What Do Warriors, Monks, And Entrepreneurs Have In Common

Published on Forbes 9/9/2014

What do warriors, monks, and entrepreneurs have in common? We were surprised to discover that there is more than one might think.

Our leadership group at Fishbowl was fortunate to read a pre-release of Jason Garner’s enlightening new book, entitled And I Breathed: My Journey from a Life of Matter to a Life That Matters. According to Jason, a former Fortune 500 company executive turned spiritual student, true entrepreneurial success comes from embracing the qualities of both warrior and monk as we learn to see life as a never-ending opportunity to learn and breathe.

His sage wisdom hit solidly home and offered a fresh perspective on life, work, and the importance of expressing our true nature in both.

He and I belong to the same club. It’s not one that many hope or seek to join. Five years ago Jason lost his mother to stomach cancer, the same disease that claimed the life of my 25-year-old son, Cameron. We both know what it is like to crawl out of an enormous pit of pain one day at a time; sometimes making progress, sometimes sliding back.

Jason and I have never met in person or even shared a phone call; yet we know one another because we have walked the same path.

What do warriors, monks, and entrepreneurs have in common? More than you might think.

Everyone in life has been brought low at one time or another. Jason’s story reminds us that as long as we continue to breathe, live, and learn things really will work out for the best in the long run.

He writes about the beauty, grace, and dignity of his mother in his book and how she inspired him. Many of the qualities he points out in his book I (and many others) saw in my son, Cameron. They are the traits that represent the warrior and monk in us all:

  • As entrepreneurs we find opportunity in all situations and offer hope and inspiration to those we work with.
  • As valiant warriors we demonstrate the courage to stand up for our beliefs and fight to see them to fruition.
  • As gentle monks we see ourselves in others and respond with loving kindness instead of judgment and blame.

The way of the warrior often comes easy to an entrepreneur. We instinctively know how to fight, conquer, and win. But the qualities of the monk, the gentler, softer side we often hide as we conquer the world, take practice to hone and polish. It’s the combination of these two opposing forces that gives us the wisdom and courage to succeed in life and business.

We enjoy learning from master guides, and Jason is a few miles ahead of us as an entrepreneur, warrior, and monk. He has been to the top of the mountain as both an entrepreneur and a spiritual seeker.

He spent the first 37 years of his life working his way up from flea market parking attendant to CEO of Global Music at Live Nation—never slowing down because of his belief that to be loved he had to be the best.

He worked with rock stars and sports legends and was twice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the top 20 highest-paid executives under 40.

Then at the height of his career, Jason, in the middle of his second divorce, held his mother as she lay dying of stomach cancer. Feeling empty inside, he left his high-powered job and went on a quest to find the true meaning of success, which took him high into the mountains of China and the Shaolin Temple—the birthplace of the seemingly contradictory mix of Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism.

From an open heart and a sense of confident vulnerability, Jason now shares the lessons learned on this journey and what he continues to discover through the daily adventure of life at www.jasongarner.com.

Below, Jason shares with us what he’s learned about balancing the warrior and the monk in us all:

After spending a lifetime defining myself through business success and feeling unfulfilled, I arrived at the gates of the Shaolin Temple having left business behind in the belief that my happiness could only be found through a peaceful monk-like existence devoid of the challenges of business. What I discovered is that we can have both business and peace of mind, and that those qualities—warrior and monk—reside in us all.

The challenge we all face in our warrior-driven culture is finding the balance with the monk inside. That balance is what allows us to find peace and true happiness amidst the chaos and challenges of everyday life.

Here are the three key points I learned from the warrior-monks of the Shaolin Temple that we can all apply to our lives:

True strength comes from an open heart.

We spend so much time in business pretending to not have feelings out of fear of losing the game. But by letting this fear win out we often lose before we start. We may find business success, but we never feel successful as the true success of joy and peace eludes us. By opening our hearts and connecting with others from that place of true strength we form real relationships, experience success in all areas of life and neutralize the fear by acknowledging it.

Finding peace in life doesn’t mean losing your edge.

I like to call this opening your heart while sharpening your sword. What I learned from the monks is that a peaceful mind is also an alert mind that can see beyond the crisis of the moment. This peace allows us to have long-term vision in business, to attract others to follow us and to operate with an ease and confidence that others lack.

Life is a toolbox—we get to choose.

Once we have allowed both sides of us to flourish—the warrior and the monk—we then have the choice of which to apply to the situations life presents us. We can choose the sword when it is appropriate for battle or a monk-like approach when circumstances call for serenity. We are no longer trapped into always having to fight it out. We have a toolbox that allows us to become versatile leaders in a complex world.

As entrepreneurs, we are bombarded by the demands of daily life. As warriors, we have learned to fight the good fight. Perhaps it is time to cultivate our gentler sides by acknowledging all aspects of ourselves and using our strength and serenity as tools to find the balance, peace, and true success we are seeking.

What do Warriors, Monks, and Entrepreneurs have in common? We believe it is courage. The courage to be strong and kind simultaneously. This recipe makes for a mighty fine entrepreneur.

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