I was re-listening to a rare Eugene Schwartz interview the other day. (The DVD is part of the bonus package you get when you join me at the Titans of Direct event in September.)
In it, he talked a lot about his studies of Zen Buddhism.
Now, Gene was a copywriter raised in Butte, Montana.
And he spent most of his life — in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s — making tons of money as a direct response copywriter.
As one of THE BEST copywriters to ever walk the planet.
What would a rich copywriter from Montana know about Zen Buddhism?
And as he talked about his studies of Buddhism…
And how he applied it to copywriting and business…
I found myself absolutely, positively fascinated.
Because, I, too, have spent an inordinate amount of time studying Buddhism and many of the world’s contemplative traditions.
One of the lessons though jumped out at me.
Because I knew I’d heard it before.
And paid attention.
But missed the background to the lesson.
Hiding in that back story though… Is a way to apply the lesson in all sorts of areas of your life…
First, here’s Gene…
Many very brilliant writers — as well as other workers in all fields, physical and especially intellectual — have trouble getting started. They have what is probably known as a writer’s block, which is a Western phenomenon and does not occur much in the East. In Zen Buddhism for example, it doesn’t occur at all.
Why does it occur here and not occur there? It’s very simple. Zen Buddhists about 4,000 years ago invented a very simple way to make sure you get down to work. And to make sure you don’t have a block.
What happens when a Zen or a, let’s say, me — I’m partially Zen — starts to work? What he does is he takes out the piece of copy, and he calls it up on the computer. That is the vocabulary. All those little quotes. He then takes out a cup of coffee. The same cup of coffee every day. He swirls it around and mixes the sugar. Mixes the cream and swirls it around. Then takes out a pad and a pencil and puts it in exactly the same space. He’s not doing anything very much. Then he takes out a little timer — that crazy little device — and punches in 33:33. I’ve been talking for 13 minutes so far. I know exactly where I am. Okay. He puts in 33 minutes and presses the start button.
When I press the start button, I can do anything I want. All willpower is dissolved. I can do anything I want as long as it relates to the piece of copy in front of me. I can ignore it. I don’t have to touch it. I don’t have to look at it. But I can’t get up from the desk, and I can’t do anything except ignore or relate to the piece of copy. I am not trying to write a wonderful ad. I am not trying to earn and extra million dollars. I am not trying to do anything. I have no goal whatsoever as to what that particular piece of copy is going to do for me. All I know is that I’m going to work on the copy, and I have no responsibility to the client, the copy, the prospect, the market, myself and my future except to work.
So finally, after a good deal of looking around – I can’t get out of the chair now, I am trapped in that chair for 33.33 minutes, I get bored. So what do I do? I start reading down the copy! As I start reading down the copy, the copy says to me, “Oh, hey, aren’t I beautiful? Why don’t you pull me out and put me on top? “Or, “Why don’t you change this phraseology? It’s extremely ineptly put. Why don’t you put it into advertising terminology? “So what happens is that I begin to get into it. And without about five minutes I am working on the copy, making the ad from the copy. Okay. No block, because I am really not doing very much at that time.
When I first heard Gene describe this, I probably thought the Buddhism analogy of the timer trick was interesting, but it never stuck with me.
YES, I went out and bought a bunch of kitchen timers. I have about 5 of them floating around my house and in various bags.
And I use Gene’s trick of setting a timer when I write… I have one going now… To help me stay focused and productive… (In fact, it’s one of my top tricks for helping channel my ADHD!)
I think YOU should use Gene Schwartz’s timer trick too…
Whether or not you have ADHD.
The DEEPER lesson can completely change your productivity, your focus, and your happiness!
You see, what Gene illustrated about Zen Monks, and anyone who practices Zen, is all very true.
The goal in sitting in meditation is to just sit. (You’d be surprised how quickly your mind starts to tell you to do anything BUT sit.)
So when you go to “do Zen” there is really no doing at all. You simply show up, sit down on your meditation cushion, and sit.
You may think of Zen Buddhists as staring at a white wall — and yes, they do that. But the blank wall is simply a reminder to keep your mind open and free of distraction — to simply let them pass you by — as you always return to “just sitting.”
Gene applied it to copywriting. When you show up to write an ad, just write an ad…
And today, it’s harder than ever!
Don’t show up to write an ad, then check your email. Or log into Facebook. Or get into one of a million other distractions that can consume you.
Ignore the beeping cell phone in your pocket. Ignore the ringing phone on your desk. Even — gasp — turn them off!
Because when it’s time to just sit, and write an ad…
That is the ONE THING you must do.
Nearly everything in life gets done easier and becomes more pleasant when you approach it this way…
There are many lessons to be learned from meditation.
Focused effort will take you far.
When you have something you’d like to accomplish in business, in life…
Show up, and do it.
I guess Nike has figured out some Zen brilliance… Because I want to tell you to, “Just do it.”
I use this every day.
When it’s time to show up and write these emails, I sit down and write.
No excuses. No distractions.
But it can also apply to relationships.
When you’re with someone, be with them. Don’t be staring at your cell phone, or so consumed in your own thoughts that you’re not connecting.
Show up, and be with that person.
Doing this radically transforms your connections.
Which are everything in business and life.
Just last night, copywriter David Garfinkel and I were having a conversation online.
And he mentioned a lesson he’d gotten from Dan Kennedy, in relation to learning new things.
Dan taught seminar attendees to always be thinking…
“How can I use that?”
I want you to do this here.
I’ve just scratched the surface of how to apply the “Just sit” lesson of a Zen Monk to business, copywriting, relationships, and more.
Think about what you can do today to just be present and engaged.
And let me know what you experience because of it.
A quick announcement…
I’ve been talking off and on for the last couple weeks about doing some sort of — probably LIVE — training around copywriting. My systems and methods for creating copy that has generated millions of dollars for clients.
Next Tuesday I’m actually going to tour the hotel here in town — in Lincoln, NE — where I think I’ll be hosting this small group workshop.
It will be three days in November — I think the 13th through the 15th.
Spots will be limited, to keep an intimate “workshop” feel — I’m thinking about 15.
Early-early-bird registration will be sub-$1,000. Full price registrations will be about twice that.
And not only will you get a completely life-changing workshop experience where I install my best methods for effective direct response copywriting into you… I’m also working on a couple cool and uniquely Lincoln things around the event, including a wine tasting, and dinner at a locals’ favorite restaurant where I’m old friends with the sommelier.
Please send me an email at [email protected] and let me know if you’re serious about reserving your spot early, before the official “invitation” goes public.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets