I've heard Taoists call it the Yin Paradox. You might not know it by that name, but it has probably happened to you. Perhaps you had a stretch in your life where you were single for a long time and then, as soon as you stopped caring whether you had a partner or not, the universe dropped somebody wonderful into your life. Happens all the time, right? Well, if we all know this is how things work in love, business and just about anything else, why is it that we go on chasing all those things to no avail when, really, what we should be doing is sitting still, doing our thing, and attracting what we need?
The Cartoonist and author, Hugh MacLeod has a great chapter in his new book, Ignore Everyone (and 39 other keys to creativity), called The Best Way to Get Approval is Not to Need It. The story he tells is of a famous magazine publisher who is literally inundated with letters from out of work, formerly famous cartoonists, who are all writing to beg for a job. The publisher's response as he points to the stack of correspondence? "How not to get published."
Desperation, and even just plain yearning, are not attractive. We appear weak to other people when our desires are so plainly on display. Worse than appearing a little pathetic, we open ourselves up to be taken advantage of by bosses, significant others, clients, and anybody else within whiffing distance of our fear who may wish to exploit it. Please hire me, please buy my stuff, please approve of me, please love me...none of it works.
The author John Heider calls it the "paradox of letting go". In his book, The Tao of Leadership, he says: "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. When I give myself, I become more. When I feel most destroyed, I am about to grow. When I desire nothing, a great deal comes to me."
It's not easy to "desire nothing". I don't think I've ever really gotten there myself. But I know that when I am successful at it, things do start to happen. When I started my dance business fifteen years ago, I got into it because it was a passion. I was fired up about it and I didn't care if I got famous or made one dollar for my trouble. I was just doing my thing, practicing my craft and trying to be a good ambassador, so other people would feel welcome. Well, we ended up making more than we thought we ever would, flying around the world, teaching people how to swing dance and, most importantly, forging lifelong friendships with some of the best people I've ever known. I'd like to credit our brilliant talents as marketers, dancers, teachers and all around good eggs but, really, I think our success, at least initially, came because we exuded the kind of confidence that only people who are crazy or have nothing to lose tend to display. We were attractors.
I think the same thing works just as well for selling goods. Those who engage authentically in the community, give of themselves, and are persistent, are the ones who will always be most successful. Those who chase business like a rabbit at a dog track, tend to just get tired.