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    Buddha the Internet Marketer

    If the Buddha were alive today, the odds are just as good that he’d be an Internet Marketer as the leader of a new religious sect.


    Because the guy knew how to sell.

    Let me talk about the Internet Marketing world before we return full-circle to the robed former Prince of the Sakya clan (that’s Siddhartha Gautuma — the Buddha — for those who are keeping score).

    This morning, as background noise while I’m doing some last minute corporate accounting, I was listening to a well known Internet marketer’s lecture on how easy it is to make money online. I won’t mention his name because I don’t want to single him out, since what he does is the same as almost every other person selling “how to make money online.”

    The guy spends 30 minutes getting people psyched that they can get whatever they want (apparently everyone wants to travel, have a bigger place to live, and work in their underwear… which, in an odd way, is one way to describe what it’s like to be homeless… but I digress).

    Then he launches into his personal story of woe and misery. How he grew up poor, had no arms and legs, received alien implants that sucked out his brain, can’t say the number “5” and, in myriad other ways, shouldn’t have become successful.

    Then, of course, he discovered the Internet (cue the Hallelujah chorus) and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

    He found a group of people who were willing to pay for information he had…

    And the next thing you know, he’s making money online, hand over fist over knees over toes.

    See, it’s that simple!

    Oh, are you wondering what information he had?

    Well, this is the part that makes me want to toss my computer out the  window… but since my office is in the basement and the window is a window-well, that would be more like rearranging my desk than getting the glass-and-plastic-shattering effect I’d like when I hear him GLOSS OVER this one, TEENY-WEENY factoid:

    He discovered, after staring at stock and commodity charts all day, that he had a knack for making accurate predictions about the future prices in the market.

    Let’s pause here, shall we. Let me see if I get this straight.

    How rare do you think it is that someone can predict the movement of the market? Granted, he was doing this at a time where if you just said, “I think it’s going up!” you would probably make money. But, suffice it to say, it turns out that this guy with no training or education just happened to have a knack for doing something that people would pay a ton of money for.

    He was a rare and unusual person with an even rarer and unusual-er skill. Out of the millions of people who TRY to do what he did, he was the ONE IN A MILLION (or better) who could do it.

    But, again, he practically dismisses with a wipe of his hand the VALUE OF THIS STATISTICALLY UNLIKELY thing.

    According to him, he didn’t make money because he could do something almost nobody else could do. He didn’t make money because it was a skill that could help other people make money (Want to make a million? Tell people that you can teach them how to make a million… for only $99.99).

    No, according to him, it’s just the magic of the Internet and a few skills… hell, if he can do it, so can you! (that’s what he says, anyway).

    I mean, sure, if you take out the rare, unusual, unreproduceable, unteachable, improbable, and unlikely part, then it SEEMS like something usual, reproduceable, teachable, probably and likely… and something you could do.

    But add that back in and, well, it’s just a nice lecture from a mildly delusional-but-entertaining guy.

    And that’s the problem with people teaching Internet Marketing. They typically leave out, or overlook, or simply don’t recognize the critical component of their personal story, the factor that actually led to their success (if there even IS a factor other than luck or good timing).

    And, worse, most of the people listening to their pitch don’t recognize that missing factor and, therefore, spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to learn some “technique” that never reproduces the results attained by the teacher.

    (Can you feel the circle about to close?)

    Buddha had a great sales pitch.

    Perhaps one of the best ever.

    “Life is inherently unsatisfactory… but I have a way for you to get something even BETTER than what you ever imagined… in fact, if you imagine it, that ain’t it… and, unlike other religions that say you’ll get the bonus prize after you’re dead, with my religion you can get it all while you’re alive!”

    While the Buddha couldn’t say, “I was poor and uneducated and walked uphill to school, both ways…” he did say, “If I can do it, so can you!”

    And, like our Internet marketers, who get a long line of customers when they say, “I’ll teach you how for only $2995…” the Buddha says, “I’ll show you how by sitting on your butt for decades…”

    But here’s the kicker… the very texts of Buddhism talk about how rare and unusual the Buddha is. How it was the thousands of past-lives that led inevitably to his awakening.

    And, like the Internet marketers who can only point to a tiny fraction of their students who seem to have proven that the technique works (until you look more closely and see that they ALSO had rare and unusual skills), out of the millions of meditators who’ve spent time on a cushion, we’ve got only an itsy-bitsy handful who ostensibly got to the end of the Buddhist path… and, when asked, usually say that their “achievement” was not something predictable, or causal, or reproducible.

    And, like the Internet marketers, they then go off to teach others based on, “If I can do it, so can you!,” overlooking that even they aren’t really sure how they did it, and ignoring that the lack of results by the students.

    Of course the students perpetuate the rolling of the wheel by believing that they haven’t reached the goal (Buddhist or marketing) because they need to practice more, find a different practice, fix some fictional problem that’s keeping them from their goal, get over their “resistance to meditation” or “fear of success,” feng shui their bathroom, detox their liver, set goals, take another workshop, find another teacher…

    Silly humans.

    15 Responses to “Buddha the Internet Marketer”

    1. ellen Says:

      Yep, ain’t we daft.
      I did the zen thing for years, had the gamut of experiences, convinced myself and others that they were authentic and finally came to the enlightening realisation that it is all b*ll*cks.
      I’d spent years kidding myself I was doing something elite and special and revolutionary because I needed to feel elite, special etc.
      What I’d never done was question the original assumptions, that there is something to be got –(note the materialism)–and that IF it existed it was learnable.
      It tied my brain in knots for the best part of 20 years and I’m still ironing out the kinks–I can’t lay claim to any regrets though as it kept me from terminal boredom and I did this willingly as a supposedly intelligent adult.
      I too have noticed that the IMers (who use direct marketing tactics) use exactly the persuasion tactics of all religions and cults. 23 years ago I read a book by Joe Karbo, one of the first to systemise these direct marketing tactics and found it to be foolish and unbelievable. Around the same time I got involved in practicing zen–I might just as well have tossed a coin, it could have gone either way.
      I got to know some-one much later who read the same Joe Karbo book and acted on it, feelthy rich now, of course.
      I’d like to round this off with a neat little lesson along the lines of now I’m poor but happy and my feelthy rich friend is miserable but that would be b*ll*cks too.
      This purported awakening of the Buddha is utterly unverifiable–how do we know he wasn’t kidding himself just as much as I was? Still, chasing an impossibly elusive mental state doesn’t leave much time for boredom.
      Nice article.

    2. sashen Says:

      I think only the humans in the UK are daft. Here, they’re silly. 😉

      BTW, I’ve got a post I haven’t made yet about how the very story told about the Buddha’s awakening are actually describing someone *losing* a temporary altered state. Ah, but it’ll have to wait for now.

      And, Ellen, had your coin landed on the other side… well, think of what you could have done had you not been “just sitting” (or wondering about your original face, or curious why every part of the Mu koan is translated into English… EXCEPT the word “Mu!”) 😉

    3. sashen Says:

      p.s. I’m still doing accounting (let’s just say I’m known to procrastinate) and STILL have the Internet marketing video on in the background (let’s just say this guy likes to hear himself talk)… and ran into THIS usually-unnoticed contradiction.

      He’s telling the story of his first half a million in earnings and the story is replete with “I can’t believe they’re paying me money! I had no self-esteem back then. Why would they give me money?!”

      And then, just 10 minutes later, he launches into: “If you think you can’t, YOU CAN’T!”

      I guess the message is: If *I* think I can’t, I can anyway… but if YOU think you can’t, then you need to buy my “How to Think You Can!” course.

      The Buddha carryover: It’s said that the last words of the Buddha were, “Don’t believe anything I — the Buddha — but put it to the test yourself.” But go to your typical meditation center and you’ll hear, “Oh, you must trust the lineage and your teacher… if it’s not working, do it more!”

    4. Stever Robbins Says:

      I found exactly the same thing with the National Speakers Association. I was a member for quite a while. After attending a gazillion of their money-making conferences, I noticed that all the million-dollar speakers had one thing in common that they glossed over when teaching the rest of us: they all taught sales skills, most to corporate audiences.

      That’s not a tiny factor to leave out. Salespeople are highly motivated by money, notoriously huge spenders, and also tend to leap on anything that can increase their success rate. A Fortune 500 company will pay $20K for a keynote speech if they believe that speech can increase one salesperson’s yearly close rate by 1%.

      The people who teach career skills to college students, however, aren’t likely to succeed even if they reproduce the marketing tactics of the million-dollar speakers verbatim.

    5. ellen Says:

      I have to admit that those years of sitting were not a complete waste. All that navel gazing gave me much food for thought, once I had seen through the utter impossibilty of the demand to ‘not think.’ The buddha’s purported last words that I took to heart were ‘Light your own lamp, work out your own salvation with diligence’ which did eventually lead me to query the whole notion of salvation. I can remember reading somewhere else that those words were a mistranslation, that the old boy died from eating something dodgy and his actual last words were ‘It was the mushrooms’. I think that makes for a better story as well as fabulous speculation about exactly what kind of mushrooms and that perhaps those mushrooms had some hand in those elusive mental states.
      I can laugh now at how silly and daft I was and will be in the future and that is a mental state that is worth all the crap I went through to attain.
      There you go, I can’t resist rounding off a story with a little uplifting homily.
      I look forward to your future post on the Buddha’s mental states, gained or lost.

    6. ellen Says:

      You’ve got me thinking now about all I gained from the whole zen obssession. One of the things I learned was to not torture myself with thoughts of what might have been had the mythical coin tossing directed me down Joe Karbo’s path. I didn’t toss the coin, I made a choice based on the whole of my life experience to that date–you could say that the choice was made for me as it was not a rational thinking-out, weighing up the pros and cons type of choice—but it was still my choice.
      I think now that I was lucky also in my ‘choice?’ of first teacher, a Korean of the old school who taught me for a couple of years and then unceremoniously booted me out to continue on my own. I was miffed for a while at being slung out of the nest but have come to see (particularly after hearing other tales of bondage to the guru) that as a huge gift. Growing up at last, I guess.
      I was at a mandatory work seminar recently and was able to immediately spot the hypnotic tactics in use to bypass the critical mind-standard practice it seems these days-because I had encountered these in so many ‘spiritual’ situations before and, after being taken in so often, had then done some investigation.
      I guess the admonition ‘Buyer Beware’ holds in religious/spiritual matters just as in any commercial transaction.

    7. sashen Says:

      I thought it was the pork that got him.

      And, yes, “caveat emptor” is a great mantra.

    8. ellen Says:

      Pork? Mushrooms? Who knows?

    9. ZenGlen Says:

      I’m gonna make believe it was the mushrooms. Sure did give me a laugh. Thanks for a great post Steven. I remember talking with you several months ago about this same thing.

      Glad you turned me on to your blog. Judging from the titles of some of your posts, this looks like a fun place to play.


    10. sashen Says:

      Hey Glen,

      Welcome… and enjoy.

      Of course, I was planning on having a lunch that included lots of mushrooms… now I’m not so sure that’s a good idea 😉

    11. ellen Says:

      Oh go on, enjoy the mushrooms. You could try my new mantra out while you munch: ‘The situation is hopeless, but not serious.’ —-Shamelessly stolen from one Dr Paul Watzlawick.

    12. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      Hi Steven,
      Your comments on dishonesty in marketing in our society are well received. Actually, they would be well received if they were about the marketing of pretty much anything. But I have no clue what you are saying about enlightenment (admittedly, I am a little slow sometimes). And I am truly interested. You could be saying that there is no such thing.

      It also seems like you might be saying that it is entirely a function of some innate abilities. I’d never considered anything like that. The fact that there is any discussion of enlightenment would have to mean that some portion of the lucky few who possessed these abilities failed to notice that arrangement.

      You could also be saying that it is completely random and unpredictable invalidating only the discussions of methodology. Or it could just be about the Buddha (I’m not too fond of some of his ideas myself). It seems like an earlier post was somewhat similar. I’d really like to know where you’re coming from.

      Signed: “Interested”

      (or perhaps I’m just confused)

      P.S…ellen. In reference to mind control strategies, I am wondering what in the world you mean by “these days.” Could ‘these days’ perchance refer to the last four or five thousand years?

    13. Safa Says:

      Glad to have stumbled upon your Lovely blog; fantabulous revelations!
      I wonder what you think about the Sufi biz, too. I mean the self-appointed guru masters mushrooming the overseas markets!
      As for Buddhism, so for Sufism!?

    14. ellen Says:

      I haven’t been around the last four or five thousand years so I can’t say. I am confident that marketing strategies have been in use to sell everything, including ideas, ideologies, spiritual belief systems and the notion of enlightenment for as long as humans have been playing with thought and the utterly compelling notion of impressing and dominating others.
      Speaking from my own experience, the only experience that I can speak from, I have noticed that the use of these strategies grows ever more sophisticated and widespread, to the point where my employer considers it ethical to enforce my attendance at a seminar so that I may be subjected to these methods without my consent. This is not too big a deal were it not for the fact that these very effective hypnotic techniques are also being used, without informed consent, by every shade of politician and media pundit–because they work so well—to bypass critical thought and to implant confusion and new beliefs in their captive audiences. I find the prospect of an increasingly confused populace of true believers– in any ideolgy–scary in the extreme.
      I applaud and support anyone who encourages critical thinking and I admire ‘roshi’ Sashen for providing the tools for others to expand their capacity for critical thought.
      (Roshi just means ‘old man’, one who might know a bit from his experience and is willing to pass it on for others to then test the validity in their own lives–I am not suggesting Steven is enlightened or any such nonsense, I do not know him, nor will I ever know, for sure, what is in his head and heart.)

    15. sashen Says:

      Hey Ron… I wasn’t saying anything about “enlightenment,” per se. Just pointing out two things:

      1) How Buddhism and Internet Marketers use the same “If *I* can do it, so can you!” sales pitch (among others) and;
      2) How flimsy that logic is, given the myriad factors that lead to the teachers seeming accomplishments

      I think that, especially in the West, we love the idea that hard work and effort make anything possible. But when we look closely, that notion doesn’t hold a lot of water.

      Safa… welcome to the blog… I don’t know much about what’s going on overseas with Sufi teachers. Perhaps you could let us know.

      And, Ellen, thanks for the applause 😉





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