Success is not success without health — physical and mental. Don’t let your work rob you of harmony in your whole life. So taking time to rest and invest in relationships are also part of your job. myself. Now, I prioritize my time to rest just as much as my time to work. The quality and clarity of your inner world dictate the quality and clarity of what gets built in the world. The best investment you can make is the time you spend on your inner vision and inner game. If you’re present and in the moment, you are capable of maintaining happiness even when life is throwing darts at you.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing international music star Jewel. Jewel is an award-winning singer-songwriter, best-selling author, and mindfulness & mental health advocate. She went from a girl who grew up in Alaska with no running water, to a homeless teenager in San Diego, to releasing one of the best-selling debut albums of all times.
Thank you so much for joining us Jewel! It is an honor to do this with you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I began singing as part of my family’s diner show when I was 5. When I was 8, I began singing with my dad at old bars and honkey tonks. We also did some usual gigs, like paying in the Arctic- I have memories of my family and I being dropped off in an ice field at midnight in broad daylight, as the sun never sets up in Alaska in the summer, and being picked up by the Inuit on dog sleds. I’ve always loved singing. Years later I began reading poetry and writing music as a way for me to make sense of the world. Through poetry, my emotions found a voice. I began to understand that my mind and my emotions could be the ladder out of my anxiety. And songwriting became a powerful outlet. Writing was my first mindfulness exercise. It made me aware in real-time. I was able to use observation and curiosity to understand how to change my inner world that would have a meaningful and lasting effect on my outer world. I saw it as a potentially powerful tool to help me change the family patterns I was raised with. With time, it helped me learn to do something I had never been given or shown in my family: kindness, patience, and tolerance. I sang about what I saw around me and also what was within me.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Life presents many opportunities for you to test your resolve and character. For me, I always loved music, but I never thought it was in the cards for me other than the way my dad did it — bar rooms on weekends.
When I moved to San Diego to help care for my mother, a boss propositioned me and when I refused to sleep with him, he fired me without pay. I had no recourse and so began to live in my car after I was kicked out of the place I was renting for being unable to make rent. The car I was living in got stolen. I turned to music and writing to smooth my panic attacks and agoraphobia. I had been shoplifting to get by and knew I had to change as I knew that jail, disease, or death were in my future if I did not get serious about turning things around for myself. I got a gig at a coffee shop that was going out of business and worked out a deal to keep the door money if I was able to bring in customers. I worked up a loyal following and was discovered a year later.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to just end up a statistic. I also knew that I had an innate strength that came from being a daughter of pioneers. The determination I learned from growing up in Alaska kept me going through those hard times. I knew I wanted to be happy. I believed it was possible to learn how to be happy, even if it wasn’t taught in my home growing up. I was on an epic journey to understand myself and the world around me, and I just knew I would never quit. I didn’t think worldwide fame awaited me, I just knew I was not put on this earth to suffer, and that with hard work and determination, I could possibly make a living doing something I love.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We don’t get to choose what life throws our way, but we do get to choose how it changes us. Success can largely be attributed to an unwillingness to settle for less than what you are worth. To listen to the voice inside of you and believe in it when no one else does. It’s the determination to keep standing no matter how tired you are.
What has always saved me in life was my willingness to be curious and observant by stopping and using mindfulness techniques to help me find ways to solve my problems, innovate, grow and learn.
Getting curious and understanding my mental health has allowed me to survive, strive and thrive. No matter what we’ve been through, we can find health, happiness, and well-being. We are never broken! In essence, I attribute my success to living my values, putting my head down, working hard and being my authentic self.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was recording my first ever album, Pieces Of You, in the studio. At the time, my performance background consisted of honkey tonks, street corners, and a local coffee shop in San Diego. I wasn’t used to being in a studio with producers and all kinds of people around, and I was really nervous. Once the record was released and I heard myself for the first time on the radio I pulled over my car as I was driving down the highway in disbelief. It was one of my first singles, “Who Will Save Your Soul,” and all I could think was how much I sounded like Kermit the frog! My voice was so tight from all the nerves that it came out like Kermit. It was a whole new experience hearing myself on the radio and after that, I learned to loosen up in the studio and let my voice do its thing.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The small things that are so easy to overlook are where we can make the most gains. Sleep, nutrition, healthy friendships, community, and having a meaningful sense of passion and purpose. Some great ways to incorporate that into a company culture is by encouraging “brain breaks” (a 5 minute break the breathe and meditate).
Spend just a few minutes each morning in silence and check-in with yourself, take ten deep breaths, and listen to the sounds around you. Become present with your life. I have a super healthy diet full of grass-fed meats, organic vegetables, and herbal home remedies. I also work out when I can, forgive myself when I can’t — and I’m grateful every day for the little things. These key things allow me to maintain the energy levels and clarity I need to run be an entrepreneur, single mom and run a multi- million dollar business. What’s amazing is how simple things made such a huge difference. It doesn’t take tons of money to find health, wellness and happiness.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
In music, I was lucky enough to have two incredible mentors early on in my career: Bob Dylan and Neil Young. These are two men I looked up to my entire life so to have them recognize me as an artist and help me guide me along my path was really incredible.
In business, several entrepreneurs took me under their wing to help me understand how to take the values I lived in my entertainment career, and apply them to the world of entrepreneurship. Marc Benioff of Sales Force has been a constant source of inspiration and support, along with Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Both support authenticity, boldness and living your values. But really, I have been so overwhelmed with the generosity of so many entrepreneurs and their generosity of spirit.
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Your values are your currency. You’re for value-alignment, do work that is value-aligned, and engage customers based on those values.
2. Success is not success without health — physical and mental. Don’t let your work rob you of harmony in your whole life. So taking time to rest and invest in relationships are also part of your job. myself. Now, I prioritize my time to rest just as much as my time to work.
3. The quality and clarity of your inner world dictate the quality and clarity of what gets built in the world. The best investment you can make is the time you spend on your inner vision and inner game. If you’re present and in the moment, you are capable of maintaining my happiness even when life is throwing darts at you.
Thank you so much for these wonderful insights. We wish you only continued success!