Finding Mastery: A Conversation with Michael Gervais and Jewel

Dr. Michael Gervais speaks with singer-songwriter Jewel and Wisdom 2.0 founder Soren Gordhamer about the hard work it takes to figure out who you truly are.

Dr. Michael Gervais has a podcast series called Finding Mastery built around a central goal: unpacking and decoding how the greatest performers in the world use their minds to create amazing journeys while they pursue the boundaries of human potential.

This week he sat down with singer-songwriter Jewel, and Wisdom 2.0 founder Soren Gordhamer, for an hour-long conversation about the hard work it takes to figure out who you truly are, what forgiveness means, and why perfectionism can be an inhibitor to mastery:

Michael: Welcome to the Finding Mastery podcast. The idea behind these conversations is to learn from people who are on the path of mastery. We want to better understand the path they’ve lived and the path they’re carving. We want to understand what they crave, what they’re hungry for, what they want more than anything else in their life. And we want to understand what it is that they’re searching for in their life, how they see the world. And we want to dig underneath the surface and see if we can understand the mental skills that they’ve used to build and refine their craft.

The idea behind these conversations is to learn from people who are on the path of mastery.

… I want to share this idea one more time with you guys: every day is an opportunity to create a living masterpiece. This conversation pulls on that thread like you wouldn’t believe. So, together hopefully we can make this commitment to carve our unique paths with some fuel and some fire and just really get after it in life. So, let’s jump right into this conversation…

As you know, Jewel, the Wisdom 2.0 conference that Soren has set up, has been this incredible hub of really switched on people who are highly engaged in their life, and at the same time care about other people and the wellness of the world through their practices. And so, it’s not surprising to me that you and I are meeting because of Wisdom 2.0, because of Soren. I’m excited to meet you and excited to learn from you, as well.

Jewel: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to talk you.

Michael: There are people and events that deeply influence our path in life. Can you pick one of those two, either a person or an event, that helped to shape you in a significant way and set you down a trajectory to where you are now? And can you tell us some stories about how you became who you are.

Jewel: Yes. When I was 15 I was faced with this decision of: do I want to go out on my own? My parents got divorced when I was eight years old. My mom left and my dad took over raising us. We moved back to the homestead where my dad was raised. I grew up living in a saddle barn. My dad had pretty significant PTSD—he had a very abusive childhood and then went straight to Vietnam and then straight into being a dad. And when my mom left, it really triggered him. And so he handled that the best he knew how—I’m very grateful that he took my brothers and I and raised us. But, he also turned to drinking to try and handle and manage his anxiety. And so there was a really dramatic change in my life, not only from the divorce and moving onto the homestead, but also this huge behavioral change in my dad as he became physically abusive when he began drinking.

So we had a somewhat transient life. I grew up bar singing with my dad. I’d been on stage actually since I was five. My parents had a show in hotels for tourists. And when my mom left I became my dad’s partner, I guess—I was the only fourth grader that went from elementary school right to the bar—which was educational. And I began writing at this time because I started seeing people in pain.

I tried to face the pain as it came, and I turned to writing, which ended up being the beginning of my mindfulness practice.

When you’re in barroom, you watch people dealing with pain and all kinds of ways. And I realized that you never actually outrun pain. And because I was now in pain, you know, with the divorce and my dad becoming abusive, I made a couple promises to myself: one was not to drink, or to use the tactics I was watching in the bar rooms that I saw didn’t work. I saw people with pain try and cover up their pain, and avoid their pain, and it ended up adding layers and layers and layers and layers of more pain. And so, I tried to face the pain as it came, and I turned to writing, which ended up being the beginning of my mindfulness practice. When I was 15 I made a decision to move out on my own, and that was, for me, this very seminal moment in my life.

Michael: OK. Can I can totally interrupt, and I know that I’m interrupting, and I want to hear your story, but, I don’t know how I can keep track of the 15 gems that you just said. So, for me, I need to slow down for just a moment. Can we pull on this thread, or unpack a little bit, about your insight around pain? And so, you saw dad that was in pain, mom was likely in pain because of the marriage, or the separation of the marriage, and, were you in pain as well, as a youngster?

Jewel: Yeah, nobody enjoys a divorce. Nobody enjoys the idea of their mom leaving.

Michael: And then why did you choose to stay with Dad? Or was mom like, I’m done. There was no choice. How did that happen?

Jewel: My mom left. She said she didn’t want to be a mom. I wasn’t aware of that at the time, so I wasn’t exactly sure why we were living with my dad. But, as a child, I definitely missed my mom. Talk about a lifestyle change, I went from being a mormon, in a very family-oriented Mormon family in Anchorage, Alaska, to living with a single dad who suddenly drank and smoked and chewed and dated and became abusive and was singing in barrooms. So it was a very radical change.

Listen to the podcast to hear the whole conversation:

“Perfectionism makes you careful, it doesn’t actually make you great. And so I realized, from my career my music my writing, if I wanted to try to become a master in my life, in my music and my craft and my art, I had to let go of perfectionism. I had to let go of any kind of safety net and I had to be willing to take big risks. What does it take to take a big risk? It takes self-love.” —Jewel

Also In This Episode:

  • Being raised in a dysfunctional family: divorce, drinking, abuse, transient lifestyle
  • Having a front row seat to the coping mechanisms that go along with drinking
  • Moving out of the house at 15 and living out of her car
  • Learning to face pain and overcome panic attacks
  • How she came to be aware and value her sexuality
  • Why fear is a thief
  • Doing the hard work to figure out who you truly are
  • What forgiveness means to her
  • Using her platform to empower others
  • Why perfectionism is an inhibitor to mastery
  • Learning to practice self-love with “antidote” thoughts
  • The impact of Internal vs. External Motivation
  • How she mastered habit development

This podcast originally appeared on

Jewel has a website called Never Broken, where she shares her mindfulness tools and offers a “personal road map to help you calm anxiety and access your own inner knowing so you can learn to make happiness a habit.”

Wisdom 2.0 happens Friday, February 17th through the Sunday, February 19th at The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California.