The Work of Byron Katie in Marketing: “Why aren’t people buying from me?!”



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 based on toxic assumptions about money and an unwillingness to question this suicide economy we’re a part of.

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.

10409286_10155034733660195_5413425888966609089_nThe basis is that we suffer because of our unquestioned, stressful thoughts.

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.

10302061_10155034732465195_1931724753386448115_nQuestion #4: Who would you be without this thought?

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.

10857717_10155034732735195_174396198002034301_nThe Turnarounds:

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 buying from me.”

Honestly, I don’t get much from this turnaround though I’m sure there’s something there.

10622858_10155034733300195_5974786264670751787_nTurnaround #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.




About Tad

  • You are in my head again Tad – exploring something that I have been feeling and not liking the feeling of feeling.

    The “people should buy from me” is definitely in there for me – and for the majority of clients who knock on my door. Byron Katie’s work is a brilliant way to gently explore those thoughts and fears, and face up to what is. The bitterness, the jealousy, the pettiness flipping into external blame (it’s their fault) and internal blame (it’s my fault). Sitting with it today to see if I can gain more clarity and calm with it.

    For me personally I would reframe the “I should be buying from me” to “Be your brand”. Too many of my healer clients don’t do any healing work on their business. Too many of my graphic design clients have ugly marketing material. Too many of my web design clients have out of date sites that don’t work. I find I have to go all Gestalt on myself, and take myself through my own intake process and physically sit in another chair to write about my own business. I buy from myself and treat myself as my own client. Perhaps that is what the turnaround means?

    Much gratitude at yet another post that makes me think.

  • Great article, Tad. So true, and yet often so agonizing at first. Katie’s work is lovely, practical, and very applicable to our real life issues. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Pj Van Hulle

    Great stuff, Tad! I love how you wrote out possible answers to the questions and turn around right here. :)

  • Madeleine Innocent

    Good insight. I have recently started to surrender. I used to hurry in my morning walk – must get to the emails before my first consultation, hurry up dogs. Now I take my time, ‘smelling the roses’, seeing life in the moment. I take that feeling into work. Makes a huge difference! I feel different.

  • Pete Sibley

    Love Byron Katie, love your integration of this wisdom Tad, first was introduced to your work through Cate Stillman of

    BTW here’s an unsolicited thought for Turnaround #2: “I should buying from me.” Do you “buy” what you’re trying to sell? Are you “sold” on the “quality” in your own heart? We “should” be our number fan, “buying” everything we put out there. You should be the first in line to buy what your selling, because it’s really you and your story that you’re selling. You should be buying your shit your dealing out, or if you it’s not worth buying “question it” as Byron Katie would say…Do you Love your story?
    Peace & Thanks

  • Wow, thank you so much for this amazing insight! This process really help us cultivate the awareness, and your honesty and vulnerability is inspiring. Being able to see the problem from this perspective is “personal responsibility” at its best.

  • Diana van Eyk

    Tad, do you ever wonder about so many of us who have less money all the time because of the economy having this thought running through their head?

    We’re losing a lot of our collective spending power because of the way the economy is structured these days, yet we’re still telling ourselves this. It’s crazy making when we don’t look beyond our own needs at our broader social and economic needs.

    The past few years a lot of people have started doing things to get by more easily by collaborating — buying food together, sharing road trips, leaving stuff by the sidewalk and taking some of that stuff if we need it.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I feel a lot of empathy for people right now because so many are struggling. It feels important to share, be kind and be really grateful when someone wants to buy from us. Whenever someone buys my novel, it’s such a treat. I don’t feel like contaminating any of my relationships with pushiness.

  • Pamela

    I’ve had a few unskillful coaches try to sell me their not-so-embodied version of “The Work” over the years so had kind of a bad taste in my mouth about it. From them, it sounded like new age hooey and a fresh new hell for self-judgment. But, reading how you put it to practical, honest, and self-reflective use here, I have a different appreciation. I don’t know if that really jives with what you intended, but it offered something healing to me. Thank you. I do feel that these sort of shifts in cognitive awareness are best supported if they land with someone who has tools and strategies to work with the “more” that is now visible.

  • Gayle Joubert

    Thanks Tad! As always I enjoy your posts and blogs. Your thinking about thinking is so refreshing and wonderfully self-revealing. It makes you real. Then again… what is real?

    So, I had another thought about Turnaround 2 – Would I buy from me?

  • Joebaby Noonan

    Love it, Tad! Thanks for doing the work for me and with me, thanks for helping me see my arrogance. Thanks for helping me get out of me so i can see my clients more clearly.

  • Very true, who are we to think we know what’s best for others? It’s pretty empowering to let go of the notion that we hold any control over the decisions other people make. Entitlement is such an icky feeling. All we can do is keep learning and putting our best foot forward, hoping that somewhere we can genuinely help people.

  • Evonne

    Hey Tad, I Really resonated with this post. Thank you. Oh Yeah, about turnaround #2. What I picked up from that is a question I ask myself quite a bit. Would I buy that? Does this speak to me in a way that says “I want this in my life”

  • Corrina Gordon-Barnes

    When you’re offering your passion into the world, people not buying can feel like a very big deal. Your reputation is on the line, along with your livelihood and your ability to keep doing the thing you love. Your sense of purpose and capability are both called into question.

    Whether it’s at the end of a consultation with a prospective client, or when you hit the sales bit of a talk or webinar, or when you look at your diary and see how many days you have left to fill all those workshop places, a tremendous amount of stress can accompany these beliefs: “I want them to buy!” “They should buy!” “I need them to buy!”

    I help people to find more paying clients doing the work they love and the paradox is that when that’s the goal, all marketing efforts can come with an energy of push or tension – even desperation.

    With The Work of Byron Katie, we can shine a curious and loving light onto this client-seeking push – what it does to us, our bodies, our business and our prospective clients, and we can look for what alternatives might exist for us.

    Thank you for this conversation, Tad. So, so important.

  • Melissa Lilly

    Thank you Tad for sharing so openly and vulnerably for all of us to see. In return, we all feel more connected to you and see ourselves in your inquiry. I will be reflecting on what you shared. Merci :)

  • I recognise the related thought – ‘the universe
    owes me a living’. Not true and just leads to feeling passive and
    resentful. So empowering to let that one drop, and co-create instead. Cheers!

  • Great post! follows the same fallacy as “getting people” into the store, or to attend your lecture, or show up at your exhibit or whatever. Gotta let that “getting people” thing go too. People may be willing to be “gotten,” but it will cost you. Has to do with the freebie mentality–that you have created! Some marketers spin it as “offering incredible value.” It can also mean in reality giving away half the store and hating every second of it! Also stupid cuz now you have customers that you hate. That’s inspiring.

  • Again this is amazing article that answers a question for myself “Do I want to be part of pushing to buy?” I never felt it’s right and only answer for my business, but many are quite successful with this approach. I am struggling with that concept for years and don’t want to be successful in that way, and Im not.
    Success today is unfortunatelly measured only with wallet. To me the most important question still is “What kind of person I want to become?” All that plans about future, bussiness plans to me is total bullshit and fortunatelly Im not coming from well developed countries. I still remember how great life is when you share and help if you can. It’s funny how we have to pay for a coach to teach us how to play in life and enjoy like most of us did in childhood.
    The only way I want my business to go further is with ease and joy, passion for sharing all I learned and listening other stories and learning more. I am not thinking of how much money that will bring me for I know that this is life I want to live. There are learning curves we have to go through with money of without. Is it easier with money? In many cases I wouldn’t say so, it’s more responsibility, more hours of work, more bills etc. My worst days in life were when I had the most money, why?. All the time I had a question “This is it’?”
    It took me years(over 13) of hard work on myself, meditating and confronting myself and false believes and finnaly I got where I wanted to be in the first place, happy with myself, content and enjoying life without any particular reason.
    I want everybody to first start again to enjoy and than pursue passion, not money, in your unique way.

  • stephanieward

    Love this, Tad! Two of my favorite things, Marketing and The Work of Byron Katie. I just saw here again in July in Amsterdam, always inspiring. Great to know that you are connected to inquiry. Hugs!

  • Hi Tad, fellow worker!

    Thank you for sharing your inquiry. Beautiful.
    I agree with others, the example for the TA “I should buy from me” could be the question “Do I really believe in what I am providing?

    Can I offer a subquestion? What are you not able to do when you believe the thought
    “People should buy from me”?

    Keep up the good work and the good (The)Work.


  • Pete – I have that very thought about Turnaround #2 and it’s a question I struggle with often. Do I “buy” what I’m selling? Am I doing the work on my end that I encourage my audience to do? When I answer that question, I see the holes in my tale. “What you do here is what you do everywhere” has never been truer than in business.

  • Yes Val! So well written! And the crazy thing becomes when we take that same truth, “What I do here is what I do everywhere” and start integrating it with everything in our lives. How does it look and feel when you apply that in all your relationships? All interactions, all feelings and emotions. From talking to a gas station attendant or to a loved one or a family member. I bring this truth to how I talk to my kids, how I let my creativity and work flow, to how I drive. Can I be aware of the quality of what I’m doing here? Because this is the step I can bring my power, my dreams, my love and attention to, not the step that happens tomorrow! Do I buy it? I can only ask that question from here.

  • I’m liking turn-around #2… I should be buying from me. If my target audience isn’t buying from me, maybe it would be useful to look and see if I would buy from myself — do I come across as someone I myself would trust and look to for these kinds of services? Would I be willing to pay what I’m asking? Do my site and other communications convey someone I myself would like to be connected with? Are they Me? …That kind of thing…

  • I’m so glad I read this today Tad. Having just gone through another #GivingTuesday marketing push for the cause I stand behind, I’ve moved through all of these questions in the last few hours. As I released my attachment to matching former results and accepted what is (not much), I felt an urge to do something completely different. So I made a direct recommendation on behalf of one of the projects I’m raising funds for on FB, removing myself from the process, other than making an introduction. With that, I’ve released myself from the illusion of success or failure based upon how effective I am as a fundraiser or a social entrepreneur. Climate change and reforestation no longer sit as weights on my shoulders, while they are both things I care deeply about. But I’m going to allow not “saving the earth” to be my job today. It will free up energy I can use to do something else, that will begin with a walk around the lake…