PureInsight | September 30, 2009
Experience sharing from the 2009 Washington D.C. Fa Conference
[PureInsight.org] Master guided me to start selling advertising for the Epoch Times one year and four months ago. It was the most significant decision I have ever made in cultivation, and one that would allow me to improve ten-fold over my cultivation state prior to embarking on this path.
At the time, the English edition of the Epoch Times was really just a paper that was out on the street. Besides doing the local production, nobody was working on it much. We had had some discussion over the years about how to do things, but were not really that invested with our time, nor did we understand much about the business of running a newspaper.
What finally made me decide to do sales full time was actually a strong hint from Master. A few months prior to starting I had the good fortune to hear Master lecture in person. During the lecture I understood Master to be encouraging His students that if there was something that we wanted to do, yet we were not doing it, then we should look inside, find the obstacle, remove the obstacle, and go ahead and do what we should do. It was as if Master was speaking right to me. When I looked inside, I realized that the only thing holding me back from sales was fear. Later, I would learn that behind this fear lay numerous notions and attachments that would be revealed and eliminated during the process of working for the Epoch Times.
Once I started the process of overcoming the fear of sales I began to feel that selling advertising for the Epoch Times would be a bright and boundless road, similar to the way Master describes the path of the artist in “Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art.” Master said, “So it's a limitless, bright and broad road.”
I do feel this way. Cultivating while working on the Epoch Times seems as if filled with endless opportunity, both for cultivating and for saving sentient beings. I feel very fortunate to have the conditions to be able to work on the paper nearly full time and to work closely with practitioners as much as I do.
Initially we were quite absorbed with being professional above all. I think we took too long to get things right, but now I am glad that we have reached a high standard with our business transactions. We now have a business management software system in place that our entire team is using to manage contacts, proposals, payments and subscriptions. We have manuals and business strategies that we continuously work on while at the same time everyone focuses on the sales as the most important task for our local team.
I think we are balancing things fairly well between sales and other tasks. There are four of us Westerners working on the business side. One is the sales manager, one is the distribution manager, one is the marketing manager, and one is the general manager. All of us focus primarily on sales while advancing other objectives at the same time. We harmonize together quite well, especially recently as we have reached greater maturity. Sometimes I am really amazed at how professional, efficient, focused, and organized we have become. I have to thank and acknowledge my fellow practitioners for the positive cultivation environment that we have created. We worked hard to create our environment by letting go [of self] and continuously putting the Fa first.
Shortly after I starting working on sales, a fellow practitioner said to me, “You are growing up.” I laughed at the time, but she was right. In facing the public in approaching sales and partnership prospects, working with clients, and being together with practitioners, the cultivation environment is always with us. Over the past year and a half I have learned to work with others in a way that is different from what I experienced in the past. In the past it was always short-term and there were breaks between projects. Now there are never breaks, and we are always under deadline. We are all volunteers, yet we carry such a serious weight on our shoulders to do well, and to make some money from sales to support the paper.
One of the biggest challenges is that we are not experienced. It is hard to support each other when nobody really knows the best way. It is therefore a really good environment to discover the best ways to move forward. I think this is the cultivation path Master left for us. Master is leaving things for us to forge through our own cultivation. From this perspective, I greatly cherish the Epoch Times environment because there is always a lot of uncertainly. The very process of forging ahead through the uncertainty is how we cultivate.
I have never been more acutely aware of the fact that we are One Body. This project, the Epoch Times, is much bigger than any one of us. In fact, it is a very large and comprehensive business that is highly embedded in ordinary society through sales, marketing, and editorial work. Practitioners play many different roles, and how well or poorly each of us does contributes to the results and our overall effectiveness in saving sentient beings. Your things are really my things, and my things are really your things because we affect each other quite a bit, either positively or negatively. With this kind of understanding the Epoch Times work gives me the feeling of responsibility to myself, to my fellow practitioners, and to sentient beings all at once.
I have learned that because we still have ordinary human attachments, it is very important to be positive and supportive toward other practitioners at all times. This is how we follow the Fa in our interactions with ordinary people, yet all the more so we should be compassionate toward fellow practitioners.
The cultivation environment at the Epoch Times has shown my intolerance toward others who think and act differently from me. I tend to think quickly, and my thoughts are multifaceted and I don’t always express them linearly. This makes it difficult for others to understand me. Often, I would stubbornly defend my point of view and be impatient when others did not understand me. By looking inside and facing conflicts with my co-workers, I have learned to express myself fully and with more clarity and to be open to questions and discussion. This is thinking of others first. As a manager, if I cannot convey an idea in a broadminded way, answer questions well, and consider well an approach’s potential affects on others, I am not a good manager.
Another manifestation of my communication shortcomings is that I used to often think that I knew the result of something before we even tried it, and I wanted to influence the direction of the group in an impatient way. A few times there was increased work for me as I tried to go along in a direction in a so-called “without being attached” state. That wasn’t the right way either because I didn’t share or contribute what I was supposed to. Later, I learned how to share my point of view while being less attached. In this way, I now deeply understand the power of the team to think through ideas from different angles and come up with the best solution according to our collective understanding at the time. This is working together well. It is important to ask each other questions, listen carefully, and respond to each others’ points of view, since all the thoughts that arise for each of us are exactly cultivation opportunities. In working together this way, we are also being compassionate to each other.
Some of the very large attachments that I have encountered by working in sales are the attachments to fame and gain. There is not a whole lot of recognition as you slog along daily without anyone buying any ads. You are continually facing all the reasons why people don’t want to buy, and there are potentially endless reasons why you can’t succeed. Our lack of money, skills, and human resources are all issues that must be overcome if one is to do sales effectively and with the right heart. With so many ordinary limitations, it is hard to feel any validation for oneself. This is why it is the best environment to eliminate this attachment [to fame and gain]. Each and every day you have to muster up a bunch of compassion and reach out to people, despite how bad you might feel and all the challenges you face. It is easy to have the thought of quitting and getting an ordinary job that pays you and satisfies your attachments to feeling important and like you are accomplishing something.
I used to have a hard time taking my position at the paper seriously because of my attachments to fame and gain. But, for the sake of ordinary people, it is necessary to get over these attachments and conduct myself professionally. We are doing business in the ordinary world. When clients meet with me or I talk with prospects on the phone, at the surface I am a salesperson, so I need to treat myself as one. Not only do I have to accord with everyday people at the surface, I need to have the right thoughts in my mind. I need to treat myself as a salesperson and a practitioner at the same time.
Through the process of the actual work, every single notion one has about the paper and one’s self is tested. Overall, it has been a tremendous process of self-discovery, followed by letting go of self. All attachments have to be let go because the Epoch Times is not an ordinary paper. We have to reach the cultivation standard in order to succeed. In fact, it took me about a year of doing sales until I really realized what I am doing at the paper.
One day I was feeling bad because two big contracts that had been agreed to were not getting signed, and I had not heard from the clients for a few days despite contacting them. I decided to read Hong Yin. During my short study, I felt that I enlightened to many things related to the solemnity and magnificence of Dafa. This allowed me to take myself out of the equation, which allowed me to feel compassion for the clients. I felt that I am here to offer them an opportunity to do something good for themselves. I felt that it is up to them to decide, but I also retained the thought that they should take the chance and respond positively. After I came to this understanding, both men called me within five minutes to update me on the situation with their contracts. I was very moved.
Recently, I found myself in the same situation of uncertainty around advertising accounts again and my mind was not clear. I had a discussion with a fellow practitioner and was reminded to get back into the same thinking and state of compassion without attachment as before. Within one hour, I had completed a contract for three ad insertions and heard back from my two clients on the state of their contracts. I had to acknowledge at this point this strong hint from Master about the correct state to be in while doing sales work.
Master taught in “Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Atlanta Fa Conference:” “Don't think about him being some elite figure and create an extra mental obstacle for yourself, as if you're there to ask for his help. What's actually happening is that you're saving him, and you're giving him a chance to choose his future. That's for sure.”
It takes time to contact someone, sign a contract, design an ad, follow up and so on, so one’s heart must remain steady. What I just discussed cannot be just a momentary realization. What I am talking about is truly reaching the standard set for me in cultivation. Unfortunately, for much of my cultivation I think that I have failed to reach the standard, or even failed to come close. I have done many things, but often I feel I have failed to achieve the effect of saving people. I have even wasted a lot of time validating myself. I regret this, although at the same time I can see how my particular set of attachments led to my shortcomings. By pushing through the fear I mentioned at the very beginning of this sharing, sales work has offered me a way to overcome the difficulties and attachments that were blocking me before. The process turned me from a very inwardly focused person who avoided people to a person that can approach someone I don’t know. This I must do repeatedly each day. Compassion is the key for me to keep going when there are attachments arising.
Now that I know what I am doing, more and more I feel that it is so wonderful to meet people in society through the method of sales. We are currently exploring more ways to reach out to people, and we are even exploring ways to establish more relationships in the arts community, which will help with Shen Yun promotion next year. Everything that we do is establishing connections with the sentient beings that we are here to save. It really feels like the Fa is getting more embedded in the human world.
Recently, we sponsored and attended a trade show where we collected 150 readers’ contact info, including business cards. The feedback from people we met was very touching. Recently, a businessman called me to say how much he appreciated the paper and how he thought he should write us a check to support us. I have experienced the support of ordinary people in so many ways. Recently, a magazine in our city went out of business and the publisher donated all of their newspaper boxes to us saying we were “the most worthy publication.” Furthermore, we were able to get the box locations on the street that they had spent years acquiring without competing with other publications for them. This story brings tears to my eyes, as I can feel Master’s compassion to sentient beings from it.
I would like to encourage more practitioners to get involved in sales for the Epoch Times, as it is the main way that we can make the Epoch Times grow, and it is such a good cultivation path. Clarifying the truth and saving people is what Master has always encouraged us to do. Calling people up to do business is a fantastic way to meet influential people in society and clarify the truth to them. Even introducing the Epoch Times to business owners can result in their learning the truth. I feel that as we build up a greater presence for the Epoch Times in society, the network of folks reading it and thinking positively toward it is helping to change the environment. The unique aspect of a practitioner-run business that is operating so close to ordinary society must also have significance in the Fa-rectification. We are also validating the Fa while forging the media of choice for the future.