I Don’t Care How Good You Are At What You Do

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I recently went to see a holistic health practitioner in town about whom I’d heard good things.

I arrived at his office and was welcomed to sit down.

He opened his laptop and asked me for my email and then for my wrist. “We start with taking your pulse,” he explained.

So he took my pulse for about a minute and then, for the next 45 minutes told me what was going on and what I needed to do about it based on my particular constitution and body type. As he made these suggestions, he typed them into the email he was going to send me.

And I sat there having an incredibly mixed experience. 

On one hand, his words were incredibly accurate to what I was experiencing and I was appreciative to have him taking such great notes on the particulars to send me. It’s the worst to see a practitioner who rattles off all of the things you are supposed to do and then expects you to remember them all.

On the other hand, he never asked me what had brought me to see him that day. Not once.

There was no intake form for me to fill out.

On the table in front of us was some tea. He never offered it to me. I had to ask about it.

And so I sat there, wondering, “Is he actually going to ask me why I came in the first place?” for the entire session feeling increasingly annoyed and confused. 

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

For 45 minutes, I sat there while he talked at me, asked me focused questions, and then typed out the homework he was giving me. On one hand, the homework and suggestions were specific and generous. There was no sales pitch for a huge program. He wasn’t holding back the good stuff. And, on the other hand, I had to finally speak up towards the end to say, “Just to let you know, I’m on the edge of overwhelm right now.”

He seemed to get it. He made a few more suggestions and then, finally, he paused and said, “Any questions?”

But he seemed to mean, “Do you have any questions about what I told you?”. He still wasn’t asking me why I’d come.

In truth, it might not have changed anything he told me. I can’t know. And it’s his practice, so I am a guest in his practice. I’m not there to tell him how to run his business. And, despite the frustration I felt, I genuinely like the fellow. 

It lifted up for me the importance of empathy in our interactions with our clients. As the old adage goes, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

Empathy before education.

But there’s something else: I’m not sure how much I trusted his advice given how little context he had about me and my life and what had brought me there. There could have been many causes of my pulse reading. Maybe I’d come there just to see if we were a fit. Maybe I’d come to get his take on a particular symptom I was having. From reading my pulse there are so many thing he couldn’t have known (or at least that I couldn’t have known he might know).

If people don’t trust your diagnosis, they won’t trust your prescriptions.

And so, when we first meet with a client, it’s vital that they feel we understand their situation and why they are there. It’s vital that the trust that we are clear about their symptoms and that we are taking them seriously. It vital not only that we understand but that they feel understood – that they know we’re both on the same page.

This can be done in ways as simple as restating what you heard them say and asking them, “Did I get it right? Am I missing anything?”

When they feel clear that we ‘get’ them, they will automatically relax and be open to our guidance. Until that moment, no matter how brilliant and skilled we are, they will be sitting there, tense, waiting and resentful of their assumptions. Our assumption that we ‘get it’ will likely be read as our arrogance. Our job isn’t just to give good advice, it’s to foster an openness to it.

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

My colleague Bill Baren suggests weaving these two questions into the early part of your session with a client, “Why me? Why now?”

These questions do two things: They let us know their reasons for coming to us but they also remind our client of why they chose us and why this issue matters so much to them.

If that’s not your style, it’s okay. But you might want to tell them that before they come to see you. You might want to make sure they understand that before they show up. If, when I’d asked to book an appointment, I was sent to a webpage letting me know his style, I would have been able to make a choice if that was the style I wanted or to at least be ready for it. If the page had said something like the following, I would have likely still done the session and felt much better about it.

“So, my style is that I don’t do intake forms and I don’t ask you questions before we get started. When we begin, I will ask you for your wrist and take your pulse. After twenty five years of doing this, I’ve found that the less I know the better when it comes to getting a clear pulse reading. Once I’ve taken your pulse, I will start working on an email to send you with my advice. It might sound strange but, after all these years, I can take your pulse, look at your body type and get a very strong sense of where you’re at and what’s needed. If I need to ask clarifying questions I will. There will be some tea ready for you and, being wrapped up in helping you, I will likely forget to offer you some, so please help yourself.”

If your style differs from how everyone else does it (e.g. no intake forms) it’s good to explain it to people. Let them know your reasons why.

I don’t care how good you are at what you do.

I mean, of course I do, but I don’t just care about that.

It’s vital to see our role as not being just to give advice but to make our case for what we’re saying. To lay out the logic. To break down our point of view so it all makes sense.

But, before we can even do that, we need to earn their trust for that advice. And that comes from listening to where they’re at until they feel clear that we understand their situation.

I printed off the suggestions he sent me and they’re incredibly useful. I’ll be diving into them over the coming months. Isn’t it funny how things can be such a mix?

My final thought…

What if, instead of trying to prove how good we were at solving the problem, we first focused on proving how good we were at understanding it?

The Marketing Mistake The Spice Store Made

Row of spice jars

A few weeks ago, I went to a spice store.

I didn’t need more spices. I needed a spice rack. I figured they might have one. Or know where to find one.

I walked in and asked a woman who worked there. 

She apologetically shook her head and told me they didn’t carry any racks and had no idea where I might find one in town beyond a local Home Depot. 

I was struck by the loss of the marketing opportunity.

Consider this: if you find a spice store and fall in love with it, you’ll be a customer for life. You don’t want to have to go through the work of finding a new one, you enjoy how knowledgable and passionate they are and you love that they know you by name. You trust these people when it comes to spices.

So, what if they did their research and found their ten favourite spice racks and made a little, in store catalogue to show people, or had those pages book marked on their computer or even stocked some and sold them directly to you for a small profit. And maybe they could tell you where in town to find them or where to order them online. Or they could order them for you.

I would have loved it if they’d said to me, “So you want on that hangs over the door? Okay. So there are ten basic models of these on the market. Five of them are worthless and fall apart instantly or their hooks don’t actually fit over regular size doors. Three of the remaining ones are pretty good but we’ve found two that everyone seems to be thrilled with. Why don’t I show you those?

They could make a video about this and put it on youtube and then, when customers asked about it, they could email them the link to look at.

And what if they found those places that sold them locally and befriended the staff so that, when people were looking for spice racks, they might be inclined to mention their store.

I recall a doula in Canmore, Angie Evans (who’s now in Regina), who got a surprising amount of business from referrals from the people who worked in the supplement section of Nutters (the organic grocery store in Canmore). She befriended them, told them what she did and then, when the staff would see people looking at prenatal vitamins or other products that indicated they were preparing for a child, the staff would often ask them if they were considering hiring a doula or midwife and if so who. If they were considering one but hadn’t decided yet, they would often suggest reach out to Angie.

My friend Ron Pearson is a magician in Edmonton who does corporate magic shows. But corporate event planners call him all the time to ask his opinion of other performers.

My dear friend Monika runs Reset Wellness in Edmonton which has a very science based approach to wellness. It’s more osteopathy than energy work. But you’d better believe that people will come to trust Monika and ask for her opinion on, “Who’s a good reiki practitioner in town?” A few weeks ago, Monika and I had a conversation about how she could create a referral list of people she trusts so that she would be ready for these questions.

Consider what people keep asking you for that you don’t offer. Consider what kinds of recommendations they ask you for that you don’t have answers to. Consider building yourself up a referral resource list of people you trust.

You can just sell what you sell.

But you can also become a trusted advisor. You can become a hub. You can become the go to person on a certain issue.

Jay Abraham makes the distinction between customers and clients. In his worldview, a customer was just someone you sold things to. A client was someone who was under the care of a fiduciary. A client is someone you were there to guide and protect on the matters surrounding what you do.

If everything you recommend is gold, people’s trust in you will deepen and they’ll spend more money with you and refer more people to you.

Three Hub Marketing Case Studies from the Farmer’s Market

Farmers-Market

This is a late edition to the Farmer’s Market Marketing Series.

A few weeks ago, I was invited out to Fort Saskatchewan to speak to some good folks who sold their goods via the Farmer’s Market.

I’d done a presentation of this type a few months back and, in the last fifteen minutes, I realized that the main conversation that seemed to be landing was that of Hub Marketing.

Too many entrepreneurs are solopreneurs.

They try to do everything themselves. But partnership is where it’s at.

I’ve written a lot about Hub Marketing before and you can read that here.

But I thought it would be fun for you to see some of what we came up with.

The Set Up: 

I asked each of them to reflect on who their hubs might be for their business.

Stated another way: I asked them to think about the kinds of people who would buy their products and then to ask themselves, “Where else might these people spend their time, their money and their attention?”

Stated another way still: “Where else can we find the people who buy your stuff?”

Three brave souls were willing to come up to the front of the room and share what they’d come up with and let us do some more brainstorming for them. I share these not as an authoritative strategy but to get your mind thinking about some of the ways that hubs and partnerships can look and work.

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Case Study #1: Gloria’s Edible Flowers

Gloria had a few businesses on the go, but we decided to focus on her cut flowers business.

 

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The hubs we came up with for her were:

  • vegetarians: maybe they’re tired of their friends condemning their penchant for boring salads? Wanting to make a vegetarian meal to impress the family and mix it up a bit. There are lots of vegetarian groups, newsletters, blogs etc. in local areas.
  • wedding planners & caterers: you’d better believe that catering companies would love to have a local provider of edible flowers on file just in case someone asks for them.
  • flower shops: if I were to want to find edible flowers in town, where would I go? I’d think it would have to be a local flower shop. Now they may not want to stock them, but they’d likely be glad to have her contact info so they could refer out to her.
  • lounges & cocktail bars: maybe some of those fancy hipster cocktail bars might enjoy knowing where to get some flowers for their drinks!
  • herbalists: I’m sure the questions must be asked to herbalists about medicinal uses of flowers. Perhaps she could co-host a workshop with a local herbalist or hire them to write some informative articles or blog posts about the benefits of the top five flowers they sell.
  • chefs at fancy hotels and restaurants: again, a solid contact for such a niche product might be just the kind of thing a chef would like to have in their back pocket.
  • extreme eating clubs: maybe flowers aren’t super extreme but their are clubs in most cities of people who like to eat adventurously, why not reach out?
  • culinary schools: could she go in and do a presentation for them? Could she host a competition for students to find who can come up with the best use of her flowers?
  • cake decorators: sure! Why not?

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Case Study #2: Gord’s Beef Jerky

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The hubs we came up with for him were:

  • Agriculture Fairs and Tradeshows: this seemed to have worked well in the past. Just showing up and having a booth at these things might end up being his bread and butter. Just because it’s a hub doesn’t mean it needs to be out of left field and ‘never done before’. Most hubs are hiding in plain sight. Some of the best hubs are ‘old reliable’.
  • ATV Clubs: this makes a tonne of sense to me. If there’s an ATV event, he could show up and sell it from the back of his truck, or set up a table. It doesn’t need to be fancy and formal to work.
  • aboriginal groups: there’s certainly possibility here. I don’t know the politics of who is allowed to vend at Pow Wows and aboriginal conferences and events but it’s an option.
  • convenience stores: sure! Why not approach a local corner store, especially if it’s independently owned, and invite them to support a local beef jerky provider rather than the factory farmed crap version they’re currently selling.
  • school cafeterias: I’m not as sure about this one or how it would work, but maybe?
  • food groups (e.g. celiac, paleo): right! There are certain groups who’d be biased to eating beef jerky as a snack over fruit, sandwiches or other things. If he could find them, go to their events and sell some merch but then, importantly, make sure they know which farmers’ market he’ll be at and to invite them to come and visit his booth… well, this is how it’s done in one on one sales. They come to say ‘hi’ and become regulars and now you’re the place they get their jerky from.
  • the Department of National Defence: heavens. I don’t even know where to start but that could be a large order if he was able to secure it.
  • bars: I’m really not as sure about how this one would work.
  • surveyors: a whole profession of people just standing around and getting hungry. Maybe he could sell directly to the companies for them to give as snacks for their bored workers? Could be.
  • ski resorts: again, this could be a big order if he landed even one ski lodge for repeat business.
  • work camps: why not call up the local industrial work camps and ask to speak to the person in charge of feeding everyone and see if there’s not some business to be drummed up?
  • forest rangers: they must have conventions. Why not go to one? I’m not as big a fan of this one because his business will likely best be built with larger orders instead of one on one. I’ve never in my life felt loyal to a particular, local brand of jerky and I don’t know if I ever will. I’ll just buy whatever’s closest to me that seems ethically raised.
  • sports clubs: could be. Again, this becomes individual sales but having a booth at larger sports events and inviting people to visit at the farmers’ market? Why not.
  • university Forestry Programs: Maybe. I’m not stoked about this one.
  • BBQ Stores: Could be! If they’re into BBQ then they’re into meat. Could be some regular business here.
  • tree planting companies: this could be big. They have workers who are out all day working hard and they need snacks. Could be worthwhile exploring.
  • campers: I personally wouldn’t be trying to find individual campers but to approach camping supply stores like MEC, REI and smaller more independent ones.
  • farmers: maybe? This seems obvious but it’s not as exciting to me.
  • rodeos: hells yes. Go and set up a booth at one of these and watch it rain money.
  • hunters: meh.
  • sports stores: sure! This could be solid.

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Case Study #3: John’s ‘Dandy Joe‘ Roasted Dandelion Root Blend Coffee Substitute

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The hubs we came up with for him were:

  • coffee and tea shops: bulk orders. He approaches them and says, “hey! Here’s a unique, local coffee substitute that’s like nothing else and it’s local!” Boom.
  • farmers’ markets: this is where most of his business has come from and where most of it will continue to. No reason to stop.
  • Chinese stores: Joe said he’d had an order from a woman in China who loved it and thought maybe Chinese shops might dig it. Who knows! Worth exploring.
  • spas: an interesting idea. “Instead of serving your clients coffee full of caffeine or the same old boring herbal teas, why not offer this local super food to them?”
  • the sleep center: pitching it as something to drink late at night instead of coffee and offering them tins to offer as upsells to people who buy beds and want to sleep better. Maybe?
  • yoga studios and events: all these yogi’s are trying to kick coffee and give their adrenals some peace. What if he found out the top yoga events in town each year and set up a booth there? What if he identified the top ten yogi’s in town and approached them with a free tin to try out themselves? He could win over a whole community here who is likely to be going to farmer’s markets anyway.
  • tea wholesalers: this could become all of his business if it fell into place:
  • thelocalgood.ca: I co-founded a local network to connect good, forward thinking Edmontonians and we could maybe feature him on our blog.
  • the Organic Box: Sure! Why not get himself listed as a product people could order in a monthly, organic, grocery delivery service?
  • ski lodges and restaurants: maybe some indy restaurants or ski lodges might love having a unique, hot drink like this to offer their clientele?
  • dandelion root growers: I’m not sure why this is on the list…
  • church groups: could be? This doesn’t feel really compelling to me.
  • herbologists: they might not buy a lot but they could likely be a great source of referrals to others.
  • Costco: Oh man. They’d eat him alive on margin. He’d make no money. Stay away from the bright lights!
  • heath food stores: an obvious one. Yes.
  • hemp producers: could he partner with a local hemp seed producer to make a local, superfood smoothie mix of dandelion, hemp and some other things? Maybe!
  • holistic health practitioners: of course. Yes. The more of these who know about him and his product the better. He could have a booth at the local new age, holistic health consumer expos and spend all day working that room and make sure they know which markets to find him at and his website and, in the long term, that could be very solid for business.

Stop Trying To Be So Authentic

Authenticity1Authenticity is not a goal.

It’s a byproduct of something else.

It’s not something you can put on like a coat. It’s not a strategy. It’s something you can posture at. It’s not even the goal. It’s the result of something else that you’re doing.

There’s the old story of the archer who misses his shot because his eye is on the trophy he wants to win and not the bullseye. If you try to get the trophy, you miss the target. The only way to get the trophy is to stop focusing on it.

Every once in a while, I will hear people say things like, “I’m a very authentic person.” or “Well, to be really authentic about it…” and I see courses on how to learn to market authentically.

I’ve seen email subject lines say things like…

This is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever shared” or “I’m really scared to share this with you . . .” only to read it and have the vulnerable thing be something salesy that is clearly not very vulnerable at all. They used my caring of them as a hook to get me to open the email. That didn’t feel good. As another colleague of mine, Teray, shared, “When someone sends too many “vulnerable”, “embarrassing” subject headings in a row…it starts to feel like me me me me.”

Some of it rings a bit hollow. Some if it seems like they are trying really, really hard to be authentic.

Authentic also doesn’t mean hippie, conscious, new age, spiritual or any of that.

Want to know who has the most authentic marketing of anyone I’ve ever seen? Jay Abraham.

Jay Abraham is a hardcore capitalist and doesn’t hide this at all. His offers are direct, candid and he is extremely transparent about his own selfish motives for making the offers he makes.

Nothing is being hidden.

His marketing, though my political views couldn’t be more different than his, feels authentic to me.

Being authentic doesn’t mean speaking in soft and sweet tones all the time. It can sound salesy too. Believe it.

Authentic doesn’t look a particular way.

But when you use the language of authenticity and you aren’t actually being authentic… it’s the worst.

So what is the bullseye on which we need to focus?

In marketing, I think it’s the truth.

But a particular kind of truth. It’s the truth of ‘is this a fit?’ rather than ‘how can I get the sale?’.

If your agenda is to get the sale then no matter what you do, short of telling people, “I really just want the sale,” your actions will be manipulative and land as inauthentic.

Most sales training is an attempt to cover this original sin, the type one error of focusing on the sale. It’s all about how to build rapport, elicit buying strategies, overcome objections etc. So much of marketing is about trying to seem authentic while we pick their pocket. It’s full of justifications for our own selfishness and desperation. It’s full of rationalizations for doing things that don’t actually feel right for us.

Having said that, collapsing and giving away the store for free isn’t particular noble or authentic either.

But what if our focus wasn’t on trying to seem authentic.

What if it wasn’t even on trying to be authentic.

What if our focus was just on creating something wonderful, giving great customer service and getting the word out? What if our focus was, in those wonderful moments when someone expressed an interest in our work, on helping them sort out if it was really the best thing for them or not?

What if we looked at marketing as filtering and not seduction?

Let your focus on providing value for your customer be the most authentic thing about you. Don’t use authenticity to sell something.

 

Recommended Resources:

The Seven Graces of Marketing – Lynn Serafinn

Marketing for Hippies 101 – Tad Hargrave

On Fake Vulnerability and Giving a Crap (Dear Marketing Guru…) – Ling Wong

The Power of Sticking Around Long Enough

patience1-1It’s happened a number of times to me now.

I meet someone or some across a business which provides a product or service that I see as needed and that I might want to recommend.

And then they go out of business. Or they stop doing that thing.

And it’s often before I’ve really had the chance to get to know them or had much occasion to spread the word about them. It’s frustrating because I love knowing who to send people to if I can’t help them.

I’d be speaking with someone and say, “Oh yeah. John does that kind of work. He’s great.”

And then someone would overhear me and say, “Oh. John stopped doing that a few months ago. Now he’s onto this other thing.”

Niche switching is a natural thing to do. It happens all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s often exactly what you need to do.

But it takes a while for a reputation to be made. It just takes time and most people quick or change direction before they get there. They’re digging a well and, a foot before they hit water, discouraged, they stop digging there and start digging somewhere else and so they never reach the life replenishing stream under the ground.

In business, those waters are the natural flow of word of mouth that sends you business without you even lifting a finger. It’s the power of becoming a hub, becoming a trusted advisor, expert or ‘go to person’ in any particular arena. That does the marketing for you. If you stick around long enough, hustle while you do it and connect with other hubs in a good way, without three years, everyone knows who you are and what you’re about.

If you work on the issue of trauma for three years in a community and do your best to get the word out there, keep at it.

If you do a unique kind of yoga, have a niched permaculture business, have a business based on a particular target market, or based on a particular thing you’re offering, if you have anything even close to resembling a niche, you do a great job and you stick around long enough in business, you will develop a reputation as someone to go to for particular issues or for particular things. Just by having stuck it out long enough you will have a name in town for doing things. Most people give up on this too soon.

But it takes time.

Most entrepreneurs don’t stick around long enough to really get known for anything.

Most entrepreneurs do not persist and play the long game.

The Israeli Dutch Man’s Amazing Shrinking Business Workshop

m2q4sAxFA few weeks ago, I had lunch with the good Govert van Ginkel, a fine facilitator and practitioner of goodwill amongst people through his workshops and one on one work.

He told me the story of a Business Bootcamp he attended in Holland last year.

It was led by an Israeli man who had moved to Holland twenty years before.

Holland has about 16 million people and a full million of them have had to become independent contractors, without pensions or benefits, due to the economy and layoffs.

Seeing this, this fellow decided this might be a group of people in need of help from the kind of business workshops he did.

And so Govert saw this workshop flash across his Facebook over and over again until he finally decided to sign up. It was a full weekend workshop, including lunch and snacks. He was charging $65. Govert knew that this would barely make the man anything.

In the end, the man got 1,000 people signed up. So that’s $65,000. But, once you take out the cost of the venue, materials, food and time put into it… it’s money but it’s not as much as it might seem at first glance.

By the end of the weekend, there were only about 400 people left. This might seem like a story of an embarrassing failure but it’s actually the story of a strange kind of business success.

Govert told me that, when they’d come back from every break, there would be fewer chairs. Numbers were being tracked and paid attention to. So, it never felt like the numbers were dwindling. There was never that deflating feeling even though it was clear there were fewer people.

The trainer pointed out that a big mistake people made in sales were to meet strangers and try to sell them, but that this missed two steps. That the first step was, yes, to meet strangers but then to become friends with them, to foster some kind of trust between you and then to sell to them and then, finally, to invite them to be ambassadors of your work. He was advocating a sort of slow marketing of the kind Robert Middleton outlines in his Marketing Ball metaphor.

At one point, he was challenged as to why he was leading the workshop in English and not Dutch. Hadn’t he learned the language? He expressed that he had but that, when he spoke Dutch, because of his accent, people thought it was ‘cute’ and he felt like that diminished his stature and authority as a professional. I imagine some people didn’t like that answer and others of his answers.

But he wasn’t there asking for people’s vote.

He wasn’t going for approval from anyone.

He was sharing himself and giving every bit of value he could that weekend knowing that his style and approach wouldn’t be for everyone. He was willing to have his personality and content get a polarized response. He was willing to be rejected. He knew that the 400 people left at the end of his workshop would be there because they liked him and what he had to say. He knew that they would be the most likely people to say ‘yes’ to his offer of coaching packages at the end of the workshop.

It’s a different way of looking at things. Most people would look at more than half the people leaving the workshop early as a sign of failure. But what if it was a strange sort of success?

He realized that marketing is about filtering, not seduction.

And so he began with generosity. He offered a full weekend to people at a bargain price. He did it knowing he might lose money on the front end. He did that instead of trying to sell a bunch of strangers into an expensive weekend workshop. He allowed for slowness by creating a space for people to get to know him and see if it was a fit for them.

NOTE: This blog post is not an endorsement for this man or his content (neither of which I know). I am not suggesting I would be aligned with the marketing approaches he teaches in his workshops or his style. I am not suggesting I wouldn’t be either. 

The Four Most Dangerous Words an Entrepreneur Can Say

I_already_know_2I’ve met so many people who come to my workshops and, at breaks, speak to me in overly familiar terms about how they already know this stuff and how many books they’ve read and marketing courses they’ve gone to.

Everything they’re saying gestures to my flip chart notes covering the walls towards the end of the weekend workshops and says, without always saying it directly, “I already know that.”

And there they stand in front of me, struggling.

I usually don’t comment on this because struggling is a hard enough place to be without shame being piled on top of it.

But I see this all the time, the unwillingness to not know, the deep resistance to asking for help, the fear of humiliation preventing them from ever reaching humility and thus the utter inability to be vulnerable.

But if you’re dedicated to the culturally endorsed story of the virtues of self sufficiency you’ll never ask for help. You’ll be too proud. Your desire to be seen as having it all together is the very thing that guarantees you will, eventually, fall apart.

If you want to succeed in business, it’s going to ask you to learn some new things. That means admitting you don’t know. It means admitting you’re a disaster. It means turning to your friends. It might mean hiring a coach.

It means asking for a lot of help.

How much?

If I had to give you a specific quantity of help you need to ask for here’s what I’d tell you, “Ask for an embarrassing amount of support.” Meaning, if you don’t feel slightly mortified for all the help you’re requesting, then it’s likely not enough.

And you might be shocked by how fast things start to move when you stop pretending you have all the answers already, when you stop trying to impress your teachers and colleagues, when you admit that your business practices and marketing are a total disaster.

If you already knew it, you’d already be doing it.

Growing your business asks a lot of you and one of the first things it asks is your humility.

Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. Perhaps, in a way, that’s where humanity is now: about to discover we’re not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks and defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are.” – Marianne Williamson

 Recommended Reading:

Are You Humble Enough – Mark Silver

Easy is the new free

ease_of_use1A few years ago my friend Brandy Burdeniuk said something to me that I’ve repeated many times since.

“Easy is the new free.”

Are there a lot of free things out there on the internet these days? Sure.

But while that might save you money it could be very expensive in terms of your time.

People love free things but what they often want even more is easy.

But not easy in an abstract sense. They want a particular thing to be easy. They’re trying to achieve something and it’s hard for them. If you can make that thing easy for them, they won’t mind paying you a bit extra (even a lot extra).

And this is where the lack of niche is a business often shows up. There’s no particular result they’re offering that they’re trying to make easier.

What might particular results look like?

  • “I have gallstones and want to keep my gallbladder but lose the stones and do it without surgery.”
  • “I had a heart attack but don’t want to be on medications for the rest of my life. I want to heal naturally.”
  • “I have been depressed and on medications and want to wean my way off and use a more holistic approach.”
  • “I want to get rid of this back pain.”
  • “I want to feel comfortable and confident in dating.”
  • “I want to learn to say no without being wracked with guilt.”
  • “I am still wracked with shame for something I did. I want to find a way to move forward in my life.”
  • “I want to get over this heartbreak.”
  • “I want to get good at selling.”
  • “I want to sleep better.”

What’s often there in the place of those specific kinds of results is…

“I offer a broad array of modalities and approaches that subtly balance your whole system.”

And that focuses on what you are doing to them. It is focused on what you think they need. It’s not focused on what they are craving. And so, even if you offer that for free, it will not be as compelling as offering them help to get what they’re actually wanting in an easier, sweeter and gentler way.

Once you have a clear result you’re offering then it’s just a matter of coming up with a clear, compelling and credible offering, package, system or approach that can help them get what they want more easily.

I think of my friend Crystal’s husband in Vancouver who offers to help people identify and get of any allergy in three sessions (or he’ll keep working with you for free until it’s gone).

I think of my Niching Spiral Home Study course which is about helping people find a workable and profitable niche in 90 days.

I think of my colleague Corrina Gordon-Barnes and her ideas on how to have your blog attract more actual clients or Brad Morris’ approach to making it easier to craft your e-courses.

But, if there’s no specific result you’re offering, then there’s nothing to make easy and, because you need clients and no one seems to be responding to your generic offering of “I offer a broad array of modalities and approaches that subtly balance your whole system.” you will find yourself forced to keep reducing your price and moving closer and closer to giving it away for free.

If your business isn’t growing as fast as you’d like as yourself: am I trying to be free or to make things easy?

Ambushing and Bait and Switches

Small_Biz_HR_Bait_Switch-235x300The other day, I got the following message on Facebook:

Hey Tad, just want to say how much I love you work and continue to follow your blog and content all the time.”

These kinds of messages always find a good home in my world. It’s easy to think that people like me are constantly told how much they are appreciated, but it’s not always the case. You put things out in the world and, sometimes, have no real idea how they land.

So, when someone takes the time to express their appreciation, it means a great deal even if I don’t always have time to respond personally.

Oh you.” I replied. “Thank you.”

*

And then the conversation took a turn for the worse. 

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I’d love to tell you more about a really conscious company that offered me a great detox. It’s a 10 day transformation cleanse.
May I share a video with you?

I sighed, “Let’s slow this conversation down just a little bit.” I was already feeling exhausted for having to have this conversation with someone again. I already had a sense of where it was going. “Is this a company with which you are personally involved? Is this a MLM type company (even if it might prefer another term) and, were I to sign up for this cleanse, would you receive any financial compensation?

I wasn’t feeling upset, or at least not that feeling alone and not really towards the woman who was writing to me. It was an upset about how this culture fails us and how the sales training of MLM companies utterly fails people. I was sad that this conversation needed to happen still. Though, given where I began in sales myself and how aggressive and pushy I was, I am in no position to point fingers at anyone.

It’s a network marketing company that supports sustainability and offers non GMO, organic foods and products.” she said. “I offer the product as part of my nutritional services. I prefer these than the past retail products I used to recommend.

*

I paused for a moment to decide how candid I wanted to be with her. I decided to be as direct as I could.

*

Thanks for clarifying. This isn’t something I’m interested in right now. And… ” I paused for a moment to decide how candid I wanted to be with her and decided to be as direct as I could be. “Here’s what felt off for me with this. It felt like a mini ambush a bit. You opened with a sincere compliment and then, suddenly, I was being pitched. It felt like the conversation was opened in one way and then, immediately, became about something else. A woman I used to date met a woman at a cafe. They had a great conversation. The woman invited her out for coffee and she agreed because the interaction had been so nice. When she got there, the woman began to pitch her on Amway and her heart broke a little bit. Her head was swirling in wondering how sincere the compliments and good connection had been at all. I don’t doubt that your words to me are sincere and I’m grateful for them and… there’s a beauty to directness too. I’m sitting with what might have felt better for me as an approach here. Here’s one I’m imagining

You: “Tad, you came to mind today and I wanted to reach out to you about two things. The first was that I just read _____ blog post recently and I loved it and I love your work and wanted to tell you. And then, as I thought about you and knowing that you’re into health and wellness, I thought you might, or might not, be interested in something I’ve been involved in. Do you ever do cleanses? I don’t know if that sort of things is something you’re interested in.”

Tad: “Sometimes. I should probably do it more.”

You: “I know the feeling. Well, to put it out there, there’s a ten day cleanse I’ve come across and it’s the best one I’ve found. I wasn’t sure if you’d want to know more about it or not but there’s a video I can send you about it. No pressure on this. And a disclaimer, it’s an MLM company so, if you signed up I would make some money but there’s also a direct link I could give you where you could buy it directly and I wouldn’t get any money. I just think it’s a great thing. Again, no pressure, I know you’re busy.

That sort of direct conversation, with context given as to why you thought it might be relevant to me, with the disclaimer about the profit motive might have felt a bit better. It just suddenly went into a pitch. And I appreciate very much that you asked permission to share the video. That feels good. How does that all land for you?” I asked hoping this had not been too much for her but also aware that I had not asked for her pitch at all and it had found me in a Facebook message on my personal profile and leveraged that connection and opportunity for her business.

I reflected on the incredible importance of Permission Marketing in which you don’t market to people without having their permission to do so first.

She replied, “That’s very good. Thank you for for offering that suggestion. Sorry if it felt intrusive. I’m a bit excited about it and what I experienced. I definitely will apply this as it does feel better. My appreciation for your work is authentic and sorry of that felt otherwise.”

It was a relief to feel her openness to my words. I have had to cut off relations with colleagues in the past because they couldn’t hear my feedback on similar issues. “I think part of it is that Facebook is such a personal medium for me and so I assume messages I receive here are in that vein. MLM is a very tricky situation because the level of stigma around it is large (and not unearned). What that means is that, if people even get a sniff that it is MLM there will be pressure present because now they will see you in a particular way. And if they smell it and get the sense that it’s being hidden, all of the alarms go off. This is all true in sales in general but it’s extra true in MLM. There’s a need to be direct but also to keep focused on constantly diffusing pressure.

The-Heart-of-Selling-3D-Ebook-Cover-JPGThe best person I know around this is Ari Galper of Unlock the Game whose work is based in how to constantly be diffusing pressure so that an authentic conversation can unfold. It’s something I also explore in depth in my ebook The Heart of Selling: An Interview with Mark Silver.

Another approach that could feel really good would be to simply message me and say, “Tad, can I pitch you on something?”

I’d likely say, “Ha. Sure. What you got?”

“And then you could give me your best pitch for your cleanse with all of the disclaimers and ‘no pressures’ etc. And then I’d be able to sit with it and see if it felt like a fit. There would be no suspicion about intentions. I think sometimes people think it’s not very ‘hippy’ or ‘conscious’ to be that blunt and direct but it’s actually deeply appreciated if it’s balanced with a detachment, a lack of assumption that this is going to be a fit etc. A hard pill to swallow is that our natural enthusiasm, unchecked, will often read as sales pressure. On your end, if feels like you’re being authentic and effusive and, on the receiving end, it comes across as pushy. It can be hard to tone down our vibe. It can be hard to be chill about these conversations but it’s important to remember that most people have an incredibly hard time saying ‘no’ and so our passion can actually be something that bullies someone into doing something that doesn’t feel right for them. It can have us want to move the conversation faster than is right for the other person. There is a deep need to keep slowing ourselves and the conversation down.”

I reflected on how my colleagues Jesse and Sharla often speak about the importance of surfacing the concerns the others might have before signing any documents. They suggest that you literally stop the conversation and say, “Are there any concerns you have that might stop you from moving forward on this?” and then to really, really listen.

It had me think about my recent practice of creating an ‘are you sure?’ page that interrupts and slows down the buying process.

It had me think about how selling and marketing feel so unnatural to so many of us and how brave people are to even try, like this good woman did, to extend herself and take the risk of offering something she believed in.

It reminded me of how many people have had some version of the following experience:

“I went to a 1/2 day workshop about envisioning your future and I liked the information and the presenter. The women then offered free 1 hour consultation to go deeper and see if we could work together. During the 1 hour consolation I told her something pretty vulnerable (I don’t do vulnerable easy but she seemed like she was genuine) and then later in the call she used that information in a way that made me feel bad about myself and like pressure to work with her. I will never work with her. Now if someone offers free time, I say upfront I just want to know more about your ability to support me but if you are going to do a hard sell I will not waste your time. I really felt like she had no integrity – I’m sure it’s something she learned from her coaching course – but it felt very mean. (Feel free to post this anonymously if you are sharing this with others).”

It reminded me of the heart of my work and my commitment to the idea that marketing can feel good.

*

The real work in selling, for most of us, is not about learning how to be more convincing, it’s about learning how to identify and remove sources of pressure so that we can have a human conversation with people instead of giving them a pitch.

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Additional Reading:

To read more thoughts on my notions of how to approach people with graciousness I recommend reading The Classy Cold Approach.

I also recommend reading A Client Says I’d Love to Work With You… And Then You Never Hear From Them Again by Rich Litvin in which he explores the notion of “Questioning their ‘yes'”. Brilliant stuff.

And, again, Ari Galper’s work at Unlock the Game is brilliant here as is Mark Silver’s Heart of Selling program.

Interview with Stephen Jenkinson – Am I Ready to Teach?

In February of 2015, I sat down to write a blog post that it felt ridiculous for me to be writing. It was entitled, 36 Reflections on “Who am I to teach and charge for it?”.

Being 39 years young at the time, and an elder in training at the very best, it felt like a strange thing to even presume to have an opinion on and yet, it was a question that rankled in the hearts of so many of my friends and clients – a silent torture of feeling called to teach on one hand but question their credibility to do it on the other. One on hand there is the call to proceed as if they might be needed, and on the other hand wondering what the best manner of proceeding might be.

And, so I found myself wondering what Stephen Jenkinson, author, speaker and founder of the Orphan Wisdom School, might have to say about it. I had interviewed him on the related topic of Right Livelihood in May of 2015 and hoped he might be willing to have another conversation. The request was made and sat on the heaping pile of the considerations of the days of Stephen and his wife Nathalie until a moment was found.

The conversation was sprawling and braided together the topics of teaching, culture, elderhood, globalization and cultural appropriation. The word ‘patience’ kept recurring like a caution in it all and reminded me of Wendell Berry’s line, “To be patient in an emergency is a terrible trial”. He implored us to see our cultural poverty and the woundedness that emerged from it but to ask that woundeness to earn its keep before giving it the megaphone and spotlight it might crave.

I hope these words are food for you and might enable you to provide food for others and all those yet to come.

You can listen to or download the audio version here.

stephen

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“From whence comes the, let’s be frank, demand for more teachers?”

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Tad: Greetings, everybody. This is Tad Hargrave with “Marketing for Hippies,” and I am joined by Stephen Jenkinson (pictured above). Stephen is a teacher, author, storyteller, spiritual activist, farmer, and founder of the Orphan Wisdom School, a teaching house and learning house for the skills of deep living and making of human culture.

It’s rooted in knowing history, being claimed by ancestry, and working for a time yet to come. Welcome, Stephen.

Stephen:  Thank you, Tad.

Tad:  It’s good to have you here. Months ago, as  a result of being in the Orphan Wisdom School, this question started to emerge, this wondering about being a teacher, coming from a lot of my clients wrestling with this, feeling like they’re looking at the world, and feeling like more teachers are needed, and feeling called into that.

And yet also feeling cautioned and not sure whether people asking them for wisdom or saying, “You should be a teacher,” is something that they should follow, or a temptation to avoid.

That, meshed with things I’ve seen in this scene of “In a weekend, you can become a reiki master,” people becoming life coaches in a year or two years. We just have this situation of people wondering, “Am I ready to be a teacher?”

A while ago I emailed you about this, and your reply was, “Who needs more teachers?”

Stephen:  [laughs] Yeah, a measured response.

Tad: Yeah. I guess I wanted to open it up to you to see what thoughts you had and reflections you had on this for people who are wrestling with these questions.

Stephen:  How about give me a located and concrete question to start with?

Tad:  Sure. There are people who are — and to think of people, I mean in the Orphan Wisdom School who I know people have come to and started saying, “You should teach what you’re learning here at the Orphan Wisdom School. You should be a teacher of that.”

Or people who are studying with various shamans or medicine people around the world. Their friends are coming to them and saying, “Oh hey, you’ve been studying this, and you know more than we know anyways, so why don’t you do a workshop or host something, and why don’t you teach a bit of what you’ve learned.”

They don’t know what to do with that. I think, from what I’ve heard from some of them, their wrestling with that. “Should I respond to that, and share some of what I’ve learned? Or should I demure and engage in some other way?”

I don’t know if that’s any better…

Stephen:  No, no better, [laughs] but let me not put you through it a third time.

One question, one place to begin is to wonder this. From whence comes this request? Not your request to me, but the request that you’re relating to me now? From whence comes the request/demand — let’s be frank — demand for more teachers, which I’m not sure that’s what it’s a demand for, but let’s start there.

The people who are asking for this, their request comes from? And the answer most certainly would be a combination of a proliferation of teachers already. Somehow that breeds the demand for yet more, on the one side. And on the other side, it comes from a fairly telling lack of familiarity with that thing that they’re requesting.

So the first thing to wonder about is whether this request is what it sounds like. I’m not inferring anything nefarious in here. I’m talking about something subtle, and the subtlety of a demand or an expectation for there to be more teachers is frankly a demand for what? It’s a demand for greater access to this thing that people are demanding.

That’s my first hesitation, is, “Look where this demand or expectation is coming from, and ask yourself whether or not it is to be served in that raw, frankly naked — and I might as well go the whole route and say — adolescent and uninitiated form.

Because any deep contact with a — let’s call it, in generic sense, a wisdom tradition, that’s really rooted somewhere, and at some place amongst some people in some particular time… I believe the first consequence of some kind of deep encounter with this is a more or less humble refusal to uproot it, to tear it from its home place and to insist that it proliferate where you live, where it has no kin, no homeland, no tradition, no history, no anything.

I don’t know if you can smell it… What I smell is something in the order of a kind of a conversion mentality, that most people who are making these kinds of requests or demands are ancestrally derived from them, and the conversion mentality — and I’m not just referring to Christianity, although it seems to take the biggest hit in this regard — but all of those religious traditions, and those traditions that claim not to be religious, who are engaged in some kind of transplantation, missionizing, almost across the board what you see there is it’s a kind of low-grade and maybe unintended assault on time, the specifics, the diversities, the rootedness of various times, of various places, and peoples and cultures.

*

“this expectation or demand for more teachers strikes me as utterly in keeping with the globalization mind that many people who are requesting it would understand themselves to be categorically opposed to.”

*

By which I’m saying that to my mind, this expectation — this is a bit of a leap here now, but this expectation or demand for more teachers strikes me as utterly in keeping with the globalization mind that many people who are requesting it would understand themselves to be categorically opposed to. Do you see what I’m saying?

This is a great dilemma, no? We fancy ourselves to be opposed to NAFTA, and because of that, we imagine ourselves to be free of the instinct to globalize.

Well, I’ll tell you. I see it everywhere, the assumption, for example. You can’t imagine how many times I’m approached on the road and elsewhere, usually in a kind of a conspiratorial fashion, as if I would be on the inside, obviously, of what they’re about to ask me, and very, very kindly disposed to it.

They’ll start talking about ayahuasca. That’s the big one, especially the further west I go on the continent. The general thing is, the tone of it is, “But ayahuasca’s cool, right? Me using it,” and then they go into detail about how Mr. Shaman took them aside in the Amazon, or maybe not the Amazon. Maybe the Fraser River, in BC, and because it was Mr. Shaman and he comes from x place, or she comes from y place, this all legitimizes the whole enterprise.

I think the underlying assumption of the whole thing is, “Well if it’s in the world, then it’s for everyone, right?”

Tad:  Mm-hmm.

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The real learning of these things, in the places where they’re actually learned, means that you don’t have an undisturbed life, that the willingness to learn these things rules your days, and that your daily life is enthralled to this learning.

*

Stephen: I don’t think so. I think that these things are specifically in specific parts of the world for specific reasons, and why don’t we learn that instead? Why don’t we learn about diversity and locality, instead of generalized ability based on the extremities of bereavement, culturally speaking? That most people who are making these kind of requests are living in day in and day out, generally unawares.

So the old adage, food makes hunger, is absolutely accurate. It’s not just true in the kitchen, but of course, it’s true culturally, spiritually, and the rest. When you are in the presence of something that seems bonified, legitimate, rooted, planted, ongoing, and that it’s earned its keep, the instinct in there somewhere is, “Where do I sign?”, without any willingness to realize that the labor of preservation of learning, of memorizing, and more learning, of losing and learning, of being entrusted at too young an age because of cultural mayhem and learning. All of that goes by the wayside.

And if it’s in the world, and it can be reduced to a weekend — oh, let’s be fairer than that — it can be reduced to a two-year program, once a month and… whatever it is, my point is that the real learning of these things is not something that your undisturbed life would be amenable to.

The real learning of these things, in the places where they’re actually learned, means that you don’t have an undisturbed life, that the willingness to learn these things rules your days, and that your daily life is enthralled to this learning.

Maybe you know people who are willing to go that route. I, myself, given the travails and the slings and arrows of normal life in urban North America, I don’t know that many of them. But I’m sure that the people you’re referring to who are making these requests and demands don’t fall into that narrow and devoted category that I just described.

I’m not saying that they should. I’m simply trying to observe a dilemma that I think underlies this expectation, so there’s the first consideration, is ‘from whence comes the request or the demand?’, and the answer is it comes from a place where the things that are sought do not live. There’s the first one.

The second one is something in the order of the machinery of teaching. This is something I’ve thought a lot about myself, and for what it’s worth, at least to get it started, I’d offer this up to you.

Teaching can be distinguished from other kinds of activity which would nominally, at first blush, might look like the same thing, but I don’t think they are. Teachers — and I have to generalize to say anything at all, so before anybody’s ready to take me down in flames, let’s just consider, before we vote, because I’m not voting. I’ve just been asked to consider out loud here, too, so let me see if I can do it.

Teaching as a function is a metaphoric function, by which I mean this. Teachers, even the best teachers, are conduit. I don’t know how to say it, plural of conduit — conduii, I suppose it is. They’re a pipe, and the things entrusted to them more or less flow unimpeded either to the next generation or the next semester, or whatever the arrangement is. That’s what the root meaning of the word “metaphor” is. It’s something in the order of to carry across, to transmit, if you will, this kind of thing.

There’s absolutely room in the world for that faithful function. Absolutely, that’s true. I think what’s missing in the function is a kind of discipline, if you will. Let’s start with a little etymology on this one. You’ve heard me talk about this one before, I know.

Discipline, the same etymologically rooted in the word “disciple,” and vice versa. People don’t like the word disciple in North America. They prefer teacher and student, I suppose, but disciple’s a little strong. It sounds a little mindless, right? A little abandoned, and the rest, a little slavish, and we’re not big on that thing.

The thrust of these two words happens something like this. It infers the following, that kind of quixotic combination of acquired habit and reigned in inspiration that you are willing to take upon yourself, for the sake of the — love is usually the word that is used here, but if that seems too strong, for the sake of the…OK, I’ll say it differently. Sorry.

That what discipline and disciple infer is that because of what you seek, in the name of what you seek, and from whom you seek it, you will take upon yourself a degree of studied, purposeful habit, and restraint, and all that goes with that, in the name of the devotion you have for the person you propose to learn from. That’s the kind of matrix of the thing.

*

The truth of the matter is that we are bereft of the institution of apprenticeship, really, and that’s to our deep, deep detriment, I think. We have workshopitis,

*

I don’t see the proliferation of teaching that goes on now as having, frankly, the patience and the belief in time in that such an arrangement, I think, probably requires. The truth of the matter is that we are bereft of the institution of apprenticeship, really, and that’s to our deep, deep detriment, I think. We have workshopitis, God knows, and we have weekend warrior syndromes and all the rest, but the idea of a long, unrewarded, unrecognized, unspectacular, ordinary, mundane, not-on-a-website kind of learning where there’s no sign that you are, in fact, learning, and the willingness to find the deep patience required in proceeding, minus any sign that what you seek is what’s happening.

That’s what’s missing, and that what I think the proliferation of teachers actually aids and abets, the unwillingness to slow down, to be an amateur, and to never graduate from that status.

So if anybody’s been in the Orphan Wisdom School and is presuming to turn it around, if you will — I’m not talking about the motivation now. I’m talking about the mechanics and the consequence. They’ve done so without ever asking me what I think about it, I could tell you that, because I’ve never been asked about what I think about that, or what my take on it might be. But you’re hearing it now.

Do people really imagine that as a consequence of one or two years, which amounts to between 10 and 20 days of sitting in the Orphan Wisdom School, that this is tantamount to the years that was required of me to be able to distill what I try to make available in those 10 or 20 days.

I don’t think anybody, when pressed, would ever say that they’re somehow similar, but yet the willingness to go ahead and teach this stuff after, frankly, nominal exposure to it, whispers that it is.

Or it whispers that the times are so desperate, that we don’t have time for time. [laughs] That could be true, too, and I would say to you, if that’s the sentiment, I understand it, but I would say, [breathes in] “It smells like more of the same to me.”

Does that get us started now?

Tad:  It’s, I suppose, a question that comes up for me is, given the incredible poverty that we see in our culture, the lack of elders, the lack of initiation, the lack of apprenticeship, the lack of culture, in any meaningful sense…I just finished reading “The Sibling Society” by Robert Bly, so it’s sort of the absence of that whole vertical structure. What might we better be asking for instead of more teachers?

Stephen: How about this, Tad? How about investigating this instinct of asking for? How about coming to that with more hesitation and less resolve than we’re accustomed to?

That would be my instinct first, not to, “Hey, here’s the new boss. Here’s the new thing. Here’s what’s going to replace the poorly sought other thing.” You know what I’m saying.

*

“I’m saying that the instinct to get it, to have it, to be it, to wear it, to eat it, to snort it, to festoon yourself with it, to bewitch yourself with it, to feather yourself, and fur yourself with it, that’s the thing to be wondered about, because I don’t see those instincts, to do all those things, informed by a real willingness to learn them. I see them as informed by a demand to have them.”

*

I’m saying that the instinct to get it, to have it, to be it, to wear it, to eat it, to snort it, to festoon yourself with it, to bewitch yourself with it, to feather yourself, and fur yourself with it, that’s the thing to be wondered about, because I don’t see those instincts, to do all those things, informed by a real willingness to learn them.

I see them as informed by a demand to have them. That’s the first thing.

It’s that demand that perpetuates this witheredness that you alluded to earlier, I think, and it’s not just delayed gratification. It’s, “Is the world really here, materially and in its spirited form? Is the world really here to enhance our sense of well-being? Is that the fundamental dynamic? Is that what’s granted to us?” It sounds awfully like Genesis to me.

“You name everything. It’s yours, baby,” kind of thing. If some shaman looks you in the eye and says, “You’ll do,” why should you take that as it’s your turn?” [laughs] What if they’re wrong about you?

  There’s a wonderful story that, I know it in a kind of Buddhist iteration, but I’m sure there’s other iterations of it. The gist of it goes like this. Somebody, let’s say, who’s Catholic or Jewish — it doesn’t matter what his ancestral affirmation was, and he’s seeking a path, the path, some path, and maybe he’s in an ashram, I don’t know, something.

  At some point, he asked the guy in the robes how can he, he — the young guy — get to the status of the fellow with the robes. The fellow with the robes says to him, “You’re Catholic, aren’t you?”, and the guy said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well, be a good Catholic, that’s how.”

  It’s so dispiriting, because what merit is there in being a good Catholic? Now, I’m not saying there is. I’m not saying there isn’t. I’m trying to say something else, which is…Well, maybe this is the heart of the beast. I see a lot of people who come to things that I do, and five minutes into any verbal encounter with them, you quickly discover that they’ve taken up all manner of traditions from the world upon themselves, either formal conversion or times in the wilderness, or whatever it is, whatever the compound fracture is. 

  They have it, and the thought that seems never to have occurred to anyone who’s done these things, when they speak at least with me about it, is this. Is there such a thing as real ancestry? Number one. If there is, is ancestry instantly and forever obviated, neutralized, withered, and rendered irrelevant as a consequence of dying? 

If the answer’s no, it means your ancestors, present tense, are cultured, and that part of them being the dead, as an honorific title, part of them being your ancestral dead is that they have not graduated from the ancestry that they themselves knew in life.

  I think this is very possible. Take all that and then wonder about the hordes of generic North American people who are seeking an affirmation from a religious, or spiritual, or cultural tradition that’s not their own, and ask yourself whether or not there’s any consequence at all that accrues to their ancestors who they so readily abandoned in the name of being from somewhere.

  And is it not possible, if any of these things are true, that the desire to seek out and seek out and demand yet again from the Amazon jungle, or from the Himalayas, or anywhere in between, doesn’t actually deepen the cultural misery and void that has animated, I think, a lot of what you’ve been doing in your life, and certainly has animated what I’ve been doing in mine.

  I think the answer’s yes. I think the solution that poverty whispers is, “More poverty.”

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“Well, the Dalai Lama and a lot of other people know very well the old history of Tibetan Buddhism, and it’s not glorious.”

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Tad: It strikes me, sitting with this that what I see, and I’m sure experienced in myself often is this. I’ve been looking at wisdom traditions. It feels like there are two impulses that it’s coming from.

One is this, “How can this help my life today?” I’ll actually read from something I saw online recently. It said, “What is shamanism? How can I learn from these ancient indigenous practices and incorporate them into my modern life? How can I embody a balanced relationship in all of my relationships?”

  But just that framing of it, of how can this help you in your life today… So, I feel like that’s one of the thrusts of ‘how do we use it?’, and I’ve heard it talked about as these ‘spiritual technologies’, in our modern life, and then this other thrust is something more about, “Yes, I’m critical about this culture, and so I want to get out of this culture,” because yes, North American culture, you’re right. It’s impoverished, it’s terrible. It’s destroying everything, and so I…

Stephen:  Count me out.

Tad:  Yeah, right.

Stephen:  Count me out, right? Sorry. I’m sorry to interrupt. Yeah, go ahead.

Tad: Yeah, there’s that, “I don’t want to be a part of it, and I see that the religions, whether spiritual or the religion of progress of capitalism, I see that that’s all bankrupt,” and so there’s this deep hunger and desire for a direction to get out of it.

Stephen:  Sure.

Tad:  So either it feels like these get used either to get me out, or help me get deeper in and be more successful in it, yeah.

Stephen:  Sure. Look, man. I don’t say these things out of any joy or malice. I say them with lament, with great sorrow, that so many of the solutions that we craft turn into more of the same.

  But how the hell could it be otherwise, though? If we are following our own bliss…I just hacked a fur ball to say that, but I risked it. If that’s what we’re doing, from whence comes this bliss?

  For 50 or more years now, there’s a segment in North America that’s believed, that has consistently believed that this idea of bliss, personal bliss, is somehow above the fray, is somehow and in no way tainted or touched by the malaise that you’ve just read from, that people are trying to escape, that somehow bliss is…Or your personal path, or personal truth — it doesn’t matter how you describe it, you understand the thrust of the reference.

  The idea that there could actually be a part of you that’s not impoverished, that’s deeply informed, and that would know the real thing when it saw it, and would know how to behave in the presence of the real thing. That’s absolutely breath-taking in its naiveté. To me, it is. That’s number one.

Here’s number two. The various traditions that respond most favorably to their search engines on the Internet, [laughs] ask yourself whether the old history of these traditions is known by these people who are seeking them out. I can promise you that each one of these traditions is very likely to have a degree of historical darkness, or enslavement, or cultural imperialism, that is has inflicted as well as been on the receiving end of, but man, who knows about those?

  Who knows about that part of things? Well, the Dalai Lama and a lot of other people know very well the old history of Tibetan Buddhism, and it’s not glorious, just to take one example, no?

So these things that we seek out more or less uncritically, hoping, believing, imagining, requiring that they are a kind of pollution-free zone, that they’re above the things that we ourselves are trying to get away from, that’s a very naive thing, man, because they’re there. That stuff’s there.

  I don’t say this, I hope it’s clear… I don’t say this to discredit any particular tradition. I’m saying the real, the deep practitioners of these are, I’m sure, doing their best to live this stuff out, to wrangle it as best they can in their devotions and in their daily lives. I’m sure they are, but I’m sure they’re not doing this, believing that they’re somehow on the other side of all that stuff.

  Think about this. There are a lot of religious traditions, spiritual traditions, or cultural, ancestral ones, that have a practice when people — mainly men — return from armed conflict, war, and the rest, that they don’t let them into the villages, that they have to go through a rather prolonged ceremonial sequence to, at one level, the obvious level, detoxify them from what they’ve seen and what they’ve been obliged to do. Yes, that’s true.

  But the deeper realization is none of these things are undertaken for the sole or even primary sake of the returning war veteran. They’re undertaken, a) for the sake of the village they’re trying to re-enter, and b) for the sake of the people that they killed and made homeless and all the rest, and orphaned, and… All of that, and the ancestors of all of those people, and the descendants of all of those people.

  You see, there’s a lot hanging in the balance, when you take a life, and the deep practitioners of real human culture understand that if you’re okay with it, [laughs] that’s nothing.

  If you get on the other side to your PTSD, that’s nothing, man, because the real root of PTSD is the kind of, you could say, ripple of consequence that you didn’t intend, but that ensued, nonetheless.

  Well, this is one little iteration of what I’m talking about when I say “when we seek out a tradition as if it’s pristine.” These traditions internally understand themselves to be otherwise. I’m sure of it.

  This is a degree of torment that perhaps when you thought about talking about this, [laughs] it didn’t seem it was necessary to visit, but here we are.

Tad:  It has me think about purity, and I think especially in the New Age, for lack of a better term, scene, there’s this idea of purity, and that that’s kind of the point of life, whether through our raw vegan diets that we eat, or the spirituality as pristine, and that pristine seems to mean a lack of culture, that it’s pure, in a way, and that this is cross-cultural, that this is just from a more evolved spiritual level, where everything is pure, and everything is untainted and intact, and…

Stephen:  It may be not really humanly derived. Maybe not really a product of human endeavor, but somehow granted from the forehead of Zeus or the equivalent.

Tad:  Yeah, and then there can’t be any cultural appropriation of that, because there’s no culture.

Stephen:  Because there’s no culture to appropriate, exactly, because it’s there for everybody. I can’t make a distinction between that and fir trees, or oaks, or anything that the people who are the MacMillan Bloedells of the world, see these things as a renewable resource.

  Tell me the difference between that and what you just described. I’ve never seen the difference. I think it’s the same orientation. The grandchild of the MacMillan Bloedel executive is the ayuhuasca king.

*

“My heart is broken. I never want it to mend.”

*

Tad:  One of the things you speak a lot about in the school is heartbreak and poverty, and it seems like the…I’ve noticed in myself, when there’s that inclination to — which I’ve had in various points and various forms in my life — that instinct to teach, that instinct to want to be in that role. I can also feel like there’s a way of avoiding the heartbreak and the poverty, and getting…

Stephen: By teaching?

Tad:  Yeah, because then I know something, or I’m trying to help people get out of that, and it’s something I just see a lot, I suppose particularly in the New Age scene, but I guess I could imagine in other religions, too.

  If the instinct for more teachers is driven by this poverty and heartbreak, in part, of where we’re at, and yet what’s being taught is the getting over the heartbreak, and replacing that poverty with some new fancy information. It just strikes me that there’s not a lot of room on the altar for the heartbreak or the poverty.

Stephen:  Who that you know seeks out heartbreak? I’ve told you a story about a guy I knew who prayed for it, remember?

Tad:  Sure.

Stephen:  When he and I watched the film “The Elephant Man,” that’s what came out of his mouth at the end of it. He said, literally, to me, “My heart is broken. I never want it to mend.” He was not seeking a pristine sort of post-morbid restoration of his self-esteem or something. No, man. 

  He was seeking memory, and he realized, I think, that his capacity to remember the deep things that he was born to and that were entrusted to him at some point in his life, required that his memory be engaged, active, and informed by the realities of his time.

  And from him, although this image is not his, but the understanding is, I’ve taken this in the last year or so…I fancy — I even have an envy where the practice of rosary is concerned. I didn’t grow up with anything like that. I didn’t grow up with anything to speak of. I sure didn’t grow up with that, and I think it’s cool beyond measure, and here’s why.

  It is a kind of choreographed memory. You might — not you, personally, but someone might find this inauthentic or contrived. Well, okay, then you try to remember on your own.

[laughter]

12485902_1011933498827932_5184754900903356030_o

*
“… you become recognizable to them the instant that you begin to resemble the time that you were born to.”

*

Stephen:  It ain’t easy, man, and all the heavy hitters, and all the heavy cultures in the world know very well how hard it is to remember how to be a human being while you’re out in the field trying to be one.

  Often it’s the first casualty. Your memory of how to be one is the first casualty of your renewed efforts to try to be one, so these rituals of all kinds are fundamentally, in part, a way of choreographing your memory without leaving it up to you. In other words, the distinction would be your being reminded instead of being expected to remember. Different function.

  The rosary is in that realm. I think it’s as funky as it gets, but here’s what I think. I don’t know that our time is any more fraught than other aspects of our time, but I don’t know that it isn’t. I would suggest this, that…

  Man, there’s an eagle right in front of my house, just diving into the water. That’s amazing. Just as we speak, right now. Literally, right in front of the house, over the river.

  I’m sorry, I got distracted, as I was watching there. [laughs] It’s a sign, baby.

  [laughter]

But I’m not going to say of what. I don’t know.

Okay.  So now, those beads. It seems to me that the particular afflictions of our time have to appear on those rosary beads, that in fact the beads are not a way of not being in the time that you’re in or solving the time that you’re in, or give you an alternative to the time that you’re in.

  I think that they must be an incarnation of the time that you’re in, and the way I’ve taken to say it is those beads have to be engraved with the nature, including the poverties of your time, etched into every bead, and when you feel them, your times, your contemplations, your yearnings, your strivings, your happiness, your deep satisfactions as well as your heartbreaks, all of those things have to, I think, bear the mark of your time.

  And this is what renders upon you the possibility of being a reliable human being, reliable to other people, reliable to the non-human world, which is, frankly, most of the world, reliable to everything that had granted us our days, which may not be overly visible, and maybe particularly reliable to those ancestors who have you in mind, who find that you become recognizable to them the instant that you begin to resemble the time that you were born to.

  Now I’ve never said anything that good in my life, I don’t think. That last sentence, that last sentence, if I die tonight, that’ll stick. I think that’s as true as anything that’s ever occurred to me. I’m very lucky that I heard myself say that.

*

“For what it’s worth. No elder wants to be one.”

*

Tad:  [laughs] It strikes me so much how that doesn’t get a chance to show up in a manner of understanding the world, or teaching, or wisdom. That’s the sort of universal “It’s always been true.”

  I supposed I find myself wondering…Gosh, I suppose a whole other thing, but in so many traditional societies it seems like teaching — and I don’t even know if teaching is the right word, but the elders who are the ones doing that, and that there’s so many people today who are drawn to that idea of being an elder, and then self-appointing themselves elders.

  I’m curious, to your understanding of from maybe a more traditional standpoint, it feels connected to this teaching piece of how does one know when they are one? How does one know when they are ready? How does one not get prematurely out of the gate and do damage as a result? Nobody wants to be Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Stephen:  Okay, are you ready?

Tad:  Yeah.

Stephen:  For what it’s worth. No elder wants to be one.

Tad:  Yeah.

Stephen:  The desire to be an elder is the particular purview of those who are not. It’s very counter-intuitive — crazy idea. Not that welcome an idea, but “how do you know if you’re an elder?”

“Hey man, that’s not an elder question?”

“Well, wait a second. You’d have to know in order to be one.”

“No, no. That’s what it looks like from here.”

  Here might be a good parallel. I used to work in the death trade quite a long time, and it became very, very sexy during that time to take upon yourself the self-appointed task, generally, of crafting a living will or advanced directive declaration. 

For those who are not entirely sure what it is, it basically means that when you’re no longer able to operate or articulate or what have you, that the caregivers around you and the loved ones are guided by what you would have wanted for yourself should you have been able to direct them in that moment.

It sounds very good. Here’s the dilemma. “Who wrote that thing?”  

“Well, I did.”

“Yeah, but where were you when you wrote it?”

“Well, I was able to write it, so that’s obvious, I was able to articulate it.” [laughs] “I was able to consistently express my wish over time,” which is one of the hallmarks of being sane, apparently in our culture.

“Yeah, but you weren’t at the time that you were instructing people about, were you?”

  “No.”

  “No, you weren’t, were you?”

  “No.”

  “In fact, you’d never been there, had you?”

  “No.”

*

“…The real skill of elderhood in a time as demented as our is, the real skill of elderhood is the skill of being able to have elders in your midst, not the skill of being able to be one of those people, you see?

*

  And so all the articulation came from is an artifact of never having been there, which means you were engaged in a very volatile and probably useful fantasy about what “enough already” would look like, and you know what happened more often than not?

  When people got there, it bore almost no resemblance to what they imagined. This goes right back to the patience thing I was talking about at the beginning. The people who are longing for personal elderhood are the people who’ve never been there, because elders are not people.

  Elder is a function. It’s not an identity. It’s not, in that sense, an achievement. It’s being achieved by not being sought. It’s functionally servitude. That’s what elderhood is, functionally. It’s servitude. It’s mis-apprehended leadership. Our understanding of leadership is, to some degree, above the fray. Those are the people you trust, that kind of thing.

  The elders bear the thumbprint of the makers of their time, and they’re wrought by that. Let’s go further and say overwrought by that, and it weighs heavily in a time like ours, to be an elder in a time that allegedly seeks it, but has no use for it when it’s present.

  The real skill of elderhood in a time as demented as our is, the real skill of elderhood is the skill of being able to have elders in your midst, not the skill of being able to be one of those people, you see? Because if elders are not sustained in their function, in their trouble-making function, they will never be there for you when you seek them, and there will be no elderhood for you to take upon yourself.

  The only way to become an elder is to seek them out, in that sense, to employ them, to recognize them and to give them something to do. How are you going to do that if you, yourself, want to be that elder that you seek? That you want the confirmation.

  I’ve said, using the word “pushback” these days, but I prefer the more authentic rendering of hostility, which I think is what happens. You can’t imagine how much pushback I get if I ever have the kind of marred judgment of talking about these things out loud. You can’t imagine the degree of offense that people beyond a certain age take upon themselves, and it basically comes back, Tad, to this.

  “When is it my bloody turn? When do I finally get to cash in? When does it…?”

  You understand what I’m saying.

Tad:  Yeah.

Stephen:  It’s so sad. The answer is, “Man, as long as you’re asking that, you ain’t never going to get there.” It’s an exercise in controlled futility masquerading as a pilgrimage. 

  These things are mysteries. They’re not strategies. They’re mysteries, even now, in a blighted time like ours. We have blighted mysteries, but we’re not bereft of mystery. One of the mysteries about elderhood is, “Well if you’re seeking elderhood for yourself, then this is an uninitiated understanding of what it means.” So then you have to go back to the drawing board.

  “Okay, so I’ll go get myself some initiation.”

  “Man, you’re 48 years old. What are you talking about?”

  “Yeah, but it’s not too late.”

  “No, it bloody is too late for what you’re talking about.”

  Do you know why it doesn’t work for people at 47 years old? Or 52, [laughs] or 29, or 21? Here’s why it doesn’t work, because they can put your ass out on the top of a mountain, they can freeze you to kingdom come, they can not feed you, they can expose you to the torments of the age, they can threaten you with the oncomingness of the demons of the dark, all of that shit, but, somewhere in there you’re going to be able to say, “I’m cool. I’m out of this shit on Monday. I’m cool. I can get in there. I can imagine myself on the other side of this shit right here.”

  Now here’s the thing. A 12-year old can’t, and that’s why these things, in certain fashion, are timed when they’re timed. There’s lots of other reasons, too, but that’s one. So you see, you get to a certain age, that the machinery of the deep molecular conversion to a deep humanity can not have its way with you, because you become too clever.

  Something like this, I was superintending the death of kids for a while. It was a pretty rough ride, and of course the parents were, needless to say, out of their minds with all of this and the great lament that the parents had, if you really obliged them to verbalize it.

  It was not so much that the kid was dying, but that the fundamental, the epic rip-off of this was that the kids were not going to get to have a full life. That was the operative phrase, “full life.” You’ll see why I think this is pertinent now.

  So I would usually say, “Well, why don’t we just go ask the kid?” Seven years old, dying of leukemia in the hospital, but let’s ask him anyway, and the parents would be horrified that you’d even think of it, and then they ask you to go ask him, because they couldn’t bear it, and properly so, they couldn’t bear to go and ask their kid, so I would literally do so.

  I did it many times, and I can tell you that kids, up to a certain age are absolutely mystified by this question of whether or not they are being deprived of a full life. It simply does not compute, as they used to say. Do you know why?

  Because they have no capacity for the understanding of potential life, that’s why. Because the only life they’ve ever known is the life under their fingernails. In other words, their life is a lived life, not a hypothetical life, not a possible life, not a “if” life. The life that they’ve inhabited is entire, and — maybe the word “complete” is not right — whole. That’s the word I’m looking for. Their life is whole.

Up to a certain age, which it looks to me to be somewhere between 9 and 11 is when they learn how to be crazy like the rest of us, when they learn how to nurse a grievance about not getting their allotment, their hypothetical allotment. When they open up The Book of “Supposed To” and start reading from it, when somebody at school looks at them between the eyes and says, “You’re not living up to your potential,” and they take that inside themselves as an authentic rendering of their lives, that their real life is yet to be.

  Something happens, and we seem to have to learn that. The big dilemma now for that is that the capacity to inhabit the functions of elderhood, or to be inhabited by them require your understanding of yourself not to be one of…You’re like a human in waiting, or you’re some kind of potential something, or if you just fill in the blank, then you will just fill in the blank.

  The plea I’m making, I suppose, is that the degree of patience that I’m talking about approaches the primordial. It’s not some delayed gratification strategy by another name. The patience I’m talking about is the likelihood of you getting what you want. Your want being informed so deeply by your bereavement, because of the troubled time you were born in, guarantees that the troubled time will continue in its current iteration.

  The willingness to forgo being delivered from it so that you might be of some use in it is the patience that I’m pleading for and kind of a secret intonation of that is that might be at the very least, a proto elder function. The willingness to forgo the payday that you were certain that enough feathers and enough ayahuasca and enough being approved of by a smaller browner person than you was going to give you.

*

“Sit at the door and see if you can discern the sound of knocking when it happens, instead of flinging it wide open and saying, ‘I’m here. Any dangerous work for me to do?’, or things of that kind.”

*

Tad:  Do you have time for one more question?

Stephen:  One more boss.

Tad:  Sure. In the school, you make the distinction sometimes between the teaching and being a practitioner.

Stephen:  Yes.

Tad:  And that feels relevant to this whole conversation.

Stephen:  That’s the part I left out at the very beginning. I was going to come back to it, so thank you for prompting me. Did you want to ask something about it, or do you want me to just speak to that?

Tad:  I notice when I said, “How do you know when you’re ready to be a teacher?”, and in the email you replied, “Who needs more teachers?” That’s the place my mind went to, was the, “Do we need more people at the front of rooms imparting information, or do we need people living this and weaving it into their everyday living, and practicing the arts of hospitality, and practicing courtesy, in whatever they end up doing?” I suppose that’s where my mind went with it.

Stephen:  Sure, and a fair response would be to say, “Well, we don’t have to choose between those things, do we?” It is possible that somebody could be a deep practitioner of human life and then on occasion have a breakdown of good judgment and talk to people about it.

[laughter]

*

“I think that’s what friendship is, and I think that’s what these practitioners, as a function among us, are, is they make the world somehow worth the trouble.”

*

Stephen:  You’d like to believe that those two things are possible, and I suppose they are, but I think what I’m saying is that teaching shouldn’t be a time out from what you’re teaching about, and too often, way too often, it is.

  So if you’re really have been entrusted with something that you’re absolutely persuaded is the stuff of the ages, let the world let you know that. Sit at the door and see if you can discern the sound of knocking when it happens, instead of flinging it wide open and saying, “I’m here. Any dangerous work for me to do?”, or things of that kind.

  It’s enormously seductive now. There are so many people willing, very temporarily, to listen to you, that the seduction is, “This must be the sign, that you should be talking.”

  Bob Dylan always said, when he was a young, young man, in one of his songs, he said, “I know my song well before I start singing it.” But he also said, “To live outside the law, you must be honest,” and that’s very compelling to me, because our normal understanding of law-abiding citizen is that you are honest, that you tell the truth, that there’s this faithful orientation to think, “Nothing of the kind, baby.”

  If you’re a law-abiding citizen, you don’t even need a conscience. You need a capacity for basic obedience, and that’s what the law requires of you, and that’s all it requires of you. It doesn’t require discernment. The enforcers of the law don’t say to you, “Now, Tad, which of these laws do you propose to obey today, because you know, it’s really up to you.” No, there’s no discernment at all.

  There’s no discernment at all. One thing only — “Obey,” and there’s no honesty in that, because there’s no discernment in the rest.

  On the other hand, if you propose to find yourself, or you do find yourself on the outside of the thing that you wish you could have been able to change, that outsider status, that’s the beginning of the possibility of you wrangling something that’s more authentic than obedience, and that, in his lyric, he called it honesty.

  So, yes, I think that the proper alternative to the multiplying of teachers is that if we had people practicing life instead of coaching somebody else in it…Let’s go one step further and say I propose to you that it is not a function of human being to teach human being to provisional human beings. I don’t think it is.

  I think that you have to take upon yourself as best as you’re able to a degree of humility that might be in the realm of…I think it was Rumi, but it might have been one of his cohorts over there, who regularly in his poetic kind of ramblings pleaded with people to wake up, and the way he often said it is he would end a particular iteration or plea or something with the phrase “like this,” and of course, you’re reading it on the page. You’re not exactly sure what the reference might be.

  But I think this is as close as a practitioner might get to teaching, is to, just in case you’re missing it, that practitioner might look up from the page or the spoon that he or she’s carving, or the shoe that he or she’s making, or whatever it is, and say, “Well, it’s like this,” and then look back down and keep going, because maybe you missed it, and they break form.

  So it’s not an orthodoxy I’m talking about here. It’s not the new ten steps or anything of the kind. It’s a kind of nuance, I guess, and the idea of being a practitioner, that’s the way I crafted an alternative that I thought might be available just with a phrase, that the mind could think something else, other than, “How do I impart this thing?”

  You don’t impart it. You practice it, and in so doing, see to it that it’s still in the architecture, and this means you have to rely on witnesses, not shanghai students, not…What’s that thing they used to say when they…Pressed. Not pressed students. That’s the old thing that they, when they would gather drunken guys off the wharf and turn them into sailors for the royal navy during the bad old days.

  So the press gangs of ashrams and the rest, maybe we could set that aside for a while, and entertain the subtler possibility that if there’s a real good practitioner, that if we’re willing to find practice and not inspiration, if we’re willing to find somebody who, in a much less spectacular way than we counted on, is seeing to it that the thing we’re seeking is in the world without them writing a book about it, or having a website for it, and that that way of seeing to it that it’s in the world is the thing that we’re seeking.

  To know it’s in the world…Okay, maybe I’ll end with this. I have a friend. I’m going to name him. His name’s Peter von Tiesenhausen. Quite a handle. Peter von Tiesenhausen’s one of the most accomplished sculptors in this country now. He lives in rural Alberta, up in the north in the Peace River area.

  I just called him my friend. We virtually never see each other, and somebody could say, “What kind of friendship’s that?”, and I say to you, “Well, here’s what kind of friendship it is, that on occasion, if I’m writing to him or something, I’ll say to him the equivalent of,” and he’ll say something similar, “You know, as long as I know that you’re in the world, then it’s a good world to be in. And I don’t need, much as I’d love it, but I don’t need the ongoing hit of visits and flowers, much as I’d love it. But if I have to choose between, I’d rather know that you’re in the world,” and then I’ll say to him, “so you’ve got to let me know when you’re not, because then what binds me to this place would become a little looser than it was.”

  I think that’s what friendship is, and I think that’s what these practitioners, as a function among us, are, is they make the world somehow worth the trouble.

Tad:  Stephen, thank you so much for taking the time. I know you’re in the midst of a lot of things going on right now.

Stephen:  That’s very true.

Tad:   And I don’t feel like a very good interviewer, but somehow you have wrangled something wonderful out of my stumbles and attempts and my questions, and so I’m grateful for that, and so grateful for your time, and for all the time that you’ve put in to be able to make something of this conversation, and for all the time that people put into you to deliver you to our doorstep. I’m just grateful for all of it.

Stephen:  It’s a great heredity we’re in, isn’t it?

Tad:  Mm-hmm.

Stephen:  None of this happens, Tad, and I’m not blowing smoke up your kiester when I say this, and I appreciate what you just said to me, but none of this happens if you don’t ask and you don’t proceed as if maybe, maybe, I might have something that’s been entrusted to me that’s worth hearing. If you don’t proceed that way, who knows, including me, who knows?

  But when you ask, I’ve got something to live up to, and that living up to seems to me to be…That’s the partnership. You ask, which means…I’m not naive about it. I’m sure that some place in your life, you’re being hit up all the time to do these very things that I’ve been talking about, and probably slandering during the last hour or so.

  I’m sure you are, so I wasn’t talking about something that you’re vaguely interested in, but doesn’t really touch your days, and I know that’s a risk for you to wonder about these things, because people who are in on what you’re doing are probably looking to you for the very same thing.

  So we really both took a chance, and we’re both hoping that there might be some merit in having done so for somebody who might, by accident, come across this rambling enterprise that was our conversation, and if we both kept up our ends, maybe there is.

Stephen J