Interview with Gary Jansen, Author of ‘MicroShifts’

With every year that rolls around, many of us set personal goals with the hopes of bettering ourselves. Although, inevitably—as this year has shown us—curve balls both big and small will come along and nudge us off of our paths. That’s why author Gary Jansen created the simple but powerful method of “microshifting” to help people create significant, sustainable changes in their lives by making small, incremental adjustments. In his latest audiobook, MicroShifts, Jansen blends masterful storytelling and dozens of practical tips to help you change your life.

We got the chance to pick Jansen’s brain about his latest audiobook, the recording process, and how he stays motivated in tough times. Keep reading to find out what he had to say.


Audiobooks.com: “MicroShifts” is the idea that implementing small, daily changes can impact our lives in profound ways in the long run. What led you to develop this technique?

Gary Jansen: I wrote a book some years ago called The 15-Minute Prayer Solution (available as Exercising Your Soul from Recorded Books), which was in some ways a book about time management. There are 1440 minutes in a day. One percent of that time is 14 minutes and 24 seconds, roughly 15 minutes. I asked readers, what would happen if you dedicated your life to growing spiritually every day by setting aside 15 minutes a day for spiritual practice? Just 1% of your life. Before writing the book, I had experimented with that principle for a year. The results were transformative. MicroShifts grew out of that initial idea that you can make significant changes in your life by setting aside small blocks of time to do something you really want to do. All of us feel like we don’t have enough time, but we do have time. All of us can find 15 minutes a day to meditate, pray, call a friend, learn about the stock market, research healthy foods, go for a walk, paint, learn to cut an onion, clean out a closet, or take a power nap. Whether you’re a busy mom or an executive or a plumber working around the clock—everyone can find 15 minutes to do something to better their lives. I think there is something innate inside us that always wants us to strive to improve. MicroShifts aims to help others do that.


Audiobooks.com: What can readers gain from listening to the audiobook version of MicroShifts that they might not necessarily get from reading the print version?

Gary Jansen: I hope the humor comes through. I like to make people laugh, and I have a dry sense of humor, so sometimes people don’t know if I’m joking or being serious. As the author of the book, I know where the jokes are and how they should be delivered. Plus, I’ve been a musician for over 25 years, so intonation, tempo, and rhythm are essential. I’m hoping the writing’s musicality comes through, too, especially in the chapter about writing and Stephen King. That chapter felt like a song to me.


Audiobooks.com: You’ve been narrating your own audiobooks since 2010. What are some of the most interesting changes you have seen in the audiobook industry over the last decade?

Gary Jansen: I love the process of recording. I love being in the studio. I love getting to have fun with my voice. I’ve been a huge fan of audiobooks since the ’90s. Having worked in the publishing business, I know audiobooks struggled to find their audience for a long time. In retrospect, I guess I can see why. Audios weren’t that financially lucrative, as compared to a hardcover book or paperback sales. There wasn’t a lot of money to invest in the recordings, and sometimes that meant lackluster productions. Nowadays, audio is riding high. I know many people who no longer read print books. They only listen to audio. Plus, as an editor, I know that one way to get a bestseller is for an author to write a book for people who don’t usually read books. There are plenty of people who just don’t like to read, but they like to listen; they like to learn. Audio gives a whole new part of the population access to great books and great minds. And with this level of popularity, there’s more money to invest in the best engineers and voice talent. In the last ten years, audios have become an art form.


Audiobooks.com: How has your approach to narration changed over time?

Gary Jansen: I think I’m more conscious now than ever to the energy of lines. By this, I mean that sometimes a line should be read slowly, sometimes quickly, and sometimes naturally like a steady pulse of heartbeats. Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to read in front of large audiences and be interviewed on TV. I’ve learned that if you switch up your rhythms and your tempo, you’ll keep someone’s attention better than if you stay at a steady pace. But I don’t try to force a line. The spoken line needs to be an outgrowth of the written line. I just have to try to find the energy of a word, a line, or a paragraph. That can take extra time for me when I’m practicing and preparing, but I think it makes for a better listening experience. 


Audiobooks.com: During these uncertain times, many people have had to make drastic lifestyle changes. How have you used your technique of MicroShifting to stay healthy and focused during this time?

Gary Jansen: MicroShifts is a book of practical spirituality, meaning it’s a book that helps you develop your mind, body, and soul and gives you things to do. I’ve worked with author and doctor Deepak Chopra for many years, and he’s been a big influence in my life as a friend, a writer, and a mentor. Everything is connected. Case in point: All the gyms are shut down, and I miss working out with all the folks I’ve gotten to know at our local gym. I’ve been using the idea of microshifting to help me exercise at home to keep me sane. Since I only have a few dumbbells, I make small changes to the way I perform an exercise, which keeps me on my toes, and I exercise in small chunks of time throughout the day to keep me active. I’ve also taken up running during the lockdown, and I’ve used microshifts to push myself to run just a few more feet every day. Those extra steps you take add up over time. I have more energy and feel better than I have in years. When you feel better—when you aren’t distracted by pain or fear or anxiety—something changes inside you spiritually. You feel happier and focused, and when you’re happier, you treat the people around you better too. Your relationships improve, and when that happens, the world around you transforms in surprising ways.


Audiobooks.com: Do you have any advice for people who are looking to implement these daily shifts into their lives? How do you stay motivated and committed to taking 1% out of your day to making positive changes?

Gary Jansen: Staying motivated is hard, and being consistent may even be harder. Sometimes we can be overcome by feelings that drag us down. “What’s the point?” or “Why should I even try?”. Often, we feel this way because of this nasty little pest in our heads—that inner voice—that is saying things like, you’re not good enough, you’re never going to succeed, just give up. Most meditation practices will tell you to let the voice speak, allow your thoughts to move through you like they were clouds, let them pass. I’m not that patient. I want them to shut up because a lot of times, this voice in your head is just a liar. So one microshift you can do is thought replacement. If you start to doubt yourself, repeat the word love or wealth or prosperity or happiness repeatedly to drown out the voice of self-doubt. It might sound stupid or overly simple, but the reason why negative thoughts often spring up inside us is that we’ve repeated them over and over again to ourselves. We’ve allowed the voice to speak lies. So speak truth when the voice speaks lies. It’s a small thing, but in time the practice can rock your world in remarkable ways.


Audiobooks.com: Is there anything new that you’re working on that you can share with us?

Gary Jansen: I am working on a script for my memoir Holy Ghosts, which is about growing up and living in a haunted house (and is an audiobook at Recorded Books). I’ve talked with some producers over the years in Hollywood about turning Holy Ghosts into a movie. So there’s been interest. Writing a script is difficult and requires a unique skill set, but I’m using microshifts to inch my way to completion. I want Ethan Hawke to play me in the movie. I’m not only a fan of his films, but he’s a fantastic audiobook narrator. I just finished listening to him read Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. Loved it! ∎


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