PHOTOS BY RANDALL SLAVIN | WORDS BY TAMARA RAPPA
Tamara Rappa: I've been thinking about the first moment I met you, Jay, on our cover shoot. It made a huge impact on me. You made a point of telling me just how much you were valuing the work we were about to do together. You shared that you saw what Story + Rain is; and that you appreciate what we do and how we do it. It was like a symbol for all you bring into the world. I want to share with you how impactful it was, to experience the kick-off of a project with energy and intention in that way. On your On Purpose podcast, you end with what you appreciate about your guests, so I want to tell you what I appreciate about you, and tell you that you made a huge impact on me.
Jay Shetty: Well, first of all, I want to say that I'm really grateful to have this opportunity again to be with you. The fact that you remembered that says a lot more about you than it says about me, because it really takes someone who's present to notice and receive and take in. I really value that. That's one of your first memories of connecting, and I meant everything I said to you, I really did. When this opportunity first came through, I was so excited. I was so looking forward to it. [The day of our shoot], everyone was working on a Saturday, because of how busy my schedule is, and I felt terrible about that already...
TR: I didn't think twice about it. You come together when you need to come together, and it's all good.
JS: It was really wonderful to have that together. Again, I'm grateful, and I appreciate you so much for saying that. I do feel that pretty much everything I do; everything I try to do, I try to do as intentionally as possible, setting a clear reason for why I am there. I also feel that everyone's working so hard all of the time, doing what they do, so everyone needs to be noticed and heard and seen, and they need to hear why their work matters. Myself included. I'll have people who come up to me and say, 'Jay, I'm sure you hear this all the time..." I do read it in the comments sometimes, but I don't hear it all the time and in the same way. You don't just bump into people all the time in that way. So I do need it. I get fueled by people telling me, 'Jay, we love your work', or, 'This podcast helped me get through a tough breakup', or, 'This book helped me navigate anxiety'. Whatever it may be. I think we all need that pick-me-up from one another, and I'm glad that I could do it for you that day. But you also did it for me, so thank you.
TR: When I think about the full body of your work, I'm struck with how thoughtful you are about the details, even down to where certain ads are placed within your podcast conversations. Where do you think you first cultivated your eye, when did you begin observing the details in life?
JS: That's such a great question. When I finished primary school in London, if you asked me what my worst subject was, I would say it was art. My favorite subject was probably math, but that was forced, because my parents wanted it to be my favorite subject. Then, if you had asked me in high school what my favorite subject was, it would have been art. If you asked me what my least favorite subject was, it was math. My art teacher, Mr. Buckeridge, taught art very differently. I'm not good at fine art. I can't draw portraits, I can't draw figures, I can't draw people. But he talked about art through juxtaposition, through space and shape, through color and messaging. When we'd be in his art class and I'd create something, whatever it was, he'd always look at it and say to me, 'Why did you put that color next to that color?' And if I was making a collage, he'd ask, 'Why did you place that image next to that image"'. If I didn't have a good answer, I wouldn't get a good grade. It wasn't just about whether it looked good, it was about whether it meant something. I think he was the first person to teach me that, probably around age 11 through to age 18, when I was in his class. For him, it was never about how something appeared aesthetically, it was always about what the reason was, what the meaning was, what the intention was. I got so used to thinking about the why. I had to ask that question so many times before I presented a piece of work to him. It was the best training, because it was during his classes that I learned never to do something just because it looked good or because it worked, but because there was intention behind it. Even if it was as small as, 'I think that color reminds me of my childhood', or, 'I think this color means...', or, 'This juxtaposition of these two items represent a dilemma I have within'. That's probably where it began, and what I would trace it back to.
THIS AND ABOVE PHOTO: Dries Van Noten top and pants.
TR: You've said that at one point in your life you thought you might become an art director at a huge company. Branding is something that you've continued to pay attention to and apply to your mission. Today, in your work, in your Instagram feed, in your Love Rules tour---you can see the expertise and attention to branding in your mission for in this social media era we're within. How do your branding discussions take place, and what and whom do they involve?
JS: I'd say it's different for different things. For example, when I launched my podcast, even going back to when I first started creating content, I didn't even have a real website for a couple of years. When I launched my podcast in 2019, the picture that you would have seen there hadn't been considered too much. I wanted to launch a podcast; I focused heavily on the content. I focused heavily on the types of conversations I wanted to have. The branding for the podcast was an afterthought. I was so heavily focused on recording and making sure it sounded perfect. I wanted to make sure that the guests were awesome, and make sure that we were having really authentic conversations. Then, I had a photo shoot---which was done in like an hour---and I picked the best picture, put a logo on it, and put it out there. So I would actually say that some of my branding has been highly unintentional. When I think about my first book, Think Like A Monk, I was a first time author, so I didn't get to [Laughs] push my vision for what I wanted the book cover to be. I didn't have leverage in that conversation. I was happy to go along with what was suggested. I would say that for a few years, especially at the beginning of my career, I was more open to, 'I don't know; we'll figure it out.'. I'm going to make sure the content's amazing; I'm going to make sure that the book reads well; I'm going to make sure that the examples and the case studies are great. I've always placed the content above the branding, because I still believe that content needs to speak for itself. When content really touches someone's heart, or connects with someone's mind or their experience, they'll pass it on and share it, regardless. I've placed far more emphasis on content and content creation, whether it's a book, a podcast, or a social media video. Having said that, now, as things have developed, I have more time and energy to think about these things, and I have a bit more leverage to say what it is that I want, like what the tour should look like.
TR: What's happened now, is that this beautiful marriage of things in how you get your message across, is available through thoughtful visuals.
JS: Exactly. In the beginning, you often don't have the time and space to think about it. What I find is that creators spend too much time thinking about the form and not the substance, and the form won't ever carry the substance. Whereas, substance can make up for a lack of form, but form can't make up for a lack of substance. I think we can waste a lot of time having the perfect website or the perfect business card or the perfect cover...but if the work inside hasn't got the energy that you'd wanted to give it....And also the opposite is true. You can have the best content inside, but if you don't package it correctly, it won't reach as many people.
TR: It's such a fine line. It's a balance.
JS: Absolutely. With my new book, [8 Rules Of Love], if you take off the main cover, we've spent a lot of time working on getting the L-O-V-E that you see on the binding. We were very intentional, and I thank my creative partner on my team. Her name's Nicole Berg, and she has fantastic taste.
TR: As do you.
JS: [Laughs] I have good taste. She has really good taste, and we get along really well. It's kind of nice, after all these years, to have someone on my team who I feel that anything I share with her, will then come back and be this beautiful thing, and we'll keep evolving it. The book cover is something she was deeply involved in. It's about wanting to have that creative spark with someone else. I like that everything that I do, speaks to its own community, its own audience, its own brand. To me, On Purpose, is its own brand. 8 Rules of Love, is its own brand. It doesn't have to be meshed into one thing, because they speak to different people, help different people, serve different people. So often it's so easy for it to be one dimensional. I get to express different parts of my personality in different ways. We are currently going through the rebranding of On Purpose for that reason. I've evolved, I've grown, I've developed; the show has developed. It deserves to be expressed as how it stands today, rather than still being what it was years ago. I'm constantly iterating and pivoting, and being okay with upgrading.
TR: Usually our podcast interviews start with the beginning of a guest's life, their early life, but there are so many places where one can hear your amazing story...in your book, Think Like A Monk; on your podcast, where you trade stories with your guests---the number one health and wellness podcast. Rightfully so, because of the degree of authenticity and your perfect mix of a variety of elements. One of the things I love most about your podcast, is the inclusion of outside interviews of you. They're so thoughtfully used; they're used in a way in which they really add value to your podcast at large. They help your followers get to know you in a really comforting, intimate way. One thing that does have to do with your early life, something that I think makes your expertise and who you are so unique, something that has probably contributed to your success in a way that you would've never initially imagined---is that you studied public speaking from when you were 11 to 18. You really studied public speaking. I think the public speaking piece of your history and your background is so important. How much of that skill that you'd go on to develop for public speaking would contribute to where you are today, and how? Yours is practically a case for how public speaking classes should be mandatory in schools.
JS: Definitely. I was a very shy, introverted kid growing up, and my parents were scared that I wouldn't be able to connect and communicate effectively in a public way. They were the ones who forced me. They begged the teachers at school to accept one more student into this extracurricular [program] for public speaking that was run by the London Academy of Music Drama and Arts, LAMDA. I would probably say that for about nine hours a week over seven years, I went to public speaking school. This was on top of school. You did it afterwards. What was really fascinating was how the teachers taught you how to let go of your nerves. You'd make these funny faces. You'd pull your face to create different shapes; you'd make different sounds out loud in front of all your friends and your peers. There are only like twelve people in a class. It was very intimate, and very much how great teaching is. I'm really grateful to my parents for that opportunity. What was amazing was that you learned in front of your peers and your friends, to drop your guard, to not care about how you looked, to look silly, to be okay with how people perceived you. You weren't scared about whether your friends thought you looked cool, or whether you were living up to what they thought you should be. You kind of let go of all of that. What I found really interesting was that after those seven years, I walked away with the tools and the skills, but I realized I didn't have the space to channel them...until I met the monks. It was really interesting to me that you can have all of these tools and skills, but if you don't have something you're deeply passionate to talk about, there was no use for those skills. Sure, I used them in the workplace. I used them on my internships. People were always acknowledging me, and noticing it. Useful, but not fulfilling. I like to draw that distinction. You can have skills and habits that you're really good at and that are useful, but they can not fulfill you. When I started to talk about ancient wisdom and modern science and psychology, and how people's lives can improve and how we can uplift people through storytelling and words and language and the power of public speaking---that's when it really came alive for me. I really feel that it's been so powerful for my career. I had a toolkit that was unleashed when I became familiar with all of this new wisdom and these learnings that I had from my monks and teachers. It's interesting how it also had to continue to be nurtured and practiced. I think it's the same when learning a language, right? A lot of us learned languages at school that we can't speak. I'm one of those people.
TR: Me too. I minored in two languages in college, studied two in high school.
JS: I studied French, German, and Russian.
TR: I studied French and Russian in high school and in college. And I then had the pleasure of covering French designers and the Paris market during my career as a fashion editor. It was great, because I'd go to Paris two times a year. The TV would be on, I'd be out and about, and in that, you brush up on the language. If you're not doing any of that, where does your capacity for the language go?
JS: That's exactly it. We don't practice, and it's the same thing with public speaking. I found myself always being fascinated by watching great artists. I also spent a lot of time studying their lives, not because they were great artists, but because they were people who communicated to me. People like Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King, happen to be, in my opinion, two of the best speakers of all time. I've spent a lot of time studying their words and their work and the way they live their lives, because they've inspired me in different ways. Being exposed to incredible people in fields you want to learn and grow in; studying it---is so important. It's not good enough to only have the skills and know what you want to do. Yesterday I interviewed Rick Rubin on the podcast. He has this word in his book that he uses for an idea. I love it, he uses the word 'submerge'. I love it because I feel you don't just study something. You don't just learn something. You have to submerge yourself. You have to completely let go of yourself and sacrifice yourself to art for it to truly become real. Right now, while I'm on my world tour, everyone's like, 'How are you coping? How's your health doing?' I tell them that I basically have to sacrifice. I have to put aside, everything apart from the stage and the moments that I spend with my community and the audience who show up. There's a lot to be said for having complete focus, the laser-like attention that is a big part of public speaking, and that continues to be useful for me. It's something I've continued to work at. There's a famous quote from I think Albert Einstein, 'If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well enough.' That's my personal challenge to myself. How can I take a really complex, technical subject, and make it really simple, philosophically and spiritually? ...Or from a branding perspective, like you were saying. I'm fascinated by synthesizing and simplifying. I think it allows you to challenge yourself, and deepen your skills.
TR: How exactly do you prepare for each podcast? There's an organic and authentic quality to them; a back-and-forth way in which your conversations unfold. What is your philosophy on sharing?
JS: With the podcast, to begin with, my preparation is being present enough. If I have a list of questions, or if I have a direction that I want to go in, the challenge that occurs for most of us is that we constantly try to push something towards that direction. I find that when you're present, you only go in the direction that's unfolding. You accept it, and it is probably going to be the most beautiful direction you can go in. My preparation is what I call '50|50'. I'm aware of key talking points and key themes and key words, but then the other fifty percent is me just being present. If we get there naturally, that's beautiful. If we don't get there, that's beautiful too. Not having that pressure...we live in a world where we think there's only one right way or one right thing to do. One method, and one approach. I actually feel that what makes things special is having your own approach that is unique to you. You don't ask questions like anyone else, like you did today---by the way---which I love. No one ever asks me about branding, and I love talking about branding and marketing. So the fact that you started there...you already have a different side of me. And I'm activated differently. And that's beautiful. And I love that.
TR: That's the point of it all, right? You've interviewed a number of podcast guests at this point. We're almost five hundred episodes deep with you. I've read that you actively choose guests who are surprising.
JS: Absolutely. Because it creates this kind of synergy. It's what I'm always looking for. Who can I talk to, that people wouldn't expect me to talk to? And how can I, in that conversation, learn and understand more about them, potentially finding similarities and differences? And how do I also just ask the question that I think my audience is yearning to know? That's the connection-with-my-community part, where I look at every review, I look at every Instagram story tag that I possibly can. I check out the tweets. I love to see what people are taking away. I think that gives me a sense of what they're really looking for. What do they really want to hear and understand? It allows me to ask better questions, too. That's a big part of my preparation: studying my community's posts on Instagram and in TikToks; seeing everything that they're sharing, and seeing when they say, 'Hey, this really stood out to me from the last episode'. It helps inform what I think is important for the next episode. I have an intention that's never recorded, but that I say to every guest before we start. I share an intention, an intention that is, I believe that the people who know you, love you. My intention is that after a guest's podcast episode, more people will know them more deeply, and love them more deeply.
TR: How wonderful.
TR: Why did you write a book on love? Was it at this point in your life that you were hearing constant comments and conversations about struggles with and the subject of love? Were you hearing about it in your day-to-day life and thought, it's time to sit down and work on a book about love?
JS: When I started my work, I crafted these four pillars of all the work I do. It may not be publicly known, but it's hidden as an undertone behind everything I create. I believe that there are four important questions we as humans need to answer, in order to live a fulfilling life. The first question is, how do I feel about myself? What do I think about myself? That's a choice and a decision that we get to make, every day. Think Like A Monk was dedicated to helping people answer that question of identity. The second question is, who do I love, and who do I receive love from? That's a choice we get to make, whether it's with our family, our chosen family, our partner, our children, our friends. Who do I choose to love, and how do I choose to receive love? It's a choice. That's what 8 Rules of Love is dedicated to. The third question is, how do I make money, how do I find my purpose? How do I take care of myself in this real world that I live in? And the fourth question is, how do I serve the world, how do I give back? How do I become an agent for change in the world? To me, those four questions are the questions that we should be focusing our entire life system on...but we don't. We pay very little attention to those four choices. I believe the quality of those four choices defines the quality of our life. 8 Rules of Love was dedicated to helping people make better choices in love, in how they love, and how they want to receive love. So you are spot on. When I was recording podcasts about it two or three years ago, and during the pandemic, the constant thing I'd hear when I'd bump into someone is, 'Jay, I sent it to my friend who just went through a divorce, and he or she is so much better now'. Or, 'I sent it to my friend who just went through a breakup, and it's helped them so much.' Or, 'You know what? Your podcast really helped someone find self-confidence and self-love'. It was my approach, mixed with what I was hearing. And I thought to myself, the biggest things we all struggled with during the pandemic were relationships and loneliness. Those were the biggest things. The things I heard most often were, 'I'm lonely, I don't have anyone', or, 'I'm so stuck with the same person, and it's really hard". I thought, love and relationships deserve more air time.
TR: People have stayed with their practices and routines and patterns that formed during the pandemic. People have stayed lonely, and have gotten stuck, maybe realizing, wait, why am I still living this way? Why am I still trapping in my apartment, not making any plans? It feels like your book is so essential now.
JS: Thank you. The residual effect is that people have stayed stuck. It's human nature to find a new pattern and stick to it, and there's nothing wrong with that. We all need a pattern that serves us. The point is, does it still serve you? That's the question I always ask. It's not about changing your life for the sake of changing your life, and it's not about staying the same in order to stay the same. It's about saying, 'Does this serve me anymore?' I think if we ask that question more often, it would help us to reevaluate and reassess. And it doesn't mean a complete surgical removal of all things from our life in the name of this massive transformation. I'm not encouraging or recommending that. It helps us make the right shifts. And that's what 8 Rules of Love is all about. How can people make the right tiny, incremental shifts in their love lives and relationships, that have huge results?
TR: On your podcast discussion with Trevor Noah, he shared that he needs to take time to think and decompress after an interview. As someone who conducts interviews myself, I fully and completely feel the energy of the after-interview hanging in the air. How do you deal with the after interview energy of all of your own thoughtful talks?
JS: I love sitting with my team who's been in the room. I have Homer, who's my videographer, who's videoed, I'd say probably 80 percent of the podcasts that we have. He's been there with me for a long time. And I have Helena, who's my podcast lead. We try to keep the room quite tight. I remember for our shoot, we didn't have a lot of people in the room, and I quite like that. There's only three of us at every podcast recording. If the guest has a guest, then they often sit in, which is beautiful. We will sit down afterwards and be like, 'What was your standout point?' I love the opportunity to hear what Homer and Helena take away, and what I take away. I find that cross-sharing is really beautiful, because it shows you how you see things, and what you are dealing with. And it shows you what stuff stood out to two other human beings who are having the same experience. I think that's what's so beautiful about podcasting. Two people can listen to the same podcast or can watch it, and have completely different reactions and responses to it. There's a sound when someone opens a sparkling drink, right? There's a beauty in that sound, when it's just opened, and you don't get it again. It's the same when a podcast ends. You get that sound, and if you can capture that sound, the bubbles that are there, that moment is really special. I try to do that with my team. Helena will share her highlight, Homer will share his highlight, I'll share my highlight, and we'll share what we took away from it or what stood out to us. I always find that what they share is really eye-opening, because I'll gravitate towards something completely different. It's probably what I like doing the most after an interview.
TR: A lot of your discussions center around things like focusing on service and the higher self. As someone who is exposed to a lot of opportunity, as someone who is a seeker, an explorer, you are in turn, exposed to a lot of people and a lot of personalities. How do you deal with the uglier side of people, or those who don't have the best energy or the best intentions? I feel like people would really want to hear your perspective on this.
JS: I suppose I've found that when you slowly, patiently, build relationships with people---you make better decisions. Often it can be safer and better to do it that way. It doesn't just apply to love, it applies to business, to relationships, to friendship. When you move fast and at a pace, it can feel very exciting and very enthralling. I've found that my biggest mistakes in relationships have happened when we moved fast, and my best decisions have been when we have moved slow. I've found that we want to move fast because we just want to get things done. The reality is that as a creator, an entrepreneur, a business person, I have to move fast, and what I've learned is if I choose to do that, I have to accept that something could go wrong. I have to accept it. I can't then say, 'Why did this happen?' I have to accept that when you're moving fast there will be slip ups. There will be trips, there will be mistakes. I have to be okay with it, because I'd felt it was important for me to move fast. But I should then predict that there may be challenges in it in the future. I've made those mistakes. I've started things so fast and made so many mistakes, now I've learned to accept that it's going to happen when I do that. If something's really big and huge, and you work on it to slow down, it's often better, because you can make healthier decisions, and you can spot signs earlier. You can hear words earlier. I think all of us know, in our knowingness, that we're aware when someone is good energy or not, yet we find ourselves negotiating with ourselves, or debating with ourselves about it, because there's greed or ego that pushes you through and goes, 'No, no, no. Even if they're the wrong person, you could still be successful with them. Or, 'It's still a good opportunity'. Internally. ego and greed overpower the knowingness. The only way to change it is to continue to water the knowingness and say, 'In my heart, in my intuition, this just doesn't feel right. Even if it's right for me, even if it feels like it will be beneficial for me, I may have to not tread this path, because I know that eventually I'll regret it'.
TR: You were talking to your good friend, Lewis Howes on your podcast about being someone who makes a living in the self-improvement, health, spirituality, and wellness space . You are the epitome and example of how culture is shifting, but do you encounter any raised eyebrows or judgment?
JS: Yeah. Just like you said, naturally, there are raised eyebrows. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think it's good that we're asking questions about spirituality and wealth, and health and wellness and money. I think those are good questions to be asking. They're questions I ask myself every day, and they're not questions that are beyond me in any way. They're questions I've asked myself every day for all the years that my journey has taken. I've been doing this for a lot longer offline, when no one knew who I was, when there were no followers, and there was no money involved. I did this for ten years for free at events in London, and in small groups. I had a university club called Think Out Loud. From when I was 18 until I was 21, I would teach a session every week on psychology, spirituality, and pop culture. I would take movies like Inception or The Adjustment Bureau, and break them down, analyzing them psychologically and spiritually. I love it. I've done it for so long. When I first started making content, I thought I would make content on the weekends and evenings, and work a day job to pay my bills. To be honest, that's what I envisioned doing. That was the plan. I thought, I'm going to work a day job, it will pay my bills, and I'll use the evenings and weekends for my passion. Then, at one point, I got the opportunity to make it my every day. I never imagined this in a million years. I feel so blessed by the opportunity, and so grateful for it. At one point I'd had one hundred and fifty million views, and I was four months away from being broke. What that meant was, I would have to invest less in the videos. I was thinking about maybe stopping and slowing down, thinking that maybe I don't know where it all could go. I've made sense and peace with my direction. In order to really push and do this properly and effectively, it would have to be done professionally, and with teams. As I've mentioned, I have such a great team around me, and I'm coaching others. I also feel that they're getting to live their passion and their purpose, doing meaningful work in the world. Businesses and companies are great vessels for change in the world. I think we've seen that across the board. Silicon Valley companies have popularized meditation and mindfulness more than anyone else in the world, because they put them at the forefront. Teamwork and employee engagement have been popularized by companies who prioritize it. Even environmental work has been spearheaded by companies. A lot of good can come from business entrepreneurship and companies, they are different vehicles for change. I've seen it in my own life. I've been able to hopefully make more positive change by being a for-profit enterprise that's helped do more good in the world.
TR: I've heard you say that you have an approach to learning that's akin to getting what you need from a grocery store, When you need to learn a skill or learn about a topic, you go seek out the tools. A philosophy of yours is, 'How do I study? How do I read and learn so I can share, support and serve?' It's where you derive meaning. It's been a busy time in your life. Your 8 Rules of Love book was published; you're on your worldwide Love Rules tour. On a recent podcast, you said that you're looking forward to study and rest and creativity, because it's been a time where your focus has had to shift. If one follows you, it's very apparent just how much you store, take in, and research. When and where does that happen? How often? Where do you seek out information? Where do you record that information? What does Jay Shetty study look like?
Des Pierrot jacket and pants; Stella McCartney tshirt, P448 shoes.
JS: What a great question. I always start with, 'What am I struggling with right now?' I always start with a challenge that I'm facing, right now. Most often it's, 'What is a challenge that keeps resurfacing? What's a mistake I keep making? What's a lesson I'm not learning?' As soon as I highlight something, I think, okay, now I want to study it deeply. I'll go and open up tabs of every TED Talk on it; every podcast on it---that I can find. I'll search Amazon for every book. I'll read reviews. I'll speak to friends. It becomes my research mode. Step one is research. Talk to everyone about what you want to learn...
TR: A vigorous, gorgeous curation....
JS: Yeah. And see what they give back. If I tell all of my friends, 'Hey guys, I'm really struggling with leading a company right now' or whatever the subject is...
TR:... Like a mini focus group.
JS: Exactly. You start getting input. That's step one. The next is to actually consume. Whether a podcast or a book...Right now I'm looking at my desk and I have at least six books on it that I'm reading bits of, at all times. So, curation to consumption...and then my favorite part of studying. You have to test and experiment. Let me extract the tiny principle that I actually took away. I think we've gotten so addicted to reading books and finishing books, to finishing podcasts. I'm far more fascinated by the idea of, I heard something, and I'm going to try it out. I remember reading this great book by Daniel Coyle called Culture Code. I was trying to learn more about how to build a culture in my company, within my team, and in my brand. That book's brilliant. I highly recommend it. It was something that was recommended to me through a friend, and an example of how it wasn't something that I came across myself. In the first chapter he talks about how the best cultures are actually built on safety. I had always thought the best cultures were built on love. I realized when I read it that a lot of people don't know how to receive or factor in love, but safety is something we can all identify with. So I made that the core of how I built culture, and it transformed my team and my relationships and my company, and so many things. I found that it was the one tiny tidbit of insight that shifted what I was trying to do. That's the most important part for me, and I'm constantly trying to do it. You can curate, you can consume, but then you actually have to test and put it into practice.
Isabel Marant sweater and pants; The Good Fight tshirt; Alexander McQueen sneakers.
TR: You are Chief Purpose Officer for the Calm meditation app. Your series is such a daily treasure that appeals to so many, particularly if you're someone who maybe feels averse to meditation, or have struggled to meditate. Each session is a seven minute session and it includes breath work. What I love the most about it is that it includes a story with an accompanying takeaway message. How do you choose your daily stories for The Daily Jay?
JS: I literally just came back from recording Daily Jays today before coming to see you. I'm so proud of what we've done together. It's truly some of my favorite work that I create for sure, without a doubt. And I fully agree with you. When we lived in the monastery, meditation wasn't just being still and quiet: there was story, there was messaging, there was affirmation, there was mantra. I think meditation today has been far too simplified in some cases, and not in a bad way. It's absolutely helpful. But I wanted to kind of bring my authentic experience of meditation, and of course, give it my own flavor too. First of all, we have a phenomenal research team who knows me really well and whom I've worked with for a long time. We have brainstorms. Every single month I spend four or five days in the studio recording that month's Daily Jay's. It's a lot of deep hours. I was in the studio this morning for five hours. In five hours we get seven, eight episodes. And that's just the recording. The story selection is really based on a few things. One, is personal story. We'll do a brainstorm every month where I download experiences I've had that month; experiments I've done; conversations I've had with my wife; things that have happened in my personal world. It's one pillar of me... and we've broken it down into content pillars. The next pillar, is what I call motivational or inspirational stories. I've always loved the stories of people who've gone from nothing to something and have transformed themselves. We try to find obscure, discreet stories of people we've never heard of before mixed in with successful people who we recognize, the people who are well known. The third pillar, is studies. I have loved behavioral science since I was a kid. It's been my greatest fascination and my favorite reading. Most of the books I read are about behavioral psychology. Studies are a fascinating places to find stories. The fourth pillar is the parables: the zen-story stories that are from ancient scripture or old books; stories that have been told for years and years and years to inspire. Those four pillars allow us and allow me to go and mine what I need. I think that content has to be sincere and strategic at all times. It's sincere, because it's all the stuff I care about and love, but it's strategic, because it's thought about in pillars that are repeatable.
Roussin jacket and pants; Dr. Martens shoes.
TR: Today's Daily Jay was a story about 'MacGyvering' your idea around solutions to a problem. I love it because there were two pop culture/culture references to consider; a MacGyver reference, and a Southwest West Airlines reference. Southwest Airlines was having a problem with their ticketing. They were trying to solve a problem that might have cost them $2 million. It was only when thought out of the box and 'MacGyvered' ticketing, that they broke free of their past ways of doing things, and were therefore able to solve a huge problem. It's an example of the kinds of stories you get with The Daily Jay, along with some breath work and meditation. I think it's just wonderful.
JS: I love that. Thank you. That's the goal. The goal is for it to be fun and leave you with a sense of optimism, and most importantly, it's given you a practical tip in seven minutes on how to approach a problem today. You know you're going to face a problem, you know there's going to be a challenge today, and knowing that, do you have a tool for how to approach it? That's what the Daily Jay is dedicated to.
TR: You talk a lot about the fame culture of our current world. You're based in LA, and it's no secret that you have close friendships and relationships with celebrities and people who are public figures. You've interviewed and worked with many at this point. What's a common thread, in terms of what is difficult about fame? And as you've stepped into fame yourself, is there anything that you can now identify and say, 'Wow, this is something that I've routinely heard about from other people, but now it's something I have firsthand knowledge of?
JS: I think it's the biggest challenge that people who are known experience, is that everyone has their own story about you, and you wish you could sit down with each and every person and explain your side of the story or your perspective. Yet you can't physically ever do that. You're in a world where you feel no one will ever fully understand you. You feel so misunderstood. This is not a violin moment or a sob story, there's are many blessings that come with being familiar. That's the one I hear the most. People feel like not everyone will ever be able to understand them, and it's different when it goes from being five or ten people, to being five to ten million, or five to five hundred million, in terms of people having their perspective or opinion on you. That scale is really hard for the brain and mind to deal with. A few years ago I was asked a question on Justin Baldoni's podcast, Man Enough, and his co-host Jamie asked me the question, 'Jay, what do people value that you don't value anymore?' And I said, 'Being understood'. I'd realized that I'll never win at that. It's like trying to control the weather. I wish I could sit down with each and every person and express my intentions, share my heart, tell them what I've been through, and tell them my story. I wish I could do that, but I will never be able to do that. And so you have to live with the idea that a lot of people in the world will never fully know you, and therefore they may misjudge you, mistake you, or have conceptions about you---ones that you may not think to be true. That's the reality of it.
TR: Health is really important to you and to your wife, Radhi. You practice a clean and healthy lifestyle. You talk about the importance of exercise in your work. You personally kicked a chocolate habit. You work with functional medicine doctors to nip root causes of illness at the bud, rather than treat disease. How does that serve you in life, through your day-to-day, through the pressures, through the stresses? I think it would be really motivating for people to hear about that from you. And for the many people out there who are sober curious, when and why did you exactly decide to go back to not drinking? I know that when you were no no longer a monk, you went back to a few vices.
JS: I stopped drinking alcohol when I became a monk, and I never went back to it since. I haven't had alcohol for the last sixteen years. One of the vices that I went back to was chocolate, which is not that bad. I went back to almost the basic stuff, the stuff that at that time felt so bad, because I'd been away from it. Chocolate, movies, TV...all of which I obviously still do now. A few years ago I found that I either had to slow down or I had to up my health game. I realized that a lot of us feel like we're not as productive, we're not as effective, we're not able to do the things we want to do---because we're not taking care of ourselves well enough to push ourselves. That's been my personal experience. I always say to people that self care is not selfish, because you're doing it to serve more. I take care of myself and I prioritize myself, so that I can give more, and so I can serve more. I take care of my sleep and my diet and my workouts so that I can be of more service, not because I'm selfish and I think I'm important. A few years ago, I had a really tough gut. I've really had to really focus on my gut health. I realized that gut health had such a big effect on my energy and mental health. So often we're trying to solve a problem up there, but the problem is that we're not moving enough. The problem is that we're not eating right. Many of our psychological challenges are actually physical challenges, and so many of our physical challenges are actually psychological challenges. If we start thinking about the levers we have, and for me, those are what I eat, sleep, working out; mind and meditation. I call it MEDS: meditation, exercise, diet, sleep. Take a look at your MEDS and think, which ones am I not doing right? All you have to do is play or tinker with one of them, and you'll start to see how it all starts to fit together. The problem is that we try to solve all of them all at the same time, or we just don't look at them. We try to focus on one thing and think, 'God, if I just sort out my mental health, everything will be okay.'. And the point is, you can't change how you feel by changing your feelings. You change how you feel by changing your thinking and your doing. I think we spend too much time in our feelings, and not in the thinking and the doing...
TR: ..All four work in tandem.
JS: Exactly. Exactly. They all work together. I always say to people, if you can grab one thing out of those four that you are going to focus on for the next month and just one month, try and create that one habit. For me it was my sleep first, then it was my exercise, then it was my diet. Meditation has always been a part of my life so that wasn't something to work on as much, but the sleep, diet and exercise were three things that I hadn't worked on, and now I'm constantly tinkering with them. It's not like I've perfected them. Right now, I've been recovering from my tour, so I've been really on top of those four things. When I'm on tour, some of them go out the window and that's just life. You accept that there's no one who has the same perfect routine every day; you are always trying to get back on it. That's true, that's reality.
Etro shirt; Des Pierrot pants; Tommy Hilfiger sneakers.
TR: I went to your Love Rules show in New York at the Beacon. What were the discussions like, around what would comprise your tour and its shows? What did you discuss about the look and feel, the tools you'd use to punctuate your ideas? Your show, no surprise, is a totally fresh take on the sharing of these kinds of ideas on stage.
JS: Thank you. Thank you. I love hearing that, because I've always wanted to put on a show like this. Only now do I have the relationships and the people around me so I can. Steve Jobs said famously that, 'Creativity is just connecting things'. I've always loved that, and I always try to connect the things that I love. Obviously the show is about love and I thought, how can I put everything I love into a show? I love spoken word and rap music, hence the show begins with that. I love game shows, and so the show has a game show. I love first dates and the curiosity around them, so the show has that. I love meditation, so the show has that. I love grand gestures of love, so the show has that. The show is made up of all these things. I love pop culture. I talk about India, because I love India. I talk about the spiritual experiences I've had there. The show is made up of things I love, because it's about love. How could it not be filled with the things I love? My favorite two performers growing up were David Blaine and Derren Brown. I've always loved illusion and magic. I love the feeling you get after you've seen a magic trick. You have this blown away feeling of 'Wow', this visceral, physical feeling. I grew up as an amateur magician too, playing around at home. My parents would buy me all these tricks and cards and things. I'd always said to myself, how can you help personal growth? How can you do something that gives people the feeling that they just watched magic on stage? Because it is magic. It is magic when someone calls up a loved one they haven't said it to for years, and tells them that they love them. That is magic. It is magic when someone, in front of four thousand people, goes off into a cave, gets locked in, spends time alone, and comes out with a revelation. I wanted people to feel the magic of growth, and I also wanted people to feel the discomfort of growth, because I think that, for too long, what's been portrayed in self development and personal growth is the before and the after. Before, I was in trouble. After, I've solved everything and it's perfect. Everything's perfect. What the show does, is that it shows the middle, the discomfort of dialing that person, the discomfort of arguing with your partner, the discomfort of going on a first date. Growth is on the other side of discomfort. I wanted my show to speak to it by having people watch other people who look like them and sound like them, people who they can relate to, and go on a journey together.
THE ONLY AGENCY
THE ONLY AGENCY
ASSISTANT | PHOTO: BING PUTNEY
ASSISTANT| FASHION: SAVANNAH STEILNER
assistant | grooming: Crystal lozada