zen. business. life. : tao

Perspective

30,000 ft, Colorado

At certain places and certain times, most often when we are far removed from technology, and the normalcy of life. Maybe under a set of stars or adrift in an endless ocean, watching a sunset or walking in the rain, we see the world for what it truly is. The planet, life, our life, all life through a different lens and sometimes, even if just for a moment we can see the true divine game that is unfolding around us, this true meaning and connectiveness of the universe. Even if we have no words or ability to even describe this feeling, thats ok, because these direct experiences are life, they are the truth, the are exactly what you are living for and trying to describe and strive for everyday of your life. It is the indescribable that is precisely everything you are doing day in and day out, its all connected, part of the same dance. In short. You are the god you seek. Sometimes you just have to look at things a little differently, perhaps… even change your perspective. -mr

Leaving Denver I look out the small frosty window at the tops of the rocky peaks 20,000 feet below and breathe deeply in this sanctuary as the madness of the Christmas season unfolds below.

It’s the day after thanksgiving and on the ground everything is chaotic. Life is consumed with consumption, stress, traffic, crowds, anxiety, and a general feeling of not enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough space, not enough security lines open at an overcrowded airport. And then there is silence.

The silence and slow drone of the engine as you climb to cruising altitude high above the world below. Everything seems to slow down and become a calm and beautiful place, with opportunity, mystery and excitement every time you look out the window. It’s the same world. Nothing has changed except my perspective.

I think this is why I have always loved flying and traveling and maybe even the very same reason other people love it as well although they just don’t know it yet. Why? because flying forces us to change our perspective. Our actual view of the world changes when we fly. We are looking down instead of out now. Then later when we arrive in this new place, which is just that, new and it forces us to re-examine and question what we thought was our permanent reality, our normal lives. This is a very, very good thing and I think you should seek to change your perspective often, but you don’t need a plane or an airport to do it… more on that later.

For me, the last few years I have basically been involved in eCommerce and the sale of products online. So, for me, it’s always about driving enough eyeballs to an offer until a percentage of those people buy. The trap that is easy to fall into is there are just not enough people interested, there are not enough buyers…etc and sometimes I have felt that way. Maybe you have experienced something similar in your job or career.

Then I get on a plane and I find that most everywhere I go, I often cross or land in large cities as most of us do when we travel. For me, it is at these times that my perspective on my career and the opportunity around me changes.

From the plane you can really see the massive urban sprawl below and see all of the different houses, each containing 2-5 people spread out as far as the eye can see and knowing that it’s only a small infinite decimal fraction of a corner of this huge city, which is in the corner of a massive state that is in one small area of an even larger country that is part of an even larger continent that makes up not even 1/100th of the total world’s population. It is then I see the real opportunity and the real picture, because I was able to change my small myopic view of the world to that with more perspective and context and in turn it changes how I view everything around me… at least for awhile.

It’s true, over time we fall back to autopilot and our awareness of the world around us begins to shrink again. There is no more amazement with life or the amazing things taking place all around us, it’s just life, and this is exactly when you need a change of perspective: Go climb a mountain and look down, watch a sunset from a new location, go outside and look up at the stars at night, stand on your head, lay in a hammock, watch the clouds move across the sky, rent a boat, go for a swim, hop a plane or do whatever you have to do to change your perspective on the world.

One last example. As of now, I live in San Diego when I am in the states and surf often. One of my favorite parts about surfing is being able to look back at the coastline that I reside on during the day. It looks completely different. I spend 23 hours a day there, but somehow in that hour of surfing, from that perspective, it looks… well, better and more hopeful, more beautiful and more full of opportunity.

This truly exemplifies what the Buddhists call “nothingness.” Without going off on a complete tangent, the concept is that nothing in this world has meaning until we give it meaning. That is why two people can view the same event in two completely different ways and changing your perspective can often show you the “nothingness” of life. The way that you are creating the life around you by your thoughts about it.

Wayner Dyer published one of my favorite books on the Tao Te Ching and called it “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life” with the general premise being that when you change the way you look at the world, the world you look at changes.

Try this on for size today. Find a way to change your perspective on things, be it physically like described above or mentally in regards to a specific issue or thought that has been present in your life. Start to question what you think is the ultimate reality of the situation by offering new ideas, thoughts and perspective and see if you can’t try to see your life through a different set of eyes. Ultimately the goal is to realize that you have the ability to control how you view the world and this realization can open a lot of doors in life and in business, not to mention make you an amazingly flexible entrepreneur, business partner and copy writer (think empathy).

-mat

PS- Use this change of perspective technique anytime you need to leverage your creativity in something such as goal setting or writing. Freeing ourselves from the confines of our daily lives and expanding our perspective allows us to think, plan and strive for more than we can currently see day to day.


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Business as a force for good… or is it?

San Diego, CA

Sure, its all the rage now, social movements, companies with a bigger mission, the warm fuzzy feeling you get while practicing consumerism and helping someone else. The question is: is it becoming a fad and what does it truly mean to practice business as a force for good.

The term first coined from my research by Richard Branson can be used to identify businesses and entrepreneurs who indeed want to make a difference in the world and use business world as the medium to achieve that change. I want to address two topics in this short essay to mainly get the wheels turning a bit as a consumer and also as a potential business man/woman.

First, lets talk about “business as a force for good” as a marketing tactic. It’s true companies are now using social movements, and helping people as a ploy to get people to buy more things they don’t need. How do I know? Because I recently sat in the planning phase of a upcoming project and literally planned out the social part of the marketing plan solely to relate to more people. Not because I really cared, not because I felt connected to the charity, but solely because I thought it would get more people to buy and share my product. It felt strange at the time and made me sit down and contemplate this topic for a week or so and eventually led to what your reading now, my thoughts and ideas on the topic.

So whats the big deal? Someone is going to sell the product either way right?  There is going to be a consumer to buy it, so why not help someone in the process, even if its just posturing for the sale. On many levels I agree with that. I think to some extent yes, its a good thing that our marketing tactics have shifted this way. No longer is at ALL about sex and a better life for yourself, now its potentially about a better life for someone else. I think it shows an evolution of consciousness on both the marketing and consumer side of things, even if its just surface level.

What I would caution against however is to the business or to the entrepreneur, that all too often in life we see people once again“gain the world & lose their soul.” In my time in the business world it has become keenly obvious to me that ones priorities, goals, convictions and promises to themselves all become greyed overtime, no matter how black or white and resolute they may begin.

To put it another way I will steal some words from a favorite “business as a force for good” mentor and inspiration, Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia). He states is “If you set out to climb Everest, but you have someone set ropes for you the whole way, carry your gear and follow you around with an oxygen tank, you may reach the top; but your an asshole when you left and your an asshole when you get to the top. You have bastardized the process and thus lost the benefit of the adventure, of the journey.” Those words may be a little off, its been awhile since I heard them, but you get the idea. I encourage you to take a few minutes and look at your life, business and personal path to reflect on where in the process of becoming the ultimate and best form of you (which I believe we all inherently know in our gut) we may have bastardized the process? Where have you cut corners on ethics or responsibility or quality to get something done and you knew it was wrong at the time for you, for your soul, for the world, but it was “right for the business.”

The purpose of this exercise is not to make you feel bad about anything, simply to make you aware of your actions so you can operate from a place of awareness and make business and even life decisions that lead you to the highest, best form of you.

Now tying all this back to “business as a force for good” its time to really ask yourself the tough questions, if you are using a social mission or charity as a plank in your marketing campaign, what is the goal? Is it to truly sell more or to truly help more?

I personally think it can be both and not bastardize the process as long as the intention behind both of the actions is pure and true. The bottom line is if your business succeeds more than a company that does not have a social benefit then that’s a win even if your not passionately connected to it. The real question here is deeper than that though, it’s will YOU win?  Will YOU be connected to the goal? &  Will it provide YOU the business owner or the business employee with the sense of satisfaction that only comes from doing good things for those who cannot repay you with zero expectation of receiving anything in return.

So how do you get there?  How can you take your company to that next level of commitment to your goal or ideal?  How can you get everyone in your company on board and as passionate about the social mission as you are?  All great questions and ones that I have personally been thinking a lot about lately and here is what I came up with:

1. Seek First To Understand- Whatever you are trying to support you need to truly understand who these people are, where they come from and most importantly, how it feels to be them. This technique creates empathy in any number of situations in life, but in our case now, you will get a look through the eyes of who you are actually trying to help to know what they go through on a daily basis and how they would want to be treated or how maybe how to best help this specific group of people or this specific problem that you are tackling with your social mission.  This empathy sets the groundwork for connection.

2. Get Your Hands Dirty- There is no substitution for getting your hands dirty. If you want to learn a language, you can read all the books in the world, listen to the podcast, download the apps all you want, but the quickest and most effective way to learn will be to really get dirty and immerse yourself in a country that speaks that language and force yourself to learn and at the same time you will be gaining understanding and context. This is a prerequisite in my book.  You won’t be connected to your mission sitting in your office cutting checks to the united way once a year.

3. Get Everyone Involved- If this is a pillar that the company stands upon then get everyone involved. Don’t use it as just a feather in the cap of the executives and don’t let the “employees” do all of the dirty work. This is a great opportunity to lead by example and show your employees that you are just like them, you value the same things they value and you all work together as a unit, side by side, in the trenches. Talk about connecting with your people, go dig well for a tribe in Kenya together and see where you relationship goes.

4. Embed it Into Your Culture- Tony Heish once said something along these lines. “If you are going to build a company around culture, then you need to be prepared to hire and fire based upon a good fit into that culture.” I think this is a very true statement. No paper tigers, if you have someone who is great at accounting, but does not want to engage in any part of the corporate culture, then it’s not a good long term fit. Sure the short run wins might be great, but the damage 1 person can cause to a culture can be immeasurable, so choose your people wisely.

5. Create New Enemies and Allies- Finally I make a rallying cry to entrepreneurs and companies across the world to declare war on a different type of enemy. Instead of your competitor in the market, lets say for instance you sell insulin. Instead of your biggest insulin sales competitor being your enemy, make diabetes your enemy. Stop focusing on your competition for a moment and focus on the bigger picture here on how you can help the consumer beat diabetes and its your company vs that disease. Or your company vs the issue of slow and inefficient cloud computing software or whatever it may be.

Now take this same ideal and use it to drive your mission, attach your company to that higher ideal, not to passing out meals on the weekend but stamping out hunger in the great San Antonio area. Human beings need to feel that their work and their existence is meaningful, by attaching your company to those higher ideals, you can give everyone at your company something to strive for and in the process realign you company to a customer centric model with a triple bottom line that puts the goals of the customer or client first which creates new “allies” in the form of raving fans and long term customers.

At the end of the day “You’re here and they are going to play a football game. We might as well win.” Meaning You’re already here, you’re already in business and you’re going to continue to be, so it’s really a question of what do you want to get out of if it?   How do you want to spend your time?  With whom do you want to spend your time and what type of legacy do you want to leave?

It is sometimes helpful to imagine the day of your funeral and as they are discussing your life and legacy, what are they saying?  What impact do you want to leave on others and the world?  OR if you are not comfortable with your funeral, try your retirement dinner.  Envision that and what the stories are about, what people are remembering you for, what they are saying about your company and who would be there and why.

Trust your gut here to set the intentions and then use your head to make it all happen.

-mat


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you already know the answer…

San Diego, CA

Most of our so called “problems” in life come from not having a clear direction on what will truly make us happy right? Here is my thought: To the question on how to live a happier life, be more successful and marry the love of your life, you actually know the answer already, the problem is, your asking the wrong question.

Should I do this or that?

Should I take the job? Should I marry the girl? Do I really love him/her? Should I risk it all? Should I do business with him or not? What is my real passion? Should I hire this person or not? Why am I unhappy? Does this get me closer to my purpose or further away from it?

These are questions that we all ask ourselves everyday, almost out of habit we have learned that we need to analyze all of our decisions. Let me mull it over, let me think about it, well…food for thought. This is the norm, but you know what I really think?

I think most times….we already know the answer. You know it deep down, but something is holding you back from either admitting it or taking action on it. Now I am not talking about math problems here, but real life and business questions. I think the answers to what is going to make us happy and what is going to get us closer to that elusive meaning or purpose in our lives is already within us and we know that. That’s why it hurts!

That’s why it hurts when your NOT on purpose. That’s why it hurts when you wake up everyday and go to a job you hate. That’s why it hurts when your with the wrong person. That’s why it hurts when you compromise your companies ethics for a quick buck. That’s why it hurts and you feel bad inside when you know your being lazy and not living up to your potential.

That’s why it hurts. Your soul is making it painful for you so you will actually wake up and listen to it. Who knows maybe even one day you will wake up and say “this doesn’t feel good… I am going to go do something that does.” Thats your internal guidance, so listen to it.

If you asked 100 people what do you really truly want to do with your life and gave them a minute to think, 98 of em would be able to give you an answer. The trick is you have to be truly honest with yourself. Don’t over-think it and start rationalizing or controlling your thoughts based on logic. Be honest and trust that knowing.

Here is the kicker, out of those 98 people who know what would truly make them happy, maybe 1-2 of them would actually be doing it. So the real question is why are we not following this internal knowing, why do we stay in jobs, relationships and life situations that are less than we know we are capable of. I would contest that the answer is fairly simple and you already know that too, it’s fear.

Get rid of the fear, and nothing will stop you.

So next time you have a big decision to make, quit asking the question because you already know the answer. Instead ask yourself why am I not doing it already? What am I afraid of? and address that.


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