I’m a Character


I was honored this week to speak at The 140 Character Conference hosted by Jeff Pulver and Debra Eckerling. It’s an amazing gathering of “characters” that was equal parts inspiring, moving, authentic and thought-provoking. Below is a group photo of the incredible people who shared their stories.

It was my first attempt at discussing the concept of “Zen Selling” in public – and hopefully won’t be my last! I enjoyed the rush of getting on stage and talking to a room full of people. I received some great feedback and hope that what I said was helpful to the conference attendees.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a stream of the event or do I have video of my talk. So, for purposes of this blog, here is a transcript of what I said:


I want to talk to you about sales. I want to talk to you about Zen Buddhism. Those two things aren’t exactly known to go together. But, stay with me…

Picture a salesperson.

I’m sure we all can. What does that person look like? Sound like? Act like?

Is it a positive picture or a negative one? For most, probably negative. Is it a fast-talking, slick person – who may be well dressed – but one who is trying too hard to “Make the Sale”?

Now, picture a meditator.

Different image, right? I’m sure you’re all picturing someone sitting cross-legged in a room filled with candles. This person may be wearing a robe and may be chanting. They’re probably serene.

And, serene is probably the opposite of what most might expect of a seller! But, I’m here to say that these two seemingly opposite approaches can go together.

How many of you have a regular meditation or mindfulness practice? According to a National Health Survey, 8% of Americans engage in regular mediation practices – and this includes yoga. The science on the benefits of meditation is pretty clear. I won’t get into any of the details in the time we have today but a study released by Harvard in 2011 found that a regular mediation practice can literally rebuild grey matter in just 8 weeks. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It actually changes the shape of the brain!

And, companies like Aetna Health are taking notice and incorporating meditation practices into their organizations. The CEO was in a terrible skiing accident and was ‘prescribed’ mindfulness to help the healing process. He was so amazed at the results he experienced that he integrated mindfulness throughout his organization – both to customers and by encouraging employees to meditate on a regular basis. Likewise, Salesforce is leading the charge by installing mediation rooms on every floor of their SF HQ. Mark Benioff, the CEO, has even had Buddhist Monks live in his home and speak at Salesforce events. He even said that “I strongly believe that the business of a business is to improve the world.”

So, a regular meditation and mindfulness practice can benefit anyone and I believe that, in particular, this includes sales people. Why? Because sales – almost more than any other profession – needs to be focused on customers. You don’t get very far in sales if you don’t say what you’ll do and do what you say. It really is an honorable profession when done right. And, I’ve always tried to bring that mindfulness into my professional life. I’ve been in a sales or sales-related profession for twenty years and I’ve always tried to incorporate zen and mindfulness.  I meditate every day – half hour in the morning and a half hour at night.

But, wait you may be saying – isn’t Zen all about being in the moment and not striving for anything? Well, yes and no…like most things in Zen, it’s a contradiction – zen teachers LOVE their contradictions!

The Buddha himself – the historical Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago – was a very practical, pragmatic person. He taught a reality-based approach and didn’t have time for theory. He was also a realist. He taught many people – including a banker who founded a famous Buddhist monastery, the Jetvana Monastery. And, to him he shared the four keys to happiness for a lay practitioner:

– Enjoy sufficient wealth that is acquired by righteous means

– Spend wisely on family friends and good causes; and don’t hoard wealth

– Be free from debts

– Live a pure live without committing evil in thought, word and deed

Now, that last one is big…but the first three are all economics based and could be right out of a Suze Orman seminar. And, this was the teaching of one of the world’s most renowned religious figures.

I want to change the way people look at sales – and the way sellers look at themselves. Sellers need to be generous – giving of themselves without expectation. And, when they do, they will find material success.

All people – including those of us in business and in sales need to bring more mindfulness into our lives. The best way to do this is through meditation. I would encourage everyone to find some time – even just 5 minutes a day – to be present, focus on your breath and slow down. Just put two feet on the floor, quiet your mind and be aware.

One of my first zen teachers told me that “you can’t do meditation wrong”. That’s encouraging. I hope that everyone here can benefit from it. Thank you.


One thought on “I’m a Character

  1. Pingback: Zen and Commerce | Selling Water By The River

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