt alone and like I was the only person in my shoes who was feeling scared, who was feeling insecure, who wasn’t sure what their life was all about. As I started to study and learn with the teachers I was blessed to learn with, I began to realize that it is a much more universal condition. Deep inside, many of us are feeling these same fears and insecurities. I wanted to write a book that could become a friend for people on that path of fulfillment and that path of transformation.

In your book you talk about the many lessons you learned from Daoist masters, travelling China, and studying with Buddhist monks. However, what important lessons did you learn as CEO of Global Music at Live Nation?
There is this tendency to think that something learned in business is not as important as something learned from a spiritual master. One of the things I learned from my mentor at Live Nation, Michael Rapino, was the idea of always questioning, always asking why, always looking at the reason behind doing things and the reason why we are told to do things. There is this real sense that a great future and a great presence are made up by writing our own rules when the current rules don’t suffice anymore. I think I have carried that forward, that entrepreneurial quality of questioning, changing and pushing the boundaries, into spirituality where I have really looked to put together a wellness and spirituality program that really works for me.

Do you ever miss the fast-paced life of the concert industry?
No. There is this misnomer that spirituality is easy or that meditation is easy. I always laugh when people say that; and invite them to sit down and close their eyes for a few minutes and watch the fast-paced emotions that come at us and the fast paced thoughts that come. I am just in a different phase of life and I look back grateful for my time at that job, and now I am enjoying a new part of learning.

It was not until you had already achieved success in the music industry that you realized you needed something more. It would appear to be much easier to walk away from success and declare it overrated once you have already achieved it. Why should people at the start of their careers believe you that conventional success isn’t worth it?
I really believe that we are all on our own path. One, I don’t have an agenda I am trying to sell; it was really just an attempt for me to share my life lessons. Two, in one sense it is easy once you have made some money to have the courage to try something new. But I do not necessarily believe that having success is easy to walk away from. When we look around the world we actually see the opposite — that it is really hard to walk away from success. It is really difficult whether we are defined by a job, or defined by a salary, or defined by a car, or whatever it is in terms of physical possessions that we define ourselves by. It is hard to walk away from that and say, “I am going to look inside and find a new way to define myself.” All of us are simply walking our own path and along that path we find messages that resonate with us. For the people my book resonates with, that makes me very joyful. For the people it doesn’t, that’s OK too.

Spirituality is a term and theme that is brought up constantly in your book. How do you define spirituality and do you believe it is necessary to be spiritual in order to become successful?
I am open to everyone’s definition and everyone’s belief for themselves. Success is a very personal metric. As I said at the beginning, for me, success does include spirituality and does include a connection to the spirit inside me. I talk a lot about real-life spiritually, which ended up being tools that help make my life more joyful, that help make my life happier. For me those are things such as yoga, meditation and nutrition; and taking time to breathe and just connecting to something beyond the rat race. I think spirituality can really be that simple, just the practice of living a happy life.

What do you want/expect readers to take away from your book?
I hope that they take away a big hug. I hope they take away the sense that they are not alone; that we are all in this together figuring life out and that there is no one path. Instead, there is this constant opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror, to love ourselves and understand ourselves a little better. And then to go out and do our best as we live our lives.

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