Most of the people who come to my Marketing for Hippies 101 workshops feel like failures in marketing.
Some because they tried everything and it hasn’t worked out the way they were told it would.
Some because they’ve tried nothing at all.
But many of them seem to come through the doors feeling like something about them is defective that they struggle so deeply with their marketing.
They should be able to promote themselves better. They should be able to articulate what they do better. They should be able to sell themselves with more confidence at networking events. They should be better and more compelling public speakers. They should blog more. They shouldn’t be such a technological luddite. They should believe in themselves more. They should have a better website (or a website at all). They should have more clients.
All of those phrases lie heavy in the air at these workshops. They are unspoken but, more importantly, unquestioned.
Weaving them together is the thought, “Something is wrong with me.”
The thought, though unnamed, seems obvious enough. If you should be able to do something and you can’t seem to get yourself to do it. What other conclusions could be drawn but that there’s something defective inside of you or something missing or broken?
But what if there was nothing wrong with you at all?
And, of course, this goes far beyond marketing. Most of us walk around our lives with this story whispering in our ear and, with an unerring capacity, finding us evidence to support this idea everywhere we look, constantly adding legs under the table top notion of our inadequacy.
I mean look at the evidence. Look at the notches on our belts for all of the seven deadly sins that find their way into our lives every day. For some of us, it’s wrath and anger. For others, it’s sloth. For others, it’s lust and lechery. Despite our best efforts, we can’t seem to clean up our acts.
You’ve gone to all of the workshops and you’re still an asshole.
You’ve meditated for years and you’re still the most uptight, miserable bastard you know.
You eat so healthfully and yet you keep getting sick.
You’ve learned so much about marketing and selling and you’re still failing to get anyone to sign up and pay you money.
We are visited over and over by that most painful of thoughts, “I can’t believe I did that again.” and its partner, “I should know better by now.” But the unclaimed child of these thoughts is, “There’s something wrong with me.”
The evidence seems overwhelming and inarguable.
But, what if there’s nothing wrong with you?
This might seem impossible to even consider when you’re in the depths of shame but consider this question to be a rope thrown down to you from above.
How could it be that there’s nothing wrong with you in the face of such overwhelming evidence?
Imagine you are at a networking event. In your two front jacket pockets of the suit you put on begrudgingly, in a half-hearted attempt to appear professional, you have fifty business cards. One hundred cards in total that you give out throughout a long night of networking driven by a dogged commitment and financial desperation to get clients. By the end of the night, your pockets are empty. One hundred new potential clients are now in possession of your business card.
But, as the weeks go by, no one calls. No new clients come from it.
Surely, there must be something wrong with you.
Or, perhaps, you stood there at the bar talking with the first person you met for the whole night because you’re so terrified of introducing yourself to strangers and because you have no idea what you’d say and you leave feeling like a failure.
Surely, there must be something wrong with you.
Or, perhaps, you didn’t even make it that far. You saw the networking opportunity and marked it in your calendar but were too overcome with anxiety to step out the door to go to the event.
Surely, there must be something wrong with you.
That’s the refrain I hear, unspoken, over and over throughout my workshops. I could give you so many scenarios where this appears.
But what if none of them are a sign of anything being wrong with you?
What if that’s not what it means?
What if they are table legs of evidence but propping up the poorly chosen table top of ‘There’s something wrong with me’?
What else could it mean? What other table top might better hold the feast of your days and harvest of your business no matter how meager it might seem?
No doubt there are many but let me offer one here for your consideration: what if all of the evidence you’ve gathered isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong with you but that there’s something wrong with the approach you’ve learned?
What if most of what’s taught in marketing is so profoundly dehumanizing, terrible feeling and, frankly, ineffective that we either don’t do it or are bound to get poor results from it if we do?
For example, many marketing workshops will tell you to network to get clients.
But what if the core approach to it that is commonly taught actually doesn’t work? What if stress and pushiness are built in? What if those approaches are doomed to fail? What if the promises made about those approaches aren’t based in anything that might be considered ‘reality’?
This is so hard to see when there is no alternative given. When it’s all you know, it’s hard to imagine there might be another way.
So let me offer you two ideas on networking that I got from the good Bill Baren.
The first is to give up on networking for clients at all but to rather orient your networking towards connecting with hubs (who might be the source of dozens of clients). Remember this: Babe Ruth, one of the baseball greats, only hit homeruns twenty percent of the time. So, why do we think that we should be able to convince everyone with whom we connect to become a client? Where does that insane notion come from? And why is it that we think, when we fail to get many, if any, clients networking in the ways we’ve been taught, that the failure is with us instead of in the approach itself? What if networking for clients is inherently a dead end, exhausting approach?
If you shift your networking away from trying to get clients to trying to connect with hubs you might be amazed at how much more effective and better feeling it becomes.
But there’s more.
What if you stop going to networking events alone to network for yourself and, instead, went with a colleague and networked for each other? What if you each walked in with a solid understanding of each other’s work, how to best articulate it and who might be the best fits as clients or, even better, as hubs? What if you stopped trying to do the inherently uncomfortable work of promoting yourself and, instead, focused on hustling for your friend who you love?
When I lay these two ideas out at workshops, I see eyes open wide. I see relief. I see the unspoken thought, “I can’t believe I never thought of that. Of course.”
For years, they had felt like failures for trying and failing at networking or simply failing to try but then I see them begin to consider that it might have been that the whole approach, itself, that was wrong not them.
What if there was nothing wrong with you?
“Why can’t I stand up in the front of the room and be magnetic and powerful in my presence?” Maybe because you’ve got a quiet and quirky charm that doesn’t easily fit into the molds given out by marketing coaches.
“Why can’t I introduce myself with more confidence at networking events?” Maybe because a lot of those events end up being shitty and contrived and because you haven’t learned how to talk about what you do in a way that feels good.
“Why do I feel such a deep resistance to charging more money? It must be some deep money wounds I have needing years of therapy and expensive coaching packages.” Yeah. And maybe you’ve also got a political and spiritual conscience and you find yourself genuinely troubled by the economic system and how money works in this culture at this time and you really have no idea how to relate to charging for what you do in a way that feels right.
“I host these regular gatherings but I have no idea how to follow up with the people who attend them. It must be that I don’t believe in myself.” Possibly. But more likely it’s that you’ve never identified or been shown a low-pressure way to do just that.
What if there was nothing wrong with you?
Why can’t you market? Why are you so bad with money? Maybe it’s just never learned an approach or perspective that felt good. Maybe it’s because you’re doing the best you can given the overwhelming pressures of your life as a parent and caregiver to your parents. Maybe it’s not because, as a commenter in this blog post said, “because you’re stuck in fear and won’t take a risk.” And if you’re not rich maybe it’s not because “you haven’t learned to unblock your innate powers of manifestation” (side note: have you noticed that most of these manifestation coaches are broke?)
Maybe it’s because you’re doing the best you can given the very limited time you have and the overwhelming pressures of your life as a parent and caregiver to your parents and you only have so many hours in a week. Maybe it’s not about you being lazy. Imagine that.
And yet, in every workshop I do, I see people who have learned techniques and approaches to marketing that feel off and they assume it’s a personal failing. They assume that the fault lies in them, not the techniques they were taught.
As a side note, these is the unintended consequence of hype.
“Learn these stealth networking tactics and have everyone you meet practically beg for your card!”
“Learn these hidden dating hacks and have the hottest girls in the bar begging for your number!”
“Using these three techniques you’ll never lose your man.”
“This little-known investment strategy can double your money in 90 days guaranteed.”
“The pounds will practically melt off your body when you do these three simple things (in only 15 minutes a day!).”
When we read and believe these false promises and then can’t seem to achieve the results they were offering, it can be easy to assume that the fault is with us.
But, what if there was nothing wrong with you?
This is not new.
In his paper, “Beyond the Four Waves of Colonization” Darien Thira points out that there have been three waves of colonization of indigenous people.
The Colonization of Aboriginal peoples has generally been considered to have operated in three waves:
1. legal – legislation to identify and control the Aboriginal population through the suppression of legal rights, based on the view of Aboriginal peoples and communities as ‘savage’;
2. administrative – a reserve system designed to isolate Aboriginal groups and claim their traditional lands, based on the view of Aboriginal peoples and communities as ‘heathen’; and
3. ideological – the Residential School and Foster-parent System which were originally intended to assimilate and later separate Aboriginal people from the non-native mainstream, based on the view of Aboriginal peoples and communities as ‘deficient’ (Chrisjohn, Young, and Mauraun 1997; McCormick 2002; Milloy, 19999).
However, a fourth wave of colonization is currently oppressing the Aboriginal community, a medical wave, made up of professional caregivers, treatment centres, and others which encourage and provide so-called healing, based on the view of Aboriginal peoples as ‘sick’ (Chrisjohn, Young, and Mauraun 1997; Thira, 2005)
And this fourth wave is vital because it has indigenous people thinking that something is wrong with them. It has them walking around thinking that they are the sick ones. Thira continues,
The Fourth Wave of Colonization: Western ‘Healing’ In response to these consequences, a fourth, medical, wave of colonization and genocide has been created–a social welfare industry made up of therapeutic foster homes, treatment facilities, and consulting mental health and social service professionals (not to mention researchers and academics) who have shifted the label from ‘savage’, ‘heathen’, and ‘deficient’ to “sick” Indian and/or community (Milloy 1999; Ward 2001). Aboriginal people and communities are victims who now require help form the very colonizers who harmed them. So-called ‘Residential School Syndrome’ (RSS) provides an excellent example. RSS has been proposed as a form of mental illness with symptoms that include the intrusion of terrifying memories and dreams, the avoidance of anything that reminds one of Indian Residential School, and an unrealistic fear of danger (anxiety), among others. It also suggests that many of the problems currently experienced by Aboriginal communities, such as addiction, violence, unemployment, family problems and suicide, are a result of this mental illness (Brassfield 2001). However, by placing the responsibility for the problem on the individual, implying that it is caused by their failure to ‘adjust’ to their traumatic personal past, RSS can be viewed as a tool that labels survivors a person as ‘sick’, rather than someone who is living with ongoing social oppression (Chrisjohn, Young, and Mauraun 1997). Thus, it as been argued that a better diagnosis for the problems just described is ‘Acute and/or Chronic Response to Colonialism’ (Duran & Duran 1995). From this socially aware perspective, it is not the Aboriginal individuals who are ‘sick’, but those who oppress them. It is the colonizers, not the survivors, who should be diagnosed with RSS. The symptoms must be revised to be: the desire to steal children from their parents and to rob a people of their language, culture, and land (Chrisjohn, Young, and Mauraun 1997).
What if Residential School Syndrome was a human response to oppression?
What if that’s how you’re supposed to react as a human in those situations?
What if the dysfunction was in the way we looked at the dysfunction.
What if there’s no mystery here?
What if there was nothing wrong with you?
“The resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.”
– Vernon Howard
“So, you might have noticed this already but I’m certainly somewhere on the Asperger’s spectrum.” said a woman at my workshop. She was standing at the front. A woman in her late fifties, conservatively dressed, shy and sweet. She considered herself a spiritual and psychological failure. Undiagnosed for her Aspergers she’d gone to see therapists to figure out why she struggled so much. The help offered focused on the assumption that something was wrong with her, that there were parts of her in conflict that needed some resolution. But what was actually happening was that she was just wired differently; she processed information differently. There was nothing wrong with her.
She then practiced meditation with deep devotion and yet something remained untouched. Finally, she found a spiritual modality that profoundly shifted her life for the better.
She wasn’t a psychological or spiritual failure. She’d been psychologically and spiritually failed.
I think of LGBTQ young people who spend their whole lives thinking there’s something wrong with them.
I think of people of colour thinking they’re inferior because they don’t look white enough.
I think of men and women both ashamed of their genders and those who don’t fit neatly into either gender ashamed of their inability to slide gently into place anywhere.
I think of those students who don’t learn well from sitting in a classroom and slammed with the ADHD lable and put on drugs.
I think of all of the young men in this culture who were never, at a young age, initiated into adulthood and who end up wreaking so much havoc on the lives of those around them. Men behave shittily because of this programming and poverty and are convinced there’s something wrong with them personally. “But you don’t understand! I’m a monster!” they say. Sure. This culture affecs every single man, but you. You’re the one who’s just rotten to the core. You’re the one. You’re just the bad seed. The Devil made you and snuck you into existence somehow. Nothing redeeming here. You are separate from all of Life. Got it. This story is so deep. There’s something wrong with you. The rest of the Universe seems to be working well, but not you.
I think of all the young women who are never welcomed into their adulthood either and how both spend the rest of their lives with this unspoken feeling that something important that was supposed to happen never did.
I think of the parents who struggle to balance everything and feel like they’re constantly failing at being a parent and likely scarring their kids for life.
I think of entrepreneurs building their teams and failing because they haven’t identified what their strengths and weaknesses are. They’re doing many things they’re actually incompetent at, though that’s not what kills the business. What kills the business are all of the things they’re doing that they’re competent at but that still isn’t their particular area of strength or genius. And so they feel like there must be something deeply wrong with them.
I think of weeds and how they’re wonderful plants just growing in places we wish they wouldn’t. The way we talk about them, right to their faces, I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe they began to think there was something wrong with them too.
Ian Mackenzie writes beautifully about this is his mini essay, On Black Holes and the Loss of Village:
In 1967, Princeton physicist John Wheeler coined the term “black hole” to describe an object in space so dense that not even light could not escape its gravitational pull. This is caused when a massive star dies, leaving behind a small, dense remnant core.
Scientists cannot directly observe black holes. They can only infer their presence by studying the effect on nearby matter, such as drawing in interstellar dust or tearing apart stars. Let me say that differently: we only know black holes exist by their effect on everything else.
I’ve come to understand the loss of village in the same manner.
For most of human history, humans have lived in nomadic tribes. Around 10,000 years ago we shifted into settlements (towns and cities), and very recently, fragmented into nuclear families. This is a blink of an eye in cosmic time and, understandably, we are still reeling from the calamity.
Most modern people suffer from rampant anxiety and a constant lack of self-worth. Mass media, the pursuit of happiness, and the meritocracy of religion ensure we are never allowed to be enough. When we can’t keep up, we’re told we are the problem. The prescription for sanity is written by the insanity: “You must love yourself first.”
Most of us have never lived the true richness of mutual life. Therefore, how could we recognize the ghost at the core of our culture is the longing for village?
What if there was nothing wrong with us? What if there was something missing in our culture?
“It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
I once held a workshop called The Things We Can’t Forgive Ourselves For. It was a workshop for men who were wrestling with shame in their lives.
We all have something we’re ashamed of something we’ve done. Wayne Dyer once pointed out that we should never become too cocky because there is almost certainly someone who is in therapy because of us.
And, in this culture, this is often held to mean, “Doing ______ means I deserve to be punished.”
In other words, there’s something fundamentally wrong with us. We did something bad and therefore are bad.
But what if what it actually meant might be something closer to, “Doing ______ means I needed more support.”?
And what if we began to learn to ask for the support we really needed?
What if there was nothing wrong with us?
I’m going for a walk with a new friend of mine – a young woman full of promise for her community. She is crying. She’s so jealous of the relationship that her boyfriend has with his sister and so deeply ashamed and embarrassed that she’s jealous of this. There must be something wrong with her. This is the unspoken thread of the conversation. I invite her to consider that her jealousy might just be a sign of her being human and that it might deerve a seat at the table as much as any other part of her.
“But it’s so dark! How could it have a roll?” she says.
One block later we’re standing in Ezzio Faraone park looking up at the Blood Moon.
“There it is,” I say. “The Earth’s shadow covering the moon. It’s so dark. And it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.”
What if there was nothing wrong with you?
Of course, this conversation, if it stands true for us, must also stand true for our clients. “Why aren’t people buying from me?” is a question I hear asked, directly or indirectly, often. The underlying message seem to be that there is something wrong with our clients for not signing up for our offers. Perhaps it’s that they aren’t ‘ready’ or that ‘it’s too confronting’ or that, ‘they aren’t evolved enough’.
But, what if there was nothing wrong with them at all?
When clients come to us with their symptoms and pains the way we hold it may have a large influence on our capacity to help them. What if we looked at their struggles with absolutely no sense of anything being wrong with them or their situation? How does it help to see them or their situation as ‘wrong’ or ‘not supposed to happen’? What if we met their victim energy with a spirit of ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’? What if we let them be victims for a while?
“You know, people come to therapy really for a blessing. Not so much to fix what’s broken, but to get what’s broken blessed.”
– James Hillman
Of course, this could all sound like I’m lauding victimhood or encouraging people to avoid responsibility for anything.
But it’s not that.
Understanding that there might be nothing wrong with us isn’t a get out of jail free card, it’s the beginning of the real work. Because, if there’s nothing wrong with us and we’re still struggling to do something then clearly there’s more support needed. If we have bad habits or struggles that impact others and we’re able to sustain our gaze on those things and their consequences without the lens of, “there’s something wrong with me” then the reality becomes that more is asked of us, not less.
Last year, a young woman had RSVP’d for my potluck and then no-showed. She expressed that she’d been a bit down in the dumps. I empathized and asked that, in the future, if she could let me know she wouldn’t make it I’d appreciate it as the potlucks often fill up and that means someone else is turned away.
She unloaded on me for being so insensitive to her depression.
In my words, she heard, “There’s something wrong with you.”
What I was asking for is something else: for her to take responsibility for her struggles. I was asking her to ask something of that part of her that struggled.
If you’re always late for meetings it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you and… the courteous thing to do might be to let people know you’re always late. I have a friend who is a chronic over-committer and late for everything. But he refuses to see it. It’s likely because he’s one of the sunniest and most optimistic people I know. But it doesn’t let him off the hook for the consequences of being late. Were he to say, “Here’s the deal. I am terrible at time lines. If we’re going to work together then I need regular check ins and for you to schedule meetings thirty minutes before you need me there because I’ll always be late. That just seems to be a part of who I am.”
If my friend had said, “Tad. I’d love to come to your potluck and the truth is that I’ve been struggling with depression lately and so… it’s a crapshoot. I’m not sure I’ll be able to leave the house that night. I can’t confirm my RSVP. I’m a maybe.” then that would have been wonderful.
What if there was nothing wrong with us? And what if we could take responsibility for the places we struggle?
“But I’ve done terrible things!” people say.
Of course you have. We all have. But why did we do those things?
It is 100% to do with what we were believing at the time. And sometimes as humans we get confused.
“But I was the one who was believing those things! It’s still me!” Sure. I’m not saying there’s no accountability. I’m just inviting you to look deeper. I’m saying that guilt can be a form of collapse, a way that the meaning of event concretizes and becomes essentialized and frozen in the past so that that’s all it means and all it will ever mean. And what is the meaning we all too often end up landing on like a moth attracted to a flame?
“There’s something wrong with me.”
But what if there was nothing wrong with you?Given what you were believing at the time,
Given what you were believing at the time, however little sense it makes now or how ridiculous it seems to you now that you could have believed that, was it possible for you to have done anything else? And are you the source of all of your beliefs? If not, where did they come from?
If we’re willing to let go of the idea that there’s something wrong with us then suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of a story that’s much bigger and wilder than we imagined. It’s bigger than us. It’s beigger than our lifetime. Suddenly the dysfunction, drama and destruction didn’t begin with us. Suddenly, we find ourselves in the enormous river of history fed by countless tributaries. Suddenly, we find ourselves curious about how it might all have come to be rather than thinking that the flaw is with us.
“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
– Louise Hay
If there’s nothing wrong with us you might think that I’m inviting us to blame the culture.
But it’s not really that either.
I’m not particularly inviting us to blame anything or fix anything.
I’m inviting us to see how it is and suggesting that adding the dark, glass filter of “something’s wrong with me” may make it impossible to see what’s so with anything bordering on clarity.
I’m inviting us to see how everything that’s happened was, to some degree, inevitable given the circumstances but that, in the seeing of what’s really going on, it’s not inevitable that it need continue that way. As soon as we see it as it is, there’s a chance for it to be different. But looking at reality and taking the lazy approach of ‘well, something must be wrong with me’ guarantees that we never really see it which condemns us to repeat the very thing we profess to want to change.
I’m inviting us to sustain the gaze on how things have come to be and then to grieve what we never got (and never will get). I’m inviting us to come to know the poverty of our situation and then to be willing to do the adult thing and become the source of the culture we never got; to plant seeds to trees we’ll never enjoy the fruit of.
If you struggle with marketing, it’s not your fault. It’s not you. You just never learned how to do it in a way that felt good to you. Your struggle with it might actually be a sign that something is right with you. It might be your conscience, integrity and intuition showing up for duty to let you know that something is ‘off’. It might actually be a sign of your goodness and love of other people and of community. It might be a sign of how finely tuned your own intuition and conscience is to bullshit. It might be a sign of what’s right with you.
But it’s possible to feel that something is wrong and to not know what to do instead. It’s possible to feel like the approach you’ve learned to selling if ‘off’ but not know what would be ‘on’. It’s possible to feel uncomfortable with the way you’ve been doing it (when you can get yourself to do it) but have no idea what might feel comfortable in its place.
That’s why I do what I do.
I do what I do because…
What if nothing was wrong with you?