The venner of charisma can eat some men alive. It made Jason Garner a millionaire but nearly swallowed him whole. He lived the life of a hustler; a trailer park kid who made it to the top, squeezing a dollar out of 15 cents. But he didn’t need to push a pool cue or a ponzi scheme—just a product to sell to an underserved market.
Rising from the shanty shops of a San Jose flea market, where he sold English-Spanish dictionaries and soccer cleats, Garner became one of the most influential and highly paid executives in the live music industry. As CEO of Global Music for Live Nation, Garner made Forbes‘ list as the 15th highest paid executive under 40. Pluckiness, a keen eye for talent, an ability to upsell, and an appetite for the finer things in life—all of these characteristics made him a winner. Until he lost it.
Job burnout, his mother’s death and two divorces, a replay of the broken relationships Garner’s single mom had undergone when he was a child, paved a path to self-destruction. This is the first chapter of Garner’s life, recounted in entertaining detail in his new memoir, … And I Breathed. The last four years of his life make up the second half of his book, which details his spiritual journey away from corporate America and the need for adulation, power and money.
Working his way to understanding was a raw and emotional journey—so much so he broke down and cried constantly, even when confronted with an Adam Sandler movie—but Garner, 41, says he has finally found peace.
“I was the guy that everybody turned to to get things done, and all of a sudden my mom died and I was constantly in tears,” he tells Metro in a recent interview. “Now, I have to appreciate the value of what crying was for me then and for everybody. It’s a detox to let these emotions out of our body.”
There is no shortage of fond memories in the tome. He rubbed elbows and became friends with some of the world’s most famous musicians and athletes. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin badgered him on tour for months to shave his mustache so he wouldn’t be confused with a ’70s porn star. Toby Keith playfully laid waste to Garner’s green cardigan, asking who the hell would think it appropriate attire to a country music concert. Enrique Iglesias pranked him, taking his cell phone to send weird texts and a fake resignation letter to his boss—the crooner also proved to be a lifelong friend, going out of his way to meet and embrace Garner’s cancer-stricken mother not long before she died.
That loss precipitated Garner’s journey to self-awareness, leading him on a path to understand why he drove himself to the brink.
“Deep inside, you feel like in order to be loved you have to do something,” he says. “It keeps that pressure on because you think, ‘Oh, my god, what am I going to do next? If I don’t keep up this work, and not just work, but these successes, everyone will realize I’m not that good and it will all come tumbling down.'”
Garner quit his job in 2010, which at its height paid him a reported $1.5 million a year, and he began to absorb lessons from an assortment of gurus. He doesn’t so much preach as recount a series of discussions that led to him altering his body and mind. The book balances stories of globehopping with rock stars along with teachings from Shaolin monks and an alabaster-skinned yogi. It makes for a jarring juxtaposition, but it’s one that mirrors just how sharply his life turned.
“One of the things that was important to me was I didn’t want to write the tell-all about my time in the music business,” Garner says. “So, I was willing to dish all the dirt on myself, but I didn’t want to dish all the dirt on other people. I wanted it to have enough rock & roll for people to have a flavor of what my life was like.”
And while it’s not a tell-all, it’s also not a self-help book, which Garner admits can sometimes make people feel “shittier” if they don’t measure up to an author’s idealistic vision.
“I don’t think you have to follow my path,” he says. “As I say in the book, we can change the world from our desks.”
Read an excerpt from ‘And I Breathed’