What makes people steal, lie, cheat, manipulate and play dirty tricks on their fellow man? Some among us might speak compassionately of fear, poverty, and desperation. Others among us might speak from experience about lack of empathy, lack of conscious and evil. To my mind, while the first situation is often true, if it leads to the conditions in the second sentence, then there is no difference in the end result which is suffering and rampant destruction of others.
Most major religions and philosophies will acknowledge that suffering in life is of our own design. The Buddhists talk about desire, craving and ignorance. The Buddha stated that if we release ourselves from desire, we will release ourselves from a lot of suffering. If we do not crave something, it has no hold over us. [The Buddha lived before the invention of potato chips or else his enlightenment might have taken longer…just sayin’.]
He called craving or desire a great tree having many branches including greed, ill will, jealousy and anger. This tree is rooted in ignorance and grows out of ignorance. Ignorance is the inability to see the truth about things, to see things as they really are. In my own life, as I become aware of my own shortcomings, I am more compassionate of others’. I see the truth that we are all connected and we are all imperfect and impermanent beings. When I focus on the things in my life that give me joy, I do not crave the lifestyle, possessions or successes of others. Getting older is so awesome in this respect. I am happier most of the time than when I was younger. I am also humbled by the suffering that I have caused others in my ignorance and cravings. It makes me more careful, more likely to reflect, less impulsive. When I think of business success, I compare myself to where I was and where I am going rather than looking at other sellers for my benchmark.
How does this work with the competitive nature of selling? It seems contradictory to the idea of winning the buy box and beating the other guy online. And what about the suffering that is inflicted on us from others? What about dirty tricks by other sellers? Customers who send back damaged inventory and lie about it? What is the Zen of Evil? Given that we live in a world where we cannot possibly know everything, how do we find The Truth and, thus, the end of suffering? This is why Buddhism is called a practice and not a religion (and why it works well with other religions). It is something we work towards because the practice of it is in and of itself rewarding. It can relieve stress and suffering right here, right now – even that caused by the behavior of others.
These past few weeks have been difficult for me and I was nowhere near the calm place I like to be. I felt under attack and was defensive. I felt angry, sad, hurt at various times. It has taken a while to get back on track. I am still dealing with the police, Amazon, etc., which takes me away from my business. So I took a day off for prayer and meditation. I reflected on everything I have in my life that gives me joy. I wrote gratitude lists and I reached out to my friends with love and thankfulness rather than venting and frustration. I went to yoga. Wow! What a difference a day makes!
This is the Zen of evil. It offers us an opportunity to observe our feelings, to reflect and detach. According to the First Noble Truth of the Buddhist Sangha, pain is inevitable, suffering is not. We can’t avoid pain in life but we can decide how deeply it affects us. Suffering, while unpleasant, also drives us. We make decisions and take actions that we might not otherwise if we weren’t under the lash of our suffering. Evil makes us seek goodness, find reprieve in love. Suffering provides us with lessons about ourselves and the people around us. I’m not saying suffering is good – it is awful – but it can be transformed. Suffering is emotional and, as such, cannot be transformed solely by analysis and logic, common sense or any of that head-y stuff. It must be transformed emotionally – with heart.
The yin-yang symbol in Zen represents the evil hidden in the good and the good hidden in the evil. It says that nothing is wholly good or evil. Each condition contains the kernel of the other in it.
I will probably never know who stole my inventory and who has been messing with my listings. I will never understand the viciousness of some of the Facebook messages I read about my ASIN issues, “gurus” and those who write books about Amazon. I don’t get why people lie in order to get free shipping back to Amazon. Really? Your integrity is worth so little? But I don’t have to. I only need the ability to detach and observe rather than sink into the feelings. I need to transform. I need to honor my feelings and then let them pass with gratitude for what I have learned. [I am practicing, practicing, practicing!].
One thing that I understand more clearly now is that some people live in a world where there are limited resources, opportunities and chances for success. In their worldview, teaching others how to fish in the sea of Amazon is akin to taking food from their mouths. I don’t share this worldview. I think the sea is vast and teeming with opportunities. For this reason, I will always be in opposition with those who believe that there is only room for a few to succeed. This does not mean I need to fight them or defend myself. I cannot change their view of their world. I will continue to do what I’ve always done – teach others, share my experiences.
As a consultant, I talk to a lot of other sellers about their fears. They call me about something else “help me figure out this… why is this happening?” but sometimes underneath the questions is the fear. Am I good enough? Can I do this? What if I fail? What if bad things happen to me? What if I make a mistake and Amazon kicks me out? I help them with their questions, I encourage them. I tell them they can do this. And I write this blog. For better or worse, I live my seller life out loud on this blog so that folks can see that I make mistakes and I’m still here. I try things out and experiment and I’m still here. Bad things happen to me and I’m still here. Obstacles are put in my way and I overcome them…you will too.
When my experiences – good and bad – help others, it makes me happy. It is part of the transformation process for me to turn my lemons into someone else’s lemonade. Because I’m a writer as well as a seller, I am sometimes a target of other people’s bitter feelings. This is a new vulnerability for me. In my past career, I was always behind the scenes. I was detached most of the time because whatever the problem was, it wasn’t my circus and the haters weren’t my clowns. Now my circus has come to town and I need to find perspective that will help me keep on track and not get distracted by the noise.
Because it is easy to get distracted. Maybe you aren’t dealing with evil clowns, dirty tricks or thieves, but you may still be distracted by all the brou-ha-ha that happens in 4th Quarter. Lots of people are telling you to do this or that, you are getting emails encouraging you to buy hot lists, tip sheets, etc. You are visiting FatWallet.com every day to look for Black Friday deals and still you wonder…am I doing enough? Am I buying what I am supposed to? Should I listen to this spreecast? Buy this program…etc.? People on Facebook all seem to be doing better than you and posting big numbers. It is easy to lose perspective. My advice if you are feeling stressed and worried is to step back and remember that you are doing the best you can and that is good enough. Don’t compare yourself to your perception of someone else – that view is always skewed. Unplug from the communities for a bit and work on your business and you will do well.
Stop comparing yourself to others and start noticing things you are doing right and that are working for you. This is a better use of your time. Focus on what you plan to do with your earnings – your dreams, goals and all the reasons you are working so hard right now.
One of my favorite Zen phrases is: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” This has two meanings for me in relationship to selling on Amazon: 1) If you think you have reached enlightenment and understand it, keep practicing. I haven’t come close to knowing everything there is to know about selling on Amazon.com. I’m still learning, just like you. Learning and improving are lifelong skills for selling. 2) If you think you have met the enlightened leader – the one who will lift you up to the heights, someone outside of yourself – then you must destroy that belief. [Remember, Buddhism is non-violent, this is all symbolic killing!] There is no such thing as a guru only an imperfect, impermanent person like you who is further down the path than you.
It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of other sellers from whom I have learned so much over the years. I am grateful that they’ve shared their experiences and opened my mind to new possibilities. Ultimately, I make my own decisions based on my resources, interests and experiences. I take what serves me and leave behind the rest. I encourage everyone to do this.
The answer to your Amazon business fears, questions, hopes and aspirations are all inside of you. You are the Buddha. Learn what you can from others, but don’t accept anything blindly. The wisdom for your business will be guided by you. You keep working on your business and one day you will be in a position to help other sellers, too.
During this crazy busy time of year you will find yourself tired and overwhelmed sometimes. Many sellers have moments of anxiety. Be sure to step back and take some time for yourself. Be still at least 20 minutes a day. Get enough sleep at night. Eat. These are all Zen principles that really work.
Lastly, if we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with; choose wisely. If you are spending hours online in groups each week, they are one of your “business five” whether you meant it to be that way or not. Make sure they are helping you be better rather than stirring you up.
Have faith in yourself. You can do it! Success in fourth quarter my friends!