There’s an image going around the Internet of a RadioShack ad from the 1980s. It features a page of electronic items that were available at the time — things like cassette recorders, telephones, cameras, AM/FM radios, compasses, alarm clocks, etc. The caption makes the point that all of these items, everything advertised on the entire page, are now merged into one device we call the iPhone.

The image is a funny and amazing reminder about the power of innovation, and how entrepreneurial spirit can change the world and make it easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. This spirit is behind all great inventions, shapes our world, and brings our wildest dreams to fruition.

When it comes to spirituality we tend to check these ideals at the door and, instead, accept the status quo without much thought or questioning. While electronics from the 1980s can be unrecognizable today, spirituality has changed very little over the last several hundred years (or if we’re being really honest, the last thousand). While we are entrepreneurially adaptive in our business culture, we are stiff and unmoving in our spirituality.

This would be just fine if our world was happy, loving, and filled with compassion … but it’s not. In fact, when we look around we see the opposite. We’re tired, stressed out, angry, and sick. As a global community we are engaged in warfare against each other, the planet, and ourselves at a magnitude that makes even the most positive among us wonder if there will be a world in the future. And many of the religious ideals that have remained unchanged for so many, many years are at the center of this fighting.

In the business world we have an overriding metric for entrepreneurial success: money. The evolution of the iPhone from an entire store of individual items into one, easy-to-use handheld device is deemed a success because it generated a lot of money. We don’t have to investigate, wonder or worry if it’s working, we simply look up the sales figures on the Internet and there it is. The iPhone is a success because the metric tells us so.

Spirituality is different. We don’t have many defined spiritual metrics. In a larger sense we might not even know what we’re searching for in our spiritual lives. While business is a venture in making money, spirituality can be about many different pursuits — love, salvation, immortality, joy, acceptance, healing grace, redemption, etc. The lack of clear goals and metrics makes it difficult to know when we’re succeeding. We don’t know how to be good at spirituality. So instead of innovating we join a club, we latch onto a tradition, and we follow ancient rules of success.

For many this brings a sense of fulfillment, community, and relevance. Others though, feel torn, stretched between the desire for a spiritual practice and community and the need to build something more personal. We enjoy the connection that religion brings but find that the rules don’t align with our intellectual and moral beliefs. We want to innovate and adapt, but that isn’t welcomed in religion. Holding a new and ever-evolving smartphone in one hand and a set of old rules from past times in the other, we find ourselves stuck and conflicted between our entrepreneurial values and our religious ones.

In my book, I wrote about the moment this all came front and center for me. President Obama had announced that his beliefs around gay marriage had “evolved” and cited his religion as one of the major factors in that evolution. This announcement caused an uproar in many religious circles, including mine. I watched as many of my friends, my pastor, and the community in which I had once found love and companionship behaved with intolerance, bigotry, and injustice … and I could no longer stand with them. The breaking point for me came when my pastor told me that my mom, who had passed a year earlier, was in hell because she had married a woman.

As I had so many times in my scrappy, entrepreneurial life, I was forced to find my own way, to create a spiritual practice that aligned with my own values and worked for my life. But I faced a major hurdle — without the simple measure of success of following religious rules, I wasn’t sure what I was aiming at or how to succeed.

I had learned about the power of metrics many years earlier as a young executive at Live Nation. My mentor and boss, Michael Rapino, had placed me in charge of a struggling division of the company. It was my first big job, and what I lacked in experience I made up for in commitment and passion to succeed. Every night for a month I worked at the office with a small team analyzing the past performance of the division, looking for the one “aha” metric that would allow us to grow. Again and again I took our findings to Michael and each time he shook his head and asked me to dig deeper. I asked him how I’d know when I’d found the key metric, he smiled and said, “You’ll know you’ve found it when you don’t have to ask that question.” He was right. After a month of analysis we found our metric. It became our mantra for a year of growth as we rallied our team. One simple metric became our touchstone … or path to success.

As I began patching together my spiritual practice I called upon my experience in business metrics. I questioned my spirituality the way Michael had taught me years earlier to question our business. I poked, prodded, challenged, and asked why. Ultimately I found the answer in the simple metric of “JOY.” What I was searching for in my life was an overriding sense of joy. Not a momentary or fleeting joy like the temporary pleasure of cold lemonade on a hot summer day, but a lasting and enduring joy. Guru Singh calls this unreasonable joy — joy beyond all intellectual knowing. The great Dzogchen Master Nyoshul Khenpo referred to it as “sublime joy” in his classic book Natural Great Perfection. Perhaps my son said it best in the handmade, construction paper Father’s Day card he gave me when he was five describing the joy he experienced when we were together: “You make me feel all ticklish inside.”

Joy is a hard metric for us to associate with spirituality. As children we’re taught that spirituality involves sacrifice, suffering, and even martyrdom. And sometimes it does. Our path to spiritual growth is often difficult, it involves looking in the mirror, accepting what we see, and developing habits to override past programming to create the life we want. Throughout all that, though, we can experience joy. The joy of curiosity … joy of exploration … joy of insight … joy of change … joy of self-love and of the true acceptance of who we are. This unreasonable joy isn’t free from pain; instead it’s the knowing that we are free to experience joy within the pain.

In our physical bodies joy is cellular. At this level joy is experienced through the open flow of energy among our cells. We communicate joy to our cells by sharing nutrients in the form of nutrient-dense foods, through activities that promote openness like yoga, tai chi, and long walks on the beach, and by getting a good night’s rest.

In our emotional bodies joy comes from letting go. We experience emotional joy through a long, deep breath and the release of our emotional tightness on the wings of our exhale. Emotional joy can come by connecting with others, by feeling seen and heard, or from a tender hug in a moment of pain. It’s the sensation I felt when I read that beautiful Father’s Day message from my son.

In our spiritual bodies joy is experienced through acceptance, stillness, and connection with the parts of us that transcend our physical bodies. We sit, breathe, and allow ourselves to become aware of something beyond the whirling of our minds. We allow our thoughts and feelings to be as they are, while inviting a deeper, lasting joy in the form of nothing at all … this is sublime, unreasonable joy.

This week I invite you join me in looking at your spiritual practice. Be a spiritual entrepreneur. Challenge a bit. Explore the role of spirituality in your life. Ask yourself the question “what is my metric?” If you find that the metric isn’t in alignment with the joy, peace, and love you’re looking for in your life, examine the parts of your practice that may need altering. Like the RadioShack ad, give yourself the freedom to mix and match until your spiritual practice contains the components that you desire in your life.

Spirituality is the path by which we learn to love and accept ourselves as we grow. Breathe deeply and allow yourself that gift with unreasonable and lasting joy.

Big hugs of love,

I invite you to enjoy my conversation with Entrepreneur Magazine: Using Your Entrepreneurial Values To Avoid Burnout

  1. Everything changes in life, including ourselves. Rules that used to apply, no longer do, as we grow and change. Some are helpful, some are outdated and need to be removed or revised.

    Technology can even help with our spiritual practice. I downloaded an app to help me meditate. It has guided meditations in it, and it also keeps track of statistics and milestones. It helped me get into a regular practice – because at first I wanted the next milestone, a prize for meditating every day (funny how we want that star next to our name!). Now, it’s become a regular habit. But one thing I discovered along the way was there are a whole community of people out there who are also meditating.

    There’s a place in the app for me to write a little about my spiritual practice. So I wrote that I practice “bubble meditation”. Quite simply, I use bubbles as a focus, when I see them to stop, take a deep breath, relax, and really enjoy the moment. Bubbles are fun and childlike, which brings me joy. They are slippery and soapy, they smell nice, and you can play with them. It’s what works for me as regular reminders throughout the day to take a moment for myself, to stop worrying, to just experience the moment.

    I’ve had lots of people ask me about my bubble meditation, and I have found, like you, that so many people are very rigid in what they follow. If some guru they follow didn’t say it was allowed, then it’s not allowed. If it doesn’t fit with the rules then it cannot be done.

    A thousand years ago people walked, rode animals or in a boat. But today we can ride a bike, take a bus, a car, a train, a plane, a motorcycle, a helicopter, a hot air balloon, a water ski, a hang glider, etc….why limit ourselves to just one thing (or a few small things) that have worked in the past? There are so many options available, and the trick is finding what works for us. Everyone is unique and special, so what works for one person may not work for the rest. It’s up to us to forge our own path – my daughter and I are expanding our bonsai collection to create our own little zen garden to relax in, which works for us, but may not for others. And you’re exactly right, we need a matrix to do so. For me, it’s peace and love. Those are the two things I strive for. Peace more so because I can’t move past my physical pain yet to really strive for the joy part…I settle for quiet moments of just feeling nothing. Those moments where there is an absence of pain just allow me to breathe, to relax fully. It’s rare right now but I know it will change soon (surgery is less than 2 months away now!). Then my focus may change again to look for that joy, and not just the peace.

    Thank you for sharing that quote from your son’s card. I love the way kids think, so full of joy and so honest too. They call it as they see it without all the extra layers we tint our perceptive with from experience. 🙂

    Enjoy your weekend. Big hugs!

    Faith, hope and love, Kathleen.

      • Hi Kathleen, I’m really wanting to start meditating on a regular basis but am so confused as to what type or where to start as there’s so many different ways and as a beginner,it can also become a little frustrating and overwhelming at which one to choose or if I’m even doing it correctly!!! My question for you is, what is the name of the app that you used to start your meditation with because I feel that it very well maybe the very one I need to keep me motivated to start it and perhaps the one that I can use to reap all the great benifits that meditation has to offer??? Thank you so much for your reply on here as you made some extremely wonderful ideas!!!

  2. Good evening,
    My life lessons learned me a lot,even after the loss of both of my daughters facing death a lot of times,cancer the second time,and a lot more.I am thankful for all my lessons because as Jesus said:if you have eyes to see,so see,when you have ears to hear,so listen..”—Life is a gift and everything is for a reason,so my body is weak now after all the chemo treatments,but my soul soarces I believe I can fly,yes I do….Our life is about LOVE–unconditional LOVE the more we give the more we receive,how simple is that? ITS ALL ABOUT L.O.V.E.—Michael Jackson.—Lets love each other<3

  3. I love this notion of innovation in spirituality. Breaking free from being a follower and gathering a set of tools to forge our own spiritual path using joy as a metric sounds wonderful. Thank you.

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you Ravi. I like to think of Joy in terms of the physical, emotional and spiritual. From that perspective you can find the measurements that are important in your life. Perhaps physically its the level of tension in your shoulders, an openness in your chest and the ability to take a deep breath; emotionally it might be a feeling of well-being, a smile on your face or a sense of balance; and spiritually we might look at the knowingness that all is well or the ability to sit in meditation with easy. For each of us the measurements are different, just as the metrics might vary. The important thing I’ve learned is to find a metric and few personal measurements, give them a try and allow yourself the freedom to move and adapt until in feels right for you. Big hugs – Jason

  4. louise owen says:

    Thank you , this is exactly the journey i am on at the moment and for the past few years and popped up just when i needed the wisdom and encouragement ..

  5. this was so interesting to us on so many levels!
    we tried a lot of traditional religions over the years
    I (wendy) was even an ordained minister, until a couple of years ago, when I just could no longer go along with the dogma, the politics, and the lack of joy’…..I then gave up the ministry …

    now, we both find joy in the discovery of things that create more and more joy…we try many different methods and techniques, pushing the limits of what people say can be done—and we find there are no limits….
    every day bring new ideas—–every day brings new sources of joy—-and we feel that we have barely begun to do, and be and have all the things that joy brings…..

    we cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings our way

    peace, love, and joy xxoo
    wendy and ian

    • Jason Garner says:

      Love how you express that — “pushing the limits of what people say can be done… we cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings our way.” Big hugs to you both – Jason

  6. Jason, what a fantastic article – thank you for sharing! As a young entrepreneur finding his way through, I stumbled upon this article at just the right time. I look forward to getting out there and reading your book 🙂

    All the best Jason,

  7. Thanks for these words! first time reading your posts after hearing you in the latest Rich Roll’s podcast. Lots to digest at the moment but this feels like music to my ears.

    Do you have any article, blog, book, etc that can extend on the concept of self-love?

    thanks again!

  8. Ray Khelawan says:

    Wow! This is definitely something that I;m trying to do. In addition to reading your blog, i have been reading The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen. He is really teaching me that what I say has an negative impact on my life… I`ve decided to watch what I`m going to say. It also correlates with the things that you have said in re: to our thoughts, spirituality, etc. I`ve re-started getting into that positive mindset again, because the job that I recently quit put me in a negative place. I`ve started to read and say more positive things, have gone back to my green juices, have gone for walks and am trying to be more active. I`m trying to get back into yoga again as well….and I`m interested in tai chi! Everything is starting to look up. All is well! Thanks Jason!

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