This blog post is the first in a series of posts exploring the connection between marketing and The Work of Byron Katie.
Frankly, I’m tired of hearing people talk about the importance of working on your ‘inner game’ in business. Because most of what I hear feels like self pressuring bullshit to constantly do more, be more positive, be better and keep persisting no matter what. Most of it feels like what John Kenneth Galbraith was speaking about when he said, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
Most of it seems to have no interest in seeing anything except the possibility of closing the sale and growing our business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about perseverance. But I’m more about awareness and being real about our situations. As P.T. Barnum put it, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But, if you still don’t succeed, quit. Don’t be a damned fool.”
Most of the inner game work feels bereft of much that I’d call real learning which is, by its nature expensive. Sometimes we just have to quit or drop a certain perspective. Which can be hard. Hard to find it and harder to question it until it loses its grip on us.
And there’s something there. There’s something about the way we are seeing our business problems that actually is the problem.
For years, I’ve delved deep into The Work of Byron Katie and, more than any other tool, it has been a source of incredible insight, genuine learning, deep and unsought humility and humiliation and a profound sense of peace.
And, in business there is one thought I’ve seen which seems to cause more stress than just about any other. But it comes in disguise. It often sounds like, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a frustrated tone.
But hidden just underneath it, like a tortoise hides in its shell, is often the thought, “People should buy from me.”
This is crucial to understand because it’s a place too many people get stuck. Before you read further or inquire into this on your own… remember: learning is expensive. Really doing the work means encountering unsought and often unwelcome things and it requires you to pay with the thing you can least afford. You pay for learning with what you think you know.
So let’s explore this idea that people should buy from us and see if it can earn its keep as a worthy and useful idea.
Question #1: Is it true?
This is the first question in The Work. We’re asked to inquire if the thought, in this case, “People should buy from me.” is true.
When I sit with it, I realize it’s not true. I want them to but they don’t need to. Busted. I can skip…
Question #2: Can I absolutely know this is true?
I absolutely can’t.
Question #3: What happens and how do I react when I think this thought?
If you find yourself frustrated and annoyed with Life and the marketplace because you’re not making it and no one is responding to your offerings… pause and see if you can spot that thought that “People should buy from me.” See if you can notice it. Then see if you can sit with that thought and see how it’s affecting you. Almost like you’re watching some never before seen animal for the first time in the wild to see what kind of a creature it is and how it affects its environment.
I know when this thought arises for me I immediately feel bitter. I feel resentful of people. I feel powerless and angry. I am jealous of anyone who seems more successful than me. “Why do they buy from that person and not me? I’m a good person!” But then I begin to wonder, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me… Maybe I’m broken.” If they aren’t buying, there’s an urge to push them harder to buy. In a panic, I want to add more hype or pressure. I want to cut my price down. And, at the bottom of it, I feel utterly confused. They should be buying but they aren’t. What’s wrong with this universe? Why don’t I understand it? And, if I’m honest, when looking at my world through the lense of this thought, I am deeply angry with the universe for encouraging me to start a business that will not sustain me. It’s like it tricked me and lied to me.
I’ve met people who are deep in the thrall of this thought. They are not fun to be around. The energy is heavy around them. They are desperate. Their sense of other people’s boundaries are poor. Their desperation makes them incredibly vulnerable to manipulations of anyone promising them an easy path to wealth and sales.
If I think this thought I will either collapse or I will apply pressure in selling situations without even meaning to. Sales pressure comes from the agenda to get the sale. If I believe you should buy from me and you aren’t, then of course I will try to make sure we correct this and this will occur as pressure to you.
The tragedy is that they do everything except the thing they need to do. They are utterly blind to what’s required of them because the problem lays out in the world and not with them. If ‘those’ people would just get their heads out of their asses and see what a good person I am and what high quality work I do then every thing would be okay. Damnit.
When I think this thought, I feel superior to everyone. Everyone else is stupid and blind that they can’t see how awesome I am. WTF is wrong with them anyway?
So this thought lays heavy on us.
But, and this is truly the heavy lifting, if we are able to set that thought aside for even a moment and see our same situation without it, a miraculous thing happens. Imagine it. Nothing has changed in the outer world. No one is buying from you. That’s the same, but you are not able to think the thought that they should be buying from you. It’s as if a sieve went through your brain and removed all traces of it. Utterly gone. And yet you’re looking at the same evidence.
When I do this I suddenly feel at peace. Right, they’re just doing what they do. They’re buying what they want to buy. They don’t see that what I’m doing is a fit for them or a priority. And right! That’s my job. That’s marketing. Marketing is about establishing the value beyond the immediately apparent. And, apparently, it’s not immediately apparent how valuable our work is. Or, maybe, I might even be able to see, as humbling as it is to see it, that I’m not as good at what I do as I thought I was.
When you can let go of the thought that they should buy you are freed up to see the real reasons why they don’t buy.
This is so vital.
Underneath the question, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a curious tone is never the thought, “People should buy from me.”
Without this thought, I am filled with an easy sense of wondering and an openness to learning the truth of why people aren’t spending money with me. I’m open to asking people directly and getting feedback. I’m vulnerable in the best of ways. I’m at peace. I see the evidence of people not buying as just a chance to learn something about life and the market place.
Wow. When people feel this openness from you, they relax. They begin to tell you the truth. You stop getting objections and you get real questions. Or you get a real ‘no’ that you can trust because there’s no long anything in you trying to convince anyone to buy from you – and that makes you more trustworthy.
It might seem like I’m overstating the impact of questioning one thought but I’m not. If people aren’t buying from you and this is causing you emotional stress and frustration and anger at the marketplace, there’s a good chance you’re buying into this idea that they should be buying from you.
This last part of The Work is all about twisting the initial stressful thought around and looking at it from different angles. We’re not trying to find the new, true thought, we’re just trying to see more.
Turnaround #1: “People should not buy from me.”
Try that one on for size.
Consider if this might be just as true, if not more true, than the idea “People should be buying from me.” If you really sit with this one, what opens up is the possibility to see all of the parts of your business that, frankly, need work. I will likely see all of the ways that I’ve been pressuring people and… wow. God bless these people for not rewarding my desperate and pressuring ways with their business.
Who are these honest angels who have so consistently and kindly not pretended to be okay with my confused behaviour?
I am suddenly open to seeing clearly. I am able to look at the holes in my marketing, business model, customer service, quality of work, and packages and see all of the reasons why it’s so true that they should not be spending money with me.
This can be a vulnerable but life changing moment for an entrepreneur. Looking through this lense, I am able to see my business through the eyes of those not buying and I learn so much.
Turnaround #2: “I should buy from me.”
Honestly, I don’t get much from this turnaround though I’m sure there’s something there.
Turnaround #3: “People should buy more from whoever the hell they want.”
This one feels humbling to me. When I look for reasons this is true, I am suddenly brought back to the reality that my potential customers are other, autonomous human beings who exist for reasons other than taking care of my ass. I’m realizing that I want that freedom to buy from whoever for myself. I’d never want to be pressured to buy something I didn’t really want to buy so why on Earth would I put that on anyone else?
Turnaround #4: “I should buy from people.”
I should be buying the advice they’re giving me in their not buying. I should be be believing their feedback. They’re not interested or, for some reason, it’s not a fit and yet I’m not buying it. Huh. What if I was willing to take it at face value? I’ve been making them wrong for years for not buying what I have to offer and yet not making my self wrong for not buying the honest reflections they keep giving me. And they’re so persistently generous! They never seem to buckle and buy from me just to be nice. They really want me to get this feedback. How kind of them!
One of the hugest stumbling blocks I see in business is arrogance. This thought people have that they already know what people need. They already know that their product or service is amazing. And that blinds them to ever seeing that maybe they don’t know and maybe what they’re offering isn’t actually that great. Humility and not knowing, the being open to feedback and curious to know what clients really think, being a safe place to share this will grow your business faster than almost anything I know.
When I am done this, I notice that the thought, “They should be buying from me.” doesn’t hold the same purchase it did in the beginning. I’m free to see a bit more clearly and that seeing allows me the freedom to make the kinds of changes that might actually have them want to buy (whether I think they should or not).
Where does this all leave us?
I have no idea. There’s no empowering belief we’re trying to get to here. We’re just trying to see more. In business, there’s nothing we’re supposed to do or that we need to do, we just need to see more. And, when we see more, we often, intuitively, know exactly what to do. When we stop insisting that our map is right and take a look at the actual territory in which we find ourselves we make better decisions.
When we stop making the marketplace wrong for how it’s responding to our business we have a chance to actually learn something useful from it that might show us the path to grow our business.