Thursday, October 20, 2011

Selling snowballs to Eskimos


There’s a fundamental law of economics: People will purchase things they feel a need for. No perceived need=No demand=No sale. The entire economic engine begins with that fundamental principle. The next principle that emerges from that one is that demand must be stimulated. People may actually need something but are not aware of solutions. That’s where marketing and advertising comes into play. As an ex marketing man I understand both of these building blocks which are foundational to economic success.

If I wanted to create an economic success it is first necessary to persuade someone of their need, and the best way to do that is by telling half-truths. I have never seen a successful marketing campaign that told the whole truth. Instead marketing people dwell on the part, which appeals to people and intentionally avoid telling about the downside. The downside always comes along for the ride and often times becomes apparent later, but by then the sale has been made and it’s too late to get your money back. There is no such thing as any product or service that is 100% good. In our ignorance we are easily hoodwinked into being sold a bill of goods that looks to be without flaw.

I am no longer a marketing man. I am now a spiritual man. So what in the world does this have to do with spiritual matters? Simple: Snowballs. The most fundamental of all sales jobs is to persuade people that they are inadequate, in any and every way. If that can be done then the rest is a piece of cake. What we believe about ourselves, fundamentally, lays the ground for everything that follows. If I believe I am inadequate then I will be open to making choices and buying things I don’t need but believe that I do. Nobody is going to be vulnerable and want to buy things when they are already adequate. That would be nuts. So the first task is to bring adequacy into question.

In the most fundamental way, that is what life is all about: nothing more. Virtually from birth onwards to the grave we are being sold a bill of goods about being inadequate. We are Eskimos with plenty of snowballs but are being duped into believing that we need more. If you want to put that into a spiritual context try this on for size: “Like one in water crying, ‘I thirst!’ Like the son of a rich man wandering poor on this earth we endlessly circle the six worlds.” That’s from a very famous Zen Master (Hakuin Ekaku). And if you prefer the same message from a Christian context, try the story of the Prodigal Son, who wandered away from his birthright of splendor and ate from the trough of pigs. And if you wonder how this might translate into an economic context in today’s world, click here and watch a simple yet insightful summation of how our freedoms are compromised.

The half-truth of life is that we are inadequate. The whole truth is that we are also adequate and complete already. Both of these are true together. Neither is true alone. That’s the whole truth and when we realize this whole truth then only do we cease lusting for what we already have.
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