The other day, I walked in to teach my Monday class at the Manhattan yoga studio I own, glanced up and nearly fell over.
Sitting in the middle of a packed class was a face I immediately recognized. A man I’d only heard about. A legend, in business… and Buddhism. Tall and thin, with a long ponytail wound into a bun sat Geshe Michael Roach, the only Westerner to attain the Buddhist title of Geshe in the last 600 years and author of the controversial, yet fascinating business-book The Diamond Cutter(aff). There he sat, waiting to take class. From me?!
Though I have studied Eastern philosophy, I am not a Buddhist. I’m pretty much a twice-a-year Jew. And, with many other great studios in the city with a decidedly-more spiritual bent, he could’ve chosen any number of other teachers to drop-in on. But he chose me. And, he chose that day.
Why on Earth did a Buddhist mogul-monk choose my class?
Though I’d never read his book, I’d heard about it. The Diamond Cutter told the story of Roach’s 20-year experience, secretly living a maverick life as a Buddhist monk, while helping to launch and grow a massive, 9-figure, international diamond business in the heart of New York City’s diamond district on 47th Street. Through the process, he describes how he helped create a hugely successful, international enterprise, using fundamental Buddhist principals as a source of both rapid business growth and social responsibility.
Now, realize too, with my unusual background, I am likely one of a handful of yoga teachers with dueling subscriptions to Yoga Journal, Zen Habits and Shambhala Sun, on the one hand, and the Wall Street Journal, ProBlogger, Duct Tape Marketing and Small Business Trends on the other. In fact, I often begin class by sharing a few thoughts about the intersection between business, social responsibility and “what matters most.”
But, this day, something indescribable was in the air.
With no idea who’d be sitting front and center, I’d planned on speaking about two things. One was a change in the S.E.C.’s definition of who was rich enough to invest in hedge-funds that left many former millionaire hob-nobbers off the party list. It was more of a stand-up routine in a room full of yoga students. The other, though, was why I wanted to be rich…and here’ where the freaky part comes in.
The Robin-Hood Effect.
I wanted my various business ventures to succeed, I revealed, because, through that success, I could (a) have an impact on peoples’ lives, and (b) become a conduit to receive money in exchange for a service that changed peoples’ lives, take what I needed to be comfortable, then pass the rest on to make a greater impact on those in-need. Partly out of selflessness and, yes, partly out of ego, too. I’d like to be known and remembered as someone who helped change the world through kindness and compassion. And, I’d love to leave a big footprint. These concepts were core discussions in The Diamond Cutter.
Serendipity? You gotta be kidding me!
Apparently, my comments connected with Roach, who left me a signed copy of his book and invited me to meet a group extremely-successful, high-level former executives and entrepreneurs who were working with him to bring these teachings to a mainstream executive audience. I’ll share more about them in a bit. But, tease you with the knowledge that one just sold the company he built using the lessons of The Diamond Cutter for a reported $100 million earlier this year. Why do you care about all this…
Because, the fundamental message is that there is a different path to becoming successful, one that is the difference between massive success with minimal stress and scraping by with every day a fight to stay alive.
At the heart of The Diamond Cutter’s teachings was the notion of karma—you get what you give, in its most basic form. In it, Roach suggests “deliberately managing your karma” in order to succeed in business on a far bigger scale and on a vastly more expedient timetable. What on Earth does mean?
The fastest way to get more is to give more.
“Ha ha ha ha!” I can just hear my Wall Street friends laughing at my naiveté. “No, no” they’d say, “only a sucker leaves money on the table. Everyone is out for themselves, so you need to take while the taking’s good.” Which is what most every executive does on their way to financial success that leaves that empty and embattled. And, nearly every entrepreneur does…on their way to 95% of them failing in less than 5-years.
For a while, I took their advice. And, I did pretty well. Until I began to realize, running my professional life, my career, my companies in this manner not only pitted me against everyone else, including my own staff, it cultivated a huge amount of persistent stress and anxiety and, in the end, actually left me burned-out and constantly battling against everyone else who was “out to get theirs,” rather than happier, calmer and more secure with the notion that everyone around me was committed lifting me up and inspired to make us all succeed together.
Turn your focus outward.
Some people thrive on the energy of a constant battle. On how badly they can take those around them. Not me. It kills me. And, at least for me, I discovered there is a much better way to launch and grow your small business or reinvigorate your career.
One that leaves you feeling incredibly jazzed about the work you do and the impact you have on your clients, your community and your staff. One that cultivates an atmosphere of gratitude, loyalty, honesty and an organizational work-ethic capable of driving productivity and profitability like never before.
One that positions you as a leader, a philanthropist, a visionary, a mentor and massive-success story, rather than a bastard-boss or back-stabbing colleague who rules over an apathetic, disloyal, thieving workforce who’d be just as happy to see you crash and burn as they’d be watching you succeed.
One that builds your business not with a bullied client-base always in search of someone else to give them a better deal, but upon the relationships cultivated with a consistent, devoted client-base that will often even pay a bit more for the pleasure of continuing to work with you.
It’s a radical approach to entrepreneurship, small business and career-growth called Karma Capitalism.
It’s about building your business around the creation of what Michael Roach, calls “Karmic Profit Centers” and the impact it will have on your business and your life will blow you away. Indeed, it’s already built at least two $100 million companies I know of. So…
What the heck is Karma, really?
Three years ago, you’d have to search far and wide to find any American’s who had even the slightest semblance of what Karma was. But, then, a massive spiritual event happened and now tens of millions not only know what Karma is, but watch it unfold every week…once a week…on TV.
What was that worldwide epiphany? My Name Is Earl! Yep, we all learned about this life-altering law of the universe the same way we learned Marge Simpson’s maiden name and Paris Hilton’s latest game. Through television. From a guy named Earl.
One day, after Earl stumbles on a book about Karma, he learns that all of the negative things he’s said and done in his life eventually turn back upon him. And so, too, do all the positive ones. So, after a lifetime of being a real louse, he sets about “cleaning up” his karma by making a massive list of all the wrongs he’d committed and righting every single one.
So, what is Karma…really? Simply put—the energy you put out into the world eventually reflects back onto you. It’s like The Golden Rule with a twist…payback! Everything you think, say and do, both positive and negative, ripples out into the pond of life and business, but instead of tumbling on indefinitely, it eventually hits the edge of the pond and reflects back at you.
It might take seconds, years or decades, but it always comes back to you.
So, the more negative energy you put out, the more negative energy you get back. And, the more positive-energy you put out, the more you get back. Intuitively, we all know this to be true.
Geshe Michael Roach describes three levels of Karma—raw karma or that created by thoughts, verbal karma or that created by words and active karma or that created by actions. Your thoughts, words and actions are all eventually reflected back on you and, most often, magnified many times over. So, how does this play into modern-day business success?
Karmic payback’s a…!
Think about all those times where it seems like business is the hardest and the entire planet just seems to be against you. I was recently talking to someone who owned a small company and he kept complaining about how everyone is always trying to “get over on him.”
He was getting worn down and feeling like every day he showed up at work was a day in battle. His employees were always looking to take more from him, his customers were always beating him up to get a better deal and trying to find ways to weasel out of existing contracts the moment a competitor offered them a better deal. He wasn’t in business…he was at war.
I started to chuckle, a response he wasn’t all that thrilled about. “What are you laughing about?” he asked. “Think about it,” I said, “how many times have you come to me over the past few years, gloating about how you took a customer or got away with underpaying an employee? If you treat the world that way, why would you ever expect it to treat you any different.” He stayed angry for another few seconds, then cracked up, realizing the universal truth behind the question.
So, Karmic payback can make your personal and business hell. But, what about the flip-side?
Karmic management can fill your professional cup like never before.
When we think about karma or the golden rule, we tend to focus on minimizing the “bad” stuff we do in the name of getting less of it back. But, what if you go a step beyond that and focus on using proactively managing your Karma in a way that greatly accelerates your professional success, makes your daily interactions a joy and speeds you down the road to financial success?
How would that work? Let’s look at a two-step process.
Step 1—Minimize Your Negative Professional Karma
This is pretty straight-forward, but far easier to think about than to actually do. How do you minimize your negative karma? Think, speak and act less out of a sense of selfishness, anger, hording and disrespect and more out of gratitude, selflessness, respect and generosity. The first step is to expose how often you are really thinking and being nasty on a daily basis. The answer is often more than a bit disconcerting to those who consider themselves pretty nice people. How do we do this?
Michael Roach suggests using what he calls his 6-a-day book. I’ll simplify it a bit for our purposes. Every few hours, six-times a day, take a quick mental scan and ask yourself whether your thoughts, words or actions since your last check have been kind, grateful, generous and respectful or mean, thankless, selfish and disrespectful. Your focus could be on bigger things, but, most often, your reflections will take you back through a whole bunch of more-fleeting interactions. Write down any that stand out and note, without judgment, how you thought, spoke and acted. Do this for about a week. Again, it’s not about judgment, but revelation. You have to own up to your current state of being, befre you can do anything to evolve it.
Nobody wants to face up to the fact that they are an occasional or even enduring asshole.
Yes…I went there! Because, becoming aware of and then taking ownership of your current choices and actions is the critical first-step that often inspires an immediate shift in behavior. It encourages you to leave a progressively kinder footprint on the people and world around you. Yes, even the “business” world around you.
Interestingly, too, a nearly identical tool is used my most nutritionists. Before meeting, nearly every nutritionist requires a new client to complete a food-diary for a week. This is the nutritional equivalent of the karma-diary.
On the first day, most folks are pretty honest, but writing down every spec of fluid and food imbibed can get real scary real fast. By the second day, most people begin to feel a bit uncomfortable about some aspect of what’s going into their bodies and when. By the third day, mortified at the thought of someone else actually seeing the gastronomic hell they’re raining down on themselves every day, most people begin to take one of three courses.
The vast majority of people change the way they are eating, sometimes dramatically. A smallish subset begin to outright lie. And, a few stop writing, making up some excuse about it being too much of a pain in the butt. In fact, because of these “adaptations,” the content of most food diaries after the first few days is largely discounted as being a valid reflection of the persons true habits.
Either way, though, the experience of observing and recording your habits and behaviors is often quite a powerful intervention in its own right.
Beyond acknowledging and beginning to change your interactive paradigm, though, what else can you do in your professional life to dramatically accelerate your success?
Step 2—Create Karmic Profit Centers
Whaaa? You heard me—Karmic Profit Centers. Again, while I’ve been doing this in business for years, I take no credit for the formal concept or the term. That’s a Roach-ism all the way.
Well, lets start with “what is a plain-old profit center?”
In any business, there are certain tasks, products and services that generate revenue. For example, in a health-club, the different profit centers would include membership-fees, personal-training, tanning, spa-services and more. In finance, you’d have deal fees, brokerage fees, clearing fees, yadda, yadda, yadda. Point is, they all exist to generate money for the business.
Accounting, human resources, maintenance and marketing are also critical functions, but, because they do not generate revenue, they’re not considered “profit-centers.”
Okay, now what are Karmic Profit Centers?
Tasks, services or products that are undertaken or offered for the purpose of building an abundance of positive Karma that will return to the business in the form of prosperity. Instead of “offering something in exchange for immediate compensation from the person receiving it, you offer something gratuitously with the knowledge that, down the road, your offering will be repaid, often many-times over, and very likely from a source and in a way that has little or no connection to the original recipient of your generosity.
Let’s look at a three examples to really see this concept in action, ranging from small-scale with immediate payback to massive with long-term payback.
Case-Study #1: Gabra Gets Vocal
A few weeks ago, a student of mine, who by complete coincidence, had been in the class I taught where Michael Roach attended, came to me with a challenge.
After years of pursuing her passion as an actor, earning her living as a waitress was beginning to get pretty tired. So, she began to explore other options and, through a series of steps built a nice career out of reading audio-books. The work was pretty regular and she earned anywhere from three to seven times more than her best waitressing gig paid.
After about a year, she began to notice something happening. Everywhere she went, whenever people asked what she did and she revealed her journey, she’d literally be accosted by people pleading to know how she landed this Holy grain of careers.
Remembering what I’d said in class, she loved the notion of sharing with others exactly how to do what she’d done. And, to a few close friends, she did just that. After a few weeks, though, she noticed that one of those friends has begun working for her main employer and, while her heart said, “continue to share,” she was a bit freaked out about giving away her sources and essentially sharing her way out of a job.
We had an interesting conversation that opened her eyes to a potential significant second opportunity that was being missed, but also to the challenge of wanting to be generous, the create those Karmic Profit Centers and just trust it’ll come back to you. It’s a very tough thing to do, because it requires a certain degree of faith, and that’s a very tough sell in today’s professional environment.
Nonetheless, after a few more days of contemplation, she wrote a huge e-mail to an acquaintance laying out the steps she’d taken to create her career in audio-books. And, literally, the moment she hit send on that e-mail, she received another. It was an offer, her first really-big offer, to do a big book for a lot of money for a big new publishing client.
Seed-planted, kindness delivered and Karma re-paid in an astonishingly-quick timeframe.
Case Study #2: Bill Philips & Tim Ferriss burst into bestsellerdom
Interestingly enough, creating Karmic profit centers work across all manner of professional endeavor. Even publishing. Here are two examples.
• Bill Philips | Body For Life® – Bill Philips was the founder of a sports supplement company named EAS that rose to fame on the back of a supposed performance-enhancing product called creatine. But, what most people know him for is his massive bestselling book, Body For Life.
True, he had a ton of compelling photo-testimonials for his physical transformation program and he sponsored a contest that gave away a ton of money for the best transformation. And, yes, he mentioned his supplements in the book. Can’t fault the guy for brilliant marketing. But, still, plenty of other body-sculpting books from guys with reams of before and after photos come to market and fall flat on their faces.
So, what made Philips’ book different? Where was the Karmic Profit Center? It lay in what he did with the royalties. Every penny went to a childrens’ charity. Did this make people feel better about themselves when they bought the book? Sure. But, that alone doesn’t make for a bestseller on the level this book became. There was something bigger, Karmic, at work.
• Tim Ferris | The Four-Hour Workweek – Ferriss’ much more recent blockbuster bestseller came out of nowhere and landed spots on the extended betseller lists within days after it’s release. Ferriss has been pretty transparent about the efforts he’s undertaken to accomplish this incredible feat.
But, interestingly enough, after the first week or so, as his book began to linger and drop a bit, the single thing he became most vocal about was not his book or how to land on the bestseller list, but an educational-charity called DonorsChoice.org that allows you to fund specific classroom projects in schools around the country. In fact, during the weeks he turned his energy to mobilizing his blog and readership audiences to vote this charity to the top of an American Express campaign that would yield a $5 million winfall for the organization, his book catapulted up the Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestseller lists.
Was Tim a super-savvy marketer who invested his energies wisely? You bet. But, there are hundreds of other first-time authors doing the same thing who outright flop. Again, there seemed to be something “bigger” going on. By turning all of his energy to using his instant platform in the name of generosity, Tim created a powerful Karmic Profit Center that paid him back nearly-instantly.
• Case Study #3: Steve Pavlina breaks the blogosphere’s sound barrier –
In October 2004, indy game developer, Steve Pavlina, made a startling jump into the astonishingly crowded world of personal-development blogging. Starting with no reputation, no following, no platform or name, he began to write giant articles that were different than anything else around. They were provocative, intriguing, informative and highly-original. Oh, and they were long, very long. But, somehow, people just couldn’t stop reading…and then spreading the word.
In less than 3 years, Steve’s readership grew to the point where he now earns a reported $400-$500,000 a year from advertising on his blog at StevePavlina.com, working part-time. Is Steve a really smart guy with a golden pen? You bet. But, so are a lot of others who’ve not come anywhere close to his success. What gives? Looks like possibly another Karma connection.
For years, Steve’s been doing something freely that most others never do or do grudgingly and as minimally as possible. He gives. Both he and his wife, Erin Pavlina, donate on a monthly basis to charity. And, Steve has written about the importance of going beyond money and building a career that, in some way, gives back.
Yet again, we see the impact of planting those seeds and watching them grow into a Karmic Profit Center. Is this entirely responsible for Steve’s remarkable success? Of course not. But, has it played a role in taking him to a place where so many others with considerable talent have tried to get? You be the judge.
• Case Study #3: Michael Gordon | Bumble & Bumble® – Some 35-years ago, former Londoner, Michael Gordon, made his way to South Africa, where he lived with his brother, learned yoga and opened a successful hair-salon. A few years in, he picked up his young family, moved to New York, bought a hole-in-the-wall salon on 57th Street and turned it into Bumble & Bumble, a legendary salon and hair-care products giant he recently sold to Estee Lauder for a reported $100 million.
While Gordon attributes his success to a number of factors, he holds non more important than his often inadvertent creation of what he now sees as a string a Karmic Profit Centers. Looking back, he shared with me, even in the earliest days, working out of his shop in Aparthied South Africa, he credits acts of kindness with his ability to succeed where so many others with better funding and prestigious educations failed.
“I tried to recall what Karmic seeds I might have planted that grew into Karmic Profit Centers,” he shared, “and I came with very simple things that I never even thought about. For example, it was illegal to teach a black person to cut hair, but I didn’t even give it a second thought and taught my black employees because it was just the respectful, right thing to do. I didn’t even give it a second thought and thank God the fron window was covered over or I might have been arrested.”
Of course, nothing is without controversy.
Now, I’m sure there are more than a few Buddhist or Eastern philosophers who see Karma Capitalism as a misguided use of the notion of selfless, compassionate service. And, more recently, a website has popped up blasting away at Roach for a variety of different reasons, many linked to the way he lives his personal life. I cannot speak to any of that. Nor, would I want to.
My focus is very much on the very narrow exploration of managing your karma to create the greatest good in your life and the greatest success in business by leading with kindness and giving, instead of terror and taking.
Interestingly, too, though some have argued that Roach is essentially persona non-grata with the Dalia Lama these days, His Holiness would seem to essentially agree with Roach’s notion of karmic management.
In his book, The Art of Happiness(aff), he shared his thoughts on performing selfless acts with the expectation that the kindness will be repaid…and concluded that, while it may not be the purest motivation, it still leads to the delivering of more acts of kindness and, regardless of the underlying intent, that leaves the world in a better place than if not acts had been bestowed at all.
Some final thoughts and a big, fat “prove it to yourself” challenge.
I’ve been asked many times how the notion of Karma relates to things like The Secret’s law of attraction or the natural impulse to honor those who do seemingly righteous work. Great questions, all. And, I will answer them in a follow-up article.
But, for now, I leave you with a 30-day challenge.
I would never ask you to take anything I or anyone says, without kicking the wheels first. If it’s testable, then test it! Don’t believe a word I say…until you prove it to yourself.
For the next 30-days, begin to plant your own seeds. In Tibetan, they are called Bak Chaks or Karmic seeds. For the first seven straight days, keep your Karma Diary and then, for the next 23 days, with a stronger awareness of the way you think, speak and act in your world and workplace, challenge yourself to lead with kindness, respect, generosity and compassion. Not just at home, but at work.
Then, if you are inclined, take more concerted, discrete actions. Go out of your way to do these things. To make deposits into your karmic bank account. These are the thoughts, words and deeds that become seeds that will grow into your Karmic Profit Centers and greatly accelerate your road to success. What’s the worst that could happen? You feel a whole lot better about yourself and those around you become more thankful, respectful and happy, too.
Try it on for size and share thoughts and experiences in the Comment section below!
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