What the Dalai Lama Taught Me About Marketing

There are no rules, except the rules.

An equally true sentiment: Nothing is true, all is permissible (which comes from Hassan the Assassin, though I’d like to focus on a more benevolent mind—the Dalai Lama). This is what he taught me about writing, but it applies to marketing and business, too.

In 2006, the Dalai Lama released The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. In it, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, recounts stories from his youth. We learn, for example, about an instance of joyriding, when the young Dalai Lama snuck a car out of its garage and drove it around the garden at Norbulingka (briefly, before crashing it into a tree; he then returned it to the garage and hid the damage).

Intertwined in each story is a discussion on how science and spirituality are not all that different. The Dalai Lama ponders difficult questions, such as how it is possible for two Buddhist thinkers to seemingly contradict scriptural truth and yet still arrive at a meaningful sentiment. The Dalai Lama tests the truth through reasoned examination and personal experiment. He teaches:

Trust experience first, reason second and scripture third

In essence: there are no rules (except the rules).

The rules are there for a reason, but as we all know—rules are meant to be broken. If we start at the rule first and work backward, we do ourselves and our audience a disservice. Trust experience first—experience being the greatest teacher, after all—and then apply reason. If the rule still applies, all well and good. If not—go with your informed, gut feeling.

Let’s consider one of Avinash Kaushik’s rules from his 2015 Digital Marketing Rule Book: #7 Glory will come to the precious few who are willing to embarrass themselves. Avinash is one of the most well-respected and renowned data scientists around, so his rules are practically scripture.

His seventh rule encourages risk. Avinash notes that the ability to control risk on the web should encourage marketers to try more things—not to worry about embarrassing themselves. “If you can’t embarrass yourself, in controlled quantities, you can’t become magnificent.”

Move away from the rule for a moment. As you contemplate taking a risk—apply your experience first and reason second then look to the rule. What results have you seen from operating this way? Tell us in the comments below.

 
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