Jason Garner was once the CEO of Global Music at Live Nation. On the back cover of his new book, …And I Breathed: My Journey From a Life of Matter to a Life That Matters, he looks more “handsome Yoga teacher” than “corporate bigwig.”
That’s because Garner gave up his spot at the head of the rat race when the tragic death of his mother caused him to take a step back and reconsider his life.
“Following the death of my mom, [I left] my corporate job and really got to know myself, really started to understand what had driven me through life,” Garner says.
Garner traded the hectic forward-march of the boardroom for tranquil meditation; he swapped business meetings for studying with spiritual teachers in the traditions of Zen, Taoism, and Vedanta.
“I really started to have a yearning inside to share some of the things that I had learned,” Garner says. “So I sat down to write a book that was not a self-help book, but a self-love book.”
That “self-love book” is …And I Breathed, which may not be what you consider a “business book”, but which nonetheless contains some very valuable insights from which entry-level employees and top-level execs alike can benefit.
Remember: You Are Not Alone
One of the major lessons with which Garner hopes busy professionals will walk away from his book is the fact that we’re all human beings in the office, and we need to connect with one another on that very real and primal level.
“So many of us have built heroic stories of our lives — which in many ways are true. So many of us came from nothing to accomplish something in the world, so many of us have worked really hard to get to where we are at,” Garner says. “While those things are true, what’s also true is that when we look around our office, when we look around a business meeting, everybody else in that room has the same story.”
Garner says that he used to be so caught up in his own life that, when his mother died, he felt he had nowhere to turn.
“I had built up this story that I was going through this stress and nobody else was,” he says.
But that wasn’t true: Garner found out that his secretary had experience a very similar tragedy with one of her own parents shortly before he did.
“And I didn’t even know!” Garner says. “And so, one of the things I really wanted to say in this book was that these are not unique stories. Everybody we run into at work is suffering, is in pain, has the same hopes and desires and dreams. We really have this opportunity to connect with each other and to lean on each other and to share our experiences.”
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
“So often, we get so caught up making sure that our business is a success that we forget to look at our own success, our own health and well-being,” Garner says. “For me, our health — our spiritual, emotion, and physical health — matters just as much as the health of our businesses.”
This is more than just a New Age bromide. As Garner explains, the failure to ensure our own happiness and health is the failure to remember why we work in the first place.
“We forget that we got into the business to create a life of fulfillment and wellness,” Garner says. “Along the way, we kind of get lost in the struggle. I hope the book can be a reminder to stop and love ourselves along the way.”
Yoga, Meditation, and Nutrition: Three Unlikely (but Powerful) Pieces of Business Advice
It’s shame that we can only offer a cursory glance at Garner’s ideas and ideals in this piece; there’s certainly a lot to be found in the book and when speaking to the man himself.
That being said, we’ve saved the best for last: Garner’s advice on daily practices.
Often, after encountering Garner’s insights and beliefs, people will ask him some variation of “What next?” As in: “What can I do to practice what you preach?”
Garner’s answer: develop meaningful daily practices. For himself, Garner says his daily practice consists of three things: yoga , meditation, and feeding the body nutrient-dense foods.
And, as it turns out, Garner believes these three practices are not just good for his person: they’re also vital business tools.
1. Yoga: “All of us aspire to be flexible. All of us aspire to be fluid and adaptable in buisness, and yet, in our personal lives and in our bodies, we find ourselves being very rigid, very tense. By taking time every morning to practice — the same way an athlete practices shooting free throws — what we’re doing in yoga is we’re practicing being flexible. So, when something happens in business that pushes on us, instead of breaking, instead of exploding, we’re able to be flexible,” Garner explains.
2. Meditation: Garner recommends that we look at meditation as a form of strategic planning.
“When we take a moment away from the day-to-day running of our business to sit in the conference room and imagine what our business could be, we call that strategic planning — and that’s exactly what meditation is: time away from the daily humming of our lives to sit quietly and be present with ourselves. The benefit [of meditation] to our personal and business lives is exactly the same as a well-done strategic planning session.
3. Good Nutrition: “When we think of our bodies, we think of it as a body. But the body is actually trillions of cells,” Garner says.
In business terms, then, the body of the organization is the workforce: all those different employees working together in service of one unifying subject (e.g., the company).
We need to treat our bodies well by feeding them nutritious food; similarly, we need to treat our workforces and businesses well, or else we’ll face some suffering.
“If we go to work and we treat everybody like objects; if when our workforce is tired we tell them to shut up and get back to work; if we artificially stimulate the business all the time instead of giving it real organic growth, then the business will collapse,” Garner says. “The business will get sick; the business will be filled with disease.”