It’s rare to find a podcast episode that awakens your inner heart. James Altucher’s interview of the singer Jewel opens your universe. For those going through a struggle, reinvention, or midlife crisis, Jewel’s journey from homeless girl to a mindful artist provides a guide on how to thrive during uncertain times.
As a child of divorce living in Alaska with her father, Jewel had a unique upbringing. On one hand, she was a homesteader─living off the land in a sustainable way─and grew up in a barn. On the other hand, she and her dad routinely sang at bars which allowed her to express and nurture her musical talents. Jewel’s father was abusive which complicated matters even further. When most kids her age were goofing off, she struggled with “nature vs nurture” questions. Am I doomed to an abusive life where I will abuse others or can I cultivate a mindset that allows me to change my situation?
“Could I re-nurture myself?”
She chose to change her destiny and at the tender age of 15, Jewel enrolled at a high school for the arts and moved by herself to Michigan. What insight from such a young person!
Jewel moved to San Diego to be closer to her mother once she graduated from high school. After being propositioned by her boss and refusing to have sex with him, Jewel found herself jobless and living out of her car. During this period of her life she became sick multiple times from kidney infections. She was so sick and febrile at one point, she walked into a hospital in a daze but was refused medical care for not having insurance! Luckily an “angel” doctor found her and provided her with free medical care and antibiotics. Yet things got worse when someone stole her car, the one place she called home. In an instant, Jewel was homeless and living on the street at the age of 18!
“It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. It’s a very demoralizing thing to be in that type of position where you’re just stuck on survive mode.”
While living in this animalistic mode with no hope and no money, she decided to shoplift a dress from a store. She stopped when she saw her reflection in the mirror. Is this really who I want to be? At that moment she recalled a quote by the Buddha, “Happiness doesn’t depend on who we are or what we have, it depends on what we think.” Yet again she used her resiliency skills to create a positive outlook during a dark time. Mind over matter! First, she learned about her own fear and anxiety.
“Fear is this thief, and it takes the past and projects it into the future. It robs you of the only moment you have to create any change in your life”
Then Jewel started noticing her hands. They were always clenched or held tightly to her body. So she let them go: she used her hands to to shake others’ hands and to open doors for people. Finally, she brokered a deal with a coffee shop to increase their customer base by receiving payment to sing. At the age of 19 while still living on the streets, she was offered a $1,000,000 deal to sign to a record label!
Any homeless 19-year-old would have signed immediately. Not Jewel! She had the foresight to read up on record deals and knew she would not be able to sell enough records to meet the requirements of the contract. She decided to sign a much smaller deal which allowed her to express her authentic style of music─the type of music that was vulnerable and didn’t actively seek out an audience. Jewel learned from nature to cultivate herself to be a hard-wood tree instead of a soft-wood tree.
“Hard wood grows slowly.”
Yet hard-wood trees think long-term and are able to survive life’s upheavals due to a solid foundation.
“Shortcuts lead to soft-wood trees that fall over quickly.”
Despite Jewel’s huge success in the music industry, she still faced challenges later in life such as a divorce and mismanagement of her earnings by her mother. Each time she encountered a new challenge, Jewel reinvented herself by working HARD and nourished her inner happiness rather than focusing on external outcomes.
“What if it’s not that I’m broken? What if there’s a part of me that exists whole at all times? I just have to do a very loving archaeological dig back to my whole self.”
She followed the map of her inner self and her inner values, not the map of others. Jewel concentrated on the goals that were speaking to her soul. As a physician who quit my practice, I know firsthand how difficult it is to listen to your inner voice because of the distracting sounds of society’s expectations.
Jewel’s journey proves that success is a mindset. It doesn’t matter if you have only $50 in your bank account because you are capable of improving your situation by altering your thoughts. For those who think it’s too late to reinvent yourself, think again. Life is about change! Change your goals, change your lifestyle, and change your mindset to become the true person you were meant to be.
If there’s one podcast episode you listen to, let it be this one! Click on the link below to play or download the podcast.