Sunday, May 2, 2010

How Does A Mindful Marketer Deal With New Challenges?

You can also watch this tip as a video on YouTube

I have taken on some interesting challenges and have had some interesting epiphanies related to the demise of inspiration in projects. In this post and related video I want to speak to my thought processes as a mindful marketer. The purpose is to describe the role of mindfulness in business, especially when dealing with challenges and changes. The post is discussed with reference to launching my new TV show AWEtv and how to promote your videos effectively.

Before I get into the how, I want to briefly touch upon what “mindful” means. First, a few definitions:

According to Jon Kabat Zinn, Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

Thich Nhat Hahn says, “To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing.”

I like to describe mindfulness as a conscious awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of our thoughts, actions, and environment in the present moment. See Jan Frazier's Blog about insightful and profound writings on non judgmental observation.

A lot of research is being done on this construct in psychology. For purposes of this post I am looking at mindfulness as a multidimensional construct including observing, accepting without judgment, acting with awareness, and describing (Baer et al 2004). In addition, I add broader perspective.

I now discuss how each of these aspects of mindfulness played out in my new project of launching AWEtv.

I Observing:

This refers to the conscious awareness of what’s happening inside us and in our external environment. When starting a new project this is obviously a very good idea. Learning from our external environment is essential. Some of the resources I used to learn about promoting my new TV show on YouTube are:

1) Google: I always start any research with Google. I googled “viral marketing campaigns” and variances of this phrase.

2) Twitter/Hootsuite: I searched for conversations about viral campaigns on Twitter.

3) YouTube for dummies: This was not very useful as the information was really basic, like if you are just starting out.

4) Experts in my social networks: I spoke with my friends on Twitter and other social networks who have been producing videos or have engaged in viral marketing effectively. It was interesting to hear from the experts (e.g. Danny Brown) how long it took them to get where they are. It is certainly not an overnight thing.

5) YouTube Videos: I searched for videos on viral marketing and I also studied videos that have been viral successes. I tracked back their first comments (who was the first person to comment and how did they get to know about the videos) and found that it is generally people within their social networks or hired employees who start the initial conversation. I also looked for similarities in content and style across successful viral videos. I found that successful videos are generally short and clever or use sex in their content, tags, and titles. You can read the full post on what I found about viral videos here.

6) Online Forums: I realized that AWEtv is not going to be short, snappy videos and is more likely to be passed on by people interested in or passionate about the content and so need to search online forums that are related to topics like women entrepreneurs, local business, and conscious business.

Now for the more juicy part - what was going on inside of my head. While I was doing the external search, it was also interesting to observe my inner thoughts and reactions that ranged from excitement and enthusiasm to resentment and frustration. Many positive feelings because there is so much to learn and it is all so exciting. I love to learn new things (for some that may be challenging and that’s OK as you can see I had my own challenges).

For the not so positive feelings - I saw people using sex for very serious topics and even though I wasn’t shocked I knew that that is not something I would do and wondered if that leaves me at a disadvantage. Other successful videos were backed by a lot of money and power and I don’t have much of that, yet, and not in a tangible form at least. So, I can hear that little voice in me say, “That’s not fair.” But really, says who? Everyone is doing the best that they can, so on to my next point about non-judgmental acceptance.

II. Accepting without judgment:

This refers to a non-judgmental evaluation of the present situation. Observing the environment and what others are doing can bring up all kinds of emotions as I mentioned above. I started to judge things as good and bad, compare others with me, and all this can be draining or at least I started to feel caught up in my dramas, raising stress levels.

In addition to escalating stress, judging also narrows the lens through which one sees the world. What I mean is that because now I have strong opinions about why and how others have been successful, I start to only see that which confirms my beliefs – selective perception and seeing. I stopped learning.

But, I stopped learning only temporarily, because I am an awareness freak. And soon caught myself judging and getting caught up in the negativity. Something switched, and there was suddenly so much love and acceptance in my heart again. I felt so open again. Have you ever noticed that – when you are judging people negatively, how you start to shrink inside and feel closed and stressed? And when you feel love in your heart, you feel more expansive and open? And needless to say, one learns more in an open state.

III. Acting with awareness:

This refers to taking action with hundred percent attention and focus. It is the nature of the mind to oscillate between the past and the future. Very rarely are we right here, right now. Are you fully here as you read this, or are you also thinking of what you need to do next along with any number of other thoughts?

Anyhow, my last epiphany that no-thing is more important than what needs to be done in the present moment is still very much alive in me. So, for the most part I have been able to do what is needed with no resistance or struggle. It feels like I am moving so much slower than I anticipated, but I and breathe deeplydo what has to be done, joyfully. This mental state of operating where the person is fully immersed in the task at hand, has also been discussed as flow, a concept made popular by Csíkszentmihályi.

IV. Describing/clear communication:

This refers to the ability to articulate precisely what one is feeling or observing. This quality is very useful in so many ways – in my Blogging, workshops and presentations, in my interviews on AWEtv and so forth. Finding the right words to communicate is difficult when my mind has its own dialog going. I can feel the difference in my Blogs. When I write from the stillness within, words just flow. And when I am caught in some drama internally, writing and any kind of clear communication is such a struggle.

In fact, before I started my mindfulness practice, I disliked writing immensely. I always faced so much resistance when I had to write, which I had to as a PhD candidate. I justified that as an outcome of my Indian schooling, which did not involve lengthy writing of any kind. But ever since I have learned to find the stillness in myself, I can write, and write I do effortlessly :)

V. Broader Perspective:

I want to add one last aspect of mindfulness in business, which is a broader perspective. Conscious and non-judgmental awareness and actions make the lens through which we experience the world broader. I am not so quick to jump to conclusions any more, which leaves me open to learning new things and trying new challenges. I also feel the ability to integrate diverse pieces of information and come up with out of the box solutions.

What do you do to be more mindful in business? How has mindfulness helped you in your work?

Any comments, feedback, criticisms, please share…

Monday, April 26, 2010

Viral Campaigns Exposed. Other Ethical Options on Low Budget.

(To see this post as a video you can visit the iAM Facebook Page)

What does Viral Marketing mean?
Viral marketing refers to tactics used in marketing that encourage people to pass on your message who will then forward it to their friends and your message spreads like a virus, with obviously positive outcomes like increasing your brand presence and popularity.

You may have seen some YouTube videos with more than 100,000 hits and that’s an example of a viral campaign. Now, you may have thought like most do that these videos got so many hits because of their cool content. Apparently that’s not what gets them to become viral. According to this article by Dan Greenberg, companies like his are hired to put in time, money, and people to make such videos go viral. A direct quote from him, “good content is not necessary to get 100,000 views if you follow these strategies.” Some of the strategies he talks about: “Make it shocking, Have fake headlines, and appeal to sex.”

Now, I will be launching AWEtv, a local TV show about being authentic and thriving, very soon. So, I am interested in learning everything there is about making YouTube videos go viral. When I read the article by Dan, I was a bit surprised because I had not thought about this before and yet it is not surprising that businesses would resort to these measures. But I am interested in finding alternative ways that are organic and more authentic to who I am in getting the message out. So, I started my investigation online and speaking to people that I know in my social networks about what they are doing.

Summary of 5 different categories of viral marketing

1. Appeal to sex: According to Dan, “if all else fails, hire the most attractive women available to be in the video” And yes this works. If you check out this video on peak oil with the title, “Porn. Peak Oil. Enjoy” and a sexy dance video on the side, it got more than 2,63,000 views and the clean version of the same video, “Oily Cassandra gets clean,” got only about 2,100 views.

2. Hired Bloggers and comments: Getting influencers and popular Bloggers to share and speak about your videos is another tactic discussed. Also, posting comments using multiple accounts is another way to stimulate action on your channel or site.

3. Affiliate marketing: This is a little more organic than other forms discussed in Dan’s article. I have found this tactic used a lot by coaches graduating from a common program. In many cases we don’t know that and it feels like people are promoting each other because they have used their services but it is only because they are actively promoting each other because of some un/spoken agreement. So again, be cautious of using this because if consumers find out they can become skeptical of your integrity.

4. Coupons and rewards: A common way to get people to share the message is by offering them an incentive. E.g. A free report is a good way to capture people’s email information (this tip was offered by Satish Jalan) so they can be part of your email list. But a not so good tactic is like the one on Facebook and for which I actually fell. The one that says become a fan of Ikea and you will get $1000 coupon from Ikea and to be eligible they ask you to share the message with all your fb friends. You can offer coupons etc but do not have hidden agendas like getting people to sign up and sell their information to telemarketing companies.

5. You are a celebrity: Celebrities draw a lot of attention, so if you are one, it will be fairly easy for you to get the attention online. If you have expertise in an area you can earn a celebrity status but it takes time and a lot of hard work. I asked Danny Brown on twitter what he thought about viral campaigns. He was really nice and answered back, unlike many celebrities who don’t. His reply, “Viral is very hit and miss. Needs to be mix of right product/service, timing and luck and skill together :)” It took him “Almost 2 years and just being yourself :)” to get to where he is now with a following of 21,463 followers. You can also watch Chris Brogan’s video on what it takes to become an overnight success to find out it is not overnight but a lot of hard work.

I believe we can make our ideas, good ideas go viral. Below is a list I will continue to add to as I learn more about viral marketing on small budgets with integrity:

1. Use social networks
Use all your social networks like Blogs, Facebook and events to launch your campaign or video, Friends, Twitter, and email lists. And don't be afraid to post duplicates as people are busy and may miss it the first time.
I asked David Pakman from the midweek politics show and in addition to all social networks he talked about forums: “Lately we’ve also been starting to post strategically to certain forums where we know that the combination of traffic level and visitor interests would drive traffic to our videos and also create interesting discussion.”

2. Title and Tags
Create a unique tag, use it everywhere, and use #tags on twitter. We know that using sex in titles works as we saw in Cassandra’s videos, In contrast, Kris B. has been consistently producing good content that is intelligent and with a very fun unique style on her show, KrisCan. She shares her views on tags she uses for her show on peak oil, “Tags get hits. There's no doubt. The question is, is one willing to go that route to achieve the desired effect? I have thought long and hard about this for myself, but since the kriscan show is me and I am the show, I don't wish to be associated with that type of marketing. I'd rather take my chances with the family friendly tags, such as renewable energy, fossil fuels, peak oil, resource depletion, etc. This is more in harmony with who I am.”

3. Thumbnail:
YouTube picks the 3 images from your video including the middle one for your thumbnail. So make sure the middle image in your video is a good one. You can also change the thumbnails to keep it fresh.

4. Easy to share:
Make sure that viewers have options to share the content easily by allowing them to email it to their friends or share it with one click on their social networks like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter.

5. Worthy of sharing:
Ensure that people get some benefit from watching and sharing. E.g. entertainment, inspiration, good cause, free information and as David Pakman said, "an advance/preview/exclusive opportunity before it’s on our program" can be special benefits being offered.

6. Build a community:
Build an on line and offline community around your cause, brand, and message.

7. Add caption:
To make your video accessible to an under served population comprising hard of hearing people you can add captions to your videos.

8. Strategic Alliances:
Another good suggestion by David, "We do strategic trades/partnership with other YouTube channels, exchanging their posting of our videos with links directly to our channel/website for us providing a 30 second advertisement for their channel or website on our radio program."

9. Social Bookmarks:
Using social bookmarks like Delicious and Digg also helps.

And remember to be patient (it took Danny Brown almost 2 years to get to where he is now), be yourself, and be smart - learn about the new technologies and ways to market effectively.

What suggestions do you have for viral campaigns with small budgets and integrity?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Honest Talk: The Demise of Inspiration & The BreakThrough

This post shares my recognition of the natural progression in a project from inspiration to stress and struggle and the insight I had that released me from the stress so I can move with more ease.

The first part describes the natural progression in a project from inspiration to the demise of inspiration. And the second part describes the insight that set me free: No thing and no one is more or less important.

This post is relevant to you if you sometimes feel struggle and stress in your work and/or life in general. More importantly, this post will be of interest to you if you too are looking for answers that go beyond finding happiness as a temporary emotion; if you are looking to find the Truth that goes beyond positive stories spun by your mind.

The Natural Progression and The Demise of Inspiration

I have been feeling some stress recently. What started out as projects I am excited and passionate about started to feel stressful. This is the natural progression for my inspired project, which I am sure many of you identify will with:

1) Birth of an idea: Good ideas come from strategic thinking but great ideas are inspired. And I am talking about inspired ideas here. This is an exciting time as it presents an opportunity to engage creatively. There are endless possibilities and I am in the flow.

2) Initial stages of development: This is really exciting - collecting information, connecting with people, getting positive feedback from people. This is still an idea so I collect information that can help me make this dream a reality and I connect with people who can take it forward. Finding the right people and information escalates my excitement.

3) Taking the right actions: Now I have the people and information to carry forward the project and I need to start working on the project. I start to take the necessary actions and it feels good.

4) The Ego: All the positive feedback and my own imagination of how important this project is, how this can impact many lives and the culture at large is creating the Righteous ego in me – how this project deserves to be supported.

5) Feeling invested: I begin to realize there is more work than anticipated, because the project became bigger than I anticipated initially and just because life presents the usual obstacles. What started out as an organic idea that I was passionate about is now a big investment of my time and resources. Of course I will not settle for anything but the best.

6) The burden: I have created the highest expectation from myself now. And of course I have shared my excitement with so many people, so can feel the weight of their expectations (most if not all is my imagination). The project is no longer fuelled by inspiration but my drive to make this a success, by my expectations of making this a huge success. I have so many people involved, all the promises I have made. No this is really big and I am in charge here. So this is all my responsibility.

7) The demise of inspiration: Now all the creative juices have dried up with the weight of expectations and the righteous ego. All actions feel like a struggle and causing stress. A stressed out mind is not very helpful. It picks on all the negativity in the environment and makes it the only reality you experience and hence magnify.

I am left wondering, what happened to my inspired thinking, what about my mindfulness practice, all those years spent in understanding the deeper truths, why am I encountering struggle and negative thoughts about something I know to be fun and creative. If I don’t get it after all that I have experienced in my life (and lives if you believe in that), then what hope is there for me, especially when that is my work – mindful marketing? And if I am feeling stuck in my own mindful marketing, then how can I tell people about it. I feel fake.


One thing I do have is persistence – the persistence to understand my own mind and know my Self. Once I started to feel the stress and have thoughts of self doubt, I started to observe my mind. Not to get into the discussion of who is observing who, lets just say, I started to stay with my feelings and not resist or try to find an escape through positive thinking, which I am very good at also. But I wanted to find out the nature and origins of my thoughts so I stayed with the discomfort of these thoughts (as did my husband and am grateful to him for letting me be).

The BreakThrough…

Today morning as I was multitasking to get done with my breakfast so I can move on with other "more important" activities, I dropped the honey bottle and there was sticky mess all over the kitchen shelves and floor. I wet a cloth and started cleaning. All the stress I had been feeling came out in this moment and I gave up resisting the stress. In that moment there was a Knowing - No thing is more or less important. No one is more or less important. There is only this moment Now.

Are you thinking, how can all actions and all people be equally important? For example is cleaning dropped honey from the floor as important as lets say working on my big project to change the whole business paradigm? And my answer is YES. Because in that moment what was needed is cleaning the floor or it would attract ants and the cats would be all over it and making the whole house dirty. So what was most important in that moment is cleaning and not the project to change the world. How we decide what is important is relative to what is needed Now, in the present moment. So no job is superior or inferior. And similarly, no person or identity is more desirable than others, because we are all needed at different times in our lives.

There was an immense release in that Knowing. The burden that we carry of doing something important, of becoming someone, it all went away. We are all the same, just doing what we need to be doing, going about our lives. As long as we stay with that reality as the only reality - of doing things to take on a desirable identity, we will go through the highs and lows that go with the game. And you may choose to stay in that game as long as you like.

I have lived through enough games and am bored and tired of these games. I am choosing out - I am choosing to see beyond the games our mind plays. I am choosing to See what Is beyond these mind games. I am choosing to relax and Be in this moment fully. Any desire to be an identity is relinquished because I know it is only an illusion I am chasing. I Know that I already Am just as every One is, That...

What Next?

This doesn’t mean that I don’t do what needs to be done. On the contrary, it only means I do what needs to be done NOW without any resistance and with more ease, because now there is no pressure to become someone or something. I am at peace with what Is.

I also understand that ego continues to exist as long as we have a physical form and it will try to take over from time to time, which is its nature. I accept that as part of my Self. And the next time that happens, I will listen to what else I need to learn about my Self and learn to move with even more ease.

What does this mean for you?

We are all the same and yet we each need to find our own Truth. Surrounding ourselves with wise people and wisdom is good, but not enough, if you want to break out of the mind games and move with more ease. You will need to do the work of really living and learning for yourselves. What I know is that where this is a will there is a way – even to finding your Self.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Should You Share Your Presentations Online & How?

(You also see this post online as the iAM Tip of The Week on YouTube)

Should you share your cool content online?

Okay, so you are awesome and you worked really hard creating an awesome presentation. Now should you go and post it online for the whole world to see? YEAH! In case you are wondering if that is a good idea because people will copy your content, lets do a reality check here. You are not the only one producing good content, there are thousands of really cool people with way cool ideas and content sharing their work online. So if you don't you are really losing out the opportunity to share your cool ideas and connect with the world.

In addition, there are three other reasons why you should share your presentations online:

1) Sharing your presentation online is value addition for the audience at your workshops as they can go back and see it again. If there are any questions they have at a later point, they can come back to you and you can keep your connection alive with them, which is always a good idea.

2) You can share your presentation slides with other workshop organizers to give them an idea about your style and work. You have already put in the work so may as well share it and use it to get more presentation opportunities.

3) All those people who were not sure about your workshop can now take a look at the cool content they missed and will help them make a more informed decision in the future.

What is the best way to share your online presentations?

Mashable has a pretty cool list of 30+ sites to share presentations and slideshows but after trying several sites I found Slide Share and Slide Boom to be the best. They are both free and easy to use. Slide Share is suppose to allow Keynote uploads but mine didn't so I had to convert my keynote presentation to a powerpoint, which was actually very easy. Go to file, click export, and click powerpoint and it automatically converts it. You will loose some of the coolness factor because the fonts change but it is not so bad.

The main difference between the two sites is that Slide Boom keeps the transitions and Slide Share doesn't, so if you want to keep the effects Slide Boom is actually better.

To see how the slides look in both the sites you can see my presentation as an example. I would love to hear which format you preferred and why.

My social media presentation at the Mass. Small Business Development Corporation can be found here:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Social Media: What, Why, and How?

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lived Truths & Paradoxes In Your Business

What is Your Truth?

What are the Paradoxes you have experienced?

How do you Live your Truth in your work?

My writing and workshops often include my personal Truths that I have experienced and which make me who I am as a human being and mindful marketer. This post is a record of my lived truths and how they influence my business and I invite people to share their lived Truths.

Here area a few to start with and which I share in my website as the guiding beliefs of iAM Business Consulting:

We each have a unique combination of passions, skills, and experiences that can be channeled in meaningful and profitable ways.

Self-awareness is the foundation of authentic leadership

In addition to passion, there has to be laser beam focus on the purpose and 100% commitment to be successful

Our inner beliefs influence our external reality

Marketing can be mindful, authentic, and profitable, only if innovative

The only constant is change; we stop growing when we stop learning.

I loved the Paradoxes of Creativity post by Roger von Oech in which he quotes
creativity thinker Michael Michalko:

To create, a person must
  • Have knowledge but forget the knowledge;
  • See unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder;
  • Work hard but spend time doing nothing;
  • Create many ideas yet most of them are useless;
  • Look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different;
  • Desire success but learn how to fail;
  • Be persistent but not stubborn; and,
  • Listen to experts but know how to disregard them.
I liked the idea of sharing paradoxical truths - ideas that seem contradictory but in fact co-exist. Here are a few paradoxes that I have experienced in my life:

1) Be aware of thinking patterns shaped in the past to be creative in the present

(I did not realize that the assumptions and beliefs that shaped the way I perceive the world limited what I saw and how I made sense of the world. It was after a breakthrough I had in a Shamanic ritual and now my meditation practice that I can see how my past beliefs impact my judgment of any situation. By seeing the assumptions, and not being tied to them I can choose to see things differently and be more creative. Continuously examine assumptions that limit you.)

2) Being mindful in business is profitable. Yes, for many this is paradoxical.

(I have written about mindfulness in business and why it is beneficial to be mindful in business.)

3) You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it (Einstein quote)

(I have found that some of my most successful ideas were not an outcome of strategic thinking but inspired thoughts, when I was meditating or engaged in an activity that has nothing to do with the situation for which I found the solution. So loosen up, meditate, and silent the mind obsessing with the problem so you can hear the answers.)

4) In order to live a life of abundance, be free from desire for abundance

(You can replace the word abundance with anything and this principle applies. This principle is one of the trickiest because you cannot fake it till you make it. Either you Know this as your Truth or you don't. It doesn't work if you know it intellectually - you have to live it from every cell of your body. However, what we can do is have a self awareness practice, because as we realize the true nature of Self we move from desiring to Being. It is a journey...we may have found freedom from some desires and others we continue to gain more awareness about.)

5) To be
more productive, practice doing nothing regularly.

(All of the above points lead to this one. When we are busy we don't take out time for our selves and which is when we most need to find time for silence. By silencing the mind I have found the ability to have more control over my mind and choose my actions more mindfully, instead of running on auto pilot.)

Work done with playfulness and joy brings better results than when done seriously, all else being equal.

7) I get more done because I don't worry about what doesn't get done
I often get asked how I get so much done (and I don't know what that means because we don't know and can't compare how much we all get done but lets stay with people's perceptions). And I was thinking about this the last time someone said that and realized what helps me is that I am not attached to getting everything done. I am only one and am doing the best that I can, so what does get done YAY and what doesn't I will get to it when I can. I also write about dealing with stress and moving with ease in my other Blog. In addition points 5 and 6 also help. (Added on 4-19-10)

So, the purpose of this post is to create a list of lived truths along with the many paradoxes that we have experienced personally and which have greatly impacted who we are and therefore also our business. The main criterion here is that you should have experienced it for yourself. It may be a popular belief or proven by science, but has it been your personal experience? And if so, I hope you will share your Truth, the absolute truth that you believe with every cell of your body here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Increasing Productivity Using Controlled Breathing

You can read the iAM Tip of the week 3-29-10 below or watch the video here.

The iAM Tip of the week is about increasing productivity using controlled breathing. There are two things I want to highlight about the breath:

1) Did you know that if you are feeling anxious, for example, before giving a public talk, taking deep breaths in might actually increase your anxiety? Too much oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide can cause anxiety and an agitated stated. On the contrary too much carbon dioxide in the body can cause depression and fatigue. The solution is not deep breathing but controlled breathing. By slowing down the inhale and exhale you re-balance your system.

2) The second point is that the mind oscillates between the past and future. Our productivity and creativity is compromised when we are not living in the present moment. But how can we be present to what is when the mind is so busy? As rightly pointed out by Einstein, “you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” This is where the breath comes in. The breath is directly related to our emotions and mind. By controlling the breath we can control our mind and emotions.

There are many practices around breath work like the Sudarshan Kriya, which is what I do and highly recommend to everyone. But what I am demonstrating today is a very simple process for slowing your breathing that can be done easily any time that you feel stressed or the need to energize yourself.


Sit in a comfortable position, with a straight back. Close your eyes or soften your gaze and observe the quality of your breath – are you breathing fast or slow, is it deep or shallow. Start to relax your body – your feet, legs, stomach, chest, arms, back, shoulders, neck, and face. Relax your eyes, your mouth, and jaw line, your forehead, simply let go and let any tension melt away.

Now start to slow your breathing – count to four as you inhale and count to four as you exhale. Let there be a natural pause at the end of each inhale and exhale – count to two at each pause if you like. If you are new to deep breathing, you can put your one hand on the chest and one on your stomach and as you breathe in make sure that your hand on the stomach is pushed forward and when you exhale your hand on stomach goes back in. Continue this slow breathing process for a few minutes or even a few rounds can be enough to slow down your mind.


1) Energizes the body

2) Helps to de-stress

3) Slows down the mind so you can think clearly

4) Helps you become more present to dealing with current situation

5) Become more mindful. (you can read more about mindfulness in business here).

6) Before public speaking practice slow deep breathing to feel more centered and don't feel out of breath when you speak.

7) If you have trouble sleeping at night practice slow breathing, emphasizing the slow exhale

If you feel any discomfort with slow breathing please discontinue and check with your doctor. The idea is to be able to make your breathing cycles become smooth, deep, and slow.


The Art of Living Foundation hosts published research articles related to benefits of breath work.

Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Call to Be Zorba the Buddha: Mindful Actions

A Call to Be Zorba the Buddha is inspired by my daily interactions with people who are either very active doers in the external world or very busy searching for meaning in their inner worlds. Could all our actions embody mindfulness and our search for meaning be woven into all our actions?

Many people are driven by actions and events external to who they are and don't spend any time knowing their inner worlds comprising their emotions, motivations, and conditioning. The outcome of continuous striving without resting and taking time to know your self results in stress, dissatisfaction, and inefficiencies. Inefficiencies because you can get caught in old thinking patterns if you are too busy to stop and take stock of the changing environment or have not broadened your perspective to notice things outside of the lens you are used to looking through.

On the other extreme, there are people who primarily dwell in their inner world with the purpose of understanding the nature of self and consciousness. These people are not driven to take actions like people in the first category. Such people are likely to feel frustrated because they are not able to share their gifts by taking the right actions and/or blame the world for not appreciating their inner gifts, which of course they have not shared enough so are quite hidden.

There is a third category of people who are active doers and also create time to develop their knowledge of self and consciousness. Yet, they keep the two aspects of their lives separate. When they go to work they are adhering to the expectations imposed on them from the dominant culture. Their inner work of self-discovery is a private practice that is not integrated into their daily work and actions.

Is it possible that our actions are inspired by who we are and our personal experience of Truth? Could we take out time from our busy schedules and train our busy minds to be silent so we can really listen to what Is? And then take necessary actions as easily as we breathe.

I guess my only point here is that all you people who have been too busy doing things STOP and listen to what is happening inside of you; and all you people who have spent too much time listening to your inner worlds TAKE ACTION.

Be Zorba the Buddha - Let your business be an authentic expression of who you are and let your inner world guide you to take mindful actions.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If You Cannot Blog Regularly, Then Should You?

“We don’t want to start a Blog because we cannot keep up with it regularly.” I hear this from most of my clients, who are mostly small to medium businesses driven by a purpose or are non-profits. This post addresses the question, if you cannot post “regularly” should you have a Blog?

There are many posts out there addressing this question. For example, read the one by Liz for a decent perspective. And of course Seth Godin is always insightful.

Many of the popular posts consistently advicePost only when you have something to say” (Godin) or “Do what works for you.” Yet, the experts do suggest a need for some kind of regularity and may make recommendations, “post at least three times a week.” (Liz). This can scare many people away from giving Blogging a shot at all.

I will make some points that may have been made by someone somewhere, but to the best of my knowledge, I have not seen anyone explain it this way. And yet, this is what I see as the most authentic way of doing business and all related activities, including Blogging.

The New Mindset for Blogging

1) What is the purpose of your Blog?

If you are blogging primarily with the purpose of driving traffic (we all want traffic but here I mean primarily for traffic) then regularity and frequency may be very important. But what if you were a doctor or a research scientist, whose insights and new discoveries were not as frequent as a wine connoisseur’s musings on which cheese goes with a particular wine or the top Blogger’s discoveries of the best video games in the market, should the doctor or scientist not have a Blog?

The point I am trying to make, in case it was not obvious, is that if you are inspired or have something valuable to share, then share. Don’t hide away because you cannot post regularly. I am sure people will understand if you did not have a new discovery to write about each week :)

Main point here: If you are a person who has cool ideas, insights, and inspirations that can uplift people and bring more awareness, then let the Blog be a channel for you to share your insights. Period.

2) The Two Boxes: Please step out

There is one group of people who reside in a box of “should” and “have to” Blog a minimum number of times a week or day or month. Then there is another box of people whose mantra is “I can’t” do it regularly so “I won’t” do it at all. Any kind of pre-conception, involving the like of “shoulds,” “have tos,” “can’t,” involves living in the past or the future and certainly not in the present moment.

So, if you are a person committed to writing a minimum number of posts a week, ask yourself the questions – Is the writing inspired and flowing? Is the process of Blogging enjoyable or a struggle, another task you need to tick off on your list? If you feel Blogging is a struggle, then you are probably not operating from the present moment. And consequently, when you write from a stressed place your audience will also not connect with your writing.

On the other hand, if you are a person who shies away from writing all together because you feel you don’t have the time to write regularly, let me ask you, what do you do when you have an inspired thought that could change the lives of many people? Do you just channel those thoughts in service of the few people you meet in the course of your work and deprive access to all the other people who don’t know you but could benefit from the same?

Main point here: Operate in the present moment. Don’t get boxed one way or the other. Stay open to the possibility of Blogging and Blog when you feel inspired.

3) I am Blogging now, but no one is reading

Okay, so you have come out of the box of “can’t” and “won’t” and have started to Blog when inspired. But you find that no one is visiting your Blog or leaving any comments. But wait, did you invite anyone to your Blog? Or does that feel intimidating or just plain wrong – isn’t that like hard core selling – asking people to come to your Blog?

Now think about it this way. You have prepared a great meal, nutritious and delicious, enough to feed a 100 people. So many people are going to be nourished by your meal. Just one problem, you did not invite anyone. There are so many starving people who could gain from what you have to offer, but they have no way of knowing that your home has this food to offer. So, what you could and would do, is let people you know spread the word that nutritious food will be available from time to time and let people who need it get in touch with you.

In the world of Blogging this would mean that you tell your personal contacts and social networks to spread the word to people who can benefit. You may use other social media tools like Facebook and Twitter as well. And people who are interested in your nurturing posts can stay in touch with you by subscribing to your Blog because they know that every now and then you will have something amazing to offer and they want to be there to receive it.

Main point here: When you have something valuable to offer, let people know about it.

4) Invitations have been sent, yet no one is coming or commenting

So you write an inspired post and even invite people and nothing happens. There are many reasons people don’t comment. Here is a good post on 10 reasons why people don’t leave any comments

Worse still, no one comes to your Blog. What do you do? Do you think this is a waste of your time? Should you stop Blogging? If you have such thoughts it is time to go back to point 1 above – If you are a person who has cool ideas, insights, and inspirations that can uplift people and bring more awareness, then let the Blog be a channel for you to share your insights. Period.

What this means is your being and doing is one and the same. You wrote because you were inspired to do so and you did it in the spirit of spreading awareness. Writing when inspired - that in itself is the goal and the reward.

Like the man who made beautiful statues of sand on the beach and watched them get washed away, enjoy the process of inspired creativity, with no other expectations.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Naming Your Business

What is the perfect name for your business?
I get asked a lot to give feedback about names for new businesses. This post is inspired by all those people who have recently asked me to give them feedback for their names.

I came up with a name for my business that I am really happy with - iAM Business Consulting. iAM, besides being a very profound phrase embodying the infinite potential, also stands for innovative, authentic, and mindful, all of which are very important aspects of my consulting work.

I don't consider myself very creative with names but I can tell you when a name doesn't feel right. A good name should flow on your tongue and convey the right feelings about the business it personifies. A good name should embody the biggest and highest vision you have for your work in the future. So, you are not thinking of just right now but what is your highest potential in the future and that is the energy it needs to convey.

So some of the characteristics of a good name are:

1) It flows - when you say it and when you listen to it.
2) Its simple and easy to remember -
3) It conveys the highest vision of the work you will be doing
4) It includes words your customers are likely to look for
5) Check the legal angle with respect to domain names and trademarks to ensure it is not already taken

I think there is a myth, or atleast in my head it was, that some people are creative and can come up with good names very easily. Though there may be a few, very few people out there who can instantly come up with a cool name, for the most part, people have to work hard to come up with a good name and tag line. Sometimes, from a place of inspiration you may come upon the perfect name, but if it doesn't, don't be disheartened, because most people, even big branding companies come up with 100s of names and then find one that is perfect.

Here are some tips to help with coming up the perfect name for your business:

1) Make sure that you are very clear about your business purpose and mission. Write down your mission statement. You can read more about finding purpose and writing a good mission statement here.

2) Make 3 columns:

i. Action words: Write down what your business will be doing. For example, empowering, inspiring, inventing, training, bringing awareness, exploring etc

ii. Customer benefits: Write down what will be the benefits to customers from using your product or service. They will feel energized, healthy, happy, become creative, innovative solutions, be empowered, etc

iii. Unique skills & values: Write down values and skills that are unique to you. For example for me being innovative, authentic, and mindful laid the foundation for my consulting work. Other examples may be words like Green if you are working with renewable energy, Consciousness and mindfulness if you are working in healing arts, etc

Once you have made a list of words/phrases in the three columns you can mix and match between columns or even just within a column. My name mostly came from words within column iii - innovative, authentic, mindful and was combined with business consulting which is an action phrase describing what I do. And it also conveys the benefits my customers can expect.

3) If you find a name that has already been taken, you can try bringing in other languages like Latin or Sanskrit, provided the words are commonly used and convey the spirit of of your business. Like Om, Shanti, Shakti, and Metta are some common Sanskrit words that have been popularized by the sprouting of Yoga and associated terminologies borrowed from Sanskrit.

4) Sometimes it also helps to use a thesaurus to find alternative words that actually sound better

5) Have fun with it and loosen up

When you do come up with a good name, you will KNOW. There will be a YES! And you will not need to ask anyone if it is the right name. Instead you will want to immediately share your new business name with everyone.

How did you come up with your perfect name?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What is the “right” price for your services: Tips for Mindful Pricing

Post Summary

Pricing for intangible services, especially in healing and sacred contexts is challenging. Here is a summary of the points discussed in more detail below:

1)Your inner beliefs create your outer reality: If you are not satisfied with the outcomes in your life, inspect your beliefs about your own value to your customers, about money, and your life. The world is just a mirror of your subconscious mind. What do you see in this mirror? Self awareness is an ongoing practice and I like to mention it first as it lays the foundation for outcomes in all aspects of your life.

2)You should feel good about your price. If you undercharge, just to get customers, you will not feel motivated to give your best and if you did give your best, you will not feel good about it. Very often well-wishers, coaches, and consultant will tell you that your price is too low and you should increase it and you do. But if you do not believe from inside that this is the right price for you that is the message you will send out and people will not be attracted to your products at that price. Consider the following factors in coming up at the right price and then arrive at the price that you know is right.

a.The cost of products, including your time. See below to calculate cost of time.

b.Your pricing objectives, making sure that your current pricing strategy is in alignment with long term goals.

c.Your desired livelihood.

d.Target market and positioning.

e.Competition. If you are providing better value than your competition, should you share competitors’ prices with potential customers? See what research suggests below.

f.The most important factor in determining the right price is the value you provide to customers in terms of solutions to improve their lives. Clarity in how you are improving your customers’ lives will give you confidence in asking for the right price. Think of different needs of people that your products can meet such as saving time or enhancing convenience, comfort, security, self esteem, career, social connections, entertainment, and creativity.

g.People pay for products to improve self esteem but studies show that mindfulness brings greater well being and satisfaction than self esteem. However, the marketplace brands improving self esteem command high prices and mindfulness services are expected to be free or available at low costs. If you are a marketer of healing arts or mindfulness practices, what are your perceptions about the price and value of the services you provide?

h.Very often people are not willing to pay not because your services are not valuable but because they are not confident that will be able to use your services or have the skills to take advantage of your services. It is important then to guide your customers to assess their skills and connect then with their potential and how your services will facilitate them reaching their highest potential.

Full Post

When I taught marketing how easy it was to describe the different pricing strategies. As an exporter of high fashion garments from India, pricing was again not too difficult after considering the costs and competition. Now as a marketer of services, pricing has been an interesting challenge. I realize I am not alone in this. Many people in my workshops and consulting have expressed confusion about pricing. The problem is magnified when what is being marketed is intangible and more so if it is considered sacred or has a spiritual connotation. What price can you set for something that is perceived to be sacred and whose benefits are priceless? Consumers and marketers of healing arts are often conflicted about marketing and pricing around such services.

The purpose of this Blog post is to provide some perspectives on pricing so you can arrive at a price that feels right to you. While it is important to be aware of the different pricing strategies, in the end you have to feel right about the price you are charging or else you will not get the results or feel good about the results you do get. If you charge a price higher than you believe you should be charging, you will subconsciously and consciously send that message out and people will not buy your services. If you under charge, you may find enough customers but you will not feel motivated to give your best because you are not being appropriately remunerated and customers may feel your dissatisfaction. At the right price – when you feel that the value you are providing is being appropriately remunerated – you will feel confident and happy to offer your services and people in contact who have a need for your services will also see the value they are getting.

Before discussing the factors influencing your pricing strategy, lets consider your inner beliefs that are creating your outer reality. If you are not satisfied with the outcomes in your life, inspect your beliefs about your own value to your customers, about money, and your life. The world is just a mirror of your subconscious mind. What do you see in this mirror? Self awareness is an ongoing practice and I like to mention it first as it lays the foundation for outcomes in all aspects of your life.

Factors to consider when pricing
To arrive at the right price, there are several factors you need to consider.

1)The cost
It is quite obvious that the price you set should cover the actual costs you incur. Costs include fixed and variable expenses. With respect to tangible goods these costs can be determined easily. If you are in the services industry, expenses like rent and employees salaries can be measured but how do you determine what is the cost of your time? One way to approximate that is to take the annual salary you are capable of getting if employed and divide that by the number of hours you will be putting in annually into the service you are providing. For an example showing how to calculate this, read the article on determining cost.

2)Your objectives
It is important to consider what are your marketing goals. For example, if your goal is to make your service popular, you may be willing to charge a lower price in order to get more customers. This pricing strategy is commonly known as penetration pricing, which introduces a new product at a low price in order to build market share. The other strategy, called skimming introduces new products at a relatively high price in order to recover sunk costs in innovation before competition enters the market. Well, to charge a higher price you have to have some cool or unique factor to justify the high price.

At different stages in your business development you may have different goals and as such your pricing strategy may also evolve accordingly. But do pay attention to your long term goals to make sure that the pricing you set today is not incompatible with pricing you will need to set for your long term goals. For example, you may offer a service at a cheap price to enter the market but may find that consumers gets used to your low price and you may find it hard to justify an increase in the future. So, if you do decide to enter at a low price, make sure you have a clear strategy around that and make it clear to your customers what that is. For example, you may introduce your products at the low price calling it an “introductory offer.”

3)Your desired livelihood
Different people have different income expectations based on their desired lifestyle. Assess your income requirements based on your desired lifestyle and calculate how much you would like to charge keeping in mind the number of hours of service you can offer and the demand for your service. The calculations can be done like we did in the cost of your time example.

4)Target market and positioning

The price would also vary based on the market you are targeting and the positioning you are creating for your brand. For example, if you are targeting affluent customers, naturally, you can charge a higher price, which will include all the frills along with the core service that this market can afford. On the other hand you may decide to service the less affluent market to which you can offer just the core product at a lower price and/or work with high turnovers.
A related point is that of positioning. Positioning is the perception you want your customers to have about your brand vis a vis your competition. The key areas around which you can create a unique distinction from other brands are pricing, service, delivery channels, product attributes, and image. Any or all of these areas would impact your pricing.

Knowing what your competitors are offering and at what price is necessary so you can be clear about the value you can provide. When looking at competitors’ prices, make sure you gauge their service attributes, what’s unique about the solutions they provide, and their specific skills in order to understand the value they provide. Also, adjust for different areas as some cities may have higher cost of living and can ask for higher prices.

Awareness of how your services provide value to your customers will give you more confidence in marketing your services. If you do a good job of specifying how you uniquely provide value, customers looking at competing services will come to you because you are providing value like no one else.

Should you explicitly ask potential customers to check out competing prices that are higher than you?

A word of caution though, if you explicitly ask customers to look at other competition to show that you are better, studies show that this makes customers cautious of the marketers’ intentions and likely to result in risk-averse behaviors (Dholakia and Simonson 2005). Only share competitors’ prices with your customers if your customers fully trust you and your intentions. Generally, it is better for customers to compare competing services and arrive at their own conclusions. You can only support them in the process by providing information about you clearly.

6)Value to customers
This is one of the most important points in determining your price and convincing buyers to invest in your services. In exchange for the money your customers give, you are providing them a solution to make their life better. For you and your customer to be convinced that this is the right price, you have to be very clear in your mind and your communication what is the specific benefit to the customer and how is it going to improve your customer’s life. The more specific you can be about the benefits, the better.

Dan Zambonini’s article provides a good list of consumer needs that your services can meet.
• Time: Convenience, Efficiency, Immediacy
• Scarcity
• Comfort
• Esteem: Id, Desirability, Self-Image, Ego
• Belonging: Relationships, Sex, Affection
• Survival: Health, Safety, Wellbeing
• Financial Security: Wealth, Success, Career
• Entertainment: Emotion, Experiences
• Intellectual Stimulation: Creativity, Learning, Expression

This is a good list to think about ways in which your services can help your customers. Your service can help people save time and enhance convenience comfort, self esteem, social interactions, survival, financial security, entertainment, and intellectual stimulation. Two insights inspired by this list:

- Image and self esteem related products
: Products and brands command a price for enhancing our image and self esteem. In this regard I want to point out that research has shown that mindfulness is related with higher levels of well being and satisfaction than self esteem. Currently, consumers and marketers of mindfulness products feel that such products should come free or at low prices. If such products bring profound changes in consumers and businesses that can be sustained in the long run, they should command a higher price than products providing short term solutions. We need to change the perceptions in people’s minds about mindfulness and consciousness raising products. Before you set out to change your consumers’ perceptions, what are your beliefs about the work you do?

- Financial security and career: Products command a price for bringing financial security and professional advancements. The article points to research showing that higher the probability of and control we have over the desired outcome, the more we are willing to pay. This suggests that people will be more willing to pay for your services if you can show them how your services increase their probability of reaching their goals.

Very often people are not willing to pay not because your services are not valuable but because they are not confident that will be able to use your services or have the skills to take advantage of your services. It is important then to guide your customers to assess their skills and connect then with their potential and how your services will facilitate them reaching their highest potential.
Setting your own price model – loyalty and quality don’t drive higher prices. Setting a reference price and providing value help more.

I would love to hear what has guided you in determining your "right price."


Dholakia, Utpal M. and Itamar Simonson (2005), “The Effect of Explicit Reference Points on Consumer Choice and Online Bidding Behavior,” Marketing Science, Spring, 24: 206 - 217.

Kalyanaram, Gurumurthy and Russell S. Winer (1995), “Empirical generalizations from reference price research,’ Marketing Science, 14(3), G151–G160.

Ryan, R. M., & Brown, K. W. (2003), “Why we don't need self-esteem: On fundamental needs, contingent love, and mindfulness,” Psychological Inquiry, 14, 71-76.