It came as no surprise to Jay Shetty to hear his guest, Lindsey Stirling, admit that this year she is leaning into the word magic. In Shetty’s mind, the world-renowned musician, known for charting her course with unique instrumental expression, personifies the word.
It’s not just a ‘sit back and wait for it to fall in your lap’, kind of magic. As Stirling unpacks what has brought her to this point, it is clear that the star is reaping the benefits of deep heart work, honesty with herself, and the bravery to step into who she fully is.
Stirling’s unique musical and performance style has captivated audiences worldwide. Her electric violin – and her feet – dance to the rhythm of the music she writes. They also dance to the rhythm of the moon through seasons of bright and hopeful and seasons of dark and quiet.
Stirling is learning that leaning into her true self is the best and most hopeful way to feel alive. As she shares some of her story with Jay Shetty in this episode of On Purpose, it is easy to be encouraged by her passion for life and her commitment to find beauty in the mundane.
Doors Opened, Doors Slammed Shut
Sitting in a backstage bathroom of the hit television show America’s Got Talent, Lindsey Stirling was tempted to never pick up her violin again. It had taken a lot of bravery to get this far, and now it looked like the ride was over.
A moment of vulnerability and belief in her own vision had brought her to the show. She bravely showcased her unique style of music and performance to the judges for several weeks. Like so many others who reach that level, Stirling believed this was her big break.
Instead, Stirling was buzzed off the stage and humiliated by remarks from the judges. It had been too hard for many to catch her musical vision. She was tempted to end her career before it had even started.
“I talked with people and tried to share the vision,” she told Jay Shetty, as she looks back on her early days, “but no one got it. I had the magic inside and believed so strongly that it could happen. When you believe it can happen, even if what you believe would seem impossible, you can still make it happen.”
She didn’t give up. Stirling had fine tuned the art of listening to her gut and staying true to herself. Chin up, violin humming, and creative juices flowing, she moved forward with her music career anyway.
She tells Jay Shetty that she is thankful for her experience on America’s Got Talent – thankful she didn’t win. Free from the contractual obligations that come with a TV show victory, Stirling was able to strike out on her own.
“Sometimes what you're fighting for or what you think you want is just not quite the right door,” she explained to Jay Shetty. “And you just got to turn a little bit. You’ve got to listen to your own voice that tells you where to go. Is it time to try something else? Is it time to keep pushing? Is it time to just accept where you're at? Whatever it is, listen to your heart because it will never lead you astray.”
Jay Shetty agreed. A similar experience in his life felt devastating in the moment, but became a catalyst for change. Stepping out on his own allowed him to not only learn, but have the freedom to develop his own sphere of influence.
Both Lindsey Stirling and Jay Shetty agree that sometimes reaching ultimate success by societal standards is not the best way forward. In fact, like Stirling, Shetty is so thankful he experienced his earlier rejection, and he handles it with grace. While there is temptation to rub how he has done in the face of those who rejected him, he doesn’t see it that way.
“I want to go back and thank them,” Jay Shetty said. “I want to go back and express gratitude to them say ‘Thank you so much for telling me that there wasn't any space for this role.’”
“The idea that the doors that close are devastating isn’t always true,” agreed Stirling. “Oftentimes, they are the best thing that could ever happen to you. But it's only going to be the best thing that ever happens to you if you keep moving forward. You’re believing in yourself despite the fact that maybe someone else didn't.”
Believing in themselves has paid off for Jay Shetty and Lindsey Stirling, and they are just getting started.
Loss and Magic
Stirling has a new album out, and it may be the work she is most proud of. Like any true artist, the work and passion that goes into her music is not just about the notes that flow through the air, but the journey taken to arrive there. In many ways, her new album is a culmination of where she’s been.
The last few years have not been easy for Stirling. The musician lost both her dad and her best friend in a short amount of time. Both were devastating and defining times in her life. She admitted to Jay Shetty that she had some really dark moments.
“After my best friend Gabi died and my dad died, I was in a little bit of a shadow for about two years,” she admitted to Jay Shetty. “I had kind of accepted that, you know what, I think loss changes you and I think this is the new me. I just need to get used to her. That rose-tinted glasses version of myself, that kind of magical person, I think she's gone.”
She was wrong. Instead, the new album spells out the concept of the darkness of night being pierced by the light of the moon. Grief and depression allowed her to wade through the lows of life, process them for what they were and come out the other side stronger.
“The moon goes through phases,” she told Jay Shetty. “Sometimes it's bright, and it lights up the whole night. You can literally walk by the light of the moon. Other times, it's covered in shadow, and you can't even see it.”
Stirling once again found light. Two years after the hardest time in her life, the darkness began to recede.
“I just felt myself come back. It's like the eclipse was over,” she told Jay Shetty. “It's not that I had been gone, I was just covered up by a little bit of shadow. And that’s okay.”
“I love the analogy of the moon,” Jay Shetty agreed. “For me, that's such a beautiful way of looking at life. Like, you don't judge the moon every day, right? It's the same with ourselves. We're gonna go through phases. You're gonna be full of light one day and one day you're not. It's gonna come back around and it's okay.”
Who She Truly Is
Stirling doesn’t just push the limits when it comes to performing and creating. Her ability to be very public and open about real-life struggles is not the celebrity norm. Hers is a voice that is desperately needed for this generation. Stirling doesn’t back away from tough conversations and authentic connections. She has not hidden her struggles with depression and disordered eating.
“I actually love to talk about this because so many people, to some degree or another, deal with this,” she told Jay Shetty. “Whether they are diagnosed anorexic or whether they just some days hate their body, I think that a lot of people deal with this.”
Using her platform to highlight this struggle has not only been healing for her, but has served as a connection point for fans across the globe.
While she has found healing from her eating disorder, Lindsey is realistic in the ways depression and a lack of self – worth can creep up in everyday life. Always falling back to the moon analogy, she admits that there are days or weeks when depression creeps in. The main thing she has learned is that those times of struggle do not define her.
“I tell myself I'm only in a depressed stage,” she said to Jay Shetty. “I don't like being here, but I recognize now that it's okay. It's not who I am. It's a passing experience.”
“I think too often we like to attach ourselves and our definition of self to, ‘I'm depressed, this is me’,” she continued. “No, it's not me. It's a phase. Like the cycle of the moon, sometimes it's covered with shadow. Sometimes it's bright. That doesn't mean it's not still there just because you can't see it.”
In those moments of struggle, Stirling digs in. She remembers who she is and what makes her heart sing. For her, stress relief comes in the form of ballroom dancing.
“If you keep working on yourself and doing the things that you know help, whether it's dancing in your living room, going to therapy, or writing your gratitude, you're not just doing the obvious,” she said. “If you keep working on yourself and living with hope, you will find your full light again. Just like the moon always returns to its full light, so will you.”
Waxing and Waning
Three things, morning and night. Each day, Lindsey Stirling records what she’s grateful for, and it has changed her life. It only takes her 5 minutes each time, but this practice of recording what she is grateful for has been transformative for Sterling. She truly believes that it is one of the things that has helped her get through some of her roughest times.
Stirling tells Jay Shetty that she didn’t start a gratitude journal because it was trendy. She started it as a conscious effort to be more cognizant of the things around her and how they play into her life.
“I feel like the more I fill my life with positivity, the more positive I am,” she told Jay Shetty. Making gratitude her word of the year last year changed everything. For Lindsey, there became no denying that countless little miracles and reasons to be thankful permeated her days.
“I think that whatever you look for in life, you're going to see more of it,” she said to Jay Shetty. “I think it's the same with gratitude or with miracles. If you are not looking for something, you're gonna be like, ‘Well, I’ve never seen miracles.’ Whatever it is you're looking for in life, if you look for it, you'll see it.”
Some of Stirling’s most healing work has come by looking for and finding miracles in hard places. She explained that despite the devastating pain of her father’s death, she stood resolute in gratitude. She is convinced that this posture got her through.
There was a turning point in her perspective, and she believes it saved her. Sitting with family at his deathbed, Stirling was able to find joy despite the grief as the family began to share stories and memories of her dad.
“In that moment, this shift happened in me where I went from this bitterness of like, ‘How could this happen to my dad, this smart, strong, best man I know?’” she told Jay Shetty. “‘He made me who I am.’ Rather than being angry at what had happened to him and at what I was losing, I just became so grateful for what I had, which was like a lifetime of memories of the most amazing father, and the most amazing family that I still had.”
It was a practice in gratitude and the discovery of peace, even in the midst of her deepest sorrow.
Stirling carries the memory of her dad with her, and she believes that he watches out for her and carries her through her days. Angels are everywhere, according to Stirling, and she is thankful to have her dad stick by her side in that way.
“The shadowy moments of your life, metaphorically, are the ones that taught you what you need to know,” Stirling said to Jay Shetty. “They're the ones that gave me empathy. They're the ones that made me really dig my heels in and work really hard.
“Whatever those shadow moments are, they're important in your phases too,” she said. “And they make you really appreciate when you do get to fully shine. Even when the moon is half covered up, it's still shining.”
Stirling’s shine has no sign of dimming, and we all have a buzzer on America’s Got Talent to thank for that.
More From Jay Shetty and Lindsey Stirling
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “How to Deal With Things Not Going Your Way and Believing Your Are Worthy of Your Desires” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.