When we caught up with media and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, he was holding court at Books and Books in Coral Gables and enjoying the mild Florida winter, free of blizzards and snowstorms he had recently encountered up north. On tour to promote his latest book, Super Rich, he was eager to explain how being truly rich is not about the amount money you have in your pocket or socked away in a bank, but how you can use your unique gifts and talents to be successful and happy.
“Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy,” said Simmons, who elaborated that despite his million dollar media and clothing corporation, he did not truly find happiness and peace until he embarked upon a path of spiritual enlightenment that included yoga, meditation and vegetarianism.
The epitome of a self-made man, the book details how Simmons started with nothing on the gritty streets of New York and hustled to pursue his dream of bringing hip hop music to the masses. In 1983 he founded Def Jam Records and launched the careers of artists such as LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. Credited with establishing hip hop as a new genre in the music industry, Def Jam was just one part of his empire, which included a management company and clothing lines such as Phat Farm, Baby Phat, American Classics and Argyle Culture. In 2007, his personal net worth was estimated at $341 million, defining him as super rich by most standards, but not by his own.
“Look at all the billionaires,” said Simmons. “If I know 15 billionaires, I know 13 unhappy people.”
Humble and soft spoken, Simmons admits he made many mistakes in his younger days when he was often impulsive, impatient and hot-tempered. Quick to anger, he often made remarks he later regretted and said he was not the most pleasant person to work for or to live with. Creative and full of unharnessed energy, Simmons whirled through each day at a manic pace and said he suffered from all the “noise” in his head that prevented him from controlling his thoughts and emotions. Luckily, a visit to South Africa was a stepping stone to changing the way he viewed himself and the rest of the world.
On a routine visit to the Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F.), an organization Simmons helped create to support higher education in African countries where diamonds are a natural resource, he visited The CIDA/Maharish Institute, a free college in Johannesburg that has partnered with D.E.F. and revolves around a “consciousness based” curriculum. Soon he was practicing yoga and meditation with the students and was amazed by how being calm, still, and conscious took away all the clutter in his mind and helped him feel more connected with himself, the universe and other people.
“Meditation is a sustainable practice,” he said. “When you practice it, it not only helps you, but helps the world around you. Meditation makes your connection to the people around you stronger and more loving.”
When Simmons mentions that meditation is a practice he dedicates himself to every day, he is surprised that many people say they don’t have time for it. To these people, he suggests that as little as twenty minutes a day can reap enormous benefits and that it’s best to start first thing in the morning before the demands of the day can take hold. His own routine involves waking up, lighting a candle by his bed and spending at least twenty minutes in meditation and sometimes more if his schedule allows it. Depending on what happens during the course of the day, he frequently makes time for another session after work because it helps him to unwind and relax. Whether Simmons is on a yoga mat practicing poses or quietly meditating, he believes that taking time to listen to your inner voice is what results in spiritual richness.
“Super Rich means needing nothing,” he said. “Needing nothing is how you can get everything. When you can give your full attention to serving the world instead of worrying about the world giving you things, you will be so attractive that people will literally start throwing money at your feet. But to have that happen, you need to have a sweet, generous and compassionate spirit.”
Simmons has been studying yoga for years with gurus Sharon Gannon and David Life, co-founders of Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York. He says they were responsible for his decision to pursue a vegan diet, which he has followed for 25 years. During our meeting, we discussed the benefits of vegetarianism at length and gifted Simmons with several of Garden of Life’s raw supplements, including Vitamin Code® RAW ONE™ for Men, RAW B-12™, RAW D3™, and RAW Protein. Simmons took his time looking over all of the offerings and graciously thanked us for thinking of him.
“What a wonderful gift!” he said with complete sincerity. “I’m on a liquid diet now and can definitely use these!”