I've been reading a lot about Buddhism lately (bet you haven't read many sentences that start that way lately) and the fascinating thing is the relentless focus Buddhists have on understanding what's really going on. Which means that what you think is going on may not be right at all. The point of much of Buddhism is awareness -- being fully present in the moment, and paying complete attention to what is happening right now. That, in a sentence, is the secret to marketing.
Professionals, particularly attorneys, are trained in process. There is one way to do something -- say, draft a brief -- and there is already precedent for everything you want to do. Someone's already done it. You just need to do it slightly better, or for a slightly longer time, and fame and fortune will be yours. Get a grade that' s just slightly better than the next guy, and you're on the Law Review. You get the job. You make partner, etc.
And increasingly, as Seth Godin points out in a recent blog post, modern life works that way, too. We're trained to be helpless. You can't fix your own laptop. You can't do your own taxes. You can't understand who to vote for without some help from a pundit. As I write this (in Chicago's Midway Airport) my flight is 90 minutes late, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to get myself home. Except sit here.
Except, of course, when it comes to business development. The market doesn't care about precedent, theories, or the way it's always been done. Nobody's going to do it for you. You can learn and follow all the so-called rules, and they will get you just exactly nowhere. The market cares about what it cares about, and it's your job, as a business developer, to understand what your market wants, and deliver it. Which means experimenting. And being willing to think about what's actually going on, rather than what you wish was going on, or what appears to be going on. There's a great Buddhist parable about this way of thinking:
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "We'll see," the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"We'll see," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"We'll see," answered the farmer.The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
"We'll see," said the farmer.
This kind of thinking is the exact opposite of what lawyers are trained to do. Which is why I have a business. At least so far. We'll see.
Sorry. Couldn't resist.